Breaches of contract: Improvement action planning

  • The Improvement Action Planning process has been introduced in order to address instances where the quality of collaborative provision falls significantly below the expectations set out in the Operations Manual, which is the primary reference point relating to the management and delivery of a collaborative programme. This process provides an opportunity to resolve the problems in a collaborative way before a suspension notice is issued. It is intended to enable a dialogue between the Oxford Brookes Faculty and the partner organisation, in order to agree on an appropriate and timely course of action and hence to protect the interests of students on the programmes involved.

  • There are a range of quality assurance mechanisms currently in place in order to monitor the quality of collaborative arrangements, and address any issues that arise. In terms of lines of accountability, Liaison Managers report to Faculty AESC/QLICs on a regular basis (in some faculties, this is via a Collaborative Provision Sub-Committee or Liaison Managers’ Forum), and FAESC/QLICs also receive approval and review panel reports, and annual review - including external examiners’ - reports. The Chair of the FAESC/QLIC is a member of the Faculty Executive, and, where an academic quality issue identified through one of these reporting mechanisms cannot be resolved by the FAESC/QLIC within a reasonable period of time (or continues to recur at intervals), this is the route by which it should be escalated to the Faculty Executive.

    At this point, the Faculty Executive should make a decision on whether to initiate the improvement action plan process. A working group of University and Partner staff (as listed below) should be convened in order to draw up an improvement action plan, to ensure there is a shared understanding of the issues, and to agree on the appropriate resolution and timeframe. The group should be chaired by the Faculty ADESE or ADSD, and should include:

    • Liaison Manager for the programme under consideration (Brookes)
    • Programme Manager for the programme under consideration (Partner)
    • Faculty ADSD (Brookes)
    • Faculty ADESE or Head of QA & Validations (Brookes)
    • Head of UK Partnerships & Apprenticeships (Brookes)
    • HE Manager, or equivalent (Partner)
    • Principal’s nominee, equivalent to ADSE or PVCSE (Partner)
    • Faculty link Quality Assurance Officer (Brookes)
    • Other representatives from Brookes or the Partner, as appropriate to the issues being considered.

    The outcome of this dialogue should be an action plan to address the issues within an agreed timescale, such that there will be minimal impact on the student experience. As part of this process, the group may also wish to consider how tuition fee income could be utilised more effectively in order to address the current issues and enhance the student experience. The action plan drawn up by the working group should clearly outline: the key issues, the action/s required to address them, the individuals responsible for each action, the deadline by which each action should be implemented, and the criteria for judging whether they have been successful. The risks associated with not implementing each action (i.e. the impact on current students and applicants) should also be assessed and recorded.

    If the outcome of the working group discussion is that it is not possible to achieve the required quality of delivery within a reasonable timescale, a decision may be made to suspend recruitment to the programme while the issues are addressed. This decision should, ideally, be by mutual agreement; however, where there is a disagreement between the University and the Partner, the University reserves the right to issue a suspension notice.

    The action plan drawn up by the working group should be approved by the Faculty AESC/QLIC and reported to the Faculty Executive. The University Quality & Learning Infrastructure Committee and LPAG should also be notified of any programmes being placed under an improvement action plan. The working group should continue to meet to ensure the implementation of the action plan, providing updates on progress for each meeting of the Faculty AESC/QLIC. The plan is monitored in this way by the Faculty AESC/QLIC, and the Faculty Executive should be notified once the action plan has been completed to the satisfaction of the working group and Faculty AESC/QLIC. The improvement notice may then be lifted, and the University QLIC and LPAG should be notified of this.

    The Faculty AESC/QLIC should report any missed deadlines for satisfactory implementation of actions to the Faculty Executive. The Chair of the Faculty AESC/QLIC will advise the Faculty Executive on whether acceptable alternative arrangements have been put in place and, if not, the Faculty Executive may issue a suspension notice. The University QLIC should be notified if an improvement action plan is escalated in this way.

    The improvement action plan procedures should be managed between the Faculty and the Partner concerned, through the working group; with notification of progress to QLIC and LPAG. However, if an issue cannot be resolved through these measures, the Faculty may refer it to the Vice-Chancellor’s Group for further advice.