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International guidelines on the quality of cross-border higher education

In the last decades, cross-border higher education has grown considerably through increased student mobility as well as the creation of “off-shore” campuses and distance education models. Doubtless, these developments offer students with new exciting opportunities, but they also raise issues of quality of provision and recognition of degrees. Moved by these concerns, UNESCO and OECD launched on 5 December a set of guidelines to help students to obtain trustworthy information on higher education by foreign providers in their own country or abroad. The two organisations will work among other things on an international portal listing all recognised higher education providers.

UNESCO and OECD recommend that action be taken at all levels and suggest that:

  • governments establish comprehensive systems of quality assurance and accreditation for cross-border higher education
  • higher education institutions and providers ensure that the programmes they deliver across borders and in their home country are of comparable quality
  • student bodies get involved as active partners at all levels in the monitoring and maintenance of the quality provision of cross-border higher education. 

This is the first time that UNESCO and OECD have worked together in developing such guidelines. They will also share the responsibility of the implementation through different activities, like assistance to governments in developing regulatory frameworks, the creation of training material, and the organisation of regional workshops.