All types of higher education study programmes, or sets of courses of study, or educational services (including those of distance education) in which the learners are located in a country different from the one where the awarding institution is based. Such programmes may belong to the education system of a State different from the State in which it operates, or may operate independently of any national education system.
(UNESCO/Council of Europe, 2001)
Data about TNE is collected annually by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), via the Aggregate Offshore Record (AOR). AOR data has been collected since 2007−08 from publicly funded higher education providers in the UK who subscribe to HESA. Universities provide data in their AOR return about 'students that are studying wholly outside the UK who are either registered with the reporting provider or who are studying for an award of the reporting provider'.
Interactive bar chart showing total TNE student numbers from 2007-08 to 2019-20
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UK degrees were delivered in over 225 countries and territories in 2019-20. UK TNE delivery is concentrated mainly in Asia, which accounts for around half of all student numbers. This is followed by the EU, the Middle East and Africa.
In 2019-20, China was the country hosting the most UK TNE students (49,800), followed by Malaysia (49,375),
Sri Lanka (30,825), Singapore (27,885), Hong Kong (22,400) and Greece (19,725). Together, the top five host territories account for 39.9% of all student numbers.
Interactive map showing total UK HE TNE student numbers per country
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Students can pursue UK degrees across almost all subject areas at all levels of study through TNE, from first-time undergraduate degrees to research masters and PhDs. There are also a range of options for studying part-time, or full-time,
depending on the needs of the student.
Undergraduate provision makes up a higher proportion of UK TNE student numbers than postgraduate provision. In 2019-20, the proportion of students at undergraduate and postgraduate level was around two thirds and one third, respectively.
Interactive stacked bar chart showing total TNE student numbers by level of study
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Transnational education is a broad term which captures a range of teaching and partnership models including, but not limited to, branch campuses, distance learning, online provision, joint and dual degree programmes, double awards, ‘fly-in’ faculty, and mixed models, traditionally referred to as blended learning.
HESA collects data which relates to five categories or types of TNE provision and universities are responsible for returning data against these. The categories are broad, and universities may not always define their programmes by the same definitions used by HESA. Table 1 shows these categories and an example for each.
TABLE 1: TABLE 1: TYPES OF PROVISION
Type of provision
Example of provision
Students registered at the reporting provider.
Studying overseas for UK Higher education Provider (HEP) award at overseas campus of reporting provider.
Overseas standalone or joint campus.
Distance, flexible and distributed learning for UK HEP award where the location of the student is known to be overseas.
Programmes delivered online.
Other arrangements including collaborative provision.
Joint and dual degrees, franchised provision.
Students studying for an award of the reporting provider.
Registered at overseas partner organisation.
Validation and other models where the majority of teaching is delivered in-country.
Any other student studying overseas for an award of the reporting provider.
Multiple UK or international partners delivering a combination of other types of provision.
In 2019−20, 39.1% of UK TNE students were studying through collaborative provision, with an additional 31.2% studying through distance, flexible or distributed learning, 21.7% registered at an overseas partner organisation, and overseas campuses of UK universities account for 6.9% of the total UK TNE student population.
Interactive pie chart showing total TNE student numbers by type of provision
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156 higher education providers reported students studying through TNE in 2019–20, more than ever before. TNE is a core component of many universities’ strategic approach to international growth, but each institution’s approach is unique. TNE provision is driven by a range of local and international factors, and the success of UK universities in delivering TNE is testament to their flexibility and dynamism.
Successful TNE provision comes in many shapes, forms, and sizes, and each institution’s portfolio differs according to their needs and aspirations, from a handful of joint or dual degrees, to a network of global campuses and partnerships. Successful TNE engagement can be resource intensive, but done well it delivers a wealth of positive outcomes for students, overseas partners, and the UK universities themselves.
Interactive bubble chart showing total TNE student numbers for all providers
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Full analysis of the AOR data is conducted annually by the UUKi TNE team and published in the Scale of UK Higher Education Transnational Education report.
You can take a look at the full analysis, including regional breakdowns, longitudinal trends, and exemplary case studies by accessing the reports here:
Specific analysis for Scottish and Welsh providers is also available for the 2018-19 academic year:
Specific analysis for Scottish and Welsh providers is also available for the 2017-18 academic year:
Neither the Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited nor HESA Services Limited can accept responsibility for any inferences or conclusions derived by third parties from data or other information supplied by HESA Services.