Prof Tahir Mamman and British Secretary of State for Education, Ms. Gilian Keegan

The Biennial Going Global Conference, held in the United Kingdom (UK) took place in the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, from Monday 20 November to Wednesday 23 November, 2023, with one of the high points being the launch of the recently-consummated NUC Guidelines on Transnational Education (TNE) by the Nigerian Honourable Minister of Education, Professor Tahir Mamman and his British counterpart, Secretary of State for Education, Ms Gillian Keegan.

The 2023 Conference has as its theme: Towards Sustainable, Scalable and Equitable Partnerships in Tertiary Education, with nearly 450 leaders of Tertiary Education, business and governments from about 85 countries as participants.

The Going Global Conference provided opportunities for leaders in international education to connect, share knowledge and build a global network of senior leaders and policy influencers in order to shape the future of further and higher education across the world.

The Going Global was a conference for leaders in international education for them  to debate the future of further and higher education and had since its inception in 2004, being considered a highly regarded Knowledge  Festival, organised by the British Council. 

This historic event was witnessed by notable stakeholders drawn from both the British and Nigerian sides of the Higher Education Community.

In his remarks during the TNE launch, the Nigerian Honourable Minister of Education thanked his UK counterpart for the opportunity to interact and launch the new guidelines.

He informed the gathering that he had the honour of being one of the beneficiaries of quality British Education when he undertook his masters and doctoral studies in the UK.

He further informed the audience that upon assumption of duty as a Minister, he found an educational system in dire need of work at both the basic and lower levels.

The meeting noted that the new Nigerian Administration under President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, pursuant to his renewed hope Agenda, had devised a monitoring mechanism whereby Ministers were given mandates to be  delivered and fulfilled within a time frame during which effective implementation could be measured on a periodic basis.

The Minister enthused that TNE remained a very key and veritable tool for expanding access and broadening equity in Higher Education, given the huge gap between supply and demand.

He noted that Nigerians constituted one of the highest immigrant communities with hunger for education, reasoning that the advent of the new TNE guidelines, signaled a formalised framework for the presence and quality regulation as well as delivery of cross border education beyond the well known long standing individualised collaborations that have existed between Nigerian and British Universities.

The Minister used the opportunity of the launch to share some of the key priorities of the Nigerian government including the area of skills, vocational and technical education, which took a cue from the well acclaimed British Apprenticeship system.

He expressed his excitement to hear about the progress made by the British government and that Nigeria stood to learn and harvest the best practices in such a manner that Innovative Enterprises Institutes could be empowered and resourced to benefit from transferability and mobility opportunities.

In her response, the UK Secretary of State for Education, Ms Gillian Keegan congratulated Nigeria and the Honourable Minister of Education for consummating the TNE guidelines.

She stated that British partners would ensure that there was a strong offer of quality British Education to Nigerians at a lower cost.

Ms Keegan informed the Nigerian Team that the British have over the years built a system where employers and Educational system were not only working together but are constantly moving organically, as the need arises.

She offered to engage with Nigeria and share at the official level, any relevant information on the best practices and the many lessons learnt in bringing UK education, relevant organisations and employers in a close working relationship.

The UK Education Champion who doubles as the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter and President of UK Universities International, Sir Professor Steve Smith, stated that he had been to Nigeria three times in the past two years in pursuit of mutually beneficial partnerships between the two countries.

He informed the meeting that what had characterised the relationship, was a fast growing and deepening relationship in the realm of TNE.

Professor Smith paid tribute to the Ag. Executive Secretary,  NUC and the Country Director of the British Council for driving an incredible and seamless process which had culminated in the finalisation of the TNE guidelines.

He pointed out that it took Nigeria only 18 months as against India’s 18 years to agree and produce the TNE Guidelines.

The UK Champion recalled leading a group of UK Universities who visited and found a lot of appetite for quality and affordable British education to be offered on Nigerian soil, thereby obviating the need and mitigating brain drain.

He reiterated that all these accomplishments have continued to symbolise long standing, mutually benefiting and excellent ties between Nigeria and the United Kingdom.

