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Focus on Asia

14 November 2016
Raegan Hiles

Raegan Hiles

Head of Outbound Mobilities Programmes
Universities UK International

A quarter of students studying for UK degrees outside of the UK are based in Asia, and 3 in 10 of the UK's higher education transnational programmes (HE TNE) programmes are delivered in Asia. Much is made of activity in Malaysia, China and Singapore - countries that have hosted UK programmes for several decades. Indicators point to these remaining strong locations for UK HE TNE in future years, and offering further growth.

But these are not the only countries interested in working with the UK: Raegan Hiles looks at some of the emerging opportunities for UK HE TNE in Asia.

It was of little surprise when comparative analysis of both the Higher Education Statistic Agency's Aggregate Offshore Record (AOR) and independent HE censuses, showed that the four places that have consistently hosted the greatest volume of UK HE TNE since 2008/9 are all in Asia: Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and China. Despite the potential 'steady' TNE markets to plateau, appetite continues apace in these areas, with new programmes regularly approved alongisde expansions to existing TNE programmes.

So it is likewise of little surprise that when we asked the UK's HEGlobal community where it believes future TNE priorities will lie, Asia remains a priority region. Recent interactions with colleagues from the region suggest that, more than this, we should expand our thinking in Asia. There is emerging interest from areas that haven't traditionally hosted large numbers of UK HE TNE students, but are now actively developing programmes to work with the UK.

Emerging interest #1: Pakistan

At the start of this month, British Council Pakistan hosted a roundtable discussion about TNE in Manchester.

The British Council in Pakistan and Higher Education Commission of Pakistan are aiming to improve the existing situation in terms of quality and quantity and devise a legal framework for TNE Education between UK and Pakistan. 

Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, Chairman of Pakistan's Higher Education Commission chaired the discussion, joined Consul General for Pakistan in Manchester Mr Zahoor Ahmed and other officials from the Education Ministry, British Council Pakistan, UK universities and representatives from sector wide agencies and groups - including the UK's Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) and, of course, HEGlobal. Setting the scene, the commissioner explained that Pakistan's potential higher education population is 84million, but provision cannot need this demand. Only 1.4million currently access higher education, and there is a shortfall of around 30,000 PhDs.

And so, Pakistan's government is looking to address the shortfall of higher education opportunities. It has identified the UK's universities as partners of choice - despite some other TNE providers offering lower cost degrees. There is, however, concern from the commission about the misuse of UK universities' names in Pakistan. This is challenging: an institution cannot always know if its name is being taken in vain. The roundtable discussed mitigating this through enhancing the rigour attached to how university names are used by partners, and increasing the dialogue between the UK and Pakistan quality assurance agencies. Notwithstanding concerns about misuse of Brand UK, the overarching message though remained strong: 'Work with us in Pakistan'.

Next steps: British Council Pakistan plans to commission a situational analysis of the higher education and TNE landscape in country, to include explanation of the basic requirements and process to seek TNE programme approval and be able to work in country. The Council office will work with HEGlobal to identify the key questions and contributors, and to distribute findings as soon as they are available. 

Emerging interest #2: Philippines

October also saw the work that British Council Philippines is doing to deliver 'Joint Development of Niche Programmes through Philippine-UK Linkage' ramp up. 

The British Council and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Philippines have launched the project Joint Development of Niche Programmes through Philippine-United Kingdom Linkage which aims to provide capacity and funding support for Philippine higher education institutions to establish international connectivity and engagement through developing TNE partnerships with HEIs in the United Kingdom. 

Basic education in the Philippines has recently been extended from 10 to 12 years, with a K to 12 transition period beginning this summer. In a time of changing educational systems in the country, government has identified an opportunity to work with overseas universities to address gaps in the system.

The Philippines' HE commission (CHED) has identified and will support ten high performing Philippines universities to establish 'niche and priority' TNE programmes with overseas institutions, via twinning, joint degrees, dual or double awards. The 'niche' programme areas are: food production and security; Environment, Disaster Risk Reduction, Climate Change and Energy; Terrestrial and Marine Resources: Economy, Biodiversity and Conservation; Health Systems; while the 'priority' programme areas are: maritime engineering, design engineering, education, social science, economics, architecture, fine arts and others.

CHED sees the UK's universities as partners of choice to develop these programmes, and the British Council Philippines is supporting this effort. Which is why delegates at last month's EAIE conference may have met the Commissioner and colleagues from the Philippines. The pre EAIE conference session on transnational education, hosted by the British Council, outlined the K to 12 programme priorities and timelines. Alongside disseminating the opportunities to UK universities and offering fora to discuss them, British Council Philippines is helping to set out the context of UK HE -  just last week, I presented via video to a gathering of Philippines university leaders in Manila, convened by the British Council, on our regulatory frameworks and the ways that we deliver TNE.

Next steps: British Council Philippines is coordinating an incoming delegation to the UK next month, for Philippines partners to meet potential UK collaborators. You can find out more here; to express interest in participating, email Lotus Postrado.

Focus on Asia

Analysis developed alongside Australia's international education strategy identified huge numbers of potential learners across Asia in future years, with limited localised higher education capacity region to meet demand, making countries in the region very receptive to hosting TNE. This extends across the region, with countries other than existing TNE host locations looking to international universities. But just as delivery of TNE has matured, so have approaches to hosting TNE. The asks are much more refined than those of the past, with focus on quality over quantity or cost. As a result, the UK's strengths in TNE are in strong demand. Emerging hosts actively reference the UK's reputation: the UK's strong quality assurance, curriculum design and assessment are exceptionally valued, and these are the areas that HEGlobal found that the UK leads on in existing partnerships. UK' HE TNE's reputation is strong, and it is the features which already make our universities partners of choice across Asia that can continue to shape and grow our TNE offer.

The message is clear: Asia is not only still open for TNE, but open to more TNE.

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