Africa’s appetite for transnational education is growing

Prestige and a strong affinity for the United Kingdom’s world-class and cutting-edge university education is increasingly attracting transnational education students from Africa who have been looking for life-changing career opportunities without having to travel out of the continent.

According to Universities UK International, or UUKi, an arm of Universities UK and the collective voice of UK universities on the international stage, out of 510,835 transnational education students studying for qualifications offered by UK universities 56,140 were hosted in African countries in 2020-21.

Unlike the long tradition whereby the students temporarily relocated from their countries of origin to foreign destinations to seek higher education, transnational education formats provide options for the delivery of degrees in a country other than where the awarding university is based.

In this regard, many African students are increasingly accessing higher education offered by UK universities and other tertiary institutions by way of joining overseas campuses, distance learning and online provision through the massive open online courses, or MOOCs, while staying closer to home.

More students are enrolled in joint and dual-degree programmes as well as in double awards curriculum schemes that are offered through fly-in faculty and blended learning models that are mostly attractive to mature working students inclined to improve on their careers.

That aspect is reflected by the rising number of postgraduate students enrolled in distance learning and other flexible blended mechanisms in Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Egypt and Kenya in that order.

Egypt, Nigeria have large cohorts

According to a reportThe scale of UK higher education transnational education 2020–21, that was published in November in partnership with the British Council, 11% of the UK’s transnational education students in 2020-21 were in Africa, of whom about 63% were hosted in Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa.

With 23,805 students and representing 42.2% of the African cohort, Egypt hosted the largest number of students, while Nigeria, which had the second-largest group with 5,840 students, enjoyed the biggest increase of about 32% during the period under review.

South Africa, that was reported as having 5,455 students representing 9.7% of the African group, showed a 10.2% increase between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years.

Among the top 10 African host countries were Ghana (3,935) Mauritius (3,380), Kenya (2,490), Botswana (1,965), Uganda (1,475), Zimbabwe (1,090) and Zambia (1,065).

According to the report, apart from Zambia, that showed a proportional decrease in the number of students, the rest of the countries in the top 10 had corresponding increases of students in the UK transnational education from 2018-19 to 2020-21.

Anuja Desai, the strategic insight and support officer at UUKi, attributed the emerging need for degrees awarded by British universities to the demand for international qualifications as a way for graduates to gain a competitive advantage in the employment market.

There were indicators that 78% of African students were enrolled in collaborative provision, distance and distributed learning channels, while 22% were registered at overseas partner organisations and overseas branch campuses.

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