For those of us in the Transnational Education team here at UUKi, the excitement peaks in early Spring, with the release of HESA's Aggregate Offshore Record, the dataset that tracks the number of students registered on courses provided outside of the UK by UK higher education institutions, and which we use to produce our annual Scale of UK HE TNE report.
In anticipation of the release of the latest iteration of the report in October of this year (which we are currently hard at work creating), we thought we would use this series of 'sneak preview' blogs across the summer to share some of the trends that have jumped out at us as illustrative and interesting.
Let's start off with the big headline figure. In the 2017-18 academic year, for the first time since the HESA first began collecting TNE data, there was a decrease in the total number of students on UK HE TNE courses worldwide. This is despite the fact that more UK providers than ever before are engaging in TNE. Total student numbers have dropped by 2% from 707,915 in 2016-17 to 693,695 in 2017-18. But, as with most datasets, behind this headline figure lies a more complex picture.
The AOR is dominated by three providers with very large provision: The Open University, The University of London, and Oxford Brookes University. These providers together account for 52% of all recorded UK TNE students across their various globally successful models of distance and blended learning. Frequently, due to their size, we conduct analysis of the AOR data while excluding these three providers in order to get a clearer picture of trends across the sector. When we exclude the three largest providers we see a different story in global UK TNE student numbers: an increase of 2% from 325,770 in 2016-17 to 332,125 in 2017-18 as Figure 01 shows.
Zooming in slightly to a regional level, Asia continues to host the largest number of students with 173,580, however the European Union sees the strongest growth of 11.1% over the previous year to 49,010 students. Tune in to our next blog in this series for a specific focus on what has been driving this growth in the EU.
The AOR also provides us with a wealth of data on the level of study and type of arrangement students are registered under. For example, as Figure 02 shows, student numbers on international branch campuses of UK universities continue to grow.
A recent article by Times Higher Education took an in depth look into some of the crucial challenges and opportunities surrounding the future of branch campuses as a mode of delivery and noted that despite a slowdown in new openings of branch campuses, student enrolments continue to increase. Well established campuses in China, Malaysia, and the Gulf as well as some newer entrants into these same key markets are continuing to attract new students year on year. This trend will be fascinating to watch in years to come as universities consider whether or not to continue to embrace the branch or international campus model in the face of challenging domestic, economic, demographic, and political circumstances.
Another interesting way the data illustrates the changing nature of global higher education can be seen in the increasing number of TNE students at the postgraduate research level. Although only making up a very small percentage of the total student population, postgraduate research is the fastest growing level of TNE provision with student numbers increasing by 31% from 2013-14 to 2017-18 as shown in Figure 03. This may be an indicator of increasing demand for higher level degrees around the world.
If you enjoyed this blog, the best part is that the fun doesn't stop here! The full report on the Scale of UK HE TNE 2017-18 will be released in the autumn, and in the meantime in our next 'sneak preview' we're going to move from the global to the regional, as we take a deeper dive into regional trends in the EU, and later we'll be using some fantastic studies from institutions to explore growth in a few emerging TNE hot spots. Join the UUKi TNE e-Group to receive updates on all the latest TNE news, analysis and opportunities.