AGGS Sessions: Trends, opportunities and challenges and the value proposition of transnational (TNE) education.

With Moderators

  • Pete Richards, Executive Director, UK and Europe, Acumen Sannam S4
  • Professor Delia Heneghan, Executive Director and Senior Vice President


  • Pooja Singh, Recruitment Adviser, University of Troy 
  • Palak Behl, Recruitment Adviser, King’s College London
  • Megha Srivastava, Senior Recruitment Adviser, York University
  • Dr. Erik Lithander, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Strategic Engagement
  • Coordinating CX Manager: Drishty

Welcome to an enlightening panel discussion that delves into the dynamic world of transnational education (TNE). With its ever-expanding reach and impact, TNE is at the forefront of global education trends, offering exciting opportunities while also presenting unique challenges.

Our esteemed panel, comprising experts in the field, will explore “Trends, Opportunities, and Challenges: The Value Proposition of Transnational Education.” Leading the conversation as moderators are Professor Delia Heneghan, Executive Director and Senior Vice President, and Pete Richards, Executive Director, UK and Europe, from Acumen Sannam S4 Group.

Our distinguished panellists include: Pooja Singh, Recruitment Adviser, University of Troy

Palak Behl, Recruitment Adviser, King’s College London, Megha Srivastava, Senior Recruitment Adviser, York University and Dr. Erik Lithander, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Strategic Engagement.

Together, they bring a wealth of expertise and experience to shed light on the evolving landscape of TNE. We will discuss the latest trends, the abundant opportunities it offers, and the intricate challenges that educators, institutions, and students face in this rapidly changing educational landscape.

Transnational education plays a pivotal role in shaping the future of higher learning, and our panellists will provide valuable insights into its value proposition, impact on student recruitment, and the global mobility of education.

Five Key Takeaways

  1. Expanding Global Reach: TNE is rapidly expanding its global footprint, providing educational opportunities to students worldwide. This trend reflects the growing demand for international education, bridging geographical boundaries and fostering cultural exchange.
  2. Diverse Delivery Models: Panellists highlighted the diverse delivery models of TNE, including partnerships, online programs, branch campuses, and collaborations with local institutions. This adaptability allows institutions to tailor their offerings to the unique needs and preferences of students in different regions.
  3. Quality Assurance and Accreditation: Ensuring the quality and accreditation of TNE programmes is paramount. Institutions must navigate the complexities of meeting local and international standards to maintain the credibility and value of their educational offerings.
  4. Enhancing Employability: TNE programmes are increasingly viewed as pathways to enhanced employability. Students value the global perspective and international experience gained through TNE, which can give them a competitive edge in the job market.
  5. Cultural Competency and Adaptability: Both students and educators participating in TNE programmes develop cultural competency and adaptability. Exposure to diverse cultures and learning environments enriches the educational experience and equips individuals with valuable life skills.

Below is the transcript

Delia Heneghan

It’s great to be here. So I’ll start by introducing myself. I’m Delia Hennigan from Acumen. 

It’s a pleasure to be talking to you. Now, I know, you’ve heard transnational education talked about a lot in this session, it seems to be the buzzword at the moment. It has been around a long time. It wasn’t just invented by the national education policy. And many of our colleagues in this room and in higher education generally have been engaged in working out ways in which students can have opportunities for education in many different ways. And that’s really what transnational education is about. It’s not one size fits all. It’s about very many different models that are applied by different universities in different ways. 

So we want to sort of explain a little bit about what transnational education may mean for you in your work here in India. And so what we’ve titled this session is Everything You Always Wanted to Know about transnational education, but we’re afraid to ask so on this panel, you’ve got people with real expertise who can share their experiences. 

I’m not saying share the right answers, because there are not necessarily the right answers that suit everybody. There are shared experiences. And the way we’re just going to talk about it is to have a question and answer session here on stage and then open the floor for questions from you. 

One of the things we want to focus on is what does transnational education mean for you as an ICR? Working on the ground in India, how can you become part of it? Some ICR’s say, What’s it got to do with me? That’s not something that’s part of my job description. But it can be and you can contribute. And for universities, how can you use your in-country rep to support your partnership, opportunities and partnership developments? So that’s what we’re going to look at today. 

We’ve all talked about the NEP, I’m not going to give you my lecture on the NEP, you’ll be happy to know because I think you’ve all had lots of experts talking to you about it that know far more than I. But as we know, the NEP in India, the national education policy, has opened up opportunities for partnerships that didn’t exist before. And you will be familiar with the University Grants Commission who’s already started to put together regulatory change that allows different types of work to happen here in India. 

