Framework for Academic Partnerships
This Framework sets out the policy and procedures on the development, approval and review of collaborative partnerships in teaching and learning which SOAS has, or may wish to develop within the remit of its strategic plan, with other higher education institutions or other authorities delivering higher education, whether in the UK or overseas.
Please either click on the section headings highlighted or use the headings on the left side of the page to view the different sections.
A: Range of Academic Partnerships Framework
- This Framework sets out the policy and procedures on the development, approval and review of collaborative partnerships in teaching and learning which SOAS has, or may wish to develop within the remit of its strategic plan, with other higher education institutions or other authorities delivering higher education, whether in the UK or overseas.
- The Framework expands on the strategic direction agreed by the School’s
Governing Body with regard to partnership – especially international partnership – arrangements. (See Governing Body paper Appendix H, 12 June 2009, on 'International partnerships)
- The Framework covers arrangements within the remit of the Learning and Teaching Sub-Strategy, the management of which is the responsibility at School level of the Academic Development Directorate. This includes all partnerships in teaching and learning, including collaborative provision as defined by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA).
- This Framework does not include matters relating to staff research collaborations. The School’s Research and Enterprise sub-strategy (supported by the Research and Enterprise Directorate) covers staff research collaborations. The Directorate holds a database of all partnerships and agreements entered into by SOAS which briefly describes the main focus of each agreement (e.g. student-related, research, or a mixture of the two).
B: Principles for academic partnerships
Governing Body has approved the following principles on which the School’s academic partnerships should be based:
- in developing partnerships SOAS must consider the education environment of the partner country and try to strengthen the local educational provision;
- engagement with trans-national education (other than distance learning) should be pursued only in partnership involving a sharing of risks and costs;
- the development of new double/dual Masters degree programmes with overseas partners will be a priority;
- the development of distance PhDs and collaborative PhDs with overseas partners will be pursued as a priority as part of the process of exploiting the opportunities that degree-awarding powers would provide;
- SOAS will form alliances with only those institutions that share our values;
- SOAS should develop a number of deep, multifaceted partnerships where there is clear strategic advantage, whether this is with individual institutions or networks of institutions, whilst retaining simple partnerships where they fill a clear need (e.g. in providing for language training abroad.
The School’s Student Experience Strategy sets out its obligations and strategic aims in regard to the quality of the learning experience offered to all students, including those participating in programmes involving partner institutions. These principles will be applied within the School and Faculty planning process to all proposals for academic partnerships.
C: External reference points
The QAA defines collaborative provision as ‘educational provision leading to an award, or to specific credit towards an award, of an awarding institution delivered and/or supported and/or assessed through an arrangement with a partner organisation.’ This Framework uses the phrase ‘collaborative provision’ in this sense. Arrangements which the School currently has in place which meet this definition are listed on the Details of existing academic partnerships pages.
Section 2 of the QAA Code states that ‘the arrangements for assuring quality and standards [of collaborative provision] should be as rigorous, secure and open to scrutiny as those for programmes provided wholly within the responsibility of a single institution.’ This, it says, ‘creates particular challenges…in the management of the potential risks associated with the complexity of such arrangements.’ (paragraph 16)
In order to minimise the risks involved in such arrangements, the QAA Code offers advice on how institutions can design separate processes for the consideration of partnerships and of programmes. A new academic partnership which is to include collaborative provision should not be considered only as part of the programme approval process, but should itself be subject to scrutiny. In June 2009 the School's Governing Body noted that SOAS did not at that time have such a separation of approval processes, and asked that one be established.
Partnerships which do not include collaborative provision (and where it is not considered likely to be developed in the future) are listed on the Details of existing academic partnerships pages. Some though not all, of these arrangements include placement learning, defined in the QAA Code (section 9)as 'the learning achieved during an agreed and negotiated period of learning that takes place outside the institution'. The Code highlights the particular risks associated with placements outside the UK.
The risks associated with both these types of provision need to be managed effectively through an agreed School framework. The QAA states that its guidance is not intended to undermine the maturity of some long-standing relationships with equal partners but that a UK HEI is under an obligation to be able to demonstrate at institutional level that its academic standards are secure and that the quality of the student experience is maintained. This is the School's intention and the purpose of this Framework.
Another crucial reference point for the School is the regulations of the University of London (UoL). The UoL allows Colleges to collaborate in offering degrees, as long as responsibilities for academic standards are clear:
Each College shall be responsible for the University of London degrees/diplomas/certificates awarded to its Students and shall share with the other Colleges a collective responsibility for maintaining the standard of the University of London degree/diploma/certificate wherever awarded.
The University’s regulations also allow Colleges to develop partnerships and to offer collaborative provision with external institutions, provided that its procedures are followed and full disclosure is made to the University:
A College awarding a degree jointly with an institution other than another College of the University shall do so in accordance with its procedures, and shall notify the Vice-Chancellor of the University of such joint degrees as have been approved. The Vice-Chancellor shall inform the Collegiate Council of any notifications received.
