5.8 - 5.18 Approval of collaborative arrangements

  • 8.1 Permission to proceed to the approval of specific collaborative arrangements is dependent on LPAG approval of the partnership through the process described above. The following part of the process is how the University satisfies itself of the partner’s academic suitability for the delivery of specific provision, in order to secure the quality of learning opportunities for students and ensure that appropriate quality assurance procedures are in place to protect the academic standards of the University’s awards. The detailed arrangements for the event, including agreeing on the location, convening the panel, and drawing up the agenda, should be made by the link QAO in collaboration with the PDT chair.

    8.2 The approval processes for the following types of collaborative provision are included in this section:

    • Franchised and validated provision, and jointly-provided programmes leading to a single Brookes award; including short courses (section 12)
    • Flying Faculty provision (section 13)
    • Articulation agreements (section 14)
    • Credit-rating arrangements (section 15)
    • Jointly-provided programmes leading to multiple awards (section 16)
    • Modification of collaborative arrangements (section 18)

    Templates and guides required for the approval of collaborative arrangements can be found on the APQO website.

    8.3 The level of risk involved in a collaborative arrangement depends on the nature and scope of the responsibilities for teaching, assessment, learning support and quality management that are devolved to the partner/s (overall responsibility for the academic standards of the awards cannot be delegated). The key points to be taken into account when assessing the level of risk involved in a proposed collaborative arrangement include the partner’s experience of collaborative provision and of delivering HE programmes in the discipline, the number of partners involved in and the complexity of the collaboration, and the characteristics of the partner (including its previous ‘quality’ record), which are taken into account through the LPAG approval process (see section 7). See section 19 (paragraph 19.13-19.14) for details of how the risk register and associated action plans should be monitored and reviewed.

    8.4 The standard length of contract for all types of collaborative arrangements is five years, although an approval or periodic review panel has the discretion to set a shorter approval period if they consider that the partner’s capacity to meet the criteria for approval is limited and requires an early review. There is also provision for carrying out the review process earlier than the full term of approval, where:

    • the University programme (where there is equivalent on-campus provision) undergoes review and revision;
    • the partner revises their programme (in the case of validation, credit rating or articulation arrangements);
    • student performance data, or other evidence, gives cause for concern about academic standards on the partner programme;
    • there are changes to national permissions and regulations, or to professional body requirements, that impact significantly on the operation of the programme.

    9.1 For collaborative arrangements with UK partners, it is expected that approval and periodic review events will be held at the partner’s premises. In cases where the same provision is being/to be delivered by several partners, the location for the event should be agreed by all parties and approved by the APQO – the event may be hosted by Oxford Brookes, if appropriate. However, visits should be made in advance of the approval/review event to each of the other delivery locations by (at least) two members of the panel, one of whom may be the QAO who is the panel Secretary - preferably accompanied by the Liaison Manager or PDT Chair - to view the teaching accommodation, learning resources and facilities, and to meet with students. Where specialist facilities are involved, the visit team must include a member with the appropriate expertise to make a judgement on their suitability. Their reports on the other delivery sites should form part of the evidence considered by the approval/review panel.

    9.2 For international flying faculty (with no elements of franchise or validation) and for credit rating arrangements, the process for approval should balance practicalities with the University’s responsibility for quality and standards. It may be decided that it is appropriate for the approval event to be held at Brookes, provided that a site visit has taken place to assess the resources and facilities available (through the due diligence enquiries), and a visit report is included in the submission for the approval panel. In this case, with the agreement of the APQO, the full panel may remain at Brookes and conduct meetings with partner staff by video-conference. An approval or review event may also be conducted remotely in this way if Government advice suggests that it is too risky to travel to the country of delivery; however, Faculties and LPAG should reflect on the benefits and risks of initiating or renewing collaborative arrangements in potentially dangerous political environments.

    9.3 For collaborations involving franchise, validation or dual/joint awards, approval and review events are normally held at the partner premises. However, a ‘hybrid’ video-conferencing/face-to-face approach may be used for the event, if deemed appropriate by the APQO. This would involve the panel Chair, QAO and the external panel member, accompanied by the Liaison Manager, travelling to the partner organisation, while other panel members and University staff connected with the proposal participate in the event by video-conference from Brookes. The PDT for an international collaboration may submit a request to APQO that the approval (or periodic review) event should be held at Oxford Brookes, by video-conference (or equivalent technology); and the levels of risk associated with the proposal, as noted in 8.3 above, will inform the decision on whether or not this is appropriate. The PDT chair should seek advice from the Faculty link QAO about the format for the event at an early stage, preferably at the same time as the LPAG submission is made.

