Global view

The benefits for international students of coming to the UK to study are well documented. Degrees from this country remain highly regarded, and students experience a different culture and way of life. But it is not always possible for students to travel overseas to study, and the development of transnational education (TNE) is enabling them to reap the rewards of a university degree developed in the UK.

TNE refers to education provision from one country delivered in another, and the University of Wolverhampton has been a key exponent of this mode of study for some years. The University delivers programmes in a range of subjects at partner institutions all over the world, from China to Cyprus and from Russia to Sri Lanka. In most cases, the students are working to the same programme as their counterparts in the UK. And at the end of it all, the students have the choice of collecting their degree scrolls close to home or travelling to the UK to attend graduation ceremonies in Wolverhampton.

Long-standing partners include the School of Computing and Professional Education (SCOPE) in Hong Kong, which offers courses in law, business and construction and Asia Pacific School of Sports and Business (APSSB) in Singapore, which has a partnership with the School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure and provides courses in sports management and sports coaching. A more recent addition includes Sri Lankan-based Columbo International Nautical and Engineering College (CINEC), where students can enrol on engineering courses, with a suite of other courses starting in September 2011.

Traditionally popular courses have been those focused on business, engineering, computing, leisure and tourism, but new markets are being developed. A BA (Hons) in Broadcasting and Journalism will be available at Han Chiang in Malaysia and work is under way to deliver one focused on Applied (Occupational) Psychology in Singapore.

Rishma Dattani, Deputy Director, International Centre, says the courses are ones that serve that particular market or region, and the University is striving to build up its portfolio to include some form of partnership with each of its eight Academic Schools.

There are two modes of delivery in TNE. The ‘flying faculty’ refers to academic staff travelling to the partner institution to deliver the particular course and modules, usually on a block basis. This has been the core method of teaching until recently, with a move towards ‘supported delivery’. This shifts focus onto the partner institution providing the teaching and assessment, and the University supporting in a quality assurance and monitoring role.

Internationalisation agenda

Rishma explains one of the reasons for the University’s commitment to TNE is that it supports the internationalisation agenda.

“Our strategy is not simply about students coming here or us having partnerships overseas. There is such a lot of value in terms of the benefits for staff. They learn from staff at our partner institutions about the different learning and teaching pedagogies, cultural aspects and building international case studies that can be used with students studying at home.

“Some of the work we are doing currently is looking at ways of supporting students more directly at the TNE institution so students here and over there can learn from one another.”

There have already been examples of students working together on projects with international partners. A small group of School of Technology students on the BSc (Hons) Construction Management course worked with students in Hong Kong and both reported that it broadened their understanding. With technology such as Skype, there are further opportunities for interaction between students in Wolverhampton and those studying the same courses overseas.

Rishma adds: “Wider internationalisation is about more than recruitment strategies. It is something that makes a difference in terms of the curriculum and the mindset of the student, so when they graduate they are going to be more employable.”

Global context

The academic staff ensure that teaching material is contextualised, so it is not UK centric and is relevant to the international students’ experiences and knowledge. They use local examples to support concepts, theories and processes and in turn the lecturers bring that information back and weave it into their teaching in the UK.

Aside from the wealth of knowledge brought by the University’s academic experts, there are further benefits for students at the partner institutions.

“We have found that although we have over 2,500 international students studying here in Wolverhampton, there are still a proportion that are not able to come. This could be due to costs or other commitments. By delivering courses more locally to them, the fees are going to be slightly lower, as are the living expenses and travel costs, and they may have the option to combine work or other responsibilities with studying part-time. As an institution, we support the widening participation agenda, and this is similar, but in a global context.”

Rishma explains the University is investigating ways to support partner institutions further, for example with recruitment.

“We are looking at delivering transnational education in a more strategic and multidimensional way. The next stage in our thinking and development is a Global Hub. Students would spend a semester or year at one place and then travel to another for the following semester. For example, students could enrol in Cyprus and complete their first year there, their second in Wolverhampton and return home for their third.”

Pivotal role

The International Centre at the University has a pivotal role in the plans to develop transnational education. The team strives to provide central support to the Academic Schools offering the courses, and continues to investigate opportunities for further collaboration with current and potential partners. There are also plans to expand provision beyond undergraduate and postgraduate programmes to include short courses, staff development and continuous professional development (CPD).

With a strong vision and an excellent trackrecord in the delivery of transnational education, the University of Wolverhampton is well placed to take on the challenges posed by a new era in higher education. The international market is broad and diverse, and exciting opportunities for collaboration are never far away.

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