Collaboration Basics

What are academic collaborations?

Collaboration can take many forms and will stem from a mutually beneficial working relationship between individuals, groups or organisations.  The term 'academic collaboration' refers to collaborations which involve students of the University - predominantly this means working with another organisation to deliver learning and teaching or supervision, and in many cases leading to a degree from the University.  We recognise that the term 'collaboration' is often used in a more generic way.   

The terminology used around academic collaborations or 'collaborative provision' as it is often referred to, is evolving.  There are often subtle differences in the use of particular terms, particularly across international boundaries.  The UK Quality Assurance Agency has produced material in this area and defines collaborative provision very broadly by referring to the following (non exhaustive) examples:

  • "Joint supervision of research degrees or provision for doctoral research to be conducted at another academic or industrial organisation (applicable either to individuals or cohorts of students).
  • Doctoral Training Centres involving more than one organisation.
  • Franchised programmes delivered by delivery organisations through a variety of models.
  • Validated programmes delivered by delivery organisations.
  • Joint, dual/double or multiple awards granted by one or more other awarding bodies.
  • Provision by 'embedded colleges' of study preparatory to undergraduate or postgraduate higher education programmes.
  • Articulation arrangements, whereby all students who satisfy academic criteria on one programme are automatically entitled on academic grounds to be admitted with advanced standing to a subsequent stage of a programme of a degree-awarding body.
  • A range of work-based learning that may involve delivering full programmes, individual modules or elements of programmes for a specific employer, or otherwise using the workplace as a site of learning.
  • Credit-rating of learning/training/continuing professional development provided by employers/other organisations.
  • Placements, including those in industry, those required for teacher education, experience necessary for qualifications in the health professions (including for a Primary Medical Qualification) and continuing professional development.
  • Study abroad, including exchanges and student mobility programmes such as ERASMUS.
  • Provision of learning support, resources or specialist facilities.
  • Branch campuses, educational villages and 'flying faculty' arrangements, which include aspects of collaboration (such as provision of resources or employment of local administrative/clerical staff through arrangements with another organisation).
  • Distance learning and online delivery/massive open online courses (MOOCs) involving work with delivery organisations or support providers.
  • Collaboration between higher education providers on the delivery of Gaelic and Welsh-language provision (such as sharing resources, common curricula)."

Reference: QAA Quality Code Chapter B10

How do I get started with setting up a collaboration?

At the earliest stages we suggest that you carefully consider the objectives of any proposed collaboration and how these will bring benefits to all stakeholders - the individuals, students and institutions that will be involved. It is important to consider these as early as possible and to set them out clearly so that they can inform any discussions with potential partners. You should also consider whether the proposed collaboration takes the form of an established model, such as an articulation arrangement, joint degree etc.  More details on these models can be found in the 'more information on different models' section of this website.

There are different ways of thinking about the potential for collaboration with partner institutions.  What is most appropriate will depend on a range of factors and the following questions might help to identify opportunities that exist.  They are intended to prompt thinking, they are not a comprehensive set of considerations.

  • What am I trying to achieve and how will this benefit the University and the partner(s) - is there the potential to achieve some kind of mutual benefit?  What would the outcomes of a collaboration look like?
  • What models for collaboration might support my objectives and deliver the outcomes I am looking for?  Are the conditions in terms of the market (for recruitment of students, for example), financial support and standing of the partners conducive to a particular model working effectively? For example, for an articulation arrangement, will students be sufficiently incentivised to move from one institution to the other? This might depend on the  relative standing of the partners, the fees associated and the cost of living in the two different locations.
  • Are the ambitions of the partner suitably aligned with those of the University in the medium to long term?  Will a proposed collaboration evolve and grow over time, for example? This might have an influence on how much time and resource it is sensible to invest in establishing a relationship or a particular model of collaboration.  Some models require more investment than others and whether this is justifiable will depend on a realistic forecast of the return for this investment, whether this be in terms of student recruitment or broader benefits.
  • Am I speaking to the right people at the partner and at the University of Glasgow?  In many cases a collaboration can appear advantageous for those involved in early discussions, but these discussions might not take account of the wider priorities of the partners.  Likewise, where collaborations are established in a 'top-down' manner, it is important to consider the impact on those that will have to implement and manage the outcomes of any discussions. Aligning personal, local and institutional priorities (on both sides of a partnership) is often difficult, but it is important if a collaboration is to be genuinely successful and sustainable.

