Section 9 - Approval and Post approval Management
The University operates a triple-staged approach to Partnership development. A two-phased Approval system followed by a third Operational stage before delivery can commence:
See Quality Chapter - Section 2a:
(Detailed Scrutiny and Development Stage)
See Quality Chapter - Section 2a:
(Set up and Operational Development Stage)
See Quality Chapter - Section 2a:
Stage 1: Strategic Approval (Planning Stage)
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:
- 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.
- 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: 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
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 (email@example.com) 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
Stage 2: University Approval (Detailed Scrutiny and Programme Development Stage)
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:
- Quality Assurance Due Diligence and Academic Development
- Financial Due Diligence (Business Case) and Financial Review
- 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
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:
A. Completed Scheme Approval form
B. Module Approval Forms; evidencing completion of Module Approval Process
C. Full Collaboration Proposal Form
D. Market Analysis report
E. Mapping of Modules (for exchanges and articulations)
F. Partnership Management Plan and Division of Responsibilities
G. Project Risk Assessment
H. Evidence of a satisfactory Site Visit Report and action on any panel recommendations
I. 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
J. Evidence of consideration of Student Experience and how will be safeguarded
K. Evidence of Student Engagement and safeguarding of student voice
L. 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
Students, to include:
Quality assurance provision to include
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
Financial Due diligence is overseen by the finance department and coordinated by the Finance Business Partner. 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 (email@example.com) 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.
Stage 3: Post-Approval (Set up, Operational Management and Monitoring)
Following full approval of the collaborative activity, and receipt of a signed Memorandum of Agreement, the agreed programme will become live on AU systems.
- Set up
- Operational Management
- Courses set up on ASTRA (first step-up)
- Courses set up on UCAS
- Courses set up on Student Finance Systems, including Student Loans, where appropriate
- Admissions notified and offer Packs prepared
- Marketing and Recruitment Plans and materials confirmed and actioned
- Schemes and Modules built on ASTRA
- Teaching Materials written
- Operational Handbooks
- Student Handbooks Produced, tailored according to project
- Amendments to Rules and Regulations effected
- Training Day Organised
- Blackboard sites set up, staff provided with Login details
- Student Engagement Systems: Your Voice Matters and MEQs
- Registration systems set up
- Review application of AU policies
Depending on the nature of the project therefore various actions may need to be taken in preparation for the enrolment of students. For larger projects, it is advised that the project board is convened early during this stage to plan for these operational developments:
2. Operational Management
Collaborative Provision Register
Once a collaborative proposal has completed the approval process, the collaboration will be recorded on the University’s Collaborative Provision Register. This register is maintained by the Academic Partnerships Office with input from other Departments such as the Global Opportunities (GO) and International Recruitment & Development (IRD) offices regarding low-risk Partnerships including Exchange agreements. Any changes to the register should be reported to the Collaboration Office via firstname.lastname@example.org
Prior to entry on the Collaborative Provision Register, the original signed copy of the Collaborative Partnership Agreement must be filed with the Academic Partnerships Office.
To ensure the smooth running of each high-risk collaborative partnership project, an Operational Manual will be produced for each high-risk partnership project to set out how the partnership will be managed on a day-to-day basis and confirm the responsibilities of each partner as detailed in the MOA. This document will detail both operational and quality assurance procedures as they apply to the partnership, and will be reviewed annually by the Academic Partnerships Office. The Operational Manual must be completed prior to students being enrolled on the course and agreed with the Partnership Programme Leader.
Joint Programme Boards
For each high-risk collaborative partnership project, a Joint Programme Board (JPB) shall be convened twice annually, ordinarily once per semester. Chaired by the Aberystwyth University designated Partnership Programme Leader, the JPB serves as an operational management committee for key individuals representing both partners to review the operational and quality assurance arrangements and develop practice as appropriate. The JPB should review and scrutinise the arrangements and can make recommendations to the Collaborative Provision Board however it does not have the authority to make academic or contractual changes to the Partnership.
The board’s remit is as follows:
- To manage the operation and quality of the programme;
- To manage and review any marketing materials associated with the franchise;
- To oversee applications, admissions and recruitment procedures;
- To oversee the quality enhancement of the programme;
- To consider an annual review of the programme and periodic institutional reviews of the programme;
- To make recommendations for minor amendments, as educationally appropriate, to the programme of study, that must be approved in line with other University procedures;
- To oversee the student experience by sharing best practice and considering issues raised by student feedback and by the Student-Staff Consultative Committee and to agree appropriate actions;
- To consider and respond to comments made by External Examiners and agree recommendations for appropriate action;
- To consider education and quality issues raised by module teams;
- To assure and oversee the immediate quality of the course in terms of teaching and learning, student experience and outcomes, linking to existing standards for teaching quality in both institutions.
