Academic Quality Handbook
- Full Handbook Contents
- 1 - Teaching and Learning at the University of Aberdeen: An Overview
- 2 - Quality Assurance in Higher Education: An Overview
- 3 - The Assurance and Enhancement of Academic Quality and Standards in Teaching and Learning
- 4 - Student Recruitment and Admissions
- 5 - Student Guidance and Learner Support
- 6 - Teaching and Learning Policies and Academic Administration
- 7 - Assessment and Examination Policies and Practices : Taught Courses and Programmes
- 8 - Research Students
- 9 - External Examining: Taught Courses and Programmes
- 10 - Collaborative Arrangements, and Flexible and Distributed Learning: Quality Assurance and Enhancement Procedures
Section 10 - Collaborative Arrangements: Quality Assurance Procedures
This Section of the Academic Quality Handbook should be of interest to staff of Schools that wish to participate in collaborative arrangements, to staff appointed to scrutinise such proposals to College Registrars, and to staff of potential partner institutions
10.1.1 In September 2004, the QAA issued a revised version of Section 2: Collaborative provision and flexible and distributed learning (including e-learning) of the Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education. In addition to a focus on good practice in the academic management of collaborative arrangements, the revised Section 2 also focuses on good practice in the academic management of learning delivered, supported and/or assessed through flexible and distributed (FDL) arrangements, whether in collaboration with a partner institution or not. The revised Section 2 is based on the key principle that collaborative and FDL provision should widen learning opportunities without prejudice either to the academic standard of the award or the quality of what is offered to students. It further specifies that arrangements for assuring quality and standards for collaborative and FDL provision should be as rigorous, secure and open to scrutiny as those for programmes provided wholly within the responsibility of a single institution and through ‘conventional’ class-based modes of teaching. The QAA Code of Practice is available on the QAA website at http://www.qaa.ac.uk/academicinfrastructure/codeofpractice/
- Flexible and distributed learning (FDL) is the term used by the QAA to denote “educational provision leading to an award, or to specific credit toward an award, of an awarding institution delivered and/or supported and/or assessed through means which generally do not require the student to attend particular classes or events at particular times and particular locations” (QAA Code of Practice, Section 2).
- In order to assist readers of this section of the Academic Quality Handbook, matters of detail are included in Appendices rather than in the main text.
10.1.2 Section 10 of the Academic Quality Handbook (AQH) takes account of the move away from the 'process-based' style of the earlier version of the QAA Code to a more flexible 'outcome-based' style emphasising the use of the reference framework offered by the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). It was approved by the University Committee for Teaching and Learning on 4 November 2009 and by the Senate on 18 November 2009.
- enter into appropriate articulation arrangements to facilitate student entry to specific degree programmes at the University, usually with advanced standing;
- validate taught programmes that complement the University’s portfolio and are of an appropriate standard;
- collaborate to offer joint taught and research programmes;
- collaborate in ERASMUS international student exchanges;
- collaborate in non-ERASMUS international student exchanges;
- collaborate in joint supervision of a student/students on a research programme.
It should be noted that the University:
- accredits other institutions only in exceptional circumstances;
- does not normally approve any request to franchise Aberdeen degree programmes and other awards;
- does not normally approve dual awards
- does not normally enter into serial agreements.
10.1.4 Quality assurance arrangements for collaborative arrangements and FDL must be at least as rigorous as those for the University’s internal provision. As far as possible they should accord with the policies, procedures and guidelines set down in the University’s AQH.
10.1.5 It is recognised that, where agreements already exist, it may take time to implement changes to ensure that agreements being renewed will accord with these newly-stated requirements. Where new agreements are being considered, the provision of this section should be applied with immediate effect.
10.1.6 See Appendix 10.1 for definitions of different kinds of collaborative awards.
10.2 Collaborative, Off-campus and Overseas Programmes Leading to Awards or Joint Awards of the University
Responsibility for academic standards and the quality of the student learning experience
10.2.1 In agreeing a collaborative arrangement with a partner institution a range of considerations needs to be taken into account in order to safeguard academic standards and to provide continuing assurance of the quality of the student learning experience. Administrative procedures need to be as clear and simple as possible for all concerned (academic staff, students, College Registrars, the Finance Section, Registry, Research & Innovation, the Student Recruitment and Admissions Service, etc).
10.2.2 In the case of articulation arrangements, the partner institution will be responsible for the academic standards of provision and the quality of the student learning experience at their institution and the University of Aberdeen will be responsible for the academic standards of provision and the quality of the student learning experience at Aberdeen and for the standard of the final award.
