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new report from the British Council ranks countries according to how favorable their climates are for transnational higher education and evaluates the impact of cross-border education on host countriesOver all, the report finds that transnational education is ”continuing to expand at a brisk pace; both in terms of scale -- programs and student enrollment -- and scope -- diversity of delivery modes and location of delivery.”

Among the various forms of transnational higher education included within the scope of the report are international branch campuses, franchise or twinning programs (in which a sending university authorizes a host institution to deliver its curriculum), joint or double degree programs, and articulation agreements (e.g., 2+2 programs).The report does not cover distance education.

The British Council report assesses policy and market conditions in 25 host countries, finding that Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates have the most favorable environments for transnational education (henceforth TNE). The report categorizes each of the 25 countries into five groups based on the opportunities they provide for incoming TNE; countries in group 1 provide the greatest opportunities (“well above average”) and countries in group 5 the fewest (“well below average”). The 25 countries in the sample include established host nations for TNE, such as China, Qatar, Singapore and the U.A.E. -- all of which boast large numbers of international branch campuses -- as well as countries that the report's authors believe to be new or emerging TNE hosts. 

Group 1: Well Above Average

Group 2: Above Average

Group 3: Average

Group 4: Below Average

Group 5: Well Below Average

Hong Kong






South Korea



Sri Lanka






United Arab Emirates






























The report finds that nearly half of the countries analyzed do not have a dedicated agency with responsibility for transnational education. “This reflects the fact that TNE is simply not a policy priority in these countries,” the report says. “In many countries the policy focus remains squarely on student mobility.”

At the same time the report notes the existence of education cities and aspiring hubs, finding that 13 of the 25 countries offer incentives for prospective foreign providers. Only four countries -- Nepal, Sri Lanka, Turkey and, famously, India -- lack regulations governing the establishment of foreign branch campuses.

The British Council's research also finds that transnational education is developing in some countries, like Nepal and Sri Lanka, in the absence of a regulatory framework. Per the report, “The evidence from this research suggests a complex push-and-pull relationship between TNE activity and TNE regulations, where TNE activity reaches a certain critical mass and elicits a regulatory response from the government. While TNE regulations are not a requirement for TNE activity to take place, they have an important role to play in relation to quality assurance and recognition of qualification and for ensuring the sustainability of TNE going forward. The top opportunity markets identified in this research are those with, or moving towards, a system of robust policy and regulatory oversight.”

About two-thirds of the countries studied have some quality assurance system for TNE in place. “Unsurprisingly, the most active/longstanding host countries for TNE are generally those with the most robust [quality assurance] systems in place, but there are exceptions,” the report finds. Robust quality assurance regimes may be all the more important given another finding of the report -- that in most countries it is left to the discretion of individual employers and higher education institutions to recognize foreign credentials (or not).

The report also assesses market conditions, finding that 14 of the 25 countries studied are projected to have more than 4 percent annual economic growth through 2014.

“While a blunt measure of opportunity, this data suggests that economic growth will remain accommodative to TNE activity for the next two years, particularly in Asian countries such as China, Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand,” the report says. “However, the labor markets in Botswana, Spain, Poland, Nepal and Nigeria will remain tough for all graduates – including TNE graduates – to find jobs over the next two years.”

In addition to assessing policy and market conditions, the report also assesses the impact of transnational higher education on host countries. Through case studies of China, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates -- all three major sites for TNE -- the report underscores the ways in which priorities and impacts can vary by country. Malaysia, for example, views transnational education as a way to attract international students and bring increased revenue while the U.A.E. views it primarily as a way to develop its own work force. China views TNE largely as a mechanism for increasing the capacity of its own higher education institutions.

Coincident with the release of the report, the British Council announced that it had signed a pact with the United Kingdom’s Quality Assurance Agency to share information on the reputation and standards of U.K. courses offered through TNE. The majority of international students pursuing U.K. degrees are in fact based outside the U.K.: 571,000 are located overseas compared to about 488,000 international students in-country. 

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