These were Professor Andrea Nolan's opening remarks at the Universities UK International (UUKi) Transnational education: here to stay conference.
Currently, there are 701,010 students studying for UK higher education qualifications outside the UK. Overall, there has been significant growth in provision in the past five years and growth in most regions between 2014-15 and 2015-16. The conference aimed to help delegates consider the future of TNE. The day included sessions on TNE delivery in Egypt, TNE post-Brexit, equality and diversity, where the next hotspots could be and more.
In her opening speech Professor Nolan suggested that university partnerships and networks will increase in importance in the next 10-20 years. She said staff should consider ways to update curricula so courses stay relevant and think about increasing and diversifying online course options. It was noted that TNE helps universities grow, but should be seen beyond a profit generation exercise. Transnational education also contributes to universities' development.
Egypt: a new hub for UK TNE?
His Excellency Dr. Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research of the Arab Republic of Egypt presented the keynote speech in which he shared his vision of Egypt being a new hub for international education partnerships.
He spoke highly of the UK's 'robust quality assurance processes', the ability to prioritise student needs and the diversity of programmes and research. He admired the quality of UK higher education and said British universities stand out as an education partner.
Egypt is currently the UK's fifth largest host country for UK TNE students. The number of students choosing UK degrees in Egypt has increased by 35% in just three years.
The country is currently undergoing a period of growth with the government developing new cities and infrastructures. His Excellency looked forward to future partnerships with UK universities and the principles that underpin successful, mutually respectful collaborations. He was absolute in his conviction that 'Egypt is the right destination' for education partnerships.
Nimble and responsive
Digitalisation and globalisation demand that universities constantly adapt to meet the changing needs of students. The notion of being nimble and responsive is vital for universities if they want to maintain their reputation as some of the best in the world.
Katherine Bull, Head of Strategic Insight and Planning at the University of London International Programmes, said that TNE delivery has always and will always require a flexible approach. When working internationally, the political landscape is subject to rapid change. Universities need to be prepared to react quickly to external drivers of change.
Brexit is just one of many factors that are forcing universities to adapt. While it has created uncertainty, Mohamed Loutfi, Pro Vice Chancellor at Cardiff Metropolitan University, argued we should stop and think about how to address the challenge. He stated that the media is causing anxiety with the constant speculation. Loutfi suggested institutions should be ready to respond to whatever the outcome of the negotiations. He had faith that no matter what, the UK would be included in the European higher education landscape.
Quality and reputation
Transnational education can be act as a positive influence of the UK's reputation, internationally, as a study destination. It also lays the foundations for international collaborative working which can impact other areas of internationalisation such as research and outward student mobility.
It was stressed that a clear communication strategy is vital to maintain quality assurances. Partnerships need to adjust to what's happening in the world and clear communication to different stakeholder groups ensure that expectations are managed. Through effective communication, universities can deliver consistent transnational education programmes.
For universities to continue excelling in delivering TNE, it's imperative they are forward thinking. Whether that's considering how outward student mobility, and TNE can be linked, ensuring staff are supported in their needs overseas or horizon scanning for the next best destination. Delegates started taking those steps with a tour of twelve TNE hotspots in a closing energetic world café. Countries included Thailand, Malaysia, India, Mexico and Germany.
With UK awards being offered in 227 global locations, UUKi is constantly working with overseas partners and governments to ensure that the UK maintains its leading position as a partner of choice for TNE delivery.
Tweets from the day can be found here.