Transnational education is an under-researched area. For a long time, researchers have put much attention to international education which mainly focuses on studying abroad or importing international students to study in the host country. Usually, people regard transnational education as international education.
However, with the massive expansion of transnational education, its definition is more and more clear. Knight (2002) argued that the terms 'transnational' and 'borderless' as well as 'cross-border' education are often used interchangeably, emphasizing the real or virtual movement of students, teachers, knowledge, educational programs and institutions from one country to another.
Furthermore, the official organizations define it more clearly, which is called offshore education. According to UNESO, the term 'transnational education' is generally defined as that 'in which the learners are located in a country different from the one where the awarding institution is based' (UNESCO, 2000). Besides, ENQA (the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education) regards TNE as any higher education provision (including distance education programmes) available in more than one country (Bennett, et al., 2010).
More specifically, as one of the pioneering countries of transnational education, the definition by Australian Government (Nelson, 2005, P.6) might have more persuasion and representativeness:
'Australian transnational education and training, also regarded as offshore or cross-border education and training, refers to the delivery of programs/courses by an accredited Australian provider in a country other than Australia, in which delivery includes a face-to-face element. The education activity may lead to an Australian qualification or a non-award course, but in either case an recognized/approved/accredited Australian provider is associated with the education/training activity. '
Therefore, transnational education is defined as offshore education for distinguishing the onshore international education.
2.3 Benefits of Transnational Education
It is known that transnational education represents the direct impact of trade liberalization, with an income generation motive and a more commercial approach, as opposed to most of the traditional internationalization activities which are non-profit and research-oriented (Knight, 2002). However, it benefits both countries and has the potential to increase the quality of higher education systems (Hopbach, 2010). Moreover, Culver (2012) thought that the overarching objective is to better prepare graduates to work in a global job market by imparting a more profound and extensive international awareness to them.
At the national level, the exporting countries gain huge revenue and win the competitive advantage in the global market of education (Rui, 2006). Huang (2006) also pointed out that in many developed countries, such as Australia, UK and USA, the profit made from exported higher education programs has become a significant source of revenue (Rui, 2006). In the report of OECD (2002), these three counties got huge foreign exchange income from education export---USA ($10.3 billion), UK ($3.8 billion) and Australia ($3.2 billion). Besides, importing countries minimize the risk of brain drain, attract advanced new resources for higher educational development, and accelerate the expansion of higher education without incurring further charges on public finance (Rui, 2006).
At the institutional level, except gaining directly extra revenues, the exporting universities increase international exposure for students, and raise international visibility and prestige of the institutions (Hopbach, 2010). So far as local institutions are concerned, these programs often provide them with a means of acquiring and delivering an additional or new course at the least cost and the opportunity to enhance staff experience and development in new fields where there is a shortage of expertise in the importing country (Rui, 2006). Lee (1999) said that when a particular program was popular, it also brought an additional source of income for local institutions.
At the individual level, TNE is likely to create further access to higher education and to offer increased opportunities for improving the skills of students (Hopbach, 2010). Besides, it costs lower than study abroad and relative higher rates of return than degrees from local universities (Rui, 2006).
2.4 Context and Drives of transnational education in China
Since the Chinese reform and opening up in the late 1970s, China has transformed the highly centralized planned economy into a market oriented and more dynamic economy (Mok & Xu, 2008). In the new market economy context, the old way of 'centralized governance' in education is rendered inappropriate (Yang, 2002). Acknowledging that over-centralization and stringent rules would kill the initiatives and enthusiasm of local educational institutions, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) called for resolute steps to streamline administration, devolve powers to units at lower levels so as to allow them more flexibility to run education (Mok & Xu, 2008). The Outline for Reform and Development of Education in China issued by the Communist Party of China in 1993 identified the reduction of centralization and government control in general as one of the long-term goals of reform (CCPCC, 1993) so that 'universities can independently provide education geared to the needs of society under the leadership of the government' (CCPCC, 1993, p.1). As Huang (2006) has rightly suggested that since 1993, individual institutions have been given more powers in deciding their mission, internal patterns of governance, generation of resources from diversified sources, design of the curriculum and in undertaking academic cooperation with foreign partners.
