TNE impact case study: Building capacity in South East Asia through partnership and blended distance education provision

University of London
Collaboration type:
Independent teaching centres
SDG Goals:
(4) Quality Education, (5) Gender Equality, (8) Decent Work and Economic Growth, (10) Reduced Inequality, (16) Peace Justice Strong Institutions, (17) Partnerships for the Goals
Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia
Michael Davis - Senior Policy Manager

Background and overview of the case study

The University of London template for working collaboratively with independent Recognised Teaching Centres was reviewed and enhanced in 2020.  This case study addresses this ongoing work in South East Asia, where thousands of our students have completed their studies through attendance at one of our 13 centres in Singapore (3), Hong Kong (2) and Malaysia (8).  These ‘tiger economies’ of the 1990s have historically provided a significant proportion of UoL’s RTC based student numbers, predominantly in undergraduate Economics, Finance, Management, Social Sciences, Law and Computing.  Although the University’s policy scaffolds have always stopped short of accreditation, affiliation, or validation, it offered many centres (particularly private sector) a meaningful and sustainable pathway to a formal connection with the University and most continue teaching to this day.  This work exemplifies UoL’s unique function to support and build capacity, sitting hand in hand with, and enriching, rather than replacing, local provision.

Despite some challenges around teaching culture and continuous QA within the network, the system has unquestionable strengths – its key characteristics involve local/regional face-to-face provision; teachers who are familiar with the local cohort and culture of learning and teaching within their own countries; various benefits for the local education economy, domestic capacity and local institutions seeking to benchmark their provision and attain university status.   A wide range of initiatives and investments have been made to reduce potential clashes in teaching cultures and expectations and to foster development of appropriate pedagogy.  The involvement of local centres is also highly beneficial in the local delivery of skills training, careers advice and opportunities, in terms of perceived programme coherence; student engagement; teaching, supervision and assessment practices; and relevance to local employers.  Further benefits are yielded through remedial English courses, and in importing an international and comparative dimension to study and thus promoting global citizenship.  

Our engagement has:

  • Promoted the value, standards and quality of a UK HE qualification
  • Provided access to thousands of students who would not normally satisfy entrance requirements.   
  • Fed international mobility, with many graduates saving money on their undergraduate study towards subsequent further study overseas, either at postgraduate level or professionally.  Various scholarships have also been conferred for study at a UoL member institution.
  • Afforded an opportunity to centres wishing benchmark and develop their provision on their way to achieving full university status of their own. 
  • Provided a platform for effective local regulatory engagement around TNE with local stakeholders such as the Committee for Private Education (CPE), RELC Examinations Bureau, the Malaysian Exams Syndicate, the Malaysian Legal Profession Qualifying Board, the Hong Kong Education Bureau, Hong Kong Law Society and so on.

Impact and value

Multidirectional impacts have been afforded through these partnerships, supporting multiple SDGs. 

In terms of educational impact, the University’s engagement with centres is mostly focused academically – for instance to ensure centres adopt appropriate pedagogical approaches; are aware of the minimum achievements students must demonstrate; can tailor their own learning support accordingly; and also to identify, support and share best practice.  In support of these goals, UoL operates programmes of annual visits to centres, learning and teaching workshops and conferences, alongside multiple other development initiatives including models for tutor accreditation.  

Research on the impact of our engagement with RTCs has identified five main impacts:

  • Improved rates of student progression and retention, 
  • Enhanced student support and wellbeing in the context of ODL, fostering student engagement and community-building
  • Benefits to the local education economy
  • Staff development; developing institutional capability for high-quality ODL. The University of London Post-Graduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (LTHE) is attracting growing numbers of participants, with a positive impact on participants educational thinking and practice being demonstrated by the research.
  • Through our work with regulators, an improved perception of the status of ODL as a platform for blended delivery, collaboration and capacity building

As noted, our teaching relationships in the region predominantly focus on undergraduate studies in Economics, Finance, Management, the Social Sciences, and Law.  With regard to Peace, Justice and Institutions, it is particularly worth noting that the University of London is home to the oldest and largest common law school in history, and significant proportions of practising lawyers in Malaysia and Hong Kong are former students of the University. 

More generally, while the University’s wider work and employment-focussed outcomes obviously support quality education and productive employment and decent work 'for all', multiple case studies relating to alumni who attended these centres yield a far wider story of our educational impact, as they contribute to longer-term societal development within their local and national contexts, often at senior level.   Such case studies include leading experts in renewable energy, climate change development and finance, cleantech and green energy, industry innovation, crypto, blockchain and design thinking.  Still others work at the IMF strengthening capacity of domestic financial institutions or provide outputs in areas such as sustainable development, refugee protection, labour rights protection, dispute resolution, and international relations.  

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