Guidelines for Departments and Faculties on International Partnerships and Agreements

contact: The Office for International Affairs

Information/Good Practice

1. These guidelines should be read in conjunction with the Policy and Procedure for Agreements on Academic Collaboration (International) to be found in the Academic Manual.

Institutional strategic purpose

2. Faculties and Departments are referred to the UCL International Strategy (www.ucl.ac.uk/staff/resources) for the overall institutional strategic framework for the development of international collaborative work.

International Partners

3. In considering an international partner, Faculties and Departments are reminded that collaborations involving UCL should be with institutions of good academic standing. However, it is not intended to inhibit departments working with recognised excellence at departmental level in an overseas institution that is not overall highly recognised.

Types of Agreement

4. These guidelines distinguish between (a) institutional-level agreements with institutions of similar status, normally setting out an expression of intent to collaborate and (b) discipline-level collaborations involving academic units which can be more flexible and recognise the often unique academic resources in smaller or lesser-known universities.

The type of agreement and its purpose must be clearly defined: e.g.:

i. General overarching agreement with the objective of promoting cooperation between the two institutions in unspecified fields;

ii. Agreement with the objective of promoting cooperation in specified fields or towards certain academic objectives. This can be either for teaching or research purposes or a combination of the two;

iii. Exchange of staff, exchange of students or the one-way movement of study abroad students to UCL;

iv. Agreement with an overseas partner for the provision of scholarships.

In preparing the agreement, Departments and Faculties should seek the advice of the appropriate UCL officers and departments (listed in the Appendix - see below).

Institutional level Agreement

5. This will:

  • be built upon substantial and well-established links at Faculty or departmental level (at least two established links that are seen to be operating effectively);
  • be developed, agreed and monitored according to the Policy and Procedure set out in the Academic Manual;
  • have a formal Memorandum of Understanding [MoU] signed by the Provost or the Vice-Provost (International).

Agreements at the level of Academic Units

6. An agreement (MoU) with an international partner at faculty/departmental level can arise initially from individual staff contacts, e.g. through a research project/shared teaching interests. In considering the possibility of formalising such links through an agreement, departments and Faculties are advised to note the following:

i. Does a link already exist with the proposed Partner? Advice can be obtained from the office of the Vice-Provost (International) and for agreements involving the mobility of students from the Study Abroad Office.

ii. Are the objectives of the agreement clear? Specifically, how do they relate to the departmental/Faculty Strategic Plan and the four core aims of the International Strategy?

iii. Is the agreement sustainable?

iv. Are any costs likely to be incurred by UCL?

v. How will this agreement be monitored at department and Faculty level?

7. If the academic unit wishes to proceed with a formal collaborative agreement (MoU):

i. The department/Faculty should follow the procedure for agreements on Academic Collaboration (International) set out in the Academic Manual;

ii. The potential benefits to UCL and the Department or Faculty should be clearly identified, such as:

  • Strengthening a research partnership
  • Increasing research outputs
  • Impact on student recruitment
  • Increased income
  • Increased academic exchange
  • Raising awareness of the UCL brand.

iii. The agreement (MoU) should be drafted using the UCL templates for guidance;

iv. All proposals must have the name of a UCL contact and a named contact in the Partner organisation;

v. If a funding agency is involved, this should be clearly indicated in the agreement and any financial terms should be stated. Appropriate advice on issues such as ownership of IPR should be taken early in the process;

vi. The agreement should have a fixed review date, provision for amendment by mutual agreement and provision for termination on notice;

vii. Clauses on confidentiality of data should be included if necessary i.e. in areas such as biomedicine;

viii. Departments/Faculties should be aware that no scheme for fee remission (scholarship) can be entered into without the explicit agreement the Vice-Provost (International);

ix. Departments and Faculties should be conscious of reputational risk when considering overseas collaborations;

x. Agreements should contain brand protection clauses;

xi. Due care should be taken of any ethical aspects/implications of the agreement.

Degree programmes with international academic collaborators

8. Departments wishing to establish degree programmes with international academic collaborators should consult the office of the Vice-Provost (International) in the first instance. Further guidance will be provided by Student and Registry Services on the completion of the Programme Institution Questionnaire (PIQ) for formal consideration by the Programme and Module Approval Steering Group (PMASG) of the Academic Committee’s Education Committee.

