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Transnational education and the student experience

Successful transnational programmes and relationships require time, careful planning and regular communication, and above of all, a commitment to high quality provision. But how do UK higher education institutions (HEIs) measure quality when it comes to TNE delivery and does the student experience come into it? 

The UK's QAA Quality Code for Higher Education understandably focuses on academic standards of the TNE provision and only advises UK HEIs to provide their TNE student with an experience comparable to that of students on their home campuses. 

In the last four years, Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) has made efforts to understand and address the differences in the experience of its TNE and Sheffield-based students. Our ambition is to provide an excellent educational experience to all our students irrelevant of mode of study or location. We're doing this with the help of the Sheffield Hallam Student Support Framework which establishes key principles of student support in the university.

The aim of the framework is to guarantee that students are supported and enabled to:

  • get involved in university life and with opportunities to influence the university's offer to them
  • develop a sense of belonging to the university community and feel their contributions are valued and celebrated 
  • get information about services and opportunities which are inclusive and accessible.
We began by reviewing our current offer to students and producing a detailed map of their student journey. We looked at what was available to our TNE students and identified the differences in service delivery when compared to the standard service offer and entitlements of Sheffield-based students. We noted issues with access to online learning and study support resources, and with the level of the TNE students' association with Sheffield Hallam University.

In the last four years we have introduced a range of initiatives to embed our TNE students and staff as part of the Sheffield Hallam University's learning community. Sheffield Hallam students at overseas collaborative partners are supported to develop a stronger sense of belonging to the Sheffield Hallam University learning community through:

  • direct access to the university's online journals database, ProQuest Central, and a range of study skills resources
  • a monthly newsletter signposting to additional support available and to relevant news from the university
  • annual Inspirational Student Awards for TNE students announced at graduation ceremonies overseas
  • annual student experience survey benchmarking the TNE collaborative partner student experience across different partners and against the National Student Survey results for the same course delivered in Sheffield Hallam University 
  • reciprocal student visits.
All these initiatives are having a positive impact on the TNE students' experience as evidenced by the 5 percentage points increase in the overall student satisfaction with the quality of their learning experience between 2016/17 and 2018/19.  

We also recognise and reward the hard work of colleagues in our partner institutions. In the last three years, Sheffield Hallam University has presented the Inspirational Teaching Awards to fifteen collaborative partner academics who have had a transformational impact on the student experience.



Collaborative partner staff delivering our programmes abroad are also supported through:

  • a dedicated website containing resources to assist them with the delivery of an extended induction at the start of the academic year
  • additional learning resources and guidance tailored to the relevant partner institution
  • marketing resources to support the promotion of collaborative programmes in country.
Our biggest achievement so far has been the peer-assisted mentoring project we ran in four of our partner institutions with funding from the NCUK (Northern Consortium) Development Fund. Sixteen Sheffield-based students spent at least a week in partner institutions delivering group and individual study skills sessions in the relevant subject and highlighting the additional support available to them.

'This is an exciting initiative [which] truly internationalises the student experience and we look forward to seeing the positive effects this will continue to have during the rest of the academic year, as Sino-British College students take advantage of this extra level of support. We look forward to welcoming future mentors from SHU and even hope other partner universities will follow suit.' Andy Richie, Programme Leader, Sino-British College

Our work to achieve outstanding experience for our students overseas is continuing. Embracing them as part of the Sheffield Hallam's community of learners enriches all students' learning journey. The more equitable the TNE student experience is, the greater the opportunities for cross-campus collaborations and two-way student mobility, visits and exchanges, giving all our students the chance of transformational learning experiences.

Krassimira Teneva, Head of International Experience, Sheffield Hallam University

Universities UK International has launched a joint consultation with QAA and Guild HE on future approaches to the external quality enhancement of UK higher education transnational education. The deadline for responses is 3 January 2020

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