With the intention of improving the higher education level of the population, the Chinese government has endorsed a policy of massification in higher education. The number of undergraduates and postgraduates has increased significantly. In 2004, there were up to 20 million students enrolled in Chinese universities (Min, 2004; Ngok, 2006). Depending on local institutions alone cannot meet the pressing demands for higher education, coupled with the intention to identify and learn good practices from foreign universities, the Chinese government with local institutions, to jointly develop academic programmes on the mainland. Furthermore, since China's participation in the WTO in 2002, it has provided a stronger and more direct impetus to the development of transnational higher education programs leading to degrees of foreign universities (Huang, 2006)
2.5 Development of transnational education in China
In the mid-1980, offshore education was emerging in some developed areas. People's University of China and Fudan University ran training courses in economics and law in cooperation with American institutions (Tan, 2009). Another example was provided by the Johns Hopkins-Nanjing University center for Chinese and American Studies (Huang, 2006). However, it has to be noted that these programmes in this early phase were not for undergraduate or graduate students (Huang, 2006). They were basically catering to university faculty members, with the objective of training university faculty members and were regarded as an internal part of faculty development (Huang, 2006). None of these offshore programs was approved to confer foreign degrees to even Chinese degrees (Huang, 2006).
After 1995, the transnational education programmes have been in remarkable growth and development in China (Mok, 2008). The vast majority of them are provided in China's most prestigious or leading universities: these are mostly located in big cities, especially in Beijing and Shanghai (Huang 2006). MOE (2012a) showed that Beijing and Shanghai ranked the first in the top 10 areas running TNE: Shanghai (111), Beijing (108). Besides, in 1995, there were only two offshore programmes that could offer a foreign degree. However, in 2012, MOE (2012a) pointed out that TNE which offers degree programmes has occupied 53% (372) of total TNE (712) in China, among which there were 82 offering college degrees, 69 offering bachelor degrees and 74 offering postgraduate degrees. Regarding the field of studies, most of them are programmes or courses related to business and administration (business administration, marketing, accounting, financial management, HR management and tourism management), which has 255 programs, occupying 36% of total; the next is foreign languages (English, German, French, Russian, Japanese) (255, 36%), Electrical and Information Science and Technology (Computer, Computer Science and Technology, Electric Science and Technology) (94, 13%) and others (MOE, 2012a) (see Figure I).
From above, we can see that the current situation indicates that local government has put a special focus on transnational programmes in Chinese transnational education. Besides, government policies, which encourage more practical and urgently-needed offshore programs in China, have in practice been largely implemented, and on the other hand, it reflects the great demand in China for trained manpower equipped with advanced knowledge of business and administration and high technology with fluent foreign languages in order to keep pace with the development of globalization (Huang, 2006).
2.6 Empirical literature of transnational education
The literature about transnational education is a developing body. Many of them focus from the perceptions of provision body instead from students' views.
2.6.1 Providers' perspectives
While transnational education has been a focus of study for almost a decade, many literatures focus on the issues of curriculum reconstruction, teaching style improvement and academics' competency development. And these aspects are almost researched from providers' perspectives.
At the beginning, the dumping Western curriculum has dominated the transnational education. Currently, the 'off-the-shelf' courses of host universities have been criticized by many researchers. For example, Evans & Tregenza (2003) found the courses embed amounts information of Australia largely restrain Hong Kong students' comprehension of relative academic knowledge. Instead, the advocation of intercultural curriculum has been viewed significantly. It emphasizes the use of country-relevant examples and materials for better serving local learners (Gribble & Ziguras, 2003). Leask (2000) supportsed this view and recommended applying the infusion approach. It focuses on the linkage of a set of common attributes (including domestic, international and transnational learners) in order to strengthen international version, culture and to form international standards and practices in a professional discipline. This viewpoint was also appreciated by Dunn & Wallace (2006) through analysing Leask's (2000) report conducted at the University of South Australia.
