Transnational education (TNE) is education delivered in a country other than the country in which the awarding institution is based. It can be delivered through distance learning, local partnerships with another organisation or through a UK institution’s own campus in another country. TNE offers students the chance to access UK degrees closer to where they are based.
TNE is an important component of UK degree-awarding providers’ global engagement. In 2019-20, 156 UK providers had students on TNE programmes, accounting for 453,390 students studying for UK awards through transnational provision, including through open and distance learning. A report from the Department for Education (DfE) in December 2020 stated that ‘UK revenue from education-related exports and TNE activity increased to £23.3 billion in 2018, an increase of 8.9% since 2017 and 46.7% since 2010', and that 'higher education accounts for 69% of the total revenue of education related exports and TNE activity'.
Enhancing the quality of UK TNE
In March 2021, we published a new method for the enhancement of the quality of UK transnational education: The Quality Evaluation and Enhancement of UK Transnational Higher Education Provision (QE-TNE). Commissioned by Universities UK (UUK) and GuildHE in July 2020 to develop the approach to TNE enhancement, the method has been shaped following a series of consultations with stakeholders in the higher education sector in the UK and worldwide.
The approach to the quality evaluation and enhancement of UK TNE provision applies to all UK degree-awarding bodies on a voluntary basis and operates over the academic years 2021-22 to 2025-26. It supports the Government’s International Education Strategy, which seeks to grow the opportunity and support available to UK TNE as a key UK export.
QE-TNE Programme for 2021-22
The QE-TNE programme consists of a schedule of country-specific activity, normally three countries/territories per academic year, comprising a major host country and two locations with smaller or developing/emerging TNE provision. Activity will include a suite of published reports and other outputs, such as dissemination workshops and will be drawn on intelligence gained from information from research into the local regulatory environment, surveys, visits, data and student and employer views.
The three countries participating in the QE-TNE programme in the 2021-22 academic year are:
- United Arab Emirates
These countries have been selected based on a range of criteria stipulated in the new handbook including factors such as the existing strong links they have with UK universities, as well as the size or growth of their higher education systems.
COVID-19 support and guidance for TNE providers
We have also developed advice for UK TNE providers during the COVID-19 pandemic response period, available in our COVID-19 support and guidance section.
TNE reviews and reports
Regulation of UK Higher Education
Oversight of quality arrangements or statutory regulation in our four nations sits with the Office for Students in England, the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland, the Scottish Funding Council, and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales. Each funder or regulator receives advice from QAA through our independent assessments and evaluations of institutions. At the core of QAA’s work is the application of the UK Quality Code for Higher Education, which is a key reference point across all of UK higher education, protecting the public and student interest, and championing UK higher education’s world-leading reputation for quality.
QAA is the only body officially recognised across the whole of the UK to undertake independent assessments and evaluations, which are in turn used by all four bodies to inform their regulatory decision-making. QAA also works with the representative bodies of UK higher education providers and our individual member institutions.
QE-TNE was commissioned by Universities UK and GuildHE as a voluntary exercise to demonstrate the commitment of UK higher education to deliver high-quality TNE experiences for students.
These reviews are not being conducted by QAA in its role as the designated quality body in England. The Office for Students is responsible for the baseline regulation of the quality of TNE of registered providers of higher education in England. The conclusions of QE-TNE reviews do not have any regulatory status in England and a provider cannot rely on any reports or other outputs from QE-TNE for any purpose relating to registration with the Office for Students.
Core to QAA’s ways of working internationally and to our evaluation of TNE, is the building of mutual trust and understanding with our counterpart bodies in the countries where UK degree-awarding bodies are active. We do this through our membership of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) and the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE), and through bilateral relationships with partners with whom we have memoranda of understanding.