Approval Process for Collaborative Provision Partnerships

Partner Triage and Approval Flowcharts

Approval arrangements for new partners will vary depending on the nature of the collaboration as part of a risk based approach. The Triage and Approval Flowcharts outline the process for approval for each model of collaboration.

Initial Discussions and Investigation

Initial enquiries as to the potential for developing a new partnership may be generated predominantly either through acquisition by the Keele International Development Manager, an approach by a prospective partner or through acquisition by a Keele School or Faculty. In each case the initial enquiry should be investigated by the International Development Manager with discussions opened between the Keele School/Faculty and prospective partner.

If the Keele School/Faculty and International Development Manager decide that there is scope to further explore the options for developing a partnership, the International Development Manager will conduct an early market analysis and an investigation into the regulatory framework of the country the partner is based, to determine the viability of establishing a partnership and whether there may be restrictions within the country’s laws that prevent developing particular options.

Should it be decided by the International Development Manager that there is scope to develop a formal proposal, the Faculty Executive Dean should be consulted to ensure a proposal is endorsed in principal by the Faculty. The Quality Assurance Team will then be consulted. Where a new proposal is based in the UK, the Collaborative Provision Officer and Head of Academic Quality and Student Conduct will take forward initial discussions with the School/Faculty and prospective partner and advise the School/Faculty on whether a proposal might be viable.

The Outline Planning Proposal and Outline Approval

An Outline Planning Proposal Form should be developed by the School/Faculty, in consultation with the International Development Manager and the Collaborative Provision Officer in QA. Prior to any Outline Planning Proposals being presented to UEC, preparatory discussions of the plans should take place at CAP, which will make recommendations as to the proposal and may request further clarification and exploration of a proposal before it can be submitted to UEC. All proposals to UEC must have the support of the relevant Executive Dean and it is the responsibility of the Executive Dean to present the proposal to UEC for consideration, having sought prior approval from the Head of Academic Quality and Student Conduct.

UEC will consider the information about the prospective partner and the proposed model of collaboration in a strategic context and assess the proposal on its opportunities and risks. If UEC is of the view that the proposal is in line with the University’s Strategic Plan and, based on the available information, likely to be financially viable and a valuable addition to the University’s collaborative provision and academic portfolio, Outline Planning Approval may be granted.

Outline Planning Approval is no guarantee that the proposal will receive final approval from UEC as this depends on the outcomes of more detailed partner due diligence, consideration of the full Business Case and academic approval activities. For Guaranteed Articulation arrangements and Offsite Delivery/Flying Faculty arrangements, Outline Planning Approval will usually confirm whether a proposal is approved to proceed to the contractual stage. For Guaranteed Articulation Arrangements, a curriculum mapping exercise should first be undertaken and signed off by the relevant FEC before Outline Planning Approval is submitted to UEC.

Preparing for the Final Submission

Once Outline Planning Approval has been granted, the School or Faculty will take forward the development of the proposal with the support of the Collaborative Provision Officer, consulting with a wide range of Professional Services. Dependent on the nature of the proposed partnership arrangement, the development of the proposal will be overseen at this stage by an internal Project Development Group, usually chaired by the Executive Dean of the Faculty in which the provision will be based, and CAP which will receive regular updates throughout the development process.

The Project Development Group will meet regularly throughout the development of the final submission to UEC, overseeing the legal and due diligence investigations, preparations for the scrutiny visit, the development of the Business Case and the development of the programme (where applicable). Membership of the Project Development Group will be determined based on the nature of the proposal and may fluctuate dependant on the agenda.

The Final Submission

UEC has responsibility for granting final partner approval. Dependant on the model of collaboration, this may be conducted via a single stage approval process or, for Franchise, Validation, Joint & Dual Award and Co-Delivery models, a two stage process.  To provide final approval UEC requires detailed evidence of the financial and academic viability and the sustainability of the proposed collaboration.  CAP, advised by the Head of Academic Quality and Student Conduct will make an assessment to confirm that the proposal is ready to be presented to UEC. The Executive Dean will present the evidence of the satisfactory completion of the following elements of the approval process:

Business Case

The Business Case will normally be completed by the Faculty, and refers to all sources of evidence regarding the financial quality and viability of the partnership proposal.

Due Diligence

The due diligence process is coordinated centrally by the Collaborative Provision Officer, who will undertake desk-based research, working with the prospective partner to collate the responses and all documentation required according to the relevant Due Diligence Questionnaire, and seek external specialist advice where necessary. The information provided under the legal and finance sections of the Due Diligence Questionnaire will be reviewed by the Project Assurance Team and/or the Head of Legal & Information Compliance/an external legal organisation, the Head of Academic Quality and Student Conduct, and by the Finance Team prior to submission to UEC. Via the relevant proforma, any issues and concerns arising from the due diligence information will be brought to the attention of UEC via a final report collated by the Collaborative Provision Officer.

Scrutiny Visit

A panel from the University would normally undertake a formal scrutiny site visit at the prospective partner before the collaborative proposal can be submitted to UEC for final approval, in order to provide an independent view whether the proposed partner can provide an appropriate learning environment, a high standard of teaching and student support and a satisfactory level of physical resources for the delivery of the Keele award(s). The number of staff included on the panel will depend upon the complexity of the proposed arrangement and the level of risk, and will be determined on a case by case basis by the Head of Academic Quality and Student Conduct.

