Higher Education and Research

      DGIV/EDU/HE (2002) 8
      Orig. Eng.
      Strasbourg, 31 January 2002

      Code of Good Practice in the Provision of Transnational Education

      Directorate General IV: Education, Culture and Heritage, Youth and Sport
      (Directorate of School, Out-of-School and Higher Education/Higher Education and Research Division)

Code of Good Practice
in the Provision of Transnational Education
(adopted by the Lisbon Recognition Convention Committee
at its second meeting, Rīga, 6 June 2001)


The Parties to the Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region (the Lisbon Recognition Convention),

Conscious of the rapid development of transnational education, characterised by those arrangements and partnerships between institutions and organisations in which the students are located in a different country to the one where the institution providing the education is based, and of its impact on higher education globally, but also specifically in the Europe Region;

Conscious in particular of the challenges posed by transnational education institutions and programmes operating outside of the framework of any national education system;

Being aware of the fact that transnational higher education is rapidly expanding, due mainly to the growing and seemingly limitless uses of the new information technologies in providing educational services in a world of borderless higher education;

Convinced that national systems of higher education are, and will continue to be, entrusted inter alia to preserve the cultural, social, philosophical, and religious diversity of the European Region while also being expected to promote various forms of international and global co-operation;

Attaching great importance to the academic quality of study programmes and degrees awarded by higher education institutions engaged in transnational education;

Considering that, regardless of the procedures adopted for establishing and providing educational services, higher education institutions should comply with those standards of performance in teaching and learning that are required by the present and future development of knowledge, technology and the labour market;

Acknowledging that facilitating the recognition of qualifications awarded through transnational arrangements will contribute to promoting both the mobility of students and that of study programmes between higher education institutions and systems;

Having regard to the Council of Europe/UNESCO Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region that provides an overall normative framework for dealing with academic recognition matters;

Having regard also to the Codes of good practice developed and monitored by some of the major providers, such as:

      Code of Ethical Practice in the Provision of Education to

        International Students by Australian Universities, Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee;

      Quality Assurance Code of Practice: Collaborative Provision,
      United Kingdom Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education;

      Principles of Good Practice for Educational Programs for Non-
      U.S. Nationals;

Mindful that such Codes provide working frameworks from the perspective of the sending institutions/systems of higher education, and that they have to be complemented by the perspectives of the receiving institutions/systems;

Having regard also to the Diploma Supplement developed jointly by the European Commission, the Council of Europe and UNESCO and aiming to provide supplementary information facilitating the assessment of qualifications;

Confident that ethical principles and values should closely guide the international and global cooperation between higher education systems and institutions;

Conscious of the need to find commonly agreed solutions to practical recognition problems in the European Region, and between the States of this Region, and those of other regions of the world, in an ever more global space of higher education;

Conscious of the need to permanently update the implementation mechanisms of the principles and provisions of the Lisbon Recognition Convention, thus keeping up with the pace of new developments in higher education cooperation;

Have agreed on the need for:

        A Code of Good Practice in the provision of higher education study programmes and other educational services by means of transnational arrangements;

        Recommendation on procedures and criteria for the assessment of foreign qualifications, with a view to implementing the Code of Good Practice and to facilitating the recognition of qualifications awarded following completion of transnational study programmes/courses of study;

        and for these to be considered as fully complementary and mutually supportive documents.

Section I. Terminology

      Terms defined in the Lisbon Recognition Convention are not mentioned here again and shall, for the purposes of this Code of Good Practice, have the same meaning as in the Convention. The following terms, listed in alphabetical order, shall have the following meaning:


      Third parties, such as brokers, facilitators, or recruiters, that act as intermediaries between awarding and providing institutions for establishing transnational educational arrangements. An agent is not usually involved in the provision of educational services.


    A document agreed formally by the partners that contains all collaborative arrangements made between the awarding and providing institutions.

Awarding institution

A higher education institution issuing degrees, diplomas, certificates or other qualifications.

Educational services

    Any study programme, course of study or parts of a course of study that leads, after successful completion, to a qualification. This also includes services such as preparatory/introductory modules to facilitate access to a course of study, or training modules that lead to professional development.


      The awarding and providing institutions involved in transnational arrangements.

Providing institution

      An institution or organization which is delivering all or part of a study programme.

Transnational arrangements

      An educational, legal, financial or other arrangement leading to the establishment of (a) collaborative arrangements, such as: franchising, twinning, joint degrees, whereby study programmes, or parts of a course of study, or other educational services of the awarding institution are provided by another partner institution; (b) non-collaborative arrangements, such as branch campuses, off-shore institutions, corporate or international institutions, whereby study programmes, or parts of a course of study, or other educational services are provided directly by an awarding institution.

Transnational education

      All types of higher education study programmes, or sets of courses of study, or educational services( including those of distance education) in which the learners are located in a country different from the one where the awarding institution is based. Such programmes may belong to the education system of a State different from the State in which it operates, or may operate independently of any national education system.

Section II. Principles

      1. Transnational arrangements should be so elaborated, enforced and
      monitored as to widen the access to higher education studies, fully respond to the learners’ educational demands, contribute to their cognitive, cultural, social, personal and professional development, and comply with the national legislation regarding higher education in both receiving and sending countries. In the case of collaborative arrangements there should be written and legally binding agreements or contracts setting out the rights and obligations of all partners.

