Latest Research on Transnational Education: Data and Insights from the UK

Nov 28, 2014

Two recent research reports released in the UK on transnational education (TNE or cross-border education) provide extensive data and insights on latest trends, models, challenges and complexities with TNE.
 
First, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), which distributes public money to universities and colleges in England,  released a report entitled "Directions of travel: Transnational pathways into English higher education". Here is the link to download the report.  This report aims to focus more on understanding pathways taken by students pursuing TNE in home country to programs in the UK.
 
It highlights several interesting points including the fact that over a third of the international entrants (students) enrolling in first degree programs (bachelor's degree or undergraduate program) in 2012-13 came through programs delivered overseas by UK education providers through TNE models.
 
Another fact is that TNE activities grew more among second and third tier institutions who are more severely affected by post-recession environment of funding cuts and stricter immigration policies. For example, Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) with higher quality students ( measured by student scores) have a lower proportion of transnational students: 16 per cent (3,200 entrants) in 2012-13, compared with 55 per cent (5,900 entrants) for HEIs with lower scores (p.5).
 
In terms of source countries, China and Malaysia dominate the market but exhibit very different characteristics. While majority of Chinese students came for longer programs (two to three years) and continued to stay for postgraduate (master's) programs. In contrast, most Malaysian TNE students transferred for shorter duration (less than one year) and did not continue for postgraduate programs.
 
Aggregate offshore numbers (TNE) and major countries of origin for transnational students 2012-13
cross border education statistics and data from UK universities
 
 
Second, the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, which focuses on business and economic growth, released a report entitled "Transnational education: value to the UK." The focus of this research is on quantifying the value in financial terms by understanding "the range, extent and value of [TNE] activity by UK institutions, and how this varies for each main delivery mode."
 
The report estimates that the revenue generated by the UK transnational education activities was to the tune of ~£500 million in 2012/13. The report confirms that "overseas distance learning, at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, generates significantly more revenue than partnership arrangements, both in total and per student per annum. Postgraduate-level distance learning is the largest income stream, with MBA programmes in particular generating approximately £186 million in 2012/13 and other taught postgraduate programmes a further £92 million. Although Business and Management Masters programmes represented 18% of all active transnational education enrolments in 2012/13, they provided 56% of total transnational education revenues." (p.3).
 
Here are two other relevant charts indicated the scope and nature of TNE activities broken-up by top countries and level of education.
 
Top 11 countries for UK transnational education delivery ranked by number of programs (Prog) and enrollments (Enrol)
top countries offering branch campsu, online learning to international students
 
Level of study by transnational education type identified in the census, in terms of number (N) and percentage of programs (row %)
 
 
Transnational education strategies continue to be of interest to many stakeholders including higher education institutions and policy-makers. It is a complex and high-risk endeavor for HEIs. Long-term success and sustainability of these models will be dependent on making informed, evidence-driven choices. These two research reports provide comprehensive and timely data on TNE to stakeholders.
 
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Dr. Rahul Choudaha

Five facts challenging leadership of US higher education in attracting international students

Nov 22, 2014

Here is the excerpt from my blog "Attracting International Students: Can American Higher Education Maintain its Leadership?" originally published on Huffington Post.
 
Studying in the U.S. is a dream of many international students. More than 75 percent of international students indicated motivation to "expand career and life opportunities" and "quality higher education options" as the top two reasons that motivated them to study in the U.S., according to a recent survey of nearly 5,000 international students by World Education Services.

With 886,052 international students enrolled in U.S. higher education in 2013/14, the number of international students has increased by 55 percent from 2003/04, according Institute of International Education. It is easy to infer that U.S. has been hugely successful in attracting international students. However, what is lost in the positive growth are some of the acute challenges that can threaten American leadership in attracting and retaining global talent. Here are five facts about international students enrolled in American higher education:

1. Share of U.S. in international student enrollment has decreased
American higher education system is the leading destination for international students, according to OECD. However, post-9/11, destinations like the U.K. and Australia have attracted an increasing number of international students, which has resulted in a decline in market share for the U.S. - from nearly 23 percent in 2000, to 16 percent in 2012.

