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News Analysis Focus for 2017 – Online HE in 30 Countries
Published on our parent company Tribal Group's blog

Our 2016 IBC Report

International Branch Campuses - Trends and Developments 2016
The OBHE & C-BERT of SUNY, Albany & Pennsylvania State University

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Attend our Global Forum

Ready or Not - The Role of Online Learning in Higher Education

11-12 December, London


For online higher education, it has been a rough ride. In the 1990's, champions imagined a near-future of dramatically better access to higher education, a wealth of online learning resources and plummeting costs. All over the world, students would be able to enrol at the best universities, and all but the top institutions would perish. Reality proved a bit more complicated.

Twenty years on, bricks-and-mortar universities are very much alive, and most international students still travel, but it is undeniable that online learning is growing in popularity. Internet access has surged, bandwidth exploded and smartphones are ubiquitous. MOOCs, adaptive learning and AI-based student advising are the latest examples of online education. A growing number of traditional universities are partnering with the private sector to launch online degrees.

Is online higher education about to realise its promise?

The OBHE's 2017 Global Forum will reassess the potential of online and blended learning in higher education, to meet the needs of domestic and international students. Drawing on a unique series of country studies from around the world, this event is an opportunity to engage with the latest data, learn from experience, and consider new models and technologies.


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11 May 2017

MOOCs to the Rescue -
Taking stock of 20 years of online HE in Malaysia

Doria Abdullah, OBHE Associate
Postdoctoral fellow, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia

Malaysia has a 20-year history with online learning, spanning infrastructure investment, new universities and, more recently, an effort to harness MOOCs.

Wave 1 (late 1990s): Cyber-infrastructure and integration of technology and education 

It all began with a vision to transform Malaysia into a knowledge-based society. The government aspired to integrate information technology across a broad range of sectors such as government services, commerce, education and urban planning, among others. The Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), envisioned as a chain of tax-efficient industrial clusters and business incubators, was introduced in 1996. The centerpiece was Cyberjaya, a township thirty minutes away from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), attracting a range of multinationals, such as IBM, DHL and HP and housing new agencies such as the Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDeC) and the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT).

The private Multimedia University (MMU) was established in Cyberjaya in 1999, tied to Telekom Malaysia (TM), the country’s communications service provider, to provide a steady stream of graduates versed in the latest technologies. MMU is a campus-based institution- now with three campuses in Malaysia- but has a growing presence in blended and online learning.

In mainstream education, at the primary and secondary level, selected schools were transformed into “smart schools” (‘Sekolah Bestari’) that prioritised multimedia courseware and online resources. Schools outside of the initiative were given special funding for laptops, broadband and teacher training. At the tertiary level, learning management systems (LMS) were introduced.

Full article available for members.


19 April 2017

Africa’s Online Journey:
Online Higher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa

Stephen Haggard
Director of Digital Learning Associates (UK)
Executive Chairman of Eneza Education, sub-Saharan Africa’s largest online school

Online higher education in the African continent is a tale of complexity, barriers, setbacks and thin pickings, offering the least development of any emerging market region. (I’m excluding South Africa from this article: the country has a pathway more aligned to mature markets).

With only 4% of the population outside South Africa accessing broadband, and endemic failure in basic education plaguing every African nation, it’s perhaps understandable that higher education institutions (HEIs) thinking about online may dismiss Africa entirely. Connectivity, bandwidth, devices and even power are often scarce, while the cultural and study foundations for independent technology-enabled learning are absent in schools. Staying away is the default option for most global higher education (HE) providers.

That complexity and relative immaturity is also why Africa merits attention. As edtech investor Henry Warren, formerly Pearson’s Director of Innovation puts it, "for organisations willing to take the time and roll their sleeves up, Africa should be a very attractive market. It's the last great blue ocean for education.”

Full article available for members.


13 April 2017

Too Much or Too Little?
Online Higher Education in Saudi Arabia

Dr Christopher Hill, OBHE Associate
Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, The British University in Dubai

When it comes to education, Saudi Arabia may be a victim of its own success. Fueled by unmatched oil wealth, the government’s massive investment in the education sector, greatly expanding access, has generated a nationally unprecedented pool of talent. However, the labour market has not evolved at the same pace, limiting opportunities for graduates. Employment for Saudi nationals is heavily skewed towards the higher-paying public sector, and despite reform efforts the country remains dependent on large numbers of foreign workers, not least in many highly skilled occupations. In 2014, graduate unemployment stood at 16%, although 32% for women and only 4% for men.

Given growth in bricks-and-mortar capacity, the role of online higher education may be less about access to conventional colleges and universities, but is starting to emerge as a blended pathway, and helps accommodate the kingdom’s norm of gender separation.

What does online higher education look like in Saudi Arabia, how is it regulated and is there evidence that Saudi residents are turning to online degrees from foreign providers?

Full article available for members.






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OBHE Publications

Our research agenda focuses on topics that have current and future relevance to transnational higher education, and our reports provide in-depth analysis of the latest developments, trends and challenges in borderless higher education. By synthesising the latest international developments, the research reports assess their wider implications for higher education leaders and policy makers.

