Transnational Higher Education: Means for Social Mobility or Echo of “Persistent Inequalities”?

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 15:54
Oral Presentation
Antonina LEVATINO, Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain, INED - Institut National d'Etudes Démographiques, France
Transnational higher education (TNHE) is a key facet of the internationalization of higher education. Its main characteristic is that students can get a foreign degree without having to move to the country “in which the awarding institution is based” (Council of Europe, 2002). TNHE is often presented as a means to achieve a win-win situation beneficial for all the stakeholders involved. It allows students to benefit of a larger range of educational opportunities. For countries where it is implemented, TNHE is considered as a tool to improve their higher education system and to expand enrollment. For higher education institutions exporting education, TNHE is a way to reach “new markets”, enhance international reputation and competitiveness. From a geopolitical point of view, TNHE seems to occupy a special place between “cooperation” and “competition”, which is worthy of attention.

Little is known on the characteristics and motivations of students enrolled in these kinds of programs and a lot of questions remains unanswered: Is TNHE an integral part of socially stratified higher education systems? Does TNHE broaden access to higher education? How does it intersect with the global “axes of power”, i.e. gender, ethnicity and class?

By using original data generated by a survey conducted in eleven German TNHE in ten countries, this paper explores these kinds of issues. On the one hand, the results show how TNHE is often perceived by a nascent middle classes to pursue distinction and status. On the other hand, thea also reveal an enabling potential of sort. Indeed, TNHE allows some people to access higher education. Furthermore, it also seems to contribute to the acquisition of “mobility capital” and of the “capacity to aspire (Appadurai).