Britain needs a more coherent policy for overseas higher education, the British Council has said.
Such a policy should encourage universities and colleges to think more carefully about the curriculum and quality implications of moving into the global market place.
Too many institutions have been recruiting overseas students or entering into partnerships abroad without taking a long-term look at these issues, says David Elliott, the British Council's head of higher education.
The next Government should be urged to consider a white paper spelling out how institutions should build international policy considerations into course design and quality assurance systems, he said.
The British Council is planning an international conference for next year to launch the idea, and is holding a private meeting with Government department officials and representatives of institutions next month to canvass views.
"At the moment hardly anyone in Government understands or thinks about these issues.
"What is striking is that for a country which depends to a large extent on its knowledge-based activities, we have no overseas education policy. What we need is a proper framework which could take the form of a white paper to pull together a wide range of important issues in this arena," Mr Elliott said.
Britain has fallen behind many of its competitors in the overseas academic market who have placed the "internationalisation" of higher education at the heart of their policies, Mr Elliot warned.
This means few institutions have properly addressed questions such as how important it is to include foreign language training on all courses. A rapid growth in the number of partnerships with overseas institutions has not always been accompanied by extra quality monitoring arrangements.