The Globalization of Education – Challenges and Opportunities: An Interview with Professor Richard Berry

This is part of our Campus Spotlight on the University of Glasgow/Nankai University Joint Graduate School.

Since 2000, the market for Transnational Education (TNE) has doubled in size and continues to grow, as the global demand for higher education increasingly exceeds the supply. TNE includes various forms of collaboration, such as international franchises like overseas campuses, which are based on contractual arrangements between partner institutions. These types of collaborations often do not require students to leave their home country. Distance- and online learning are also other types of virtual Transnational Education that do not require students to leave their home country or even for the institution delivering the programme to create a physical presence overseas.

The creation of dual degree programs and joint graduate schools is becoming all the more popular, as they do not only focus on the academic advantages of ‘studying abroad’, but also the personal and intercultural benefits. These benefits are felt by the institutions, students and future employers alike.

In this interview, EuropeNow speaks to Professor Richard Berry, the Transnational Education Dean at the University of Glasgow. He explains the challenges and opportunities of TNE and describes how the University of Glasgow positions itself on the global TNE market.

—Lara Davis for EuropeNow


EuropeNow Transnational Education has become increasingly important to higher education institutions. How is it viewed at the University of Glasgow?

Richard Berry You are absolutely correct to say that Transnational Education (TNE) is important for higher education institutions. It is actually a major investment and growth opportunity for universities all around the world. TNE offers universities a means to raise profiles and grow at a global level, allowing more individuals to experience educational opportunities, which might ordinarily not be accessible to them. It was Hans de Wit and Fiona Hunter who recently argued that TNE is “the intentional process of integrating an international, intercultural or global dimension into the purpose, functions and delivery of post-secondary education, in order to enhance the quality of education and research for all students and staff, and to make a meaningful contribution to society.”[1] Fiona Hunter has been instrumental in helping understand the specifics of how institutions should approach TNE because it is possible to get the approach wrong if you are not careful. One of the most important things that Hunter has acknowledged and which I believe is key to embedding TNE in a university strategy is to recognise that TNE has the opportunity to really transform how international higher education functions, making it less elitist and insuring that the “abroad” component becomes an integral part of an internationalized curriculum for all students. It is, however, only one part of a much larger internationalization strategy that we are focused on delivering.

EuropeNow You talk about strategy. How does the University of Glasgow embed TNE into its international strategy, if not its own institutional development strategy?

Richard Berry That is a good question, but in order to answer that, we have to acknowledge that TNE is only one part of a broad range of international higher education types that exist. The delivery of programm and courses in other countries is certainly an area of expansion that some universities have really grasped and we have seen the development of entire new overseas campuses built by some universities. Overseas campuses is not something that the University of Glasgow has pursued. Instead, we have sought to develop and enhance strategic partnerships and networks to allow for effective international engagement. The TNE market is vast and the UK as one part of that market has seen steady growth over the past ten years to the point that on average over 700000 students engage on various program delivered by UK universities worldwide. This is primarily at undergraduate level where 65 percent of that number is focused. Interestingly over 50 percent of all UK TNE is based in Asia, with Malaysia, China, Singapore, Pakistan, Hong Kong, and Sri Lanka all appearing in the top ten markets. Egypt, Oman and the UAE, as well as Nigeria also feature. It is however Malaysia, China and Singapore which hold the top three marketplaces. Even more interesting is the fact that only 11 institutions deliver 65 percent of all UK TNE, and Glasgow is one of these.

The University of Glasgow has been delivering some form of TNE since 2011, enabling students in China and Singapore to undertake a range of degree program in their own home countries at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.  We have been working in partnership with established higher education institutions in these countries to achieve this. Our partners include the Singapore Institute of Technology, and in China, The University of Electronic Science and Technology China, and Nankai University. Indeed, TNE is now firmly placed at the very heart of our Internationalization Strategy. This strategy reflects the fact that the university regards itself as a globally connected university with deep civic roots that stretch back to the university’s foundation more than 560 years ago. As a university, we therefore have a history and an alumni community of former students and staff that stretches around the world. TNE is one way that we can enhance this reputation and global resource.

EuropeNow What type of TNE has the University of Glasgow been engaged in?  

Richard Berry One of our most recent initiatives has been the creation of a Joint Graduate School with Nankai University in China. This is a unique development which is the first such joint graduate school between a UK and Chinese university and reflects the important strategic partnership which we have with Nankai. This is a partnership that has been in existence since 2008 and initially focused on research collaboration, but has also included the launching of a Confucius Institute in 2011 here in Glasgow and a Collaborative Innovation Centre for Chinese Economy was created in 2014. The Joint Graduate School was also launched in 2014 and it provides opportunities for Chinese and international students to study jointly delivered postgraduate masters degrees and soon PhD programmes in China.  Students are registered as both Nankai and University of Glasgow students, but undertake all of their study at Nankai University, with courses delivered by University of Glasgow staff who travel to China to deliver courses that are also offered in Glasgow to students on our stand-alone programmes.  We currently have four masters’ programmes operational in Environmental Science, Translation Studies, Urban and Regional Planning, and International Relations. We are also keen to ensure that these students have the opportunity to have an international experience as part of their degree and it is important that they have the chance to experience Glasgow for themselves, so we also run a 3-week summer school in Glasgow for all the programmes which students can attend.

As I mentioned, the Joint Graduate School is the first postgraduate higher education programme to be set up on a Chinese university campus in partnership with a UK institution. Students are taught in English by academics from both universities and students graduate with a dual masters degree.

