Approval Procedures

A proposal for educational collaboration for taught programmes may be initiated by a prospective collaborative partner or interested parties within the University or both.  Initial requests that also involved the development of a new programme of study should normally be submitted at least 24 months before the proposed commencement.  An indicative schedule outlining the principal stages involved can be accessed here

Approval to Proceed

Approval to proceed must be secured from the relevant Faculty Executive Board (FEB) for all proposed collaborative arrangements to allow formal approval mechanisms to be instigated on behalf of the Collaborative Provision Group (CPG).  Requirements for Approval to Proceed are as follows:

Delivery involving a UK/EU Partner and/or Context

The initial proposal must be discussed and approved at the relevant FEB using the Approval to Proceed proforma,  this should include an agreed business plan and market rationale. The business plan must include realistic student number projections.  Estimated costs should include any travel, accommodation, staff development and validation panel costs.  The business plan must be signed by the Head of School, Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor and the Director of Finance (or nominee) and include agreement on any proposed non-standard fees or commission payments that may feature.

The paperwork should also include a completed Risk Assessment and, where a joint or dual award is proposed, evidence that the University’s Policy on such matters has been considered and key principles addressed.

The Faculty Executive Board shall consider:

  1. Whether the proposed collaboration is consistent with the University’s corporate plan and the Faculty’s strategic objectives.
  2. Whether it would be appropriate to undertake the proposed collaboration in view of Faculty existing collaborative arrangements and other commitments.
  3. A statement in relation to the quality of the proposed partner (following consideration of due diligence) and any risks previously identified.

Delivery involving an International Partner and/or Context

International arrangements can carry additional risk.  All proposed new educational international partnerships are required to undergo a strategic, triage based assessment process for Approval to Proceed.  All proposals must be supported by the appropriate School Management Board and FEB.  There should be engagement with and endorsement by the School Director of Internationalisation and the Faculty Dean of Internationalisation at an early stage using the International Partnership Triage Process Issues for Initial Consideration Checklist.  Schools should complete the Key Issues Proforma and provide appropriate supporting documentation for Faculty review, including a completed Risk Assessment.  Where a joint or dual award is proposed, evidence that the University’s Policy has been considered should be included.

The documentation will be considered by the relevant FEB, which, if agreed, will normally request the development of an appropriate business case to support the proposed arrangement. Faculties may also advise the drafting of a dedicated Partnership Management Plan to support ongoing project development and implementation.  The business case will then be reviewed by Faculty and a decision on Approval to Proceed confirmed.  Academic Affairs will be informed prior to business case development and appropriate support provided as necessary, in conjunction with other Professional Support Services.

Where a new initiative with an International Partner is proposed involving cross-Faculty support, non-standard features (such as a fee discount outside the University Fee Framework) and/or where decisions need to be expedited in response to an available opportunity, proposals may be triaged through the International Partnerships Group (IPG) rather than SMB and FEB.  Chaired by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Internationalisation and Engagement, the IPG meets on a monthly basis to consider such arrangements.  Its membership includes the Faculty Deans of Internationalisation and representation from Finance, Academic and Student Affairs, Research and Enterprise, and Marketing, Recruitment, Communications and Internationalisation, (MRCI) as well as relevant School Directors of Internationalisation.  The Group is to ensure strategic alignment and provide increased agility in the agreement of collective actions and further due diligence required to realise partnership opportunities, including clarity on student visa requirements at a very early stage of programme design/development. 

FEB will inform the Secretary to the CPG if the proposal is given Approval to Proceed and supply the name of the University Coordinator, providing confirmation of the decision taken and copies of the supporting documentation. The Secretary will then contact the lead School (or Faculty depending on the extent/nature of the arrangement) 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 and are considered by the Validation Panel in the first instance.  However, where there is an existing MOA with an institution or organisation then programme approval only is required together with a brief update on any relevant changes in the institution from the original Agreement.  Both institutional and programme approval processes cannot progress without Approval to Proceed having first been granted by the relevant FEB.  The validation process is the same regardless of whether the arrangement is UK/EU or international.

