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

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