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TNE in United Arab Emirates sees 84% satisfaction rate

Graduates of transnational institutions in the UAE are reporting an 84% rate of high or very high satisfaction, according to a new Universities UK International report.

84% of the graduates surveyed felt they were “able to engage with diverse students and staff” on their course. Photo: iStock

"[Students] may have seen their experience as ‘global’ rather than ‘British’"

Transnational Graduate Outcomes: A case study of the United Arab Emirates focuses on UK universities with campuses in the UAE, and aims to look into the impact TNE has on students.

So far, according to UUKi there has been “little evidence” of that impact.

The report begins by saying that while “considerable attention has been given to UK TNE in terms of its global scale, rapid growth and evolving scope of provision” – less is known about the actual impact on graduates.

The report looks into five research areas: TNE student profiles in the UAE, graduate experiences and learning acquired, employability and labour market outcomes, international mobility and influence of TNE on identities and personal lives, including relationships with the UK.

The lead researcher on the report from UCL’s Centre for Global Higher Education, Lee Rensimer, told The PIE News that such a relationship was key.

“The UAE is a major market for UK TNE, particularly physical provision of teaching and learning through international branch campuses and other joint partnerships,” said Rensimer.

“While the overall enrolments in the UAE may not compare to those in TNE markets elsewhere, the relative weight of the UK in the UAE higher education landscape is significant.”

When it came to respondents in the surveys conducted for the report, it was found that almost over half the respondents were from South Asia, with the next highest cohort being from Arab countries at 17%.

Notably, 29% of respondents were born in a different country from their nationality, indicating “a relatively high degree of international and transnational experience”.

However, the head of TNE at UUKi told The PIE News he believes this will also have contributed to their outlook on the UK.

“Perhaps due to the highly global or international profile of both students and institutions, students were not particularly likely to develop professional links with the UK,” said Eduardo Ramos.

“They may have seen their experience as ‘global’ rather than ‘British’.”

Some 84% of the graduates surveyed felt they were “able to engage with diverse students and staff” on their course and that they “learned to collaborate in culturally diverse groups”.

“I became more open to a lot of different ideologies, beliefs, the way that people do things,” said one postgraduate graduate from Bahrain.

A Ugandan graduate, who was in an undergraduate programme, told of how her class was “so diverse”, and it was like “a little world map in class”.

“The report is an excellent initial insight into how TNE develops truly global citizens,” Esther Wilkinson, the head of International at Jisc, told The PIE News.

“It demonstrates how TNE graduates are highly internationalised cohorts with mobility, language and multicultural advantages.”

“I became more open to a lot of different ideologies, beliefs, the way that people do things”

Wilkinson is currently in the midst of developing a wider graduate outcomes research project, as graduate outcomes at the transnational level “have a different level of complexity”, and “haven’t been compared with domestic courses in the UK” to date.

Another factor that presents challenges in the report is the difference in qualifications in the two countries.

“The research also found that there may be work to do to address the complexity of the qualification recognition landscape in the Emirates,” said Ramos.

Wilkinson echoed the observation, stating that qualification recognition needs to be “critically addressed”.

While the pandemic did affect the findings somewhat, it was noted that they were significant despite Covid.

“There was also a sizeable gap between respondents who aspired to work or do business internationally and those in the sample who actually had, and this is certainly a reflection of pandemic-related travel restrictions,” said Rensimer.

It was found in the report that 42% of respondents had arrived in the UAE before the age of 17, with the other 60% having arrived from the age of 17, “with a stronger likelihood of having migrated for full-time work or higher education”.

The report refers to the Gulf News article which shines a light on the surging enrolment rates during the pandemic at the UAE’s TNE providers, which saw students choosing local study options with a transnational element, “rather than risking international travel”.

Furthermore, less than a quarter of the TNE students in the UAE took part in opportunities to transfer to the UK home campus at any point or amount of time during their studies.

Despite this finding, the report said that the Study in the UK program did not appear to have “an impact on graduates’ employability or wider mobility”.

Another key finding of the report, on employability, was that 84% of respondents felt their programs gave them both employment-specific knowledge and broad, transferable skills.

Some 80% of respondents also reported being employed at the time of the report, and when it came to the 70% reporting they had a full-time employment contract, two thirds of them were “non-nationals of the GCC working in a GCC country – primarily the UAE”.

“Less than a quarter of the TNE students in the UAE took part in opportunities to transfer to the UK home campus”

The report is what Wilkinson and Ramos are saying will be the first of multiple in the TNE graduate outcomes sphere.

“For a long time, we have needed to focus more on our TNE students and alumni”, Wilkinson said.

“The report represents a significant step ahead in an under researched area… more work needs to be done to better understand what effect a UK education has on students located overseas,” Ramos added.

Jisc’s upcoming and wider research project is bringing together, according to Wilkinson’s recent writing, some “key players in the TNE graduate outcome space”.

“A consortium approach will yield the most useful and interesting results,” she added.

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