Academic Quality Procedures Handbook

3. Programmes of Study

3.8 Service Teaching

The Principles

  1. Of the many considerations that shape service teaching policy, the most important is the need to ensure that the quality of provision is “fit to requirements”, in terms of programme content, quality of teaching and the overall learning experience of our students.
  2. Responsibility for each of our programmes rests unambiguously with a named School. That responsibility extends to all aspects of quality, currency and viability.
  3. With responsibilities go rights. In a programme-based university like Loughborough, a host School has ‘ownership rights’ in regard to its programmes which other schools and the University as a whole should respect wherever possible.
  4. Schools are not, however, sovereign in these matters, all of which are subject to institutional policy and oversight - hence the roles of Curriculum Sub-Committee, Learning & Teaching Committee and Senate.
  5. It would be neither efficient (financially) nor effective (in terms of quality, student choice etc) for Schools to aim for self-sufficiency in programme provision – hence the existence of joint honours programmes and service teaching arrangements.
  6. The preferred ethos is that of “willing buyer, willing seller”, with host and providing Schools working together to ensure high quality, cost-effective learning and teaching for our students.
  7. It does not follow that Schools should enjoy a monopoly of provision in their areas of specialism. For various reasons, more than one School may be able to claim specialist expertise in a given area. There may well be arguments why, in a particular case, a subject should be taught other than by a “specialist” School – most obviously when it is important to locate the treatment of the subject firmly within the wider context of the programme of which it forms part. The views of a host School wishing to pursue such an approach must be given due weight.
  8. It is the balance of advantage between these two academic considerations – “specialisation” and “contextualisation” - that should chiefly inform decisions on where particular subjects are to be taught. However, it should not be assumed that only the “specialist” School possesses the necessary specialist expertise, or that only the home School is capable of programme contextualisation. Each case must be judged on its merits
  9. As well as the academic considerations of specialisation and contextualisation, there are two further, less purely academic, considerations that impact on service teaching policy – though in opposite directions. One is that service teaching can help a School to generate economies of scale and scope in its areas of expertise: this is particularly relevant to the Business School and Mathematical Sciences. The University’s aspirations for such Schools and their subject areas – in research and income generation as well as in teaching - could be undermined if they were to lose their service teaching franchises.
  10. The other consideration is that service teaching arrangements should not be dysfunctional from a student perspective. Providing Schools should be willing and able to offer the same degree of student support as host Schools.
  11. Financial considerations should be secondary to pedagogic ones. Ideally, our internal resource allocation model should be neutral, providing neither an incentive nor a disincentive to Schools to retain or surrender load. In the real world, however, a neutral model is unattainable. This is because the marginal costs of teaching a particular subject can vary immensely, from virtually zero to the full salary and overhead costs of a lecturer, depending on whether or not a School has teaching capacity at its disposal. The opportunity costs will also vary, depending, for example, on the research capabilities of the lecturer concerned.
  12. These arguments are reflected in the arrangement whereby host Schools retain 10% of any load they export to providing Schools. The 10 per cent figure is in most cases a generous contribution to School teaching overheads (i.e. those teaching-related costs which are not module-specific) – especially when applied to modules on band ‘B’ programmes, since most administrative costs arise whatever price band a programme is in.
  13. No School can exert ownership rights indefinitely over any given teaching arrangement – whether that be a service teaching commitment or the teaching of another School’s specialism to its own students. All such arrangements must be amenable to review and abrogation, after due notice has been given (though in practice, financial compensation might be offered in lieu of notice in the interests of ensuring a clean break).
  14. The rights of a host School to retrieve service teaching cannot be extended to a provider School seeking to discontinue (core) service teaching for another School. Permission to do so will normally be given only if the host School agrees that it can fill the gap or make acceptable changes to syllabus, which may mean deferring any such changes until existing cohorts have passed through the system. Here the overriding consideration must be the interests of students registered on the programme.
  15. Related matters such as the withdrawal of options by a providing School or the redesignation of a core module as optional by a host School need to be handled in the same general spirit. Schools offering electives to the students of other Schools must be entitled to withdraw them if they become unviable; but they should ensure that their counterparts are aware of their policy and have an opportunity to comment on decisions which would adversely affect their students. This would mirror the requirement that School proposing to change the status of another School’s modules from core to optional consult them first.
  16. The “governance” arrangements relevant to service teaching need to be clear, coherent and understood by all. They should seek to encourage mutual agreement between Schools wherever possible, within a clear overall policy framework and with clear mechanisms for resolving differences.
  17. The approach enshrined in these principles can best be termed that of a “regulated free market”, with Senate and Council largely devolving the responsibility for the “regulation” to Learning & Teaching Committee (in respect of pedagogic considerations) and Operations Committee (in respect of wider policy and resource considerations).

The Procedures

  1. Except as stated below, proposals relating to service teaching arrangements will continue to be handled in the same way as at present, with Associate Deans (Teaching), Curriculum Sub-Committee, Learning & Teaching Committee, Operations Committee and Senate playing their established roles.
  2. CSC will limit its consideration to the academic merits of proposals in their own right, that is to say, without seeking to adjudicate between the claims of rival providers.
  3. Where a School wishes to amend existing service teaching arrangements and cannot reach agreement on this with its partner School, the issue will be considered by LTC which will seek to apply the principles set out in this paper in forming its conclusions and recommendations.
  4. If wider issues of academic policy or financial viability arise, these will be considered in the first instance by Operations Committee. Either LTC or Operations Committee may decide to bring proposals to Senate if the nature of the issue warrants it.
  5. Operations Committee will not normally approve academic appointments whose viability would involve the transfer of teaching responsibilities from another School.
  6. Periodic programme review provides an opportunity for Schools to look at the effectiveness of existing service teaching arrangements, and at the same time to consider whether teaching activities which they undertake could be handled more efficiently or effectively by another School.
  7. Termination of a service teaching arrangement shall be by one year’s notice, although University consents need not have been received at the time the notice is given. In lieu of notice, Operations Sub-Committee may allow a host School to assume the teaching at the start of the following year, with the allocation of the associated income between the two Schools for that year to be determined by Operations Committee.

June 2001

(edited November 2007)