Stage 2: University Approval (Detailed Scrutiny and Programme Development Stage)

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Quality Assurance Due Diligence and Academic Development
Institutional Site Visit
Financial Due Diligence
The Business Case
University level Approval and the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)
Memorandum of Agreement

The second stage of development and approval takes collaborative Partnership proposals from conceptual stage through the scrutiny stage to the final approval and signing of MOA.

At this stage, projects are subject to detailed due diligence as they are developed for approval at University level. For larger projects, it is advisable for a full project board to be convened early during this stage to map out and plan for full project development. Within this stage, two key strands exist through which the project must progress to reach the third stage, Approval of Agreement stage:

  1. Quality Assurance Due Diligence and Academic Development
  2. Financial Due Diligence (Business Case) and Financial Review
  3. Approval and signing of MOA

To ensure compliance with QAA guidelines, Financial and Quality Assurance Due diligence are initially considered separately. Financial Due diligence is managed by the Finance Department and considered by either the University Executive or Director of Finance, as appropriate whereas quality assurance and academic due diligence is considered by the Collaborative Provision Board

1.       Quality Assurance Due Diligence and Academic Development

Quality assurance due diligence and academic development consists of two distinct but closely related parts. Whilst work on both parts may commence concurrently, it is advised that academic programme approval only be sought once significant progress has been made regarding the quality assurance due diligence due to the commitment and resources involved.

  • Quality Assurance Due Diligence: Following receipt of the signed MOU, the proposed partner will be invited to complete the University’s Due Diligence Questionnaire; the proposed partner may also request the same from the University. This provides the University with the first opportunity to consider in detail the suitability of the partner and its capacity to deliver the proposed programme. Various aspects of the questionnaire will be passed on to the relevant department for comment and should be returned within two weeks for a full assessment to be made.

    Where a satisfactory response is received, a Site Visit or Quality Assurance Visit, depending on the level of scrutiny required, should be arranged at the proposed partner institution. A Site Visit or Quality Assurance Visit may however only be conducted following initial approval in principle of the draft business case by the Director of Finance. The report of the visit will be considered by CPB. At this stage, the Risk Assessment should be reviewed and updated and development of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) may commence.

  • Academic Development and Programme Approval: The level of scrutiny required in this strand will vary depending upon whether the proposed collaboration involves a new scheme not currently taught at Aberystwyth University, or the adaptation of a scheme currently taught on campus. Approval processes for new and/or amended module and schemes follow the standard Aberystwyth University processes. Where a new scheme is proposed, the department must ensure that all University Module/Scheme Approval Documents are completed and submitted as detailed in the Academic Quality Handbook, section 2. Development and Review. Such documentation will be considered by the Collaborative Provision Programme Validation/Approval Panel.

  • Programme Validation/Approval Panel:

    • Membership: The membership of the Scheme Approval Panel will be as follows: (i) The Chair, to be drawn from outside the proposing academic department, and usually an Associate Dean (Learning and Teaching). The Chair should have suitable independence and critical distance from the proposed scheme, and will be selected by Academic Registry; (ii) A minimum of one member of academic staff, with suitable independence and critical distance from the proposal; (iii) A student representative, to be drawn from a pool nominated by the Student’ Union, normally a Student Reviewer; (iv) A member of staff from the Academic Registry Academic Partnerships Team, who will also draft the panel report. NB Academic Registry will be mindful of Welsh-medium representation on panels.

      Relevant academic departments will be invited to nominate a representative to present the proposal at the panel meeting. In the case of cross-academic department schemes, a representative from each academic department involved will be nominated by their respective department.

    • External Assessors: External Assessors are not required to attend meetings but must submit a written report. The panel may ask for further comments where appropriate or the External Assessor may be invited to attend via Skype if issues are identified in their written report that require further detailed discussion.

    • Actions arising: The Secretary to the Panel (usually a member of the Academic Registry Academic Partnerships Team) is responsible for taking minutes, identifying decisions and any recommendations. These minutes will go to the proposing department for any further action, and will also be submitted to Academic Board as a record of the decisions taken.

