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General guidelines on collaborative provision

Different types of collaborative arrangements exist, with varying levels of involvement and provision by the collaborative partner. Collaboration may simply be though the provision of accommodation, but may also extend to placements, study abroad, or providing lecturers and formal assessment. These guidelines are designed to give an idea of the kinds of issues that should be considered if a Department, Faculty or other University institution is contemplating participating in collaborative activities.

It should be borne in mind that collaborative activities are inherently more risky than provision made by one institution. Quality assurance expectations are therefore more rigorous for collaborative provision, particularly where a collaborative partner is an overseas institution. The University will expect to see a clearly set out legal Memorandum of Understanding between all institutions involved in the collaboration.

The fundamental principle underpinning all collaborative arrangements is that the University, as the degree-awarding body, has ultimate responsibility for academic standards and quality of provision, regardless of where provision is made or who provides it.

Developing proposals for collaborative learning

Initial consultation

Course Organisers are strongly encouraged to discuss any proposal for collaborative provision with Educational and Student Policy at an early stage.

Legal Services should also be consulted at an early stage on the terms of formal agreement (Memorandum of Understanding) with the partner institution which should:

  • clearly articulate the lines of reporting and responsibility for assuring the quality and standards of the teaching provided;
  • clarify arrangements for student support and other learning facilities and consideration of student complaints;
  • detail mechanisms for the resolution of any disagreements between the partners;
  • include an exit strategy should the collaborative course close.

External guidance and legislation

Before proceeding with drafting any proposal for collaborative activities you should read in full the Quality Assurance Agency's Code of Practice, Chapter B10: Managing higher education provision with others:

The General Board's Education Committee will wish to assure itself that appropriate attention has been paid to the Code before considering any proposals.

General criteria for consideration

The General Board is prepared to consider proposals from Faculty Boards and comparable authorities for collaboration between Faculties and Departments and other providers in the provision of courses and examinations. Proposals will be considered on their merits, in the light of the specific considerations in each case and the following general criteria:

  1. It must be established that the proposed partner institution is of high standing and the staff who will teach on the course are properly qualified and fully competent.

  2. The courses and assessment methods of the proposed partner institution, and the attainment of students on collaborative courses, must be of equivalent standard to those for a Cambridge award.

  3. There must be thorough scrutiny procedures, usually involving visits by senior staff from Cambridge to a prospective partner, to determine the quality and suitability of teaching and learning facilities and of management, administrative and teaching resources.

  4. It must be demonstrated that the collaborative provision will offer an integrated course with clear objectives which will enhance the education of the students in the subject concerned. A programme specification for the course should be prepared.

  5. Satisfactory arrangements must be made for quality assurance and the management and regular (at least annual) monitoring of courses and examinations. A joint management committee will normally be required.

  6. Satisfactory reciprocal arrangements for the examination of students should be made, including the application of procedures for external examining. External examining procedures for courses offered by a partner organisation should be the same as, or demonstrably equivalent to, those used by the University for its own courses. The procedures should be clearly specified and documented.

  7. The University institution concerned will need to demonstrate that they have appropriate control over the integrity of the examination and assessment process as a whole.

  8. A realistic costing of a prospective partnership should be made and it must be established that financial and resource considerations are on a sound basis. If overseas, there may be financial issues (e.g. tax). The Finance Division and School Office should be consulted.

  9. For a partnership with an overseas institution, care should be taken to be informed about relevant legal matters in relation to higher education and academic awards.

  10. Satisfactory procedures for the admission of students should be made in close consultation with the relevant College bodies, where appropriate.

  11. Satisfactory arrangements for communication to, and feedback from, students should be made.