Stronger Asian systems could reduce student numbers in UK

Observatory on Borderless Higher Education report author urges UK universities to factor in growth of transnational education

July 10, 2014

Policies aimed at stemming the brain drain of students from Asian countries and expanding domestic higher education will lead to stagnation or decline in the number choosing to study in the UK, a report has found.

According to an Observatory on Borderless Higher Education report called Transnational Education vs. International Student Mobility: Substitutes or Distinct Markets?, the number of students choosing to study overseas university courses in their own country is rising significantly faster than the number electing to study abroad.

“There is…a concurrent decline, or stagnation, in outbound student mobility and an increase in the number of students in TNE [transnational education] in most of the TNE host countries,” finds the report, which looks at UK courses offered in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.

“The stagnation in the number of outbound students as well as the growth of inbound mobility…are primarily due to the coordinated efforts by the government to increase the capacity of the domestic system.”

The number of students studying wholly overseas on courses offered by UK institutions reached 598,925 in 2012-13, up 5 per cent from 2011-12. Excluding a hugely popular accounting course provided by Oxford Brookes University and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants – which makes up almost half that cohort – the rise was 8 per cent.

The report says that the proliferation of transnational education has had little impact on the recruitment of overseas students to study at UK universities, with many viewing it as an alternative for students wishing to remain in their home country, rather than a substitute for those wishing to study abroad.

“My argument is that the decline in the growth of outbound mobility is not related to TNE alone, but is more of an inevitable outcome of the capacity-building policies in Asia,” report author Vangelis Tsiligiris, college principal of MBS College of Crete, told Times Higher Education.

“My guess is that, in the future, the UK will continue to be a top destination for international students but the size of the outbound market will stagnate if not decline.”

According to Dr Tsiligiris, UK universities need to consider TNE as part of their international business strategy, “rather than an informal and peripheral activity”.

chris.parr@tsleducation.com

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Reader's comments (1)

Since we're guessing, I'd venture the contrary thesis; the UK will continue to be a top destination for international students and the size of the outbound market will continue to increase incrementally. I have demographics on my side, as well as aspirations. As long as China remains economically buoyant but socially repressive, large numbers of their students will wish to come to the UK to enjoy our freedoms, history and youth culture. This is as much a part of the attraction as the overseas degree itself. As China invests in growing in country capacity it is producing a glut of spoon fed, rote learned graduates. Employability is a huge issue. That will continue to drive large numbers overseas where the qualifications offer higher presige and an entree to the workplace.

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