Approval in Principle
A proposal for educational collaboration for taught programmes may be initiated by a prospective collaborative partner or interested parties within the University or by both. Note that initial requests from Schools, that also involve the development of a new programme, should normally be submitted at least one year before the proposed commencement. The initial proposal must be discussed and approved at the appropriate School Education Committee, and linked to the School’s academic plan, before being submitted to Academic Affairs for approval in principle by the sub-group of the University Executive Board (UEB). The initial proposal should be approximately one page in length and include:
- The strategic reasons for the proposal in the context of the University’s corporate plan.
- The rationale for, and nature of, the collaboration.
- The name and status of the prospective collaborative organisation (normally the University would expect to collaborate with other educational organisations and may require documentary evidence of the legal status of a prospective organisation).
- The programme(s) which would be the subject of the collaboration.
- An indication of the number of students which might be enrolled.
- A brief business plan.
Upon receipt of the initial proposal, Academic Affairs will provide appropriate advice to the School regarding the content of the proposal and will liaise with Finance, Admissions and the International Office as appropriate to seek further clarification where required. Academic Affairs will liaise with the sub-group of the UEB to facilitate the approval in principle process.
The sub-group of the UEB will make a preliminary judgement about:
- Whether there is a sound rationale for the proposed collaboration.
- Whether the proposed collaboration is consistent with the University’s corporate plan.
- Whether it would be appropriate to undertake the proposed collaboration in view of the University’s existing collaborative arrangements and other commitments.
- Whether the proposed collaboration would command the commitment and support of the senior management of the University and of the prospective collaborative organisation.
If the proposal is approved in principle by the sub-group of the UEB, the Secretary to the Collaborative Provision Group (CPG) will be informed. S/he will then contact the relevant School within the University and the Director/Principal of the collaborative organisation setting out the required documentation and timetable for approval.
The arrangements for institutional approval and programme approval run concurrently.
The CPG will invite the prospective collaborative organisation, in collaboration with the relevant School, to prepare a written submission in the form of a self- evaluation document, with supporting evidence including:
- The rationale for the collaborative link.
- Evidence that a process of due diligence and risk assessment has been undertaken by the University in relation to the potential impact on the University should difficulties arise with the proposed partnership.
- A statement about the history and mission statement.
- Recent annual reports, operating accounts and business plans.
- Details of current and future academic and strategic plans.
- Organisation structure.
- Arrangements for the assurance of quality and standards.
- Reports from external quality bodies.
- A prospectus and/or separate list of programmes, including student numbers.
The University will expect the written submission to address the following issues:
- Whether the collaborative organisation is of good standing; whether it has a secure medium term future; whether it is financially sound.
- Whether the collaborative organisation has an effective framework for the management of Higher Education programmes, especially in relation to quality assurance.
- Whether the staffing establishment is appropriate both across the collaborative organisation as a whole and for the programme(s) under consideration and if there is an effective Staff Development programme in place.
- Whether it has experience of delivering comparable programmes at a similar level.
- Whether physical resources are appropriate and an appropriate learning environment is provided for students.
- Whether there is adequate provision for academic and pastoral support and guidance.
- Whether it has, or has had, collaborative relationships with other institutions and whether any awarding institution has withdrawn from a collaborative programme with the prospective collaborative organisation.
For overseas collaborative agreements which will have a higher level of risk associated with them, the University also needs to be satisfied:
- That the prospective collaborative organisation has an understanding of the current practices of UK Higher Education, eg in connection with external examining, assessment arrangements and quality assurance.
- That it has the capacity to address differences in cultures and expectations between HE systems in such a way as to ensure that the requirements of the arrangement can be met.
- That, if instruction and assessment is to be in a language other than English, it has the capacity to provide translation facilities to an appropriate standard.
In cases of proposed overseas collaborations, additional evidence and advice on the legal, financial and cultural environment (particularly in relation to quality and standards and language issues) should be sought from relevant national government offices and agencies, and UK bodies with a presence in the country, such as the British Council. This information may be available from the International Office. In addition, the Shanghai Jai Tong University world rankings is a source of useful information.
Programme approval should not be initiated until the sub-group of the UEB gives an ‘in principle’ decision to proceed. A written submission should be compiled for programme approval. The programme team should ensure that the written submission is consistent with the relevant sections of the QAA Quality Code and the QAA Framework for Higher Education Qualifications. Normally, the written submission for programme approval will include the following:
- A full programme specification which should include the programme regulations and specific reference to any aspect of the programme that may be delivered through flexible or distributed means.
- Module information.
- How the content of the programme is appropriate to the subject and the qualification concerned and aligns with the QAA Subject Benchmark Statement.
- How the learning outcomes of the programme are appropriate to the level of the award and to those of similar programmes delivered by the University.
- How the assessment scheme is appropriate and adequate (consistent with QAA Quality Code), including, as appropriate, arrangements for moderation, preparation of examination papers, second marking and Boards of Examiners.
- How the programme will be monitored and reviewed (consistent with QAA Quality Code and the University’s quality assurance framework).