The Observatory publishes original in-house research reports on themes that challenge the 'traditional' boundaries of higher education, and particularly those expected to impact the core business of universities and colleges.

The Observatory also commissions internationally renowned authors to prepare substantive reports on key issues in borderless higher education with specific national, regional and/or international perspectives. The issues are both timely and provocative, challenging institutional leaders in their thinking and understanding of topics critical to strategic planning. Authors draw on their experience and expertise to provide insight into a wide diversity of international experience.

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The Observatory's full archive of News Headlines, Articles, and Reports is available on an unlimited basis to subscribers only.

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To learn about the Observatory's breadth of coverage, search our publications archive.


Changing world challenges higher education, accreditiation, Herald (Zimbabwe), 24 May 2017

Staff body threatens to close universities across Pakistan, The Express Tribune (Pakistan), 24 May 2017

Disgruntled university staff strike over unpaid bonuses, University World News, 24 May 2017

Swansea University exploring new campus in Pakistan, Wales Online, 23 May 2017

The World's Best Young Universities, 2017, Forbes, 23 May 2017

University of Birmingham to open Dubai campus, BQ Live (UK), 23 May 2017

UA Launches Visionary Global Network, University of Arizona (press release), 23 May 2017

Hungarians protest again over clampdown on university, NGOs, Study International News, 22 May 2017

Danny McCoy: Failure to invest properly in higher education will damage our future economic prosperity, Independent (Republic of Ireland), 22 May 2017

Universities’ dependence on overseas donors could backfire, Business Day (South Africa), 22 May 2017

German business schools seize chance to outshine rivals, Financial Times, 22 May 2017

Students write to V-C over Mumbai varsity woes, The Times of India, 20 May 2017




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Forthcoming Events


22-26 May 2017:  European MOOCs Stakeholders Summit, 'EMOOCs - Digital Education – Out to the World and Back to the Campus', Madrid, SPAIN

May 28 – June 2 2017:  NAFSA Conference, 'Expanding Community, Strengthening Connections', Los Angeles, California, USA

1-2 June 2017:  ENQA Workshop hosted by QQI, 'Exploring Synergies Between Quality Assurance and Qualifications Recognition', Dublin, REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

8-9 June 2017:  European Commission's International Conference on the Future of Education, Florence, ITALY

13-16 June 2017:  European Distance and e-Learning Network (EDEN) Annual Conference: 'Diversity Matters', Jönköping, SWEDEN

15 June 2017:  Universities UK International 'Enhancing the international student experience: effective strategies for 2017 and beyond', London, UK

16 June 2017:  HEGlobal, 'Navigating TNE finances', London, UK

28-29 June 2017:  International AHE Conference, Manchester, UK

4-6 July 2017:  Higher Education Academy Annual Conference 2017 Generation TEF: Teaching in the spotlight, Manchester, UK

7-9 July 2017:  British Educational Leadership Management and Administration Society (BELMAS) Conference: 'Educational Leadership for a Global Society – Challenges, Dilemmas and Ways Forward', Ettington Chase, Stratford-on-Avon, UK

23-24 August 2017:  The Singapore Education Technology Conference (SETC 2017), SINGAPORE

12-15 September 2017:  EAIE 2017, 'A Mosaic of Cultures', Seville, SPAIN

18-20 September 2017:  International Conference on e-Learning and e-Technologies in Education (ICEEE), Lodz, POLAND

11-13 October 2017: Conference of the Americas on International Education, Montreal, CANADA

12-14 October 2017:  Association of American Colleges & Universities (AACU), 'Global Engagement and Social Responsibility: Higher Education’s Role in Addressing Global Crises', New Orleans, USA

17-19 October 2017:  27th International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) World Conference, Toronto, CANADA

18-20 October 2017:  IAU 2017 International Conference,'Leadership for a changing public-private funding higher education landscape', Accra, GHANA

26-27 October 2017:  European Conference on e-Learning (ECEL), Porto, PORTUGAL

2-4 November 2017:  Global  Access to Postsecondary Education (GAPS)2nd World Congress on Global Access to Postsecondary Education: Working Together for a Democratized Postsecondary Education, São Paulo, BRAZIL

14 November 2017:  Westminster Higher Education Forum, 'Next steps for developing the 2021 Research Excellence Framework', London, ENGLAND

14-16 November 2017:  MENA Higher Education Leadership Forum: 'Strengthening the Dialogue between Higher Education, Government and Industry – Working Together towards a Common Vision', Dubai, UAE

21 November 2017:  Westminster Higher Education Forum Keynote Seminar, Next steps for international student recruitment in the UK - changes to the visa system and promoting the UK as a destination post-Brexit, London, UK

23-25 November 2017:  European Quality Assurance Forum (EQAF), Riga, LATVIA

11-12 December 2017:  OBHE Global Forum, 'Ready or Not - The Role of Online Learning in Higher Education', London, UK


14-15 February 2018:  The 16th Annual Washington International Education Conference, Washington, DC, USA

18-21 February 2018:  AIEA Annual Conference, 'The Internationalization Imperative in Turbulent Times', Washington, DC, USA

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International Branch Campuses
Trends & Developments 2016

by the OBHE & C-BERT

Summary Findings booklet
(For members)

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