UK universities affirm 'deep commitment' to high quality transnational education

UK universities have endorsed a strong, UK-wide approach to the quality enhancement of higher education delivered internationally, known as transnational education (TNE), helping to foster good learner communities and the sharing of good practice across the sector. 

Universities UK and GuildHE – who between them represent 173 universities and higher education providers across the UK – have commissioned the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) to develop a new approach to reviewing and enhancing the quality of UK TNE. QAA will consult on a new review method later this year and will launch a programme of in-country enhancement activity in 2021. 

The commission follows an extensive consultation about the future of TNE review in the UK, with the aim of ensuring that students can continue to trust in the quality of their education. A report published today by QAA, Universities UK International (UUKi), and GuildHE found that universities want 'a system where a programme of TNE activities and resources was complemented by an in-country review schedule'. 

Over 95% of respondents agreed that any system should retain a UK-wide approach. Around 60% supported a programme of in-country activity to enhance the quality of TNE. 

Responses also indicated that there is a 'deep commitment' to the future of UK TNE among the UK's universities, and 'strong pride' in the way in which UK higher education and UK TNE is respected and valued around the world.  

Professor Alistair Fitt, Chair of the joint UUKi/GuildHE/QAA Working Group on the Quality Assurance of TNE and Vice-Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, said: 'I am delighted to see the results of the Consultation on Future Approaches to the External Quality Enhancement of TNE. It is very positive to see widespread support for a UK-wide approach. There is a commitment among universities, sector bodies and overseas partners to work together to enhance the quality of UK higher education which will ultimately benefit transnational students and their local communities'. 

Dr David Llewellyn, Chair of GuildHE and Vice Chancellor of Harper Adams University, said: 'UK higher education has a positive impact on students around the world and makes a substantial contribution to the international reputation of the UK. As we all work through the longer-term implications of the current crisis, it will be important to continue to enhance the quality of the student experience wherever UK higher education is delivered. Following extensive feedback on the consultation GuildHE is pleased, along with Universities UK, to ask QAA to develop a new method to protect and enhance the quality of UK TNE'. 

Douglas Blackstock, QAA's Chief Executive said: 'This commission by Universities UK and GuildHE is a powerful demonstration of the lasting commitment to the quality of UK TNE. It is also a strong endorsement of the work of QAA as the UK's independent quality body for higher education. Students, governments and quality agencies around the world can trust that UK TNE delivers a high-quality student experience from trusted institutions, backed up by a respected independent agency'. 



Notes to editor: 

  1. For further information contact Hayley Haggins, QAA's Policy and Public Affairs Officer, on  
  2. The report and commissioning letter are now available on QAA's website.
  3. UK TNE is important for the UK's higher education sector. In 2018-19, 142 UK universities reported they had over 660,000 TNE students in 226 countries, territories and administrations. It is important for the UK economy too: according to the latest available government statistics, TNE exports were estimated at £2.1bn (2017), up 94% since 2010. 
  4. TNE is one of the pillars of the cross-government International Education Strategy, and it is supported by the Global Wales and Connected Scotland initiatives. 
  5. The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) is the independent quality body for UK higher education. We are active across the four nations of the UK and internationally in promoting the reputation and integrity of UK higher education. We work with industry experts and the UK higher education community to ensure that students get the higher education they are entitled to expect.


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