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Approval process for Joint Awards - Overseas

Overseas collaborations are usually considered to be a higher risk than UK collaborations and these collaborations must adhere to the University’s Transnational Education Procedure and Guidance.  

In the first instance, it is advised that the Teaching and Learning Adviser (Collaborations) within the Division of Teaching, Learning and Student Development (TLSD), the relevant Faculty Teaching and Learning Office and the Director of International Development be informed of the proposed joint award to ensure that they are involved in the process from the offset.  

It is then advised that an ‘exploratory meeting’ take place between the School and the proposed partner(s).  After this meeting if the School wishes to proceed with the proposed joint award they must inform the Teaching and Learning Adviser (Collaborations) within the TLSD who will provide them with the Approval to Proceed to Next Steps form and risk analysis form which will need to be completed (see Section 4 of the guidance).  Once the School has the initial support of the Faculty and has received advice and guidance from the Director of International Development, the School should then meet with School and (or) Faculty Accountant to discuss a suitable business model and costing analysis.

The contents of the Approval to Proceed to Next Steps form (including finances) should then be discussed further with the relevant Head of School and Dean (or Associate Dean) of the Faculty who should then sign this to show that they support the proposed collaboration.  When discussing the proposed collaboration with the Dean or Associate Dean, the Faculty Teaching and Learning Office should have the opportunity to comment.

The completed Approval to Proceed to Next Steps form should then be submitted to the Teaching and Learning Adviser (Collaborations) in TLSD and once this has been received the Teaching and Learning Adviser (Collaborations) will arrange for this to be presented to the University’s Transnational Education Group (TNE Group) which will serve as an Approval to Proceed to Next Steps panel meeting.  This Group is chaired by the Vice-President for Teaching, Learning and Students and usually meets approximately every six weeks.  At this meeting, the relevant Dean (or Associate Dean) from the Faculty and the Head of School (or nominee) may be asked to attend to present the proposal in more detail.  This Panel will then make preliminary judgements about:

  • Whether there is a sound rationale for the proposed collaboration and how the partner institution's mission, strategy, quality and ethos are compatible with those of the University of Manchester (this may include reference to ranking tables);
  • Whether the proposed collaboration is consistent with the University of Manchester ’Vision 2020’ strategic document;
  • Whether it would be appropriate to undertake the proposed collaboration in view of the University's existing collaborative arrangements and other commitments;
  • an indication of the number of students which might be enrolled;
  • the programme or programmes which would be the subject of the collaboration (including whether these are new or existing programmes);
  • Whether the proposed collaboration will command the commitment and support of the School, Faculty and senior management of the University and of the prospective partner institution.

In addition, consideration will be given to:

  • Whether the outline business case is sound (the TNE approval panel must be satisfied that there is a sound business case for the programme based upon realistic projections of revenues and full and accurate costing of activities);
  • Any perceived risk to the University.

Following this meeting, The Vice President (Teaching, Learning and Students) will then make a decision as to whether the proposal should proceed to the next steps.  Approval at this stage is only ‘Approval to Proceed to Next Steps’ and is not final approval for the proposed collaboration.

If a recommendation to proceed is agreed, the TLSD (where necessary) will invite the prospective partner institution(s) to submit further supporting evidence including institutional structure, current degree regulations and arrangements for the assurance of quality and standards.  In cases where prospective partner institutions are known to have, or to have had, previous joint award arrangements with other UK awarding institutions, the latter will be contacted by the Teaching and Learning Adviser (Collaborations) to ascertain the standing and effectiveness of the prospective partner, particularly in cases where the joint degree has come to an end.

In many countries, it is a requirement that collaborations and programmes are approved by local regulatory bodies.  In such cases, the University requires that partner institutions secure the necessary approval(s) prior to the commencement of the collaboration and the programme(s).  In addition, Schools should seek additional evidence and advice on the legal, financial and cultural environment (particularly in relation to quality and standards and language issues) from relevant national government offices and agencies, UK bodies with a presence in the country such as the British Council, UK NARIC, UK government offices.  Staff in International Development will be able to assist Schools with the collation this information.  
The Vice President (Teaching, Learning and Students) will then require a visit to the partner institution(s).  The review team will normally include the Associate Vice President (Teaching, Learning and Students) and the Teaching and Learning Adviser (Collaborations).   The team should gather relevant evidence and present this in a report to the Dean of Faculty.  The Dean of Faculty should then evaluate all of the evidence regarding the proposed collaboration and recommend to the Vice-President (Teaching, Learning and Students) whether, or not to proceed to a full Institutional approval.  

Where ‘Approval to Proceed to Next Steps’ has been granted and alongside the visit to the institution(s), once general arrangements for the proposed collaboration have been agreed, it is then possible to consider and approve or make amendments to the specific programme(s) where necessary.  The compatibility of degree regulations must be considered in detail at this stage.

The University’s procedure for approving new programmes or amendments should be followed and the approval documentation should include a programme specification, unit specifications and agreed split of delivery and assessment.  It is recommended that the Faculty Committee responsible for approving the programme(s), also receive a copy of the minutes from the TNE Group where the proposed partnership was considered and the report from the approval visit.

After being presented with the necessary documentation, The Vice-President (Teaching, Learning and Students) will consider whether due process has been followed at every stage and whether the relevant criteria have been met.  If satisfied that this is the case, final approval will then be given.  The final decision to approve the joint award will be taken by the Vice-President (Teaching, Learning and Students).

It may be beneficial for an Operations Manual to be produced for this type of collaboration which will ensure transparency for staff at both institutions and set out clearly individual roles and responsibilities.  The Teaching and Learning Adviser (Collaborations) will assist in the development of this.

Once the Vice-President (Teaching, Learning and Students) has approved the collaboration, the final Memorandum of Agreement will be finalised in conjunction with the University’s Contracts Team.  The agreement will clearly set out the following requirements:

  • Responsibilities for publicity and marketing and, where appropriate, agreed procedures for approval;
  • Responsibilities for admissions and, where appropriate, agreed procedures for monitoring entry standards;
  • Responsibilities for enrolment and registration;
  • Minimum and maximum student numbers (where necessary);
  • Responsibilities for student support and guidance;
  • Responsibilities for student progression, including the maintenance of student and other designated records during the course of the agreement, after its termination, and in the event of the partner institution ceasing to exist;
  • Responsibilities for student discipline, complaints, and appeals;
  • Arrangements for the conduct of examination and assessment;
  • The appointment and role of external examiners;
  • Quality assurance arrangements;
  • The duration of the agreement and arrangements to review it;
  • Provision to enable the University to seek arbitration or suspend or terminate the agreement in the event of the partner institution failing to fulfil its obligations;
  • Residual obligations to students on the termination of the agreement;
  • Responsibilities for managing and issuing certificates and transcripts;
  • Mechanisms for administering the collaboration;
  • Financial arrangements including costings, the recording of all financial transactions with the partner institution, safeguards against financial pressures compromising standards and the interests of students, confirmation of who is to pay travel, accommodation, external examiner and subsistence expenses;
  • Legal arrangements, including the legal jurisdiction under which disputes will be resolved;
  • annexes with details of the programme(s) covered by the agreement.

The Teaching and Learning Adviser (Collaboration) in TLSD will send two copies to the partner(s) to be signed.  Once the signed copies have been returned to TLSD, the University’s Registrar and Secretary will sign both copies; one will be kept within TLSD and one will be sent to the Partner(s) for their files.  The partnership will then be added to the University’s Register of Collaborative Provision and the University’s review schedule.