Academic Quality Procedures Handbook

10. Collaborative Provision

10.2 Procedures for the Approval, Monitoring and Review of Collaborative Provision

Introduction

1. The University is accountable for the quality and standards of all programmes and awards offered or made in its name which are provided under collaborative arrangements. The arrangements for assuring the standards of awards and qualifications and the quality of what is offered to students through collaborative provision must be as rigorous, secure and open to scrutiny as those for programmes provided wholly within the responsibility of the University.

Approval Stage 1: Outline proposal

2. Any proposal to enter into collaborative arrangements with another organisation will initially be discussed by the Operations Committee (OPS).

3. OPS require an outline proposal to be provided at the outset normally by the University School sponsoring the proposal. 

4. The outline proposal should provide sufficient information for Operations Committee to discharge appropriate due diligence in assessing the overall standing of the partner organisation as well as the nature of the particular collaborative provision proposed and any matters of principle it might raise. It should explain the aims and objectives of the proposed collaboration and its compatibility with the University's strategic plans. It should also explain how the collaboration will fit into relevant School development plans, and indicate how the arrangements will be supported at School level within the University. In regard to the partner, the proposal should outline:

  • the ownership and financial stability of the prospective partner
  • the legal status of the prospective partner in its own country and its capacity to enter into a legally binding agreement (to include any requirements for the partner to be accredited or recognised by the appropriate authorities in the jurisdiction where the provision will be delivered and/or for individual programmes to have the approval of the relevant national authority)
  • the reputation and/or academic standing of the organisation (drawing on a range of performance indicators to assess this, which would include public documents such as, within the UK, reports of QAA and its predecessor bodies on collaborative arrangements with UK institutions, as well as the experience of other providers who have collaborated with the organisation)
  • the higher education structures in the country where the delivery, support or partner organisation is operating (including the political, ethical and cultural context)
  • the range of business and ethical interests and links that partners may have, either within the UK or overseas, and whether these could present either potential risks to the proposed arrangement or to the reputation of those involved.
  • its governance structures (in particular ensuring that academic and business decision-making are separate)
  • the ability of the prospective partner to provide the human and material resources to operate the arrangement successfully.

In the event of the University or partner terminating or withdrawing from an agreement early, the University, as awarding institution, will have an obligation to ensure that students can complete their programme(s) of study. The School should outline contingency plans (including associated costs) for the orderly discontinuation of the programme(s) in a manner which protects the interests of students registered for, or accepted for admission to, the programme(s).

5. In the case of a major strategic proposal, OPS may set up a project group to undertake further work on the proposal, arrange for the financial viability of the proposal to be assessed, and/or refer the proposal to Senate for approval in principle, before subsequent steps in the procedures outlined in this document are taken. Exceptionally, a proposal may trigger the OPS approval procedures for major projects and be handled accordingly. OPS may recommend that an initial consultationfee be charged to the prospective partner organisation before the University embarks on a detailed consideration of a proposal.

6. If OPS or Senate is not supportive, the sponsoring University School and the prospective partner will be informed at this stage that the proposal will not be taken further.

7. If OPS is of the view that the collaboration should be pursued, and Senate, if requested, has given in-principle approval, the outline proposal, together with any relevant additional information now amassed, will be referred to LTC with a recommendation that the Committee proceed to a more detailed consideration of the issues involved.

Approval Stage 2: Detailed scrutiny  

8. At this point, the Teaching Partnerships Sub-Committee (TPSC) will, on behalf of LTC, scrutinise both the proposed partnership and the proposed programme(s)/credit(s) (the latter on behalf of Curriculum Sub-Committee).

9. TPSC will first review the outline proposal and any additional information provided in order to assure itself that any matters of principle or issues that might give cause for concern can be handled satisfactorily, and may if necessary consult further with OPS.

10. TPSC will then establish a Partnership Approval Panel to consider the proposal in more detail and may in the light of its discussions and any further consultations give guidance to the Panel on handling particular aspects of the proposal.

