A clampdown on the unscrupulous recruitment of full fee-paying overseas research students will be imposed under a tough new set of quality principles governing the recruitment and tuition of all postgraduate research students.
The first of a raft of new codes of practice, against which all institutions will be publicly judged by quality inspectors, will be published by the Quality Assurance Agency later this month.
They set the minimum standards for the provision of postgraduate research.
The code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards: postgraduate re-search programmes, outlines 21 "precepts" against which institutions will be judged during inspections by 2000.
Chris Haslam, assistant director at the QAA responsible for institutional reviews, said that most universities should already be conforming to most of the "commonsense" precepts.
But he warned that there will be a new emphasis on the recruitment of overseas students. "There has been a flurry over overseas, full-cost students," he said. "They are very attractive to institutions.
"We will be looking closely at how institutions seek to assess the suitability of overseas candidates. If I was a prospective student from Malaysia, how would institutions know if I am who I say I am, or that my CV is mine, or that I am capable of the work? " Basic principles will be laid down for admissions, publicity, access for students to training and support, relevant supervisors' expertise, progress monitoring, assessment processes, complaints and appeals.
The code requires that postgraduate research programmes "will only be offered where students can be expected to meet the academic standards the institution has set, which should reflect national expectations".
Other codes on student complaints, institutions' collaboration and student welfare will follow.