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Transnational Higher Education: A Stock Take of Current Activity

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Transnational higher education (TNHE) development is not an entirely new international activity in the education services sector. The nature and scale of the global expansion of contemporary TNHE developments are, however, changing substantially. An understanding of this growth is currently largely lacking because of a dearth of comprehensive statistics. The scale of the latter TNHE developments has been particularly hard to identify and has until now been largely based on guesstimates. This article is an attempt at filling this gap. Through a triangulation methodology of available secondary data, this article is a very first attempt at providing a stock take of the current level of activity in TNHE worldwide. (Contains 4 tables and 3 figures.)
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Transnational higher education (TNHE) development is not an entirely new international
activity in the education services sector. The nature and scale of the global expansion of
contemporary TNHE developments are, however, changing substantially. An under-
standing of this growth is currently largely lacking because of a dearth of comprehen-
sive statistics. The scale of the latter TNHE developments has been particularly hard to
identify and has until now been largely based on guesstimates. This article is an attempt
at filling this gap. Through a triangulation methodology of available secondary data,
this article is a very first attempt at providing a stock take of the current level of activity
in TNHE worldwide.
Keywords: international education; transnational education; offshore education;
globalisation; internationalisation; foreign students; mobility
Transnational higher education (TNHE) is an increasingly important and integral
part of internationalisation of higher education (Huang, 2007). And yet an
understanding of this growth is largely lacking because of a dearth of comprehensive
statistics on the scale of TNHE activity (Altbach, 2007). TNHE development is not an
entirely new international activity in the education services sector. Dating as far back
as the mid-1950s, the first offshore education services were provided by U.S. institu-
tions to either serve their students on study-abroad programmes or the U.S. military
personnel (Verbik & Merkley, 2006). The nature and scale of the global expansion
of TNHE developments are however currently changing substantially. Not only are
the “traditional” public and private higher education institutions involved in this
TNHE landscape, but an increasing number of “new or alternative” providers, which
include media companies such as Pearson (United Kingdom) and Thomson (Canada),
multinational companies such as Apollo (United States) and Informatics (Singapore),
corporate universities, and professional associations, are also engaged in TNHE
activities (Knight, 2005a). This reflects the boom in the international trade of
education that has manifested itself over the last few decades (Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD], 2004). The OECD estimates that
Cite as: Naidoo, V. (2009). Transnational higher education: A stocktake of
current activity. Journal of Studies in International Education, 13(3): 310-330
Available: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1028315308317938
the international trade in education services account for roughly 3% of global
services exports (Alderman, 2001; Johnston, 2002). This trade, to date, has largely
developed through student mobility (see Table 1).
Driven by the expectation of its ability to raise the status of the graduate, both
economically and socially, demand for education, particularly higher education, has
led to a significant number of students (mostly from developing countries) travelling
abroad for their studies, leading to a sort of “academic trade,” where knowledge and
expertise are treated as traded services (McMahon, 1988). Figure 1 illustrates the
trend in international student flows from a mere 149,590 in 1955 (the earliest year
for which data are available) to a peak of 2.7 million in 2004 (the latest year for
which data are available).
This trend depicts a shift in overseas study from an elitist experience to one
involving mass movements. Indeed, no longer is overseas study limited to those
earning scholarships and fellowships. Rather, all those who can afford it now have a
chance for a cross-border education reflecting a shift in overseas student policy from
an “aid” approach to a “trade” rationale (Smart & Ang, 1993).
The shift to a “trade” rationale quickly led to the emergence of a global education
industry (Mazzarol & Soutar, 2002). In countries such as Australia, New Zealand,
and the United States, education services is estimated to be, respectively, the third,
fourth, and fifth largest service sector export (Vincent-Lancrin, 2004). To date, however,
Table 1
Significance of Global Trade in Education
Services: 1980-2004, Selected Years
1980 1990 1995 2000 2004
Number of students studying 0.993 1.2 (3.3) 1.5 (5) 1.6 (1.3) 2.7 (17.1)
overseas in millions
(average annual growth
in percentage)
Value of global education NA 6 24 43 60
marketa(US$ billion)
Total value of global services 822 1,691 2,479 3,045 4,358
trade in US billion (average (NA) (10.6) (9.3) (4.6) (10.8)
annual growth in percentage)
Higher education as NA 0.3 0.9 1.5 1.4
percentage of services trade
(import +export)
Note: NA =not applicable.
Source: UNESCO Statistical Yearbook, OECD Education Database; UNCTAD (Various).
a. Estimates based on Larsen, Martin, and Morris’s (2002) estimates of the global market for education
and assuming an average annual change in tuition based on the International Handbook of Universities
published by the International Association of Universities in association with UNESCO.
much of the trade in education services has focused quite narrowly on students trav-
elling abroad for an education. A great deal of potential remains in the development
of trade in education services via the other “Modes of Supply” through which edu-
cation services can be traded (see Box 1).
In fact, if growth in trade for higher education is to be expected, this trade might not
necessarily be for more of the same (i.e., via student mobility). If the development
of trade in education services is to be modelled on the growth of other service indus-
tries, then the growth in trade in education services is likely to be via Mode 3 and to
a lesser extent Mode 1. With the promise of new satellite- and Internet-based tech-
nologies, distance learning systems will have great potential in the future, but given
that not all students are suited for distance learning and that not all subjects are best
taught via this form of learning (Palloff & Pratt, 2000), the uptake of distance learn-
ing is likely be slower than Mode 3 TNHE.
