What now? What next? Insights into Australia’s tertiary education sector

Claire Field’s recent podcast episode of “What now? What next? Insights into Australia’s tertiary education sector” featured guest, Marnie Watson, Chief Commercial and Partnership Officer at Acumen, part of the Sannam S4 Group. In this episode discussion focused on various aspects of transnational education (TNE) in Australia’s tertiary education sector.

Marnie, an expert in TNE, provided valuable insights into the opportunities and challenges faced by Australian institutions, both public and private, when engaging in TNE. The discussion revolved around the importance of comprehensive due diligence on potential TNE partners and the need to establish exit plans early in the negotiation process to mitigate risks.

Host, Claire, likened creating an exit plan to a “prenup,” ensuring that if the partnership goes sour, there’s an agreed upon way to resolve the issues. Despite the potential risks, the conversation highlighted the numerous benefits of offshore TNE delivery by Australian universities, TAFE institutions, and private providers.

The episode also touched upon the diverse TNE models and the different approaches taken by Australian institutions, such as Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (Gift City) and the nonprofit Yayasan model in Indonesia.

Marnie emphasised that what works in TNE varies by market and urged institutions to develop well-thought-out partnerships, focusing on mutual benefits and tangible outcomes for both parties. She also advised a rigorous, balanced scorecard approach to evaluating prospective partners, considering financial factors, risk, strategic fit, synergies, ethics, regulatory issues, and academic resourcing.

Regarding the challenges faced by Vocational Education and Training (VET) providers in the offshore market, Marnie discussed regulatory hurdles, financial realities, competition from other countries, and the unique challenges related to VET training, particularly early childhood education.

The conversation then turned to the challenge and importance of enrolment data collection and the need for improved tracking of TNE efforts in Australia. Marnie suggested a more diligent approach to data collection, including for online delivery.

Finally, Marnie shared her insights on effectively managing geographically dispersed teams. She highlighted the importance of being available and supportive, generous with time zones, and ensuring effective communication across different platforms. She emphasised the need for clear expectations, documentation of best practices, and empowering team members to handle various situations independently. Additionally, Marnie recommended travelling to meet with team members in person to foster a stronger sense of connection and collaboration.

This podcast episode provided a wealth of knowledge and practical advice for those involved in Australia’s tertiary education sector, shedding light on the opportunities and challenges in TNE and the importance of effective team management in a geographically dispersed environment.

Listen to the full episode here.