Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Fruit from the Branches

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Fruit from the Branches

Article excerpt

Transnational education helps people who want a quality university education to get it, argues Rebecca Hughes

Throughout my career in transnational education and English language policy, the charges of cultural imperialism have never been far away. The term "transnational education", or TNE, is regarded by some as a euphemism for money-grabbing foreign universities setting up overseas campuses that crush local provision and impose alien values on their host countries' educational systems.

The dominance of English in global academic circles - both at scholarly conferences and, increasingly, in lecture theatres - is also seen as problematic. So for critics, that the biggest purveyors of TNE are from anglophone countries creates a culturally lethal cocktail.

TNE and English as a medium of instruction (EMI) are not culturally neutral phenomena, and yet debates around them miss the point. TNE is additive and necessary; it affects providers as much as recipients. The imperialism, to my mind, lies in thinking that we Brits still control English, and that it is a big deal whether people speak it or not.

British Council research has found that TNE is credited in host countries with increasing access to higher education and improving its overall quality. Host countries also expect it to assist in the development of local knowledge economies and to prompt more internationally collaborative research output.

The world needs far more high-quality tertiary-level provision than developing systems can generate from local provision, and TNE is one part of the solution. Furthermore, critics' allegations of a one-size-fits-all approach are not accurate. I will chair a panel on the cultural challenges of TNE next week at the British Council's annual Going Global conference for leaders of international higher education. The examples under discussion will reflect the realities of modern, diverse TNE: from a Russell Group business school in Dubai to a collaboration of 16 South Asian universities, to a UK/Australian/Pakistani partnership on curriculum development.

Transnational programmes cost more than other degree courses in the host country, but they are generally cheaper than they would be if the student travelled overseas to take them. TNE students can gain an internationally recognised qualification while avoiding the typically higher costs of living and the visa complexities of the institutions' home countries. …

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