The growth of Mode 3 TNHE developments is already recognised in the educa-
tion sector. The international education literature, for instance, is full of reports of
missed international recruitment targets via Mode 2 in a number of education exporting
countries. Juxtaposing this slump in international student mobility with predictions
of massive growth for TNHE delivery (mostly from China), OBHE (2005a) argues
that TNHE is beginning to cannibalise trade in education services via Mode 2
(OBHE, 2005a). Indeed, according to forecasts by the British Council (2004), TNHE
delivery is expected to outpace student mobility to the United Kingdom by the year
2010. At present, it already accounts for an estimated 50% of U.K. international
enrolments (OBHE, 2006a). These forecasts build on work by IDP Education
Australia, which has predicted a similar growth in TNHE delivery for Australian
higher education (Garrett & Verbik, 2004). Figure 2 shows the growth in TNHE
Source: UNESCO Statistical Yearbook; OECD Education Database.
0
500
1000
1500
2000
2500
3000
1955
1968
1971
1975
1978
1981
1984
1987
1990
1993
1998
2002
2004
Year
Number of Overseas Students
(Thousand)
Figure 1
International Student Numbers at the Tertiary Level From 1955 to 2004
enrolments between 1996 and 2005 accounting for roughly 29% of all international
students in the Australian tertiary education system in 2005 (Department of
Education, Science, and Training [DEST], 2006).
In this article, a snapshot of the vast array of Mode 3 TNHE developments is pro-
vided. Although TNHE can be delivered via Modes 1 and 3, only the latter TNHE
developments are examined in this article. Furthermore, TNHE activities of “tradi-
tional” educational institutions are overviewed in this article. For-profit TNHE is
beyond the scope of the current article. Although the latter organisations are increas-
ingly active in the TNHE landscape, their scale of operations is still small. Indeed, it
is estimated that to date the conventional higher education institutions are delivering
Box 1
The Different Modes of Services Trade According to
the GATS Classification
The GATS is the first set of multilateral rules covering international trade in
services. It stipulates that a service can be traded in four ways.
Mode 1: Cross-border supply corresponds to the common form of trade
in goods; only the service itself crosses the border. Cross-border supply of
educational services is currently a small market but has the potential to grow
rapidly in the future through the use of new information technologies for
distance learning. A number of private companies and universities have
launched recent initiatives in this area. In 2004, Mode 1 accounted for 35% of
the total world trade in services.
Mode 2: Consumption abroad refers to a situation in which a service con-
sumer moves to another country to obtain the service (e.g., a student who
travels abroad to study). International flows of students in higher education
constitute at present by far the largest share of the global market for educa-
tional services. In 2004, Mode 2 accounted for 10-15% of total world trade in
services.
Mode 3: Commercial presence of educational services refers to the com-
mercial establishment of facilities abroad by education providers (e.g., “local
branch campuses” or partnerships with domestic education institutions). In
2004, Mode 3 accounted for 50% of the total world trade in services.
Mode 4: Presence of natural persons consists of a natural person (e.g., a
professor, researcher, teacher) travelling to another country on a temporary
basis to provide an educational service. In 2004, Mode 4 accounted for 1% to
2% of the total world trade in services.
Source: Adapted from Larsen, Martin, and Morris (2002), Knight (2002), and World Trade
Organisation (2004).
the majority of TNHE programmes (Larsen, Momii, & Vincent-Lancrin, 2004). The
article opens with a section on the typology of Mode 3 TNHE followed by an exam-
ination of current activities in TNHE delivery. The latter addresses the objective of
this article, namely, to gain an understanding of the emerging developments in
TNHE through a comprehensive overview of trends over the past few decades.
Mode 3 Transnational Higher Education: A Typology
The term TNHE first appeared in the Australian literature in the early 1990s when
Australian education providers wanted to differentiate between international students
recruited to Australian institutions and those who were enrolled in Australian degrees
offshore (Knight, 2005a). Over the years, however, a great deal of terminological and
conceptual confusion has arisen as to what constitutes TNHE. Therefore, to eliminate
any such confusion, the definition provided by UNESCO’s/Council of Europe’s (2000,
p. 2) Code of Good Practice in the Provision of Transnational Education is used for
the purpose of this article, namely, that TNHE includes “all types of higher education
study programmes or set of courses of study, or educational services . . . in which the
learners are located in a country different from the one where the awarding institution
is based.” Besides, the Code specifies that TNHE programmes may belong to the edu-
cational system of a country different from the one in which they are offered or they
may be offered independently of any national system. Therefore, the prominent aspect
of TNHE involves education programmes that are being delivered across the borders
of national education systems where the notion of crossing borders is made explicit.
Source: Department of Education, Science, and Training (2006).
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2005
Year
Enrolment (%)
On Campus (Mode 2) Distance Learning (Mode 1)
Offshore Campus (Mode 3)
Figure 2
Distribution of International Students in Australian Universities
by Mode of Study, 1996 to 2005
TNHE can be delivered via several types of higher education programmes and the
most common modalities include the following.
