Since my post of 2nd June 2014 covering the consultation results for a proposed review method for transnational education, the announcement by HEFCE regarding future arrangements for quality assurance casts doubt on whether there will be a separate method.
The consultation report concluded that TNE (Transnational Education) review and Higher Education Review (HER) should be ‘complementary and closely aligned’. The Implementation Group’s task to ‘Establish how the relationship between institutional review and TNE review should be taken forward’ was part of the action plan for 2014-15. This proposal, not least the timeline, must now be unlikely given that the ownership of future review processes is unclear.
HEFCE remains ‘legally responsible (under the 1992 Further and Higher Education Act) for ensuring that the quality of teaching is assessed in the higher education provision we fund’. They do this by contracting the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) to review the quality of all publicly funded higher education provision in England. HEFCE’s review of quality assessment, which will determine who is awarded the contract from 2016/17, therefore concerns arrangements attracting HEFCE funding, specifically Higher Education Review, and not review processes for transnational education. Until the decision is taken on the tender it is inconceivable that a separate TNE review process will be developed as the relationship between the two cannot be established.
Pending the outcome of HEFCE’s review process, assuming the matter of a review method for TNE is revisited by the Implementation Group, one of the key questions to resolve is the extent to which collaborative provision remains part of higher education review. An insightful talk given at the Academic Registrars’ Council (ARC) Quality group by an institution that had been through HER revealed that there had been a particular focus on their collaborative partnerships. This led the institution to dispatch staff overseas to provide technical and preparatory support for the meetings with the review team.
It is hard to see how, in an environment where there are predicted cuts to government departmental budgets in the next parliament, the quality assurance system can expand to include an additional, separate method for TNE.
NB: there are other, related areas to resolve, should the contract tender be awarded to a body other than the QAA, such as the HER method’s close alignment with the UK Quality Code for Higher Education, which, although developed in consultation with the sector, is under copyright to the QAA.
 QAA (2014) Strengthening the quality assurance of UK transnational education [online]. Available at: http://www.qaa.ac.uk/en/Publications/Documents/TNE-consultation-report-May14.pdf [Accessed 16 December 2014]
 https://twitter.com/ippr/status/540420928640135168 [Accessed 16 December 2014]