Transnational education strategies: what works, what doesn’t? An overview – Part 1 of 4

A Europe Association of International Education Conference panel addressing the question, ‘Transnational education strategies: what works, what doesn’t? The conference was held from 16-19 September 2014.

Chair: Rahul Choudaha, World Education Services, USA. Speakers: Robert Coelen, Stenden University, the Netherlands; Nigel Healey, Nottingham Trent University, UK; and Eugene Sebastian, Monash University, Australia
To kickstart, Dr Rahul Choudaha provides an overview and context of the panel discussion.

Rahul Choudaha, World Education Services, USA.

Institutions from around the world are implementing successful transnational education (TNE) strategies and programmes. In all cases, these strategies have evolved over time as the context for higher education and transnational education has changed. Institutions must determine exactly why they want to provide TNE, what their goals are, what their strategy is, and what types of partnerships they would consider. For some, having commercial goals doesn’t make sense, as financial gains are unlikely (or impossible), while others have had positive commercial experiences. The panellists suggested taking a forward- looking approach by examining future internal institutional as well as external global trends. Future trends that are worth considering are demographic and geographic trends, student segments and the motivations of each, the institution’s future goals, and the lessons learned from past experiences. With such an approach, institutions can make informed decisions about strategy, investments, curriculum, and partnerships.
Moderator Rahul Choudaha provided an overview of TNE and described different student segments that TNE serves. The other panellists then described their institutions’ strategies and experiences with TNE, and offered lessons learned.
Transnational education involves diverse solutions for diverse student segments. Per Rahul Choudaha, transnational education is a complex topic with diverse solutions. TNE is affected greatly by both demographic and economic trends; these trends will shape the future of TNE. A country such as Singapore is projected to have declining economic growth because of demographic changes, while Vietnam is expected to have strong economic growth due to demographics. These demographic and economic drivers will affect the demand for education, and for transnational education. Adding to the complexity is the reality that higher education serves very different student populations. Students can be classified into four segments:
  • Highfliers. These students have both academic preparedness and financial capabilities. They are looking for prestige from institutions with star branding and aren’t ideal targets for TNE.
  • Strivers. They are high on academic preparedness but low on financial resources. They are interested in advancement and jobs, and are interested in TNE to help prepare them.
  • Strugglers. They have neither financial resources nor academic preparedness. They may be motivated by immigration and are looking for a destination rather than an experience. They will find a way to go abroad, but are not motivated by education or experience. This is not an ideal target for TNE.
  • Explorers. These students have money but lack academic preparedness.
They have the capability to pay but not necessarily the preparedness to succeed. These students are interested in exploring and have the financial resources. They are decent candidates for TNE, but will need some academic assistance. Adding further complexity and uncertainty to this reality is the emergence of online learning models. These models raise questions about the basic premise of investing in a large physical infrastructure and branch campuses. Are these the models of the past? With changing demographics, changing student situations, and changing technologies, what will be the models of the future? These are the questions that institutions must consider.
“As international educators interested in transnational education, we have to make some choices about what we do and what we do not do. Which students do you want? What kind of model do you want?” — Rahul Choudaha
Dr. Rahul Choudaha a global higher education strategist. He advises, speaks, researches and blogs on internationalization trends and insights with a focus on growth and innovation strategies. He is a recognized thought leader and expert on student mobility, strategic enrollment management, transnational education and academic innovation. Choudaha blogs on DrEducationHuffingtonPost and UniversityWorldNews. As the Chief Knowledge Officer & Senior Director of Strategic Development at World Education Services (WES)—a New York-based non-profit with 40 years’ experience in international education, he leads a team responsible for research, consulting, innovation and strategy.

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