Franchising: An education provider from Country A (the franchiser) grants another
institution from Host Country B the right to deliver the franchiser’s educational pro-
grammes in Country B or other countries. The qualification is then awarded by the
franchiser in Country A. Franchising agreements are usually for-profit commercial
arrangements and are often referred to as 3 +0 (in the case of 3-year qualifications,
2 +0 in the case of 2-year qualifications, 4 +0 in the case of 4-year qualifications,
etc.) where the student undertakes the entire programme in the host or third country.
Twinning degrees: An arrangement where an education provider from Source
Country A collaborates with another institution in Host Country B allowing
students studying at the latter institution to transfer their course credits to the insti-
tution in Country A. One qualification is awarded by the education provider in
Country A. This may or may not be on a commercial basis and is often referred to
as 2 +2, 1 +3 (in the case of 4-year qualifications), or a similar combination, with
the +referring to the fact that part of the qualification is conducted in the host coun-
try and part in the source country.
Programme articulations: In articulation arrangements, students undertake part of a
source country qualification in a host country and then transfer to the source country
institution with “advanced standing” in terms of study credits and credit transfer to
complete the qualification at the education institution in the source country. This sort
of inter-institutional arrangements may or may not lead to joint or double degrees.
Branch campus: A subsidiary/satellite campus is established by a source country
education institution in a host country to deliver its own education programmes.
Branch campuses can be established either through wholly owned subsidiaries or
via joint venture partnerships with local host country partners.
Virtual/distance learning: The education provider from a source country delivers
the education service to students in a host country via a communication interface
(usually via post and/or Internet-based solutions) and the students self-direct the
learning process.
Corporate programmes: Some major multinational corporations have their own
higher education institutions or programmes of study, offering qualifications that
might not necessarily be affiliated with any national education system.
Described in existing conventions and through the modalities examined above,
Mode 3 TNHE is definitely a multidimensional phenomenon. Twinning programmes,
articulation programmes, franchised (or licensed) programmes, and joint award
programmes are just some of the terms currently used, often inconsistently, in the
literature to describe the complex range of activity. Davis, Olsen, and Bohm (2000)
reviewed the use of these conventions and found a lack of conceptual clarity. They
reasoned that this lack of clarity stems from the current terminology of Mode 3
TNHE having been developed to suit a range of different purposes. For example, the
differentiation between twinning and articulation programmes is rather murky with
both sharing blurred boundaries. Similarly, franchised programmes represent busi-
ness models while twinning arrangements refer to the responsibility for educational
delivery.
In an attempt to bring structure to this debate on Mode 3 TNHE, this article adopts
Knight’s (2003) convention of institution and programme mobility. Institution mobility
pertains to an institution that goes overseas for education purposes whereas
programme mobility represents an educational programme that goes offshore. A
common form of institution mobility is the opening of satellite branch campuses
(i.e., a subsidiary campus) offshore. Equipped with this typology, the next section
highlights the triangulation methodology used in stocktaking institutional and
programme mobility in TNHE.
Method
Existing data on the growth and scope of TNHE are limited, because they tend to
fall outside standard data gathering systems that focus primarily on domestic education
programmes. It is, therefore, difficult to document precisely the extent of TNHE, and
most of our understanding of this new phenomenon on the education landscape is
based largely on anecdotal evidence (e.g., University of Nottingham in China,
Monash University in South Africa, etc.). In this section, this article attempts to
bridge this lack of data through an analysis of secondary data, by synthesizing a range
of intelligence scattered around books, academic journals, newspapers, and institu-
tional websites.
The following sources were analysed to develop an overview of the scope and scale
of TNHE: Times Higher Education Supplement (U.K.-based publication), Observatory
of Borderless Higher Education Reports (U.K.-based publication), Chronicle of
Higher Education (U.S.-based publication), The Australian (higher education section;
Australia-based publication), Campus Review (Australia-based publication), Education
Review (New Zealand-based publication), and Canadian Internationalist (Canada-
based publication). Working papers, research reports, and newsletters from the British
Council, the Institute of International Education (U.S.-based institution), the
Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee, IDP Australia, and the New Zealand Vice-
Chancellors Committee, Education New Zealand were also consulted.
Data were also obtained from source countries that maintain an official list of
TNHE activities. These include China (China Ministry of Education, 2006), Hong
Kong (Hong Kong Education and Manpower Bureau, 2006), India (Indian National
Institute of Educational Planning and Administration, 2006), Jamaica (Jamaica
University Council, 2007), Malaysia (LAN, 2006), Pakistan (Higher Education
Commission of Pakistan, 2006), Singapore (Singapore Ministry of Education, 2006),
and Thailand (Thai Commission on Higher Education, 2006). The online location of
these data is given in the References section.