    9.4 A remote event as described above would not normally be permitted for arrangements with a new partner, or for an existing partner proposing to deliver in a different country or through a subsidiary company. The maturity of the partnership - indicated by the length of the relationship and the track record for quality of the provision concerned - should be a key consideration in deciding whether an event should be conducted by the ‘hybrid’ model. In addition, the due diligence enquiries and the risk assessment submitted to LPAG should indicate low levels of risk, especially if the new proposed programmes are in a different subject area to the provision delivered through the established partnership with Brookes.

    9.5 The hybrid panel model may also only be used if compatible video-conferencing facilities are available at Brookes and the partner organisation. The IT systems must be fully tested before the event, and IT support must also be available on the day of the event. The format for the event (and the rationale on which the decision to use the hybrid model was made) should be outlined in the submission document for the approval/review, and will be recorded in the panel report of the event.

    9.6 The costs of validation, including travel expenses for approval and periodic review panel members, should be incorporated into the business plan for the partnership.

    10.1 By the time LPAG approval is sought, the PDT must have been established, and a suitably experienced Liaison Manager identified. The PDT’s primary focus should be the development of the programme delivery and management arrangements, and to ensure that all documents, including the programme specification, programme handbook and the operations manual are consistent with each other and with any other material relevant to the programme. The PDT should comprise representatives from an appropriate range of internal and partner stakeholders to ensure that all aspects of the delivery and quality management of the programme have been fully considered and agreed in advance of the approval panel meeting. The PDT may also wish to discuss aspects of the business plan for the partnership, but they should take into account the confidentiality of any financial or commercially sensitive information considered by LPAG, and consider the extent to which this information should be circulated.

    10.2 The membership and activities of the PDT described in the design and approval process for on-campus provision (see Quality & Standards Handbook Chapter 2: section 3.2 and guidance note G2.1) apply equally to collaborative programmes. However, the membership of the PDT for a collaborative programme should meet the following additional requirements:

    • the PDT chair should be an appropriately senior member of academic staff from the managing Department/School, with experience of managing and/or delivering collaborative programmes;
    • relevant personnel from the partner organisation, in particular the member of staff responsible for managing the programme, should be included;
    • the link QAO should be invited to all meetings;
    • a representative from Legal Services should be invited to all meetings, since a collaborative arrangement always requires a contract between the University and the partner organisation;
    • the Faculty Head of Finance & Planning is a key member of the PDT, especially in the early stages when the business plan is being drawn up for submission to LPAG;
    • it is advisable for the PDT to include or consult with colleagues in the Directorates of Academic & Student Affairs and Learning Resources for advice on the adequacy of the learning resources and support services, or of the procedures in place to deal with student conduct and complaints, at the partner organisation.

    10.3 The PDT is responsible for the preparation of the programme documentation to an appropriate standard for submission to an approval panel. The documentation must be signed off by the Faculty (through an appropriate process which should involve the PLQA and/or ADSE) and submitted to the link QAO, who will check that the documentation is complete before it is circulated to members of the panel.

    11.1 An Operations Manual is required for each collaborative programme - or one per set of cognate programmes delivered by a partner, with the same Liaison Manager. It forms part of the legal agreement governing the partnership and sets out the parameters for delivery of the approved programme/s. The main functions of the Operations Manual are:

    1. to assist in the day to day management of the collaboration by setting out the responsibilities of academic and administrative staff at the University and the partner/s involved in the collaborative arrangement, in order to support admissions to, delivery and quality management of the programme, and to ensure the accuracy of published information relating to the provision;
    2. to provide a reference point for approval panels to assess the suitability of the proposed arrangements and the partner’s capacity to fulfill its requirements;
    3. to enable the University to demonstrate consistency with the expectations of the UK Quality Code, in respect of assuring the quality of the student experience and managing the risks associated with the partnership arrangements.