For all collaborations the panel will need to consider:

  • Completed Scheme Approval form
  • Module Approval Forms; evidencing completion of Module Approval Process
  • Full Collaboration Proposal Form
  • Market Analysis report
  • Mapping of Modules (for exchanges and articulations)
  • Partnership Management Plan and Division of Responsibilities
  • Project Risk Assessment
  • Evidence of a satisfactory Site Visit Report and action on any panel recommendations
  • Evidence of Consultation with:
    • Information Services and Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit
    • Student Records
    • Head of Admissions (UG or PG as appropriate)
    • Student Fees and Finance
    • Data Protection and Copyright Manager: Completed Privacy Impact Assessment
  • Evidence of consideration of Student Experience and how will be safeguarded
  • Evidence of Student Engagement and safeguarding of student voice
  • Marketing and Recruitment Plan


Institutional Site Visit

The key principles governing the approval of institutions and programmes are:

  • The need for appropriate due diligence;
  • The need to ensure that the institutions resources and procedures, especially for quality assurance and enhancement, meet the University’s requirements;
  • The need for a two-stage process that approves the institution and then, subject to a positive outcome at the first stage, validates specific schemes;
  • The need to ensure the institution delivers the high quality student experience expected by the University.

Prior to the development of an MOA, all new prospective collaborative arrangements, along with existing provision where approval to deliver programmes in a new subject area is being sought, will be subject to an Institutional Visit. At the discretion of the Collaborative Provision Board, the visit can be deemed unnecessary for joint programmes involving institutions with a well-established reputation.

The visit team for will be drawn from a standing panel of academic members of staff and a standing panel responsible for Quality Assurance. One or two from each Panel will be selected to visit the institution, along with an external assessor. An external assessor nomination form must be completed following discussion with the Chair of CPB and academic staff developing the proposal. The Visit Team for research collaborations will comprise of a subject specific Director of Research from the relevant Faculty and his/her deputy.

The Chair will specify in advance of the visit, any additional documentation required, the resources the Team will wish to view, and the teaching staff and/or senior managers it will wish to meet.

Prior to the visit the partner institution will be advised of any fees that may apply. The Faculty leading the development of the proposal must have obtained agreement from the partner to pay any relevant fees prior to the visit taking place. This is particularly relevant for proposed franchise or validation provision.

Documentation outlining the proposed collaboration, including full details of resources and course management procedures together with any local changes to the programme, is submitted by the Partnership Programme Leader to the panel at least ten working days prior to any visit. In addition, and where relevant, a copy of the up-to-date approved document for any schemes or modules of study that form part of the proposed collaboration must be provided to panel members. It is expected that an institutional visit will concentrate on assessing the potential partners’ ability to provide facilities and/or offer a course leading to an AU award. In order to determine this, the visiting panel will be required, where relevant, to assess:


Ownership of the institution and its financial status


The institution academic background and status to include

  • Background of education system within the country (for overseas partnerships only)
  • Brief history of the institution, with particular reference to recent developments
  • Reference to any institutional plans
  • Academic, administrative and management structure
  • Links with other known [UK?] organisations (if any)



  • Laboratory, library and IT facilities
  • Teaching accommodation
  • Programme specific resources
  • Staff (including CVs of staff responsible for teaching any part of an AU course)
  • Academic support services
  • Student support services
  • Quality assurance arrangements to provide the requisite quality of learning opportunities to enable a student to achieve the academic standards and learning outcomes required for the award
  • Staff development programme
  • Health and safety policies and procedures to ensure the safety of the students on the programme and any visiting staff where relevant


Students, to include:

  • Student market
  • Selection procedures
  • Entry requirements
  • Recruitment targets and number of intakes per annum


Quality assurance provision to include

  • Policies and procedures
  • Arrangements for course assessment and monitoring
  • Student evaluation of courses
  • Staff development and staff appraisal

