The “Trends, Barriers and Opportunities of Australia’s Higher Education Delivery Offshore” report, published by the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education, investigated the challenges and opportunities for growth of Australia’s higher education provision using a combination of desktop research, surveys of TNE providers, consultations with experts and stakeholders, market analysis and a scan of international practice.

“There’s really a lot of different models there”

One of the reports authors Gwilym Croucher said Australia’s decades of experience has helped the sector thrive.

“In the last 12 months Australian providers have been one of the great success stories in TNE in the world, a huge proportion of the market and operate in a number of different countries and across all sorts of different types of arrangements as well,” he said.

International education providers have “a real wealth of experience” initially providing care and inviting students onshore which “has been translated when these institutions have gone out and established partnerships” globally, he suggested.

“A lot of Australian universities and other providers are well linked in with institutions overseas in different markets,” Croucher noted, and they have shown they can build “really strong” partnerships as well as operate and work with different governments.

He said flexibility in their offering is another success factor.

“We found through the interviews and also through the survey that amongst Australian universities and more broadly higher education providers, there’s really a lot of different models there. People have built arrangements for different markets, countries, contexts [that] work for them.

“That really probably was one of the key messages for us – there was such diversity in TNE offerings [which] was probably a point of strength because it demonstrates that people are adaptable.”

The report states primarily the focus has been on a limited market namely Singapore, China, and Malaysia who have 59,000 of the 84,000 students studying a TNE course with Australian providers at a campus outside Australia.

While these are still important markets, Australian institutions see opportunities for deepening existing partnerships with Chinese institutions. They’ve also identified the potential for significant growth in other countries including Sri Lanka, Vietnam and India.

However the report found establishing new TNE programs, particularly using an International Branch Campus model, can pose a number of distinct challenges.

“One thing that the report revealed was that providers are most concerned about a lot of the sovereign issues, and by that I mean how they’re dealing with governments and the rules in different countries and navigating that can be quite complex,” said Croucher.

National internet firewalls, clarity around program approval, curriculum mapping, taxation rules, and difficulty in obtaining visas were also raised as challenges.

While delivering TNE solely online would sidestep a number of those problems, Croucher said that method would have it’s own set of challenges.

It would require addressing preconceptions about quality and applicability, along with strategies to ensure that curricular and content meet cultural and educational expectations for students in different countries.

“The question is, is all online education TNE in the sense that you can be anywhere in the world, or are we talking about something more bespoke to particular countries, markets, regions etc so it’s there and it’s attractive and it’s tailored to people.

“That’s the next frontier for a lot of institutions. If we’re thinking about the pandemic and that it will be more difficult for students to travel between countries, that would certainly seem to be an attractive option. Then the question is, can it be made to work and can it be made to be as attractive to students as primarily face to face education?”

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