11. The Partnership Approval Panel will be constituted as follows:

  • Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Teaching) (Chair)
  • Relevant Deans or their nominees
  • A member of LTC or Senate
  • A member of CSC or alternatively a second member of LTC or Senate
  • Head of Programme Quality and Teaching Partnerships
  • One member of Loughborough Students’ Union executive. 

12. Initially the Partnership Approval Panel will require from the organisation seeking approval a detailed submission covering institutional and programme-specific issues as listed below. 

13. Institutional  information required:

  • Information in regard to any previous validation/partnership procedures
  • The date from which the partnership will operate
  • Title, level and duration of programmes to be approvedEntry requirements and standards
  • Arrangements for credit accumulation and transfer
  • Assessment and examination procedures and standards, including sight of any external assessors' reports
  • Regulatory framework for HE programmes in the institution
  • Quality assurance and enhancement mechanisms in the organisation
  • External reports on the quality of provision in the organisation
  • Financial viability of the organisation, including audited accounts for the previous five years
  • Funding arrangements and tuition fees for the programmes to be approved
  • Management and governance structures
  • Strategic plan
  • Learning and teaching strategy
  • Human resources strategy and staff development arrangements
  • Health and safety arrangements
  • Data protection practice
  • Student complaints procedures
  • Equal opportunities policies
  • In the case of international partnerships, any specific legal, regulatory, professional or cultural issues relating to HE in the country concerned

14. Information required for each programme proposed for approval:

  • Programme specification (normally using Loughborough University's template), including programme aims, intended learning outcomes, structure and requirements
  • Full module specifications, including in each case aims, intended learning outcomes, contents, modular weighting, level, methods of teaching and learning, methods of feedback, methods of assessment
  • A reading list for each module
  • Staffing for the programme, including balance between full-time and part-time staff
  • Curricula vitae of teaching staff
  • A statement nominating one specific member of staff as Programme Director
  • Student intake and sources of recruitment
  • Competition from other organisations
  • Employment prospects of graduates
  • Availability of space and equipment including lecture room and laboratory facilities, computing support, use of e-learning
  • Library facilities
  • Availability of administrative, technical and other support staff
  • Views of external examiners, assessors, professional/industrial bodies etc.

15. Having received and considered the detailed submission, the Panel will visit the proposed partner organisation. The visit will involve meetings with staff and students (if appropriate) in order to satisfy the panel that the organisation is an able and appropriate partner. The Chair of the Partnership Approval Panel will arrange for appropriate subject specialists, either from within or where necessary from outside the University, to advise the Panel and participate as appropriate in its deliberations.

16. The Partnership approval panel will seek to:

  • ascertain the level of familiarity of the prospective partner with the standards and ethos of UK higher education
  • satisfy itself about the ability of the prospective partner to manage processes for quality assurance in higher education and to meet the relevant Expectations of the Quality Code
  • satisfy itself as to the adequacy of operational structures (including record- keeping) in place to support learning delivery and/or assessment in a valid, reliable and robust manner.
  • determine the academic/professional capacity of the prospective partner to deliver any learning and teaching or support at the appropriate levels and to provide an appropriate and safe working environment for students
  • determine cultural assumptions about higher education learning methods and any action required.

17. Following the visit, the Partnership Approval Panel will report and make recommendations to LTC on both the proposed partnership and the proposed programme(s)/credits.

18. LTC, having considered the advice of the Partnership Approval Panel, will determine whether or not to recommend to Senate that approval proceed. Senate will in turn receive a report from LTC and, if agreed, give final approval to the partnership.

19. The University will charge a fee to the partner organisation for the work of the Partnership Approval Panel in the light of the actual costs of the exercise. LTC will advise Operations Committee in respect to the fee to be charged. It will also report on any other resource implications for the University.

Written agreement

20. Once a proposal for collaborative provision has been approved, a formal agreement will be drawn up, to be signed by the Vice-Chancellor and the Head of the partner organisation (or their nominees).

21.The agreement will include a clear and explicit statement of the respective responsibilities of the University and the partner organisation, including their responsibilities for all matters listed under paragraph 25 below, and with the expectations of indicator 7 of Chapter B10 of the UK Quality Code.

22. The University will remain responsible for the appointment, briefing and functions of external examiners, but may delegate the activities for the nomination, induction and briefing to a partner if it is satisfied that it has the capability to undertake that task.