    11.2 The Operations Manual forms a key part of the contracts governing a partnership, along with:

    • the signed legal agreement between the University and the Partner (the panel approval report is attached as an appendix to the contract)
    • the approved Programme Specification and module descriptions
    • the University Regulations and other relevant academic policies
    • the University’s Quality & Standards Handbook
    • the approved Programme (student) Handbook

    These documents form the definitive programme record, of which the APQO is the guardian.

    11.3 The Operations Manual must be prepared by the PDT chair, with assistance from the link QAO and other members of the PDT, using template T5.5). The PDT is collectively responsible for ensuring that the Operations Manual accurately and comprehensively describes how the proposed collaborative arrangements will operate in practice; and that it is consistent with the programme handbook and other definitive programme information. The Operations Manual is approved by the programme approval panel, and is a key document in respect of the five-yearly periodic review exercise. It should be reviewed annually, and the risk register (and associated risk improvement plans, if applicable) updated, through the annual programme review process. Advice on any proposed changes to delivery arrangements should be sought from the Academic Policy & Quality Office, in order to determine the appropriate approval process, and, once approved, the updated document should be lodged with the APQO.

    12.1 See section 3 above, for definitions of these types of collaborative arrangements. Refer to section 16 below for procedures relating to jointly-provided programmes leading to joint or dual/multiple awards with other awarding institutions.

    12.2 The approval panel event for franchised or validated provision to be delivered in collaboration with a new partner should normally take place at the partner premises where the proposed programme/s will be delivered (but see section 9 above). Where a new proposal is to be delivered at more than one site, the APQO must agree where the approval event will take place. A site visit must be undertaken to the other delivery locations to assess the learning resources, teaching accommodation and other relevant facilities available at each site against the programme approval criteria (as set out in the Quality & Standards Handbook chapter 2), and – where applicable – to meet with students. The visit/s must take place prior to consideration of the proposals by an approval panel; preferably no more than one month before the approval event, so as to ensure currency of the information. The visit report/s should provide an evaluation of the suitability of the partner’s resources and facilities for the delivery of the proposed programme/s, and must be included in the submission for the approval panel.

    12.3 The panel will be convened by the link QAO, in consultation with the Faculty, and should consist of:

    • Chair, independent of the proposing faculty - they should be an appropriately senior member of University staff, with experience of membership of approval panels for home provision, and of managing or delivering collaborative provision;
    • University representative (from outside the proposing Faculty)
    • Faculty representative (from within the proposing Faculty, but independent of the Department/School managing the provision)
    • Directorate representative (optional)
    • at least one external assessor from outside the University, who meets the criteria below (two may be required where a professional perspective is required that the external academic expert cannot offer)
    • link QAO (panel Secretary)

    12.4 External panel members should have:

    • the ability to form an expert and objective opinion of the overall standards of the programmes and the comparability of those standards within the HE sector;
    • academic qualifications at least to the level of the proposed programme and academic expertise relevant to the subject area under consideration;
    • familiarity with current developments in the field of study concerned;
    • understanding and experience of current practice and developments in teaching, learning and assessment in higher education;
    • for programmes with professional elements, awareness of the educational requirements for the profession;
    • experience of managing or operating collaborative arrangements.

    12.5 External assessors should be identified by the Faculty (usually the Chair of the PDT with advice from the PLQA), who should complete the nomination form/s and submit them to the APQO, via the link QAO, for approval.

    12.6 The following documentation should be prepared by the PDT for the approval panel:

    • Submission Document (T2.6)
    • Programme Specification (T2.7)
    • Module Descriptions (T2.8)
    • Programme Handbook (in line with APQO guidance in T2.9)
    • Operations Manual (T5.5)
    • Site visit report for all delivery sites not visited during the approval event (see above)
    • Partner prospectus, if available (or link to partner’s website)
    • For professionally accredited programmes, the PSRB may require additional documentation which should also be included in the submission.

    12.7 All documentation must be carefully scrutinised by the PDT and signed off by the AD(SE) and/or PL(QA) before submission to the panel. The documentation – which may be provided in hard copy or electronically, as agreed with the Panel Chair and Officer - should be received by the panel at least 2 weeks in advance of the event).