In triangulating data between host and source countries of TNHE, a conscious
effort was made to compare them with those from the source countries where avail-
able. Where the data did not match, they were cross-checked by contacting the
source country institution in question. Where this cross-reference was not obtained
because of no responses from the latter (a 78% response rate was obtained), the more
conservative estimate was used so as not to run the risk of overestimating the scale and
scope of Mode 3 TNHE. In all cases, the conservative estimates were from the host
countries, and given that these were mostly from official government sources, they
were assumed to be correct even if often there was a large gap to what was quoted
from the literature. China is a particular case in point. Although some commentators
such as Bjarnason (2006) have suggested that there are currently more than an esti-
mated 1,000 TNHE courses being delivered in China via programme mobility, data
obtained from the Chinese Ministry of Education Web site reveal that only about 400
such programmes are being delivered in China. This discrepancy may have arisen
because of different data collection methods, incomplete data, or could reflect the
fact that unofficial provision appears to exist in the delivery of Mode 3 TNHE
because the Chinese Ministry of Education data account for only registered courses.
Further analysis of the data would be needed to determine whether the discrepancy
reflect additional programmes that are operating illegally. This analysis is, however,
beyond the scope of the current study.
In undertaking the secondary data compilation, a literature search was conducted
from 1970 onwards, to capture the few TNHE programmes that were set up prior to
the late 1990s/early 2000s, when the scale of TNHE activity grew considerably.
TNHE programmes set up prior to 1970 are dissimilar to the contemporary ones and
were either established to serve study-abroad students or military personnel. Given
that such TNHE programmes are different in nature to the contemporary TNHE
developments, which are established to serve fee-paying international students from
an overseas location, they fall outside the scope of this article.
Furthermore, as an historical analysis, a number of TNHE operations that were
discussed in the literature are not currently in operation. For example, both U.K.-based
De Montfort University and Australian-based Bond University had TNHE operations
in South Africa. However, in 2004, these two operations were closed down, following
a review of MBA programmes that resulted in their courses not being accredited.
There were also cases in which the plans for TNHE development were captured by
the media, but failed to materialise. This includes the Indian Institute of
Management, Bangalore, which announced plans to open a campus in Singapore,
but did not undertake the project. To ensure that the data compilation for this current
study was as up-to-date as possible, any TNHE developments identified from the
sources accessed were cross-checked via the Internet to ensure that they were still in
operation. An active Web site was taken as an indication of operational existence,
given that the Internet plays a critical role in the recruitment of international students
(for both cost effectiveness reasons and marketing reach; Gomes & Murphy, 2003).
Where operational existence was in doubt, in spite of an Internet presence, an
attempt was made to contact the institution in question for clarification purposes. If
clarification was not obtained, then that operation is not reported in this study.
Nevertheless, in spite of the care taken in compiling the data highlighted in this
article, it is likely that the data underestimate real activity. Relevance on secondary
data means that due to lack of media coverage, official announcements, and language
barriers, some TNHE developments may have been omitted. The above caveats need
to be taken into consideration as a possible limitation of the present article.
Nevertheless, this limitation constitutes a finding in its own right, because one of the
main conclusions to be drawn from this study is the need for more international
consultation on TNHE statistics.
TNHE via Institution and Programme
Mobility: A Stock Take
Tables 2 and 3 highlight TNHE institution mobility being undertaken via wholly
owned satellite campuses and joint venture operations. The latter represent opera-
tions where a source country institution has the majority ownership of the TNHE
Table 2
Mode 3 Transnational Higher Education via Wholly Owned Subsidiary
Home Country
Location United States Australia Ireland Philippines Total
Austria 1 1
Belgium 1 1
Canada 1 1 2
Czech Republic 1 1
Fiji 1 1
France 1 1
Greece 1 1
Indonesia 1 1
Jamaica 1 1
Malaysia 1 1
Mexico 2 2
Netherlands 1 1
Singapore 2 2
Switzerland 1 1
S. Africa 1 1
Thailand 1 1
United Kingdom 1 1
Vietnam 1 1
Total 15 3 1 2 21
Source: Adapted from Verbik and Merkeley (2006).
Table 3
Mode 3 Transnational Higher Education Developments via Joint Ventures
Home Country
United United
Location States Australia Kingdom India Canada Belgium Iran Ireland Pakistan France Sweden Total
Australia 1 1
China 3 1 4
Hungary 1 1
Japan 1 1
Jordan 2 2
Kenya 11
Malaysia 3 1 4
Panama 1 1
Poland 1 1
Qatar 5 1 6
Russia 11
Singapore 1 12
United Arab Emirates 2 1 2 4 2 1 1 1 1 15
United Kingdom 1 1
Vietnam 1 1
Total 18 6 4 4 3 1 1 1 2 1 1 42
Source: Adapted from Verbik and Merkeley (2006).
development. Joint venture operations are a partnership between two or more other-
wise independent institutions to jointly establish a TNHE operation.
The main conclusion that can be derived from the secondary analysis undertaken
is that, although it is difficult to document, with exact precision the scope and scale
of TNHE, existing data show that Mode 3 TNHE occurs mostly in the Asia-Pacific
region, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and in South America. It is most often
undertaken by Australian, British, and U.S. institutions. Wholly owned branch cam-
puses and joint venture operations currently represent a very small share of the Mode
3 TNHE landscape.
Most wholly owned or joint venture TNHE operations are from the United States.
