The AUA runs an International Study Tour each year, and they are organised via the International Higher Education Network (IHEN). For more information on IHEN and how it promotes and strengthens connections between AUA and HE organisations overseas, visit the AUA website:

Taking part in a study tour is a unique event open to all members of the AUA and it offers a unique professional development opportunity, providing an alternative perspective and insight into global higher education, benefiting members’ professional practice, institutions, and the AUA and its members more broadly, through sharing the learning and experiences.

This report follows our Virtual Study Tour (VST) to Greece which took place during 2021/22. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the previous Study Tour, to China, had been held virtually, and, given the ongoing uncertainty around travel restrictions, the decision was taken to proceed online with the Greek Study Tour.

Transnational higher education (TNE), the movement across national boundaries of HE providers to offer academic programmes and qualifications in foreign countries, has become a big business internationally. Greece was chosen as it is the largest market for UK TNE activity in Europe. Despite Greece not featuring in the UK Government’s international education strategy, the British Council is currently working with UUK to support links between British and Greek Universities.

Our chosen methodology combined a desk-based study with primary research, which included interviews with TNE specialists, representatives from the British Council, UK higher education institutions (HEIs) and Greek HEIs and private colleges. The secondary and primary sources used enabled the VST Team to develop an understanding of, amongst other things, the current context of HE in Greece, the management of partnerships in Greece, the different types of academic structures which occur, what motivates Greek students to travel abroad or undertake a TNE programme in-country, and Greek approaches to Internationalisation at Home.

Meet the Team!

Samantha Heffernan

Teaching & Learning Services Coordinator, CCLS Paris, Queen Mary University of London

Virtual Study Tour Co-coordinator

About Samantha

My professional life so far has been predominantly in International Higher Education, which has given me a strong understanding of the challenges and requirements of International students, and also the institution and the wider sector itself. More recently, my role coordinating a suite of UK postgraduate Law programmes delivered in France has developed my understanding of, and profoundly deepened my interest in, Transnational Education (TNE). My particular professional interests are currently the student experience within the TNE context, and specifically within that, the experience of pre-arrival and transition into a TNE programme. I’m also interested in the concept of Third Space Professionals, and of TNE as Third Space education provision.

Despite nearly 14 years’ experience in a university setting, it has only been in the past few years that I have realised the personal value of creating a strong professional identity. As such, I achieved Associate Fellowship (HEA) status in November 2019 and joined the AUA in February 2021. I made an agreement with myself to participate in as many opportunities as possible when I joined the AUA, and I think the Study Tours are one of the highlights offered. As I was reading about some of the Study Tours from previous years, I felt envious that I’d missed out on those opportunities, and they seemed to align with many of my professional motivations, so it was obvious to me that I’d apply to participate in the next one! Even better when they announced it would focus on Greece, a country I’m repeatedly drawn to, not least for the sunshine, the food, and that particular shade of Aegean blue…

David Law

Academic Director: Global Partnerships, Keele University

AUA International HE Network Coordinator

About David

My membership of AUA began when I was appointed to be the Principal Editor of Perspectives in 2012, a responsibility that I then held for eight years. I am also a member of the AUA’s team of consultants.

Currently, for AUA, I am Chair of the International HE Network. Our work in this network is mainly to organise annual Study Tours. I went with an AUA group to Netherlands and Belgium in 2015 and, after the pandemic disrupted everyone’s plans, we took the Study Tour online. I led the ‘visit’ to UK TNE in China and am very pleased to be part of the second virtual study tour.

My current professional role is Academic Director: Global Partnerships at Keele University. As with many job titles, this contains a bit of ‘puff’. I do not “direct” anyone. I am attached to the VC’s Office and I report to the COO. This role grew out of a consultancy I had for Keele. I was advising on why the University’s market share of international student recruitment was going down at a time when the UK was recruiting ever more students from other countries. This originated, I concluded, through some lack of understanding, relative to other universities, of how to connect partnership building with on-campus international recruitment.

Outside Keele and AUA, I am the Deputy Chair of the BAC (British Accreditation Council) and I also work with the TNE Hub.