We would also suggest getting in touch with the ACO to let us know what is being considered so, if necessary, we can provide you with further guidance and support. We are always happy to advise or to put you in contact with other colleagues if we cannot help.


How are academic collaborations managed at the University of Glasgow?

The policies and processes related to academic collaborations are important because they have to take account of a number of different factors associated with the particular model of collaboration being proposed, in addition to the nature, role and location of any proposed partner. For example, most collaborations will require the consideration of, amongst other things:

  • Academic quality and standards
  • Governance
  • Commercial and financial sustainability
  • Legal and risk issues
  • Regulatory risks

Different parts of the University have different responsibilities in relation to these.   

The role of the ACO is to help to draw out the relevant issues, ensure that all stakeholders are informed and that they are engaged in the relevant decision making process.  We will also assist with the drafting of legal documents to help manage any of the risks associated with a particular collaboration. 

Agreements (Memorandums of Agreement/Understanding)

Memorandums of Agreement (MoAs)

Academic collaborations involving students of the University are governed by a formal legal agreement (normally referred to as a Memorandum of Agreement or 'MoA') between the University and its partner.  Sometimes there will also be an agreement between the partners and a student, for example in the case of certain collaborative research degrees. 

The Academic Collaborations Office is responsible for supporting the drafting and agreeing the final form of any MoA where this is related to an academic award of the University . The office has experience of developing all types of agreements related to collaborative provision.  The office also maintains a set of 'template' agreements which can often provide a starting point for the development of an MoA for a new collaboration. However, it should be noted that the vast majority of collaborations will require the drafting of an agreement specific to the particular circumstances of a relationship with a partner(s) and the relevant academic programme(s).  The ACO will ensure that the University's agreed approach to legal risk management is incorporated into any MoA.

When developing a new collaboration it should be kept in mind that an MoA will reflect the negotiations and agreed position between the partners and therefore its drafting necessarily takes place as this position becomes clear, rather than at the start of any negotiations.  The ACO can advise you on any non-negotiable terms that will be included in any MoA to help inform your discussions with a potential partner and we are happy to liaise with our counterparts at the partner(s) on the form of the MoA if required.  


Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs)

In some cases it will be beneficial to enter into an agreement with a partner at an early stage. For example, it may be helpful to set out the intended objectives of a partnership or to underline and promote the mutual commitment of the partners to a particular piece of work.   In these cases it may be appropriate to develop an MoU. MoUs are used to show intent of collaboration without yet committing to specific activities. It does not technically represent a binding agreement but often signals the intention of working towards one.

The development of MoUs is managed by the External Relations Directorate and more information can be found on their 'Developing an MoU' pages. 


Other types of agreement

If the agreement you require does not fit neatly into one of the categories described here then please contact us for advice.  The University enters into numerous and varied contracts/agreements that sit outside the responsibilities of the office and we will do our best to direct you to the most relevant colleagues.

Who do I need to contact?

If you are based in a School or Research Institute then you should let your Head of School or Institute Administration know what you are considering. There are also members of staff in each College who will have responsibility for different aspects of academic collaborations - if you are not familiar with who these staff are then please get in touch with us and we can guide you.

If you are considering a collaboration with an overseas partner then you should contact your College International Dean and the relevant Dean for Global Engagement.  The contacts for these colleagues can be found on the Internationalisation contacts page.

As above, please also let the ACO know what you are considering so that we can support you. The information on this website is just an introduction to the various considerations surrounding academic collaborations.