- How arrangements will be made for the operation of the collaboration including appeals and complaints.
- How student feedback will be obtained and acted upon.
- Student support arrangements.
- Information on learning resources and infrastructure and how this will support the programme.
- Information on staffing for the programme including brief staff cvs and how the staffing is sufficient to deliver and support the programme.
- Roles and responsibility of the University and roles and responsibility of the collaborative partner.
In addition, for programmes which are to be delivered through a flexible or distributed learning (e.g., distance learning or e-learning) the written submission should include:
- The educational and pedagogical rationale for delivery by FDL methods.
- The arrangements and resources available to assure the quality of the delivery method.
- Evaluation of the quality of the design of learning materials (including pace of learning and presentation of material).
- Facilities for supporting interaction between students.
- Evaluation of systems of communication (including methods of obtaining student feedback).
- Results of any piloting of learning and assessment materials.
- Evaluation of the assessment methods (including notification of results to students and how the organisation assures itself that assessed work is properly attributable to the appropriate student).
The Validation Visit
Programme Evaluation/Validation Panel
The Programme Evaluation/Validation Panel members are nominated by the Chair of the CPG. The composition of the Validation Panel will normally comprise:
- Chair of the CPG, or nominee (Chair).
- One other member of the CPG (if appropriate previous Group members or QAA trained staff or staff who have been trained in the University’s Educational Enhancement Process).
- One member of University academic staff to act as subject specialist (not previously involved in the programme under consideration).
- One external adviser (academic/business/professional) for validation arrangements. (In franchise arrangements the University programme will already have been approved, therefore, the programme content will not require further approval. An external adviser will not normally be required).
- Secretary of the CPG or nominee (Secretary) (in attendance).
No one involved in the design and delivery of a collaborative arrangement may be a member of the Panel. Panel members will receive a copy of the Guidelines for Validation and Review Panels and other relevant information.
Programme Evaluation/Validation Meeting
The Validation Panel is expected to conduct a critically constructive and independent assessment of the proposal, taking into account the written submission, discussion with the Programme Team and, as appropriate, a tour of the available facilities during the visit. Typical agenda and programme for a visit. The extent to which discussions will focus on programme content will be determined by the relationship of the proposal to a currently approved University programme. However, the Panel will wish to be assured that the staff responsible for delivery have a clear understanding of the programme and its aims and learning outcomes.
At the end of the meeting the Chair of the Validation Panel may inform the Programme Team of the preliminary conclusions and recommendations of the Panel.
The Panel will make one of the following recommendations in respect of approval:
- Approved for a specified period.
- Approved for a specified period subject to satisfactory response to the recommendations.
- Documentation to be resubmitted for further consideration by the Panel.
- Not approved or declined.
After the Validation Visit
A report of the validation visit will be produced setting out the Validation Panel’s findings and any conditions that a recommendation(s) may be subject to. If a programme is to be provisionally approved, the report will specify the period of approval, the conditions of approval (if any) and any matters which are either to be kept under review by the programme committee or to be the subject of continuing dialogue, if necessary with guidance and advice from members of the Validation Panel or the associated School.
A draft report prepared by the Secretary to the Validation Panel will be circulated to members for approval, normally within ten days of the visit. The final report will be sent, as soon as possible, to the Principal/Director and the appropriate member of the subject-level staff at the collaborative organization and the relevant University Head of School and University Coordinator.
If the Programme Team has difficulty in meeting the conditions specified by the Validation Panel, they are expected to report accordingly to the Secretary of the CPG, giving reasons, within four weeks of receiving the validation report.
Otherwise, the Programme Team should submit the following documentation to the Secretary of the CPG, within eight weeks of receiving the report (or a date approved by the CPG):
- A final version of the programme specification or other documentation incorporating such amendments as are required to meet the validation report conditions.
- A brief paper indicating a response to the recommendation(s) made by the Validation Panel.
Conclusion of the Validation Process
The validation process is concluded when the Chair of the Programme Evaluation/Validation Panel certifies that the conditions (if any) have been satisfied and/or that the report has been approved.
If the collaboration involves the development of a new programme, the final Validation Panel report, when confirmed by the Chair, together with the programme specification will be forwarded to the University’s Courses and Regulations Group (CRG) for formal approval of the programme regulations. The decision of the CRG shall be reported to the CPG.
The final Validation Panel report will be submitted, together with the approved business plan, to the CPG, who will make appropriate recommendation(s) to the Education Committee and the decision shall be reported to CRG. The Education Committee will make the final decision on whether or not to proceed with the collaboration. This decision will be reported to Academic Council.
When final approval has been given by the Education Committee, Academic Affairs will arrange for the signature of the Memorandum of Agreement. The authorised signatory is the Vice-Chancellor or nominee. Details of the new collaborative arrangement will be circulated to the Admissions and Access Service, Information Services, Finance, the Student Records and Examinations Office and, if appropriate, the International Office and the International Student Support Office. The MOA is recorded on the Collaborative Provision Register and Recognised Teachers approved by the CPG.