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									        Promoting Partnership Initiative


A Handbook generated by experiences of the
    Promoting Partnership Initiative

          Laura R. Meagher, PhD
     Promoting Partnership Initiative


Development of this Handbook would not have been possible were
it not for the efforts of many individuals involved in different ways in
the Promoting Partnership Initiative. Members of the Steering
Committee, in particular David Corner, David Duncan, Ann Kettle
and David Boxer as members of the Core Team, provided
leadership, developed policy and encouraged practical
implementation even for complicated projects. Many members of
academic and central services staff were bold enough to conduct
grass roots “experiments”, the actual projects from which lessons
have been learned, thereby developing skills in the execution of
collaborations. PPI project facilitating staff not only smoothed the
operations of the Partnership, they also contributed directly to this
Handbook, Karen Munro through case studies and practical
templates for action and Sharon Black through analysis and
diagramming of market research and strategy. Lesley Stephen and
other support staff made possible innumerable meetings and
communications. The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council’s
award of a Strategic Change Grant provided a unique opportunity
for the University of St Andrews and the University of Dundee to
explore and test a new model for multi-institutional partnership.
We hope that this Handbook will make a contribution to the
successful development of future partnerships.

                                                Laura R. Meagher, PhD
                                         Technology Development Group
                                                       Coordinator, PPI

        Promoting Partnership Initiative

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements .......................................................................................... 3
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ................................................................................. 6
Developing Collaborative Ventures across Institutions .................................... 8
  INTRODUCTION .......................................................................................... 8
    Cross-institutional partnerships: rationale ................................................. 8
    Cross-institutional partnerships: challenges, obstacles ............................ 9
    Partnership-building as a process that can be handled more or less
    successfully .............................................................................................. 9
    Potential to share lessons learned through experience with this process . 9
    Role(s) of this Handbook ........................................................................ 10
    Key features............................................................................................ 12
    Key steps in the development of any innovative collaborative
    venture/project/initiative .......................................................................... 12
    Cautions.................................................................................................. 16
    Introduction: rationale, types of ventures and approaches thereto ......... 18
    FAQs ...................................................................................................... 23
    Issues ..................................................................................................... 24
    Introduction, rationale, types of ventures and approaches thereto ......... 26
    FAQs ...................................................................................................... 30
    Issues ..................................................................................................... 30
    Lessons learned ..................................................................................... 30
    Illustrative Case Study: Social Dimensions of Health Institute (SDHI) .... 32
  JOINT EFFORTS IN CENTRAL SERVICES .............................................. 33
    Introduction, rationale, types of ventures and approaches thereto ......... 33
    FAQs ...................................................................................................... 35
    Issues ..................................................................................................... 36
    Lessons learned ..................................................................................... 36
  CONCLUSIONS ......................................................................................... 38
    Facilitated, not forced ............................................................................. 38
    Top-down and bottom-up ........................................................................ 38
    Talking and trusting ................................................................................ 38
    Sunrise to sunset .................................................................................... 38
    Polygamy as a social good ..................................................................... 38

   Promoting Partnership Initiative

A. Education
   A-1 New Course Idea: Market Research Guide
   A-2 Example: Market Research for a new Postgraduate Degree
   A-3 Using Market Research to Develop a Marketing Strategy: Possible
   Action Steps to Conduct
   A-4 Management of Joint Education Efforts: Operational Principles
   A-5 Memorandum of Agreement: Postgraduate Course Programme
   A-6 Memorandum of Agreement: Undergraduate Degree Programme
   A-7 Joint Courses Forum
B. Research
    B-1 Research Collaborations: A few points to consider
    B-2 How a Joint Institute Could Work: Hypothetical FAQs
    B-3 An Example of a Financial Framework for a Joint Institute
C. Central Services
    C-1 Examples of Collaboration Among Central Services Units
D. Promoting Partnership Initiative
    D-1 The Promoting Partnership Initiative
    D-2 Summary of Accomplishments
D-3 Contacts at the University of Dundee and the University of St Andrews

     Promoting Partnership Initiative

Developing Collaborative Ventures across Institutions
               A Promoting Partnership Initiative Handbook
                            EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

