Transnational education (TNE) represents a lesser known aspects of the internationalization of higher education, whose volume and importance are growing.
If, on the one hand, TNE represents a way for universities to expand recruitment offshore; on the other hand, it also constitutes for students an alternative to student mobility to traditional destination countries.
The trickiest interrogations arising from TNE expansion are connected with the more general questions on whom offshore students are and why they decide to enroll this way. Though, data on this topic are still scarce.
This paper presents the results of a survey conducted among students enrolled in German TNE projects in several countries. The results reveal that TNE students cannot be considered a monolithic group; rather they have fairly heterogeneous motivations and attitudes. In particular, they show how, for some students, TNE enrollment seems to be a way to overcome the (perceived) limits of the higher education sector in the origin countries and that, in few cases, TNE was a way to avoid ‘involuntary student mobility’. In the majority of cases, however, it seems that TNE has been considered by the respondents as a “safer mobility”, a “trial run to mobility” and a way to acquire the resources needed to emigrate afterwards by those who wanted to go abroad but were not able to do it. Finally, some of respondents who did not desire to study abroad experienced a sort of ‘internationalization of aspirations’, leading them to desire to go abroad after graduation.