Academic partnerships – working paper on definitions and early data

This interim release from our academic partnerships project with Pinsent Masons presents some early data from our recent surveys and sets out definitions for a proposed typology of partnership arrangements for use by providers and policy makers.

Collaborative provision through academic partnerships has been a feature of the UK's higher education sector for as long as the idea of a sector existed. In recent years, as the number of higher education providers without their own degree awarding powers has grown, they have become ever more important.

These partnership models were for a long time the only route into the sector for new providers and the only way to make higher education available locally in many parts of the country through further education colleges. Today they still form an integral if largely invisible part of the quality and standards landscape of UK higher education, ensuring that all degree programmes and other recognised higher education qualifications offered in the UK align with the expected standards and common practices of the sector.

Despite this essential place in the sector's quality assurance landscape, partnerships remain little understood, with a scarcity of guidance on good practice and information on current arrangements across the sector. At a basic level, there remains no universally accepted typology or terminology that would allow the sector and policy makers to talk about partnership arrangements with clarity and precision, and the absences of a shared vocabulary has caused confusion and misunderstanding instead.

This working paper has been produced to start to address this terminological deficit by proposing clear definitions of common types of arrangements, while acknowledging the further variation possible. It also seeks to gives a sense of the size and scope of partnerships in the UK, as well as insights from early data into the funding and regulatory arrangements, and the types of courses being delivered.

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