Agreements for the mobility of students

9. Agreements for the mobility of students fall into two categories:

(1) Student exchange agreements: these entail the reciprocal movement of UCL students abroad and students from overseas universities to UCL. These agreements can be at either undergraduate or graduate level.

(2) Incoming study abroad agreements: these facilitate the admission to UCL of incoming study abroad students from overseas universities; these are sometimes termed “Junior Year Abroad” or “JYA” agreements. Normally such agreements are at undergraduate level although graduate level agreements are possible.

10. Departments and Faculties wishing to establish agreements for the mobility of students should follow the appropriate sections of the Policy and Procedure for Agreements on Academic Collaboration in the Academic Manual.

11. Agreements covering the mobility of students are monitored through the Study Abroad Office, Student and Registry Services. This office exercise careful operational oversight of the agreements, which includes the establishment of robust safeguards, to ensure the quality of the student experience.

12. All agreements involving student mobility require the approval of the Registrar , and the signature of the Vice-Provost (International).

13. The Committee for the Recruitment and Admission of Students Recruitment, Outreach and Admissions Steering Group is responsible for the formal institutional oversight of student mobility agreements.

Student Exchange Agreements

14. The Study Abroad Office based within Student and Registry Services, has administrative responsibility for student exchange agreements.

15. Student exchanges within Europe are normally established under the umbrella of the EU Lifelong Learning Erasmus exchange scheme. EU Erasmus funding is available to support exchange agreements. UCL is also developing an increasing number of non- student exchange agreements with universities outside Europe.

16. Student exchange agreements usually operate on a departmental (academic unit) basis although there are some faculty-wide agreements.

17. Incoming exchange students are registered at UCL as affiliate students. They do not pay fees to UCL. Details of their studies are returned to their home universities for credit. Outgoing UCL exchange students also receive credit for their studies abroad. Fee arrangements for UCL students vary depending upon the specific agreement.

18. In the case of Erasmus exchange agreements, the Study Abroad Office circulates each year a notice to academic units both to invite new proposals and to amend existing links. Bids for the EU funding to support these exchanges have to be submitted annually. For UCL this means that all new agreements must be finalised by the end of November in any given year for activity to commence in the following September. The amendment of existing agreements must also be confirmed within the same timescale. The Manager of the Study Abroad Office is the designated Institutional Co-ordinator for the Erasmus Programme at UCL and has responsibility for overseeing all Erasmus related activities.

19. Academic units must consult the Study Abroad Office for advice early in the process and before pursuing any Erasmus or other student exchange agreement. In proposing an agreement an academic unit should have regard to:

  • the need for reciprocity;
  • that such agreements need to be of long-term value to UCL and should not be used to facilitate the admission of individual students;
  • the performance of any existing student exchanges linked to the academic unit concerned;
  • the status of the proposed partner university.

20. Full details of the procedure and copies of the standard templates and forms for Erasmus and other student exchange agreements are available from the Study Abroad Office.

Incoming Study Abroad Agreements

21. The International Office has administrative responsibility for incoming study abroad agreements.

22. These agreements are usually institution-wide i.e. they are not normally department-specific.

23. The movement of students is one-way. Most, but not all, such students come from the USA. There is no reciprocal movement of UCL students to the overseas partner university.

24. The students are registered at UCL as full-time, affiliate students. Overseas fees are payable to UCL for each student. Note: UCL no longer accepts full-time, fee-paying undergraduate affiliates from the UK or EU.

25. Students come to UCL for a full academic year, or for a part-year, either September to December (Fall Term) or from January to June (Spring/Summer Term).

26. UCL undertakes to provide an experience for these students as close as possible to that of a full-time, UCL degree student. In particular, the teaching of incoming study abroad students should be integrated with that of UCL degree students. The experience includes formal assessment. Transcripts for each student are prepared by the Study Abroad Office, Student and Registry Services. The credit is transferred to the Registrar of the home university for inclusion in the student’s academic record.

27. The existence of an agreement ensures regular, high-quality communication between the home university and UCL. The application, invoicing and transcript delivery processes are streamlined. However, the absence of an agreement with a university does not prevent any individual student from that university applying independently or through a third-party provider.

28. Intending study abroad students can apply to any of forty or more UCL departments for admission. They will take courses in that department and, normally, additional courses in other departments, subject to having undertaken appropriate prior study.

