The partnership approval process is the means by which the University establishes the market demand, strategic fit and financial viability for a proposed new collaborative arrangement, and satisfies itself that a proposed new partner:
- is in good financial health and has the appropriate legal standing to enter into the proposed partnership
- has an educational ethos that is consistent with the University’s strategic priorities
- has in place an appropriate governance framework for maintaining academic standards and quality, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities
- has the facilities and resources to provide a high quality higher education learning environment
- has the ability to market the programme appropriately
Approval for entering into new collaborative partnerships must be sought from the Learning Partnerships Advisory Group (LPAG). The terms of reference and membership, and meeting dates, are available on the LPAG Google site. The committee meets approximately six times per year, and the executive authority for decision-making rests with the Chair (via a delegation from the Vice-Chancellor), who acts on the advice of the members of the Group. LPAG receives an annual report on the financial performance of all current partnerships, including the outcomes of refreshed financial due diligence enquiries; and provides an annual report on its activities to the Academic Board and the Board of Governors.
Project teams should work with their Faculty link Quality Assurance Officer to ensure that new partnership proposals - or proposals to extend the scope of arrangements with existing partners - are prepared for LPAG approval in sufficient time to allow for the further detailed development of the proposed arrangements and completion of the academic approval process, before the first intake of students.
Formal proposals for new partnership
Formal proposals for new partnerships are presented to LPAG on the appropriate Collaborative Provision Proposal Form (CPPF - see below), which provides the Group with details of:
- the legal, financial and academic standing of the prospective partner;
- the proposed collaborative programme arrangements, and who will be responsible for their development and management;
- the business case and financial model which will support the proposal;
- the risk register for the proposed provision.
There are several CPPF forms, tailored for the approval of different types of collaborative arrangements, as follows:
- CPPF 1 (template T5.1) is to be completed in the case of proposals (including ‘short courses’) relating to prospective new partners (UK or international), or to the extension of arrangements with existing partners who do not belong to the Associate College Partnership. The CPPF 1 must be accompanied by a full business plan.
- CPPF 2 (template T5.2) should be completed for any proposals relating to current members of the Associate College Partnership. Members of the ACP are considered to have a ‘highly trusted status’ as a consequence of the maturity of the relationships between these partner colleges and the University. The initial approval process for the addition of new provision therefore involves a shorter submission to LPAG, since the partners are well known to the University, and a standard financial model is in place. A business plan is not required for proposals that conform to this model: however, CPPF2 forms should be accompanied by a detailed business plan for proposals that do not conform to the standard model. Where a new programme is proposed for delivery by more than one ACP partner, a separate CPPF2 form must be completed for each college.
- CPPF 3 (template T5.3) should be completed for proposals relating only to articulation or credit rating arrangements (i.e. there is no associated validation or franchise arrangement). A full business plan is not needed with CPPF3, but a template is available on which proposers should provide a summary of the likely costs and income associated with the arrangement. The CPPF is used both for the approval of new and the renewal of existing credit rating or articulation arrangements.
The CPPF and business case templates, and guidance on carrying out due diligence enquiries and risk assessments, are available from the APQO website (see guidance notes G5.1, G5.2, G5.3a / G5.3b); and the Faculty link QAO can advise on their completion. The PDT chair is responsible for completing the CPPF form, drawing on information provided by the prospective partner, which should be checked in consultation with relevant Brookes colleagues outside the Faculty (as shown in each section of the form) in order to ensure that the information presented is sufficiently independent and comprehensive
Collaborative research degrees
Proposals for collaborative research degree programmes leading to a dual or joint award with another degree-awarding body should be presented to the Research Degrees Committee on the RDC Collaborative PhD Proposal Form (template T5.12 – advice on its completion is available from the Research Degrees Team), once approval has been obtained from the Faculty Head of Finance & Planning and the Faculty Executive Group. When approval has been given by RDC, this form is submitted to LPAG, accompanied by a note of RDC’s conclusions and recommendations, and their analysis of the key risks associated with the proposed arrangements. LPAG will assess the proposal and, if satisfied that appropriate due diligence has been carried out, the Chair will give authorisation for the contract to be drawn up (Note: joint PhD studentships are not subject to this process). Ongoing monitoring of the arrangements is the responsibility of RDC.
Preparing a partnership proposal – due diligence
The project leader (or a representative from the PDT) must visit the prospective partner in advance of submitting a proposal to LPAG, to assess their ability to support the programme/s of study which will lead to the proposed Brookes award/s (through, for example, viewing their facilities and learning resources, meeting with academic staff, and sampling assessed student work) and to seek outline agreement on the financial arrangements. In the case of a new international partner, it should be established at this stage that they will be able to make payments to Brookes in Sterling, US Dollars or Euro. The visit will also be useful for collecting information to complete the CPPF – at this stage, project leaders should also consult with colleagues in the Directorate of Academic & Student Administration, and the UK Partnerships or Brookes Global team (as appropriate), and with their Associate Dean Strategy & Development and Faculty Head of Finance & Planning. Please read guidance note G5.2 for advice on carrying out academic due diligence enquiries.