He then congratulated all stakeholders and the Honourable Minister of Education in particular for witnessing the Launch of the TNE Guidelines as one of the deliverables of his administration since his assumption of office, as Minister of the Federal Republic.

At the event, there were plenary sessions held over a three-day period. At the opening plenary session, the British Council’s Chief Executive, Mr. Scott McDonald noted that creative and effective partnerships were the key to making and unlocking and making progress on many of the issues faced within TNE.

While acknowledging the difficulties involved in establishing successful partnerships, he believed that it could be done. “If we get it right and we get many of these partnerships over the line then all universities should have multiple partnerships with global counterparts and that will widen access to international tertiary education, particularly for under-represented groups, and reduce brain drain.”

The Keynote Speaker and UK’s Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, said she believed education had gone through three ages and is now at the “fourth age” of education and research driven by international collaborations.

“If you are better connected you learn and react more quickly and pull ahead in the global race,” she said. International mobility can be expensive and out of reach for many students and we need to think hard about what more can be done to make mobility more sustainable and equitable.

In her address to delegates, President of Universities UK, Professor Dame Sally Mapstone, highlighted the extent to which ‘transnational education is a huge amplifier and asset to the UK. In 2020 revenue from education-related exports and transnational education amounted to a substantial £25.6 billion.

According to her, “it is of course essential that transnational education partnerships are developed in a strategic and sustainable way in line with institutional capabilities and values.

When this is achieved these partnerships can genuinely widen access to higher education and support mutual learning thus making a positive contribution both to the UK and the host country or partner.”

Professor of Health and Medicine, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, Olanike Adeyemo, in her speech to delegates, said ‘a crucial element of partnerships is that they have to be symbiotic.

There has to be reciprocity and that has to be put in place as you are brokering a partnership’. She outlined the need to have higher education resources that meet the local and social needs and contextualise the curricula rather than adopting a one-sized fits all approach. 

Professor of Higher Education at the University of Oxford, UK, Simon Marginson, warned against a belief that there was one path to modernisation that all must follow – the western path – and that western countries and their education have nothing to learn from non-western culture and education. He said this was no basis for global partnerships going forward. “It is so difficult and so vital that we finally break with this inherited belief in our own superiority,”

In a panel discussion where the British Council’s TNE strategy was discussed, four key actions over the next two years were highlighted.  These are: contributing to better data and insight on UK TNE; creating an enabling environment for TNE in other countries and promoting the quality of UK TNE internationally; influencing the removal of barriers to TNE; and supporting TNE to contribute to the transformation of local education systems, and to the Sustainable Development Goals.

In the session, a panel of distinguished guests was asked to comment on the British Council’s new TNE strategy, and to outline the relevant educational developments in their country that presented challenges and opportunities.

In his position paper at the TNE discussion points, the Ag. Executive Secretary, NUC, Nigeria, Mr. Maiyaki, expressed how ‘in Nigeria, the advent of TNE summarises game-changing opportunities, the dawn of a new era where we hope we will continue to give the full meaning and purpose of the university enterprise.’

He added that TNE had potential to help bridge the huge gap between supply and demand for Higher Education (HE) in Nigeria, but it needed political will behind it and a willingness to evaluate its effectiveness.

The NUC Scribe explained the six models of the TNE to include: the twinning and articulation model, Branch campus, Open& Distance Learning, Franchise, Acquisitions& Merger as well as Teaching institutions model.  

To achieve the concept of TNE, the NUC as part of its statutory functions, had been able to licence four new private open and distance learning universities to complement the National Open University.

It had approved distance learning and e-learning centres of 20 Nigerian universities, while the Commission had also facilitated and strengthened the development of institutional and professional capacity in the NUS for sustainable optimisation and deployment of e-teaching opportunities in Nigerian universities.

He disclosed  that the NUC since 2017 had collaborated with the University of Sussex to provide a professional development course across a wide range of HE teaching and learning tools such as pedagogic approaches to teaching large groups and creating inclusive teaching environments for diverse students. 

On ensuring financial, institutional and Programmatic sustainability of the TNE Policy, the Acting Executive Secretary  informed the audience that NUC had helped the NUS to achieve these targets through its Virtual Institute for Capacity Building in Higher Education (VICBHE).

