5.21 - 5.22 Taking action to improve, and closure of, collaborative arrangements

  • 21.1 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 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. The process was originally designed for use across the Associate College Partnership, but may be adapted and applied to any partnership, as appropriate.

    21.2 There are a range of QA mechanisms currently in place in order to monitor the quality of collaborative arrangements, as outlined in sections 19-20 above. In terms of lines of accountability, Liaison Managers report to Faculty AESCs on a regular basis (in some faculties, this is via a Collaborative Provision Sub-Committee or Liaison Managers’ Forum), and FAESCs also receive approval and review panel reports, and annual review - including external examiners’ - reports. The Chair of the FAESC is a member of the Faculty Executive, and, where an academic quality issue identified through one of the reporting mechanisms cannot be resolved by the FAESC, 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 an improvement action plan.

    21.3 A working group of University and College staff (as listed below) should be convened in order to draw up the 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 ADSE or ADSD. The working group should include:

    • Liaison Manager for the programme under consideration (Brookes)
    • Programme Manager for the programme under consideration (Partner)
    • Faculty AD/SD or PL for CP (Brookes)
    • Faculty AD/SE or PL for QA (Brookes)
    • Head of UK Partnerships (Brookes)
    • PL/SE for ACP (Brookes) – for ACP partnerships
    • HE Manager, or equivalent (Partner)
    • Principal’s nominee, equivalent to AD/SE or PVC/SE (Partner)
    • Faculty link Quality Assurance Officer (Brookes)
    • Other representatives from Brookes or the Partner, as appropriate to the issues being considered.

    21.4 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 against which they will be measured. The risks associated with not implementing each action (i.e. the impact on current students) should also be assessed and recorded.

    21.5 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 College, the University reserves the right to issue a suspension notice.

    21.6 The action plan drawn up by the working group should be approved by the Faculty AESC and reported to the Faculty Executive. CPSC should also be notified of any programmes being placed under an improvement action plan and when they have been lifted, or escalated further. 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. The plan is monitored in this way by the Faculty AESC, and the Faculty Executive should be notified once the action plan has been completed to the satisfaction of the working group and Faculty AESC. The improvement notice may then be lifted.

    21.7 The Faculty AESC should report any missed deadlines for satisfactory implementation of actions to the Faculty Executive. The Chair of the Faculty AESC 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.

    21.8 The improvement action plan procedures should be managed between the Faculty and the Partner concerned, through the working group and with notification to CPSC (and hence to AESC and LPAG, though its minutes). However, if an issue cannot be resolved through these measures, the Faculty may refer it to SMT for further advice.

    22.1 Please refer to the suspension and closure processes described in the Quality & Standards Handbook chapter 2: section 5 - these processes apply equally to collaborative provision. Please note that there is a formal process for reviewing the viability of, and potentially suspending, programmes delivered by the Associate College Partnership – advice on this procedure should be sought from the Head of UK Partnerships.

    22.2 As with home provision, the termination of a partnership or closure of a collaborative programme may arise in a number of ways. Irrespective of the circumstances, safeguarding the interests of any students remaining on the programmes is paramount, and the exit strategy must ensure the integrity and continuity of their education while studying for a Brookes award. Exit strategies must also give consideration to minimising the reputational damage to the University. It can be difficult to predict the exact circumstances which may lead to the termination of a partnership, particularly in the case of a serious breach of contract. The management of the closure of collaborative arrangements may take a variety of forms, depending on the situation, and the process of agreeing the exit process must therefore be carried out in consultation with the appropriate range of interested parties within Brookes and the partner organisation.

    22.3 A number of potential exit strategies will have been identified at the point of consideration of a new partnership (or the renewal of an existing one), and approved by the Learning Partnerships Advisory Group. It is of key importance that due consideration is given to exit strategies at the point of initiation of a new partnership, since withdrawal from collaborative arrangements can be protracted and expensive if not managed effectively. Potential exit strategies should be reviewed regularly by the managing Faculty – through the annual review process, and at the five-yearly contract renewal (at which point they will be presented to LPAG prior to the periodic review of the provision) - in order to assess whether they remain appropriate in the context of any changes to the risk environment.

    22.4 When a Faculty decides to terminate a partnership agreement, SMT support for the decision must be sought in good time to give formal notice; and a more detailed plan for the withdrawal must be drawn up before the period of notice expires. If possible, the exit plan should be negotiated with the partner - in the case of international partners, all Brookes staff travelling out to meet with partner staff to agree the exit plan must be made aware of all factors affecting the termination of the arrangement. NOTE: The standard survivorship provisions of the Brookes legal agreement normally suffice in the case of planned closures at the expiry of a current contract, and further detail is only required if the exit arrangements differ from the normal requirements set out in the existing contract.

    22.5 The University retains overall responsibility for the remaining students on the programme/s, and for enabling them to complete their studies, regardless of the willingness of the partner to work with Brookes staff to protect the interests of students. Where there is a significant teaching out period for a collaborative arrangement, a review of the provision to be closed should be undertaken by a University panel – following the University’s periodic review process as set out in the Quality & Standards Handbook chapters on collaborative provision and periodic review - in order for the University to ensure that appropriate quality management arrangements will remain in place to enable the remaining students to complete their programme of study and achieve the award for which they are registered (NOTE: a review is not necessary where no students remain on the programme/s). These arrangements should be approved by AESC on receipt of the review report, and monitored by the appropriate Faculty AESC and Faculty Executive group; and, where deemed necessary, SMT.