Global Connections, Local Impact: A Unique 160-year-old Model

Alex Boughton, Head of Business Development at the University of London Worldwide, talks about the wide-reaching impact of transnational education.

Transnational education (TNE) takes many forms, reflecting the wide range of interests, requirements and aspirations of universities, students, governments and employers. Over the last 160 years, the University of London (UoL) has worked with partners around the world to widen access to quality higher education and, through its global connections and sustained innovation, it has achieved local impact through a unique model of TNE.

UoL is well-known for its distance, online and blended learning programmes, known until recently as  the International Programmes (and for most of the last 160 years as the External System), whereby more than 50,000 students are now taking undergraduate and masters programmes in some 180 countries.

What is perhaps less well known is UoL’s historical role in developing higher education systems. In Africa, for example, UoL was instrumental in helping to set up higher education institutions in a number of countries that have since become major universities in their own right.

  • The Gordon Memorial College is now the University of Khartoum;
  • University College Gold Coast is now the University of Ghana;
  • University College of Ibaban is now Nigeria’s oldest university, the University of Ibadan;
  • the University of Zimbabwe began life with a partnership between the University of London and Rhodesia and Nyasaland University;
  • and the University of East Africa which offered University of London degrees was split in 1970 into the three leading universities we see today: University of Nairobi, University of Dar es Salaam, and Makerere University in Uganda.

In more recent decades UoL has sustained engagement with HE providers – for example in Singapore (Singapore Institute of Management), Hong Kong (HKU SPACE) and Russia (International College of Economics and Finance, Higher School of Economics). These institutions have developed their own programmes alongside those of UoL to offer a truly skills-based curriculum for the twenty-first century.

UoL’s historical background places it current provision in the continuing context of broadening opportunity and the development of knowledge and skills underpinning societal development. This model of TNE is placed firmly in the local context and aimed at local impact.

Having studied in their own countries, the vast majority of our graduates remain in their local, national and regional professional contexts, contributing to the longer-term development of their respective societies. Many of our current graduates now occupy senior positions in the legal, economic, business, social, educational, cultural and diplomatic fields.

Case studies abound of individuals who have taken a UoL degree in their country and are now at senior levels in their profession. Government ministers in South Asia, lawyers in South East Asia and geophysicists in Africa attest to the power of this model.

Indeed, some have gone on to be major players on the international stage. Nelson Mandela studied Law with us while in prison awaiting trial. Dr Luisa Diogo, one of our graduates, became the first female Prime Minister of Mozambique. And Wole Soyinka, the celebrated Nigerian poet and another of our Nobel Prizewinners, graduated from the University of London in 1974.

Access is important, but so of course is innovation and a focus on relevant skills. Recent developments include the Masters in Professional Accountancy with the ACCA, the academic partner for this degree being UCL. And with Queen Mary we recently launched our Global MBA. Both of these programmes are built on new principles of online engagement with up to four entry and exit points in the year, comprehensive online resources, instructor videos, learner tools, regular formative assessments, and dedicated Student Relationship Managers and tutor support.

With these and other cutting-edge programmes in development, we are also building further engagement with the corporate sector in offering professional development opportunities; hosting placements for our students; or by supporting their staff on bursary schemes set up and jointly funded with us.

Through sustained innovation and development, the University of London has continued to provide local impact through its unique global network and is helping to provide the skills needed for societal advancement around the world.