British institutions rank second to the United States in absolute terms, whereas
Australia leads in relative terms, when the size of its postsecondary education system
is taken into account. In relative terms, less than 1% of “traditional” accredited uni-
versities and colleges in the United States are active in wholly owned subsidiaries
and joint venture operations. However, Mode 3 TNHE operations via wholly owned
subsidiaries and joint ventures are becoming important parts of the operations of for-
profit U.S. educational institutions. Laureate Education Inc. (previously Sylvan
International Universities), for example, has an enrolment of 209,000 students in 19
offshore operations across four continents (www.laureate-inc.com). Apollo International,
an associated company of the Apollo Group (owner of U.S.-based distance learning
provider the University of Phoenix), has five overseas campuses in Canada, Brazil,
Mexico, India, and China (www.apollogrp.edu). DeVry Inc. has small operations in
Canada and the Caribbean (www.devryinc.com), and Career Education Corporation
has nine operations in France, one in the United Kingdom, two in Canada, and one
in the United Arab Emirates (www.careered.com). These for-profit operations are,
however, outside the scope of this article and are therefore not accounted for in
Tables 2 and 3.
In addition of the institutions shown in Tables 2 and 3, there were a number of
other institutions whose ownership modes were unclear and could not be easily cat-
egorised as either wholly owned subsidiaries or joint ventures. These institutions
include Universidad Tecnica Federico Santa Maria de Chile (from Chile), based in
Ecuador; SP Jain Centre of Management (from India), based in Singapore; Royal
College of Surgeons (from Ireland), based in Bahrain; Griffith College, Dublin (from
Ireland), based in Pakistan; University of Bologna (from Italy), based in Argentina;
Christelijke Hogeschool Noord-Nederland (from the Netherlands), based in Qatar
and South Africa; Seoul National University (from South Korea), based in Vietnam;
John Hopkins University (from the United States), based in China and Italy; Brookdale
College (from the United States), based in Ecuador; Troy University (from the
United States), based in Germany; and Clark University (from the United States),
based in Israel (Verbik & Merkeley, 2006). Attempting to contact these institutions
to clarify their ownership mode did not eventuate in a good response rate. These
institutions were therefore omitted from the present study.
Another set of institutions were also omitted from the analysis of this study.
These include institutions such as the United States International University in
Kenya, which, while having been established as a joint venture, has developed into
an independent institution with no foreign control and with its own degree awarding
powers and accreditations (Verbik & Merkley, 2006). Similarly, foreign-backed uni-
versities have also been excluded from this study. These institutions are typically
new education providers set up in a host country with substantial foreign support,
which tend to be mostly academic rather than financial. This academic support can
be in the form of curriculum input, training opportunities for the host country acad-
emics, as well as recognition in the source country for qualifications earned. These
foreign-backed institutions are mostly independent institutions. Examples of foreign-
backed institutions include the Swiss-German University of Indonesia, Westminster
International University in Tashkent (Uzbekistan), the Kazakh-British Technical
University in Kazakhstan, the British University in Dubai, the German University in
Cairo, the British University in Egypt, Wadi Syrian-German University, and the
German-Jordanian University of Applied Sciences (Verbik & Merkeley, 2006). Another
group of education institutions not highlighted as part of this article are providers
modelled on a foreign country’s education system but with no affiliation to a mother
institution there. These institutions are independently set up and are not controlled
foreign operations. They therefore lie outside the scope of this study. Examples of
these institutions are the American Universities of Cairo, Beirut, Dubai (Qatar),
Sharjah (United Arab Emirates), Bulgaria, and Paris and the American International
University in London (Verbik & Merkeley, 2006).
Although institutional TNHE mobility is a small but growing phenomenon, pro-
gramme mobility is much more established in the educational landscape. Although
it is similarly not easy to gauge the full extent of programme mobility, some data are
available to shed some light on its scope and scale. These are presented in Table 4,
which provides a snapshot of the global TNHE activity delivered via programme
mobility as of 2006.
The information presented in Table 4 reveals that Australia is by far the most
active exporter of programme mobility. With 1,569 education programmes and 37
institutions operating in the programme mobility landscape, the overall “intensity”
of Australia’s activity was 42.4 programmes per institution, compared with 12.7 pro-
grammes for U.K.-based institutions. In absolute terms, the United States is the third
most active exporter of TNHE programmes followed by New Zealand and Canada.
Ireland has some export activity but not on the scale of market leaders. From the
importers’ side, the hotspot of programme mobility is in Singapore, Hong Kong, and
Malaysia in descending order. China and India are emerging markets with each,
respectively, having 410 and 249 TNHE programmes. It is to be highlighted that
these numbers do not include distance learning TNHE programmes (i.e., Mode 1)
because these lie outside the scope of this study.
Table 4
Number of Joint Education Programmes from Selected Source Countries in Selected Host Countries
Leading to the Award of Qualifications by the Source Country Institution as of 2006
Location of TNHE Programme
Source Country China Hong Kong India Malaysia Singapore Other Total
Australia 199 (23) 291 (29) 41 (9) 315 (28) 491 (45) 232 (37) 1,569 (37)
Canada 14 (10) 10 (9) 2(2) 4 (3) 9 (5) 42 (NA) 81 (16)
Ireland 3 (3) 3 (1) NA 1 (1) 15 (2) NA NA
New Zealand 31 (8) 5 (2) 2(2) 16 (4) 11 (4) 72 (18) 137 (29)
United Kingdom 73 (10) 391 (51) 105 (51) 121 (24) 288 (55) 27 (NA) 1,002 (79)
United States of America 50 (33) 41 (28) 96 (64) 23 (8) 86 (45) 37 (NA) 333 (NA)
Other 40 (17) 86 (15) 3 (3) 10 (5) 66 (20) NA 205 (NA)
Total 410 (104) 827 (135) 249 (131) 490 (73) 966 (176) NA 3,327 (NA)
Note: The number of higher education institutions from the selected source countries offering joint education programmes in the selected host countries is
indicated in brackets; NA =not available.
