Partnership to protect quality of UK transnational HE

Britain’s Quality Assurance Agency and the British Council have announced a new partnership, aimed at “safeguarding and promoting” the reputation of UK transnational higher education. There are more students studying for UK degrees abroad than there are at home.

The number of international students taking UK qualifications overseas is now 571,000 “compared with around 488,000 international students in this country”, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the British Council said in a statement last week.

The announcement coincided with the publication on Thursday of a British Council report, The Shape of Things to Come – The evolution of transnational education: Data, definitions, opportunities and impacts analysis, which examines the development of transnational education and environmental factors conducive to its successful delivery.

“An exhaustive analysis of available global data suggests that transnational education is continuing to expand at a brisk pace; both in terms of scale – programme and student enrolment – and scope – diversity of delivery modes and location of delivery,” said the council in its release.

Twenty-five countries were studied. “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, transnational education is simply not a policy priority.”

It was in response to concerns about quality that the partnership between the British Council’s Education and Society Strategic Business Unit and the Quality Assurance Agency, or QAA, was forged to “protect and enhance the reputation of courses offered under the UK banner”.

The organisations reached agreement on ways to cooperate by sharing evidence and market intelligence on the reputation and standards of UK transnational education courses and qualifications.

They will also work together to enhance the global profile of UK higher education and identify ways of cooperating to provide services to international clients.

The British Council said that courses offered abroad were expected to expand under the government’s international education strategy, which was published in July, and with the formation of an International Education Council to champion the strategy.

Dr Jo Beall, the British Council’s director of education and society, said the research had shown that transnational education was 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”.

Anthony McClaran, chief executive of the QAA, said the two organisations already worked together in many parts of the world, and that “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 cooperating to share information and intelligence to support the UK transnational education effort and to safeguard the interests of students wherever they study for a UK higher education qualification,” said McClaran.