Stage 1: Strategic Approval (Planning Stage)

On this Page
Faculty Approval
Initial Due Diligence
Application approval to proceed/terminate
Application for MOU and draft MOU

The first stage of development and approval takes collaborative Partnership proposals from conceptual stage through to being granted Strategic Approval. In conferring Strategic Approval, CPB may require a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to be signed and exchanged where one does not already exist, and will formally

approve the project to proceed to the next stage. To obtain Strategic Approval, projects must progress through the following steps:

1. Faculty Approval:

Prior to approaching the Academic Partnerships Office, all proposals should be discussed, and where necessary approved (dependent upon risk level of proposed Partnership), at Faculty Level through the Faculty Academic Affairs Committee (FAAC). Departments wishing to develop a collaborative project must first therefore present an outline proposal to FAAC. Departments should seek approval from the Committee to proceed with developing their proposal and obtaining Strategic Approval from CPB.

2. Initial Due Diligence:

Once Faculty Approval has been given, colleagues should contact the Academic Partnerships Office for guidance on the development of their proposal. In the first instance, colleagues will be invited to meet with a member of staff in the Academic Partnerships Office to clarify details of their proposal and the type of collaboration intended. Where the type of collaboration is developed through another section of the University (e.g. RB&I, International Office, Senior Executive) colleagues will be signposted as necessary. Where the proposed collaboration is within the remit of the Academic Partnerships Office, the proposal will be assigned to an Academic Partnerships Manager who will support the department in conducting initial due diligence and will undertake checks on the potential partner organisation before submitting the MOU application to CPB for consideration and approval. This will ordinarily involve:

  • Reviewing Institutional Aims
  • Reviewing published QA reports and/or the Overseas Business Risk Reports (as appropriate)
  • Conducting an Initial Risk Assessment

It is essential that the risks of any potential collaboration are properly assessed and that a due diligence investigation is carried out. The level of this will be proportionate to the type of collaborative partnership activity proposed.

Low risk arrangements such as non-credit bearing CPD and work-based placements will not need to be centrally approved, managed or reviewed by the Committee; they may be organised and managed at Faculty level. Each Faculty must maintain a comprehensive register of all such activity and must inform the Committee of any new activities, for information purposes only.

For other types of activity, before a collaborative partnership can be developed, the University must consider the following;

  • The partner’s status
  • The role of the partner in the collaboration
  • The partner’s expertise
  • The partners existing collaboration activities with UK HEIs
  • The expertise of the staff in the partner institution
  • The partner’s resources
  • The cultural, economic and political context within which the partner operates
  • The financial status of the partner

To establish the above, colleagues should also consult the NARIC website. The Collaborative Provision Risk Assessment Template should be used by departments/Faculties at an early stage in the planning of collaborative provision for any strategic partner level provision. A Due Diligence Checklist is available for proposals relating to franchised and validated provision. The Collaborative Provision Committee reserves the right to seek external guidance and advice as necessary.

3. Application approval to proceed / terminate:

[Back to top]

At this stage, the proposal will be risk (RAG) rated on the basis of these initial enquiries. At this stage a proposal may be:

Approved (following receipt and scrutiny of paperwork) for low risk projects and initial MOU agreements;

The following documents should be submitted along with the request that Strategic Approval be granted:

  • Application for MOU and draft MOU

Following Strategic Approval, the MOU (if required) may be finalised, signed and exchanged with the proposed partner. Upon receipt of a signed MOU from the proposed partner, the project may advance to Stage 2. Where no MOU is required, the proposal may proceed to the next stage following approval. The collaborative partnership cannot be developed further until approved by CPB.

Agreement and exchange of the Memorandum of Understanding marks the conclusion of the first stage of the development and approval process for the following types of collaborative activity:

  • Joint PhD Supervision / Co-tutelle
  • Articulation Agreements (including 2+2 / 3+1 agreements and variations on this model)
  • Collaborative degrees
  • Franchises
  • Validation

The MOU is essentially a non-binding declaration between the University and the prospective partner stating an intention to collaborate in the future. MOU’s are typically valid for 3 years.

Applications for collaborative activity will be submitted by the Academic Programme Leader who is responsible for developing the proposal. The Academic Programme Leader is expected to discuss the proposal with the relevant Academic Partnerships Manager who will liaise with other University staff as necessary (for example, the International Officer for the relevant region, Faculty Associate Dean for Learning, Teaching and Student Experience / Faculty Pro Vice-Chancellor,  Academic Registry staff etc. as appropriate). If the application involves more than one Faculty or is University wide, the lead contact responsible for the development of the proposal must be named on the form.

The MOU application form must include a SMART target for the development of the proposal for the coming year. The Academic Programme Leader is accountable for the delivery of the MOU targets.

Any partner from the UK must be a UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) recognised Tier 4 sponsor in its own right, in order for the University to be assured that the partner is in a position to discharge its obligations under the ‘Points-based’ visa scheme. Colleagues must contact the Compliance Manager ( for advice prior to any formal agreement that involves or may involve Tier 4 visa students following changes to UKVI rules on partnerships.

Completed MOU application forms for prospective international partners and UK based collaborative proposals for all medium and high risk proposals should be signed and submitted to the Academic Partnerships Office for initial consideration via All proposals for collaborative partnership activities are entered onto a database held by the Academic Partnerships Office and onto the CPB SharePoint site for reference by Board members.

An awarding institution that engages with another authorised awarding body jointly to provide a programme of study leading to a dual or joint academic award must be able to satisfy itself that it has the legal capacity to do so, and that the academic standard of the award, referenced to the FHEQ meets its own expectations, irrespective of the expectations of the partner awarding body.

The Collaborative Provision Board may either approve the MOU Application, request further information or reject the proposal. Once the MOU application is approved, the Memorandum of Understanding may be signed between the University and the potential partner. The Pro Vice-Chancellor Learning, Teaching and Student Experience or Vice-Chancellor will sign the Memorandum of Understanding on behalf of the University.

If the partner wishes to use their own MOU template, this must be reviewed by Academic Partnerships Office staff and the draft to go to CPB prior to signing, to ensure there are no significant implications or legal obligations that the University would not wish to sign up to. If the Faculty/Academic Department wishes to build on its MOU, additional agreements must be developed, approved and signed by both parties, for each collaborative arrangement.

  • Submitted to CPB (following receipt of paperwork) for medium-high risk projects;

Where the proposal proceeds to CPB, the following documents should be submitted along with the request that Strategic Approval be granted:

  • Preliminary Investigations Report
  • Initial Risk Assessment outcomes
  • Returned to the department/Faculty for further consideration;
  • Terminated by the PVC or their designate.