A rapidly changing environment challenges institutions to develop new ways
of pursuing their strategic goals. Sometimes, an institution can even address
its own objectives most effectively through collaboration with another. Some
institutions may move to an extreme of collaboration, full-scale merger, while
at the other end of the spectrum, others may choose to operate largely in
isolation. Through the Promoting Partnership Initiative (PPI), funded with a
Scottish Higher Education Funding Council Strategic Change Grant, the
University of St Andrews and the University of Dundee explored a model of
collaboration falling between these extremes. Led by a Steering Committee
with leaders from both institutions, the PPI was established deliberately as a
loose framework, within which nodes of collaboration were fostered where
there was genuine enthusiasm matched with opportunity and feasibility. Joint
degree programmes, research ventures and central services efforts have
resulted, along with an increased capacity for collaboration with each other
and with other institutions.

Partnership-building does not have to be mysterious and elusive; it is a
process that can be understood and handled transparently and effectively.
Within a common conceptual framework, therefore, this Handbook offers
lessons learned, practical points, possible solutions to challenging issues,
potential mechanisms for expediting activity and generalised templates for
action. It is hoped this document will be helpful to future partnerships.

Of course, if multi-institutional partnerships were easy, there would be a lot
more of them! Issues can arise in a variety of forms, ranging from differences
in fundamental institutional goals to conflicts of personalities. Inequalities, real
or perceived, in effort, cost, wins, losses or credit can cause problems. For
these reasons, among others, sustained commitment at the level of project
champions and institutional leaders is vital.

It is possible to identify key features and key steps that can enhance the
likelihood of a partnership’s success. So, for example, five key steps
(Generation of an Idea for a Joint Venture; Market Research; Marketing
Strategy; Implementation; and Evolution/Sustainability/Sunsetting) run
throughout joint ventures between institutions, whether the collaboration
focuses on education, research or central services.

While this Handbook and its Annexes go into detail regarding joint ventures in
education, research and central services, some overarching lessons learned
deserve highlighting here.

    Promoting Partnership Initiative

    Emphasis on seizing opportunities for which partnership adds a
     competitive edge or discharges a broader range of responsibilities is
     more likely to encourage collaboration than a negative theme of
    The added value of a joint venture should be articulated clearly, so
     that the possibility of wins for all concerned is appreciated. Often a
     partnership will make it possible to differentiate a venture as uniquely
    Building of trust is critical, at the grass roots within individual projects
     or ventures and at the level of senior management. Bringing people
     together regularly is a critical step, along with open and continuous
     communication and joint troubleshooting. Each institution involved
     needs to gain something from the partnership.
    Sharing - effort, cost, credit and income - should be an explicit goal.
    Leadership from the very top of the institutions involved is vital, so that
     implementers across units and levels know that their innovative
     partnership efforts will be supported and encouraged.
    In addition to expressions of support by leaders, institutions need to
     make commitment explicit by pooling financial resources.
    It is incumbent upon partnership ventures to remove administrative
     disincentives, rather than to add to bureaucracy; clearing away
     obstacles (real and perceived) will be critical to the willingness of
     individuals to participate.
    Proposed financial and administrative arrangements should be tested
     out with academic and central service units.
    Collaboration cannot be forced. It can, however, be encouraged by
     clear identification of opportunities only achievable through the pooling
     of talents in a joint venture. Facilitation of various sorts can help
     potential collaborations to overcome inevitable obstacles and entropy.
    Often, interdisciplinary niches/opportunities will benefit the most
     from the added value of the pooled reservoir of expertise at two or
     more institutions. Structured brainstorming can be a useful
     mechanism for sparking new ideas for collaborations.
    New ventures can be encouraged by the wide dissemination of
     examples of good practice.
    Good experiences with collaboration can provide a platform for a
     culture in which partnership is viewed positively as a natural, effective
     component of an institution’s portfolio of strategies.

