Mobile students

Student mobility in and out of the UK

The British Council has produced this nice graphic on student mobility in and out of the UK:

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This new interactive animation shows how the UK as a provider and host of internationally mobile students has evolved over recent years. From 2002 onwards differences in gender, age, level and disciplines studied are displayed for incoming students.The data has been sourced mainly from the Higher Education Statistics Authority and UNESCO Institute for Statistics

It’s fascinating to see the change of patterns of mobility over time and there are several different dimensions to play with. The huge growth in international student recruitment and the shift from European nations to Asia is impressive to watch.

 

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Go West. Or East. Plans for more student mobility

Government wants more students to travel.

There is to be a Government initiative to persuade more students to travel. The aim is that more UK students will be encouraged to broaden their horizons by travelling overseas for part of their degree courses.

The new UK Outward Student Mobility Strategy aims to boost the number of students gaining vital international experience from overseas study and work placements, allowing them to complete in the global race for jobs and skills.

B 4

Currently just one UK student studies abroad for every 15 international students in the UK – and the UK lags behind Spain, France, Germany, Italy and Poland in accessing the European Commission’s Erasmus funding for study or work placements.

The strategy, developed by the UK Higher Education International Unit, comes on the same day as the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, which is providing initial funding for the strategy, publishes its International Education Strategy.

According to the International Unit the Strategy will be consulted on during summer 2013 and published at the start of the coming session. The strategic activities involved will include:

  • Research and data collection
  • Promotion and awareness-raising campaign for study and work placements overseas
  • Coordination of financial support for mobility opportunities
  • HEI services to build capacity and influence
  • An online hub for all information and resources relevant to outward student mobility.

There is some way to go it seems before we get a full strategy. It is to be hoped that it does offer some useful assistance to universities as there is undoubtedly real value in student mobility and the UK is genuinely lagging in this area. Significant improvement to the position will though require substantial and sustained activity, by Government and institutions, and will not happen overnight.

UK HE in China

QAA Review of Transnational Education in China.

Back in 2012 the QAA surveyed all UK higher education institutions in order to find out details of their TNE activity in China. The QAA review includes detailed reports on 10 UK universities and divides HEIs’ TNE activity into a number of different types. For the purposes of the survey, TNE was divided into the following categories:

• A: branch campus
• B: partnership
• C: distance learning through flexible and distributed learning (FDL).

Category B (partnership) was further sub-divided into:
• B1 – students in China follow a programme leading to an award from the UK institution, sometimes completing the whole programme in China, but sometimes transferring to the UK to complete parts of the programme
• B2 – students start by following a programme offered by the partner, but later transfer (under an articulation agreement) to a programme at the UK institution, but with an entitlement to advanced standing on academic grounds.
Thus, under B1 students do not change their programme, although they may change their location of study, whereas under B2 students change both their programme and their location of study.

Category C (FDL) was divided into:
• C1 – students follow a programme of the UK institution without the assistance of any support centre in China
• C2 – students follow a programme of the UK institution with the assistance of a support centre in China that is approved by the UK institution.

Campus at University of Nottingham Ningbo China

Campus at University of Nottingham Ningbo China

The report reveals that UK universities are extremely active in China:

The survey found 70 UK institutions with provision in China falling into one or more of the above categories. Collectively, these institutions reported 275 distinct relationships with 186 separate Chinese institutions. The total number of students studying in China through UK TNE was recorded by the survey as 33,874. In addition, there were 5,392 students studying in the UK, having transferred from a partner institution in China. Of the many different programmes being offered through UK TNE in China, 42 per cent are in the Business and Finance subject areas, and 19 per cent in Engineering. The survey found most of the TNE to be located geographically in the major urban centres of China’s eastern seaboard: Beijing, Shanghai, Ningbo (Zhejiang province),

The number of these institutions reporting TNE in each category is shown below.

table TNE

The University of Nottingham’s presence in China is the only one here identified as a branch campus (although the number of students here is rather out of date, it’s now over 5,600). The full report on the University of Nottingham Ningbo China can be found here and is highly complimentary both about the development itself – “an impressive achievement” – and the quality of the student experience.

Overall though there is a huge amount of activity by UK institutions and it comes in a wide variety of forms. Much of interest therefore in the QAA’s review.

Yet more support to help UK HE internationalise?

More international support for Higher Education.

A year ago HEGlobal, the new portal for helping universities develop transnational education capability, was launched:

There is a consensus across government that engaging in and promoting international education and skills is strategically important to the UK for three main reasons: firstly it presents potentially significant commercial opportunities; secondly, it is an important soft power tool which supports the UK’s image abroad; thirdly, integrally linked to the above, it is key to maintaining the reputation of the UK education sector as one of the best in the world. However, although the UK’s education and skills sector is already doing well internationally, evidence suggests that we risk not taking full advantage of growing global opportunities. Ministers in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and elsewhere want to improve coordination across government by tasking the UK Higher Education International Unit to lead on a sector-wide initiative to do more to help UK higher education institutions (HEIs) increase their transnational education (TNE) capability.

