No ‘one size fits all’ model for transnational education

Curricula should be adapted to suit local skills needs, Edinburgh conference hears

November 20, 2023
Air Peace, Sam Mbakwe Airport, Owerri Imo State, People Boarding Airplane Scene In Nigeria
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A new model for transnational education partnerships must not “solve a problem and create another” by contributing to brain drain, a major conference has heard.

Hundreds of higher education leaders from around the world have gathered at the Going Global event in Edinburgh, organised by the British Council, to debate how to build sustainable, scalable and equitable partnerships.

Speaking on the first day of the conference, Dame Sally Mapstone, president of Universities UK, said higher education was a “major asset” to the UK, allowing the country to attract talent on a global scale, as well as to participate in transnational education partnerships.

Dame Sally said transnational education was a “huge amplifier and asset” to the UK, but that it was essential that partnerships were developed in a strategic and sustainable way, in line with institutional capabilities and values.

“When that is achieved, these partnerships can generally widen access to quality higher education and support mutual learning, thus making a positive contribution both to the UK and the host country or partner,” said Dame Sally, principal of the University of St Andrews.

Olanike Adeyemo, professor of health and medicine at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria said the global higher education system was evolving worldwide, with different countries improving in different ways.

Because each society is at different stages of development any model cannot be “one size fits all”, she said.

“An equitable internationalisation model is achievable, but it cannot be global,” she said. “Each model has to be context-adapted to achieve equity.”

Professor Adeyemo, who was also speaking on the first day of the conference, said global leaders must have an awareness that internationalisation cannot be “monopolised” by one region or nation.

She said that any transnational education partnerships must be “symbiotic”, and that universities around the world cannot “wholesale teach”, questioning whether students in Nigeria should be taught the same as those in the UK.

“It has to be a contextualised curriculum – otherwise what will happen is that those partnerships will drive emigration and brain drain,” she said.

“If you train and you cannot fit into your society then you have go away where you fit. We can’t solve a problem and create another problem.”

Maddalaine Ansell, director of education at the British Council, spoke to Times Higher Education before the conference began on how the issue of brain drain must be incorporated into any models.

She said if students are able to study in their own country, it is more likely they will stay there and support its development.

“A lot of the models that we’re looking at are aiming to support brain circulation rather than brain drain, so they may come here for part of their study and that’s great because we benefit from everything that they bring,” she added.

“But then they go home and take the skills back that they learnt here.”

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