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Overseas study of UK qualifications up 5%

The number of students studying UK qualifications abroad rose by 4.9% last year, new statistics show. The findings come soon after the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) and the UK Higher Education International Unit have launched a consultation into strengthening the quality of transnational education (TNE).

Almost half of all transnational students were based in Asia, with almost a fifth from Malaysia and Singapore.

43.7% of students studying overseas were registered to Oxford Brookes, with the majority studying for the ACCA BSc in Applied Accounting

“There are few sectors of the UK economy with the capacity to grow and generate export earnings as much as education”

Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show that 598,925 students were studying a UK course wholly abroad in 2012-13, compared with 571,010 the previous year.

Almost half were based in Asia, with almost a fifth from Malaysia and Singapore.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: “There are few sectors of the UK economy with the capacity to grow and generate export earnings as much as education.”

“Our universities are recognised globally for their excellence,” he added. “To take advantage of this powerful reputation it is important the UK is able to maintain and demonstrate the quality of its education exports. That is why I asked the higher education sector to look at quality assurance of transnational education.”

Interestingly, 43.7% of all students studying overseas were registered to Oxford Brookes University, with the majority studying for the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)’s BSc in Applied Accounting. Students are automatically registered to the university when enrolling on the course.

Last year QAA, using this course as a case study, found that some students are struggling to have such qualifications recognised in some countries including China, Australia and South Africa.

QAA’s report identified recognition of this course as “one of the key issues” facing the university, saying: “Although progress has been made in several countries such as Pakistan and Kenya, it is proving more difficult elsewhere.”

According to HESA’s statistics, the majority of students – 59% – studying wholly abroad were registered with overseas partner organisations, while 21% were registered at a UK Higher Education Institution (HEI) and studying by distance learning. Just 3% were at an overseas campus of a UK HEI.

Some 83% of transnational students were studying at undergraduate level.

A spokesperson for NARIC, the National Agency responsible for providing information, advice and expert opinion on qualifications worldwide, told The PIE News: “The varied approach to TNE across many of the UK’s target markets emphasises the fact that UK higher education institutions need to be aware of recognition issues faced by international alumni. UK NARIC is likewise focused upon ensuring UK degrees are as widely recognised as possible.”

“TNE is an increasingly attractive proposition for UK higher education to deliver overseas, yet carries with it risks”

“TNE is an increasingly attractive proposition for UK higher education to deliver overseas, yet carries with it risks,” Joanna Newman, Director of the UK HE International Unit, said. “One of the ways of mitigating these risks is developing a clear way forward on quality assurance of UK higher education delivered overseas.

“We very much welcome the sector’s views on enhancing quality assurance so that it is both rigorous and appropriate.”

Despite overall growth, higher degree enrolments on science courses decreased, though doctoral enrolments increased.

Most notably, the number of students on higher degree computer science and engineering and technology courses dropped by 19% and 7% respectively, despite both areas seeing an increase in doctoral enrolments.

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