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UK: QAA warning for misleading IBCs

The UK’s higher education watchdog, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), has warned UK Transnational Education (TNE) providers not to mislead students about what is offered by their “branch campuses” in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Middlesex University Dubai, one of only two institutions "readily recognisable" as branch campuses,a according to the report.

Six institutions are effectively "administrative campuses"

Of 11 institutions inspected, the QAA’s first report into UK TNE in the UAE concluded that only two are “readily recognisable” as branch campuses.

Only Heriot-Watt University and Middlesex University include the range of facilities a student would expect of a campus in the UK

Only Heriot-Watt University and Middlesex University – which account for 78% of students working for a UK qualification in the Dubai Free Zones – include the range of facilities a student would expect of a campus in the UK, the review states.

Six of the institutions inspected, including London Business School and the University of Bradford in Dubai, are effectively “administrative campuses” with between 68 and 860 (primarily part-time) students, some of which have no teaching facilities of their own or permanent staff.

Others, including Coventry University and Emirates Aviation College, are identified as “collaborative provision” and run almost entirely by local institutions.

The report advises that for students, understanding the parameters of providers is “critical” to ensuring the aims of UK TNE’s effectiveness in the UAE.

“As with any higher education, delivered at home or further afield, we’d expect providers to make available good information that makes it clear what they can expect from a higher education programme,” a QAA spokesperson told The PIE News.

“UK Universities involved in TNE should pay close attention to QAA’s findings,” warned Anthony McClaran, QAA’s CEO in a statement.

The number of students studying for a UK TNE award in the UAE has risen by 37% over the last two years to over 15,000

The review also advises that providers “do more to introduce a UK academic culture”, calling the extent to which academic inquiry is promoted “the most striking difference in academic culture” between UK and UAE branches.

The number of students studying for a UK TNE award in the UAE has risen by 37% over the last two years to over 15,000.

Warren Fox, Chief of Higher Education at Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), told The PIE News that he was “happy to see QAA’s overall assurance that UK academic standards are being met”.

“[QAA’s] observation is that increased attention to supporting student involvement, communicating with students, being transparent with student evaluations for each student, these are good practices and the team is encouraging the expansion of these,” he said. “They may be more fully developed in larger campuses.”

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