R & D project

Transnational education (TNE)

Delivering support for both established and developing TNE activities.


This project was archived on

This resulted in the launch of our transnational education licensing service, a simple, efficient way to license resources to students based abroad.

8 years and 4 months


Expected outcome:

New service

In response to the growing demand from the education community, we are addressing technological support for transnational education, providing cost-effective, appropriate and reliable solutions and services overseas.

Transnational education (TNE) is an area of significance and growth in the UK education sector. It refers to the provision of education 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 recruitment and international research collaboration, however mobility needs to be multidirectional, and the boundaries between incoming and outgoing mobility and TNE are blurring.

The TNE landscape

The UK is the second largest provider of international education with a 10% share of the global market. Transnational education (TNE) - as defined by the British Council - is ‘the mobility of higher education programmes and institutions/providers across international borders’ and represents an increasingly growing part of the UK international education portfolio, with 11% of cumulative international fee revenues and an estimated annual value of £496 million to the UK economy in 2015.

A UUKi report published in June 2017 found that there had been an 81% increase in the number of UK HE TNE students since 2008-09, with the current number of students studying for UK degree programmes overseas standing at 701,010 compared with the 438,000 international students on-campus in the UK recorded in 2015/16. This is an increase of 5.3% on the previous year, and 17% since 2012. Additionally, 2015-16 saw 27,400 UK students choose to study for part of their degree overseas, classed as ‘outward mobility’ rather than TNE.

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 support programme we seek to improve the technology that underpins TNE activities, with a view to improving student and staff access to materials, and providing a seamless learning environment between home and overseas operations. This fundamentally relies on cost-effective and reliable connectivity; 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 in technology and digital resources, to support TNE delivery on a global basis.

In order to understand the sectors’ TNE technology needs, in 2014 we commissioned the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education (OBHE) to conduct market research, initially for our higher education customers. For further information see the market intelligence section below. We have been developing our expertise and understanding of the UK demands, TNE markets and associated infrastructure since this time along with other sector organisations such as the British Council and Universities UK international.

Project outputs

  1. Case study: universities work together to bridge UK-China divideDownload the case study (pdf)
  2. Case study: how Queen Mary's used international NREN's to establish good connectivity for TNE in MaltaDownload the case study (pdf)
  3. Case study: how Jisc’s connections to China improve student experienceDownload the case study (pdf)
  4. Case study: enabling global working at a global universityDownload the case study (pdf)