During this consultation phase, a letter of intention to collaborate or Memorandum of Understanding may be drafted using the template available on the APQO website (template T5.10), but the partner is not permitted to publish any statements which might imply that the proposed provision has been approved, or to use the University’s logo in any promotional publications. Advice should be sought from the Associate Dean Education & Student Experience and link QAO at this stage, in order to agree a timescale for completion of the approval process.
Preparing a partnership proposal - assessing the risks
A risk assessment template is an integral element of all CPPF and CPRF forms, and advice should be sought from the Associate Dean (Strategy & Development) for the proposing Faculty on completing this element of the form. The ADSD will assist the project leader in assessing the severity of the risks associated with the proposal, and with the production of risk improvement action plans (template T5.13) for all risks rated M/H, H/M or H/H before submission to Faculty Executive and LPAG. The ADSD may also require the PDT to produce risk improvement plans for risks rated M/M and below, if they consider it necessary in the context of the proposal.
All risk improvement action plans must be submitted to LPAG with the CPPF/CPRF. On consideration of the documentation, LPAG may make recommendations about the Faculty’s assessment of the risks associated with the development of the proposed arrangements, and ask for adjustments to be made or additional risk improvement plans to be produced.
Faculty Executive Group approval
All proposals for new collaborative arrangements must be approved by the PVC/Dean of Faculty - usually through the Faculty Executive Group - prior to submission to LPAG. They must consider the completed CPPFs and business plans, and satisfy themselves that comprehensive due diligence enquiries have been made, and realistic assessments of the potential risks and likely exit options (including the costs) have been carried out. Due diligence enquiries are not required for new proposals with existing Associate College Partnership members, but the Faculty Executive must be satisfied that there is a robust analysis of the likely market demand for the new provision.
The Faculty Executive must approve the CPPF and business plan, including the membership of the Project Development Team, which should be established prior to submission to LPAG. If the Faculty Executive considers that the information contained in the form is insufficient, they should return it to the PDT for further work (assisted by the Associate Dean Strategy & Development) before any consideration may be given to the proposal at institutional level. The Faculty approval stage should involve a careful consideration of the risk assessment for a new collaborative arrangement, especially where:
- delivery is not in the UK;
- delivery and/or assessment is in a language other than English
- elements of the programme are delivered or supported by a third party, e.g. placements/work-based learning
- the programme will be accredited by a professional body, and there is a professional body aspect to assessment
- Brookes does not have academic expertise in the discipline.
Faculty Executive Groups should ensure that business plans take account of any potential impact of the risks identified in the CPPF on the costs of the partnership arrangements. They should also ensure that the costs of the following (if applicable) have been appropriately considered:
- the entitlements of non-ACP students to Brookes resources and facilities
- any teaching provided by Brookes staff
- exit options.
Learning Partnerships Advisory Group (LPAG) approval
The CPPF, once approved by the Faculty Executive and signed off by the PVC/Dean, should be submitted to the secretary of LPAG – copied to the Faculty’s link QAO - for circulation to members. The PDT chair, Head of Department, Faculty Head of Finance & Planning, and proposed Liaison Manager (if not the PDT chair) will be invited to attend the meeting at which their proposal is discussed, in order to assist LPAG in making their decision by providing additional information or clarification about aspects of the proposal. The Associate Deans (Strategy & Development) are members of LPAG, and may also take part in the discussion of proposals originating from their Faculty.
LPAG members will assess proposals against the University’s partnership criteria (UK or International, as appropriate) and consider the rationale and business case presented. The Chair – with due regard to the University’s statutory responsibility to safeguard the standards of its awards - will exercise their discretion to either:
- approve the proposal to proceed to approval of the academic delivery arrangements via the appropriate process
- refer the proposal back to the Faculty for further development and re-submission (either for consideration by the full committee or for approval by the Chair only)
- or - where it demonstrates insufficient fit with the University’s strategies and policies, and is considered to present an unacceptably high level of risk - reject the proposal.
LPAG may highlight issues relating to the proposed delivery arrangements for further exploration by the academic approval or review panel, in which case the LPAG secretary will bring this to the attention of the PDT chair when LPAG’s decision is communicated to them.
The approval of a new collaborative partnership is not complete until an appropriate University panel has formally approved the delivery of the proposed collaborative programme/s (as set out in the programme approval chapter of the Quality & Standards Handbook). Once any conditions of approval have been met to the panel’s satisfaction, the legal contract will be finalised, and recruitment and delivery may commence.