In 2007, the UK had only just started systematically to capture aggregate data of TNE enrolment. Since then, student participation in UK TNE has grown 160%, and takes place in many more countries and involves more institutions.
Whilst TNE through distance learning may have started as the dominant model, today, 40% of UK TNE is through partnership arrangements and that proportion is growing.
So, how different will international tertiary education be 15 years from now and what can we do to steer its development?
We know it has huge potential to be a force for good.
From British Council work published earlier this year we know that international partnerships contribute to all 17 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and add significant value to the investment of international donors and funders.
Further study shows that this is partly because TNE builds capacity in higher education systems, especially valuable where demand substantially exceeds local supply. It can also widen access to, and increase the quality and diversity of, higher education.
At the same time, it supports institutions to internationalise (which is linked to improving quality of teaching and research) without contributing to brain drain.
Although, broadly speaking, TNE is becoming easier in many countries, challenges remain. TNE needs clear and transparent national policies and regulations that support the development of sustainable international partnerships.
Equally, degrees and qualifications awarded by overseas institutions must be recognised by local universities and employers if they are to deliver full value to students.
At the same time, the country offering TNE must ensure that partnerships are based on principles of equity and that there are rigorous processes for ensuring that the quality of education delivered through TNE is just as high as that delivered at the parent campus.
“TNE can provide space for collaboration – locally and internationally”
This is particularly true of digitally delivered TNE. This has so much potential for reaching people in remote communities and at a price point that makes it accessible beyond the elite but this will only be achieved if the quality can be assured and issues of digital exclusion addressed.
TNE must be part of the solution to ensuring inclusive and equitable education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all. While student recruitment is highly competitive, TNE can provide space for collaboration – locally and internationally – to find ways of offering education that work for everyone.
This is one of the issues that will be discussed at the Going Global Asia Pacific conference in Singapore. Let’s see what new ideas for working together emerge!