     Promoting Partnership Initiative

Promoting Partnership Initiative Handbook

Developing Collaborative Ventures across Institutions

Cross-institutional partnerships: rationale

The environment within which institutions function is changing rapidly. New
demands appear from all directions. Costs increase, but so does
accountability, when budgets may not even cover the status quo. Funders of
various sorts exert increasing pressure upon institutions to collaborate. At the
same time, new fields of research spring up, even as students and
prospective employers seek new specialisations in education. The higher
education sector is expected to contribute to understanding, the lifelong
pursuit of education for increasing numbers of students, and the economy,
health and well-being of society, with each of these goals a moving target.

For institutions to keep up, mitigating emergent problems and seizing
emergent opportunities, new behaviours are necessary. Sometimes, an
institution can even address its own objectives most effectively through
collaboration with another. Indeed, interrelationships among institutions
within the “ecology” of higher education have received much attention of late.

In theory, a spectrum exists of possible “degrees of separation” among
institutions. When institutions as organisations are considered, (recognising
that individuals will always have their own connections with colleagues
elsewhere), the spectrum can range from isolation to merger. More and more
institutions are coming, happily or begrudgingly, to the realisation that, alone,
they cannot always mount a winning strategy to counter problems or seize
opportunities and that adding strengths from elsewhere could make a
difference. Yet, on the far side of the spectrum from stalwart independence,
recent experiments with actual mergers of pairs of institutions have often
proven worryingly problematic.

There is room in the middle of the spectrum for a variety of looser
relationships, in which collaboration is promoted, but in a far less
comprehensive and formal manner than merger. Through the Promoting
Partnership Initiative (PPI), the University of St Andrews and the University of
Dundee have conducted an experiment in this range. Responding to
encouragement given to collaboration by the Scottish Higher Education
Funding Council, the two institutions submitted a successful proposal for a
SHEFC Strategic Change Grant (following a year of preliminary exploration).
This three-year funding made possible not only operational expenses and
seed grants, but also the hiring of a part-time coordinator and two facilitators
dedicated to fostering joint programmatic developments, removing obstacles
and encouraging communication. Led by a Steering Committee with leaders

     Promoting Partnership Initiative

from both institutions, the PPI was established deliberately as a loose
framework, within which nodes of collaboration were fostered when there was
genuine enthusiasm matched with opportunity and feasibility. Potential nodes
of collaboration were identified in jointly delivered degree programmes,
research and central services. As anticipated, the PPI has evolved organically
over time (Annexes D-1, D-2, D-3)) and has learned lessons from its

Cross-institutional partnerships: challenges, obstacles

Presumably, if cross-institutional partnerships were easy, more would exist! A
variety of challenges confront this new sort of behaviour, some obvious, some
more subtle. Even if an appropriate focus for mutually beneficial collaboration
can be identified, time, territory, tension and tedious logistics all enter into
the picture very quickly. Sustained effort over time is needed to transcend
apparent threats to territory by addressing enlightened self-interest of all
parties involved, building trust along the way. Inevitably, with the prospect of
changing comfortable behaviours, tensions arise, calling for diplomacy and
facilitation, if not outright mediation or indeed enforcement. Mind-numbing
though they may be, the sheer logistics of collaborative ventures can loom
large as seemingly intractable obstacles, unless they are addressed and

Partnership-building as a process that can be handled more or less

Clearly, the impressive array of challenges cannot be wished out of existence,
nor can it be addressed overnight. Partnership-building between institutions is
a multifaceted process that occurs over time. As a process, it can be handled
more or less effectively. Even with the best will in the world, the process will
run into surprises and glitches. Guidance won’t eliminate the challenges, but it
can make addressing them more straightforward and increase the likelihood
of success.

Potential to share lessons learned through experience with this process

Because partnership-building between institutions is a process, with its own
components, features and dynamics, it is possible to learn lessons while
going through the process, thereby expediting subsequent steps. While each
cross-institutional partnership will be unique (as will each specific collaborative
venture or activity conducted by any such partnership), nonetheless, some
lessons learned can be generalised. Sharing of lessons learned can help later
partnerships by: identifying issues; recommending possible solutions,
describing potential mechanisms for expediting activity, and offering
generalised templates for action.

