Validation comprises a staged process requiring the preparation and submission of supporting paperwork at School/programme level, which is then considered by a Validation Panel acting on behalf of ECQS, with a report and recommendations being produced following a site visit and discussion with the Programme Team involved. Where necessary and if appropriate the Validation Panel will meet with the Programme Team virtually. Considerations involve institutional approval and programme 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.
(a) Preparation of Written Submission
On being notified of the application of formal validation procedures by the Partnerships Team in 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 the Partnership Team in Academic Affairs on the paperwork to be provided. The documentation will deal with both institutional and programme approval as appropriate.
Where a School/Faculty wishes to vary the level of documentation provided for validation, agreement must first be obtained from the Chair of ECQS.
(i) Institutional Approval
ECQS 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). Specific guidance on required content with regards taught programmes of study and research degree programmes is available.
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 QS World University Rankings are a source of useful information.
(ii) 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. Further guidance on required content and supporting documentation is available for taught programmes of study and research degree programmes.
In preparing the submission document, advice should be sought, as appropriate, from the following Professional Support Services:
- Admissions and Access Service to agree the admissions criteria and the procedure for applications.
- Student Services and Systems to agree the procedure for enrolment and registration, timetable for examinations and graduation.
- Educational Development to agree how work-based placements should be monitored and assessed, with particular regard to proposed Foundation Degree programmes.
- 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).
- Immigration Support Service to advise on any visa requirements.
- The Partnerships Team in 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 ECQS.
The School/Faculty should upload the full submission, together with programme specifications and any other supporting documentation, to a SharePoint site administered by the Partnerships Team 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 The Partnerships Team in Academic Affairs.
(b) Programme Evaluation/Validation Panel
A Programme Evaluation/Validation Panel will be convened to consider the submitted documentation on behalf of ECQS. Nominated by the Chair of ECQS, the membership will comprise:
i. Chair of the ECQS, or nominee (Chair).
ii. One other member from ECQS or the University pool of ECQS quality assurance reviewers.
iii. One member of University academic staff to act as subject specialist (not previously involved in the programme under consideration).
iv. One student reviewer.
v. 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).
vi. Academic Affairs representative (Secretary).
No one involved in the design and delivery of an educational partnership may be a member of the Panel. Other agreed criteria regarding the appointment of student reviewers and external reviewers should also be applied. Panel members will receive a copy of the Guidelines for Validation and Review Panels and other relevant information.
(c) 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 Senior Management Representatives, the Programme Team and, as appropriate, a tour of the available facilities during the visit. There is a standard Agenda and schedule of business. 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:
i. Approved for a specified period.
ii. Approved for a specified period subject to a satisfactory response to any interim/immediate recommendations/conditions agreed by the Panel.
iii. Documentation to be resubmitted for further consideration by the Panel.
iv. Not approved or declined.
(d) Validation Report
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 organisation 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 Panel, giving reasons, within two weeks of receiving the validation report.
Otherwise, the Programme Team should submit the following documentation to the Secretary of the Panel, within four weeks of receiving the report (or a date approved by ECQS):
i. A final version of the programme specification or other documentation incorporating such amendments as are required to meet the validation report conditions.
ii. A brief paper indicating a response to the recommendation(s) made by the Validation Panel.
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.