HC Deb 07 February 2002 vol 379 cc1021-2
8. Kevin Brennan (Cardiff, West)

What recent discussions she has had with the university sector about standards in the awarding of degrees by UK universities to students studying overseas; and if she will make a statement. [31407]

The Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Estelle Morris)

My Department has regular discussions with the sector about the standard of UK degrees. For courses delivered overseas, universities should abide by the Quality Assurance Agency's code of practice on the academic management of collaborative programmes.

Kevin Brennan

Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that there may be a temptation for some universities, in an understandable desire to improve their financial position, to skimp a little on standards for overseas degrees? Does she share my particular concern that the monitoring of standards may not be good enough for some degrees being taught in foreign languages overseas? Will she agree to keep a close eye on the situation and ensure that degrees from British universities are of as high a standard when they are awarded to students overseas as they are in the UK?

Estelle Morris

I would share my hon. Friend's concern if we did not have the Quality Assurance Agency, which is responsible for monitoring standards. I agree with him that it is essential that standards are monitored, and where there is a franchise arrangement, and the place of learning is some distance from the parent organisation, we will always ensure that standards are maintained. I must say to my hon. Friend that it is right for universities in the UK to offer their courses abroad—that is the nature of the world in which we live—and I am immensely proud of how popular many UK university courses are abroad. I do take my hon. Friend's point, and the work of the QAA is vital for standards.