     Promoting Partnership Initiative

Role(s) of this Handbook

Sharing lessons learned is the objective of this PPI Handbook. The intent is to
help institutions build cross-institutional partnerships, and teams to build
targeted multi-institutional ventures, by distilling generalisable principles or
points of guidance from actual experiences of the PPI. In an attempt to be
accessible and useful, the Handbook is framed as a “how-to” source, not with
any intent of being prescriptive, but rather as an offering of a starting point.
Issues, solutions, mechanisms or templates are raised for consideration, with
the expectation that they will be tailored (or even discarded) as different
occasions warrant. By bringing together a variety of practical points
under a common conceptual framework, the PPI hopes to expedite the
growth of productive collaborations in the future.

   Promoting Partnership Initiative

Key Steps to Developing Collaborative Ventures

      Idea for
   Joint Venture

      Market                      Consider, need, demand,
                                                                                        Prepare a
                               competition, resources in hand &
     Research                              required                                   business case

                               Joint Education                    Collaboration with
                                  Ventures                        Admissions Offices

    Marketing                   Joint Research                 Internal promotion,
                                   Ventures                  alliance building & role
    Strategy                                                       of leadership

                                 Joint Central                    Internal & external
                                   Services                           promotion

                               Joint Education               Gaining academic approval, 9 Principles & Memo
                                                              of Agreement guiding joint ventures, Registry,
                                  Ventures                      Finance, Admissions & Course Committee s

 Implementation                 Joint Research               Planning, champions, steering group, streamlined
                                                                 app roaches to proposals, identification of
                                   Ventures                     opportunities, securing investment, sharing

                                 Joint Central               Planning, facilitati on of dialogue, identification of
                                                                   joint aims & opportunities, embedding

    Evolution,                    Continuously assess developmental timeframe from
 sustainability &                 early planning to implementation & ongoing change,
                                 agree benchmarks for decision -making as to the future

     Promoting Partnership Initiative


Key features

While specific collaborations will vary widely, it is likely that the processes
leading to the successful ones will share certain key features. Most are more
common sense than rocket science but nonetheless merit explicit attention as
important aspirations while partnerships are being framed and built. Not
surprising, for instance, is the need for each partner to gain something;
identifying motivational “win-wins” early on in the process helps to reassure
participants that their efforts will be worthwhile. Seeking a general equivalence
of gain (even if specific “wins” differ) contributes in turn to a fundamentally
important feature: trust. Critical to the growth of trust among participants is
communication; particularly in the early phases of developing a joint venture,
the more open, frequent and face-to-face the communication is, the better.
Informal communication –particularly if accompanied by food! -can accelerate
trust-building. This can be critical for rapid response trouble-shooting; ideally
collaborators will be on top of the process such that they can react quickly to –
or even anticipate- problems that (inevitably) arise. Communication, trust and
understanding of each other’s goals will similarly enhance the seizing of
opportunities as they arise. Some continuity is helpful; if involved personnel
change constantly, broadening and deepening of trust can be difficult.

However intellectual or professional the topical focus of a collaboration, it is
the human element that will make the critical difference in success or failure.
After all, collaborative ventures by definition entail doing new things in new
ways, so there is plenty of scope for individuals to feel threatened,
uncomfortable or even greedy. Project champions and a committed team
will need to have the vision, will and drive to steer a project from idea to
success. Leadership support from involved institutions will expedite
navigation through obstacles. Collaborators will need to be: enthusiastic and
engaging, encouraging involvement of central and affiliate participants;
facilitative, bringing out the best in participants; taking the high road and to
some degree selfless, focused on big-picture goals; practical, paying
attention to short-term implementation tactics and even mundane logistics;
and persevering, making their way diplomatically but firmly through obstacles
to attain goals.

Key steps in the development of any innovative collaborative

It may be helpfully demystifying to view the process of developing a particular
innovative collaborative venture, whether a specific project or a large-scale
initiative, as taking place in a series of developmental phases or steps. The
following framework of steps is likely to be relevant across diverse
collaborative ventures. If the leadership team makes the most of each of these
steps, the probability of success for the overall venture will be enhanced.

