The scale of UK transnational education


Transnational Education (TNE) is the delivery of degrees in a country other than where the awarding provider is based. It can include, but is 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.


​​ Definition: Transnational Education

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)



This page includes the most up-to-date figures on: 

  • The total number of UK higher education transnational education students 
  • Where in the world UK TNE students are studying 
  • The level at which students are studying through UK TNE 
  • The type of provision through which UK TNE students are studying 
  • The scale of TNE provision from each UK provider

The total number of students studying through UK TNE varies from year to year as universities add or close online courses, open new campuses, and develop new partnerships.  

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 for the past 10 years

Tips for using the chart

  • Drop down menu to choose whether you see including or excluding three largest providers
  • Drop down menu to choose UK nation of provider 
  • Hover over bars for more details




​Note: Three main providers of distance, flexible and blended TNE

Occasionally in our analysis, we disaggregate the data into two main groups: 'All providers' and 'Exluding the three main providers of distance, flexible and blended TNE'. The latter category excludes Oxford Brookes University, the Open University and University of London students. These three providers make up 49.4% of the AOR and relatively small variations in one of them can have an impact on our understanding of the performance and spread of TNE more generally amoungst UK universities.


UK degrees were delivered in over 226 countries and territories in 2018-19UK TNE delivery is concentrated mainly in Asia, which accounts for around half of all student numbers. This is followed by Africa, the EU, and the Middle East.  

In 2018−19 China was the country hosting the most UK TNE students (78,175), followed by Malaysia (68,290), Singapore (41,540), Pakistan (35,845) and Sri Lanka (28,315). Together, the top five host territories account for 37.8% of all student numbers. 

 

Interactive map showing total UK HE TNE student numbers per country

Tips for using the map

  • For the best experience, view in fullscreen mode (button in bottom right corner) and zoom in for more detail.  
  • Hover over countries to view information
  • Drop down menu to move between academic years
  • Drop down menu to select between including or excluding the three largest providers

 


Level of study 

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 2018-19, excluding the three main providers of distance, flexible and blended TNE, the proportion of students at undergraduate and postgraduate level was around two thirds and one third respectivelyThe percentage of undergraduate students is larger if we count the three main providers of distance, flexible and blended TNEwith undergraduate provision making up over 80% of total student numbers.  


Interactive stacked bar chart showing total TNE student numbers by level of study 

Tips for using the chart 

  • Drop down menu to choose whether you see including or excluding three largest providers
  • Drop down menu to select global region of provision 
  • Hover over bars for more details

 

 

Type of provision 

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 2018−19, 52.1% of UK TNE students were studying whilst registered at an overseas partner organisation, with an additional 24.7% studying through collaborative provision18.1% through distance, flexible or distributed learning, and overseas campuses of UK universities account for 4.3% of the total UK TNE population.

Interactive pie chart showing total TNE student numbers by type of provision  

Tips for using the chart 

  • Drop down menu to choose whether you see including or excluding three largest providers 
  • Drop down menu to select global region of provision 
  • Hover over segments for more details



​Definition: Transnational Education Arrangement
An educational, legal, financial or other arrangement leading to the establishment of (a) collaborative arrangements, such as: franchising, twinning, joint degrees, whereby study programmes, or parts of a course of study, or other educational services of the awarding institution are provided by another partner institurion: (b) non-collaborative arrangements, such as branch campuses, off-shore institutions, corporate or international institutions, whereby study programmes, or parts of a course of study, or other educational services are provided directly by an awarding institution. (UNESCO/Council of Europe, 2001)


Breakdown by provider 

142 higher education providers reported students studying through TNE in 2018-19, 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 

Tips for using the chart  

  • Drop down menu to select academic year
  • Drop down menu to choose UK nation of provider
  • Drop down menu to choose whether you see including or excluding three largest providers
  • Hover over bubbles for more details

UUKi reports - Scale of UK Higher Education Transnational Education 

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 2017-18 academic year:

Note: 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.

 Scale of TNE 2017-18 report


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