Caryn Nery has performed a leadership role at the International Education Association of Australia’s Transnational Education Network for over a decade. Nery also provides leadership to Victoria University’s TNE Partnerships division.
In her third term as the Convenor of the Network, Nery shares her key insights on the work that she and her colleagues have been engaged with and where Australia’s TNE offering is headed.
IEAA recently held its TNE Forum, bringing practitioners and sector leaders together for meaningful engagement on various issues.
“As part of the Network our role is to provide professional development, networking opportunities for professionals, and provide advocacy on policy,” Nery tells The PIE.
“Through the Network there is also informal benchmarking on practices and operations, but most importantly [our role is on] providing a voice to TNE in various forums.”
Being involved with the Network since 2009, Nery says her experience at IEAA’s TNE Network has been “very valuable and fulfilling” and has allowed her to “grow professionally” by providing opportunities for “meeting people and exchanging ideas”.
“You learn a lot [by listening to] what people are doing and what institutions are doing in their own contexts
“Overall, its been a very positive experience for me,” Nery says.
Speaking about her key takeaways from this year’s TNE Forum, Nery says that “it was a very ambitious program this year”.
“We covered a lot of ground, in terms of what was topical for this year — around new models of delivery, particularly online, the role of OPMs, edtech, and looking to our UK counterparts and talking about more collaboration that’s mutually beneficial.
“As we look to grow TNE globally and there is a growing demand, then the more we can collaborate rather than compete, that’s something that I think is [going to be] important.”
The pandemic has been a watershed moment for the sector and TNE is going to play a big role in the overall rebound for Australia’s international education offering. The country is also faced with some of the most chronic skills shortages in decades. International students could play an important role in solving this issue in the long run.
“There is a kind of inequity there that needs to be bridged”
Nery says that one of the main things that she and the IEAA TNE Network have been advocating for is on “post study work rights for hundreds of thousands of students who are undertaking TNE programs in branch campus mode, in dual-degree mode, in partnered delivery mode, and as such for all those programs where students are gaining education that is equivalent to what onshore international students get”.
“It’s just a no brainer, that is that if the government is looking at international students for filling some of the skills gaps, then TNE students should be included in that category where they are given post-study work rights. There is a kind of inequity there that needs to be bridged,” she posits.
Given the skills shortages and the need for a future ready and university educated work force, there have been suggestions that Australia should perhaps come up with an innovative visa pathway, such as the UK’s High Potential Individual Visa, that has recently come into force. Nery says that such a move will help in making Australia “competitive again”.
“I am hoping it is being discussed in the policy circles,” she says.
The loss of marketshare to competitor countries through the two and a half years of the pandemic has also been a major concern.
“We are bouncing back fairly quickly though, I don’t think across TNE we are going to lose too much marketshare as compared to onshore. But I think what Australia needs to recognise, is that it’s not just an onshore international student market.
“There are millions and millions of students around the world who want an international education and are eligible to come into our programs, but do not have the means and resources to do so. If we can’t bring them here, we need to go to them and there are ways we can do that – for example by leveraging more online delivery. There are ways we can contribute to the global education and skills demands, for sure,” Nery highlights.
“It’s not just an onshore international student market”
“If you just take India as an example, the size of the market demand and how much we could contribute there, is just mind boggling.”
TNE programs have not been impacted in the same manner as other aspects of international education, globally, during the pandemic.
“Most TNE programs actually flourished during Covid. The issues were around continuity. We did not lose students and that was the resilience of TNE compared to international onshore, which suffered due to our borders being closed,” Nery tells The PIE.
“But where there was an issue, is that, because our borders were closed, those TNE students who wanted to spend some time in Australia couldn’t come.
“Covid actually brought us closer together with our partners, as we had to resolve a lot of business continuity issues. There were a lot of positives that came out of the pandemic – particularly around the new modes of delivery that included online, synchronous and asynchronous, blended learning, and those sort of models,” she says.
“In the past we did not look in to this too much or were not allowed to do, for example in China they were not allowed, but that changed due to the pandemic.”
As the director of TNE partnerships at the Victoria University, Nery plays a pivotal leadership role in this space.
“Within Victoria University, we are looking at new modes of delivery, with new types of partners – that’s a development that has been accelerated by Covid,” she says, when asked about what the focus of the Victoria University is, in relation to TNE, going forward.
“In countries such as China, our [Victoria University’s] student load has increased. It’s due to both the government allowing more enrolments in the TNE programs [for China], as well as the fact that a large percentage of the Chinese students are preferring to study online onshore and not come to Australia to do part of their degree here, due to several reasons.”
She also points out that Australian universities, as such, contributed immensely during Covid through their branch campuses in the host countries.
Edtech has been an important cornerstone for the success of TNE programs of late and has helped the online onshore delivery model in being successful.
“I think edtech companies and online providers will have an increasingly important role to play, as institutions are going to want to shift more to the online mode for delivery of TNE programs – that’s because online offers greater scale, less expense, etc., so that’s a trend that will grow,” Nery says.
With the Indian Minister for Education’s recent visit to Australia, there is renewed interest in forging more multidimensional partnerships between the education fraternity of Australia and India.
“I’d love to see more collaboration, more consortium models – why couldn’t we have a British, an American, and an Australian university all going as a consortium into India and not offering competing programs, but rather working together for setting up something at scale.”
“Also something like the Erasmus program, [which] is so valuable for students, with all the international exposure that they can get.”
“In general I am hoping institutions will have more TNE”
TNE is going through an evolution, with online delivery gaining steam. There are many things that the institutions need to prepare for going forward.
“In terms of online offshore delivery and business and academic models, that’s a very new piece. Institutions have done other modes till now successfully, but online offshore is a relatively new space. So, there are things around quality assurance, academic workforce capability, etc. that need to be looked at.
“In general I am hoping institutions will have more TNE — that they will mitigate risks and challenges that will come along the way. It’s not necessarily going to be a bilateral relationship with the partner, it will mostly be a multilateral relationship with different agencies involved in delivery.
“One of the things we can do is to have good benchmarking, to avoid having another era of cowboys, how it was during the old days of TNE.”