    12.8 The agenda for the approval event will be drawn up by the link QAO in consultation with the Faculty. It is advisable to hold a pre-meeting at the University between the link QAO, the Panel Chair and the Liaison Manager (other panel members may be included, as required) a week before the approval event, to confirm the agenda and identify any additional information required prior to the event. The pre-meeting is particularly advisable where the event is to take place abroad.

    12.9 The panel must refer to the programme approval criteria set out in the Quality & Standards Handbook chapter 2), and satisfy themselves that:

    • the partner can provide the necessary resources and facilities to support the programme/s under consideration;
    • the staff at the partner organisation are appropriately qualified and have relevant subject expertise, and a good understanding of:
      • the nature, content, aims and learning outcomes of the programme/s
      • the learning, teaching and assessment strategies to be employed on the programme/s
      • the University’s approach to learning outcomes, assessment, grading and moderation
      • the University’s quality assurance policies and procedures
    • the arrangements set out in the Operations Manual are appropriate and understood by all parties;
    • a robust staffing plan is in place to ensure the successful, and sustainable, delivery of the programme/s; and arrangements have been put in place to support any planned staff development activities to which partner staff are entitled.

    Collaborative short courses

    12.10 The process outlined in this section also applies to franchised or jointly-provided provision that meets the Brookes definition of a short course, i.e. provision of less than 60 credits at any level. If the proposal involves awarding Brookes credit for a short course already provided by the partner organisation (a credit rating arrangement), please refer to section 15 below.

    12.11 The following documentation should be prepared for a short course approval:

    • Programme specification and module specifications (for single module short courses, the module specification acts as the PS);
    • Statement of rationale, course management arrangements, delivery arrangements, student support arrangements, learning resources, teaching staff;
    • Draft programme handbook (or module handbook for single module short courses);
    • Indication of whether the credit could contribute to a higher award, which should be identified with any progression requirements;
    • Institutional details of partner (from CPPF1, to include a resource visit report);
    • Operations Manual (shortened to cover only the relevant aspects of delivery);
    • Draft certificate, which has been agreed with the Academic Registrar and Corporate Affairs.

    13.1 See section 3 above for definitions of these types of collaborative arrangements. A programme approval panel will be convened, for an approval meeting to be held at either Brookes or the partner’s premises, as agreed with the APQO. If the event is held at the partner premises, it will include a tour of the premises to assess the quality of the learning environment and any learning resources being provided by the partner.

    13.2 The approval panel should comprise as a minimum:

    • Chair, independent of the proposing Faculty (with experience of managing or delivering collaborative provision);
    • an assessor from within the Faculty delivering the proposed programme, but independent of the Department/School by which the programme will be managed;
    • an assessor from a Faculty not involved in the delivery of the proposed programme;
    • external assessor, employed, or with recent relevant experience, in another UK higher education institution. Where the proposal is for existing provision (being delivered at Brookes) to be delivered by flying faculty, this role may be taken by the current external examiner;
    • Faculty link QAO (panel Secretary).

    13.3 The following documentation should be submitted by the PDT to the panel:

    • Submission document (T2.6);
    • Programme specification (T2.7);
    • Module descriptors (T2.8);
    • Programme handbook (the content must be in line with APQO guidance in T2.9);
    • The Programme Specification and Programme Handbook must contain particularly clear information about:
      • programme structure and delivery patterns;
      • the provision of learning support and academic advice;
      • access to learning resources;
      • the submission of work for assessment, or arrangements for examinations.
    • Site visit report for all delivery sites not visited during the approval event, describing the learning resources, teaching accommodation and other relevant facilities available at each site, and providing an evaluation of their suitability for the delivery of the proposed programme/s;
    • For professionally accredited programmes, the PSRB may require additional documentation which should also be included in the submission.

    13.4 In considering the proposal, the panel should focus particularly on the following areas, as applicable:

    • programme structure and delivery pattern, and how this will be managed by the Faculty;
    • responsibilities for advertising and marketing the programme;
    • the receipt of student applications and selection of students;
    • submission of work for assessment, or arrangements for exams;
    • the provision of student support and guidance, including academic advice and access to learning resources;
    • communication links (including the transfer of student data) between the University and the partner.

