Dorothea Rüland, secretary general at the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Bui Van Ga, vice minister at the Ministry of Education and Training in Vietnam and Stéphan Vincent-Lancrin, senior analyst at the OECD joined Beall in urging educators and governments to establish a universal method to monitor TNE activity.
“The overall concept of TNE is not clearly understood at national policy level, leading to confusion from the top down”
The education leaders were speaking at the Going Global conference in London this week where the second edition of TNE research commissioned by the British Council and DAAD was presented.
The study found “confusion within and among countries about what the different type or modes of TNE actually mean and involve”. In some countries, it warns, “the overall concept of TNE is not clearly understood at national policy level, leading to confusion from the top down”.
However, TNE has become one of the fastest growing forms of internationalisation in global higher education. Hundreds of thousands of students across the globe are enrolled on TNE courses.
“TNE is part of the new way in which education is being given,” commented Beall, underlining that any quality assessment system needs to be based on mutuality.
“TNE could become a vehicle for making money… if we don’t have benchmarking in place that we all sign up to, we could have an external ranking imposed upon us,” she said. “We want to know what’s best for us from the outset.”
DAAD’s Rüland added that more transparency is needed in the field “to know what we’re investing in, to be strategic in planning”.
The report provides an overview of how ten host countries originally presented in the British Council’s 2013 study– including Botswana, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Malaysia– monitor TNE activities.
It looks at government websites, annual reports, statistical publications, higher education legislation and HEI websites to create profiles of each host country’s development in TNE data collection.
Currently there are no international standards for defining and monitoring TNE so that governments, agencies and universities can keep an eye on student numbers, types of courses, and quality assurance arrangements, the report argues.
It also looks at how leading sending countries- Australia, the UK and Germany- collect their data and identifies a gap between the sending countries, usually only interested in public universities, and host countries who are charged with quality assuring every provider operating in the country.
“Host countries appear to have a bigger, and in some cases, more complex job to collect and analyse the data,” the study says.
Overall, the report’s author John McNamara of McNamara Economic Research said at the event that “chaos and confusion” characterise attempts to define and label courses from both host and sending countries.
Still, the study attempts to identify seven TNE models including twinning programmes, international branch campuses, online learning and joint or multiple degree programmes.
“We need to identify core elements of quality to then put into a local context”
It recommends national governments in sending and host countries develop a TNE data collection system and that participating higher education institutions collaborate in the organisation and design of the systems.
It goes even further to say that international governmental agencies like the OECD and UNESCO should work towards the development of an international agreement and set of procedures.
Chairing the panel, Regent’s University vice chancellor Aldwyn Cooper warned against the risk of imperialism, especially among in franchise models where private institutions in host countries franchise academic programming from foreign providers. “We need to identify core elements of quality to then put into a local context,” he advised.
From the audience, Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, joined the call to action, stressing the importance of collecting data from the ground up. “I’m strongly opposed to a one size fits all approach.”