I was taking to students yesterday, and they all asked about the visas and why we didn’t want them to come and study in the UK. You can correct that but it’s still a very negative perception. We feel that having the two international campuses is a great help to us because it allows us to offer an alternative. But I do worry about the longer-term consequences.
The PIE: Do you think transnational education will become an increasingly attractive option for UK universities as a result?
CE: I think there’s no doubt that more universities are starting to look carefully at offshore provision. It does offer a route to access international markets without falling foul of the visa regime. I think there’s a danger though that we all start to say transnational education (TNE) is the answer, and suddenly focus all our efforts in that direction.
To do TNE well requires serious long-term investment and just trying to do it quickly as a short-term fix for visa problems, I don’t think will be a sensible course of action. I think we’ve got to approach it from a long-term perspective and from a genuine partnership perspective.
The PIE: What do you think of HE Global (the new UK government initiative supporting universities looking to set up abroad)?
CE: I think it is a very interesting initiative that will be welcome across the sector. It’s early days yet to see quite how it works, but I do think it’s a good move. It’s about giving out information and trying to ensure that when the sector does engage with TNE we do so in an informed and long-term, quality-focused way.
“It’s early days yet to see quite how HE Global works, but I do think it’s a good move”
The PIE: What is Nottingham up to in 2012/13?
CE: We’ve still got discussions going on around our Shanghai initiative and we hope to be able to announce some activity towards the end of this [academic] year, with perhaps our first students getting involved in September 2012. It’s essentially a university based in Shanghai to complement the Nottingham campus in Ningbo.
The other [area] is the work we have been focussing on in new markets. We’re opening an office in Ghana and in India. In Ghana we’ll have quite a lot of focus on quite traditional student recruitment work and partnership development. In India the office will be focused much more based around partnerships, business engagement and alumni relations. We’re also working in Indonesia, Bangladesh, and have some significant activity in Ethiopia. I think that might keep us reasonably well occupied!