    13.5 The approval process must confirm that:

    • the learning environment and arrangements for student support are appropriate;
    • appropriate records will be kept of all students enrolled/registered for the University award and/or credits;
    • any relevant permissions (including visas for staff) have been obtained in the country of operation;
    • appropriate arrangements are in place for monitoring the quality and standards of the provision.
    • in addition - for new programmes - the University’s programme approval criteria must be met (see Quality & Standards Handbook chapter 2: section 3.5).

    14.1 An articulation agreement is the formal arrangement with another institution whereby students who are successful on an identified programme delivered by that partner can gain automatic entry with credit (advanced standing) onto a later stage of a specified Brookes programme - or one of several specified programmes - of study. The credit achieved for the completion of the partner programme is transferred to contribute to the programme and award completed at the University. The two separate programmes are the responsibility of the respective institutions delivering them; however, since together they contribute to a single award, the University has responsibility for ensuring that the curriculum and standards of achievement of the partner programme are, and continue to be, at an appropriate academic standard to be considered equivalent to the identified component of the Brookes award/s to which entry is granted.

    14.2 An articulation agreement is frequently an element of a wider collaborative arrangement, for example, it leads to entry onto a franchised Brookes programme to be delivered by the same partner; and the approval of the articulation arrangement should therefore be considered at the same time as the approval of the franchise arrangements. In this case, the process outlined in section 12 above applies, but refer to the documentation requirements for the articulation arrangement in this section. A single operations manual should include details of both elements of the arrangement.

    14.3 For standalone articulation arrangements, an approval panel will be convened by the APQO, which must include a Chair and at least one member of the relevant Faculty AESC, independent of the proposing team. The panel must also include an external member, who may be the external examiner for the programme to which students will gain entry with advanced standing.

    14.4 The approval panel will focus particularly on the equivalence of the learning outcomes of the partner programme with those of the comparable Brookes award. The external panel member will be asked to make an assessment of the standard of student achievement on the partner programme, upon consideration of a sample of assessed student work.

    14.5 The following documentation should be prepared by the PDT for the approval panel:

    1. the CPPF3 approved by LPAG (template T5.3);
    2. Programme specification, or equivalent document, for the partner’s programme;
    3. Evidence to show how the partner programme equates to comparable levels of the University programme (through mapping of intended learning outcomes of the partner programme against those of the relevant stages of the Brookes award, with reference to the Framework for HE Qualifications, contained in the UK Quality Code)
    4. External verification of the partner’s programme (if available), such as external examiners’ reports or other external quality reports;
    5. Samples of student assessed work, together with assessment briefs, exam papers, assessment criteria, etc;
    6. Draft Operations Manual (this should be shortened to cover only the relevant aspects of the partnership – see 14.6 below).

    14.6 The Operations Manual should:

    1. specify the title of the partner programme leading to advanced standing to the Brookes programme, and the number of students permitted;
    2. if the partner programme is not delivered and assessed in English, describe the arrangements for monitoring and reviewing the articulation, and also describe how the English language competence of the students will be determined for entry onto the Brookes programme;
    3. specify the Brookes programme to which the articulation is approved, and the access point;
    4. identify the liaison manager who will be responsible for monitoring the articulation;
    5. specify the arrangements for monitoring and review of the agreement, including the process to be followed when the partner’s programme is modified;
    6. describe the role of the external examiner appointed to monitor the standards of the partner programme (this will usually involve the extension of the duties of the external examiner for the Brookes programme to which entry is granted);
    7. provide for the University to revisit the agreement if the performance of students or any other evidence raises questions about academic standards on the partner programme

    15.1 Credit rating, in which the University assigns specific credit to modules offered by a partner organisation, for example, an employer, is related to articulation. The key difference lies in how the credit may be used: a credit rating involves creating an award in its own right, while the Brookes credit associated with a partner programme through an articulation agreement has no currency outside that agreement.

    15.2 A similar approval process as that described for articulation arrangements in 14 above applies. However, instead of considering a mapping against the learning outcomes of the earlier stages of a programme to which entry is granted, the approval panel must be provided with evidence to show how the learning outcomes of the partner’s programme equate to the level of the credit that will be awarded and to demonstrate that the learning equates to the volume of credit being awarded. A programme specification should also be produced, using the short course programme specification template, to include details of the programmes in which students may use the credit awarded through the credit rating arrangement. The approval panel should also be provided with a draft certificate, which has been agreed with the Academic Registrar and Corporate Affairs.