On the personal side: I was a scholarship boy who grew up in London with very few ambitions but a love of learning. I never wanted to find a career and was very pleased when ‘it found me’. (Although I did have a great vacation job as Mr Whippy – not what you are thinking: I sold ice cream in South East London). I was very fortunate to have a full grant for five years of university study (three at Sussex and then a two-year Masters at Glasgow). I am from a generation that had the benefit of free tuition. University of Glasgow offered me a temporary lectureship and before that ended a Keele Professor called my dissertation supervisor to try to find someone at short notice to teach Russian History. I thought I was going to stay for a year, but it ended up as twenty-five!

After Keele I went to the University of Hull to be the Academic Registrar. At Keele I had made some recruitment trips to Asian countries, but it was at Hull that I first became involved in planning an international strategy.

For slightly odd reasons the International Office at Hull was part of my responsibility span. My international work was then continued at Warwick where I was first Academic Registrar and then International Director. Edge Hill University followed. I was PVC with responsibility for external relations and “students” (mostly recruitment and partnerships).

I feel firmly rooted in HE after more than fifty years.  I tried retirement but it didn’t suit me.  Roughly half my working life has been in academic roles and half in Professional Services.  I find that really helpful in what I do now.

Members of our Study Tour team were asked to consider how AUA’s Professional Behaviours (PB) have been reflected in the work of this team. As individuals, we are committed to development and engagement. That explains why we do what we do. For the group, I see the PB ethos as influential (even if we are not word perfect on how the PBs are set out).

I particularly like the way that Working Together is set out. It is not just a collaborative effort to achieve objectives – that describes an outcome. The process needs recognition of the different contributions that are made by all members of a team. This cannot happen without mutual respect, acceptance of difference, and genuine appreciation for the value that is added by each colleague.

Alison Felce

Head of Accreditation and Consultancy, Quality Assurance Agency
About Alison

I have worked at the QAA for nearly five years. My current role is Head of Accreditation and Consultancy responsible for QAA’s international portfolio including International Quality Review, the design and delivery of international projects, programme accreditation and capacity building activity. I continue to play an active role in designing and delivering training including programmes delivered fully online to quality agencies in Thailand, Ukraine and Morocco in 2020, 2021 and 2022 and a number of online webinars on quality assurance and digital pedagogies.

I am responsible for the design and delivery of QAA’s Accreditation and Consultancy portfolio. Our international work is primarily within the Far East, South and South East Asia, Middle East, West Africa and East Europe/ West Asia. We engage with governments and regulatory bodies to conduct research, design and deliver training in quality assurance and quality frameworks, and with HEIs, to carry out Transnational Education Review, on behalf of the UKHE sector. We have a programme of International Quality Review to offer QAA Institutional Accreditation to provide recognition that an HEI can meet international quality standards. In my previous roles I have designed and delivered courses for TNE delivery, chaired international validations and accreditations and set up collaborative partnerships with overseas HEIs, including with partners in Europe. I also have experience of developing a range of collaborative partnerships and strategic approaches to work-based learning and adaptations to quality processes.

My particular areas of interest and contribution to the VST are around quality assurance, quality frameworks and quality standards for all aspects of TNE, particularly its enhancement. This includes relationships with government and regulatory bodies to develop cross-border cooperation, broaden understanding of respective approaches to QA and accreditation, seeking to minimise the “QA burden” on UK TNE providers. 

My main reasons for joining the VST were to bring my experience to the team and to gain a view of higher education in Greece that can help inform our broader international work at QAA.

Janine Melvin

Work Related Learning and International Mobility Coordinator
About Janine

Working with Humanities & Social Science (HSS) students and academic staff, the Go Abroad Team, Careers and Enterprise colleagues, graduates, employers, charities and local community groups. This work is all with the aim of helping students to increase their employability through internationalisation, work-related and work-based learning. HSS Students are studying a range of subjects including English Literature, History, Media, Culture & Communication, Sociology and International Relations and Politics.

Helen Duell

Quality Standards Manager, University of Salford

Virtual Study Tour Co-coordinator

About Helen

I have been working in academic quality assurance and enhancement for the last eleven years, and my current role is as a Quality Standards Manager at the University of Salford. My key responsibility is to provide leadership, and inform the development, of effective operational strategies to manage and embed quality and enhancement activities across taught provision, drawing on best practice from across the HE sector. In 2017 I successfully applied for Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (D1). I have also recently completed a Masters by Research in Higher Education. Over the last few years I have been increasingly involved in partnership activity, and I wanted to join the VST to develop my knowledge of TNE more generally as well as to meet other colleagues within the sector and to gain further experience in managing projects. I have also enjoyed holidays in Greece and its islands and was excited to learn more about the culture and HE landscape. My favourite Greek food has got to be souvlaki!

