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Transnational higher education: redefining TYPE

When we first designed the Aggregate Offshore (AOR) specification in 2007, there was limited agreement on the terminology used across the sector to define transnational education (TNE). In response, we used correspondingly broad definitions. This conflated related but discrete concepts (such as which institution was responsible for delivering the teaching, and from what location).

Those familiar with the Aggregate Offshore record will know that the TYPE field, which categorises different models of TNE, has been due for an overhaul for some time.

As the scope and scale of TNE grows, the TYPE definitions are of limited use in classifying activity across the sector.

A 2014 report by the former Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) took the view that:

"the categorisation of transnational education used in the Aggregate Offshore Record is not useful for understanding patterns of transnational education […] a better definition of what constitutes an international branch campus is a particularly pressing need.”

BIS, along with other organisations such as the British Council, went on to develop their own frameworks for defining different types of TNE to use alongside the HESA AOR data.

We must ensure our specification performs against real-world examples of provision

Rethinking our definitions

When we started the major review of the AOR record, we considered different approaches. We want a set of definitions that:

  • Capture the breadth of TNE provision in the sector.
  • Are not too granular for meaningful analysis.

On that basis we agreed that the British Council’s classification framework is the best foundation for our proposed approach.

A key difference is that our proposals draw a dividing line between the type of programme and the type of venue involved in TNE provision. This helps us to accurately describe some of the discrete concepts in the AOR data.

We must ensure our specification performs against real-world examples of provision. We have, therefore, consulted with colleagues in the sector, including the Universities UK International working group on monitoring and evaluation tools in TNE. We went on to develop illustrative examples of provision and refine our proposed definitions. We have confirmed these draft definitions and scenarios with statutory customers in all nations.

Illustrating types of TNE provision

Providers and organisations sometimes use different terms to describe similar or even identical models of TNE activity. To help you to respond to the consultation, we have published the scenarios we used to develop our definitions. We have also created short videos to illustrate the relationships between the provider and student.

Please let us know via [email protected] whether you find these scenarios and explanatory videos useful. We also want to know if you would like similar visualisations in future consultations.

Please visit our page on the major review of the Aggregate Offshore record for further information and to give us your views on the proposals. We publish consultations and other opportunities to get involved on our major reviews page and we will communicate outcomes in the HESA weekly update. We send the weekly update to all operational contacts, but you can subscribe and change your preferences at any time.

Alex Green, Collections development analyst

Alex Green

Collections development analyst