Could transparency drive better deals for TNE?

“With the number of HEIs delivering UK education overseas growing, universities face a challenge”

To hear that a competitor is worse off than yourself is not always an unpleasant experience. But what if you don’t have a clue what colleagues are paying for a similar service? This is the issue faced by the majority of universities which are paying publishers to give transnational students and staff access to academic content. 

Currently, each of the UK higher education institutions (catering for transnational education (TNE) students, needs to negotiate contracts with a myriad of publishers to give those students the same access to journals, databases and e-books as they do to their registered students in the UK. There’s little transparency and consistency around the licencing content agreements between libraries and publishers which leads to confusion and inconsistency.

TNE is growing; a UK degree is held in high esteem and is internationally recognised as a viable ticket to work. Behind the US, the UK is now the second-largest provider of international education, with a 10% share of the global market and 707,000 TNE students.

With the number of HEIs delivering UK education overseas growing, universities face a challenge. Negotiating directly with publishers for library resource access for students and support staff located abroad is a time-consuming and confusing process, often with disproportionate financial consequences with regard to the typically small numbers of students involved.

Currently, library services at UK HEIs are trying hard to comply with the publisher’s licensing agreements when offering content access to TNE students. However, there is no shared language or single standardised process, and this is where confusion creeps in, often creating uncertainty and producing unpredictable, inconsistent and sometimes unfair outcomes.

Using a simple, evidenced and shared framework, Jisc’s licensing approach creates a level playing field by mapping out the wide variety of TNE student affiliations that results from the complex contractual relationships on the one hand and the wide range of educational modes and their partnerships with educators overseas.

Jisc has established that TNE students when registered with the UK HEI are equivalent to those students registered with UK HEIs but living and studying in a UK context. It follows, therefore, that they should also be considered Authorised Users in content agreements and be given parity of access to content.

These students are part of the UK HEIs population and it would be unreasonable to consider them apart or charge them differential fees in comparison with students registered with a UK HEI in a TNE context.

“There’s little transparency and consistency around the licencing content agreements between libraries and publishers which leads to confusion and inconsistency”

Jisc has also established that some TNE produces a more complex licensing situation. This is the case when students study overseas for an award from the UK HEI but are more closely affiliated with an overseas partner educator. In these instances, Jisc seeks to agree with publishers a reasonable and transparent fee on behalf of its members, UK universities.

Wiley is a publisher who has approved Jisc’s TNE Licensing Approach as a solution, and in doing so has helped bring clarity and transparency to this area of content licensing, evidenced by government-reported TNE data, collected from universities by HESA.

The Jisc licensing approach is built on the licensed HESA data representing all UK HEIs delivering TNE. This takes trust. Universities have not entrusted their TNE data to a third party to streamline licensing agreements with publishers before. But initiatives like the new optional Jisc service Transnational education licencing create sector insight and a platform to take this work forward with publishers.

Universities making use of this centralised licensing service will no longer have to broker separate content access agreements with Wiley, or further agreements that follow it, saving both time and money. The unified and transparent approach creates a welcome level playing field for HEIs offering TNE students’ access to scholarly publications.

About the author: Greg Ince is TNE licensing manager at Jisc. Jisc members wanting more information, or to receive updates via our JiscMail group, should contact Alternatively,  sign up for the service via the Jisc Collections website