The European Higher Education Area (EHEA) aims at ensuring more comparable, compatible and coherent systems of higher education in Europe. Over the last years, provider mobility - i.e. franchising or validation of higher education programmes and the opening of branch campuses in other countries - has been proliferating at a quick pace, further facilitated by the Single Market within the European Union. Yet, this particular element of the EHEA – and of globalisation of higher education in general - has remained under-researched and scarcely regulated with regard to quality assurance requirements.
Data on the prevalence are mostly incomplete and scattered across various stakeholder organisations such as national ministries, quality assurance agencies and other umbrella organisations, as well as among various individuals within these institutions. Regarding regulation, there are some supranational treaties and legislation (certain provisions in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the Services Directive, GATS) that apply to the establishment of cross-border provision of higher education, i.e. to franchising and validation agreements and the opening of branch campuses, in the European Union. It is not clear, however, which types of national legislation are in place in the EU Member States to regulate the provision and quality of higher education through franchising and validation agreements or at branch campuses. It is also not clear how these national regulations are de facto implemented and/or what impacts these regulations have in the applied practice of the various Member States and their authorities at the national and sub-national level in charge of higher education. The European Commission’s study assignment “Delivering Education across Borders in the European Union” is designed to fill these gaps with regards to the cross-border delivery of higher education in the European Union.
The objectives of the study are therefore:
1) to provide a mapping of the cross-border provision of higher education in the Member States of the European Union and related regulatory measures by the competent authorities in the Member States
2) to provide an assessment of the impact of the cross-border delivery of higher education as well as of the regulatory measures in place regarding the quality of the education provided.
Several stakeholders - cross-border providers of higher education, Ministries of Education or similar government institutions, quality assurance and accreditation agencies and students will be involved to arrive at a better understanding of these issues. Their recommendations for future action at EU and Member State level will be taken up.