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Guidelines on Cross-Border Higher Education

© Stephen Kallao (Flickr)

Over the last two decades, cross-border higher education through student, academic staff, programme or institutional mobility and professional mobility has grown considerably. In parallel, new cross-border providers and delivery modes have appeared, such as for-profit providers, campuses abroad and distance education. These new forms of cross-border delivery of higher education provide new opportunities and increase the possibilities for the improvement of the skills of individual students and the quality of national higher education systems, provided that they are managed appropriately in order to benefit the human, social and economic development of the receiving country.

However, national frameworks for quality assurance, accreditation and recognition of qualifications in many countries are not geared to addressing the quality of cross-border and private for- profit provision. The challenge for the current quality assurance and accreditation systems is to develop appropriate procedures and systems to cover foreign providers and programmes in addition to national providers and programmes in order to maximise the benefits and limit the potential downsides of the internationalisation of higher education. At the same time, the increase in cross-border student, academic staff, researcher and professional mobility has put the issue of recognition of academic and professional qualifications high on the inte rnational agenda.

There is a need for additional national initiatives, strengthened international co-operation and networking, and more transparent information on quality assurance, accreditation and recognition of qualifications procedures and systems. These initiatives should have a global range and put emphasis on supporting the needs of developing countries in the process of establishing robust higher education systems. Given that some countries lack comprehensive frameworks for quality assurance, accreditation and the recognition of qualifications, capacity building will need to form an important part of the overall strengthening and co-ordination of national and international initiatives. In this light, UNESCO and the OECD have worked closely together in the development of these Guidelines for quality provision in cross-border higher education (the “Joint Guidelines”).


Guidelines for Quality Provision in Cross-border Higher Education (full text PDF document)
Published in 2005, the Guidelines aim to support and encourage international cooperation and enhance the understanding of the importance of quality provision in cross-border higher education. The purposes of the Guidelines are to protect students and other stakeholders from low-quality provision and disreputable providers as well as to encourage the development of quality cross-border higher education that meets human, social, economic and cultural needs.

UNESCO-APQN Toolkit (full text PDF document)
Published in 2007, this Toolkit is designed to provide a reference tool in the development of regulatory frameworks for quality assurance in cross-border education, whether from a receiver or provider perspective. The Toolkit highlights important issues and considerations, different models of regulatory frameworks, the practical steps in setting up a framework and possible pitfalls drawn from the experience of some systems to date.