According to him, the Commission had explored the platform regularly to hold capacity building courses and workshops for its staff in contemporary approaches to academic planning and quality assurance, teaching, learning and research in higher education.

In addition to this, the NUC works collaboratively with universities, governments, and relevant stakeholders worldwide to gather feedback and insights to ensure that its quality assurance measures align with the evolving needs of TNE.   

During the panel, Pro Vice-Chancellor International, Teaching and Learning, at the University of London, Professor Mary Stiasny, OBE, explained how TNE was helping to continue a very long tradition of widening access to Higher Education (HE) at her institution.

She, however, urged that there must be no compromise on quality, as this was “the vital component to drive equity and sustainability through scale”.

Vice-Minister, Ministry of Education and Training in Vietnam, Dr Son Hoang Minh, outlined plans for a digital HE system that will allow students to take courses from universities in different parts of the world.

Minister of Higher Education in Egypt, Dr. Mohamed Ayman Ashour, explained how TNE applied to a new HE strategy launched in his country, at both a national and regional level.

The Acting Director General of Higher Education, Research and Technology in Indonesia,  Professor Ir. Nizam, spoke of a “big bang transformation” designed to open up new opportunities for students through “flexible and meaningful learning”.

Other presentations were made by Executive Director of the Institute for the Future of Education at the Tecnologico de Monterrey, Mexico, Dr. Michael Fung, among others, which was chaired by UK Government international Education Champion, Professor Sir Steve Smith, , while representatives from the UK, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Peru and Malaysia considered ways to encourage better career progression for women in STEM subjects.

A major highlight of the forum was the opportunity given to Young students in Africa, who spoke in a video about the mismatch between the traditional education curricula and the interests of today’s youth, for example, in the creative industries and entrepreneurship. Because of that, students were making the wrong choice of what to study and were left struggling to change careers later.

In her closing address, the British Council’s Director of Education,  Maddalaine Ansell, said it had been ‘truly wonderful’ to have the opportunity to meet face-to-face and spend time with experts from across the world talking about pressing issues. Adding that ‘technology is a wonderful thing and it helped us during the Covid pandemic but people are still wired to best engage in person.’

Overall, the 2023 Going Global was very successful and there were lessons to be learned in building education systems that were focused on quality, which could not  be achieved outside a living curriculum and delivery methods that were student centered.  

Curriculum review and re-engineering could only become meaningful when it involved all sectors of education; thus, making the resultant transformation all encompassing. 

It was highlighted that inclusion in education systems must continue to be given high priority to make citizens irrespective of status, social affiliation, or physical state useful to themselves and the larger society.

The focus on partnerships as engendered in the principle of TNE in Going Global 2023 was quite beneficial.

Contrary to partnerships that were unidirectional, higher education institutions involved in TNE were also to ensure that mutual benefits are derived from their collaborative engagements.

The launch of the Nigeria TNE guidelines was commendable as it would ensure the regulation of partnerships with the global community in addition to protecting participating Nigerian citizens from exploitation and sub-standard education.

With the unveiling of the intention to hold Going Global conference in 2024 in Sub-Saharan Africa, Nigerian participants were of the opinion that it was high time Nigeria signified its intention to host the event.

As highlighted by the team, the necessary consultations towards achieving this desire should begin in earnest as there were immeasurable benefits derivable in hosting the Going Global conference.

Among the dignitaries at the event were Nigerian representatives led by the Honourable Minister of Education, Professor Tahir Mamman, OON,SAN;  others  were the Acting Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Mr.  Chris J. Maiyaki; Executive Secretary, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) ;Arc. Sonny Echono,  Vice-Chancellor, National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Professor Femi Peters; Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos (UNILAG),Professor Folasade Ogunsola;  Vice-Chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Ikot Abasi, Professor Leo Daniel and  Executive Secretary, National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), Professor Paul Okwelle.

Also in the delegation  were the Deputy Executive Secretary (Academics), NUC,  Dr. Noel Biodun Saliu; Special Assistant to Honourable Minister of Education, Dr. Rukayyatu Gurin  and  Director Universities, Federal Ministry of Education (FME), Hajia Rakiya Ilyasu.