Breaking Boundaries: Transnational Education (TNE) as a Catalyst for Inclusive Global Learning


In 2021, the World Bank reported that approximately 220 million students globally were enrolled in formal post-secondary education, with an estimated surge to 380 million by 2030. Remarkably, international student mobility, post-COVID-19, has rebounded, with over 6.4 million international students in 2022, a fourfold increase since 2000. The rise in transnational education (TNE), including online learning, has played a pivotal role in this surge, addressing unmet demands, fostering inclusivity, and contributing to global knowledge transfer. It is important to explore the transformative force of TNE in shaping a more inclusive and culturally diverse society.

Breaking Boundaries: Transnational Education (TNE) as a Catalyst for Inclusive Global Learning
(Photo : Pexels / Yan Krukau)

Addressing Unmet Demand

TNE has emerged as a solution to address unmet demands for higher education, especially in countries like Nigeria and India, where high population growth strains existing educational capacities. Nigeria, for instance, faces a yearly influx of two million candidates seeking tertiary education, but limited capacity admits less than half. TNE provides an alternative, exemplified by the National Universities Commission's guidelines in Nigeria, aiming to support its growth and prevent brain drain, while offering global exposure to Nigerian students.

Similarly, India's 2020 National Education Policy focuses on strengthening internationalization, with joint efforts between India and the UK, promoting TNE through mutual recognition agreements. TNE courses often have lower tuition fees, making international education more accessible, particularly for those who cannot afford traditional study abroad experiences.

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Inclusivity and Flexibility

TNE, especially online delivery, goes beyond traditional boundaries, offering flexibility and inclusivity. Female participation tends to be higher in TNE compared to international mobility, and the flexibility of TNE programs attracts mature students and those employed. Additionally, TNE creates opportunities for students with disabilities who may face challenges in international travel.
Maddalaine Ansell of the British Council emphasizes how TNE contributes to "brain circulation" rather than "brain drain," retaining local talent and expertise. It acts as a second chance for students who miss entry to selective national institutions, broadening access to quality education.

Supporting Knowledge Transfer and Local Development

TNE's impact extends beyond individual access to education; it supports knowledge transfer and local development. Collaborations between institutions worldwide, facilitated by TNE, contribute to enhancing the quality of education internationally. Examples from Malaysia, where TNE partnerships contributed to the elevation of colleges to university status, and China, where TNE programs focus on knowledge and expertise transfer, showcase the positive influence of TNE on local capacity development.

Improving International Trust and Recognition

Despite its potential, TNE faces challenges in gaining recognition comparable to traditional in-person education. Modes like online learning and franchise partnerships often encounter skepticism. A lack of understanding regarding TNE's operations and quality assurance mechanisms is a primary reason for this.

To address this, the British Council and the UK ENIC (UK ENIC) play crucial roles in fostering international engagement, developing a shared understanding of TNE's quality and quality assurance. Qualification recognition agreements, such as the one between the UK and India, are vital in overcoming these challenges, allowing TNE to flourish and contribute to a more inclusive and sustainable international education system.

Transnational education, with its diverse forms and global collaborations, emerges as a transformative force in building a more inclusive and culturally diverse society. By addressing unmet demands, fostering inclusivity, supporting knowledge transfer, and improving international trust and recognition, TNE plays a crucial role in shaping a future where education transcends borders, promoting shared understanding and global citizenship. As we continue to navigate the evolving landscape of education, TNE stands as a beacon of progress, opening doors to education for all, regardless of geographical constraints.

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