So we’ve got the collaborative provision regulations that came out last May. And they allowed universities to develop dual degrees joined towards exchange programmes. They’re all part of TNE. And then just recently, in January, we had the regulations around opening up India for on campus developments for international universities a very exciting phase and one which I know people are thinking about very carefully because that’s a big, big step. So that’s a part of TNE as well. So TNE can be an articulation arrangement, although Pete and I sometimes debate as to whether articulation is really TNE. It can be from a small course progression arrangement to a full blown campus development. So lots of things are going on.

I’m now going to ask Pooja to ask the first question to my two colleagues on this panel. So over to you Pooja, fire away with your questions.

Pooja Singh, Recruitment Adviser, University of Troy

Hi, so my question is open for all of you who would like to answer. So see, there are a lot of 20 models that are working worldwide. So I would like to know of any models that are best suited for the market and any experiences about it that you can share so that we all can know what can be a good option for us and learning for us?

Pete Richards

That’s a great question. And I’m thrilled that you’ve asked it because transnational education, as Delia said, it’s an extremely broad church and for me, you have to look at the regulatory environment in the company or the country sorry that you’re looking to develop relationships in and from an India perspective, I’d be thrilled to hear the view of colleagues but it feels to me like articulation and progression is actually in and of the moment around NEP and the development of joint awards, dual degrees and the articulation and progression pathways two plus two etc. I think the Indian regulatory framework is really opening the doors for that particular type of arrangement. Other models such as franchise delivery, validated delivery, even amongst the NEP, there’s still a lot of ambiguity and there isn’t really the ability for UK universities or international universities to develop those relationships. So it feels to me like an articulation and a progression of conversation in India right now.

Dr. Erik Lithander, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Strategic Engagement

Well, despite Delia saying that there’s a great deal of expertise on the panel, it’s actually a really difficult question to answer because as Delia said, TNE means many different things to any given University at different times. And in fact, Pete prepared a little glossary of terms on what TNE comprises. And it was almost a description of everything that we do in international education from exchange all the way to character branch campus. So I think the model that’s going to be right for a given University today, may or may change relatively quickly, depending on circumstance. So having the full suite of options available to you from articulation, all the way to branch campus, depending on your circumstances, is the right way to go. 

That’s not a very helpful answer. But I think that it’s almost impossible to define what the right model is for India today, unless you know exactly which university you’re, you’re thinking about and their motivations.

Delia Heneghan

Yeah, I mean, just to add to what Pete and Eric was saying, I think that India is at this really exciting stage of development, I can share from my experience. So having been working with a focus on India, for many years, we were always waiting for India to open up to allow us to work in India, maybe, the ways that we’ve worked with partners in China, Malaysia, and other parts of the world. And because of the regulatory environment, we were not able to do that. 

Now, what has happened in the last couple of years, is that those regulations have started to change. But we will not be doing a lift and shift. So it’s not a case of taking everything we’ve done in China and just dropping it into India, it will be about partnerships with Indian institutions, Indian organisations, evolving, what is the right model for India at the moment to meet the needs of India, and the international universities that are hoping to work together with Indian partnerships. 

So at the moment, we’ve got a great opportunity in this room, there isn’t a set path we have to follow, we are going to evolve that pathway, we’re going to build the road as we travel along it together with Indian partners. So what I think we’ve got is a framework that the NEP is giving us to open up opportunities, and to allow institutions to find what works for them. And as Eric said, it’s not going to be, it works for them now, it will work for them in 10 years, those things evolve as universities evolve. And that’s what makes it a great sector to work in.

Dr. Erik Lithander, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Strategic Engagement

I should also have said that the irony is that those of us who’ve been in the sector for a long time, have been complaining for two decades that we wanted more clarity about what’s TNE was possible in India, suddenly we have that clarity. And now we find ourselves complaining that we have to make decisions too quickly. Because otherwise we’ll miss the opportunity. So we now have universities opening up or announcing that they’re opening campuses, other types of TNE. The landscape is now moving so quickly, that universities like most of ours, who are relatively conservative in their decision making, are suddenly finding that they have to evaluate the opportunity and make the decision relatively quickly if they don’t want somebody else to take the opportunity. 

So we’ve gone from having no info or little information, to having lots of information. And I’m not sure that we all know what to do with that information.

