Exporting Excellence in Transnational Education

Today, 27 October 2016, Tribal’s Managing Director for Higher Education, Jon Baldwin, was invited to take part in an expert panel session at the Education Investor Exporting Excellence 2016 conference, and discuss his first-hand experiences of exporting British education.

The conference looked to investigate the global possibilities that exist for the UK education industry, including how UK education is positioned worldwide; the current demands of the world’s developing and established nations; and where opportunities might lie for operators and investors.

Transnational Education isn’t a new thing for UK Universities and along with Australia, US, and Germany, have first mover advantage. Institutions like the University of London have over a century of experience exporting degrees. However, there is a significant challenge to the UK Education “brand” given the vote for Brexit and the reading by many that the UK is closing its borders to many including students. The latest figures from UCAS show a 9% decline in applications to UK universities from EU students in certain areas.

“Negative political discourse … is potentially damaging to UK’s Brand HE”

“As a supplier to universities worldwide, we have been part of “Brand HE” within the UK, and our international trade has been partly based on our relationships with UK universities and their quality. Any negative political discourse about immigration and the role of UK universities is unhelpful, to say the least, and potentially damaging to the UK’s Brand HE and needs to change. This impacts UK universities plans to grow internationally” commented Jon.

Transnational Education (TNE) is key for many UK universities with three in five reportedly looking to grow their TNE in the immediate future. Over 80% of the UK’s publicly funded universities already deliver degree programmes outside of the UK, to some 665,000 students worldwide.

“We often forget the real cultural benefit that international students bring.”

The panel also discussed the value that international students bring to the UK. While there is obvious economic value, there is much more that those students bring.

“We often forget the real cultural benefit that international students bring to a campus. They really are a force for good in troubled times and such an important role model for the country seeing students from multiple nationalities and ethnic backgrounds, living, working and also having fun together” responded Jon.

Looking at the competitive pressures that universities face to attract international students, Jon also commented about the UK’s position versus countries like Australia - “Australian HE tend to be more joined up, speaking with one voice, which gives them an advantage when looking to recruit international students. Despite the UK’s quality badge, this is a clear advantage for Australian universities.”

When asked about the priority for Tribal on the international front, Jon discussed the continuing priority to cement Tribal’s position in countries where we were already strong (Australia and New Zealand). Jon also noted that it is important to be totally aligned with each market so becoming "Australian" was as important as being “British”.

While others talked about the obvious opportunity in China and India, Jon looked at other opportunities, “As the Government becomes less interested in Europe, I think this is an area that will be of more interest to us. More courses are now taught in English, and with the loosening of state control in some geographies, there will be plenty of opportunity.”

Jon also noted that Canada was a major opportunity for Tribal and again, the UK’s Brand HE is a valuable asset that needs to be protected.

To conclude, Jon summarised his thoughts, “The UK has an excellent brand for Higher Education. Universities and companies like Tribal have been able to trade internationally on this, and our openness to international students and countries across the globe has brought welcome cultural and economic benefits. We must protect this and the Government has a key role to play – but so do we all.”

For more information, visit www.educationinvestor.co.uk. For more information about Tribal Group in HE, visit www.tribalgroup.com/higher-education.

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