Australia's transnational education has been labelled a global success story during the pandemic era; however, universities have some primary issues which need to be addressed if they want to maintain their position as leaders in the sector.
According to a report by the federal government titled "Trends, Barriers and Opportunities of Australia's Higher Education Delivery Offshore," there are a lot of opportunities and challenges for Australia's higher education and TNE providers.
The report published by the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education measured provision growth using a mix of surveys of TNE (transnational education) providers, desktop research, market analysis, consultations with experts, and a review of international practice.
It stated that the main focus of TNE has been on a limited market namely Singapore, China, and Malaysia, which have 59,000 of the total 84,000 students studying a TNE course with an Australian provider outside Australia.
"Australian universities are well linked with institutions overseas in different markets," said Gwilym Croucher, one of the report’s authors.
Additionally, the report discovered that initiating new TNE programs, specifically using an International Branch Campus model, presents a number of challenges;
Universities and TNE providers are wary of Sovereign issues, especially while dealing with other government rules and laws.
Issues like curriculum mapping, clarity around program approval and taxation rules create confusion amongst the providers.
Delivering TNE only online could avoid some of those challenges; however, that would have its own problems. It would require addressing expectations regarding applicability and quality to make sure that curriculum and content meet educational and cultural expectations of the students in different countries.
"The question is, is all online education TNE since you can learn from anywhere in the world, or are we talking about something more bespoke to particular countries, markets, regions," Croucher said.
"That's the next frontier for a lot of institutions, especially since the pandemic will make it more difficult for students to travel between countries. Then the question is, can it be made to work, and can it become as attractive to students as primarily face-to-face education?"