Similar to the suggestion of intercultural curriculum, Leask (2005) also proposed the intercultural teaching style in transnational education. In the study of Leask (2005), Australian academics with both Hong Kong and Adelaide teaching experience felt different role as teacher in Hong Kong and in Adelaide. They noticed the importance of adapting teaching style to fit different learning environment in Hong Kong and focused more on the term of cultural context of the pedagogy than they were in Adelaide. Simply internationalizing teaching style is not useful, how to use flexible and creative teaching style to 'suit the local context, making it relevant and understandable to students' is significant (Leask, 2005, p. 4)
Besides, a range of skills and knowledge are also required to transnational academics. In macro perspective, transnational teaching staff needs to develop an overall understanding of offshore country's or district's context, ranging from law, politics, economy, culture, to tradition and some local language (Hudson & Morrison, 2003). In micro perspective, interpersonal and intercultural skills in classroom, knowledge of non-Western learning style, and knowledge of cultural bias in the academic field are required as well (Gribble & Ziguras, 2003).
In addition, some activities are also recommended. Dunn & Wallace (2006) required adding local case studies designed for transnational students. In addition, the positive teaching activities, such as the group work and face-to-face interaction with students and foreign academics are also highly desired (e.g. Dunn & Wallace, 2004).
Dilemma of transnational academics
Although some theoretical and practical guidance have been provided, transnational academics still feel uncertainty of the effects to transnational students when using these methods (Dunn & Wallace 2006). They know what to do but not know how to do it. For them, the main pathway they get practical experiences are from the previous transnational academics. But whether it is scientific is going to be considered. In the research of Dunn & Wallace (2004), new Australian transnational academics were advised not to change course content because Singaporean students wanted have the pure Australian courses. However, they had to adjust the materials combing with Singapore-related cases and other Western examples with the international views in the real offshore context. It indicates that the informal networking of transnational teaching training does not seem reliable and the systematic training of transnational academics should be involved.
Regarding to the professional development of transnational academics, there is a developing literature of it. Firstly, researchers hold different views of the channel gaining professional experience. Some express the best professional development of transnational teaching is getting experience from teaching international students onshore (Gribble & Ziguras, 2003). While others argue it is best to get such teaching experience from teaching offshore students. For example, Leask (2004, p.3) pointed out that there is a huge difference between teaching international students in Western universities and teaching them in home universities:
Teaching offshore is an intellectual challenge and an emotional journey, one which requires academic staff, as strangers in a strange land, to come to terms with the perceptions that staff and students in (the off-shore country) have of them, with the differences and similaritiesâ€¦that confront them and challenge their stereotypes and prejudices, and which can lead to feelings of frustration, confusion and disorientation.
Secondly, researchers hold that the professional development should cover not only transnational teaching staff, but also local tutors. The analysis of Lavery & Wheeler (2003) from several Australian universities' AUQA reports supports this perception.
Thirdly, the relationship between Australian academics and local tutors has also been discussed (Lavery & Wheeler, 2003). Establishing good relations of local tutors benefits foreign teaching staff. Leask (2004) pointed out that transnational teaching is not only an excellent opportunity of intercultural engagement, but also an integration of this experience into onshore teaching. In order to reach this aim, reconstruction of the role of local tutors in promoting them as full member of academic team, and provision of full and equal engagement in curriculum design and delivery are necessary (Leask , 2004).
Although abundant literatures have advocated the importance of professional development of transnational teaching staff and many academics currently have an increased awareness of pedagogical issues, few institutions offer systematic professional development and those academics has just been learned on the job (Ozogic et al., 2004).
2.6.2 Transnational students' perceptions
It seems to be a missing link of transnational education from students' views for some time. Meanwhile, Wallace & Dunn (2008) criticized that the simple collection of the feedback from in-house student in some countries could not represent the small but important part of transnational learners' learning experiences.
Satisfyingly, some researches from students' angle of view are emerging. It could be divided into three main clusters: reasons of choosing transnational programme; learning style; views of authority and credibility of foreign and local teaching staff; and time management in relation to study/work balance.
Reasons for choosing transnational programme
There are various factors influence students in choosing transnational education, including, for example, the cost of the programme, job career, programme's reputation and competency skills. Following are stated the three main reasons in the recent literature.
