Transnational courses earn the UK £496 million

Government estimate is significantly higher than in previous assessments

November 27, 2014

Source: Alamy

Logging on: transnational distance learning is lucrative for UK institutions

The annual value of transnational education programmes to UK universities is put at £496 million by a new study.

The estimate, which is contained in research published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, is significantly higher than those given in previous assessments and represents 11 per cent of UK higher education institutions’ total international fee income.

The report, which is based on a survey of universities and data published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, calculates that there were 323,730 students enrolled on UK-led transnational courses during 2012-13. This figure excludes more than 250,000 students who were enrolled on accountancy courses validated by Oxford Brookes University.

Of the 2,785 separate programmes analysed, 40 per cent were delivered through distance learning. The average annual fee per student was £1,530, but this varied widely according to the course and the mode of delivery.

The report concludes that distance learning appeared to be more lucrative than partnership arrangements with overseas institutions, with fees for a distance learning postgraduate programme averaging more than £4,000.

Asia was the dominant region for transnational education activity, while the most popular subjects were in business and management, accounting for 46 per cent of all enrolments.

Master’s courses in this discipline represented 56 per cent of all transnational revenue in 2012-13, the report says.

While the report predicts that UK transnational education activity will continue to grow, it notes that 19 per cent of programmes are being closed, and that a number of them are no longer accepting new students.

The report also finds that, once Oxford Brookes was discounted, along with two other major recruiters (The Open University and University of London International Programmes), post-92 institutions accounted for 56 per cent of enrolments.

On top of the £496 million figure, the report says that UK universities received £711 million through “articulation arrangements”, where students transfer from overseas institutions, and £42 million from a “halo effect”, whereby a university’s overseas presence attracts additional students to its UK campus.

However, international branch campuses were found to contribute only small direct revenues to UK institutions because of their legal structures and trading arrangements.

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