2. New destinations are further fueling the competition
Emerging markets are offering increasing opportunities for students who want to be part of their growth story and at the same time earn a foreign degree at a lower cost. For example, the number of Korean students going to China has been consistently increasing and at the same time it has been decreasing for the U.S.

3. U.S. institutions have the capacity to enroll more international students
International students account for only four percent of total enrollment in the U.S. higher education as compared to 18 percent in the UK and 19 percent in Australia, according to OECD. Given the size, scale and diversity of the U.S. higher education system, there remains untapped potential to attract more international students.

4. Many institutions are struggling to attract international students
Nearly two-thirds of international students in the U.S. are enrolled in just 300 universities. Given that the U.S. has 4,500 post-secondary degree granting institutions, this concentration implies challenges for rest of the institutions for a variety of controllable (e.g. lack of know-how to recruit and retain students) and uncontrollable reasons (e.g. location).

5. Others are struggling to diversify international student source countries
While overall number of internationals students has increased most of it was driven by growth from a few countries. For example, students from China now form nearly one-third of all international students in the U.S. and their growth have contributed nearly 60 percent of total growth in enrollment in 2013/14.

These five facts illustrate that maintaining U.S. leadership in attracting and retaining global talent will require a lot more to be done in an proactive, informed and collaborative at the policy and institutional levels.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha

As Predicted, Number of Indian Students Studying in the US Increase

Nov 16, 2014

In my previous article, "Universities need to get ready for India’s high fliers", I had predicted that the number of globally mobile Indian students will increase and the US higher education will be the biggest beneficiaries. (Related story "Enter the Dragon" in BusinessWorld)
 
Latest data from Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), reported enrollment patterns of international students as on October 2014. It confirms the overall trend and increase with Indian numbers:
- Since October 2013, the number of students studying in the US from India increased 28% as compared to 9% for all international students
- US higher education institutions enrolled 134, 292 students from India
- 79% of them were enrolled in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields, which offer 29-Optional Practical Training (STEM-extension) option
- 65% of all Indian students(~87,000) were enrolled in only two majors 1) Engineering and 2)Computer Sciences
- 73% of all Indian students were studying for a master's degree
 
 
 
 Dr. Rahul Choudaha (Author)



How rankings impact institutional strategies and processes? research report from European University Association

What is role of rankings in university strategies and processes? This is the central question of the recent research report released by European University Association and authored by Ellen Hazelkorn, Tia Loukkola and Therese Zhang.  The report entitled "Rankings in Institutional Strategies and Processes: Impact or Illusion?" is based on the survey of 171 higher education institutions from 39 European countries. It is a comprehensive and insightful report that shows that perceived impact of rankings is very high among different stakeholders despite their public denials.  More than half of all the respondents identified that they "have one or several persons at institution level who monitor(s) our position in the rankings regularly." Here are couple of data points indicating that institutional representatives perceive rankings to be of very high importance to prospective students:



The report asserts "...when an institution is analysing the importance of one ranking or another for its activities, it should consider the objective of the ranking, what it measures and whether the indicators are meaningful or useful for the institution’s purposes. Does it make sense to align the institution’s strategies and policies with a particular ranking? What are the implications of doing so? What are the implications of not doing so? And if the indicators or the weightings change – as they so often do – should the institution respond?" (p. 45)
 
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Financial depedency on nonresident and international students: Case of University of California

Nov 9, 2014

University of California is considering to increase tuition by up to 5% in each of the next five years. This was inevitable as the public funding continues to decrease. Here are couple of previous blog posts from 2012:
 
 
According to the University of California, "The new long-term stability plan for tuition and financial aid proposes that tuition will not increase more than 5 percent annually for five years. For 2015–16, that would mean an increase of $612. Tuition may increase by less than 5 percent — or not at all — depending on the level of state support."
 
Given that the number of nonresident, including international students at UC campuses have increased at a clipping rate, there is a feeling among residents that they are being displaced. The UC highlights the value addition from nonresident fee that adds to the experiences of the resident students. It asserts that "Each nonresident student brings in approximately $23,000 more per year than in-state students, funds that help support the additional California students and enhance the quality of the education program. Nonresident students also bring a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives that enhances the educational environment of our campuses."
 
