UK TNE 'essential and embedded' part of Hong Kong landscape

Date: 06/08/2018

QAA's latest international review finds UK transnational education (TNE) in Hong Kong* to be an essential and embedded part of the higher education landscape, focused on the needs of the student population and local industry and meeting rigorous UK criteria for academic standards and quality. 

We review UK transnational education looking at different locations in turn as part of our mission to safeguard standards and improve the quality of UK higher education wherever it is delivered.

This latest review looks at 14 UK TNE arrangements, including branch campus delivery, joint/double degrees, and partnership with local organisations. The latter is by far the predominant model of TNE delivery in Hong Kong.

27,390 students in Hong Kong are studying for a UK award. While the number has fallen by 10 percent over the last six years, this is mainly due to significant changes in local demographics, rather than a fall in interest in UK higher education (under 24s have fallen from 41.7% to 22.9% of total population since 1986).

The Hong Kong review was managed by QAA's international manager Fabrizio Trifiro'. He says:

'UK higher education is extremely popular in Hong Kong, and universities at home have been quick to meet the demand for top-up degrees as well as successfully exporting the more traditional three-year programmes.

'Overall, we found that UK TNE provision in Hong Kong is both relevant to the local market and employment needs and meets the expectations of the UK Quality Code.

Hong Kong is the fourth largest host for UK higher education when distance learning is excluded, and the third largest sending country/region of international students to the UK. 72% of non-local higher education is delivered by UK providers and partnerships, compared with 16% Australian and 12% US provision.

39 UK universities offer degree programmes in Hong Kong, with business and administration the most popular area of study (52.5 per cent of students studying on 150 programmes across 32 partnerships).

Significantly, QAA has been able to take inter-agency cooperation in the quality assurance of UK TNE to another level.

A strong partnership of trust with our sister agency, the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications, has allowed us to carry out joint review activity in 2018, paving the way for the recognition of HKCAAVQ accreditation decisions.

The joint review involved two UK/Hong Kong partnerships scheduled for HKCAAVQ programme accreditation or reaccreditation visits. QAA reviewers participated in HKCAAVQ accreditation, acting on behalf of both agencies.

'This not only allowed us to reduce the information burden on providers but also to benchmark process and standards in action.' says Dr Trifiro'.

'On the basis of this experience, QAA can confidently conclude that HKCAAVQ reviews and judgements can be relied upon for the purpose of UK quality assurance by QAA.

‘With the growth in scale and scope of UK TNE, co-operation with host region's quality assurance agencies is a key priority for QAA, working on behalf of UK higher education. It allows us to improve the efficiency of our processes, implementing a risk-based approach and lessening the regulatory burden on TNE providers.'

* Hong Kong is a special administrative region of the People's Republic of China with executive, legislative, and judicial powers devolved from the national government.