HEGlobal looked like a real sector/government joint effort, although I must admit to being a little sceptical at the time about the need for it.

One of those pictures with lots of logos on it

Leaving aside the contradiction in policy between supporting this form of internationalisation whilst at the same time imposing visa regulations which hamper international student recruitment to the UK and give the impression that we aren’t open for business, there is something amiss here. The last piece of news on the site seems to date from January 2012 and it rather looks like there hasn’t been anything of interest to update the sector on since then. That’s a bit of a worry in the fast-moving HE environment.

But now, stop press, we have another new support unit for UKHE, this time with UKTI in the driving seat on its own it seems. This new team has been established “to help UK exploit international opportunities in education exports”. Sound familiar?

Education UK will capitalise on the growth in demand for UK education abroad

A new team dedicated to capitalising on the growth of demand for UK education from abroad is being established, Skills Minister Matthew Hancock announced today.

Education UK will specifically target fast-growing markets such as India and the Middle East. The UK has an excellent reputation for education internationally, but isn’t currently exploiting this to the full.

This the approach we need to take with exports

This the approach we need to take with exports – if only we could market HE as successfully as this

So, we have another new unit dedicated to helping UKHE exploit our talents to the full (no information is yet available on the extent of the Princesses’ involvement though). You’d think we weren’t much good at it. You might also be slightly perplexed by the similarity to the British Council’s Education UK campaign which shares the same name and is intended to support international student recruitment (or education exports).

Confused? You will be.

The Imperfect University: Truly Transnational

There is something close to a genuinely international university
TIU

Last year Andrew Stewart Coats, commenting on his appointment and the interesting plans for the new partnership between Warwick and Monash Universities, asserted that in higher education:

there has been little or no globalization in how we organize ourselves; no global entity runs viable universities in multiple countries and no truly transnational offering for students and academics exists

He also noted what he described as the “outposts” of universities in China, South East Asia and the Middle East and questioned whether this could “in itself create a truly global university?”

As a member of a global university, with three truly international campuses, I have to disagree. I drafted this piece late last year at the University of Nottingham’s Malaysia Campus (UNMC), home to some 4,500 students and over 450 staff, located at the edge of Kuala Lumpur in a breathtakingly beautiful setting. After meetings with a range of senior staff and bumping into our UK-based Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Internationalisation who was visiting the campus prior to taking over as Provost I then headed off to the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) campus (5,000 students, over 400 staff). As anyone who has visited either campus will attest, these are no outposts. Both campuses are larger than a good number of UK HE institutions and are already, despite their relative youth (UNMC became the first overseas campus of any UK university some 12 years ago and UNNC was founded in 2004), they are already punching significantly above their weight in both research and teaching in their host countries.

Campus at University of Nottingham Ningbo China

Campus at University of Nottingham Ningbo China

OBHE, in its most recent report, identifies some 200 or so branch campuses around the world with another 37 at least in the pipeline.

However, very few of these are of the scale, breadth or depth of the Nottingham developments and many are the outposts Coats describes with teaching delivered in rented office accommodation by staff who fly in for a few weeks before flying back home again.

Nottingham actually has three international campuses at present; as well as those in China and Malaysia there is the original campus in the UK which is also strikingly international with over 9,000 international students from 150+ countries. The international ethos is embraced in all that we do and is strongly articulated in the University’s mission:

At the University of Nottingham we are committed to providing a truly international education, inspiring our students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around our campuses in the UK, China and Malaysia. Our purpose is to improve life for individuals and societies worldwide. By bold innovation and excellence in all that we do, we make both knowledge and discoveries matter.

Our academic staff on all campuses are international in composition (25% are international) and outlook too. One in five of our undergraduates undertakes international mobility. 17% of published research outputs are internationally co-authored and 37% of our research funding is obtained internationally. We have strategic partnerships with other leading universities in over 25 countries and one of the largest scholarship programmes for students from the developing world.

University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus


When universities make claims about their global outlook and deep internationalization there is a tendency for the rhetoric significantly to oustrip the reality. Nottingham is, I think, a bit different. The evidence for the range and depth of the internationalization is pretty much everywhere and is now part of the fabric, culture and practice across the University.