      2. Academic quality and standards of transnational education programmes
      should be at least comparable to those of the awarding institution as well as to those of the receiving country. Awarding institutions as well as the providing institutions are accountable and fully responsible for quality assurance and control. Procedures and decisions concerning the quality of educational services provided by transnational arrangements should be based on specific criteria, which are transparent, systematic and open to scrutiny.

      3. The policy and the mission statement of institutions established through transnational arrangements, their management structures and educational facilities, as well as the goals, objectives and contents of specific programmes, sets of courses of study, and other educational services, should be published, and made available upon request to the authorities and beneficiaries from both the sending and receiving countries.

      4. Information given by the awarding institution, providing organization,
      or agent to prospective students and to those registered on a study programme established through transnational arrangements should be appropriate, accurate, consistent and reliable. The information should include directions to students about the appropriate channels for particular concerns, complains and appeals. Where a programme is delivered through a collaborative arrangement, the nature of that arrangement and the responsibilities of the parties should be clearly outlined. The awarding institution is responsible for and should control and monitor information made public by agents operating on its behalf, including claims about the recognition of the qualifications in the sending country, and elsewhere.

      5. Staff members of the institutions or those teaching on the programmes established through transnational arrangements should be proficient in terms of qualifications, teaching, research and other professional experience. The awarding institution should ensure that it has in place effective measures to review the proficiency of staff delivering programmes that lead to its qualifications.

      6. Transnational education arrangements should encourage the awareness and knowledge of the culture and customs of both the awarding institutions and receiving country among the students and staff.

      7. The awarding institution should be responsible for the agents it, or its partner institutions, appoint to act on its behalf. Institutions using agents should conclude written and legally binding agreements or contracts with these, clearly stipulating their roles, responsibilities, delegated powers of action as well as monitoring, arbitration and termination provisions. These agreements or contracts should further be established with a view to avoiding conflicts of interests as well as the rights of students with regard to their studies.

      8. Awarding institutions should be responsible for issuing the qualifications resulting from their transnational study programmes. They should provide clear and transparent information on the qualifications, in particular through the use of the Diploma Supplement, facilitating the assessment of the qualifications by competent recognition bodies, the higher education institutions, employers and others. This information should include the nature, duration, workload, location and language(s) of the study programme leading to the qualifications.

      9. The admission of students for a course of study, the teaching/learning activities, the examination and assessment requirements for educational services provided under transnational arrangements should be equivalent to those of the same or comparable programmes delivered by the awarding institution.

      10. The academic work load in transnational study programmes, expressed in credits, units, duration of studies or otherwise, should be that of comparable programmes in the awarding institution, any difference in this respect requiring a clear statement on its rationale and its consequences for the recognition of qualifications.

      11. Qualifications issued through transnational educational programmes, complying with the provisions of the present Code, should be assessed in accordance with the stipulations of the Lisbon Recognition Convention.

Explanatory Memorandum


STATUS OF THE DOCUMENT: Adopted by the Lisbon Recognition Convention Committee at its second meeting, Rīga, 6 June 2001.

1. Introduction
The Code which follows is designed to present the perspectives of both sending and receiving countries regarding the provision of transnational education. Its contents are to be seen as complementary to the Lisbon Recognition Convention thus providing a normative framework to be taken as reference by the national recognition bodies in their specific undertakings.

2. The objectives of the Code

In order to promote good practice in the area of transnational education - with particular reference to the quality of the provision of study programmes and the standards of qualifications issued by the Parties to the Council of Europe/UNESCO Lisbon Recognition Convention, the Code is intended:

    to meet the expectations of both the sending and the receiving countries with regard to transnational arrangements in higher education;

    to provide a source of reference on issues relating to the quality assurance and evaluation of programmes provided and qualifications issued through transnational arrangements;

    to offer “consumer protection” for students, employers and others who may be concerned with qualifications awarded through transnational arrangements;

    to facilitate the recognition of qualifications awarded through transnational arrangements in higher education.

3. Implementation of the Code

The Code includes a set of principles which should be respected by institutions or organizations involved in the provision of educational services through transnational arrangements. These principles are presented in the form of statements with a normative value. For implementing the provisions of the Code, mainly with regard to the recognition of qualifications issued through transnational arrangements, the ENIC network shall apply the procedures outlined in the Recommendation on procedures and criteria for the assessment of foreign qualifications. Therefore, the Code and the Recommendation are fully complementary and mutually supportive documents.

4. The Scope of the Code

The Code refers particularly to those transnational arrangements which lead to the provision of study programmes and to the issuing of qualifications. Consequently, reference is made to:

      a) institutions and programmes involved in concluding any type
      of transnational arrangement whereby an institution provides educational services outside its country of origin;

      b) teaching staff, regardless of their country of origin, who work in
      an institution/study programme established through a transnational arrangement;

      c) students, regardless of their country of origin, who are registered, for a course of study or parts of it leading either wholly or in part to a higher education qualification, in an institution/programme established through a transnational arrangement;

      d) agents, that are third parties, acting as brokers, facilitators or recruiters in transnational arrangements;

      e) other stakeholders, like employers and the public at large, interested in the quality of higher education qualifications.