The Joint Programme Board will likely consist of the following committee members from Aberystwyth University, along with their equivalent role holders at the partner Institution, although may vary depending on the nature of the programme:
- Academic Partnerships Programme Leader (Chair)
- Link Tutor(s)
- Deputy Registrar for Academic Partnerships
- Academic Partnerships Manager
- Faculty Registrar (or nominee)
- Deputy Registrar for Admissions
- Deputy Registrar for Student Records
- Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit Manager
- Student Union Representative
- Student Support Representative
The board will be considered quorate when four members of the board are present. Departmental/Faculty and Academic Partnerships Office staff must attend meeting. All other representatives are optional and should attend as required depending on the agenda.
3. Monitoring and Review
Monitoring of Collaborative Partnership Provision
In accordance with the requirements the UK Quality Code for Higher Education: Partnerships, collaborative partnerships must be regularly monitored throughout their lifecycle to ensure they continue to achieve their original objectives. As such, appropriate and proportionate due diligence will be periodically conducted, enabling the University to assure itself of the ongoing governance, ethos, status, capacity, reputation, general suitability of a partner and any changes to the level of risk involved in the collaboration. To achieve this, the University has established various mechanisms to monitor and review collaborative activity which complement the quality enhancement procedures of the University.
Annual and Periodic Monitoring
To ensure their continued success, all collaborative projects are reviewed annually as part of the University’s standard Annual Review procedures.
In accordance with the revised Quality Code, which places greater emphasis on the written agreements to be differentiated according to the risk level of the partnership, AU has developed a ‘traffic-light’ risk-reporting system for use in formal reviews and reports, not just focusing on risk at the outset of a project through Due Diligence and Risk Assessment.
As at earlier stages, both the Financial and Quality Assurance aspects of the collaboration are reviewed separately. The following mechanisms will each review the various aspects of collaborative activity to ensure that regular due diligence is maintained.
A. Link Tutor bi-annual Reports: The Link Tutor/Partnership Programme Leader will publish a report in each semester, usually following a visit to the Partner. These reports are considered at Joint Programme Boards and at the next appropriate CPB meeting.
B. Annual Monitoring of Taught Schemes (ATMS): As detailed in Academic Quality Handbook Section 2. Development and Review - 2.7 Annual Monitoring of Taught Schemes (AMTS), the aim of the Annual Monitoring is to ensure a system for assuring that schemes are meeting their aims, to identify areas of good practice, and to disseminate this information among key stakeholders in order to further enhance their provision. Specific sections of the AMTS relate to collaborative partnership provision, which is considered at Departmental and Faculty level prior to being considered by Faculty Academic Affairs Committees (FAAC) and Academic Board (AB). Details of any targets, action points, along with a copy of section 3 of the AMTS1 and AMTS1 Appendix 1: Monitoring of Collaborative Provision / AMTS1 Appendix 3 Franchise Provision as necessary, should also be forwarded to email@example.com for the Academic Partnerships Office’ records.
C. Annual Financial Review: The project business case shall be updated by the Finance Department annually and submitted for approval to either the Finance Director or University Executive, as appropriate for the project. Approval should be sought for the updated business case following the end of the financial year.
D. External Examiner Reports: External Examiners will have oversight of collaborative programmes as part of their remit and may comment on the provision as part of their reports. Feedback provided should be commented upon and reviewed at the next Joint Programme Board.
E. Departmental Annual Report: Following completion of AMTS and the Financial Review, the Partnership Programme Leader should submit their annual report to CPB for consideration. The report should draw on the above reports and detail any agreed targets and/or action points.
F. Academic Partnerships / Global Opportunities Annual Report: These are reported to the Collaborative Provision Board. A summary report is presented to each meeting and an end of year Partnerships Report, using the ‘traffic-light’ risk-reporting system (illustrated above), is circulated and approved by CBP then submitted to Senate. Following this, an Annual QA Statement for Council - Section G: Quality Assurance of Academic Partnership Provision is also produced.
G. Departmental Periodic Review, including periodic revalidation of provision: Programmes taught under a collaborative model will be reviewed as part of the department/Faculty’s Periodic Review as detailed in Academic Quality Handbook 2. Development and Review section 2.8 Departmental Periodic Review. The Review Team, reporting to Academic Board will, on behalf of the University, audit departments on a 5-6 year rolling basis
H. Faculty and Department level Auditing: Consideration of Collaborative Partnership Activities may feed into the Departmental Quality Audit as detailed in Academic Quality Handbook 2. Development and Review section 2.10 Departmental Quality Audit Questionnaire.