Internationalisation both drives and supports our teaching and research mission, provides wider benefits for staff and students as well as facilitating access to a broad international talent pool. Internationalisation at Nottingham has many facets: it means an extraordinarily diverse staff and student body, outstanding campuses, significant staff and student mobility, a distinctive curriculum, unique international research activity (including, for example, field scale tropical crop trials as part of the Crops for the Future initiative which would simply impossible in the UK) and partnerships as well as the new collaborative Knowledge Without Borders Network which seeks to learn from and build upon all of these developments.

Can Nottingham claim to be a genuinely international institution? I think so. At the very least we are, as the Sunday Times observed, “the closest Britain has to a truly global university”. It is not enough simply to have outstandingly successful and growing international campuses or to host visits from the British and Malaysian Prime Ministers or the then Chinese Premier (as happened at UNMC and UNNC respectively last year) it has to permeate the institution from top to bottom. In short, it is all about delivery and Nottingham has delivered and continues to deliver real international higher education. This is the experience at our global institution. It’s not perfect and there is still a long way to go to develop fully the potential of all three of our international campuses in Malaysia, China and the UK but I think it is real, meaningful, deep and sustained internationalisation. I wish Warwick and Monash well in their collaboration; I am sure we would be delighted to welcome Professor Coats to any of our campuses to see our truly transnational offering and experience a real global University.

Branch campus enrolments – some interesting UK data

Some interesting stats from the UK Higher Education International Unit

The International Unit recently published its summary of International higher education in facts and figures – Winter 2012-13. The report contains some interesting information which covers the majority of the UK higher education sector. One particular table (on page 9 of the report) caught my eye, the number of UK students involved in different forms of trans-national education (TNE):

TNE

(Note that the data covers the 2010-11 session.)

Three particular points of interest in here:

  • Students registered at Oxford Brookes University accounted for 47.6% of the total population of the 2010-11 Aggregate Offshore record. The majority of these students were registered with an overseas partner on Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) programmes.
  • In 2010-11 the University of Nottingham returned 7,797 students at its two overseas campuses, the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus and University of Nottingham Ningbo China, so nearly two thirds of the total number of students in this category are from Nottingham.
  • The number and proportion of students following distance learning courses can only grow.

It’s historical data but no doubt the next set of figures will show growth across all of these categories.

HEGlobal – helping UK higher education internationalise?

International advice for Higher Education

HEGlobal, the new portal for helping universities develop transnational education capability, has launched:

There is a consensus across government that engaging in and promoting international education and skills is strategically important to the UK for three main reasons: firstly it presents potentially significant commercial opportunities; secondly, it is an important soft power tool which supports the UK’s image abroad; thirdly, integrally linked to the above, it is key to maintaining the reputation of the UK education sector as one of the best in the world. However, although the UK’s education and skills sector is already doing well internationally, evidence suggests that we risk not taking full advantage of growing global opportunities. Ministers in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and elsewhere want to improve coordination across government by tasking the UK Higher Education International Unit to lead on a sector-wide initiative to do more to help UK higher education institutions (HEIs) increase their transnational education (TNE) capability.

An admirable initiative? Maybe. There is a useful set of links to relevant agencies together with brief profiles of a lot of countries in which universities might be interested. But this feels very much like a starter pack for institutions completely new to international activity. Nothing particularly wrong with that except that I’m not sure there are many institutions which aren’t in a significantly more advanced position than the target level of the advice. So it does raise the question about the audience for this site.

The FAQ section gives a bit more information about the intentions here:

HEGlobal has been established to act as a gateway to information sources, advice and guidance on all elements of transnational education (TNE) from finance through to in-country market intelligence and on-the-ground expertise. There is a substantial amount of support and expertise available to the sector already. HEGlobal has been designed to bring together information on all sources of available support in one place, thereby raising sector awareness, as well as signposting individual institutions to sources of further assistance on a range of relevant topics including finance, strategy, legal and quality insurance.

HEGlobal consists of a website which documents the services and information available to the sector on TNE, as well as a telephone helpline and email inquiry function.

It is not a centralised repository for all research and data on TNE, but instead brings together a range of sector stakeholders providing support to higher education institutions in developing their TNE activities. HEGlobal is a sector-led initiative and one of its greatest strengths is its intelligence-gathering function. By providing a mechanism for the sector to highlight existing needs, HEGlobal will facilitate the development of additional resources for the higher education sector to complement and enhance those already available.

Again, it is hard to see what this gateway is offering beyond what universities have already done for themselves or have the capacity to undertake. On the face of it, this all looks good and useful. In practice though it seems unlikely, in its present form, that it will offer a huge amount of value to institutions. Even those with small-scale TNE activities will probably not find a huge amount of new information here.

But what this really exposes though is the contradiction in policy between supporting this form of internationalisation whilst at the same time imposing visa regulations which hamper international student recruitment to the UK and give the impression that we aren’t open for business.