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Internationalisation - risks, opportunities and considerations for governors

15 Oct 2019 | Vincenzo Raimo Ahead of the first of Advance HE’s Talking Points sessions, Vincenzo Raimo highlights the risks and opportunities of internationalisation and key considerations for governing bodies.

OK, so it’s possible that Augur is no longer looming large. But universities still face the challenges of increasing competition in a slow domestic market, flatline tuition fee income from home undergraduate students and, at the same time, rising costs. Options for most are limited to painful cost cutting while at the same time trying to develop new income streams, preferably ones where tuition fees aren’t fixed by the State. Growth opportunities being explored by almost all UK universities include apprenticeship partnerships, executive education programmes, Master’s degrees, recruiting more international students and, for some, developing offshore provision including building campuses far from home.

While growth signs for international student recruitment are more positive today than they have been for quite some time, international recruitment remains challenging: competition is fierce from other UK universities but also from institutions worldwide. Pressure is increasing from student recruitment agents for ever higher commission rates and recruitment costs are rising with the need to find new and innovate routes to market.

In such a difficult environment for our universities, can off-shoring UK degree programmes help? Over the past few years the growth in the number of students studying for a UK university qualification overseas has been outstripping growth in international students coming to the UK. More universities each year are creating Transnational Education (TNE) or International Partnership Teams to develop and then deliver institutional strategies for growing offshore provision, mostly through international partnerships leading to franchises, admissions agreements and articulation arrangements but more universities are also exploring opportunities for building university campuses overseas.

Of course, none of this is new. London University has had international programmes and off-shore provision for more than 100 years. Universities like Oxford Brookes have been running programmes through teaching partnerships for at least 30 years, and even our oldest dedicated overseas university campuses like the Henley Business School in South Africa and Nottingham University in Malaysia are more than 20 years old.

Despite the long history which British universities have in offshore or TNE, the development of that provision, often very far from home, is fraught with risk, risk which governing bodies unsurprisingly find difficult to fully appreciate, challenge and support. The struggles my own university, Reading, has faced in Malaysia, have had significant coverage, not always accurately, but nevertheless expressing some of the challenges a university faces when trying to build a physical presence in another country, including getting the strategy right in the first place.

In the first of Advance HE’s Talking Points sessions, Aaron Porter and I will be exploring some of the risks involved in developing international partnership and TNE activities. The workshop, on 10 December in London, will be run under Chatham House rules and is an opportunity for Governors, Chairs, Clerks, Secretaries and other HE professionals to discuss real examples of TNE failures and successes. The aim of the workshop is to give university governors a deeper understanding of internationalisation or global engagement strategies, some of the forms of TNE which might be possible, including risk categorisation, and ultimately to better equip them to support their institutions in the development and implementation of those strategies.


Vincenzo Raimo is Adjunct Professor of Global Higher Education, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology and Chief Relationship Officer of

Vincenzo is a global higher education specialist who has held senior roles at the universities of Nottingham (International Director) and Reading (Pro-Vice Chancellor for Global Engagement).  He is a leading expert on the role of agents in international student recruitment and in transnational education.

Find out more about Talking Points: Internationalisation - risks, opportunities and considerations for governors

Future Talking Points sessions:

Talking Points 2, 26 March 2020, London - Governance to achieve the successful delivery of strategy

Talking Points 2 will provide an opportunity to explore the realities and best practice of monitoring and measuring the outcomes and implementation of your university's strategy. The session will be chaired by Aaron Porter, Associate Director Governance, Advance HE and led by Alison Allden OBE who is the current chair of the University of Northumbria Board’s Strategic Performance Committee and was previously the CEO of the Higher Statistics Agency.

Find out more about our Governor Development Programme


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