29. Academic units wishing to admit incoming study abroad students for the first time or to increase the numbers that they admit or to propose a partner institution, be it in the USA or in any other country, should contact the International Office for advice in the first instance.

Guidelines for Departments and Faculties considering Joint Doctoral Programmes

Departments and Faculties are asked to note that UCL does not establish joint doctoral programmes other than in very exceptional circumstances.

30. A joint doctoral programme leads to one qualification jointly recognised by both partner institutions and not the award of two degrees. The student works in both universities on a formally agreed programme of research and is jointly supervised by academics from each of the partners. One partner is designated the lead university and is responsible for the administration of the programme and for the examination process.

31. The thesis should be written and examined in English, regardless of where the student is residing, unless there is a justifiable reason for the thesis to be written in the language of the partner institution; formal agreement is required from the Chair of the Academic Committee’s Research Degrees Committee (RDC) for a thesis to be written in a language other than English.

32. UCL should only offer joint doctoral programmes with institutions of comparable academic standing, i.e. world top 100 in the recognised league tables, or recognised as excellent within the region, or for a particular strength in the discipline area.

33. UCL needs to have confidence in all aspects of the proposed partner’s research and doctoral training provision. This normally requires a recognised Quality Assurance regime to be in place in the partner country.

34. Proposals should be matched to a) UCL institutional strategic objectives b) the strategic objectives of the academic unit concerned and should not normally be based on requests from individual candidates, unless a real strategic value can be demonstrated or the request strengthens an established research link.

35. The potential benefits to UCL (and the department or Faculty) from the partnership should be clearly identified such as:

  • Strengthening a research partnership
  • Impact on general student recruitment
  • Increased income
  • Increased overall academic exchange
  • Raising awareness of the UCL brand.

36. Proposals should have criteria for measuring success and should be reviewed after five years, i.e:

  • how many students have followed this programme in five years;
  • how many members of staff are working together as a result of this proposal;
  • what impact has there been on general student recruitment from the partner?

37. All proposed partnerships should enhance the UCL brand and reputation. If the association has not been proposed by UCL, care should be taken that the proposed link does not disproportionately benefit the partner. Proposals should demonstrate an awareness of the partner institution’s intentions with regard to publicising the link.

38. Cohorts of students from particular research areas are encouraged i.e. arising from an established relationship between research teams.

39. The Department and Faculty must be in support of the proposal for a joint doctoral programme as there is potential for loss of revenue.

Procedure for requesting a joint Doctoral programme with an overseas university

(A UCL policy statement and an outline of the requirements for the individual student agreement can be found in the Policy and Procedure for Agreements on Academic Collaboration)

40. Departments and Faculties wishing to propose a joint Doctoral programme with an overseas university should contact the office of the Vice-Provost (International) in the first instance for general guidance.

41. The following should be consulted before a formal request is made:

  • The Graduate School on the regulatory framework, arrangements for supervision, research training etc
  • The International Office for specific advice on the status of the university and the recognition of its awards by UCL.
  • The appropriate regional Pro-Provost on the strategic value of the proposed relationship for UCL in the area.

42. A short proposal paper should be prepared addressing the general criteria listed above (29-38) and sent to the Vice-Provost (International). This should include the support of the Head of Department and/or the Faculty Dean.

43. The Vice-Provost (International) as Chair of the International Strategy Group (ISG) will make a recommendation, if necessary consulting an email panel of members of ISG.

44. The Office of the Vice-Provost (International) and the Graduate School will draw up the appropriate agreements for the management of the programme in consultation with the Registry and Academic Services.

Agreements for the management of joint PhD programmes

45. A joint doctoral programme should be set at three or four years for full-time students; students enrolled on the programme should be based at the partner institution (s) for a minimum of one full academic session.

46. Partner institutions should agree the expected academic standards of all admissions, upgrade and progression, examinations and awards. Academic standards should be equivalent to those of comparable programmes delivered at UCL.

47. Potential and registered students must be provided with clear information on the nature of the programme, academic standards, quality of provision, the nature of the collaborative agreement and an outline of the respective responsibilities of all parties.

48. The agreement governing the student’s programme should be signed by the student, the supervisors and representatives of both institutions (at UCL the Head of the Graduate School). Students should be provided with copies of the agreement and guidance.

49. One partner will be named in the individual programme MoU as the lead institution.

50. When at UCL the student’s programme of study will be subject to UCL regulations, codes of practice and QA processes. When the student is at the partner institution, then their QA processes, regulations and codes of practice, where appropriate, will apply.