       Promoting Partnership Initiative

        1) Generation and refinement of a new idea
        2) “Market research”, determining a business case for the venture
        3) Strategy for marketing/promotion/engagement of allies (internal
           & external)
        4) Implementation
        5) Evolution, sustainability or sunsetting as appropriate

1) Generation and refinement of a new idea
Sometimes a new idea for a collaborative venture arises spontaneously,
perhaps in response to a timely topic in general or a specific funding
opportunity. Most often the idea will arise because a core of two or more
individuals from different institutions have come together and talked. Such an
occasion might be an early facilitative meeting or brainstorming event
deliberately designed to stimulate shared thinking or it might be something
much less formal. Pubs have been known to play a role.

2) “Market research”, determining a business case for the venture
Whatever the source, the new idea will need testing and refining before a plan
is developed and implemented. Although “market research” may at first
glance seem to be an alien commercial concept, it is in the broad sense
surprisingly pertinent for multi-institutional ventures. Gathering information as
to what can be done in relation to what is needed and what others could
provide is simply a sensible approach. This makes possible the analysis of
potential benefits and risks that would go into making a “business case” or
assessment of the potential viability of the venture. This sort of assessment on
the one hand can persuade institutions or funders to approve of, or invest in,
the venture; on the other hand, if the cost/benefit analysis is negative, it can
save the time and energy of prospective participants. So it is worth doing!

A checklist of questions such as the following can give structure to this step:

       Is there a need for the proposed venture?
       Is there a demand?
       What is the target “market”?
       What is the competition like?
       What distinctive strengths do you have?
       What resources are required to make the venture happen? Do you
        have them? Can you get them?
       What are the risks or costs?
       What could the benefits or returns be? When? (short-term, mid-term,

As indicated below in discussions of different types of ventures, doing market
research and developing a business case is not an imponderably difficult
process. It takes a modest amount of research, a great deal of common sense
and, ideally, some imagination. And the good news is that Admissions Offices
can help!

       Promoting Partnership Initiative

3) Strategy for Marketing/promotion/engagement of allies (internal &
Whatever the prospective venture, it is likely to need promotion. Certainly,
internal allies (institutional leaders, central services offices such as Finance,
academics in diverse fields) are likely to be needed. Strategic decisions are
needed to develop the best way of engaging them. Similarly, development of
a strategy will increase the effectiveness of marketing a new course to
prospective students, a research capacity to prospective funders, or a new
service to users. Whatever the context, the new venture will face competition,
even if it is the default competition of the comfortable status quo. Information
gathered through market research can be used to promote the benefits of the
new venture, in ways that “speak to” targeted audiences. Thinking through the
components of a marketing strategy can be a useful discipline that also leads
to continuing refinement of the venture. Adapting from conventional business
models, core components of a marketing strategy could be captured as
follows; accompanying each are questions that can help develop a strategy:

       Product: What exactly does the venture offer? Which features are
        distinctive, attractive or superior to others? What weaknesses exist?
        How will prospective end users view it? What benefits will they gain?
        Will their needs or wants be addressed? Where and how will the
        venture be made available?
       Communication: What is the most effective marketing or promotion
        process (or processes) that will send the right message to the right
        audiences in a way that brings about the desired result (applications for
        a course, funding for research, stakeholders or users for new services)?
        What promotion vehicles or techniques would be both feasible and
       Cost & Price: What are likely costs and likely income streams in the
        short, mid and long-term? Can costs be justified? What prices could be
        set such that they could contribute to an income stream making the
        venture worthwhile? What prices will users accept?

4) Implementation
Once the idea has been generated and refined, and marketing research has
been conducted and transformed into a marketing strategy, with a positive
decision made on the basis of a convincing business case analysis
highlighting risks and benefits; it is time for the most “obvious” step - informed
implementation. Certainly the course of each venture will be unique, but the
following are likely to be useful components:

       Planning Implementation can be guided by even a brief plan, probably
        with more detail for the first year of the venture’s development and with
        a more general picture drawn for the second and third year. A timeline
        can be very helpful. It will be particularly important to capture externally
        imposed deadlines, such as those for formal course approvals,
        inclusion in course prospectuses or submission of grant proposals.
        Someone with a practical eye should be involved, so that estimates for
        effort or time are realistic.

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       Development of champions, steering group, advisors As noted
        earlier, the human component will be critical. Support staff may be
        needed for large-scale ventures.

