Putting Sustainable Development at the heart of Transnational Education: Principles and Practice from a UK-UAE Partnership




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Peer reviewed



Transnational Education (TNE) is a significant and growing area of activity for higher education institutions, through which universities establish overseas partnerships or campuses to enable international students to study close to home to achieve internationally recognised qualifications. Whilst TNE is frequently understood as being income-driven and has been critiqued from the stance of post-colonialism, there is arguably significant potential for its adoption to positively contribute to the sustainable development agenda embodied in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This potential contribution is addressed here by discussing the experience of De Montfort University (DMU) in the UK, in seeking to put sustainable development at the heart of its TNE approach when establishing its DMU Dubai campus in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), launched in 2021. A range of innovative curriculum-based, co-curricular and operational practices at DMU Dubai are highlighted, that extended the Education for Sustainable Development initiatives already underway at DMU’s UK campus and contextualised them for the UAE environment. These practices are used to illustrate a proposed framework of principles and indicators that can shed light on how TNE activity can address the SDGs. In so doing, the paper introduces ‘Transformative TNE’ as a concept which highlights an aspirational approach to TNE practice which delivers educational, civic and socio-economic benefits aligned to the sustainable development agenda.



Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Transnational Education (TNE), International Higher Education, Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)


Reeves, A., Ridon, M. and Lawson, S. (2023) Putting Sustainable Development at the heart of Transnational Education: Principles and Practice from a UK-UAE Partnership. In: Walter Leal Filho, Thais Dibbern, Salvador Ruiz de Maya, Maria del Carmo, Longinos Marín (Eds.) The Contribution of Universities Towards Education for Sustainable Development, Springer.


Research Institute

Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development (IESD)