10.2.3 For all arrangements that lead to awards of the University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen will be the administering institution. Where the University validates a programme delivered in whole or in part by a partner institution, it accepts responsibility for the academic standards of the programme which it monitors alongside its own programmes using the same standards and the same or similar structures and processes.
10.2.4 For collaborations that lead to joint awards (i.e. degrees awarded jointly by the University of Aberdeen and other degree-awarding institutions), either/any one of the partner institution(s) may act as the institution of primary registration by formal agreement with the other partner institution(s). The institution of primary registration will take the lead in establishing collaborative arrangements and will be responsible for all aspects of programme and student administration, including quality assurance and enhancement.
10.2.5 All joint awards must comply with the General Regulations for Awards Conferred Jointly with Other Degree Awarding Institutions approved by the University Court on 20 May 2008 (www.abdn.ac.uk/registry/calendar/generalregulations.shtml).
Equivalence of academic standards
10.2.6 In any collaborative agreement, the University needs to be assured that the academic standards of all awards meet the expectations of the UK academic infrastructure and that awards are appropriately located within the SCQF in terms of both level and credit. Any divergences from UK reference points (e.g. relevant subject benchmark statements, etc.) should be explicitly acknowledged and explained in the agreement.
10.2.7 Detailed course and/or programme proposals must be part of all collaborative agreements leading to awards or joint awards of the University. Such proposals will be subject to the approval of the relevant Academic Standards Committee which may also wish to review the proposed agreement.
Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)
10.2.8 Where Aberdeen and another institution intend to collaborate, the intention is normally recognised initially through a simple, preliminary MoU. An MoU is not a legally enforceable agreement and is used solely to detail the intentions of the parties to reach formal agreement at a later date. It is important to note that no collaborative arrangements should be allowed to proceed on the basis of an MoU alone and partner institutions should be made aware of that in writing before an MoU is signed. Individual legally-binding agreements for student exchange, study abroad, academic exchange or research collaboration are needed in order to have an enforceable framework for regulating the agreement. A formal legally-binding agreement must be signed by both/all parties. Before discussions are held with prospective partners about MoUs, schools/departments should consult the relevant college(s), Research and Innovation, the Student Recruitment and Admissions Service (SRAS) and the Registry (where agreements involve students). Please see Appendix 10.2 for guidelines about entering into MoUs and having them signed formally on behalf of the University.
Formal Collaborative Agreements
10.2.9 A signed copy of all formal collaborative agreements must be held centrally in order to ensure compliance with the QAA Code of Practice Section 2. More information about where copies should be held is given in Appendix 10.3.
10.2.10 Colleges are responsible for reviewing annually the agreements for all collaborative taught programmes in their area in order to identify any which are out-of-date. In January each year, each College Office will supply the Registry with a list of collaborative taught programmes which are still active, identifying for each programme the responsible academic school, the partner institution(s), the programme title(s) and the date for the next review of the agreement. Using that information, the Registry will maintain an up-to-date and authoritative record of collaborative partnerships and agents, and a listing of the collaborative programmes operated through these partnerships or agencies. It will be accessible via the University’s web pages and will form part of the University’s publicly available information. Text of individual agreements will be available via the website to University staff only.
Liaison with Professional and Statutory Bodies
10.2.11 Schools and colleges are responsible for informing any professional, statutory or regulatory body (PSB) which has approved, recognised or accredited a programme of any possible or actual collaborative arrangement, and will ensure that the status of the programme with reference to PSB accreditation is made clear to prospective students. This applies equally to programmes for which significant FDL arrangements are developed after the programme has been approved, recognised or accredited by a PSB.
10.2.12 Collaborative and FDL arrangements should be fully-costed (including overheads) and accounted for accurately and fully, and should be of clear benefit to the University. Adequate safeguards should be in place against financial or other irregularities which might compromise academic standards or the quality of learning opportunities.
Policy on Serial Arrangements
10.2.13 The written agreements underpinning all collaborative provision should make clear that the partner organisation(s) may only offer approved collaborative and/or FDL provision elsewhere or assign the powers delegated to it/them by the University to a third party with the express written permission of the University (see Appendix 10.1 for more information about serial agreements).
Duration, Review and Termination of Agreements
10.2.14 Agreements shall be subject to periodic review as specified in the written agreement, with a normal maximum of five-yearly intervals. Please see Appendix 10.4 for more information about the review and termination of agreements.