EuropeNow Can you give us an overview of one of the degree programmes offered as part of the Glasgow-Nankai Joint Graduate School?

Richard Berry The degree in International Relations is really interesting because, as we like to say, it builds on a rich heritage of diplomatic links between China and the University of Glasgow. This includes Dr John Bell, a former student work as part of the Russian Embassy to China in the early 1700s; and George Bogle, a former graduate, adventurer and diplomat who tried to establish diplomatic relations with the Qing Emperor.

It is important for us to ensure that any degree, whether it is taught on our Gilmorehill Campus, (which the Council for European Studies will know because it hosted the annual conference for Europeanists in 2017) or at Nankai University is of the highest standard. The International Relations degree builds on our expertise across a range of disciplinary areas, including Political Science, Area Studies and Economic and Social History. It is intended to provide students with an opportunity to survey the major contemporary challenges in world politics and focuses on relations between state and non-state actors in the context of a globalised and interdependent world. Europe is a significant part of the focus of this programme and we offer a range of courses from core teaching on Comparative European Politics and Institutions and Polices of the EU, to specialist option courses on Central Europe, or Central Asia or EU International Politics and Development policy. I believe that this reflects the continued importance of Europe not only on the international stage, but also for countries like China, which is keen to promote its Belt and Road Initiative to Europe and as such has been developing new relationships, bilaterally with the EU and multilaterally within frameworks like the 16+1 initiative with the Central and East European countries.  As with any quality International Relations degree students also have the opportunity to learn about a wide range of other matters from US and Russian foreign policies to IR theories and of course research methods. The program is a two-year dual masters and alongside the courses students take they also complete a dissertation which is supervised by two members of staff, one from Nankai and one from Glasgow. This type of shared supervision offers new opportunities for students to gain some of the best supervision.

This type of programme is unique in many ways because by being taught by both Chinese and western, Scottish-based scholars, it blends the thinking and teaching of what has in the past been assumed to be two different approach to global affairs. Students on this programme really do have the opportunity to engage with a comprehensive view of the world.  It is not just about the students though, our staff who go to teach in China have been experiencing new opportunities and all have thoroughly embraced the experienced with some even taking Mandarin courses to help them to live and work in China.

EuropeNow Beyond the master programmes how else does the Joint Graduate School support internationalisation for Glasgow and Nankai?

Richard Berry One area that we are keen to develop and grow is at PhD level. This will undoubtedly be the next phases of the Joint Graduate School and we are looking forward to welcoming our first PhD students in the coming year. The other area where activities such as the Joint Graduate School can support international collaboration is in the research sector. The University of Glasgow and Nankai have been working hard in this area. This has been supported by my colleague, Professor Jane Duckett, who established the Scottish Centre for China Research, and who previously studied at Nankai University in the early 1990s and has retained very strong links with Nankai University. She works closely with another of my colleagues, Professor Ya Ping, who currently leads on Joint research project between Glasgow and Nankai focused on urban transformations in China and the remaking of Chinese Urban Neighbourhoods.  This is only one area of collaboration and we recently held a special 2-day conference with 63 staff from the University of Glasgow, Nankai University and other high-profile Chinese universities including Tsinghua University, Fudan University, Tianjin University, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Dalian University of Technology and Beijing Normal University. Themes included Europe-China relations in a number of different areas, including environmental risk and land policy, issues of growth, equality and public policy, cross-cultural communication and China-EU relations including the “One Belt One Road Strategy.” We are currently working on developing specialist research clusters which can take forward workshops and research projects thus strengthening the connections between Glasgow, the UK, Europe and China.

EuropeNow Going back to the TNE as the issue that we started this interview with, what are the challenges and opportunities that you see with this?

Richard Berry I am optimistic about the scope for TNE to continue to develop and grow in the years to come, but we can’t be complacent about the challenges that it also faces. Economic growth will no doubt allow for TNE projects to continue to grow apace, but any global economic slowdown could have an impact for what are often largescale investments by universities. Economic growth and slowdown will also no doubt have an impact on demand and we have to recognize that provision is not static. It is also a competitive market not only among UK institutions but also we need to factor into account other global providers of TNE and the USA and Australia are big players. This means that there is competing demand on resources even in big markets like Asia. One of the positive areas for growth is in the global knowledge market and TNE can certainly fuel opportunities for knowledge exchange and research at a global level. This can only be a good thing, which will open up new directions in research and alongside that, new developments in teaching. What TNE seeks to achieve, and this is what we must strive for, is the creation of a community of global researchers and global students who will be tomorrow’s, no, in fact today’s global citizens. It is important to remember that when students have access to education in another language they have greater advantages in the open labour market. This is something which we also have to encourage native English speaking students to recognise and to take advantage of educational exchange opportunities such as Erasmus+. Certainly, employers are looking out for highly qualified graduates with degrees in another language and experiences from leading global universities. This is the role that as an institution with a global vision we have to accept and to work towards becoming a leader in the creation of a highly educated population which is competitive and has a strong skill set. TNE is one way we can achieve that.


Richard Berry is currently the Dean for Transnational Education at the University of Glasgow, having previously held the role of Dean for the University’s College of Social Science Graduate School. He is also the Director for the Centre for Russian, Central and East European Studies and Head of the Central and East European subject area within the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Glasgow.



[1] Hans de Wit & Fiona Hunter’s refinement of Jane Knight’s definition, 2015). See:


Published on June 5, 2018.


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