International Strategy for Higher Education Institutions

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Posted on by Vicky Lewis

New Training Course

International partnerships have steadily increased in importance for UK HEIs over recent years. Research undertaken a few years ago by Vincenzo Raimo and Charlotte Harrison (published in The Guardian) indicates that ‘development / expansion of international partnerships’ was the most cited priority within UK universities’ international strategies, with 92% of universities considering it a priority.

Of course, international partnerships have a range of drivers and come in various forms – from research-based collaborations to student and staff exchanges or programme delivery partnerships.

Transnational education (TNE) is also a growth area. According to HEGlobal’s 2016 report on The Scale and Scope of UK Higher Education Transnational Education, ‘four in five higher education institutions intend to expand their TNE provision over the next three years’ (HEGlobal p.6).

TNE modes tend to be categorised as either ‘independent’ (e.g. distance / online learning without local support; standalone branch campuses / study centres) or ‘collaborative’ (academic programmes delivered in conjunction with one or more local partners – whether via franchised delivery, joint and dual degrees, twinning arrangements, validation and quality arrangements, distance / online learning with local support, or a joint campus).

TNE PartnershipsTNE partnerships (also referred to as collaborative TNE or local delivery partnerships) sit at the intersection of international partnerships and TNE (see the star in the middle of the Venn Diagram). Of course, these things are never clear-cut. Such TNE partnerships may involve other typical international partnership activities (see examples in left hand bubble); and they may be blended with other, more independent, modes of TNE (see examples in right hand bubble).

What is clear is that there has been a trend amongst UK universities towards more partnership-led models of TNE; that ‘partnership approaches with host country partners are becoming more equitable’ (HEGlobal p.6), and that partnerships are ‘becoming much more strategic, long-term and sustainable’ (Repéres no.15, cited in HEGlobal p.11/12).

Internationalist approaches to partnership

Partner institutions and host countries are now starting to expect more equitable and genuinely collaborative approaches to partnership - and less of the ‘one way traffic’ of which the UK has traditionally been guilty.

Meanwhile, UK HEIs with international ambitions are increasingly looking to partnerships to help maintain their international ethos and reach against the background of the Brexit effect and UK immigration policy.

The HEGlobal report found that ‘good practice and success [in TNE] is based on a sophisticated approach and a much wider way of thinking around internationalisation… in some cases… broadened… to accommodate internationalism’ (i.e. a commitment to wider societal benefits underpinned by an ethos of international cooperation).

There are some excellent examples of innovative TNE collaborations within the sector (including those featured as case studies in the HEGlobal report).

Developing effective TNE partnerships - new training course

Staff from UK HEIs that are keen to develop their TNE partnership portfolio and ensure their partnerships are successful may be interested in a one-day training course I’m chairing on 8 March 2017.

Details can be found on the Understanding ModernGov website.

The overarching aim of the course (which is practical and interactive) is to strengthen participants’ ability to develop effective and successful TNE partnerships.

It will cover the UK and global context for TNE (and associated opportunities), explain how to evaluate opportunities in different countries, look at partner selection and relationship management, explore critical success factors, investigate key challenges and risks (and how to manage them), and help participants to identify next steps for TNE partnership development at their own institution.

In-depth case studies will be provided by the University of Nottingham and Staffordshire University.

One of the benefits of attending courses like this is, of course, sharing ideas and experiences with colleagues from different institutions. I hope that it will provide ample opportunity to do that.


If you are interested in attending, do contact Understanding ModernGov as soon as possible, as places are filling up quickly.

It would be great to see you there.

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