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TAKING STOCK OF THE COSTS AND BENEFITS OF TRANSNATIONAL PARTNERSHIPS IN HIGHER EDUCATION: WHAT DO WE KNOW SO FAR?

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Abstract

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence about the cost and benefits of transnational collaborative partnerships between higher education institutions, but few studies test these claims empirically. Those that do focus on the benefits brought about by such partnerships, namely more and better research publications and patents; better foreign language proficiency of internationally mobile students; a higher likelihood of employment at home and abroad; positive attitudes towards open borders and democracy; strengthened research and teaching capacity; and increased attractiveness of collaborating universities to foreign academics. Our systematic review of relevant literature found no quantification of the costs associated with transnational collaborative partnerships in higher education; only qualitative challenges.
European Expert Network on
Economics of Education (EENEE)
EENEE POLICY BRIEF2/2019 www.eenee.org/policybriefs PAGE 1
EENEE POLICY BRIEF 2/2019 JANUARY 2019
TAKING STOCK OF THE COSTS AND BENEFITS OF
TRANSNATIONAL PARTNERSHIPS IN HIGHER EDUCATION:
WHAT DO WE KNOW SO FAR?
Daniela Crăciun [Central European University Craciun_Daniela@phd.ceu.edu]
Kata Orosz [Central European University OroszK@ceu.edu]
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence about the cost and benefits of transnational collaborative partnerships
between higher education institutions, but few studies test these claims empirically.
Those that do focus on the benefits brought about by such partnerships, namely more and better research
publications and patents; better foreign language proficiency of internationally mobile students; a higher
likelihood of employment at home and abroad; positive attitudes towards open borders and democracy;
strengthened research and teaching capacity; and increased attractiveness of collaborating universities to
foreign academics. Our systematic review of relevant literature found no quantification of the costs
associated with transnational collaborative partnerships in higher education; only qualitative challenges.
TRANSNATIONAL COLLABORATION IN HIGHER EDUCATION AS
A POLICY INSTRUMENT
The European Union has been looking for ways to increase the
quality and relevance of higher education. Fostering
transnational collaborative partnerships between higher
education institutions is one of the strategic policy options to
enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of national higher
education systems, and to promote other, non-economic goals
such as political integration. Transnational collaborative
partnerships in higher education generally include multiple
individual or institutional members, which cooperate across
national boundaries on a variety of educational, research, and
innovation activities. In a systematic review of academic studies,
we set out to synthesise valid and reliable evidence on the
benefits and costs of transnational collaborative partnerships,
so that the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of higher
education policies that promote economic and non-economic
goals by means of incentivising such partnerships could be
evaluated.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE COSTS OF TRANSNATIONAL
COOPERATION?
Our systematic review of academic studies of transnational
collaborative partnerships did not yield any rigorous
quantitative evidence on the economic and non-economic costs
of such institutional arrangements (for example, the operational
and administrative costs of maintaining transnational
partnerships, the subsidies given to institutions and individuals
participating in such partnerships, or brain drain). This is not to
say that transnational partnerships do not incur costs and
present challenges for members. Qualitative studies suggest
two sets of recurring challenges:
building symmetric and equitable relationships; and
negotiating different viewpoints among partners.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE BENEFITS OF
TRANSNATIONAL COOPERATION?
Evidence synthesised from rigorous quantitative academic
studies on the economic and non-economic benefits of various
forms of transnational cooperation in higher education on
societies, higher education institutions, and individuals shows
that (see Figure 1):
more and better patents are developed in countries in
which higher education and research institutions
collaborate with similar bodies from other countries;
research units and researchers who collaborate
internationally publish more, and publications that are co-
authored by a transnational team of collaborators have
greater academic impact;
higher education institutions that participate in
transnational collaborative activities enjoy strengthened
research and teaching capacity, and become more
attractive places of employment to foreign academics;
higher education institutions can achieve economies of
scale in teaching by the joint instruction of domestic and
international students;
tertiary students who participate in international mobility
or exchange programmes improve their foreign language
proficiency;
students who participate in international mobility or
exchange programmes have a higher likelihood of being
employed in their home country and abroad;
European Expert Network on
Economics of Education (EENEE)
European Expert Network on Economics of Education (EENEE)
Funded by the European Commission, DG Education and Culture
EENEE publications and further information at: http://www.eenee.org. Coordination: CEPS Centre for European Policy Studies, and ifo
Institute Leibniz Institute for Economic Research, University of Munich.