Source: Australia: Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee (2003); Canada: Knight (2000); China: China Ministry of Education (2006); Hong Kong: Hong Kong
Education and Manpower Bureau (2006); India: Indian National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (2006); Singapore: Singapore Ministry of
Education (2006); Malaysia: LAN (2006); New Zealand: Education New Zealand (2006); United Kingdom: Education UK (2006); United States: CHEA (2006).
Australia and New Zealand are particularly interesting cases to highlight given
that they are the only OECD countries currently collecting data on enrolment in
TNHE programmes. In both countries, enrolments in programme mobility have been
increasing in the past few years. In 2006, this enrolment represented roughly 30% of
all international students enrolled in the Australian higher education system (DEST,
2007). This compares with 18% in 1996, when the statistics on offshore education
enrolments were first collected (DEST, 1997); see also Figure 2. IDP, the company
that markets Australian education internationally, forecasts that, by 2025, 47% of all
international enrolments will be enrolled in Australian TNHE, primarily in the form
of programme mobility (Bohm, Davis, Meares, & Pearce, 2002). In 2003, the latest
year for which data are available, 37 of the 38 Australian universities enrolled inter-
national students via programme mobility (Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee,
2003). A survey conducted by the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee shows
that, as of May 2003, Australian Universities had 1,569 offshore programmes with
overseas education institutions. More than 70% of these offshore programmes were
in Singapore, Malaysia, and China (including Hong Kong). IDP further describes
these offshore programmes as primarily postgraduate (56%), in business adminis-
tration and economics (51%), and with a mean enrolment of 40 students, 54% of
whom were enrolled in full-time study (Davis et al, 2000).
In New Zealand, a study commissioned by Education New Zealand (2006), the
industry representative body of the international education sector, revealed that in
2006, 29 of the country’s 78 tertiary education providers surveyed (37%) were offer-
ing TNHE via programme mobility. Of these, 21 were state tertiary education
providers (7 universities, 13 polytechnics, and 1 college of education); the rest were
private institutions. These 29 education providers represent a 53% increase over the
19 providers that were involved in TNHE via programme mobility in 2003, when a
similar study had been commissioned by the New Zealand Ministry of Education. A
total of 1,385 students were enrolled in New Zealand offshore education pro-
grammes in 2006. A total of 137 courses were offered of which 52 (38%) were
degree programmes, 49 (36%) were diploma programmes, and 30 (22%) were at the
certificate level and below. Six (4%) programmes were not formal qualifications. Of
the 52 degree programmes, 37 (71%) were undergraduate programmes and 15 (29%)
were postgraduate programmes. Business administration and economics were by far
the most popular types of courses offered offshore (46%) followed by health (11%),
science and engineering (9%), arts and social science (7%), and tourism and hospi-
tality (7%). The offshore programmes surveyed were offered in China, including
Hong Kong (26%), followed by the Pacific (21%) and Malaysia (12%). The pro-
grammes in the Pacific were offered mainly in the Cook Islands and Tonga (9 pro-
grammes each).
In the United Kingdom, programme mobility is a major and growing market and
has been for some time (Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, 2000). The
British Council estimates that some 200,000 overseas-based students are involved in
U.K. programme mobility and that this market is growing at 10% a year (www
.britishcouncil.org/promotion/pmi.htm). The U.K. Prime Minister’s Initiative, designed
to market U.K. education to international students, targets TNHE as an area of
growth (British Council, 2006).
In Canada, a survey conducted by the Association of Universities and Colleges of
Canada (AUCC) in 2000 indicated that 42% of the responding institutions were
delivering Mode 3 TNHE via programme mobility (Knight, 2000). Of the 42%, 29%
had reported a low level of activity, 62% a medium level of activity, and 8%
described their level of activity as high. Those institutions that were not active in
TNHE described their level of interest in delivering such programmes in the future
as follows: low (50%), medium (36%), and high (11%). These statistics, although
fairly dated, reflect the observation that Canadian institutions have moderate to low
interest in delivering TNHE programmes. This interest can be assumed to have prob-
ably risen over the past few years, but not hugely as highlighted in Table 4.
In the United States, the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), the
national association for accredited degree-granting colleges and universities, indicates
that, in 2006, 236 U.S.-accredited programmes were operating outside the United
States (CHEA, 2006). This figure does not include programmes that are accredited
in the host country (or not accredited at all). It is estimated that, from the data
presented in Table 4, some 97 of the latter programmes existed in 2006. The data
available from CHEA are only in aggregate form, and unfortunately, no further
conclusions can be drawn. However, what can be mentioned from the aggregate data
is that, although offshore education programmes are not overly common among
traditional U.S. universities and colleges, the for-profit education providers are quite
active in this area. Indeed, not only are these providers active on the wholly owned
subsidiary and joint venture front of the TNHE market but they are also very active
via programme mobility, taking advantage of the lower cost of capital required in
engaging in such operations. Although no comprehensive data are available to back
this statement, figures from Sylvan Learning Systems show that college enrolments
via programme mobility are growing very rapidly, albeit from a small base (OBHE,
2003a). In fact, the same figures reveal that offshore education enrolments (delivered
via programme mobility) are growing three times as fast as the U.S. domestic level.
