The scale of UK Higher Education Transnational Education 2017-18: Scottish providers

5 February 2020

This report uses data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) to analyse Scottish TNE delivery. 

It provides an analysis of where students studied, at what level, and through what kind of provision during the 2017−18 academic year. It also puts some of the figures into context, by providing a longitudinal overview of trends in TNE.


Highlights of the report include:

  • There were 41,390 students on Scottish higher education TNE programmes in 2017-18. This represents 12.5% of the total TNE student numbers reported by all UK providers in 2017-18. 
  • 17 Scottish providers reported TNE students.  
  • Scottish TNE student numbers grew by 13.3% from 2013-14 to 2017-18. From 2016-17 to 2017-18, Scottish TNE student numbers grew by 2.9%.
  • 64.7% of Scottish providers reported more than 1,000 TNE students in 2017-18.
  • Distance learning accounted for 33.3% of all Scottish TNE students, compared with only 20.7% across the UK as a whole. Overseas campus provision was also more prevalent for Scottish providers than across the UK as a whole, with students registered at an overseas campus of the Scottish provider accounting for 16.7% of Scottish TNE students, compared with only 8.5% overall in the UK.
  • There is a more even split between undergraduate and postgraduate for Scottish providers than for the rest of the UK. The proportion reported by Scottish providers was 53.4% undergraduate and 46.6% postgraduate level while in the UK as a whole the proportion reported was 64.9% undergraduate and 35.1% postgraduate.
  • Asia hosted nearly 38.3% of Scottish TNE students, followed by the Middle East (22.6%), Africa (12.0%) and the European Union (10.8%). 

Eduardo Ramos, Head of Transnational Education, Universities UK International: 

‘Universities UK International is committed to widening the evidence base on UK Higher Education Transnational Education. This is the first time we produce a report analysing data trends in TNE student numbers in Scotland. We expect this report will support Scottish higher education leaders and policy-makers define strategic priorities in their internationalisation efforts related to TNE and we are keen to continue working with Universities Scotland to enhance and diversify TNE provision from Scottish institutions worldwide.’

Ulrike Peter, Senior Policy Officer (International), Universities Scotland:

Scotland continues to punch above its weight in the delivery of Transnational Education. We know that Scottish higher education’s quality is highly regarded by the rest of the world and that is reflected in this year’s report. We are keen to build on our success and strength Scotland’s presence across the world over the coming years.'


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