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Partnership Changes

The Common Awards partnerships between Durham University and the Theological Education Institutions (TEIs) were approved on the basis of the evidence obtained during the initial validation visit process, and in line with the University’s criteria for approving new collaborative partnerships. We are aware that there might need to be changes to the approved partnership - for instance in response to external review, national or regional initiatives, or market demand - over the course of the length of the Standard Validation Contracts signed with TEIs.  

Some changes at TEIs can be made throughout the year and approved by the TEI, and the University retains oversight of incremental changes through its monitoring and review processes. However, there may be more significant changes to the partnership - such as changes to the ownership, status, or composition of the TEI – which will need to be reported to the University in advance for consideration. Depending on the nature and scale of the change, the University may require additional information or (exceptionally) a formal partnership review process to assure itself that, in light of the proposed changes:  

  • the contract governing the partnership remains valid; 
  • the partnership changes do not result in serial arrangements; 
  • the academic, financial, and legal status of the partner remain appropriate; 
  • the partnership remains aligned with the University's strategic aims and objectives; 
  • the programme will continue to meet the appropriate academic standards, and provide students with the learning infrastructure and learning opportunities necessary to achieve those standards; 
  • the arrangements for the partnership will continue to enable the University to discharge its responsibilities for the academic standards of awards and the quality of the student learning experience. 

Partnership changes are likely to include, but are not limited to: 

  • changes in ownership or legal status of the TEI 
  • significant changes in the TEI’s financial standing 
  • changes to constituent delivery centres (or equivalent) in multi-centre TEIs, including: 
    • adding a new centre 
    • changing the title of an approved centre 
    • merging two or more approved centres 
    • incorporating or merging a new centre within an approved centre 
    • closing or removing an approved centre 
    • changes to relationships between constituent centres, where those changes alter the status of the TEI as a single legal entity 
  • changes to campuses or delivery sites, including: 
    • opening a new campus 
    • closing an approved campus 
    • changing the name of an approved campus 

All partnership changes that require revisions to the Common Awards contractual relationships are deemed to be significant changes. This is particularly true of cases where a multi-centre TEI wishes to change its composition, as the Service Contract and/or the Standard Validation Contract will need to be amended. All changes to the contracts (the Service Contract and the Standard Validation Contracts) must be approved by the National Ministry Team before the revised contracts can be issued for signature.  

If a TEI is unsure of whether a partnership change is deemed to be ‘minor’ or ‘significant’, they should contact the Common Awards Team for advice as early as possible. This will also provide an opportunity for the University to offer support to the TEI and, if necessary, to advise the TEI on the need to put in place appropriate contingency plans to protect the interests of students. 

Risk-based approach  

The University takes a risk-based approach to ensure that the level of scrutiny is proportionate to the risk associated with the partnership change. For example, changing the name of a delivery centre or campus is likely to carry little (if any) risk to quality and standards; however, it is deemed to be a significant change as the University will need to amend the Service Contract (and potentially also the Standard Validation Contract) in order to ensure that contractual arrangements are current and valid. In contrast, the proposed closure of an approved delivery centre within a multi-centre TEI could carry substantial risk, and so is likely to require a much greater degree of scrutiny and a more comprehensive assessment of the impact of the proposed closure on the TEI and its students. Likewise, the proposal to introduce a new delivery centre (or similar) within a TEI is likely to require a due diligence process that might include a site visit.  

Process 

TEIs should provide formal notification of the imminent or anticipated partnership change by completing and submitting the ‘Formal Notification of Partnership Changes form with the relevant supporting information. See our Templates and Forms page to download this. TEIs should submit the form and any documentation as soon as it is feasible to do so. If a formal site visit is required, and the resultant report needs to be considered by the Quality and Standards Committee (or Education Committee, or exceptionally the University Senate), this process can often take some months.  

The ‘Formal Notification of Partnership Changes’ form and any supporting information is considered by the Chair of the Management Board. They will be responsible, in consultation with the Common Awards Team, for deciding on how to proceed. The Chair of the Management Board may also seek the views of the National Ministry TeamExternal Examiners or Subject Specialists, and other professional support services (e.g. Legal Services) at the University. TEIs will be informed on how the information may be shared within the University.  

The potential outcomes of this consideration are: 

  • the change is noted 
  • the change is approved 
  • further information is required 
  • a site visit is required 
  • a full re-approval event is required 
  • the change is rejected (exceptionally) 

Following this consideration, the Common Awards Team will liaise with TEIs to undertake the necessary next steps.