QAA-QQI joint conference: transnational education in the European Higher Education Area

13 December 2017

Working in partnership in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) was the theme of the joint QAA and QQI conference in Belfast, Ireland, on 7 November 2017. Recent external political events mean that the EHEA is more important than ever for UK higher education; the effects of Brexit are also being felt in the Irish higher education sector. The conference provided an opportunity to reflect on what membership of the EHEA means in practice. It also considered some truly cross-border and joint quality assurance initiatives such as the recent transnational education review of UK higher education in Ireland which was run by QAA (the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, United Kingdom) and to which QQI (Quality and Qualifications Ireland) contributed.

The conference programme covered topics such as the challenges and opportunities inherent in transnational education and the regulatory framework provided by the Bologna Process. The conference included country-specific case studies and breakout sessions from colleagues from other ENQA member agencies as well as from higher education providers from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Key messages from the conference include:

  • The benefits and opportunities of working in partnership are evident.
  • The challenges of such work and the need for proper due diligence at institutional and programme level, and the commitment to develop strong partnerships, are of utmost importance.
  • The student experience must be considered from the beginning.
  • The recognition of degrees, transfer, and progression must be prioritised. Quality assurance alone is not enough to sustain a partnership.
  • The EHEA provides important tools and a framework within which to work with other member states, but the importance of national context and the local regulatory environment and the need for an understanding of and respect for that context cannot be underestimated.