On being notified of the application of formal validation procedures by Academic Affairs, the School/Faculty, in active consultation with the partner(s) in question and, in the case of Foundation Degrees, any employers involved, should proceed to prepare a submission document for the Validation Panel.  Those responsible, normally through the assigned University Coordinator should obtain advice from Academic Affairs on the paperwork to be provided. The documentation will deal with both institutional and programme approval as appropriate.

Institutional Approval

The CPG will invite the prospective partner, in collaboration with the relevant School/Faculty, to prepare a written submission in the form of a self-evaluation document, with supporting evidence (if not already submitted during the earlier Approval to Proceed stage).

In the case 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 or http://www.topuniversities.com/qs-world-university-rankings are a source of useful information.

Programme Approval

A written submission for Programme Approval should also be prepared, in parallel, by the Programme Team, who will normally include representation from both Queen’s and the partner institution. The Programme Team should ensure that the written submission is consistent with the relevant sections of the UK Quality Code and the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications

In preparing the submission document, advice should be sought, as appropriate, from the following Professional Support Services:

  1. Admissions and Access Service to agree the admissions criteria and the procedure for applications.
  2. Student Records and Examinations Office to agree the procedure for enrolment and registration, timetable for examinations and graduation.
  3. Educational Development to agree how work-based placements should be monitored and assessed, with particular regard to proposed Foundation Degree programmes.
  4. Information Services to discuss learning resources and infrastructure and how this will support the programme (including any implications for access to electronic library resources which should be discussed with the relevant Subject Librarian and/or the Bibliographic Services Manager).
  5. International Student Support to advise on any visa requirements.
  6. Academic Affairs to provide general advice on the submission document and validation process, to provide a draft MOA and support regarding External Examiners, process regulations for approval by the Courses and Regulations Group (CRG).

The School/Faculty should send an electronic copy of the full submission, together with programme specifications and any other supporting documentation, for upload to a SharePoint site administered by Academic Affairs at least four weeks prior to the date of the validation meeting.  The Validation Panel will have access to the SharePoint site.  Initial comments and details of any further information requirements shall be requested from the Panel and coordinated through Academic Affairs.

The Validation Visit

Programme Evaluation/Validation Panel

A Programme Evaluation/Validation Panel will be convened to consider the submitted documentation on behalf of the CPG.  Nominated by the Chair of the CPG, the membership will comprise:

  1. Chair of the CPG, or nominee (Chair).
  2. One other member of the CPG (if appropriate previous Group members or QAA trained staff or staff who have been trained as quality assurance reviewers).
  3. One member of University academic staff to act as subject specialist (not previously involved in the programme under consideration).
  4. 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).
  5. 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 

A Programme Evaluation/Validation meeting will be conducted on-site at the partner institution over the course of up to one day.  During the 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.

With regard to collaborations involving delivery by Flying Faculty, particular emphasis will be placed on the proposed teaching and assessment arrangements for the programme, together with the available learning resources.

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:

  1. Approved for a specified period.
  2. Approved for a specified period subject to a satisfactory response to any interim/immediate recommendations/conditions agreed by the Panel.
  3. Documentation to be resubmitted for further consideration by the Panel.
  4. Not approved or declined.

After the Validation Visit

A report will be produced following the Validation visit setting out the Validation Panel’s findings and any conditions that a recommendation 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 two weeks of receiving the validation report.

Otherwise, the Programme Team should submit the following documentation to the Secretary of the CPG, within four weeks of receiving the report (or a date approved by the CPG):

  1. A final version of the programme specification or other documentation incorporating such amendments as are required to meet the validation report conditions.
  2. 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, together with the Programme Team’s response and the  Business Plan/Case approved by the Director of Finance 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. Where the validation process is linked to a strategic agreement, the arrangement will be considered by Academic Council for recommendation to Senate for formal approval. 

When final approval has been given by the Education Committee (or, if appropriate, Senate), 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 relevant Faculty staff and Head(s) of School, the University Coordinator, 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 and processed by Academic Affairs.

University Coordinators will normally be responsible for taking forward implementation and should liaise with their School/Faculty, particularly in relation to the application of any Partnership Management Plans which may be required by Faculty.