Consortial Relationships, Academic Partnerships and Affiliation Agreements
Southern Methodist University must ensure that all educational programs and courses wherever and however offered meet comprehensive requirements consistent with the standards of quality and evaluation set by SMU and by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). This paper and the attached Guidelines document address the contract formation process including due diligence, negotiation and evaluation of implementing agreements.
- Agreements with other universities or entities to establish consortial relationships, academic partnerships, international programs or other types of academic affiliations should advance SMU’s mission as well as SMU’s standing in the academic community without creating undue risk.
- Agreements with other universities or entities to establish consortial relationships, academic partnerships, international programs or other types of academic affiliations should provide programs of the highest quality that meet SMU program and educational standards and fulfill SACS requirements.
- If the collaboration relates to the conferring of a new or joint degree, it must be considered under the standard review process for approval of a new degree.
- If the collaboration includes research, it must be reviewed under the standard review process [University Policy 10.1, Sponsored Research and Activities.]
- Collaborations are subject to all applicable university-wide policies.
- All new agreements with other universities or entities to establish consortial relationships, academic partnerships, international programs or other types of academic affiliations must be reviewed and approved under this process even if an umbrella agreement with the same institution or entity has been approved.
- Agreements with other universities or entities to establish consortial relationships, academic partnerships, international programs or other types of academic affiliations must contain provisions for periodic monitoring to ensure programs maintain academic standards. Generally, agreements may be for a term no longer than five years, unless expressly approved for a longer term by an individual with contract signature authority. Renewal of agreements requires re-submission through this approval process.
- All agreements must be reviewed and approved by the Office of Legal Affairs. Approval by the Office of Legal Affairs means that the agreement is approved from a legal perspective and when signed is legally enforceable. Approval by the Office of Legal Affairs does not imply an endorsement of the nature of the agreement between SMU and the other party.
- Early preparation, when first considering an academic collaboration, will save time in the long run and increase the likelihood of success.
- All agreements with other universities or entities that establish consortial relationships, academic partnerships or any other type of academic affiliation must be in writing.
- Any agreement signed by or on behalf of SMU with another university, a non-profit organization or any other entity, whether domestic or international, that involves provision of educational programs or academic offerings must be reviewed under this process.
- Agreements that obligate only one party, aspirational agreements or agreements to agree later with another university, non-profit organization or other entity involving provision of educational programs or academic must be reviewed under this process.
- Agreements should specify:
- Joint or reciprocal actions to be taken
- If award of academic credit is involved, standards compliant with SACS COC standards.
- Responsible parties at each institution
- Outcomes and tangible results including the method to monitor results
- Periodic evaluation
- Term of the contract
- Allocation of costs and responsibilities
- A part of the process must include identifying if agreements are already in place with this institution or entity or if agreements are already in place to accomplish the same or similar objectives at SMU.
These questions should be considered in preliminary planning of a potential academic collaboration.
- What makes the relationship worth pursuing? Why now at SMU?
- What will be necessary to make the relationship successful?
- Does this arrangement meet the SACS requirements for collaborative academic arrangements?
If the academic collaboration involves international collaboration, identify any potential risks associated with the location and consider if the risks are manageable.
Agreement Drafting and Execution
Once most of the substance of the agreement is determined, use a standard form contract [www.smu.edu\ola\contracts if any are appropriate] or contact the Office of Legal Affairs to draft an agreement that incorporates the operational decisions identified during due diligence.
Identify the approvals, order of approvals and signatures necessary to execute the agreement. Provide copies of fully executed agreements to the Office of Legal Affairs and to SACS.
Negotiation and Due Diligence
Identify who will be responsible for negotiating the agreement. Clearly identify the boundaries on that individual’s authority in negotiating an agreement. For international agreements where multiple languages are involved, determine who will review the foreign language document to ensure the foreign language document is an accurate translation.
- Identify courses, if any, to be offered and make certain they align with SMU degree or other requirements regarding content and teaching methodology.
- Examine courses to be transferred in or transcripted from partner institution or entity to ensure they meet SMU and SACS standards.
- Identify individuals at partner institution or entity who will be teaching or leading program aspects and ensure their qualifications meet SMU and SACS standards.
Partner Institution or Entity Profile:
- Verify the accreditation, academic standing and any other quality indicia of the partner institution or entity and related programs.
- Determine institutional support of and agreement with the collaboration.
- Confirm the process the partnering institution or entity will use to agree to the collaboration.
- Identify any barriers the partner institution or entity may face in fulfilling its obligations.
- Review partner institution or entity’s admission standards.
- If an international collaboration, determine if there are legal issues that could impact the collaboration.
Administration and Governance:
- Determine if that individual responsible for implementing the collaboration has the skills and authority to implement the program.
- Determine what and how services will be provided to participants, e.g., admissions, advising, registrar, student aid, health services, counseling, benefits.
- Determine how academic and behavioral performance issues will be handled.
- If student exchange or collaboration, establish how transcripting and award of academic credit will occur.
- If research, establish how relevant reviews will occur and allocation of intellectual property rights. Seek approval of any grant or sponsor entities.
- Establish how required disclosures and notifications will be undertaken and how accuracy of records will be ensured following SACS requirements.
- If faculty teaching, establish joint appointments or other means to ensure faculty accountability.
- Develop a timetable for program development, advertising and application deadlines.
- Consider likely enrollment for first and succeeding years and impact on program of higher or lower enrollment.
- Projected expenses and revenues over 3 – 5 years. Include both direct and indirect expenses.
- Identify financial contributions of SMU and of partnering institution. For SMU identify source of funds to pay for expenses in excess of program-generated revenue.
- Establish a timetable for periodic evaluation of the program in relation to educational, enrollment and financial goals.
- Develop means to ensure that if a major or concentration is offered as part of the collaboration, outcomes are comparable to outcomes of a similar major or concentration at SMU. If SMU offers no similar or comparable major or concentration, outcomes are comparable to outcomes at cohort schools offering the major or concentration.
- Establish a process to be used to implement changes identified through the evaluation.