23. The agreement will include provision for termination and arbitration and cover the residual obligations to students on termination of the agreement.

24. The financial arrangements will be contained in the agreement or in an accompanying Financial Memorandum. 

25. Copies of the agreement will be lodged with the Secretary to Teaching Partnerships Sub-Committee.

Responsibility of the School

26. Once Senate approves a recommendation to proceed, it will assign responsibility for each approved programme to a cognate academic School to support the programme approval arrangements on an ongoing basis.

27. The School will be expected to nominate a member of academic staff to act as link-person with the programme team in the partner organisation.

28. The School is expected, primarily through the nominated link-person, to assume responsibility for providing, at minimum, the following support:

  • The appointment of external examiner(s) for the programme: normally extending the remit of one or more of the department's existing externals
  • Attendance at programme boards in the partner organisation  
  • Advising staff in the partner organisation about academic standards including the marking of student work: this might entail sampling the marking of a range of work at different levels of the programme
  • Invitations to the staff in the partner organisation to observe practice in the department by attending meetings/events
  • Helping to identify staff development needs
  • Offering advice on programme design and content, and on methods of teaching, learning and assessment.  The link person should take care not to assume the approval role of the AD(T) in respect of programme changes.
  • Inputting to APR/QR processes
  • Offering comment and approval on information provided for students.

Monitoring and review

29. The provision will be subject to regular evaluation of the programme/modules concerned and monitoring of the associated quality assurance arrangements. This will normally be undertaken through the University's standard annual and periodic review of the owning School, unless indicated otherwise in the Quality Assurance Statement and/or the formal agreement.

30. Any matters of concern in regard to the provision, whether it be academic or operational, will be reported to the Teaching Partnerships Sub-Committee for consideration and action as necessary.

Changes in provision

31. All changes to existing collaborative provision, including proposals to change programme or module specifications, or programme regulations, or to introduce new modules, will be required to be submitted for approval through the appropriate School in a form analogous to that required for changes to other University programmes. Proposals will be processed through the University's standard approval mechanisms.

32. Any proposal to introduce a new programme of study in collaboration with an existing partner should be submitted for approval through the stages set out under paragraphs 4 - 9 above. An outline proposal will be required in each case. 

33. In the case of a new programme proposal, once Operations Committee or Senate has given in-principle approval for the proposal to go ahead, TPSC may at its discretion determine whether to allow the proposal to be processed through the University's standard approval mechanisms (i.e. through Curriculum Sub-Committee) or to establish a Partnership Approval Panel to consider it. A Partnership Approval Panel will normally be established if the proposed programme is in a different subject area from programmes previously validated by the University at the partner organisation.  Such a Partnership Approval Panel will be constituted and proceed in accordance with paragraphs 8 – 17 above, reporting to LTC.  The Panel will be concerned mainly with issues specific to the new programme but can be expected to seek an update on institutional issues since the last approval visit. 

34. The formal agreement will be amended to incorporate any additional collaborative provision with the same partner organisation following approval by Senate.

Renewal of agreements

35. Collaborative agreements will normally be subject to review and renewal on a three to five-year academic cohort cycle.

36. The nature of the review to be undertaken prior to renewal will normally be indicated in the formal agreement. Normally the TPSC will carry out a full institutional and programme review, covering the information listed under paragraphs 13 - 14 above. This will be undertaken by a Partnership Review Panel with the same constitution as the Panel referred to in paragraph 11. The Partnership Review Panel will also receive reports of annual and periodic programme reviews undertaken during the period of the existing collaborative agreement and may, in the light of any recent periodic programme review, reduce its requirements in respect of programme specific information.

37. The Partnership Review Panel will report to LTC, which will in turn report and make recommendations to Senate.

38. The University will charge a fee to the partner organisation for the partnership review. The Partnership Review Panel will make a recommendation concerning the fee to be charged in its report to LTC in the light of the actual costs of the exercise.

Variation of procedures

39. The PVC(T) as Chair of LTC shall have the right to vary any of the procedures outlined above should circumstances demand this. 

 

[May 2013]