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safeguarding standards and improving the quality of UK higher education

Caribbean TNE Review offers insight into distance learning overseas

Date 23/03/2015

​Read the report: Review of UK Transnational Education in the Caribbean

 A review of UK transnational education (TNE) delivered by UK universities offering programmes in the Caribbean, has provided an insight into distance learning delivery overseas, says a new report by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA).

 Many UK universities offering higher education programmes overseas do so by opening a branch campus and employing local staff. The challenges they face are providing a learning environment and facilities which match those experienced by their students based in the UK.

In contrast, QAA's review of UK TNE in the Caribbean found that most UK transnational higher education is offered through supported distance learning because of the flexibility it offers to part-time working professionals.

UK universities delivering programmes in Trinidad and Tobago do so through distance learning which takes one of two forms: students may learn from home, supported remotely by the UK provider; or local in-country staff, working in partnership with the UK university, may provide additional academic assistance. Both models offer advantages for different types of learners.

The review identified the following features as essential in the development of a successful, large-scale distance learning model:

  • a high-level commitment to distance learning within the UK university's senior team
  • an integration of distance learning into the provider's strategic planning
  • the development of well-resourced partnerships with support for the professional development of locally-employed staff, where in-country support for distance learning is provided
  • a focus on developing the type of programme which can be offered successfully at a distance
  • the use of clear, comprehensive documentation to outline the responsibilities of each partner
  • the sharing of external examiner reports with all students, wherever they are studying
  • an improvement in the collection and use of graduate destination statistics to help demonstrate the impact of higher education to prospective students.

Staying abreast of changes and trends in the regulation and funding of UK TNE in Trinidad and Tobago is also important.

Several of the providers reviewed were found to be handling these points well, with some highlighted as positive features. However, there were recommendations for improvements. QAA will follow up providers' responses to recommendations through its domestic institutional review process.

Anthony McClaran, QAA's Chief Executive, said: 'QAA's aim, when reviewing transnational education delivered by UK universities, is to ensure that a student studying for a programme delivered by a UK university abroad experiences higher education of the same standard as that delivered by the same university within the UK. We were very encouraged by our reviewers' findings in the Caribbean.

'UK Universities involved in transnational education in the Caribbean will find QAA's conclusions in this report helpful. The success of the measures taken by the government of Trinidad and Tobago to increase the number of students entering higher education means that it will become increasingly more important for foreign institutions to demonstrate local demand for, and relevance of, their programmes. This report could help UK universities remain competitive in this changing environment.'

 Ends

 Notes to editors

1.    QAA worked closely with the Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT) throughout the review process. ACTT provided country briefing to the review team and observed several of the review visits to a sample of local providers working in partnership with the UK institutions operating in Trinidad.

2.    The following institutions were visited as part of the review:

  • Anglia Ruskin University
    School of Accounting and Management Ltd, Trinidad
  • University of Greenwich
    School of Business and Computer Science Ltd, Trinidad 
  • University of Hertfordshire
    CTS College of Business and Computer Science, Trinidad 
  • University of Leicester
    School of Business and Computer Science Ltd, Trinidad
  • London Metropolitan University
    School of Accounting and Management Ltd, Trinidad 
  • University of Sunderland
    School of Business and Computer Science Ltd, Trinidad

3.    QAA also looked at the different approaches taken by four UK institutions to developing and managing large-scale TNE, delivered by distance learning, and produced four case studies:

  • Managing large-scale independent and locally supported distance learning University of London International Programmes
  • Delivering TNE in partnership with a professional body
    Oxford Brookes University
  • Delivering TNE in partnership with a specialist online learning provider
    University of Liverpool 
  • Refining the TNE model progressively in the light of experience
    Heriot-Watt University