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Transnational education serves a number of ostensible purposes, making (usually Western) education more accessible internationally through accredited programmes, as well as offering potentially lucrative opportunities for HEIs and an extension of soft power for source countries. In principle the ‘offer’ is a degree which replicates the overseas student experience but without the cost or distant physical relocation. Our focus in this session is on the student experience, considering this from different perspectives - conceptual, in terms of broader trends, and for both students and teachers.


12:00 -12:05

Welcome & introductions

12:05 – 12.25

Chris Lyons: Transnational Education Student Experiences – The Recognition Perspective

12:25 – 12:45

Juliet Thondhlana: Learning from our children: Zimbabwean young migrants navigating education and employment in the UK

12.45 – 12.55

Comfort break

12:55 – 13:15

Jin Hui Li, Emotions, race and gender – female students’ emotional reasoning about academic becoming in transnational higher education

13.15 – 13.35

Coomerene Rodrigo, Teaching Critical Thinking in TNE in West Africa

13.35 – 13:55  

Panel discussion

13:55 – 14:00

Closing comments & event close


In this session we will hear from four presenters:

Chris Lyons, Transnational Education Student Experiences – The Recognition Perspective:  In this section, Chris will consider transnational education as viewed through the lens of recognition. Looking at the ways in which delivery, standards and outcomes might be affected by different modes of TNE, discussion will consider comparisons of ‘home’ and ‘TNE’ delivery, what these terms might mean and how emerging differences can affect the student experience. Transnational delivery clearly opens up opportunity through making educational experiences more open and accessible. Nevertheless, TNE can also be complex and challenging as educational delivery straddles boundaries, cultures and jurisdictions. This can lead to complicated recognition matters that may sometimes lead to barriers to acceptance. The presentation will look to conventions. initiatives and examples of best practice that can facilitate the recognition and the acceptance of TNE delivery.

Juliet Thondhlana, Learning from our children: Zimbabwean young migrants navigating education and employment in the UK:The successful integration of migrants and their children particularly in the labour market is increasingly a matter of social and economic importance for host countries. In this regard, reviews on the educational attainment and labour market outcomes for migrants (OECD 2007a, 2008) have observed the challenges to achieve integration for persons who have migrated as adults, because of the non-transferability of educational qualifications and skills. Furthermore, recent research on the lived experiences of adult migrants has revealed mixed outcomes showing how even migrants with highly valued degrees and work experience often find it difficult to access the UK labour market (Madziva et al 2016; McGrath et al 2015; Thondhlana et al 2017; Thondhlana 2018). However not much has been written on the educational and labour market outcomes for migrant children, particularly the extent to which family background such as the education and socioeconomic status of parents may shape students’ educational expectations and achievement. This presentation focuses on 20 Zimbabwean young migrants with UK degrees. It draws on Bourdieu’s notions of cultural capital and habitus and explores this population's navigation of the UK education and labour market environments, analysing the impact of their parents’ habitus on their journeys and the factors that may account for their labour market successes. Findings reveal that despite their parents’ traumatic labour market journeys and socio-economic circumstances, they are able to realize educational success in some of the highly competitive disciplines and navigate the UK’s precarious labour market. The paper argues that a combination of opportunity and age positions young migrants to develop an appropriate habitus which makes them competitive in the host country. It concludes by highlighting how their experiences may help provide insights into the evolvement of a Zimbabwean diaspora habitus.