Cause for Concern Procedure
The Cause for Concern procedure has been designed to support the University to manage potential risks to quality and academic standards. This procedure exists as a mechanism to raise serious concerns relating to Academic Quality or Standards in relation to a Collaboration and may be triggered by any member of staff directly or indirectly involved the collaborative Partnership. Students wishing to raise a complaint about a Partnership must do so via the Complaints Procedure which applies to their course of study. Whilst a student cannot directly access this procedure, the member of staff investigating their Complaint, Academic Appeal or Final Review may raise a Cause for Concern as a result of their investigations into the complaint where they consider that to be an appropriate action. Indicative measures may include evidence from module evaluation statements, annual monitoring reports, student and staff complaints.
Concerns raised under this procedure may include (as appropriate to the collaboration), but are not limited to:
- Inadequate standards of teaching, including failure to address learning outcomes
- Inadequate facilities
- Inadequate support to students
- Provision of information misleading to students
- QAA or CMA breaches
- Failure to adhere to AU regulations relating to assessments and examinations
- Repeated failure to address concerns raised at Joint Programme Boards
- A highly critical external examiners report
- Evidence of poor student recruitment and/or poor student retention
- Inadequate student experience
- Evidence of financial impropriety
- Evidence of deteriorating student performance and poor overall standards
- Highly critical student feedback
- Breaches of the Memorandum of Agreement
- Data Protection and/or confidentiality breaches
This procedure cannot be raised in relation to:
- Isolated incidents, especially those minor in nature
- Complaints about academic judgment where there is no evidence of procedural irregularity
- Matters which should be addressed under alternative complaint or redress procedures
- Grievances against individual staff members: any concern raised must be directed towards the partnership as a whole
- Matters previously dealt with
- Matters which should at first instance be addressed at the Joint Programme Board
- Vexatious or non-meritorious complaints
Where a member of staff wishes to raise a Cause for Concern under this procedure, they must do so in writing to the Deputy Registrar for Academic Partnerships via firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff should be reassured that any concern raised under this procedure shall be dealt with confidentially and without prejudice. The Deputy Registrar for Academic Partnerships will investigate the Concern along with the Academic Registrar and where evidence of an arguable case exists, determine an appropriate course of action to be conducted. This may include:
- Additional Joint Programme Boards
- Visiting the Partner Institution
- Partner Performance Evaluation
The outcome of any investigation will be communicated to the Pro-Vice Chancellor along with the agreed course of action. Irrespective of the outcome, a summary of the concern and any investigation should be presented to CPB for information although any confidential or commercially sensitive information may be redacted as appropriate.
The Deputy Registrar for Academic Partnerships will present to CPB an annual summary of any Causes for Concern raised under this procedure along with the outcome of any investigations.
Partner Performance Evaluation (PPE)
For the University to assure itself of the ongoing governance, ethos, status, capacity, reputation and general suitability of a partner, periodic risk assessments and due diligence checks must occur. This will ensure the University has an up to date picture of each partner’s ongoing suitability to offer a student experience commensurate with that provided at AU.
To address this QAA responsibility and as part of ongoing due diligence, a periodic Partner Performance Evaluation (PPE) will be conducted at regular intervals as determined by the University for each collaborative Partnership. The timing of the PPE may be varied as deemed necessary by the University but is usually initiated:
- after a five year interval (for longer term partnership projects)
- in the 12-18 months preceding the end of or a potential renewal of a Partnership Agreement
- as an appropriate course of action following a Cause for Concern being considered
The PPE will be coordinated by the Academic Partnerships Office and will follow the procedures of the University’s other reviews in composition of a PPE Review Panel. In some instances, a PPE with Site Visit will be necessary. The visit should provide an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the framework within which the partner operates. The visit team will be drawn from the PPE Review Panel, along with an external assessor (if appropriate).
PPE Review Panel
- Membership: The membership of the PPE Review Panel will be as follows: (i) The Chair, to be drawn from outside the Partnership academic department, and usually an Associate Dean (Learning and Teaching). The Chair should have suitable independence and critical distance from the partnership scheme(s), and will be selected by Academic Registry; (ii) A minimum of one member of academic staff, with suitable independence and critical distance from the partnership scheme(s); (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 for each partnership scheme 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 academic department leading the Partnership and will also be submitted to CPB as a record of the recommendations.