Selecting a partner organisation or agent for collaborative agreements leading to awards or joint awards of the University
10.2.15 All collaborative taught programmes which lead to awards or joint awards of the University must be governed by a formal written agreement that is approved by Senate and signed by the Principal or the Vice-Principal with responsibility for collaborative provision or the University Secretary and the responsible person in the collaborating institution(s)/agency/agencies.
10.2.16 At an early stage of discussions regarding a possible collaborative arrangement, schools are strongly recommended to use the checklist given in Appendix 10.5. It is designed to highlight a range of issues which should be considered before proceeding with any potential development. The questions may also assist in directing discussions with prospective partners, undertaking site visits and the preparation of any agreement.
10.2.17 The relevant school and college should prepare a position paper outlining the proposed collaboration and forward it for consideration by the University Management Group (UMG) at the earliest possible stage. The outline of collaboration should establish the academic and business justification for collaboration along the lines indicated in the guidance given in Appendix 10.6. UMG may also require a full business plan for major proposals. If UMG accepts the academic and business case as set down in the outline of collaboration, and is satisfied that the proposed venture would be in the interest of the University, detailed discussions with the collaborating institution/agency may proceed. UMG approval will indicate that the relevant ASC may undertake the academic scrutiny of the proposal (see Section 10.2.20 below). The UMG will normally only give approval for further discussion of proposals that are considered to be in the institutional interest, having regard especially to the standing of the proposed partner institution in terms of the delivery of higher education. The framework for consideration of proposals for collaborative agreements leading to awards or joint awards of the University is summarised in Appendix 10.7.
Submission of documentation by prospective partner for collaborative agreements leading to awards or joint awards of the University
10.2.18 An institution seeking to enter into a collaborative arrangement with the University for the first time, or to establish a joint degree with the University whether or not Aberdeen is the institution of primary registration, will be required to submit detailed documentation to Aberdeen. Further details about the requirements are provided in Appendix 10.8.
10.2.19 It should be remembered that, where a joint degree is proposed, either by the University or by a prospective partner institution/institutions, Aberdeen will be required to produce documentation to satisfy the quality assurance and enhancement procedures in force at the other institution(s).
Scrutiny by the Academic Standards Committee(s) of documentation submitted by a partner institution seeking to enter a collaborative agreement leading to awards or joint awards of the University
10.2.20 When UMG approval in principle is given permitting the further investigation of a proposed collaborative agreement (see 10.2.16 above), the relevant Academic Standards Committee (ASC) will be asked to appoint a panel as appropriate to scrutinise the documentation to be submitted by the prospective partner institution.
10.2.21 The panel will normally consist of the Convener of the ASC and at least three other members of academic staff, the latter to include experts in the subject area of the courses/programmes to be validated, and a student representative. The panel should also include at least one member external to the University (for example, an expert from industry). No member of a panel should have a close association with a programme to be validated, for example, as a prospective or current external examiner. Please see Appendix 10.9 for more information.
Panel visit and report regarding collaborative agreements leading to awards or joint awards of the University
10.2.22 Members of the panel should normally visit the partner institution on each occasion a new programme is to be validated, when an institution is to be accredited1 or when a joint degree is to be set up. Guidelines for those involved in visits are provided in Appendix 10.9. Following the visit, a report from the panel will be submitted to the ASC(s).
10.2.23 The report completed by the panel, together with the report summary form, will be submitted to the relevant ASC for consideration. If the ASC decides that a collaborative arrangement should be approved, a recommendation will go from the Committee to the Senate. The ASC has the delegated authority of the Senate to decide that a proposed collaborative arrangement should not proceed.
Consideration of the ASC recommendation by the Senate and the University Court
10.2.24 Following a recommendation by the ASC that a proposed collaborative arrangement should be approved, the Senate will receive a brief paper outlining the nature and duration of the proposal and the ASC recommendation together with a draft collaborative agreement and draft degree regulations (see 10.2.26 below).
10.2.25 If the ASC recommendation is approved by the Senate, the University Court will receive a brief paper outlining the nature and duration of the proposal and the Senate recommendation together with a draft collaborative agreement and draft degree regulations (see 10.2.26 below).
Preparation of a formal agreement for collaborative agreements leading to awards or joint awards of the University
10.2.26 If a recommendation that a proposed collaborative arrangement should be approved is endorsed by the relevant Academic Standards Committee, a formal collaborative agreement will be drafted for consideration by the University’s solicitors where applicable, the Senate and the University Court. The agreement will be drafted by the Registry in consultation with the relevant academic school(s) and college(s) and, where appropriate, colleagues in Research and Innovation, the Finance Section, the Student Recruitment and Admissions Service etc. Detailed guidance regarding the issues to be covered in the agreement is given in Appendix 10.10.