Outside of my professional life most of my time is either spent with my family (my husband, twin daughters and cockapoo) or running. I also do a lot of voluntary work within my local community. Following the birth of my twin daughters in 2018 I became involved with the local Start Well Centre, firstly as a Start Well Parent Champion. I was then asked to represent my local area as a Parent Representative on the Start Well Advisory Board. I have really enjoyed my time so far as a Board member, ensuring that the opinions and voices of parents in my local area are heard feeding back to them the work going on by the Centre. At the October 2020 meeting of the Start Well Advisory Board I was nominated to become the Board Chair.

Jackie Clifton

Taught Postgraduate Programmes Coordinator, Lancaster University
About Jackie

I manage two Masters programmes in the Management School at Lancaster University and have always had a keen interest in the internationalisation of Higher Education as well as transnational education, and was fortunate enough to study this as part of my AUA PgCert. Having participated in recruitment fairs in Athens several times as an additional ‘perk’ to the day job, my interest in Greek HE was sparked from these and so when the next Virtual Study Tour was based on HE in Greece, I jumped at the chance to join the team! Greece holds a special place in my heart aside from the work connections so I was keen to learn more and with like-minded AUA members! One of my motivations aligns the AUA behaviour ‘engaging with the wider context’ and I knew working with the rest of the team would help me achieve this.

Since visiting Athens a few years back, I have now had the chance to visit Thessaloniki and a few more islands and my interest seems to keep growing so I expect this to be a long-term exploration of Greece, and now I can add HE into this!

Emma Marku

Internationalisation Officer, University of Kent
About Emma

As an Internationalisation Officer at the University of Kent, I work closely with colleagues to identify, explore and develop new internationalisation opportunities.  I support the management and coordination of the curriculum and delivery of International Programmes’ Short Courses, Internationalisation at Home and Virtual Mobility/Exchange ventures and staff training.  

After having participated in the first virtual AUA Study Tour, I joined the second virtual study tour, this time focusing on Greece.  My reasons for doing so were two-fold.  First, to experience the development of the AUA virtual study tours as I believe they have a place to continue, even when travel restrictions may have been ease following the pandemic.  Second, most of my work experience has been focused on looking outside Europe, and this Study Tour, will allow me the opportunity to develop my own knowledge in a European context.

The tour allows you to network and meet colleagues from other institutions, work together to agree the objectives for your own personal development and then each being able to contribute to the final output, in this case an overview of Greek Higher Education and a series of spotlight features  where we can review and reflect on our learnings and how that may then apply to our own local contexts.  

If anyone is wondering whether participating in a future study tour is worth it, I would thoroughly recommend.  We can always learn from others to help develop ourselves and our teams, and we don’t always have to learn from the UK Higher Education sector alone, we should be raising our own intercultural awareness and understanding to enable us to be more successful in our everyday work.  

Fabrizio Trifiro

Head of Quality Benchmark Services, Ecctis
About Fabrizio

I am Head of Quality Benchmark Services at Ecctis, the agency that manages the national qualifications recognition function on behalf of the UK government. At Ecctis, I oversee services aimed at supporting international understanding and recognition of international qualifications. I have led the development and overseen the implementation of the TNE Quality Benchmark scheme, aimed at improving the international recognition ecosystem for TNE provision. 

Prior to joining Ecctis, I worked for the UK Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education for over 10 years, where I led on the programme of in-country TNE reviews, as well as international strategic engagement with counterpart agencies overseas and their networks, and the international students experience. I led the initial development of the current QE-TNE scheme working closely with UUKi and GuildHE. 

Recently I have been supporting the Office for Students in England in engaging internationally to facilitate cross-border cooperation in the oversight of English TNE. 

I have published widely on the quality assurance of TNE and the importance of cross-border cooperation to reach internationally shared solutions to the quality assurance and recognition challenges associated with TNE. On this topic I led the development of the Toolkit for Quality Assurance Agencies: Cooperation in Cross-Border Higher Education, aimed at addressing regulatory gaps and overlaps in the quality assurance of TNE. 

I currently sit on the Board of Directors of the International Network for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (INQAAHE), and am a reviewer for a number of international quality assurance bodies. I am Chief Advisor to the International Association of Education Hub, having played a key role in its establishment.