Transnational routes to on-shore UK higher education

Report International
6 November 2020

A substantial proportion of international students in the UK begin their courses on transnational pathways. 

Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency for the 2018/19 academic year shows that more than 15,000 international students started a degree course in Year 2 or later of the programme without having previously studied in a UK Higher Education institution (HEI), making up around a sixth of all non-UK first degree entrants.

This report was researched and written by the British Council in conjunction with Universities UK International and with external advice from Dr Janet Ilieva (Education Insight), in order to help the UK education sector better understand the progression of overseas students from programmes delivered overseas onto first degree programmes delivered in the UK.

The report revisits, expands and updates work carried out by HEFCE in two reports in 2014 and 2015 respectively:

  • ‘Directions of Travel: Transnational pathways into English higher education’. Janet Ilieva. November 2014.
  • ‘Transnational pathways into higher education in England’. Adam Finlayson, June 2015.

As with these previous reports, the current report looks at students joining UK first-degree programmes – including bachelor’s degrees and joint undergraduate-plus-masters courses such as MEng – part-way through the course, without previously having studied in a UK higher education institution.

You can view the report here (this link takes you to the British Council).

Eduardo Ramos, Head of TNE at Universities UK International, a key contributor to the report, said: "The report shows the diversity of ways through which UK universities recruit international students. Transnational routes to onshore recruitment have the benefits of offering greater flexibility, the ability to earn both UK and local qualifications, and the chance for those who could not afford to study an entire overseas degree to experience university education in the UK. We may see expansion of this type of route in countries where these benefits become more relevant."

The report authors gratefully acknowledge the support of colleagues from UK higher education providers and awarding bodies as well as overseas transnational education partner institutions who generously shared their insight into transnational education at their own institutions and more broadly.

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