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WMU first to offer sub-Saharan TNEP partnership

May 18, 2006

KALAMAZOO--Kenya's five public universities can only accommodate 25 percent of the students who qualify for admission, so even though more than 300,000 Kenyans have passed their initial college entrance exams, 225,000 of them have a poor chance of ever earning degrees.

To improve those odds, Western Michigan University has launched a transnational education program, or TNEP, in Kenya at Egerton University in Nakuru. The initiative in Kenya increases the number of higher education opportunities available in that country and marks the first time a U.S. university has served as host for a sub-Saharan partnership of this kind.

Egerton was founded as a farmer training college in 1939 and is Kenya's oldest higher education institution. Today, 50 percent of its students enroll in education programs, but most of the remaining half enroll in agriculture, commerce and engineering programs.

Cathleen Fuller, TNEP director in WMU's Haenicke Institute for Global Education, says TNEPs are a convenient, affordable way for students in countries that lack higher education opportunities to earn degrees from internationally recognized overseas institutions such as WMU.

Fuller reports that 25 Kenyans are participating in the first WMU-Egerton cohort. All of the cohort's members plan to study either engineering or business, and a majority expect to ultimately major in WMU's aeronautical engineering program. In January, participants were able to begin taking WMU-modeled engineering and computer science courses at Egerton, and starting this fall, they also will be able to take WMU-modeled business courses.

During the initial part of their college study, the students will take about 60 credit hours of courses that are "twins" of courses offered at WMU. Then they will travel to Kalamazoo, where they will seamlessly transfer to WMU and complete the final two years of their degree programs. This "2+2" feature will allow TNEP participants to save about 40 percent of the cost of completing their entire degree onshore in Kalamazoo.

"Kenyan students will now have educational opportunities that simply were not available to them before," Fuller says. "They'll be able to complete a significant portion of their university study in their home country and receive a degree from an internationally recognized institution at a reduced cost."

Fuller notes that WMU has been operating TNEPs for nearly 20 years, but until recently, generically referred to them as "twinning" programs. The University established its first TNEP partnership with Sunway College in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1987.

Since then, WMU's TNEP portfolio has grown to also include partnerships with three schools in India, Hindustan College in Chennai, the Rajagiri Vidyapeetham (Seat of Knowledge) in Kochi, and Christ College in Bangalore; Saint Too College in Hong Kong; NUR University in Santa Cruz, Bolivia; and the Center for American Education in Singapore, where a full master of business administration degree program is offered on site.

The new TNEP at Egerton reflects Kenya's existing strong ties to WMU and the United States. That nation is one of the top 10 countries from which the University attracts its 1,250 international students, and America is the No. 1 destination overall for Kenyans choosing to study overseas.

Fuller says that with Kenya experiencing a strong economic growth rate of 5.3 percent in 2005 and having a relatively stable government, WMU's TNEP will prepare Kenyan students to be major contributors to their nation's continued prosperity and development.

"Market economies are expanding in several regions of the world, and many international students are returning home after completing their degree programs overseas," Fuller says. "Regardless of whether or not students study at a foreign institution for two or four years, they're gaining valuable experience and knowledge that they can take back to their home countries."

She points to the Bangalore TNEP as a prime example, noting that after receiving their WMU diplomas, many of its students secure good-paying jobs back home, helping to develop the economic market and infrastructure that is enabling India to be a key player on the world stage.

WMU benefits from TNEP partnerships as well, Fuller adds. These initiatives bring large numbers of international students to the campus, which diversifies the University community and promotes the exchange of intercultural knowledge.

Fuller says fostering diversity and cultural exchanges is especially important today because international student numbers continue to decline across America. Among the reasons she cites are expansion of higher education capacities by home countries, implementation of national strategies to recruit international students by competing host countries, perceptions by some international students that U.S. visas are too difficult to get and U.S. schools are too expensive, and alternative access to U.S. degrees, such as through distance education and joint-degree programs.

"As the international educational markets develop, adapt and grow, we'll begin seeing a myriad of delivery systems described as TNEPs," Fuller predicts. "WMU has been a U.S. leader in providing these international partnerships, and we intend to remain on the frontline."

More information about TNEP offerings, contact Cathleen Fuller at cathleen.fuller@wmich.edu or (269) 387-3958 or visit the Web site at international.wmich.edu.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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