Research published by the HEA suggests that employability development in the curriculum is less widespread in transnational education (TNE) programmes than in UK domestic programmes.
Transnational education is higher education provision undertaken by students who are located in a country different from the one in which the awarding institution is based. Typically, TNE takes two forms: firstly, that delivered by a UK university through a branch campus in another country or by distanced learning, and secondly that delivered by a partnership arrangement between a UK university and a local institution with the latter providing support or delivering taught programmes.
Transnational education and employability development by the Careers Research and Advisory Centre and led by Dr Robin Mellors-Bourne shows that the development of employability in the curriculum is most closely aligned with UK provision at international branch campuses but rarely visible in partnership arrangements, although the position is likely to be better where the partner is itself an established university. Potential reasons for these differences could include that:
- programmes and opportunities at a branch campus can be more closely controlled by the UK institution, than through an external partnership;
- within partnership provision, delivery of teaching or co-curricular support is dominantly by local staff and they may not have the same conceptualisation of employability development as UK staff and institutions, and may not be able to access professional development necessary to achieve it;
- many partners operate physically from environments that are less conducive to offering wider activities;
- many TNE students on partnership programmes are employed so they perceive less value in, and are less able to participate in, co-curricular or extra-curricular activities.
Professor Stephanie Marshall, Chief Executive, HEA commented:
“Students need to be reassured that they are getting a comparable learning experience, whether they are studying in the UK or elsewhere through a TNE programme. This means that any enhancement of employability within a UK programme should also be provided in the equivalent TNE programme.
“The HEA is keen to help institutions to provide continuing professional development which assists staff to conceptualise and embed employability in the TNE curriculum.”
Other findings from the research include:
- the majority of TNE alumni interviewed had achieved some positive employment-related or career-related outcome;
- few of the alumni interviewed believed that development of employability had been an overt aspect of their programme, although many did not understand this conceptually, and believed it was the qualification itself that constituted such development;
- alumni were somewhat more familiar with the concept of co-curricular support, such as careers advice or help with CV writing, suggesting that they understood this type of employment-related support more than employability development.