A number of UK universities are investing in foreign education institutions, forging crucial international partnerships that allow them to deliver offshore foundation programmes and prepare students for undergraduate study within the UK.

In 1984, the Jackson Report recommended that changes should be integrated to existing educational programmes to meet requirements of students from developing countries; and so began the international foundation programme. Involvement in offshore education remains fairly recent, the pioneering courses running in New Zealand during academic year 2000/1.

It is difficult to determine the exact number of students enrolled in overseas foundation programmes, but many believe that the development of offshore foundation programmes could be the ideal way to export education into the future.

Universities are using their initiatives to prepare students for an increasingly globalised world. Building on international student numbers internationalises the academic environment and general campus life, but it also allows HE institutions to develop important, sustainable global partnerships.

As noted by Southampton Solent University: “Many industries and sectors are now globalised or international in nature and this trend continues.

“Even for UK graduates who will work in the immediate Southampton area, the rise of the internet/ world wide web as information and transaction tools means that their employment will be impacted by global corporations and businesses offshore.

“The growth of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) markets mean that some knowledge of these or other cultures is a vital aid to competitive advantage in the ‘global village’.”

In recent years, there has been considerable investment in the provision of higher education in countries across the world; with the demand for HE courses expected to rise significantly over the course of the next 20 years, it makes sense that global investment will also continue to grow. As part of this process, Western universities are likely to become more and more involved in the investment and delivery of educational programmes within the world’s developing countries.

One UK University delivering successful offshore international foundation programmes (IFP) is the University of Kent, which has been running IFPs for over 25 years, preparing international students for academic study on a range of undergraduate degree programmes.

Students may opt for an onshore IFP in Canterbury, but the University of Kent also hosts two offshore IFPs in Turkey (Istanbul) and Hong Kong.

The IFP in Turkey is co-delivered by the University of Kent and Bahçeşehir University (BAU), a private institution that enjoys a reputation as one of Turkey’s Top Higher Education establishments. Such a prestigious reputation makes it the ideal location for students to spend a year preparing for their undergraduate course in the UK.

This year, QS Rankings placed the University of Kent among the world’s elite institutions in eight of the 36 featured subjects. The University was among the top 150 in the world for Communication and Media Studies (Journalism), Law and Psychology.

For its latest report, QS evaluated 3,551 universities and ranked total of 894 institutions. The QS Rankings reflect the University’s academic reputation, employer reputation and, through citations by research paper, research impact.

Kent’s Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor said: “Our international profile and reputation have increased considerably during recent years. As highlighted by the REF (Research Excellence Framework), all our Schools provide an environment that is conducive to research of international excellence.

“That a significant number of our subjects are now considered to be amongst the best in the world is another major achievement for both the University and our Research and Teaching staff.”

Other reputable universities offering excellent offshore opportunities for international students include the University of London and Cardiff Metropolitan University, both providing beautiful campuses in Sri Lanka, and the University of Nottingham, offering preparation study at a campus in Malaysia.

As with the University of Kent, all these institutions provide world-renowned academics, and guarantee all IFP students who meet the entry requirements upon completion of their studies guaranteed entry to their host UK institution.

The University of London states: “[These] programmes provide an opportunity to obtain a highly-valued degree which opens doors to sought-after careers.

“Our alumni gain prestigious jobs in law firms, banks, multinational companies and professional services firms and go on to further study at prestigious universities worldwide.”

Developing these programmes would not only boost student employability, or bring the host universities immediate revenue; it would also release universities from the intense competition they face from other institutions when it comes to the limited number of inbound international students.

One researcher noted: “Additionally, offshore programmes can reduce inbound pressures on infrastructure such as student accommodation, libraries and so on.

“Most importantly, it may “provide another recruitment channel to bring international students to onshore campuses (New Zealand, Ministry of Education, 2002) as the students track into the education provider’s institution after the completion of the offshore foundation programme.”

Further benefits of the offshore IFP include: the formation of strong, long-lasting international relationships; increased student exposure to other cultures and perspectives, resulting in confident graduates with a global understanding; and facilitating the recognition of qualifications from a particular institution within the global environment.

As globalisation spreads to every corner of the world, the demand for higher education will swell as people are forced to compete for the best jobs on the market. With institutions such as Kent ranking with the global elite, and offering offshore preparation programmes cheaper than the majority of domestic programmes, the offshore IFP could be considered the future of HE preparation.


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