NREN Support for Transnational Education: A Jisc Success Story

Every year, an increasing number of education institutions around the world are getting involved in transnational education (TNE) providing education and qualifications to students based in other countries via partnerships, branch campuses and online/distance and blended learning. Getting involved in TNE benefits the institutions as well as the local community. It can also have a positive impact on a national research and education network (NREN). Here’s how NRENs got involved in a request from Queen Mary University of London and its medical school, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, when looking to open a branch campus in Malta.

Transnational education – not a ‘flash in the pan’

Since the early 2000s, global education providers have been involved in the provision of education to students based in other countries. TNE is known around the world by different terms: borderless, cross-border, transnational or offshore education. For example, the number of UK institutions, registered students and geographical reach continues to grow year on year, with over 700,000 students on UK TNE courses (1.6 times the number of international students studying in the UK). At present, 84% of UK universities provide some form of TNE to 180 different countries. TNE is increasingly being seen not as a side project but as a core part of an institution’s programme of education, tied in with a wider international strategy and future plans. Other governments are also keen to support TNE.

There is a multitude of reasons an institution gets involved in TNE: as part of a wider international strategy, to improve access to higher education, and improve global rankings. One such institution is Queen Mary University of London, which established a branch campus of Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry on the Maltese island of Gozo. There were four key goals: providing an equivalent student experience, including ‘real-time’ teaching; ensuring continuity of service; delivering this to a tight deadline in order for the campus to open on time; and offering flexibility in the solution to meet future requirements.

NRENs working together to deliver connectivity across borders

Queen Mary got in touch with Jisc, asking for assistance with delivering connectivity from its London campus to the branch campus in Malta. Using Jisc’s experience in education and research

connectivity and the organisation’s strong global partner relations, Jisc was able to identify a solution: providing connectivity from London to Malta via the GÉANT network, which allowed the branch campus in Malta to ‘plug into’ an existing robust and resilient international network in a quick and cost-effective manner.

Working with the Maltese NREN at the University of Malta, Jisc delivered door-to-door connectivity to Queen Mary between its campus in London and in Malta. This proved useful when, following a successful first year of teaching, the school needed to double the bandwidth to 400Mbps in anticipation of increased student numbers and also to provide a secondary connection to support the move to a more permanent location.

TNE benefits for NRENs

Currently there is no one body or organisation responsible for developing and supporting TNE at a global level. Support may be available within particular countries but due to the international nature of TNE, establishing relationships and joining up institutions across borders, time zones and cultures is tricky. This is a key area in which an NREN can get involved to strengthen relationships with its members. Engaging and collaborating with an institution’s plans for international expansion allow a unique value proposition that can differentiate an NREN from commercial providers. Getting involved in TNE can also lead to building relationships with other NRENs and global stakeholders, becoming part of the international community of research and education networks that is making NRENs more visible on the world stage. Revenue from supporting TNE by expanding the host country user base can be reinvested into improving the research and education network, allowing an NREN to improve both local and global connectivity and offer more services.

Supporting TNE also benefits the wider community by removing barriers that impede access to higher education and provides local graduates with skills suitable for the local job market, which improves the local economy.

About the Jisc TNE Support Programme

Jisc established the TNE Support Programme in 2013, in response to a member’s need for assistance to provide connectivity to UK higher education institutions that were establishing branch campuses in Malaysia. Now in its sixth year, the programme has expanded to assist UK institutions, no matter where their TNE provisions are based.

Jisc is keen to work with and help other NRENs put together TNE support programmes for their members. You can get in touch with the TNE team by emailing

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