In this paper, we explore a new framework for higher education official development assistance (ODA) with a focus on the transnational bridging benefits of social capital. We first explain why and how a transnational social capital approach can improve the current focus on human resources and local bridges in higher education development. We then illustrate its merits by examining, 1) the transnational bridging potential of social capital formed by foreign students currently studying in Korea; and 2) the actual transnational social capital contributions of foreign professionals who returned home after completing a Korean higher education ODA program. In doing so, we direct particular attention to the value of transnational social capital in promoting development cooperation and public diplomacy. We conclude by discussing how our approach has conceptual importance and practical implications for development cooperation in higher education.