10.2.27 It is good practice to consult with the collaborating institutions in parallel with the internal approval process. Formal approval by the University is subject to any necessary minor changes that may be agreed subsequently with the collaborating institution, the College Office and, where appropriate, the Vice-Principal with responsibility for collaborative provision.
Signature of a formal agreement for collaborative agreements leading to awards or joint awards of the University
10.2.28 Following approval by the University Court, the agreement will be signed by the Principal of the University or nominee and the head of the partner institution.
Review procedures for collaborative agreements leading to awards of the University
10.2.29 All collaborative courses and programmes approved by the University and delivered at a partner institution will be governed by the same quality assurance and enhancement procedures adopted by the University for in-house courses and programmes. The procedures are summarised in Section 3 of the Academic Quality Handbook and details of them will be set out in the formal agreement. The review procedures should form part of the partner's own quality assurance and enhancement procedures (see Appendix 10.11). A commentary will be forwarded to the relevant Academic Standards Committee, and to the University Committee on Teaching and Learning, where appropriate.
Review procedures for collaborative agreements leading to joint awards of the University
10.2.30 All agreements concerning collaborative arrangements leading to joint awards of the University will include provision for annual reviews of the collaboration whether or not Aberdeen is the institution of primary registration. For more detailed guidance, please see Appendix 10.12.
10.3.1 The University sometimes enters into contracts with institutions and agencies to supply administrative and/or academic services to support the University’s off-campus programmes. Support contracts for the University’s off-campus learning programmes are normally concerned primarily with recruitment of students, administration and provision of facilities. They may also include minor roles under the supervision of University staff in connection with the use of local tutors or counsellors and in providing advice to students on the conduct and progress of their studies.
10.3.2 Any arrangement with another institution/agency for the supply of administrative and/or academic services to support the University’s off-campus programmes must be formalised in writing, approved by the Senate and signed by a senior officer and the responsible person in the collaborating agency.
10.4.1 Any arrangement with another institution/agency to register a student as an external research student of the University must be approved by the Senate. Similarly any arrangement with another institution/agency to supervise jointly a student on a research programme leading to an award or joint award of the University must be approved by the Senate. All such arrangements must be formalised in writing and signed by the appropriate head of college and the responsible person in the external agency.
10.5.1 The University participates in the ERASMUS student exchange programme with selected European institutions and departments. Schools wishing to participate in international student exchanges under the ERASMUS scheme should contact the Institutional ERASMUS Co-ordinator who is based in the Registry. Information about ERASMUS exchanges is on the University website at http://www.abdn.ac.uk/erasmus/. See also 10.7.5-10.7.6 below.
10.6 Assuring Academic Standards of Awards or Joint Awards of the University and of their Constituent Courses
10.6.1Where the University of Aberdeen is the validating/accrediting1 institution or is the institution of primary registration for joint awards and their constituent courses, a draft agreement will be prepared using one of the following types of collaboration. Guidance notes to assist in deciding what kind of agreement would be appropriate are included in Appendix 10.13.
type of collaborative agreement
agreements to be drafted by:
ERASMUS international student exchange agreement
Institutional ERASMUS Co-ordinator
non-ERASMUS international student exchange agreement
Research & Innovation in consultation with schools and/or colleges, Finance, Registry, SRAS
joint supervision of research students
Research & Innovation in consultation with schools and/or colleges, Finance, Registry, SRAS
10.6.2 It is good practice to consult with the collaborating institution in parallel with the internal approval process. Formal approval by the University is subject to any necessary minor changes that may be agreed subsequently with the collaborating institution, the College office and, where appropriate, the Vice-Principal with responsibility for collaborative provision.
Non-ERASMUS international student exchange agreements
10.7.1 Where the University or any college or school in the University wishes to enter into an international exchange agreement, a draft agreement should be prepared by Research & Innovation in consultation with the relevant school and college, SRAS, Finance and Registry (see 10.6.1 and Appendix 10.13.
10.7.2 Before being signed by Aberdeen and the collaborating institution(s), a draft agreement must be recommended as follows:
- if it is at college level, it must be approved by the College Teaching and Learning Committee/Research Committee as appropriate before being signed for the University by a Vice-Principal;
- if it is at school level, it must be approved by the School Teaching and Learning Committee/Research Committee as appropriate before being signed for the University by a Vice-Principal.