These and other regulations of the University underpin the School’s procedures on the development of academic partnerships.
D: The strategic planning and approval of academic partnerships
The terms of reference of the School’s Teaching, Learning and Student Experience Committee (TELSOC - a sub-comittee of the Academic Board) include responsibility for considering matters relating to partnerships and collaborations. The committee, with the support of the Academic Development Directorate, is responsible for the process of due diligence which is required before the School can enter into a partnership which includes the possibility of Collaborative Provision. This includes the decision to develop collaborative provision with an existing partner. Partnerships which clearly exclude the possibility of collaborative provision can be approved at a Faculty level.
Proposals for partnerships will be included and considered within departmental plans as part of the normal planning process, and these plans will feed into the Learning and Teaching Sub-Strategy. TELSOC will consider proposals for partnerships within their monitoring of the Learning and Teaching Sub-Strategy, and will request details from the department to help them to ascertain the financial and academic suitability of the proposed partner institution.
Where a partnership leads to proposals for new provision, whether collaborative or offered solely by the School, or for amendments to existing provision, these are considered according to the usual programme approval/amendment processes at Departmental and School level. Any inclusion within an existing programme of arrangements involving a partner institution, whether defined as collaborative provision or not, should be considered a major amendment and referred to the Curriculum Quality Assurance Committee for consideration.
SOAS does not currently offer any joint taught degrees in collaboration with degree-awarding bodies outside the University of London. The development of joint Masters degrees can be inferred to have been approved in principle, however, by Governing Body (see Principles for academic partnerships), and has been discussed with a number of overseas universities, with agreements to explore and develop specific programmes in the future being signed in some cases and logged in the Directorate’s database of partnerships. Any specific arrangement would need to be approved strategically within the School planning process described above, at which stage the Academic Development Directorate would become involved in supporting the Department or Faculty as the partnership was established and programme(s) developed.
In summary, the following types of proposal could arise through the Faculty
a new partnership
- with teaching and learning aspects but no collaborative provision
- with collaborative provision
a new programme or amendments to an existing programme
- including collaborative provision with an existing CP partner
- including collaborative provision with a new partner or a partner not previously involved in collaborative provision with SOAS
- including non-collaborative provision which involves an existing partner
- including non-collaborative provision which involves a new partner
FLTC and FB
CQAC (paperwork to include MoU)
|1||To approve partnership and recommend to LTQC any associated new/amended programmes||No||Only if a new or amended programme|
|2||Must recommend to both TELSOC and CQAC||Yes, with full details of financial and academic standing of proposes partner||After TELSOC satisfied|
|3||To recommend to CQAC the new/amended programmes||No||Yes|
|4||Must recommend to both TELSOC and CQAC||Yes, with full details of financial and academic standing of proposes partner||After TELSOC is satisfied|
|5||To recommend to CQAC the new/amended programmes||No||Yes|
|6||To approve partnership and recommend to CQAC any associated new/amended programmes||No||Yes|
E: Management and review of academic partnerships
Maintenance and management of information is the responsibility of the following:
|Database of all partnerships involving the School||Directorate Office|
|List of academic partnerships under the scope of this framework||Academic Development Directorate|
|List of arrangements constituting Collaborative Provision, and reporting of such provision to the QAA, UoL and other interested parties||QA Manager|
|Lists of arrangements under specific programmes, e.g. Years Abroad and reporting of changes to the Directorate Office||Faculty Offices|
It is frequently the case that to promote friendly and mutually beneficial relationships with other institutions the School signs agreements to explore and develop future programmes, for instance for student exchange or joint programmes of study. These are logged in the Directorate’s database. Where such agreements are taken forward and specific proposals arise (via the Faculty plans) for partnerships in teaching and learning, they are included in the list held by the Academic Development Directorate, which is responsible for ensuring with the Department or Faculty concerned that they are subject to all applicable quality assurance
This Framework forms part of the School’s Quality Assurance Handbook and is reviewed annually to ensure that it reflects the current state of the School’s academic partnerships and relevant QAA and other requirements for their management. Updates to this Framework are reported to the Teaching, Learning and Student Outcomes Committee, as well as to the Curriculum Quality Assurance Committee as part of the Quality Assurance Handbook.
F: Details of existing academic partnerships
- Undergraduate Course options within the University of London
- Postgraduate Course options within the University of London
- Joint taught degrees within the University of London
- Undergraduate Course options outside the University of London
- Joint research degrees
- MA Muslim Societies and Civilisations awarded on completion of the STEP programme at The Institute of Ismaili Studies
- MA in Islamic Studies and Humanities awarded on completion of the GPISH programme at The Institute of Ismaili Studies
- Double Masters agreements
- Undergraduate Year Abroad
- Erasmus student exchange programme
- Erasmus-style agreement: Switzerland
- Junior Year Abroad