In terms of the “other” countries highlighted in Table 4, although it has not been
possible to derive a comprehensive list of all institutions involved because of a lack
of comprehensive statistics, it is estimated that another 500 to 1,000 education pro-
grammes must be on offer worldwide. This estimate is derived from information
such as the following.
In Argentina, there are currently 11 education programmes on offer via programme
mobility; four from France and Spain, respectively, and three from Italy (García-
Guadilla, Didou Aupetit, & Marquis, 2002).
In Brazil, there are currently five education programmes on offer, mostly from
Portugal (Didou Aupetit, 2006).
In the Dominican Republic, 45 foreign programmes are on offer; six from Latin
America (mostly Cuba, Guadalupe, and Puerto Rico), 23 from Spain, 9 from the
United States, and several from France, Canada, and Belgium (OBHE, 2005b).
In Eastern Europe, a report commissioned by the Swedish National Agency for
Higher Education points to the emergence of Russia as a major exporter of TNHE.
Although constrained by a lack of data, the report does cite a number of examples
of Russian TNHE activity in former Soviet territories, serving Russian speaking
minorities (e.g., Moscow University of Industry in Latvia and Moscow International
Slavonic Institute in Bulgaria; OBHE, 2003b).
In France, some institutions are reported to be exporting TNHE programmes. These
include Lille 2, Paris 4, and Grenoble 2 to Greece and the Conservatoire National des
Arts et Metiers to Eastern Europe, Magreb, and sub-Saharan Africa (Adam, 2001).
In Francophone Africa, six undergraduate programmes are currently being offered by
the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie, a Montreal-based multilateral organisa-
tion consisting of 525 francophone public and private universities. A graduate-level
training institute located in Mauritius is supported by Agence Universitaire de la
Francophonie sponsored academics from French, Swiss, Belgian, and Canadian
universities (Jokivirta, 2005).
In Germany, the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst—the German
Academic Exchange Service) estimates that 29 TNHE courses via programme mobil-
ity are currently being delivered by German institutions in 19 countries; 40% of which
are in Asia, about a third in Eastern Europe, and the remaining in the Middle East,
South America, and Southern Africa (DAAD Web site [www.daad.org] accessed
February 2007).
In Greece, some 600 TNHE programmes are reported to be offered by European
countries other than the United Kingdom (Adam, 2001).
In Mexico, five education programmes are currently on offer; three from Spain and
two from France (García-Guadilla et al., 2002).
In Nigeria, Lagos Business School offers MBA programmes in partnership with
Spanish-based IESE Business School, which is part of the University of Navarra
(OBHE, 2005c).
In Pakistan, seven foreign institutions are reported to be active: two from the United
Kingdom, one each from Australia, Ireland, Malaysia, Singapore, and the United
States (Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, 2006).
In Portugal, Spanish education institutions are active in TNHE delivery. Portugal
also exports TNHE with the Universidade Aberta offering Portuguese qualifications
to Portuguese emigrants in Africa and Western Europe (Adam, 2001).
In Russia, the Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIT) is offering its
masters and PhD programmes through a local teaching centre (Knight, 2005b).
In South Africa, 14 programmes are offered by four institutions: two from Australia,
one from the Netherlands, and one from the United Kingdom (South African
Qualifications Authority, 2006).
In Thailand, 17 programmes are offered by 14 institutions: nine from the United
Kingdom, five from Australia, two from United States, and one from Canada (Thai
Commission on Higher Education, 2006).
From the examples given, a broad observation can be made about Australia and the
United Kingdom being the prominent source countries of TNHE in these “other” host
countries. In terms of “other” source countries, a handful of countries can be identified
including France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. Some major host countries such
as Malaysia, Singapore, and even China and India are also emerging as exporters of
TNHE although their level of activity is still extremely limited. The National
University of Singapore, for example, offers joint programmes with institutions based
in the United States, China, Sweden, and India (OBHE, 2006b). China’s Jinan University
is offering programmes in Thailand (Knight, 2005b), and Indian education institutions
are targeting countries with an Indian Diaspora, offering Indian qualifications (e.g.,
Indian NIIT education delivery network, which is spread over 30 countries in the
Americas, Europe, Asia, Middle East, Africa; see www.niit.com).
Figure 3a and 3b summarise these developments. Figure 3a highlights, on two
axes, the extent of import and export of TNHE delivery, whereas Figure 3b provides
a pictorial representation of that information. What is not captured in Figure 3a and
b, however, is how national positions change over time. Vietnam, for example, is
stepping up its import activities of TNHE. In time, it can be expected that Vietnam
will move up the vertical axis in Figure 3a under present trends. Conversely, some
countries are moving to introduce regulations, which are not welcoming to TNHE
delivery. Both China and India, for example, have recently introduced more stringent
requirements for TNHE delivery, which are expected to consolidate their growth in
TNHE delivery experienced in recent years (Garrett & Verbik, 2003).