UC Budget for Current Operations provides detailed information on the funding changes in a post-recession environment where nonresident and in particular international student enrollment has become an integral part of the academic and financial equation. Here is an interesting chart comparing the nonresident tuition fee among different public universities. It shows that:
- UC nonresident graduate fee at ~$28,000 is still 70% of Michigan's ~$40,000--indicating UC is still not expensive in comparison to peers
- UC nonresident fee at undergrad is nearly 30% more than graduate nonresident--indicating more revenue potential at undergraduate level
 

Comparision of Nonresident foreign student fee at public universities
 
 
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Rahul Choudaha (Author)

Foreign students in UK higher education: Mobility and enrollment trends

Nov 4, 2014

Universities UK released a research report "International students in higher education: the UK and its competition" that highlights latest enrollment and mobility trends with international (non-European Union) students. This comprehensive report provides an excellent backdrop to issues and challenges UK universities and colleges are facing in a competitive environment of international student recruitment. International students are critical to finances of the higher education sector as it gets around one-eighth of its income from international students’ tuition fees. Here are three interesting data points from the report:

1. Number of international students grew post 9/11, however, it stagnated post global financial recession.
 
 
 
2. China and Malaysia have high proportion of undergraduate students as compared to India and Nigeria at Postgraduate Taught (master's level).
 
 
3. Institutions continue to experience decline with India an Nigeria along with China slowing down too.
 
 

Towards improved quality standards in transnational education

Oct 29, 2014

The quality assurance mechanisms of transnational education (TNE) or cross-border education have not kept pace with the changes in the landscape of its activities and trends is the core argument of the article I co-authored with Richard J Edelstein, a research associate at the Center for Studies in Higher Education, University of California, Berkeley.


TNE is offered in a range of models, including branch campuses, licensed foreign degree programs provided by local institutions, articulation agreements, distance learning degrees and online degrees.

The variety of models is reflective of diverse contexts of source and destination countries, where demand from the emerging segment of ‘glocal’ students - who have aspirations to gain a global education experience, but want to remain in their local region/country - is creating new opportunities for institutions.

The landscape of TNE gets further complicated with the emergence of new distance learning technologies, such as MOOCs, that are changing teaching and learning methods and are not easily incorporated into traditional processes and definitions of quality assurance in higher education.

For example, a recent strategic planning document from MIT forecasts a future where education will be unbundled and degrees will be disaggregated ‘into smaller credential units such as course credentials, sequence credentials and even badges’ with the possibility that ‘the credentialing agency may be different from the institution that offers the course’.

This responsiveness to demand has also led to a wide variation in quality among these programs and models. To varying degrees, these TNE initiatives appear to operate with little regulation or oversight from governments or quality assurance entities in the participating students’ country or in the provider institutions’ home country.

Quality in higher education is not only difficult to measure (as we know from wide-ranging debates about rankings), but also involves diverse approaches to quality assurance. It takes many forms, varying from country to country. For example, terms such as accreditation, recognition and the authority to grant diplomas or degrees can have different meanings and vary by country. Likewise, definitions and processes can differ widely from country to country.

In the context of TNE, quality issues can be addressed by authorities in the country where the provider institution is located and-or in the country where student participants receive TNE programs. Unfortunately, many of the countries where the demand for TNE is high, such as Pakistan, Nigeria and India, do not have strong oversight or clearly established regulations to assure quality. This poses risks to students as well as to institutional providers. In Europe and more broadly there are efforts to establish common standards and processes that are recognized beyond national borders.

The pattern of growth in transnational education is rife with complexity and brimming with innovation. The quality assurance mechanisms of cross border educational activities are lagging behind. This has implications for all stakeholders, including students, institutions and policymakers. To eventually establish an improved quality assurance regime for transnational education that is broadly accepted as legitimate, a concerted, proactive and collaborative effort is required to better understand the nature, scope and scale of transnational education.


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