Firstly, many studies reveal that students choose transnational programme for job enhancement. Because they perceive that developed countries' higher education represents a high quality which is superior to the same degrees offered by their local countries (Chapman & Pyvis, 2006a).This thought is particularly obvious in Malaysian students, whose career path is frequently planned in the Western companies operating in Malaysia (Chapman & Pyvis, 2007).Besides, Wallace & Dunn (2008) also thought that both Chinese and Singaporean students, no matter male or female, earner-learner or students, postgraduates or undergraduates, need an international certificate for job advancement.
Secondly, the high reputation of foreign academics is also explored. However, the definition of reputation is different according to different cohorts of offshore students. Many researches (e.g. Waters, 2005; Wallace & Dunn, 2008; Evans and Tragenza, 2003) deem that the international prestige of the foreign university/programme in the world largely determine students' decisions. While Evans and Tragenza (2003) showed that Hong Kong students take the long history of the transnational programme in local district as owning high reputation.
Lastly, soft skills are also valued by students. Chapman & Pyvis (2007) revealed that non-Malaysian students who attend transnational education in Malaysia focus more on expanding their horizon, developing their dispositions and new thinking way. It contributes to personal development and forming international individual. Besides, Waters (2005, p.365) argued 'fluency in the English language as well as less obvious qualities, such as confidence, sociability and cosmopolitanism' increase individual's social capital. This cognition is also supported by Doherty & Singh (2005, p.7) with the view of choosing such education as a 'â€¦investment in Western cultural capital and English language competence'.
Students' learning styles
Students' preferences of learning style
In the developing literatures from transnational students' perspectives, students show various learning preferences. Some students like listening and reading, while others enjoy interaction with academics; someone prefer getting knowledge by textbooks, others depend on surfing the internet.
Even more, different gender shows diverse preferences no matter in the same district/country or different districts/countries. For example, Chinese males want double time interacting online with fellow students than the females, while less by half of that with tutors than Chinese female (Wallace & Dunn, 2008). Singaporean females want less online interaction after class while the males want more; but both want less time on communicating with fellow students (Wallace & Dunn, 2008). It indicates that different students in different districts/countries have different learning preferences.
In terms of delivery, the most popular activities transnational students prefer are face-to-face interaction with teachers and classmates. From students' perspectives, they express one the most valuable activities is learning from interaction, which assist them developing strategies and formats (Mileswska, 2006). They like teachers have superb instructional skills and understand students' interest, needs and local educational context (Mileswska, 2006). Dunn & Wallace (2004, p.300) also recommended in group activities, topics need to be tailored according to specific local culture for 'presenting students as knowledgeable'.
Traditional learning style of East Asian students and Chinese students
The performance of these transnational students mentioned above integrates their traditional learning style and the Western learning style. Considering most of offshore education focuses on Asia, Asian students' inherent learning practice is necessary to know.
In terms of East Asian students, most of them have been influenced by Confucianism for a long period, which induces them to incline to more traditional learning about 'compiling' existing knowledge than 'composing' new knowledge (Cheng & Wong, 1996, p. 42) and respect teachers highly. Watkins & Biggs (1996) pointed out that East Asian learners like 'trial and error' of the known materials until they ensure mastering the knowledge thoroughly before turning to the unexplored field.
Chinese students, similarly, are defined as 'rote-learners' or 'passive learners' (Bond, 1991; Robinson, 1998). In China, high-stakes tests dominate Chinese students' behaviour. Chinese education is characterized as 'firmly based on knowledge transmission with a single curriculum (often a single textbook), making the curriculum relevant to everyday life has low priority' (Robinson, 1998, p.371). In China, teachers are imposed on the absolute authority of direction and decision, which forms teacher-centered education. Chinese students learn what teachers instruct and seldom propose dissents. They like formal teaching style, though some jokes and warm words are welcomed in some proper aspects (Dunn & Wallace, 2004). This rote-learning or the teacher-centered learning style damages Chinese students' creative thinking. Moreover, The Economist (2006) claimed that the lack of creative skills and practical experience weaken Chinese students' adaption and competitiveness in the global market.