10.7.3 Schools and colleges are expected to monitor such international exchange arrangements to ensure that students participating in the exchanges: (a) take courses at partner institutions which dovetail with their Aberdeen degree programme; and (b) receive academic and pastoral support equivalent to that which they would receive at Aberdeen.
10.7.4 Students of modern languages who spend a year abroad to study the language and culture are exceptions to the foregoing arrangements and the responsibility for student support and monitoring in these cases rests with the relevant school.
ERASMUS student exchange agreements
10.7.5 Where a college or school in the University wishes to enter into an ERASMUS student exchange agreement, the relevant school should consult the Institutional ERASMUS Co-ordinator who will advise schools regarding the wording of such agreements. Schools who wish to enter into a new agreement are asked to complete an application form which gives the Institutional ERASMUS Co-ordinator the information needed to draft an agreement. Reference copies of the form and guidelines for its completion are included in Appendices 10.13.c1 and 10.13.c2, respectively.
10.7.6 Responsibility for recommending appropriate arrangements with partner institutions and students rests with the relevant head of school (or nominee). Any resultant bilateral agreements between institutions must be signed by the Institutional Erasmus Co-ordinator.
10.8.1 In particular cases, the University of Aberdeen may agree that its students may take courses offered by another University, normally within Scotland. This model may be adopted on the recommendation of the relevant College Teaching and Learning Committee and with the approval of the relevant ASC. Please refer to the guidelines given in Appendix 10.14 which have been agreed and may be further refined to suit specific degree regulations.
10.9.1 The University admits external research students only in exceptional circumstances and with the approval of the Academic Standards Committee (Postgraduate). Currently, the only such category admitted is students registered at the UHI Millennium Institute (UHI) whose research topics are in areas not validated under the accreditation1 agreement for the provision of research degrees currently in force between Aberdeen and UHI.
10.9.2 The arrangements for UHI research students admitted to Aberdeen as external research students will follow as far as possible the normal procedures for UHI research students admitted under validation agreements which come under the accreditation1 agreement between Aberdeen and UHI. Each application from a UHI external research student must include information about the relevant research area and the UHI academic partner(s) at which the student will be based. Each such student must also have an Aberdeen supervisor in addition to those appointed by UHI. The Aberdeen supervisor must as a minimum exercise a quality assurance function but may also give academic supervision if appropriate and agreed by all parties.
10.10.1 Any proposal for a school or college to collaborate with another institution/agency (University X) in jointly supervising a student on a research programme leading to an award or joint award of the University must be explicitly notified to the ASC (Postgraduate) (ASC(Pg)) for approval in the usual way. Proposals for joint supervision should observe the guidelines detailed in Appendix 10.15.
10.11 Collaborative Arrangements Leading to Awards or Joint Awards of the University: Assessment Requirements; External Examining; and the Provision of Certificates and Transcripts
10.11.1 Where the University is a party to a collaborative agreement leading to an award or a joint award of the University (whether or not as the institution of primary registration for a joint award), it is essential that the partner institution(s) understand and agree to the University’s requirements for assessments, external examining and the provision of certificates and transcripts. Please refer to Appendix 10.15 for more information.
10.12.1 It is important that all students should understand the nature of their formal relationship with the University and which organisation is responsible for which part of their learning experience. Provision for students on collaborative programmes should be planned, delivered and monitored as rigorously as that for on-campus students. More detailed guidance is given in Appendix 10.16.
10.13.1 In order to ensure that there is no opportunity for any misunderstanding about the nature and standing of the programmes and awards provided under a particular collaborative arrangement, partner institutions must agree that the name of the University of Aberdeen shall only be associated with the courses and/or programmes which are detailed in the collaboration agreement. The name of the University of Aberdeen should not be associated with the partner institution in any other connection.
10.13.2 All publications concerning courses and/or programmes which are the subject of collaboration agreements shall be presented to the University for formal approval before they are published or used.
Note Flexible and distributed learning (FDL) is the term used by the QAA to denote “educational provision leading to an award, or to specific credit toward an award, of an awarding institution delivered and/or supported and/or assessed through means which generally do not require the student to attend particular classes or events at particular times and particular locations” (QAA Code of Practice, section 2. More detailed guidance is given in Appendix 10.17.
10.14.1 It is important that all students studying through the medium of FDL should understand the nature of their formal relationship with the University and, where appropriate, which organisation involved in the delivery of their course or programme is responsible for which part of their learning experience. Provision for students on FDL courses and programmes should be planned, delivered and monitored as rigorously as that for on-campus students. More detailed guidance is given in Appendix 10.17.
1 The University accredits institutions only in exceptional circumstances.