Trends, insights and research to inform growth and innovation strategies in international higher education.

October 29, 2014

Towards improved quality standards in transnational education

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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October 15, 2014

Can China become the hub of ‘glocal’ students? CACIE Conference 2014

What are the drivers of international student mobility to China? What are the implications of these trends for Chinese Universities? Can China become the hub of ‘glocal’ students? This is the focus of the session I am chairing at China Annual Conference for International Education (CACIE) Forum on International Student Mobility on Sunday, October 26.


Mobility of Chinese students to the leading destinations like US, UK and Australia is a known trend. However, what has not gained enough attention is the increasing magnetism of China as a destination for international students. In 2009, nearly, 238,000 international students were enrolled in Chinese higher education institutions. In specific, number of foreign students enrolled in degree programs has doubled to more than 100,000 in five years.

However, what is hidden in this growth is the regional mobility of students. For example, two of our every three international students in China are from Asia. More Pakistani students are enrolled in China than they are in the US (~161,000/~238,000). These international students who have aspirations to earn a global education or experience, while staying in the region are defined as ‘glocal’ students’. And, China is emerging as a hub of ‘glocal’ students.

The overarching purpose of this session is to maximize the potential of China as the destination for international students by gaining a deeper understanding of mobility patterns and exploring effective policies, strategies and practices. In specific, the session will discuss the mobility of international students to study in China, along following three strands: 
  • Students—Who are they? Where are they coming from? What are the drivers of mobility? 
  • Institutions—What are the some of the models and strategies for attracting ‘glocal’ students to China? How can Chinese universities attract international students from more diversified source countries? 
  • Policies—What policies and strategies can further increase the attractiveness of China as a destination?
The expert panel will include following:
  • Changjun YUE, Ph.D. Dean, Graduate School of Education, Peking University
  • John Gordon Robertson, Ph.D. Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, New York University Shanghai
  • Julian Chang, Ph.D. Associate Dean at Schwarzman Scholars Program at Tsinghua University
  • Youmin Xi, Ph.D. Executive President of Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University and Pro-Vice-Chancellor of University of Liverpool
  • Nick Miles, OBE Provost and Pro-Vice Chancellor, University of Nottingham Ningbo China
Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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October 04, 2014

Impact assesst as an integral part of internationalization strategy

In a world of increasing fiscal constraints, discourses that emphasize measuring impact continue to gain traction.

Most recently, the Scaling Social Impact series by Harvard Business Review and The Bridgespan Group focuses on how organisations can have a greater social impact. In the same vein, the Stanford Social Innovation Review also has a special section on innovative ways to measure an organisation’s impact on various populations. 

In light of the increasing complexity and changes in higher education, universities engaging in internationalisation need to candidly ask themselves if and how their strategies are in fact meeting the goals and outcomes they have set for themselves. 

Of course, assessment is not something new for many engaged with the internationalisation of higher education. However, current practices often take a one-dimensional, limited view as compared to a big-picture, holistic view of the impact of internationalisation strategies. 

Impact assessment helps make a stronger case to stakeholders of all types who are involved with a university – public funders and legislators, private donors and alumni, university leaders, tuition payers, faculty, staff and students – for funding programmes and strategic initiatives. 

By proactively making impact assessment an integral part of funding decisions, campus international education leaders also demonstrate their confidence by not shying away from showing the outcomes of their programmes and initiatives. 

In addition, impact assessment keeps programmes on track by not only helping to identify areas of improvement and thus deliver better overall outcomes, but also helping to focus on how they affect individuals – particularly faculty and students – at different stages of their engagement. 

Finally, we are in a world of data and technology, which can assist not only in assessing impact in multiple dimensions but also in tracking it over time. This will further intensify the need to build strategies that are measurable, impactful and evidence-based. 

There will be an increasing demand not only to assess the impact on stakeholders but also to understand how the data compare with that coming from peer institutions. 

Currently, we often measure the impact of internationalisation from a rather insular and imperfect viewpoint, which comes down to simply counting the number of globally mobile students. 

This argument has also been suggested by other scholars and practitioners in the field who agree that institutions need to go beyond the rhetoric and numbers and rigorously measure the impact on campus at the level of individuals as well. 


Rahul Choudaha


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