TNE providers need more transparency in publisher licensing

Universities should be able to offer the same access to content to transnational students as to those studying a degree in the UK, argues Greg Ince 

August 17, 2019
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The majority of universities that are paying publishers to give transnational students and staff access to academic content have no idea what other institutions are paying for a similar service or what exactly they are paying for. 

Currently, each of the UK higher education institutions catering for transnational education students needs to negotiate contracts with a myriad publishers to give those students the same access to journals, databases and e-books as they do to their registered students in the UK. There’s little transparency and consistency around the licensing content agreements between libraries and publishers, which leads to confusion and inconsistency.  

TNE is growing; a UK degree is held in high esteem and is internationally recognised as a viable ticket to work. Behind the US, the UK is now the second largest provider of international education, with a 10 per cent share of the global market and 707,000 TNE students.  

With the number of HEIs delivering UK education overseas growing, universities face a challenge. Negotiating directly with publishers for library resource access for students and support staff located abroad is a time-consuming and confusing process, often with disproportionate financial consequences with regard to the typically small numbers of students involved. 

Currently, library services at UK HEIs are trying hard to comply with publishers’ licensing agreements when offering content access to TNE students. However, there is no shared language or single standardised process, and this is where confusion creeps in, often creating uncertainty and producing unpredictable, inconsistent and sometimes unfair outcomes. 

Using a simple, evidenced and shared framework, Jisc’s licensing approach creates a level playing field by mapping out the wide variety of TNE student affiliations that results from the complex contractual relationships on the one hand and the wide range of educational modes and their partnerships with educators overseas on the other.

Jisc has established that TNE students, when registered with the UK HEI, are equivalent to those UK-based students who are also registered with HEIs in the UK. 

It follows, therefore, that they should also be considered authorised users in content agreements and be given parity of access to content. 

These students are part of the UK HEIs’ populations and it would be unreasonable to consider them apart or charge them differential fees in comparison with students in the UK.

Jisc has also established that some TNE produces a more complex licensing situation. This is the case when students study overseas for an award from a UK HEI, but are more closely affiliated with an overseas partner educator. In these instances, Jisc seeks to agree with publishers a reasonable and transparent fee on behalf of its member universities.

Wiley is a publisher that has approved Jisc’s TNE licensing approach as a solution, and in doing so has helped bring clarity and transparency to this area of content licensing. 

The Jisc licensing approach is built on the licensed Higher Education Statistics Agency data representing all UK HEIs delivering TNE. This takes trust. Universities have not entrusted their TNE data to a third party to streamline licensing agreements with publishers before. But initiatives such as the new optional Jisc service transnational education licensing create sector insight and a platform to take this work forward with publishers. There are already 35 libraries subscribed to Jisc's TNE licensing service. 

Universities making use of this centralised licensing service will no longer have to broker separate content access agreements with Wiley, for example, or further agreements with publishers that follow, saving both time and money. 

The unified and transparent approach creates a welcome level playing field for HEIs offering TNE students access to scholarly publications. 

Greg Ince is the TNE licensing manager at Jisc. 

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