Overall, the secondary analysis conducted revealed that there were about 3,327
non-equity Mode 3 TNHE programmes on offer worldwide as of 2006. This, however,
is a very conservative estimate, and it is expected that the real scale of TNHE activity
is somewhere in the region of 3,800 to 4,300 programmes. As highlighted earlier, many
TNHE programmes delivered in the other countries in Table 4 were from non-English-
speaking countries. Given that the methodology employed in collecting the data pre-
sented in Table 4 was based on a canvassing of the English-medium literature,
language barriers could have created an underestimation in the types and number of
TNHE courses via programme mobility captured. Last, the data examined in this arti-
cle are those for registered and accredited TNHE programmes; this excludes those
programmes that are offered worldwide without being officially registered.
Conclusion
TNHE is a worldwide phenomenon whose scale of activity has grown exponen-
tially in recent years. Although this growth has taken place amidst greater trade in
the education sector, an understanding of the dynamics of TNHE has largely been
lacking because of a dearth of comprehensive statistics evaluating the real magnitude of
this new phenomenon in the international higher education landscape. This article is
Source: (a) Adapted from Garrett and Verbik (2003). (b) Adapted from Bjarnason (2006).
Major Importer
Hong
Kong
Malaysia
Singapore
China
India
Mauritius
Qatar
UAE
Greece
Thailand
Vietnam
Russia
Jamaica
Pakistan
South
Africa
Canada
Ireland
France
Germany
New Zlnd
Spain
US Australia
UK
Little or No Import
L
ittle or No
Export Major
Exporter
A
North America – Major
host through commercial
universities
South America – Major
host for commercial
universities; limited to
emerging host for
traditionalinsitutions
Caribbean –
Emerging hosts
Mauritius –
Emerging Host
Hong Kong,
Singapore, Malaysia
– Major hosts
Russia – Emerging
Source
UAE, Qatar –
Emerging hosts
China and India –
Emerging hosts
B
Figure 3
(a) Mode 3 Transnational Higher Education: Import and Export Activity in
Selected Countries (Both Institution and Programme Mobility). (b) Mode 3
Transnational Higher Education Markets: A Pictorial Representation of
Import Activity (Both Institution and Programme Mobility)
a first comprehensive approach at stock taking the magnitude of growth in TNHE in
recent years. Through a canvassing of available secondary data, a picture of the TNHE
landscape is painted. This picture is, however, very preliminary and suffers from
some limitations, which might have led to an under estimation of activity in TNHE.
These limitations are outlined in the article. These limitations, however, constitute a
finding in their own rights, because one of the main conclusions to be drawn from
this study is the need for more international consultation on TNHE statistics.
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... emic research on market-driven internationalization, but to date has concentrated in organizational and business management literature (Healey, 2015a(Healey, , 2016McBurnie & Ziguras, 2006;Wilkins & Huisman, 2012) and descriptive reports "taking stock" of current activities (British Council, 2013;HE Global, 2016;Healey & Michael, 2014;Knight, 2016;V. Naidoo, 2009). This literature is highly attuned to the directional flows of students, programs and institutions, which it characterizes using trade terminology such as net exporting and importing countries. ...
... The strongly commercial tack of TNHE discourse is evidenced in the ways its impact is consistently measured in financial terms. Studies generally cite the net value of the global education market and the share of this figure which constitutes overseas educational services as a national commercial export (see HE Global, 2016;or V. Naidoo, 2009, for example). The rapid growth of TNHE is attributed to the increasing presence of a trade rationale in 7 Among them, transnational, cross-border, borderless, offshore, and 'internationalization abroad' feature most prominently in the literature. ...
... d approach to the development of higher education, and formalizes and legalizes this new perspective in which education is treated as a commodity and traded internationally. (2011, p. 17) As TNHE research keenly points out, TNHE encompasses a range of activities which are continuously diversifying and growing in sheer scale (Healey & Michael, 2014;V. Naidoo, 2009 The bigger hurdle is the lack of comprehensive data on transnational activities worldwide, including new, non-traditional and non-degree providers. While these forms of provision are outside the scope of most studies, they are relevant to traditional universities insofar as they serve as competition in a global education market. ...
Conference Paper
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... The HEI in countries like the United States, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, which receives a massive number of students from across the world, have come to be market-oriented by adopting professional marketing strategies to admit international students (Mazzarol et al., 2003). The number of students studying abroad has been recorded at 150,000 approximately in 1955 (Naidoo, 2009) to 2.8 million in 2007(UNESCO, 2009), 5 million in 2014(ICEF, 2015, and is expected to reach 8 million by 2025 (OECD, 2017). ...
... Starting in 1998, the leadership of QF decided to invite reputable universities to establish International Branch Campuses (IBCs) in Qatar and offer the programs they are well-known for in Qatar's Education City (Stasz et al. 2007). This decision came at a time when the branch campus phenomenon emerged in the Middle East, especially in the GCC region (Naidoo 2009;Lane and Kinser 2009). Khodr (2011: 514) states that the main drivers behind the creation of Education City were …the region-specific tradition to import 'best practice', regional and global competition, local education reform and policies, national liberalisation initiatives, and globalisation, internationalisation of education, and transnational education. ...
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Chapter
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