Transnational education strategies: what works, what doesn’t? A view from the UK – Part 2 of 4

Nigel Healey, Nottingham Trent University, UK

An important lesson learned at Nottingham Trent University is to know exactly why you are engaging in TNE.

Nigel Healy recounted that the Nottingham Trent University first became an official university in 1992, with the right to award degrees. At the time there were 3000 international students on campus and 7000 transnational students. At the time the motivation for the international and transnational programmes was largely opportunistic, based on the University’s ability to award degrees. These activities were not highly commercial; they were driven by a desire to extend reach and build capacity, which was done through franchising and validation. Partnerships and other types of relationships were built and largely stayed in place through the 1990s.

In the past few years, the TNE strategy was rethought and a new strategy developed. The objective is to create a meaningful international learning experience for Nottingham students so they graduate as highly employable global citizens. Implementing this strategy involves focusing on internationalising the curriculum and the student body, faculty development, and international partnerships. The old TNE strategy, particularly franchising and validation, no longer fit.

The current model, which represents a significant and somewhat difficult shift, is focused on dual degrees, and involves multiple partnerships. A commercial aim of the strategy is to recruit international students, but the other aims are non- commercial. They are to enhance Nottingham’s reputation, diversify the student body, and provide meaningful opportunities for student mobility and knowledge exchange.

“You’ve got to be clear from the outset why you are doing this [TNE]. It can’t be commercial. It’s got to have a deeper meaning to it.”— Nigel Healey

Important lessons learned about TNE over the past 20 or so years include:

  • Know why you are engaging in TNE. It is probably not a money maker.
  • Recognise that creating and changing strategies and forming partnerships is hard, slow, and time consuming. Creating and implementing a strategy and establishing a partnership is extremely hard and takes considerable time. So too are changing strategies and exiting partnerships. Leaving partnerships is often like a complicated divorce, and takes much more time and effort than people realise.
  • Expect partnerships to overpromise and under deliver. Be cautious and don’t have unrealistic expectations
  • Realise that nothing stays the same. Your institution will change over time, as will students, partners, and the world at large. The strategy and partnerships need to be robust enough to survive these changes. One example of constant change is that few offshore campuses have remained offshore campuses. They almost always either become independent or die.

Nigel is Head of the College of Business, Law and Social Sciences and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International) at Nottingham Trent University.

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