Full partnership management and monitoring information will be scrutinised in the first instance by the PPE Review Panel. Where necessary, the academic department/Faculty will undertake further investigation of any issues which are of concern, drawing on support from Academic Partnerships Office and other staff where necessary.
Following this scrutiny, the PPE Review Panel will provide a report for discussion and agreement by CPB. The report template follows this guidance and covers:
- Overall assessment of the health of the partner from the University’s perspective; including student demand, application numbers and admission standards, physical resources
- Overall development of the programme; including developments in learning resources and strategies, student progression and employability, staffing and quality of teaching
- Areas of exemplary practice which can be shared with colleagues in the University and across the collaborative network
- Areas of concern requiring action from the partner
- Opportunities for further development (e.g. potential new programmes)
- Any issues requiring action by the University
- Action Plan
The report, including the action plan, must be considered by the Collaborative Provision Board, Academic Board (if appropriate) and, as appropriate, the Partners Vice-Principal (or equivalent).
Monitoring of the action plan will be carried out by the CPB, with Senate being informed of progress in relation to Partnership activities. Should the partner not address the concerns to the Universities satisfaction, the University reserves the right to invoke the stipulations of the MOA related to actions in the event of serious quality concerns.
The report of the PPE will be reviewed by CPB members who will consider the overall success of the collaboration and provide recommendations to the University Executive and Senate regarding its future development including whether it should be renewed, expanded upon, redesigned as a new proposal with the existing partner, allowed to expire as per the MOA term, or to initiate early termination in line with contractual processes.
Renewal of an Agreement
Renewal of an existing Partnership agreement will follow the same process as that for any new Partnership process, with the PPE review being taken into account along with usual updates to due diligence and risk assessments. The MOA can be reviewed and updated as required by both/either party or can be replaced as necessary.
Conclusion of an Agreement
The conclusion of a low-medium risk Partnership is through termination of the MOA (according to the process outlined in the contract) by either partner, or by expiry of the MOA.
The conclusion of a high-risk category Partnership is through termination of the MOA (according to the process outlined in the contract) by either partner, or by expiry of the MOA.
If termination has not been initiated beforehand, the conclusion of a high-risk category Partnership starts in the preceding 12-18 months of expiry of the MOA/contract. The first stage is a two-pronged approach:
- Initiation of the Partner Performance Evaluation (PPE) looking at the academic programme in terms of Quality Assurance and risk assessment
- Initiation of a Business Case Review (BCR), looking at the financial health of the Partnership.
The Academic Partnerships Office initiates both reviews, but is only responsible for implementation and management of the academic PPE.
Assessment of Outcomes
The quantitative and qualitative information used to enable the University to assess the ongoing suitability of a partner will include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Institutional strategy
- Financial status of the partner
- An appraisal of the financial health of the partnership from the University’s perspective
- Information drawn from the Collaborative Partnership Provision risk register (with updates to the risk register where necessary)
- Recent changes in partner management structure, physical resources (e.g. new campus)
- Compliance/engagement with the terms of the Memorandum of agreement
- Outcome of reviews by external bodies (e.g. QAA, UKVI, PSRB’s), as appropriate, which may give an indication of the general health of the partner
- Number and outcomes of appeals and complaints notified to the University from partner institution students
- Student survey outcomes
- Issues raised by external examiners relating to management/resourcing
- Issues identified via Joint Programme Management Boards
- Issues raised via AMTS or via Faculty Committees
Business Case Review
The Business Case Review looks at overall Partnership costs with input from the Finance and Planning offices, and Faculty management as appropriate.
The Business Case Review is then submitted to the University Executive with recommendations as to whether the Partnership has a sound financial base. The PPE report can be provided to the Executive as part of the overall project report alongside the Business Case Review. The University Executive then approves the recommendations for action.
Partner Performance Evaluation
Upon completion of the PPE, the report, and the final recommendation of is then submitted to the Collaborative Provision Board with recommendations as to whether the Partnership is academically sound and of any identified QA or risk issues raised. Collaborative Provision Board members then review the report and make their observations and recommendations. CPB then approves the recommendations for review and/or approval by both the University Executive and Senate (as appropriate).
The University Executive will review both the PPE report (representative of the academic and quality assurance outcomes and recommendations) AND the Financial/Business Case report (representative of the overall financial health of the Partnership arrangement).
As appropriate to the decision making on academic grounds for any new or extended Partnership arrangement, Senate would be informed (if no decision is necessary on academic grounds) or the application for a new or extended Partnership agreement would be sent to Senate for approval. Senate would then approve the recommendations for action.
For amendment, extension or new high-risk capital projects, the approval summary and associated academic action plan, as appropriate, would then be submitted to Council for final approval.