Trusting the Foreigners: External quality assurance and minding the quality assurance gap in the provision of transnational education

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Author(s)Tara Ryan
The 2008 study produced by the Academic Cooperation Association (ACA) on behalf of the European Commission (EC) on Transnational education in the European context – provision, approaches and policies documents the wide diversity of international and collaborative provision and concludes that perhaps the least recognised term used to collectively describe this concept is ‘transnational’ higher education (TNHE). The same report notes that ensuring quality is a critical success factor in TNHE, but that “quality assurance is a difficult concept to capture, and especially so in an international context”. It goes on to identify the challenges in the transnational provision of programmes whose primary quality assurance emanates in one jurisdiction, but must meet additional or alternative quality assurance requirements in another. The report calls the challenges in this process the “quality assurance gap”, and it is into this gap that this paper seeks to step (pp.9-10). The paper draws on six transnational quality assurance evaluations conducted by an Irish awarding body and external quality assurance agency during 2010/11 (the Higher Education and Training Awards Council). It suggests lessons learnt from those exercises and poses questions for the future external quality assurance of transnational provision. Whilst focussing on external quality assurance, its observations are relevant to higher education institutions and providers of higher education across borders.
CategoriesQuality of HE » 2011 6th EQAF