Maximising transnational education: Challenges, opportunities for Pakistan

Syed Azhar Husnain Abidi
Tuesday, Apr 23, 2024

The recent collaboration between the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and the British Council, welcoming a delegation from the UK led by Professor Sir Steve Smith, UK Government International Education Champion, along with representatives from various universities and organizations, to explore partnership opportunities in Transnational Education (TNE), is commendable.

This initiative presents a transformative opportunity for countries like Pakistan to enhance their educational standards and promote international collaboration.

As Pakistan welcomes a high-level delegation from the United Kingdom, the stage is set for exploring sustainable partnerships between UK and Pakistani universities. This article delves into the potential of TNE to revolutionize Pakistan's higher education landscape, addressing challenges and highlighting opportunities for collaboration. Among others the delegation, comprises representatives from several universities and bodies including QAA, Dundee, Glasgow, Staffordshire, Ulster, Salford, Royal Holloway, Pearson, INTO Global, Cardiff, NCUK, QMUL, Bangor, Oxford Brookes, Exeter, Essex etc.

The soaring cost of education in Western countries has made quality education increasingly unattainable, especially for middle-class students from regions like Pakistan. TNE offers a solution by providing access to globally recognized qualifications without the need for students to travel abroad. By partnering with reputable UK institutions, Pakistani universities can democratize education and ensure that students from diverse backgrounds have access to world-class educational opportunities.

Collaboration with UK institutions brings invaluable knowledge and expertise to Pakistani campuses, enhancing academic standards and fostering innovation. Through TNE ventures, Pakistani universities can refine their curriculum design, adopt innovative teaching methodologies, and promote research excellence. However, this collaboration also presents challenges, including aligning curriculum standards, adapting to new teaching methodologies, and ensuring quality assurance in transnational programs. Engagement in TNE initiatives facilitates cultural exchange and promotes global understanding among students and faculty. Interaction with peers from diverse backgrounds nurtures tolerance, empathy, and cross-cultural communication skills. While this presents an opportunity to enrich educational experiences, it also requires efforts to address cultural sensitivities, language barriers, and ensure inclusive learning environments. TNE collaborations stimulate research and innovation, addressing local challenges while contributing to global advancements.

Joint research projects and access to cutting-edge facilities accelerate knowledge creation and technological breakthroughs. By leveraging the expertise of UK scholars, Pakistani universities can spearhead innovation in critical areas, driving socioeconomic progress and addressing pressing societal needs. However, challenges such as intellectual property rights, funding mechanisms, and research ethics require careful consideration and collaboration between institutions.

Participation in TNE initiatives enables Pakistani institutions to build extensive international networks and forge strategic partnerships. These connections create opportunities for student exchanges, faculty mobility, and collaborative ventures, enriching educational experiences and enhancing graduates' global employability. While the recent visit of UK delegates marks a significant step towards exploring sustainable partnerships, it is essential to recognize that TNE in Pakistan is still in its infancy. One of the key challenges would be legislation formation of rules and processes agreed by both governments and Higher Education Commissions and bodies so that they are implemented in true letter and spirit and stakeholders reach a formal conclusion on different models of TNE including Twining, Split Degrees, Research incubators, distance learning and finally establishing their own campuses. Private sector can play a lead and crucial role in exploiting TNE opportunities as decisions related to investment and agreements can be finalized at a faster pace than compared to public sector.

In my opinion, it would have been much more productive if stakeholders such as education advisors and consultants who have been active for many decades in working with international universities would have been invited and given a chance where their connections and networking can play key role in facilitating such collaborations.

As Pakistan navigates the challenges in its higher education sector, the adoption of TNE emerges as a promising solution. By leveraging TNE initiatives and fostering collaboration with UK institutions, Pakistan can bridge the gap in educational accessibility, elevate academic standards, and drive socioeconomic development.

The latest visit of UK delegation maybe taken as another step towards formulating procedures and agreeing to policies that will help both sides on fast tracking TNE opportunities. Through strategic collaboration and visionary leadership, Pakistan can harness the transformative potential of TNE to create a more inclusive, equitable, and globally competitive educational ecosystem.