In recent years, a particular stream of distance education called transnational education has become widespread (Davis, Olson, & Bohm, 2000; van der Vende, 2003). Transnational education, often referred to as offshore education, describes all programs in which the learners are located in a country different from the one where the awarding institution is based. This article discusses various aspects of transnational education. It reviews the definition of transnational education, its typology, growth, factors determining demand and supply, and characteristics of typical programs. The article concludes with a discussion on the role that face-to-face interaction plays in transnational programs.
Reviewing recent studies of transnational education reveals that there is little agreement about what to include in this category. Similarly, there is no agreement on the various subdefinitions that inform the subject. For the purpose of this article, a working definition of transnational education produced by UNESCO and the Council of Europe for their Code of Practice in the Provision of Transnational Education was used (UNESCO & Council of Europe, 2001). This states that transnational education includes:
All types of higher education study programme, or sets of courses of study, or educational services (including those of distance education) in which the learners are located in a country different from the one where the awarding institution is based. Such programmes may belong to the educational system of a State different from the State in which it operates, or may operate independently of any national system. (UNESCO & Council of Europe, 2001)
This definition includes education that is provided by collaborative arrangements, such as franchising, twinning, joint degrees where study programs are provided in collaboration with a partner institution, as well as noncollaborative arrangements such as branch campuses, offshore institutions, and corporate universities.
The Australian Department of Education Science and Training (DEST, 2005) provides a definition of Australian Transnational Education; this definition includes two additional requirements:
It further stresses that, in contrast to distance education provided in purely distance mode, transnational education includes a physical presence of instructors offshore, either directly by the Australian provider, or indirectly through a formal agreement with a local institution (DEST, 2005).
Transnational Education: Perspectives and Characteristics
There are a great number of different relationships between different types of transnational education providers, delivery mechanisms, and programs/awards. Charting these types is a difficult task, as the constantly evolving, highly complex situation includes an array of partnerships, consortia, articulation agreements, modes of delivery, public, private, off-shore, for-profit and corporate elements. Various models of teaching can also be found, ranging from full program delivery at an offshore campus, combined face-to-face and flexible delivery option, and e-learning (Goodfellow, Lea, Gonzales, & Mason, 2001).