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safeguarding standards and improving the quality of UK higher education

Review of Transnational Education

Transnational education (TNE) - higher education delivered overseas - is an integral and expanding part of UK higher education provision. Over 80 per cent of all UK degree-awarding bodies are engaged in some form in TNE, either through distance learning, partnerships, or branch campus arrangements. This provision is delivered in over 200 counties worldwide.

QAA reviews UK TNE as part of its mission to safeguard standards and improve the quality of UK higher education wherever it is delivered. In addition to looking at TNE through institutional reviews in the UK, we have developed a complementary TNE review process that includes visits to overseas delivery sites.

TNE reviews have traditionally been carried out on a country-by-country basis, to ensure the most efficient use of resources given the geographical spread and growing scale of UK TNE. Each year, a country with significant UK provision is selected. A country-based approach also allows QAA to gain an in-depth understanding of the specific features and challenges involved in operating in particular countries, and to establish stronger links with the host country quality assurance bodies. This understanding and intelligence can then be passed on to the UK higher education sector. We regularly liaise with host country agencies to facilitate information sharing, to cooperate in quality assurance activities to avoid unnecessary duplication, and to lessen the burden on UK higher education providers.

TNE Review

In 2016 the UK's higher education funding bodies - the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Department for the Economy Northern Ireland, the Scottish Funding Council, and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales - contracted QAA to continue to undertake in-country reviews of UK TNE. In consultation with the funding bodies and the sector, we have developed a revised TNE Review method.

TNE Review is part of the new operating model for quality assessment in England and Northern Ireland, and forms part of the Quality Assessment Framework for Wales and the Enhancement-led Institutional Review process in Scotland (links open in new windows). It will help ensure that UK TNE students can continue to be confident that they are accessing an education that meets the same expectations for quality and standards as those studying in the UK.

TNE Review starts with a survey of UK TNE activities in the country selected for review. A representative sample of TNE provision will then be selected for review on the basis of a number of considerations, including intelligence from host countries' authorities, risk areas, and the identification of good practice for the benefit of the whole sector. Selected providers will be asked to submit information to inform the review visit, which will take place either in the UK or at the in-country delivery site. Case study visits will also take place. An overview country report covering the main findings of the TNE Review exercise will be published alongside individual review and case study reports.

Recent QAA reviews and reports

Country reports

As part of our contractual arrangement with the four national funding bodies, QAA regularly produces country reports to offer providers an insight into the higher education and regulatory landscape of key countries for UK TNE. These reports offer high level information and intelligence about regulations, challenges and opportunities, signposting to sources of further information. Country reports might also be associated with TNE review activity, in which case they will also include the main lessons learned from reviewing TNE in the subject country, for the benefit of the whole sector.