51. Research Degrees Committee must be satisfied that robust quality assurance mechanisms and monitoring arrangements that comply with UCL standards are in place in the partner institution. Partner institutions will hold recognised Research Degree Awarding Powers.

52. Admissions standards should be benchmarked at the highest admission standard of the two partner institutions. The admissions process should be undertaken by the lead university with the knowledge and approval of the collaborating university and potential collaborating supervisors. UCL requires the student to meet its English language requirement; other languages may be required, depending on the language of supervision at the partner institution.

53. Students should be registered at each of the participating universities from the start of their degree programme; for day to day functions, however, the student’s programme will be managed by the lead institution.

54. Fees (including research project costs) should be set on a pro-rata basis and outlined in the individual student contract; the appropriate institutional rate of international fees will apply pro-rata. The minimum period of attendance at UCL is expected to be one year and any change to the timings approved in the contract must be approved by the Chair of Research Degrees Committee and notified to the Finance Division (Fees and Credit Control Department).

55. The UCL principal and subsidiary supervisors should be appointed by the Programme Co-ordinator and principal supervisors should be named in the MoU governing the student’s programme. Supervisors should be chosen from a pool agreed by both partner institutions, and should have received appropriate training and have significant experience. Probationary staff should not participate as principal supervisor until they have experience of at least one standard supervision and meet UCL’s requirements for supervision.

56. The partner institution should provide a principal supervisor according to its own regulations and codes of practice; this principal supervisor should be named in the individual MoU governing the arrangements for the student’s programme of study.

57. UCL supervisory problems should be dealt with by the Departmental Graduate Tutor or the Head of Department in consultation with the partner institution and vice-versa. Any supervisory problems at the partner institution should be notified to the Departmental Graduate Tutor or the Head of Department at UCL.

58. Teaching staff (supervisors) should be allowed to teach at the collaborating institution and given honorary status.

59. It is a mandatory requirement for UCL students on a joint PhD programme to use the online Research Student Log. In cases where UCL is not the lead institution, UCL would like the student to engage with the E-log throughout the PhD, but they must do so when attending UCL.

60. While at UCL the supervisory requirements in the Code of Practice shall be met. An annual meeting is recommended for all parties (the supervisors from both institutions and the student).

61. A meeting of principal supervisors should take place within the first twelve months in order to assess the student’s progress and again between 12 and 21 months, to upgrade from M.Phil to PhD if appropriate.

62. The thesis should be written and examined in English, regardless of where the student is residing, unless there is a justifiable reason for the thesis to be written in the language of the partner institution. The approval of the Chair of Research Degrees Committee is required for a thesis to be written in a language other than English. A substantial summary written in the language of the partner institution should be included in the final submission. The production of the thesis should conform to the practices of the lead institution; an electronic copy should be provided.

63. Examination processes should be those of the lead institution. One examiner should be appointed from each of the partner institutions and at least one agreed external examiner.

64. Payment to examiners should be the responsibility of the lead institution, including the external and the examiner from the partner institution. Arrangements for the payment of examiners should be outlined in the MoU governing the management of the student’s programme.

65. The degree certificate should make clear that the degree is jointly awarded and carry the crest of both awarding universities.

66. Should a candidate wish to transfer to a standard UCL PhD programme, or from a standard UCL PhD programme to a joint PhD programme, a case for the transfer should be made to the Chair of Research Degrees Committee.


Sources of advice on International Collaborations

Prior to initiating any international partnership or agreement, Faculties and Departments are recommended to seek advice from the following, as appropriate:

  • The Vice-Provost (International) (UCL strategic issues)
  • The Pro-Provost for the geographical area concerned
  • The Registrar (legal matters, fees, scholarships)
  • UCL Copyright Officer (IPR matters)
  • UCL International Office (status of institutions, marketing of programmes, recruitment of students)
  • Study Abroad Office
  • UCL Business (collaborations with commercial/business partners)
  • Curricular Development and Examiners (proposals for collaborative degree programmes)
  • The Graduate School (joint PhD proposals).

Faculties and Departments are advised to be aware of the QAA Code of Practice (Section 2): Collaborative provision and flexible and distributed learning (including e-learning) – October 2010. Accessed at www.qaa.ac.uk

November 2011.