All entries for Wednesday 15 May 2013

May 15, 2013

Trends in transnational education

Writing about web page

The Palazzo Pesaro Papafava. University of Warwick in Venice

A blog post by Anthony McLaren, Chief Executive of the QAA

Following a number of years of rapid expansion, transnational education (TNE) today is a larger, more diverse area of higher education than ever in terms of numbers and types of students, global locations and models of provision. This growth has been fuelled by the internationalisation strategies of higher education providers, alongside the ambitions of host countries to improve their own education, skills and ultimately, economic competitiveness.

This period of expansion, however, is now being followed by growing international focus on how to ensure the quality of TNE provision. There seems to be broad consensus that the quality assurance of TNE globally needs to be strengthened, although there is less agreement on how that will be achieved.

In the UK, transnational education has expanded rapidly. Current data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) shows more than 120 UK higher education providers are now delivering TNE in diverse forms, which bring an accompanying increase in reputational risk and attention from government, policy makers, sector agencies and the sector itself.

From a quality assurance perspective, agencies internationally and their governments are now looking at how they can pool resources and increasingly work in partnership in order to cover TNE; this is a trend which is likely to continue. As an example, QAA now has memoranda of understanding and agreement with a number of international agencies in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa and, most recently, Australia and Dubai. This is critical, as the fast-growing number of TNE students seek information and assurances, not only about the quality of the education they are receiving but also, increasingly, about issues around recognition of awards.

At QAA, we have been conducting reviews of UK TNE since 1997, to assure the quality and reputation of UK higher education internationally and to support, secure and maintain the academic standards of UK provision. Additionally, UK institutions today are subject not only to the UK’s quality assurance frameworks and required processes for transnational education, but also increasingly to the regulatory frameworks in the country of delivery, especially where provision involves partnership with local institutions.

Over time, the review methods used by QAA for transnational education have evolved. QAA’s most recent review of TNE took place in November and December 2012, when the Agency reviewed the delivery of UK higher education in China. The reports on this review are published in May 2013. The review in China was also used to test review elements for a new QAA method and accompanying handbook for TNE review – a significant step forward in the formalisation of a UK quality assurance framework for TNE which should be in place for the 2014-15 academic year.

However, we need to go further. As we look to assure the future quality of global transnational education, there are significant challenges to overcome, not least how quality assurance will be funded on a secure footing going forward. Also, who is ultimately responsible for the quality of TNE – the provider? The home country quality assurance agency? Or the agency in the host country? And how do we resolve the logistical challenges presented as TNE continues to grow at a rapid rate, to ensure we can continue to assure it robustly and protect the interests of students around the world? QAA will be working with the sector and funding bodies over the next few months to explore, consult and agree on how the quality assurance of TNE provision can be strengthened.

This blog is part of a regular series on the Knowledge Centre looking at issues in higher education ahead of the Global University Summit (May 28-30 2013), hosted by the University of Warwick in Whitehall, London. As part of the Summit, a declaration of commitment and policy recommendations will be drawn up for the G8 summit of world leaders, taking place in Northern Ireland in June.

Image: The Palazzo Pesaro Papafava. University of Warwick in Venice.


Photograph: Anthony McLaren, Chief Executive of the QAAAnthony has been Chief Executive of QAA since October 2009 and was previously Chief Executive of UCAS, based in Cheltenham.

A graduate in English and American Literature from the University of Kent, his career has included senior academic administration and management posts at the Universities of Warwick and Hull.

Anthony has held numerous governance positions across the school and university sectors, and was a member of the Council of the University of Gloucestershire (and its Chair from 2007-09) and a governor of the National Star College. He was appointed chair of the new All Saints' Academy in Cheltenham in 2011. From 2009-2011 he chaired the Employment and Skills Advisory Committee of Gloucestershire First (now GFirst) and served on its board. He is a freeman of the Company of Educators, a member and trustee of the Honourable Company of Gloucestershire, and a trustee of the Summerfield Trust.

Capability, capacity and expertise

Writing about web page

Photograph: Ken Sloan, University of Warwick, with Roberta Warman

A Q and A with Ken Sloan, Registrar and Chief Operating Officer, University of Warwick

What do you think is the most underhyped, yet significant change UK universities will undergo in the next decade?

I think that the biggest thing is the attitude of the incoming student market to modes of study. Everyone has automatically jumped onto e-learning-based ideas: MOOCs and all these various channels but what they are talking about is another 'channel' in the sense that historically higher education has had multiple channels of delivery, from very intense face-to-face through to totally distant. I think that the biggest change is that the majority of the student population will be aware of the full range of channels and, therefore, will feel like they can make choices between those channels.

So, where as previously different channels were thought of with certain aspects of the student community in mind, now people will be tipping out of the school systems and undergraduate programmes into graduate programmes expecting to be able to access higher education in whatever form they think is suitable for them at the time.

How do you see the role of universities changing in support of economic growth?

It depends which way around we express the equation; are universities responding to growth or are universities partnering and creating in the establishment of growth? If universities are driving growth then their relationship with the sectors through which that growth will be channelled need to be clear, need to be resilient, need to be flexible. So one of the questions is whether universities have geared themselves up to take on that type of thought leadership role.

As an aside, one should ask the question, when companies and corporates, and other organisations are investing in growth for their future and investing currently in economic growth, what proportion of investment are they channelling through universities? That might give you an indication as to the extent to which they recognise universities as part of that process. If we are looking at universities as being in responsive mode then the key question is are we listening and, if we are listening, then to who. How are we actually building that intelligence base so that we can find the match between what companies and other organisations are trying to do and what universities can provide?

If we are partnering then universities have to ask themselves, like any other organisation, are they set up to form partnerships; have they got the right capabilities, capacity and expertise internally to manage those external relationships effectively?

The University of Warwick is hosting the 2013 Global University Summit in May, which will issue a formal declaration on higher education to the G8. If you could get one commitment from the summit of world leaders that would benefit higher education, what would that be?

Free unfettered mobility of student and staff.

This blog is part of a regular series on the Knowledge Centre looking at issues in higher education ahead of the Global University Summit (May 28-30 2013), hosted by the University of Warwick in Whitehall, London. As part of the Summit, a declaration of commitment and policy recommendations will be drawn up for the G8 summit of world leaders, taking place in Northern Ireland in June.

Image: Ken Sloan and Roberta Warman. University of Warwick Winter Graduation 2013.

Photograph: Ken Sloan, University of WarwickKen Sloan joined the University as Registrar and Chief Operating Officer in February 2012 and is responsible for the administration of the University under the direction of the Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Nigel Thrift. He also serves as Clerk to the Senate, Secretary to all University committees and Company Secretary to the University’s companies and commercial businesses.

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