The research found that reducing the role of TNE to financial returns is “too narrow” and by doing so, educators underestimate the real impacts in the country of delivery.
Seeking to find how TNE impact can be measured at the local level in 12 European countries, the ‘Local Impact of Transnational Education’ report identified that both stakeholders and students agree that the most significant TNE impact is in meeting local labour market needs.
The paper particularly noted programs that focus on skills gaps in specific cities or regions, aiming to produce graduates with relevant high-level knowledge and skills to address these gaps have the most significant impact.
However, to ensure the long-term success of a TNE partnership, institutions must “properly analyse” the contribution to the local skills agenda, local HE partners, local community and local access to HE.
Crucially, institutions need to promote the impact to make sure it is understood in the local community where their partner institution is located, the British Council suggested.
“TNE programs provide students with access to the same high quality programs they can expect from universities in the UK”
“Transnational education is an extremely important emerging area for UK-EU university relations, particularly given the changing environment of Covid-19 and the UK’s redefined relationship with the EU,” said Almut Caspary, higher education lead for the British Council in EU Europe.
Other key findings of the report included TNE’s ability to reduce ‘brain drain’, help to share knowledge locally, improve job prospects for students and widen access to higher education.
UK TNE directly contributes to the achievement of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4, which focuses on inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all. Primary evidence researchers also collected suggests UK TNE improves access for underrepresented and disadvantaged groups.
The report challenged “commonly held misconceptions” about TNE, namely that it acts as a substitute for full-time study in the UK and that TNE is inferior to courses delivered in the UK.
Student profiles and responses suggested that they have very different characteristics from those students who would choose to study full-time in the UK, the report noted. Additionally, TNE is seen as delivering high-quality programs that are “entirely fit for purpose” by stakeholders and students.
“The measurement of impact is mostly one-dimensional, focusing on student numbers and income,” the paper read.
“Yet the stakeholder and student perceptions point to the importance of some impacts not currently measured effectively. Consequently, much of the significant impact of programs is neither visible nor recognised beyond those immediately involved.”
“TNE programs provide students with access to the same high quality programs they can expect from universities in the UK,” added Caspary.
“Our focus in the British Council is to support UK and European institutions so that students can benefit from the high quality of teaching, employability prospects and depth of opportunity that UK higher education has to offer in all its forms.”
Countries that the report studied included Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Spain, France, Malta, Portugal and Lithuania.