Jin Hui Li, Emotions, race and gender – female students’ emotional reasoning about academic becoming in transnational higher education: This presentation will explore the affects of academic becoming in transnational education. Very few studies have dealt with the affective structuring of students’ reasoning of academic identities in transnational education. This paper centers female students’ reasoning about their emotional (re)action in the processes of academic becoming, and shows that the processes of racialization become particularly visible in the emotional aspect of transnational schooling. It builds on an ethnographical study of students’ subjectivity processes in a jointly run Sino-Danish university in Beijing. Through a framework that links Kimberlé Crenshaw’s concept of intersectionality with a proposed concept of emotional reasoning bridging Sara Ahmed’s notion of emotionality and Thomas Popkewitz’ rules of reasoning, the study elucidates how students’ affective positions are fashioned by unequal interlockings of race with gender and age. In this space, the students gain differentiated affective possibilities to act depending on whether their body is surfaced as white-young-female or Chinese-young-female. Thus the findings show that the hierarchies of emotions are linked to particular intersections of race with gender and age. These interlockings can thus be read as reflections of unequal interlocking of power relations in a transnational educational space.

Coomerene Rodrigo, Teaching Critical Thinking in TNE in West Africa: Critical thinking seems to be ubiquitous in the context of twenty-first century skills. In higher education, it is largely embedded in assessments to measure intellectual capacity and progress. Critical Thinking (as a discrete subject) is a prominent feature of transnational higher education, where developing critical thinking (as a practice) is often presented as a fundamental learning outcome. However, Critical Thinking is largely characterised as embodying a transferable set of abilities that lead to academic success, particularly in academic writing. This is problematic because it has been increasingly emphasised as a benchmark to standardise Western epistemologies and essentialise the supposedly intrinsic traditions of non-Western philosophies. It devalues other knowledge traditions – particularly from the Global South – often leading to reductionist theorising of non-Western students and their experiences and delimits the scope of Critical Thinking. How is the Critical Thinking curriculum delivered in TNE in West Africa? How is it mediated, adapted and engaged with, by lecturers and students? This emerging PhD research considers some of these questions.

Speaker bionotes:

Juliet Thondhlana is Professor and UNESCO Chairholder in International Education and Development as well as Coordinator of the Association of African Universities Europe Regional Office at the University of Nottingham. She has expertise and research experience in higher education, including the internationalisation of higher education; internationalisation and decolonisation of research; curriculum; doctoral training; and policy development and implementation. 

Chris Lyons is the head of external engagement at UK ENIC, Ecctis Limited. In his role he communicates UK ENIC’s work, services and solutions to sectoral stakeholders and listens to the challenges faced. He has worked at the organisation for 16 years. As Head of Research and Data, Chris supervised the development of grade comparisons, TNE profiles and International Entry Qualifications studies. He led research benchmarking international secondary schools in the International Research Group (2007-2012). He is the chair of the TAICEP Standards and Quality Committee for 2023 and of the UK ENIC Quality & Standards Group (2016-date).

Jin Hui Li is an Associate Professor at Centre for Education Policy Research, Aalborg University. She has a Master of Pedagogy and holds a Ph.D. in sociology of education and history of education policy. Her research centers around education, migration, and state-citizen relations within the welfare state. Her key scientific contributions focus on how education practices (historically and contemporarily) in the Nordic welfare states produce intersecting classifications through gender, class, race, and nation in the fabrication of social cohesion and ways of becoming citizens. These research contributions are accomplished interdisciplinarily in the connection between education-policy history, migration studies, ethnography, and sociological studies of knowledge production and are empirically focused on educational politics, institutions, and practices. Her interdisciplinary research foregrounds the lived experience of intersections of gender, race, and class in education in the study of education and state-citizen relations.

Coomerene Muilerman-Rodrigo is doctoral researcher in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies at the Open University, UK. Her PhD research critically examines the Critical Thinking curriculum in transnational higher education in West Africa. She has over a decade of experience in education, including as a lecturer and curriculum developer (and postgraduate student) in transnational higher education. Her key research interests are international and transnational higher education, curriculum development, critical thinking, student learning experiences, critical theory, social justice and in/equalities.

October 9th, 2023 from 12:00 PM to  2:00 PM
Online event - link will be provided
Resource 1 Chris_Lyons.pdf
Resource 2 Coomerene_Rodrigo.pdf
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