Pete Richards

Yeah, that’s a good point. And I think the smart universities right now will look at this smorgasbord of opportunity that’s presenting themselves or is presented in front of them and look at the DNA of their own institution and look for the for the for the like minded institutions in India and decide very quickly what they want to pick off that smorgasbord of opportunity. Now is the time for the smart universities, I think to be doing just that.

Delia Heneghan

Thank you. And I think I’m going to now ask Megha to talk to us in preparation for this panel. We’ve had lots of meetings and discussion about what this TNE mean for our colleagues, our in country rep colleagues, where do they fit into the picture? So I’m going to ask Megha now to talk to us a little bit about what she sees as her role in terms of a possible teeny partnership between her university and an institution here in India, mega talk to us some of the clients

Megha Srivastava, Senior Recruitment Adviser, York University
Thanks Delia for that question. 

So in order to answer that particular question, I would also want to reflect back to my previous role that was with another Canadian University, which was very, which is still very active in the space of International Education. And one of the things that I really liked about that particular role was that though there was a separate department for international partnerships, the on ground, recruiters were given a lot of flexibility, and they were involved, you know, as a part of setting up institutional partnerships. So whether it’s my current institution, or you know, any other institution, I think the number one objective should be to set clear objectives. Like, you know, I’m referring back to my previous institution, because there I played a bigger role when it came to TNE partnerships. In my current role at York, we are still in a very initial stage of talking about the possible partnerships. So going back to that, you know, the first objective was to set up very clear and honest objective, like, we were very clear that we wanted to increase the number of transfer students into our undergrad programmes from South Asia, that was very clear. So the preferred model there, what we were looking at was articulation, two plus two. And, again, when it came to identifying and researching partners, we stepped away from it, and we gave that particular responsibility to the faculties, you know, to look into. The second thing was to look out for the right academic partners. And there were two approaches, you know, that we used, ones that I was telling you at an earlier occasion that we went back to our application data, and we started counting students who were transfer students and started noting down the details of their institutions, where they came from, and the programmes. 

And with this particular information, we went back to our admission office to try and get an idea about the credit mapping that was done. So that we are more confident when we are approaching these institutions that we are aware that okay, these are the credits that are matching. 

The second thing in terms of identifying academic partners was we went to the respective high commissions in the South Asian countries, and we asked them for their recommended partners, in those particular countries and the high commissions at you know, in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and even India, for that matter, were very, very helpful in that regard, because it’s a part of their portfolio. 

Third, was because we knew which academic partners to approach and we had the objective. The third important thing as an ICR, on the ground, was to establish a connection with these institutions, of course, you know, some of the institutions we already knew. But we again, went back to the high commissions, you know, to help us connect, one, the connection was faster when we used that particular approach. And secondly, it gave us a lot of leverage as well, and then started the process of getting into multiple meetings, formal credit mapping that were happening till the time, you know, it was time to formally sign an MOU. But it doesn’t stop there. Because what I’ve observed, and I’ve spoken to colleagues from the segment, most of the MOU’s use, just remain MOU’s, you know, it’s just a sign of an agreement. 

So the objective that we had was very clear that we have to work so on ground again, there was a lot of work in terms of regularly visiting these institutions, doing sessions about the university, getting the faculty to do sessions as well. It’s interesting, because in Bangladesh, we also did a lot of Facebook and Instagram lives, on the official platforms of these institutions, because those of you who work, you know, with, with institutions or with partners in Bangladesh, it’s very, Facebook is really, really big. So we were able to reach out. Another interesting strategy that we employed was that we started telling our agent partners about these, you know, agreements that we had, because you know, it also helped us promote, you know, the partnerships. 

Delia Heneghan

Thank you, Megha. I think there was so much insight in that answer, we’ll have to go and have conversations with mega when you’re having lunch or something because she touched on some really key points there. 

One of the key points that I would like to sort of pick up is that TNE or any type of partnership under TNE does not stop with the signing of the MOU. I think EriK made the point there that universities are now well, we can do this, what do we do next? You know, and a lot of people do focus on signing the MOU. And there’s a big sigh of relief when it’s signed. It’s put in a nice frame nailed on the wall. But really the important work starts after that. How do you breathe life into that partnership? And I think Megha has just given us some very practical examples about how you do that. And for the universities in the room, how you can help use your ICR to help you in that. It’s those regular visits, that outreach on social media to students, engaging the faculty when they’re in the country to visit the partner, all those sorts of things. So I think you should take away some great ideas from that answer. Thank you so much, Megha, for that insight that you shared, it’s great to have that practical experience put out there. 

