- Transnational Education: Issues and Trends in Offshore Higher Education
The emergence of international trade agreements for services (including education), the opening of new education markets with insufficient capacity to meet the anticipated demands of citizens for advanced degrees (e.g., China and India), and the ever-present demand for colleges and universities to establish additional revenue streams are at the heart of a new evolutionary phase in the development of higher education.
This development of for-profit and not-for-profit transnational institutions operating in an international education market appears more akin to international business than traditional academic expansion. In this setting, issues such as curriculum development and academic governance are largely overshadowed by strategic alliances, development of international branch campuses, investments from equity firms, and offices dedicated to identifying new markets and navigating international regulations. This phenomenon is the focus of Grant McBurnie and Christopher Ziguras's new book, Transnational Education: Issues and Trends in Offshore Higher Education.
Transnational Education "encompasses any education delivered by an institution based in one country to students located in another" (p. 1). While early concepts of transnational education (TNE) (although not always labeled as such) were dominated by distance learning, discussion about distance or correspondence classes is limited as the authors believe that such provisions "without a local presence will wither to a small niche market for specialized fields, or to cheap, low status provision that is unappealing to the fee-paying middle class" (p. 6). Rather, McBurnie and Ziguras focus on more intrusive forms of cross-border supply such as "twinning" arrangements, development of full-service international branch campuses, and similar means of cross-border investments and partnerships. [End Page 119]
The authors' intent is to "stand back from the minutiae of the experiences of individual countries and offshore higher education providers." Instead, they wish to "sketch a broad overview of . . . key developments and issues at this stage in the evolution of what is a very recent phenomenon in the education sector" (p. 152). As such, this book is not a "how-to" guide for developing a transnational operation. However, the book does draw on the authors' wealth of practical experience and scholarly inquiry to assemble a thoughtful and pragmatic overview of the evolution and operation of TNE programs.
It is worth noting that the Australian institutions of both authors (McBurnie is Executive Officer International at Monash University and Ziguras is Senior Research Fellow at RMIT University's Globalism Institute) are leaders in the development of international branch campuses and have been studying global developments in this area for the last several years.
This experience, while providing the authors with unique insights about TNE, also tends to bias some of their comments and the book's directions. For the most part, the authors succeed in making the book useful to interested parties in multiple countries; but there is a clear bent toward Australian efforts and the experience of importing countries in Asia. Discussion of development in the Americas is limited, except for occasional references to the efforts of some U.S. institutions to open international branch campuses. However, McBurnie and Ziguras provide one of the first comprehensive reviews of transnational education, and the book serves as an excellent primer for the field. It is cause for critical reflection on what associated developments mean for students, faculty, institutional planning, market development, and national and international trade policy.
The book is divided into two parts. In "Crossing Borders," the authors introduce readers to cross-border education, including business and academic perspectives as well as philosophical arguments for and against the development of transnational institutions. Part 2, "Redrawing Borders," focuses on the growth of international markets and the role of importing countries in regulating transnational educational enterprises. The chapters in the second section cover a range of issues including quality assurance initiatives, multilateral (GATS) and bilateral (Singapore-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement) trade agreements, and the strategies that importing nations can use to regulate foreign providers.
The major shortcoming is a...