Following completion of the Visit, the Panel must choose one of the following options:-

  • Approve the Institution without conditions;
  • Approve the Institution with minor conditions to be fulfilled before an arrangement between the University and the Institution is signed;
  • Approve the Institution with conditions to be fulfilled before the Panel's report is submitted for approval by the Panel Chair;
  • Reject the application by the Institution and inform the Institution of the reasons, giving an indication of whether the University will/will not consider future applications

The Deputy Registrar for Academic Partnerships (or nominee) must prepare a report for submission to the CPB for approval in the first instance, followed by submission to Senate, if necessary. If CPB approves the partner, the process of developing the MOA and approving the programme can begin.

2. Financial Due Diligence

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Financial Due diligence is overseen by the finance department and coordinated by Finance. The Finance Business Partner will also work with the Academic Department to develop the project business case and present the final version to the appropriate committee for approval. The Finance Business Partner will be responsible for ensuring that this process is completed and will notify the Academic Partnerships Office and Academic Department once the process is complete. Moreover, the Finance Business Partner will review and advise upon any financial submissions presented by the proposed partner as part of their response to the Due Diligence Questionnaire. The Finance Business Partner will also consider any potential tax implications of the project and seek external advice as appropriate in a timely manner.

The Business Case

A business case template must be completed for all types of collaborative activity. The financial arrangements of all collaborative arrangements must be fully and accurately costed, including provision for monitoring and external examining arrangements, before the Memorandum of Agreement can be signed and approved by CPB. The financial implications of any project must be discussed with the Finance Office, and must comply with the University’s Financial Regulations.

Business case templates can be obtained from the Finance Business Partner after an MOU has been signed and, depending on the nature of the collaborative partnership, will need to be approved by the Finance Director and/or University Executive before the collaborative partnership can proceed further. The decision taken by the Director of Finance and/or the University’s Executive must be conveyed to the Academic Partnerships Office in the Academic Registry ( in order for it to be reported to CPB. Financial sections of the MOA will also be reviewed and agreed by the Finance Office prior to the agreement being signed.

3. University level Approval and the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)

University Level Approval

QA/Academic and Financial approval strands should be pursued in parallel. Once completed, University Level approval for the overall project will be sought from the appropriate University Committee (see below). The Committee will consider the full proposal and give approval for the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to be submitted to the Vice-Chancellor’s office for final review prior to being signed and exchanged. The following committees have authority to approve proposals for Collaborative Provision, according to the levels of risk:

  • Low-Risk Projects – Approval through CPB: including MOUs, exchange and Erasmus agreements, articulation agreements and maintains records of new progression agreements.
  • Medium/High-Risk Projects – Approval through CPB: approves collaborative degrees (dual, double or joint) and the expansion of any existing franchise or validation agreements. It also recommends to Senate whether proposals for new franchise and validation agreements should be approved.
  • Very High-Risk Projects – Approval through Senate: approves international branch campus, franchise and validation agreements.

Colleagues should however note that the Pro-Vice Chancellor may terminate or suspend the project at an earlier stage where, upon review of the available evidence, it is clear that the proposed collaboration does not meet with the key principles underlying the University’s Development of Collaborative Provision or its Strategic Aims.

Memorandum of Agreement

The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) must be signed between the University and the partner, setting out the rights and obligations of all parties. The terms of the Agreement for Collaborative Academic Partnership Programmes will have been discussed and agreed during the programme development phase. The agreement will be signed on behalf of the University by the Vice-Chancellor (or his/her nominee) and by his/her counterpart in the partner organisation.

The Memorandum of Agreement will specify the term of the agreement and the conditions pertinent to a particular programme, including its aims, academic structure, professional requirements, resources and staffing. Where the partnership is supported by external grant funding the agreement may be replaced by a completed grant application and award letter signed by both parties.

The Memorandum of Agreement will contain a financial appendix, providing a detailed fee structure and a responsibilities checklist outlining which institution is responsible for monitoring and developing different aspects of the programme.