Induction needs of students and staff on transnational programmes
- Publication Date: 03-03-2011
In transnational education (TNE) programmes students remain in their home country whilst following a course of an international institution.
Soon such programmes are expected to be amongst the largest components of internationalised higher education, however, there is a high risk of misunderstanding between partners if terms like ‘validation’, ‘joint award’, ‘2+2 articulations’ or ‘flying faculty’ are used loosely without a clear and detailed itemisation of exactly what is being proposed. Similarly, different types of collaborations will demand different forms of induction for students and staff, but the following suggestions should be considered by all.
The academic adaptation of students who physically move across borders as international students is researched thoroughly, resulting in induction and support systems for students, and support for the professional development of staff working with them, however, the matching needs of students and staff on TNE programmes have received less attention. UK validated courses, even when offered transnationally, must encapsulate the levels and approaches set out in The framework for higher education qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FHEQ), and these approaches may require induction preparation if the programme is to be successfully completed. Hence it is essential that transnational education programmes have built into them several layers of activities which will enable all stakeholders to identify the principles underlying the surface behaviours contained in the teaching approaches which the courses use. This will require staff development both for the UK academics who may be dealing with students unused to these approaches, for any overseas academics involved in delivery or support in partner institutions, as well as in-depth interventions with students. These must go beyond surface description of learning activities and move on to explore the underlying educational beliefs which demand these approaches.
To illustrate this, for students and for staff there is a need to clarify that:
- use of seminar discussions is underpinned by a concept that knowledge is socially constructed rather than being an acquisition of transmitted facts;
- critical evaluation is based on an assumption of there being various viewpoints rather than a single correct answer to a topic and that each viewpoint may be valid;
- use of learning portfolios results from a theory of reflective learning, of personal growth and change.
Similarly, it is necessary to allow and encourage the students to use a wider range of sources instead of over-reliance on supplied programme materials, and to further discourage lock-step approaches by having optional units which allow students to make choices. To link these approaches, they all envisage autonomous learners, and envisage teachers as enablers of autonomy rather than transmitters of information. These considerations demand a well-thought-out induction programme for students, and opportunities for staff development.
If any institutions subsequently receive TNE students on top-up programmes, for example after having completed an HND in their home country, it is recommended that they should recognise that the constraints experienced by the TNE institutions will have necessitated compromises. These may result in less development of students’ language skills, autonomy, and critical thinking, in comparison with students with comparable qualifications. They should therefore supply the same induction and language support to the former TNE students as they do to other international students. Similarly, concerning familiarity with UK-style study methods, it is important not to assume that these will have been fully developed by their TNE experience, and therefore it is necessary to supply the same study skills support to the TNE students as they do to other international students.
- Dave Burnapp, National Teaching Fellow, University of Northampton