UK universities and higher education colleges are not on top of everything that happens in their name overseas, researchers have warned.
They need to be better informed and think more strategically about their position in the expanding market for courses delivered overseas, according to Richard Garrett, deputy director of the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education.
Dr Garrett said he was concerned that without more information and an increased awareness across institutions about overseas ventures, UK higher education could fail to take advantage of growing demand for courses delivered to international students in their home country.
A report from the British Council forecasts that the number of students wanting places on UK courses overseas could rise to 800,000 by 2020, rivalling demand for courses in the UK. But Dr Garrett said accurate information about this market was hard to come by.
He said: "We have very little understanding of where UK institutions are operating, what they are offering, what impact they have on the ground, what the students think about it, or quite how all this impacts on the Education UK brand. Yet if the British Council's predictions are right, this market will become more significant over the next 15 years."
There was a danger that as institutions moved up a gear to take advantage of this growth in demand, more of them would fall foul of quality assurance problems, which could in turn damage the UK's market position, he said.
Neil Kemp, promotion director for the British Council, agreed that institutions needed to think more strategically. "If institutions can work to integrate their activities, they will have a stronger impact on the market," he said.