Overseas visits arranged to judge the quality of UK transnational education should be more closely aligned with domestic reviews of universities, the standards watchdog has recommended.
A report by the Quality Assurance Agency, published this week, says that domestic and TNE reviews are “insufficiently coordinated”, and the “planning and implementation of TNE reviews in a series of self-contained projects lacks clear strategic direction”.
It recommends that the analysis of transnational education activities “should be aligned far more closely with the external checks that independent peer reviewers carry out through domestic reviews of UK universities”. It adds that the outcomes of these reviews should “inform domestic reviews, and vice-versa”.
The report, Developing a Strategic and Coordinated Approach to the External Quality Assurance and Enhancement of UK Transnational Education, also recommends that branch campuses and “other large TNE provisions” are given the “necessary scrutiny” within the domestic institutional review of the awarding body in the UK, rather than being reviewed separately.
The QAA claims that the proposed changes would relieve universities of the burden of preparing for and participating in different review processes. It adds that the recommendations, as well as contributing to the Quality Assessment Review, could also be considered in the future teaching excellence framework if the latter is to include transnational education provision within its remit.
Martin Lockett, global dean of academic affairs at Ashridge and Hult International Business School and a UK and international QAA reviewer, said the proposals currently out for consultation on the future of higher education quality assessment have “little to say” about “safeguarding UK TNE”.
“The majority of our universities deliver programmes internationally, and the UK brand has a worldwide recognition for quality that is in everyone’s interest to maintain,” he said.
“There are significant export benefits in promoting UK-wide higher education, and we should not put the UK’s reputation at risk by fragmenting our approach to external quality assessment.”