Concern over the quality of the student experience on offer in United Kingdom higher education institutions, and in overseas institutions with collaborative arrangements with the UK, has prompted two new codes of practice.
The Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals has produced its first code of practice for both undergraduate and postgraduate international students, Recruitment and Support of International Students in UK Higher Education.
A complementary code, Code of Practice for Overseas Collaboration Provision in Higher Education, from the Higher Education Quality Council, offers advice and recommendations about quality assurance and standards for UK institutions which have established, or are contemplating partnerships with overseas universities or colleges.
The CVCP code applies to the way universities and higher education colleges attract, register and subsequently support international students. The operation of the code, which was drawn up in consultation with the HEQC, the Standing Conference of Principals, UKCOSA - the Council for International Education, and the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, will be included in the audit process carried out by the HEQC. Students will be able to appeal to the HEQC if information given out by the institution in its prospectus is incorrect.
Gareth Roberts, vice chancellor of the University of Sheffield and chairman of the CVCP, said: "International students are a major source of revenue both for universities and the UK economy . . . we must ensure that international students and their sponsors are confident of our resolve to maintain and improve the quality of the service we offer."
The HEQC code will provide an operational guide to good practice for its own auditors when they audit institutions' overseas collaborative provision. The auditors will also produce reports on individual countries, and the full range of links that that particular country has with UK institutions.
John Stoddart, vice chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University and chairman of the HEQC, said: "It is not easy to guarantee quality and standards at a distance, especially if that distance crosses national boundaries. HEQC has produced this code because it believes that there are aspects to overseas collaboration that require special quality assurance considerations."
Carole Webb, deputy director of the quality assurance group at HEQC, said: "When we visited overseas countries we found that our obsession with quality was viewed negatively - we should present this as one of our major assets."
There are 158,000 international students studying in the UK. It is not known how many students study through collaborative arrangements.