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Jason E. Lane, Kevin Kinser and Li Zhang

Educational accountability, much like the colleges and universities that they seek to hold accountable, is premised on the sovereignty of nations and immobility of institutions. Yet higher education institutions are increasingly multinational in scope – crossing borders to engage in education and research and serving programs in different countries. These developments pose new challenges to accountability and quality assurance efforts as they raise issues of sovereignty, legal jurisdiction and geo-political dynamics that cannot necessarily be addressed by using traditional accountability frameworks or research frames. Moreover, as nations work to understand how to regulate foreign educational providers effectively, the varying educational and accountability expectations between the importing and exporting nations can create significant tensions as institutions seek to appease both. This chapter applies a principal–agent framework to the case of international branch campuses to examine how and when competing national accountability expectations can impact institutional operations. An implication is that institutions may want to consider more closely how foreign accountability expectations align with their interests or the accountability expectations of the home country before engaging in certain cross-border activities.