UK launches quality assurance for transnational education

by Ray Clancy on November 29, 2013

The British Council has launched unique research into the global growth of transnational education (TNE), and announced a new partnership with the Quality Assurance Agency to further protect and enhance the reputation of courses offered under the UK banner.

Already there are more international students taking UK qualifications abroad than in the UK at 571,000 overseas compared with around 488,000 international students in this country, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

students UK

The new partnership to safeguard and promote the reputation of UK higher education abroad has been launched

The British Council report identifies the hotspot countries offering the most favourable environments for development of TNE partnerships.

‘This research highlights once again the huge potential for growth offered by transnational education and the opportunities this presents the UK. The UK’s universities, colleges, awarding organisations and schools are already recognised globally for their excellence,’ said David Willetts, Universities Minister.

‘We are determined to help them seize these growing international opportunities, which is why we recently launched the International Education strategy. This included prioritising action to ensure quality in transnational education,’ he added.

The British Council have created a unique ‘opportunities matrix’ which assesses the factors that are most conducive to the success of such transnational initiatives as international branch campuses, franchise/twinning programmes and joint delivery of qualifications.

An exhaustive analysis of available global data suggests that TNE is continuing to expand at a brisk pace both in terms of scale and scope and 25 of the most significant countries for TNE for the study. However the report finds that a third of these have little or no quality assurance systems in place, and that for many countries in the study, TNE is simply not a policy priority.

The research also finds that the level of TNE activity is not always indicative of quality assurance systems being in place. The evidence suggests a complex push and pull relationship between TNE activity and TNE regulations, where TNE activity reaches a certain critical mass and elicits a regulatory response from the government.

While TNE regulations are not a requirement for TNE activity to take place, they have an important role to play in relation to registration, licensing, accreditation, quality assurance and recognition of qualifications and for ensuring the sustainability of TNE going forward.

In response to these concerns, a new partnership to safeguard and promote the reputation of UK higher education abroad has been agreed.

‘Transnational education is a huge opportunity for the UK’s education sector to expand and strengthen our excellent reputation overseas. However, our research shows it’s a complex and fast changing environment, and therefore it’s even more important that the UK is able to use its world-recognised quality assurance processes to set international standards,’ said Dr Jo Beall, the British Council’s director of education and society.

The British Council and the UK’s Quality Assurance Agency, the body that safeguards standards in Britain’s universities, are to work together to further protect and enhance the reputation of courses offered under the UK banner.

They have signed a memorandum of understanding that lays out ways in which they will co-operate to share evidence and market intelligence on the global reputation and standards of UK courses and qualifications offered abroad through TNE.

‘QAA and the British Council have long worked closely together in many parts of the world; rigorous quality assurance is a key support for UK higher education’s international reputation. I’m very pleased that we will in future be formally co-operating to share information and intelligence to support the UK TNE effort and to safeguard the interests of students wherever they study for a UK higher education qualification,’ said Anthony McClaran, chief executive of QAA.


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