I think I’m now going to take my next question and ask Palak to talk to switch the tables round. 

So we’ve all been talking about the institutional perspective palette, what would you like to share with us about student and Agent counsellor sentiments towards TNE? What is it that it means to those students who might be thinking that’s an option for me?

Palak Behl, Recruitment Adviser, King’s College London

Thanks, Delia, for that question. And I’ll just pick up from the last point that you mentioned is, you know, when you actually sign the MOU, to bring it to life, I think it’s important for us to kind of absorb what is in it, it’s also an ICR’s responsibility when extended to pass that to students and parents etc, because we are actually fortunate enough and privileged but also comes with a great responsibility to be on ground and interact with, with the students, parents and counsellor. 

So whatever schools that I visited or whatever students I have met, in fairs etc. And of course, the nature of the job that we have we found that rapport etc with them. 

It’s been a mixed bag of sentiments mostly positive, of course, but some concerns also that they shared with us. So, of course, the top of the list of positives is, of course, the cost factor and it becomes more important for Indians of course, because of the value of rupees in comparison to dollars in pounds. So this if they do like a two plus one or two plus two model, etc. and if they get to stay in India, for that two years or one year, etc, it does save cost on various fronts such as the fees is less for the Indian institution for that your living expenses is of course less if you’re staying in your home country in comparison to the international partner country. So that cost perspective is definitely a plus from a country like India, where the rupee value, of course, is stronger, then there are also lots of different course choices, options that are available. 

If you choose a TNE model, there’ll be lots of interesting courses, technical courses, liberal arts courses, etc, that are usually not available with within Indian university curriculum, but will definitely available if you’re doing a TNE partnership model so that that array of choices opens up in comparison to a courses and we know how well aware these days students and luckily parents are so they know what they want to do. And to find that perfect cause choice becomes easier. 

Of course, the quality of education with these curricula because the way these two universities work together factors in the points that are useful for both countries, so you know, that, of course, is a plus, employability becomes a plus factor. And this interestingly, is only we can only explain this to students and parents and counsellors when they reach that level of discussion with us because this is not like a very surface level thing that they understand. So if you are doing a two plus one model or joint degree etc, even if you spend just one year in that home country, of course the caveat is that the TNE partnership, or the model needs to be compliant with the immigration laws. But for example, if in the UK, you’re doing like a two plus one degree and if you complete just one year with of course less cost in the UK, you still get advantages of the two year post study work visa. So that definitely becomes a plus. Of course, I’ve been a little bit biassed to discuss the pros first, but a certain number of cons are also asked and thrown upon us. 

So first of all, is of course, the quality that comes across as a concern and that’s very fair enough for I think students and parents to ask that so we try to explain it to them that when a TNE partnership model surfaces, there’s a lot of background discussion that goes into how consistently the quality can be maintained. There are various checks that are done before and also while the partnership is on. We try to assure them but this can only come up when we are asked to discuss the size of points. 

The second which of course comes from a lot of parents, of course is that what if the student is not able to clear the exams? Will they still transition into the second year? What happens if they don’t? So of course, we have to tell them that quality is a very interesting term here, because if you expect the output of the partnership to be quality, consistent, the input of the efforts from the student also has to be quality consistent. So I think I just mean for or mindful of the time..

Delia Heneghan

Thank you very much Palak. I think you brought up some really key points there, and I maybe will ask Pete, to talk a little bit more about that quality assurance side, because I think as I see ours, that may be something that students will ask you questions about when they come to, to maybe consider whether or not they should take a course outside of India? Or should they start a course in India, whether or not it’s the same quality will be a key thing for them. And a lot of partnership and transnational education. work that’s done at universities focuses on maintaining quality and assuring quality. And Pete can just talk to us a little bit about what those quality assurance systems are, that go into maintaining the level. Pete,

Pete Richards

Thank you.  Just a very quick point on the student journey. Before we get into the quality thing, it’s really interesting, you know, the decisions that students make when they come into a teeny programme. Coventry had 20,000, active TNE students studying via a validated or a franchise model. 

We researched them probably two years ago now, just before I left Coventry University to join Acumen, just to find out what is their journey, what is the student journey like for a TNE student versus a stock standard international student looking to travel overseas. 

