Five Good Things About Transnational Ed
A recent column in The Tribune of India stated the prevailing bias against transnational education clearly and unequivocally: " ... hardly any top ranking university of the USA, the UK, Australia or New Zealand has shown interest in India. Only those universities with very low rankings in their own country and those which are badly in need of foreign students have made inroads into developing countries like India. It is estimated that out of the 50 foreign universities competing to woo Indian students, none have a good standing in their own education system."
I suspect that the statement is true, and I hope that the situation is changing.
There are reasons for even the most prestigious and financially well-endowed universities to establish branch campuses and other forms of commercial presence off-shore. Here are a few:
1) Transnational programs can provide virtual diversity
Transnational programs can be integrated with programs at the main campus of a university. For example, faculty members can teach the same course simultaneously on-campus and, through technology, to students at a branch campus. Both groups of students may be required to post weekly to an online discussion forum. Why not mix main campus and branch campus students in the discussion forums? This would provide the benefit of multiple perspectives and potentially increased student-to-student interaction.
2) Transnational programs can create different teaching experiences for faculty
There are several teaching models in transnational ed, but the best ones combine technology-based formats (real-time and asynchronous) with some face-to-face interaction. These different formats create an impetus for looking at teaching style and materials through new eyes, for new purposes. With the proper support, the effect could be invigorating, something like a sabbatical without taking a year off.
3) Transnational programs can be a platform for a wide range of research opportunities
Exploring the teaching of a particular subject to cohorts from different cultures is just one obvious possibility. Students in transnational programs are not like international students who come to the main campus -- they haven't been taken out of their culture.
4) Transnational programs can be an effective recruitment vehicle
Branch campuses open the door for more students, as well as different types of students, to travel abroad for study at the main campus for some portion of their degree programs. Most students in developing nations are unable to attend top-rated foreign universities simply because they are unable to afford the expense of travelling and living in another country. With transnational programs some of these students will demonstrate superior ability to do university-level work in a branch campus for two years, and then be able to attend the main campus for the remaining two years with a student job or financial aid.
5) Transnational programs drive universities to experiment with instructional technology
Degree programs delivered internationally will require a fast learning curve on the part of the degree granting institution. International delivery will almost certainly lead to techniques and applications that can benefit students at the main campus, as well as off-campus students in the university's home state.