The scrutiny visit will always include a tour of all relevant facilities at the proposed partner and meetings with senior managers, teaching and support staff and with students of the proposed partner institution. The Panel will produce a full written report which may contain recommendations and conditions for further work to be undertaken before the proposal is ready to be considered by UEC for final approval.

Contracts

Once final approval has been received by UEC the University will then be able to enter into a contract with the partner. The contract is a legally binding document which (i) sets out the detailed arrangements for the delivery of the programme, (ii) ensures that the University is in a position to comply with its regulatory obligations and (iii) manages the legal aspects of the partnership. For Split Site PhDs, each arrangement will also be regulated by contracts between Keele and the partner institution to ensure that for each individual student, appropriate, robust, reliable and high-quality arrangements are in place for the duration of the research degree. Students will sign an independent learning agreement based on the content of the Split Site Programme Specification.

The contract must be agreed and signed before delivery of the programme can commence. The contract will be coordinated between the Project Assurance Team and/or the Head of Legal & Information Compliance/an external legal organisation, the Faculty and QA.

Split-Site PhD Approval

For Split Site PhDs, the International Development Manager should first be consulted regarding any new potential proposals. If the International Development Manager confirms that there is scope to develop a formal proposal, the Faculty Executive Dean and Dean of Research should be consulted to ensure a proposal is endorsed in principal by the Faculty. The Quality Assurance Team should then be consulted and a Split Site PhD Proposal Form and Split Site Programme Specification should be completed by the Faculty.

Information will need to be provided on the anticipated number of students, funding streams, tuition fee level, resource requirements, student support arrangements, proposed study pattern, available research facilities and expertise. Proposals will need to demonstrate that there is strong existing expertise in both institutions to ensure the students can be supported at each stage of their research. Proposals will not normally be considered unless it can be demonstrated that sufficient student numbers are achievable to make the arrangement financially viable.

Tuition fees due to Keele may be arranged flexibly for each partnership and will be regulated by contract. The Split Site Proposal Form should be supplemented by a Business Case that sets out clearly how the Split Site PhD arrangement is funded, whether fee waivers might apply, and if so, how this would impact on the costs of supporting the student, paying for supervision, supplying resources, facilities and support services etc, providing a clear indication of where the wavered fee would be supplemented. The income to Keele will need to be set at a level to ensure that the University can meet its obligations as the awarding body.

The Split Site Proposal Form and Split Site Programme Specification should be scrutinised and supported by the Faculty Research Committee and CAP prior to submission to UEC for approval. Due diligence will also be undertaken by the Collaborative Provision Officer and submitted for consideration alongside the proposal.

Proposals will be presented to UEC by the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise). UEC will consider the information about the prospective partner and the proposed collaboration in a strategic context and assess the proposal on its opportunities and risks. UEC will approve the proposal if it is in line with the University’s Strategic Plan and Research Strategy and, based on the available information, likely to be financially viable and a valuable addition to the University’s collaborative provision, academic and research portfolios.

Joint & Dual PhD Approval

For Joint and Dual PhD arrangements with an overseas institution, the International Development Manager should first be consulted regarding any new potential proposals. For Joint and Dual PhD arrangements with a UK institution, the Collaborative Provision Officer in the Quality Assurance Team should be consulted. For overseas arrangements, if the International Development Manager confirms that there is scope to develop a formal proposal, the Faculty Executive Dean should be consulted to ensure a proposal is endorsed in principal by the Faculty. For UK arrangements, the Collaborative Provision Officer, the Head of Academic Quality and Student Conduct and the Faculty, will decide together whether a proposal is considered viable to take forward and seek approval from the relevant Faculty Dean.

Once scope to further develop a formal proposal has been confirmed, a Project Development Group will be established throughout the development of the proposal, overseeing the development of the legal and due diligence investigations, the development of the Business Case and the development of the bespoke regulations where relevant. Membership of the Project Development Group will be determined based on the nature of the proposal and may fluctuate dependant on the agenda. It would normally include; the Faculty Executive Dean or Dean of Research or nominee (as chair), Head of relevant School(s), Faculty Business Manager, Head of Academic Quality and Student Conduct, International Development Manager, Collaborative Provision Officer and a representative from the University’s Finance Team.  

Joint & Dual PhD Proposal Form should be completed by the Faculty, to include an outline of the strategic value to the University and the University’s research agenda. Proposals will need to demonstrate that there is strong existing expertise in both institutions to ensure the students can be supported at each stage of their research. Proposals will not normally be considered unless it can be demonstrated that sufficient student numbers are achievable to make the arrangement financially viable and secure. 

The Joint & Dual PhD Proposal Form should be scrutinised and supported by the Faculty Research Committee and CAP prior to submission to UEC for approval. Proposals will be presented to UEC by the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise). UEC will consider the information about the prospective partner and the proposed collaboration in a strategic and business context and assess the proposal on its opportunities and risks. UEC will approve the proposal if it is in line with the University’s Strategic Plan and Research Strategy and, based on the available information, likely to be financially viable and a valuable addition to the University’s collaborative provision, academic and research portfolios.

Following approval by UEC a legal agreement will be developed, coordinated by the QA Team and in liaison with the Project Assurance Team/Head of Legal & Information Compliance, or where necessary an external legal firm.