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The definition used by QAA for the purposes of the Quality Evaluation and Enhancement of UK Transnational Higher Education (TNE) is:

'The delivery of higher education level awards by recognised UK degree-awarding bodies in a country, or to students, other than where the awarding provider is based.'

This definition is based on the widely accepted broad definition of TNE that was agreed by UNESCO and the Council of Europe in 2001, narrowing it to the awards of UK degree-awarding bodies:

'All types of higher education study programmes, or sets of courses of study, or educational services (including those of distance education) in which the learners are located in a country different from the one where the awarding institution is based. Such programmes may belong to the education system of a State different from the State in which it operates, or may operate independently of any national education system.'

TNE offers students worldwide the chance to access UK degrees closer to where they live and it 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.


TNE is important for UK higher education providers and its strategic value is recognised by the UK's Department for International Trade and by the departments responsible for higher education in each of the UK’s home nations.

A report from the Department for Education 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'. 


TNE contributes to the UK’s soft power and influence, the importance of which was highlighted in the Government’s International Education Strategy and reciprocally supports the same agendas in host countries. TNE helps nations and individuals around the world to achieve their ambitions and aspirations, creating strong mutual benefits.


Quality Evaluation and Enhancement of UK TNE

The method for the quality evaluation and enhancement of UK transnational education was commissioned by Universities UK (UUK) and GuildHE. It has been shaped through consultation with stakeholders in the higher education sector in the UK and worldwide.

The Quality Evaluation and Enhancement of UK Transnational Higher Education Provision (QE-TNE) method emphasises a UK-wide approach to the quality evaluation and enhancement of TNE and has been developed in line with principles outlined in the commissioning letter from UUK and GuildHE. The vision for QE-TNE is for UK transnational higher education to be recognised worldwide as providing education of the highest quality, an outstanding student experience, added value and enhanced outcomes. 

The QE-TNE Scheme applies to all UK degree-awarding bodies on a voluntary basis and operates over the academic years 2021-22 to 2025-26. One major host country/territory will normally be selected each year together with two others such as those that are emerging or developing, or those with smaller TNE numbers. 


TNE reviews and reports

QAA has conducted reviews of transnational education for a number of years, across a range of countries, publishing reports of its findings.


Malaysia (2019) Hong Kong (SAR) (2018) Republic of Ireland (2017) Greece and Cyprus (2015) Caribbean (2014) United Arab Emirates (2014) People's Republic of China (2012) Singapore (2011) Malaysia (2010) India (2009)

Regulation of UK Higher Education

Higher education policy and regulation is devolved to the four nations of the UK. 

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.