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The government's announcement of a major review of the National Student Survey signals a worrying shift in the HE regulatory landscape, warns Jon Scott, higher education consultant and former Pro Vice-Chancellor (student experience) at the University of Leicester.
Statements from ministers this week have made it clear that higher education in England is facing significant reforms, re-setting its focus towards helping to plug the UK's skills gaps and rebuilding the economy. Fariba Soetan, Policy Lead for Research and Innovation at the National Centre for Universities and Business, argues that the proposed changes bring a welcome focus on graduate outcomes and supporting the careers of young people.
Universities UK, GuildHE and the Quality Assurance Agency have launched a new sector-wide consultation on how to ensure the effectiveness of transnational education and protect the reputation of UK HE abroad.
Four out of five universities offer overseas higher education programmes in 225 locations worldwide, delivering UK higher education to three-quarters of a million students and contributing more than £600 million to the UK economy.
The consultation aims to scope the future form of quality enhancement in TNE to ensure standards are maintained.
A document outlining its goals says it hopes to discover whether existing quality enhancement mechanisms in the different UK nations are robust and provide overseas stakeholders and institutions' own governing bodies with reassurance that the quality of provision is being continually improved, alongside the activities of the regulator for England and authorities in the devolved administrations, and whether external in-country quality enhancement activity of UK TNE should be added to existing mechanisms, and the most adequate scale of such activity.
It also intends to explore ways to develop an economically sustainable system for the external quality enhancement system of UK TNE that will underpin its continued growth,including by effectively engaging with international stakeholders.
Vivienne Stern, UUK International's Director, said: "The success of the UK's transnational education provision is testament to the high quality of the degrees delivered overseas by UK universities. For the UK to strengthen its global position as the TNE partner of choice, we must seek to continuously enhance our offer by responding to the needs of students and partners overseas."
David Llewellyn, Chair of GuildHE and Vice-Chancellor of Harper Adams University, commented: "UK higher education is delivered across the globe and has an international reputation for excellence. We must constantly reflect on how we safeguard and develop this reputation and we are therefore pleased to consult the sector on the quality enhancement arrangements for transnational education."
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