In response to the growing demand from the education community, we are addressing requirements for cost-effective, appropriate and reliable connectivity services overseas.
Transnational education (TNE) is an area of significant and growing interest to the UK education sector. It refers to the provision of education qualifications from institutions in one country to students in another.
The range and number of TNE activities, such as remote campuses and joint degree programmes, continue to grow rapidly to address international customer demand for UK education. This is most visible within higher education, but there is also activity within further education and schools. TNE is distinct from both international student mobility and international research collaboration.
The TNE landscape
The UK is the world’s second largest (13% of market) and fastest growing (6% p.a.) provider of international education with the UK’s education exports being worth approximately £18bn to our economy.
In late 2014 the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) released a substantial report on the value of TNE to the UK that arose from a sector-wide ‘census’ of TNE activities in higher education. This report placed an estimate of £496 million on TNE revenue in 2012-13. The economic and political significance of transnational education is therefore evident, and growing.
In July 2013, the UK government published the international education strategy as part of its industrial strategy to focus on continuing to grow our UK education exports. Jisc’s work in supporting TNE has responded directly to this agenda, and is outlined in the Industrial Strategy: government and industry in partnership – progress report published in April 2014.
How we are supporting TNE
Historically, our offerings have been delivered almost exclusively within the UK. However, in response to the growing demand from the education community, we have made a strategic decision to improve the support we offer for the sectors’ both established, and developing, TNE activities.
Through our TNE strategy and support programme we seek to address requirements for cost-effective, appropriate and reliable connectivity services overseas; we have already enhanced our portfolio to enable overseas campuses to be connected to home institutions in the UK. This integrates with our UK-based operations, including the Janet network and Jisc’s range of services, to support TNE delivery on a global basis.
In order to understand the sectors’ TNE needs, we commissioned the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education (OBHE) to conduct market research, initially for our higher education customers.
Through the development of new delivery partnerships and infrastructure, and by providing advice and promoting opportunities for collaboration, we are currently undertaking pilot projects in China and Malaysia, and are planning further projects based on customer demand.
Following discussions with customers and policymakers, we engaged the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education (OBHe), an international higher education research and monitoring unit, to secure a better understanding of the UK HE sector’s TNE plans in the near-to-medium term. This research represents an ‘early-warning system’ to enable us to proactively prepare and develop a sustainable strategy for future requirements, including the provision of bandwidth and network connectivity overseas.
The research focused on two distinct constituencies within HEIs involved in planning and delivery of TNE, those working in the International Office or international strategy and planning (IO), and IT-related or technical staff (IT). The research had two main components: a series of regional focus groups to yield indications of current thinking on network connectivity abroad, and an online survey, live throughout July 2014. Responses were received from an overall total of 84 distinct HEIs – more than half the number of institutions targeted.
Findings and recommendations
The report, published in January 2015, can be found in the outputs section below.
Findings supported other information on the various TNE models recently published, with online and partnership-type operations outweighing branch campuses and respondents placing greater weight on online and distance provision for the future. More surprising findings included the relative isolation of IT staff from TNE activity decision-making and even overseas network arrangements was a case in point, with many IT staff unable to answer questions on international operations or explain problems experienced in specific countries.
From the report, we identified three main areas to focus support for TNE which we will address by:
- Developing future plans in consultation with customers and stakeholders
- Developing Jisc’s proposition and infrastructure capability; and
- Developing and delivering a coordinated communication campaign to customers to extend knowledge both within organisations and across the sector.
The final point includes developing a guide or toolkit with information for HEI staff involved in developing TNE technical infrastructure.
We are committed to exploring new opportunities to support the entirety of Jisc’s current customer base, and beyond. Please contact [email protected] for more information.
Through the TNE support programme, we are exploring ways to deliver connectivity and services across the globe. By listening to our customers and responding to demand, we have established projects in China and Malaysia as part of a series of activities, which have resulted in specific services to enhance connectivity.
China: 'Global Partnership'
Our preferred model of supporting TNE is to partner with the local national research and education network (NREN) in the host country.
With over 40,000 TNE students in China, most UK higher education institution (HEI) TNE partners are Chinese Universities connected to CERNET (the Chinese research and education network). CERNET provides excellent network services to its institutions and has very good connectivity to research and education networks worldwide, but many universities choose to use local ISPs for their international connectivity requirements, which can be expensive and limited in accessibility.
To improve costs and connectivity, we successfully established the first Strategic Alliance of its kind with CERNET in December 2013 to provide our customers with access to the 10Gbit/s ORIENTplus link between Beijing and London. Our partnership with CERNET has made it possible to improve the connectivity between universities in the UK and China.
We have been working with universities of Bangor, Bradford, Coventry, De Montford, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Lancaster, Nottingham, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), Reading and Westminster. Case studies are listed in the outputs section of this page.
Malaysia: ‘Global Connect’
In Malaysia, the situation is very different. The second project involves a more bespoke model, where there is no local NREN, or connectivity through the local NREN is currently insufficient for UK TNE needs.
We have used our procurement expertise and contractual relationship with Telecom Malaysia to procure and develop connectivity solutions and make use of private peering arrangements. This has enabled two UK HEIs and a private institution to achieve improvements in quality of provision, resilience and cost efficiencies for their connectivity.
The two UK HEIs and private school with branch campuses co-located in the same physical location are part of EduCity, a strategically important programme to develop a knowledge-based hub in Nusajaya, Malaysia. Newcastle University opened a medical school 2011, the University of Southampton opened their campus in 2012, and we are currently assisting Marlborough College with their requirements. We also negotiated a connection to Heriot Watt’s campus in Putrajaya, which also resulted in a significant reduction in costs.
Work is now progressing to identify new global markets informed by and to support our customers’ growing TNE activities overseas. There are also a number of new pilot projects currently being developed in partnership with our customers.