    16.1 The approval process is the same as that described in section 12 above, but panels should be aware that programmes of study leading to joint awards present particular challenges for quality assurance and securing academic standards since responsibilities are shared with a partner. It is desirable to agree a joint framework for managing the quality and standards of the programme, including, potentially, a joint regulatory framework governing assessment and award requirements. The procedures and how they will be implemented should be clearly articulated in the Operations Manual. Programme teams should be aware that the process of drafting and agreeing such a framework may be lengthy, especially where the programme needs to meet the requirements of different jurisdictions, and appropriate time should be built in to the programme design stage of the project.

    16.2 In order to ensure that any issues are resolved, a joint approval event must be held, i.e. both the panel and the programme team must be representative of both partners. The event may be held either at Brookes or the partner’s premises, as agreed between the parties involved and approved by the APQO.

    17.1 The possible outcomes of, and the procedures to be followed after, the approval event are the same as for home provision (refer to Quality & Standards Handbook chapter 2: section 3.6), except that:

    • the report of the approval event is written by the Faculty link QAO;
    • the panel report is received by the Collaborative Provision Sub-Committee, rather than AESC;
    • full programme details are not held on eCSIS, but the Course & Student Administration Team will enter outline details on eCSIS (for ACP and other provision where students are enrolled) or VSMS (other collaborative provision);
    • the programme and partnership will not continue in approval indefinitely but will be approved for a maximum period of five years, in line with the standard contract length (a shorter period of approval may be set if the panel considers that an earlier review is required), and may only be renewed/extended on the recommendation of a periodic review panel.

    17.2 All conditions set by the approval panel must be addressed to the satisfaction of the panel before approval is confirmed and the legal agreement may be finalised and signed. The ‘subject to validation’ flag will then be removed from the programme, and recruitment may commence. The APQO will enter the new arrangements onto the University’s register of collaborative provision.

    Modifications to curriculum, delivery or support

    18.1 Partner organisations may suggest modifications to collaborative programmes, but they may only be approved and implemented on completion of the appropriate approval process as set out in the Quality & Standards Handbook chapter 2: section 5.

    18.2 Where programmes leading to the same award are being delivered by more than one partner, through a franchise arrangement, and/or also by the University, major and minor modifications are only permitted if they are agreed for the delivery of the programme by all parties, in order to ensure continued comparability of the standards of the award across all delivery locations.

    18.3 In the case of validation, credit rating and articulation arrangements, the partner organisation must notify the University when modifications are to be made to the partner’s programme, and the Faculty AESC must ensure that the partner programme continues to meet the University’s requirements for the credit being awarded.

    18.4 Modifications to ACP and flying faculty provision are dealt with as for home provision. Modifications to jointly-provided programmes leading to dual or joint awards must be agreed by all partners involved.

    New teaching staff

    18.5 Approval of new teaching staff – CVs of new staff appointed by the partner to teach on an existing collaborative programme should be submitted to the Liaison Manager and considered for approval by the Faculty AESC. The ‘new staff CV’ template (T5.9) should be used for ACP provision. The outcome of the FAESC consideration should be reported to the APQO via the link QAO, for recording with the definitive programme documentation – the Operations Manual must also be updated.

    Additional delivery locations

    18.6 For the approval of additional delivery locations for existing collaborative arrangements, i.e. the same partner will be delivering the same programme/s at a new location, a site visit (as described in 9.1 above) will be undertaken by an appropriate member of University staff, plus a secretary (usually a QAO, unless alternative arrangements have been agreed with the Head of APQO) who will write a report to notify the Collaborative Provision Sub-Committee. The format of the report is likely to vary, depending on the nature of the provision concerned (for example, specialist facilities may need to be evaluated for some provision), and Faculties should consult their link QAO to agree on the agenda for the visit, and the personnel who will need to be involved in the visit. A report template (T5.14) is available for staff carrying out a site visit without a QAO accompanying them.

    Note: If the proposal involves the addition of new teaching staff as well as a new delivery location, an approval event should be held.

    18.7 In all cases of modification to approved arrangements, the Operations Manual (and risk register) must be updated and approved, and lodged with the definitive documents governing the collaborative arrangements, held by the Academic Policy & Quality Office.