15. März 2022

Developing Successful Transnational Education Hubs: Key Challenges for Policy Makers

IRS Dialog 4 | 2022

This report addresses stakeholders involved in designing and implementing policy frameworks of higher education hub projects that particularly include international branch campuses, as well as organisations involved in consulting, advertisement and support of the internationalisation of higher education. It draws on multiple field visits to transnational education hubs, and on 136 interviews with senior higher education managers and transnational education stakeholders in Europe, Asia and the Middle East conducted between 2018 and 2020. Based on this data, we identify key phases and challenges for developing a transnational education hub. From these findings we developed the following suggestions that should be taken into account for designing successful policies.

  1. Motivations of governments and universities can diverge. Policy makers need to consider that, contrary to common conceptions, universities will not automatically contribute to national or regional development goals.
  2. Adequate frameworks for regulation and localisation of transnational higher education need to be introduced and further developed. Too permeable systems can attract dubious providers and create incongruity with local higher education systems, negatively impacting branch campuses’ quality and their effects on the economy.
  3. Embedding branch campuses locally requires external incentives. Hoped-for characteristics of a transnational education hub, such as collaboration between branch campuses or with domestic universities, and synergy effects with the local economy need to be actively fostered by the hosting authorities.

Overall, we argue that policy makers need to find the right balance between, on the one hand, creating an environment in which foreign providers of higher education can invest with relative ease and, on the other hand, setting up mechanisms and regulations that integrate them and ensure their contribution to long-term strategic development.


  • Towards a knowledge-based economy
  • Dynamic phases of transnational education hub development
    • Phase 1: Providing access
    • Phase 2: Ensuring quality
    • Phase 3: Embedding universities
  • Challenges for policy makers
    • Challenges A: Different motivations
    • Challenges B: Competition, collaboration, complementation
    • Challenges C: Exceptionalism and embeddedness
  • Developing successful transnational education hubs


  • Tim Rottleb
  • Jana M. Kleibert
  • Marc Schulze
22. März 2022 | Ausgewählte Publikation

Besonders in Ländern, die danach streben, sich von einer Rohstoff- zu einer Wissensökonomie zu transformieren, ist die Ansiedlung von „Transnational Education Hubs“, also Clustern von Ablegern internationaler Universitäten, ein beliebtes standortpolitisches Gestaltungsmittel. Doch die Hoffnungen auf eine transformative Wirkung auf die lokale Ökonomie werden nicht immer erfüllt. Die IRS-Nachwuchsgruppe TRANSEDU hat in ihrem neuen Policy Paper „Developing Successful Transnational Education Hubs: Key Challenges for Policy Makers“ (IRS Dialog 4/2022) die zentralen Herausforderungen benannt und Empfehlungen formuliert. mehr Info