Of course, every single one of them had already made the decision, they wanted to achieve an international award. More than two, more than three quarters of them made the decision that they were going to come to the UK to study and then very quickly realised for a reason or another, they couldn’t and in almost every case, it was financial. So they wanted to study for an international award.

In the case of Coventry, it was a UK award. They went to see an agent, they started to talk to universities, they did their own research and realise they couldn’t afford to so TNE, really gives them a great model, I think of achieving that ambition by staying in their own country potentially, or in a two plus two, just reducing costs and having two years at home and then two years overseas. So I think that that was a really important point to make. In regards to the quality assurance. 

This is where the academics and institutions really come to the fore, they have to mark each other’s homework really right from the very beginning of crafting a progression award, the academics typically would get into a room and they would moderate each other’s work, if that makes sense. And just check that in a two plus two arrangement, a student leaving India and going to the UK to study for their third and fourth year, they’re at exactly the same point in terms of their learning journey as if they had been in the UK for that period of time. So the academics do an awful lot of work around course mapping, just assuring themselves that the award is going to be worthy of both degrees in the case of a joint degree and a dual award. And then the ongoing moderation is a very real thing. 

You know, at Coventry, we had a team of 45 people whose roles were to just ensure that the institution was doing what it needed to do to assure quality and to make sure that every stage gate is hit around quality assurance. So there are literally teams of people from both universities that moderate one another. 

From a UK regulatory environment perspective, there’ll be a university from a different UK institution. So you’re not marking your own homework, just to make sure that that quality assurance is there, and that the course mapping is correct, and that the student outcomes are almost identical. Eric?

Dr. Erik Lithander, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Strategic Engagement

I think there may be a small number of universities whose TNE activity is so large, that the majority of their international revenue comes from TNE. But for most of us, the main international revenue is still in country students coming to our countries. So if we were to start off TNE, the risk of damaging our reputation by having poor quality, delivery and poor quality outcomes for the students in our TNE would be too big to take, if that compromises the perception in that market of coming to New Zealand and studying at my university. Because the difference between whatever revenue I get from TNE activity, and what I get from 1000 students coming to New Zealand is astronomical. No, it’s difficult to explain to a potential applicant. But the reality is I can’t afford to take a risk with my brand by having sloppy TNE.

Delia Heneghan 

I think that’s absolutely right. I mean, one of the things about TNE is that it is a risk for an institution. And they really do look very, very carefully managing that risk and ensuring that the brand is not compromised. Just in any way. 

So I think that that in a way is a reassurance, if people are looking at TNE, or university will usually have thought very long and hard before they do it. I think in the early days of TNE, there was maybe more of a passion project. But as we have matured, as institutions around the world, I think partnerships, departments have sprung up, as EriK said, institutions with large scale TNE poll, it actually equivalent to faculties focusing on that Pete’s experience at Coventry, where he led that that team was was very much in that space. But I think I’d like to just pick up EriK on a point that you were talking about there you were talking about. One of the motivations for TNE can be revenue generation can be about sort of, you know, bringing in additional revenue into the university, managing your risk at the same time, what other motivations might there be for an international university who’s looking at developing their transnational education portfolio,

Dr. Erik Lithander, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Strategic Engagement

I think I can think of two main ones that I’d like to highlight. One is, the pandemic taught us the risk of borders closing and what happens when borders close. So even though we may not be interested in TNE, to necessarily significantly increase our student numbers or increase our revenue, what it does is that it risks the possibility of something happening like that, again, the prediction seems to be that pandemics may continue to happen. And COVID might evolve and cause a problem for us again, in which case, having the opportunity for a meaningful number of our students to pursue their studies overseas, just takes away the risk of that happening. So that’s number one. 

The second one I hinted about on a panel yesterday, which is the sustainability angle, which for a university like mine, we are going to come under a meaningful pressure from ourselves to meet our own sustainability targets, to reduce the number of times that international students come and go. So having a high quality option for them to undertake the beginning, perhaps of their degree, maybe not all of their degree, I don’t think that we’re there quite yet. And philosophically at the University of Auckland, but certainly begin their degree offshore and then come over, that reduces meaningfully by 25%, or by 30%. The amount of travel that they take coming and going between their home country and the university. So there’s the sustainability angle to uni, which I think is interesting, and which increasingly may start to influence the motivation of universities.

Delia Heneghan

I think we’re probably drawing to the close of this session. So thank you so much for being a great audience and we will look forward to more questions over lunch. Thank you so much.

About the Acumen Global Gateway Summit: India

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