© EENEE 2019. All rights reserved. Opinions expressed in this brief are those of the author(s) alone and not of the European Commission.
EENEE POLICY BRIEF2/2019 www.eenee.org/policybriefs PAGE 2
tertiary students report more positive attitudes towards
open borders and democracy after participating in
international mobility or exchange programmes; and
tertiary students who participate in international mobility
or exchange programmes are more likely to participate in
international study or training mobility and international
research collaboration later in their academic careers.
Not all the expected benefits of transnational collaborative
partnerships were confirmed by research, however. The 2014
Erasmus Impact Study found no evidence that the
employability-related personality traits such as confidence,
curiosity, serenity, tolerance of ambiguity, decisiveness, and
vigour of students participating in the Erasmus programme
changed after the exchange; one study did not find evidence
that participating in an online international collaborative
learning module decreased ethnocentric attitudes among
participating university students; a different study found no
evidence that international research collaboration was linked to
cost-efficiency in terms of scientific production.
The systematic review of empirical evidence also shed light on
gaps in existing research. Little is known about the individual
and institutional benefits of courses and degree programmes
delivered through a transnational higher education consortium.
There has been little rigorous research to assess the socio-
cultural and political benefits of promoting transnational
cooperation in higher education.
IMPLICATIONS FOR RESEARCHERS
In order for research on transnational higher education
partnerships to be policy-relevant, it is especially important for
more quantitative studies to adopt rigorous experimental or
quasi-experimental methodologies, so that a causal link
between various forms of transnational higher education
partnerships and relevant macro-, meso- and micro-level
outcomes could be properly established. Rigorous case studies
are also needed to better understand the challenges associated
with implementing and sustaining transnational higher
education partnerships, and the contextual forces that may
amplify or mitigate the benefits of such partnerships. Last but
not least, it is essential to develop a detailed documentation of
the costs associated with various forms of transnational higher
education partnerships. Only with solid evidence of both the
benefits and costs of such partnerships can policymakers’
questions about the cost-effectiveness of promoting
transnational cooperation in higher education be answered.
IMPLICATIONS FOR POLICYMAKERS
Findings from a relatively small but growing body of empirical
research suggest that transnational research collaboration in
higher education is effective in increasing the quantity and
quality of publications and patents. It strengthens institutional
capacity for research and teaching and makes collaborating
institutions more attractive for academics from other countries.
Evidence also suggests that participation in international
student mobility programmes is effective in increasing the
foreign language proficiency and employability of university
graduates.
Given the emerging evidence on these societal, institutional and
individual benefits, the provision of incentives for transnational
research collaboration and international student mobility
appear to be viable policy options for governments that want to
promote scientific excellence, increase the global visibility of
higher education institutions, and promote the acquisition of
foreign language skills.
For more details see: Daniela Crăciun, Kata Orosz, Benefits and costs of transnational collaborative partnerships in higher education.
EENEE Analytical Report No. 36, October 2018, http://www.eenee.de/dms/EENEE/Analytical_Reports/EENEE_AR36.pdf
LEVEL OF ANALYSIS
MACRO
(regional/national)
MESO
(institutional)
MICRO
(individual)
TYPES OF
BENEFITS
ECONOMIC
- More and better
patents
- Economies of scale in
teaching
- Higher likelihood of
employment at home
and abroad
NON-
ECONOMIC
- Positive attitudes
towards open borders
and democracy
- Strengthened research and
teaching capacity
- More and better scientific
output
- Attractiveness to foreign
academics
- Better foreign language
proficiency
- Increased mobility
- More and better
publications
Figure 1: Benefits of transnational collaboration in higher education that are supported by rigorous research-based evidence
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