2018 Global Forum

A Global Forum on Student Well-Being 
And Outcomes in Education
Register today!


Our 2017 IBC Report!

International Branch Campuses: Success Factors of Mature IBCs 2017
The OBHE & C-BERT of SUNY, Albany & Pennsylvania State University                 
Headline Findings


Whatever happened to the promise of online learning?
The state of global online higher education

In 2017/18, The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education paid particular attention to online learning and blended learning, conducting a series of country case studies which culminated with this comprehensive report.

The stimulus for OBHE’s case study series was the tension between the scope, diversity and relative maturity of online higher education around the world, and the near absence of studies assessing the significance of online higher education on a global or cross-border level.

Case studies were published on: China (forthcoming), Egypt, England, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Sub-Saharan Africa, United Arab Emirates, and the United States of America. Among the countries looked at, five categories emerge:

  • Distance, Not Online. Large distance learning sector with little or no use of online learning beyond some MOOC enthusiasm (e.g. Egypt, India)
  • Marginal. Strong growth in campus enrolment, with some online elements. Most distance learning is blended with in-person study centres (e.g. Saudi Arabia, UAE)
  • Blurred Growth. A poorly defined combination of informal, distance and online learning enrolment continues to out-perform the overall market (e.g. Mexico, Spain)
  • Clear Growth. A clear online distance learning sector continues to out-perform the overall market (e.g. United States)
  • Peaked/Decline. Online enrolment growth has been at the expense of the national distance university. Online enrolment is peaking or is in decline (e.g. England, South Korea)

This report offers lessons from the twelve case studies and stands back to draw some conclusions about the significance and direction of online higher education globally.

To gain access to our report and case studies, which are exclusive to OBHE subscribers, become a member. A summary of report findings is available to all.

15 August 2018

Tertiary Edge: Employment rates and earnings premiums of Germany’s university graduates

Rachael Merola, Senior Researcher, OBHE

Germany has been a dynamic and powerful force in higher education in recent years. It eliminated tuition fees at public universities in 2014, has 44 universities in the world’s top university rankings, and enrolls 15% of all tertiary students in the EU. This article explores the growth of Germany’s tertiary education, looking at data on attainment, employment rates and earnings premiums.  

Full article available for members.


7 August 2018

Counting Everything (except outcomes)- Looking for data on student success in Kenya

Richard Garrett, Director, OBHE

Mature higher education systems struggle with student success data- what to collect, what to report, how to meet the needs of different stakeholders- so what do less developed systems do? 

Kenya is a good case study. Before 1989, the country had just four universities and 30,000 tertiary students, but today there are over fifty universities, plus another 30+ that offer programs in collaboration with universities. This reflects population change. With over 50 million people, Kenya is already among Africa’s largest countries by headcount, and has grown by more than 50% since 2000. 
University enrollment doubled between 2005 and 2009, doubled again by 2014, and now stands at over half a million. Other tertiary enrollment has also accelerated, hitting 275,000 by 2017. Some university growth has involved non-university institutions attaining university status. Despite all this momentum, only about 15% of Kenyans aged 18-24 are enrolled in tertiary education- up significantly from years past but adrift of the global average which is about 30%. 
In such a rapid growth environment, with many more Kenyans attending university and other tertiary education than a generation ago, what data do policymakers and prospective students rely on to judge success? 
In terms of published data, Kenyan higher education is much more focused on inputs than outcomes.  

Full article available for members.


20 July 2018 

Usual and Unusual. Looking for data on student success in Singapore

Richard Garrett, Director, OBHE

As part of OBHE’s 2018 focus on student success and outcomes, we are working a number of country case studies. The goal is to summarize how specific countries define and report student success. Our series selects countries from various global rankings of national higher education systems, such as QS and Universitas 21. Diversity by region and size informed our selection.

Our series kicks off with Singapore, ranked ninth best higher education system in the world in 2018 by Universitas 21. The U21 ranking includes a number of “output” measures, but only two concern student outcomes:

1)      Percentage of the population aged 25–64 with a tertiary qualification
2)      Unemployment rates among tertiary educated aged 25–64 years compared with unemployment rates for those with only upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education

The first metric is about graduate quantity in relative terms, while the second uses employment as a proxy for quality. Together, these two metrics account for only 6% of U21’s scoring model.

Inevitably, such rankings rely on data available across multiple countries, which aids comparability but obscures national data differences. The question OBHE wants to ask is what else can we learn about student success in Singapore? The two student success metrics employed by U21 both span forty-year periods, and therefore say very little about any recent innovation around student success definitions, data or reporting.

Singapore covers the basics when it comes to student success and outcomes data- number of graduates and recent graduate employment. The country has also pioneered reporting of TNE student outcomes. 

Full article available for members.


27 June 2018

What do we know about the outcomes of EMI courses in higher education?

Carolyn Walker, OBHE Associate; Consultant in International HE; Former Academic Director at INTO

According to Dr Denise Abreu e Lima (President of Languages without Borders, Brazil), speaking at the British Council’s recent Going Global 2018 conference in Malaysia, “Language is the structure of internationalisation. If a university wants to internationalise they need to invest in language and a language policy”. For many higher education institutions worldwide, recognition of this fact has helped to drive a growing global trend: the teaching of courses through the medium of English, otherwise known as ‘English Medium Instruction’ (EMI) or alternatively ‘English Taught Programmes’ (ETPs). This relatively recent development has been described as a “galloping phenomenon” which is “pandemic in proportion” and “the single most significant current trend in internationalizing higher education”.

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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Forthcoming Events


16-29 August 2018:40th Annual EAIR Forum 2018, Budapest, HUNGARY

10 September 2018:  Westminster Higher Education Forum Keynote Seminar, Developing the Knowledge Exchange Framework, London, UK

11 September 2018:ICEF Higher Education Partnership Forum, Geneva, SWITZERLAND

11-14 September 2018: EAIE 2018 Annual Conference, Geneva, SWITZERLAND

20 September 2018:UOC-coordinated Skill Up Project Multiplier Event, Stockholm, Sweden

27-29 September 2018:  NACAC 74th National Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

9-12 October 2018:  AIEC 2018, Sydney, AUSTRALIA    

1 November 2018:Westminster Higher Education Forum: Developing the Teaching Excellence Framework, London, UK

4-5 November 2018:  OBHE Global Forum in partnership with KHDA, Dubai, UAE

7-10 November 2018:  CIEE Annual Conference, Barcelona, SPAIN

9 November 2018:  ACA Seminar, 'Mobility-migration nexus: policies, practicies, discourses and evidence', Brussels, BELGIUM

13-15 November 2018:  IAU 2018 International Conference, Kuala Lumpur, MALAYSIA


20-23 January 2019:  AIEA Annual Conference, 'What's next - Possibilities and probabilities in the future of international higher education, San Francisco, CA, USA

7 February 2019:Westminster Higher Education Forum seminar 'Priorities for international student recruitment: next steps for the visa system, pricing strategies and the international student experience', London, UK

February 2019:  IIE Summit, 'The Future of International Education', New York, NY, USA

23-25 October 2019:  6th Conference of the Americas on International Education (CAIE), Bogota, COLOMBIA

3-7 November 2019:  28th International Council for Open and Distance Learning (ICDE) World Conference on Online Learning, 'Transforming Lives and Societies', Dublin, IRELAND

View Past Events and Conference Presentations

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