HEGlobal's head of programme, Raegan Hiles, considers
the publication last week of Australia's draft international
education national strategy. TNE features throughout the draft
strategy, with ambitious targets for growth - but what will the
final version look like?
10 April 2015
Last week, the Australian government released its draft international education national
strategy. The publication follows on from the 2013 Chaney report which proposed a sustainable
growth model for international education. The draft strategy builds
on the Chaney recommendations to set ambitious targets as part of
what the minister, Christopher Pyne, describes as a "return to
growth in international education."
Governments around the world are identifying higher education as
a key export industry ripe for growth. The UK government likewise
identified international higher education as a key industry in the
2013 industrial strategy, International Education: Global Growth and
Prosperity. Given the similar contexs, it is unsurprising that
there are commonalities in the priorities identified in both the
Australian and UK strategies. They draw on a tradition of strong
international higher education engagement, whilst citing
opportunities to strive for more. Common themes include a warm
welcome for international students, a high quality international
student experience, the value of international higher education for
longer term economic prosperity, the cultural and social value(s)
of international higher education, its role in soft power and in
growing skills for aid based economies. Both strategies look to
developing market intelligence for future opportunities, raising
the profile of the country's higher education 'brand', outward
student mobility, and expanding transnational education (TNE).
Indeed, TNE runs through the Australian approach. The Chaney
report specifically identified TNE in several of its
B.7 Liaise with TEQSA ad ASQA t o
ensure the quality of transnational education is effectively
D.9 Facilitate the offshore
provision of education and training by Australian providers by
participating in the foreign aid programs of AusAID.
D.10 Encourage institutions to
identify and pursue possibly partnership opportunities arising
through the development of regional education hubs such as
Singapore and Malaysia.
Source: International Advisory Council
(2013), Australia - Educating
The conviction that TNE is a key element for Australian growth
is even stronger in last week's draft strategy publication. Of five
measures of success, expanding provision of Australian education
overseas is explicitly stated in one measure and
implicit in another two.
Through the actions of the strategy, Australia will:
- Maintain our place as one of the top five international study
- Create an education system that stands out as the best in the
- Raise our profile as a world leader in international education
and improve the global connectedness of Australian
- Improve the experience of students in Australia
- Expand the provision of Australian education and
In the strategy's six proposed goals, TNE is explicit in Goal 6
and each of its related action points.
Goal 6: Australia will embrace new
opportunities to grow international education
6.1 Leading good practice in new
modes of delivery, including online
6.2 Enhancing opportunities to
provide education services overseas
6.3 Understanding the
Source: Australian Government
(2015), Draft International Education National
Not only do specific actions and goals look to TNE, the idea of
offshore delivery is highlighted throughout the strategy's
narrative. Australia's 31 offshore campuses are referred to as
early as the third paragraph in the Executive summary, and the
opportunities in Asia and the "tropical economy" for growth,
including for TNE, are highlighted almost as immediately.
Australia may not currently deliver the most TNE programmes to
the most students of any country, but it is one of the most active
TNE delivery countries and a significant player.
Government (2015), Draft International Education National
There are strong data recording TNE activity, and growing TNE
enrolments even without the boost that this new strategy offers.
Australian universities have set high standards in establishing
offshore delivery, often in new territories: the draft strategy
notes that Curtin University established the first foreign
university campus in East Malaysia a quarter of a century ago.
There is a notable difference in this to some other TNE campus
approaches: the Curtin campus delivers not only to Malaysian
students, but is an international campus in its own right, serving
students from more than 40 countries. Could this be the most
international interpretation of international higher education?
Models like this, together with a strategy which weaves TNE through
its core themes as well as voicing specific TNE targets, mean that
Australia could be seen as developing a truly holistic approach to
the basket of international higher education tools.
But there is a difficulty for any government in targeting
outward TNE delivery for growth. Institutions rightly have autonomy
over their own international strategies, and there are few levers
that government can pull to require universities to develop TNE
beyond "encouraging" growth. Meanwhile there are plenty of
interventions that host country governments can use to control the
opportunities for delivery countries operating TNE. There are,
however, many ways that government can equip its universities to
better their chances of TNE success, and both the Australian and UK
strategies refer to tools such as enhancing market intelligence,
actively promoting the quality of the country's education overseas,
and empowering programmes like HEGlobal. But these measures can
always go further.
Australia's international higher education leaders have been
quick to welcome the draft strategy. Universities Australia's Chief Executive
Belinda Robinson commended the strategy's potential to move towards
Australian graduates being "true global citizens" and welcomed the
ambition to extend beyond traditional partner countries for
international engagement. The International Education Association of
Australia's president Brett Blacker noted the importance of the
strategy in "meeting competition head on" and that "IEAA
has long been advocating for a whole-of-government approach to
Australia's international education industry … It's promising to
see this national strategy coming to life."
It will be interesting to see the reactions to the draft
strategy that come through in the consultation. What role will TNE
have in Australia's approach to international education when the
agreed strategy is published later this year?
About the author
Raegan Hiles is the Head of Programme, HEGlobal. She has been
the UK HE International Unit's policy advisor on TNE since summer
2013, and was a member of the advisory board for the BIS
commissioned 'Value' research which looked at value propositions
for TNE and growth.