Western student-centered learning
Comparing to Eastern culture, western philosophy is implicit. The conceptions are relative abstract and the vocabulary in academic area is very specialized and complex (Kuiper & Lin, 1989). In Western culture, students are encouraged to be independent, while Chinese culture advocates collectivity (Niu & Sternberg, 2003). Under this circumstance, Western learning is student-centered, that is self-directed. Study for Western student is an independent learning process. They take responsibility for their own learning (Miliszewska, et al., 2003). From student-centered learning, students develop critical thinking and creativity in academic area, while teachers are just consultant rather than instructor (Miliszewska, et al., 2003). They should not learn like children, who are taught in a one-way knowledge transmission (Brookfield, 1986). Therefore, Western learners like exploring new materials (Watkins & Biggs, 1996). Their Western-style group work is experimental activities, encouraging discovery learning from the unknown to the known (Jin & Cortazzi, 1998). And their relations with teachers are not very formal (Dunn & Wallace, 2004).
Views of authority and credibility of foreign and local teaching staff
There is a common phenomenon that Western academics are more highly valued than local teaching staff in terms of authority and credibility from transnational learners' perspectives. The practical performance of students is expectation of more communication with foreign lectures. Western academics in this delivery mode have the absolute power over curriculum design and assessment decision (Dunn & Wallace, 2003). Spending more time with them, students could get more useful information of assessment standards and understand more about Western teaching style (Dunn & Wallace, 2008). Besides, students want more exposure with native English academics as to improve their English proficiency, especially in academic English (Dunn & Wallace, 2008). Moreover, Western academics have the better knowledge in the specific field. Just like the finding of Bennington & Xu (2001), Chinese MBA students regard their Western lecturers have strong academic knowledge in business area, even though local academics have the equal qualifications.
But it does not mean that local teaching staff has few advantages. Leask (2004, p.3) argued that local tutors are the 'cultural translator and mediator' for foreign academics, integrating local and foreign culture and knowledge to encourage students thinking in another new way, to be more open and accepting other culture. Also, Dunn & Wallace (2008) reported that some students appreciated the help of interpreting the foreign teaching style, such as assessment and explain difficult points for them.
In addition, the advocate of strengthening communication between foreign and local teaching staff is also the study object in this field. Pannan, Gribble & Gribble (2005) asserted that staff at all levels in transnational education should foster and increase communication to share ideas together with learners. Because lacking enough communication between them would cause a lot of confusion to students (Dunn & Wallace, 2008)
The above literature indicates that, on the one hand, foreign lecturers have more authority and credibility than local staff contributes to not only they have been endowed the authority of curriculum and assessments, but also local students want to understand more about foreign lecturers' standards and exposure to native English environment considering English proficiency. On the other hand, the communication between foreign and local academics should be strengthened for providing better quality transnational education. This part is in line with that of Lavery & Wheeler's (2003) recommendation from the provider's perspective.
Time management in relation to study/work balance
Considering most of offshore students in current transnational education studies in Asia countries (except Mainland China) are earner-learners, the significant problem they have to meet is the balance of study, work and family. Transnational students from different countries/districts have various proportion of allocating their efforts and time. For Singaporean and Hong Kong students, they roughly regard work and family activities as equal categories of prior commitments (Chapman & Pyvis, 2006b). In their research, female participants tend more to family activities; while male incline to the waged work, which confirms the finding of Wallace & Dunn (2008) in Singaporean male students. For transnational learners in Malaysia, as most of them are not local students, social activities occupy most of their leisure time. Moreover, studies show the routine study activities is also a factor impeding students' attention to study. All these literatures demonstrate that various demands in their lives contribute to the lack of time to fully engage in the courses and the set study for earner-learners are not appropriate.
From above, we can see that transnational education brings huge benefits to both parties of country and individual. China is expanding this mode of education massively. Although there is a certain amount of literature about offshore educating postgraduates, doctorates and earner-learners in Asian countries, few studies undergraduates and that in China mainland are disappointing. As the second country with largest population in the world and large demands of transnational education, great attention should be taken. Therefore, this study is an attempt to explore Chinese mainland undergraduates' view of transnational education.