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QAA calls for a change in approach to instil international trust in the quality of England’s higher education

Date: October 25 - 2023

QAA’s latest policy paper in The Future of Quality in England series considers how international trust in English higher education benefits the sector and what can be done to preserve and reinforce it. 

Instilling international trust in English higher education - a quality perspective argues that England’s higher education sector’s international reputation is integral to its role as one of the UK’s biggest assets. But this reputation is built on trust, which is at risk of being undermined by divergence from international commitments in quality, unhelpful political rhetoric, and a lack of collaborative global outlook. 

The briefing contends that, if steps aren’t taken to reinforce international trust, there are potential risks to international student recruitment, international research funding and mutually beneficial international partnerships. This would undermine the sector’s financial sustainability and contribution to economic growth. 

To reinforce international trust this, the paper recommends that: 

Policymakers should publicly champion the higher education sector on the world stage - policymakers, in particular those representing the Government, should be ambassadors for the strengths of the higher education sector, prioritising constructive engagement over political rhetoric. 

The Government should adopt a collaborative global outlook - Government should develop an international approach that welcomes the global higher education community and honours the commitments made in these forums. In particular, the UK Government must honour its commitments under the European Higher Education Area, and the Bologna Process, to which it is a signatory. 

Make changes to England’s external quality system to increase international trust - England’s quality system should be re-aligned to internationally recognised good practice. This would require a periodic touchpoint between all providers and an independent body (with students actively engaged) to secure up-to-date assessments of their provision, the outcomes of which are transparently published. 

Eve Alcock, QAA’s Director of Public Affairs said: ‘The higher education sector is one of the UK’s greatest assets, with a global reputation for its quality and innovation. To maintain international trust in the English - and by proxy, the UK - sector, it is essential we realign with the principles that the UK Government committed to as part of the Bologna Process. We hope this paper serves as a practical resource for policymakers who want to preserve and protect the excellent reputation that the UK has earned as a world-leading destination for students.’

Instilling international trust in English higher education - a quality perspective

Publication date: 25 Oct 2023