       Facilitation of dialogue/communication, meetings Even though it
        may seem time-consuming, fairly frequent meetings at least in the early
        phase of a venture will not only help to build trust among individuals but
        will also facilitate the handling of possible institutional obstacles or
        opportunities. In addition to dealing with practical details and solving
        problems while they are still small, meetings can/should include
        evaluation of progress to date, assessment of internal and external
        changes, and agreement upon any necessary mid-course corrections.

       Pursuit of opportunities If good communication exists among
        participants, everyone can be tasked with identification of potential
        opportunities as they arise. Regular meetings make it possible to
        assign investigation of opportunities and debate as to whether or not
        pursuit is worthwhile and if so how it will be conducted, by whom. Any
        one venture might pursue a portfolio of opportunities, on the
        assumption that only some will progress. Early “wins” can improve
        morale, encourage further efforts, enhance positioning or reputation
        and provide leverage for subsequent efforts. Successes should
        therefore be broadcast, with strategic communication paving the way
        for future wins.

       Ongoing promotion, engagement of internal & external partners
        The promotion strategy is likely to be continued throughout the life of
        the venture. Over time, more and more internal and external allies can
        be developed through the activities of the venture.

       Conducting the activity of the venture itself Of course, the venture
        itself needs to happen, whether it is a course being delivered, a
        research project being conducted, an institute being developed or a
        new central service being delivered.

5) Evolution, sustainability or sunsetting as appropriate
Things change. The external context within which institutions operate changes;
institutional leadership changes, people change and so, naturally, do
collaborative ventures. Evolution should be expected, but the more aware of
change the leaders of a venture are, the more effectively they can adapt the
venture. Strategic plans can be checked against periodically, using agreed
benchmarks or indicators of progress/effectiveness/return. Ongoing formative
self-evaluation will make it possible to refine the activity as it proceeds.
Sustainability will usually be a goal for a venture and, if so, it needs to be
factored into planning from the earliest days.

   However, sometimes through no one’s fault, a venture simply does not
   succeed or it may succeed only temporarily and then outlive its usefulness.

     Promoting Partnership Initiative

   In such cases, a venture’s leadership team, often in conjunction with
   institutional leaders, will want to look ahead, using agreed criteria, and
   manage sunsetting of a venture as gracefully as possible. This makes it
   possible to account for placement of individuals, continuity of education for
   students involved, accountability to funders or other responsibilities without
   artificially keeping a collaborative venture going beyond its effective
   lifespan. Sometimes a venture may end but spinoff ventures will proceed!


Of course, any complex process can go wrong. Keeping a sharp eye out for
early warnings of trouble and maintaining constant, easy communication
to enable timely troubleshooting may be the best defences.

Some problems are inevitable. While a litany of every possible problem would
be more worrying than helpful, a few examples will illustrate the sorts of
pitfalls the process might need to traverse, whether at the macro-institutional
level, the programmatic level or even the level of specific joint activities.

Some problems arise from objectives being too disparate or even at cross-
purposes. While each institution may well look for a different “win” from a
partnership, real problems can arise if such a win for one institution runs
counter to the partnership goal or indeed the broader strategies of the other
institution. The more transparently goals can be shared early in the process,
the better. In fact, a prospective partnership would have a much stronger
foundation if each institution clearly establishes its partnership goals upon the
basis of a thorough risk assessment before embarking on an alliance that
must, if it is to succeed, be strategic for all concerned. In fact, the idea of
using a partnership to justify rationalisation in some area may be particularly
enticing when institutional strategies are considered. However, successful
implementation of such an action will need the same sort of care as the new,
added ventures emphasised here. If a partnership is meant to have a positive,
opportunistic tone, then any use of it for rationalisation will have to be handled
carefully if it is not to cast suspicion over the motivation for all the
partnership’s actions.

If one institution appears to “win” more than another early in the process,
jealousies can arise. Ideally, partners would trust each other enough to relax,
secure in the belief that the distribution of wins (and losses, or costs)
would even out in the long run. Indeed, whichever institution benefits most
from the partnership initially would do well to make sure that the next benefit
goes to the other institution, in order to reinforce that understanding. A
reasonable amount of forbearance would probably need to be mixed with
willingness to communicate openly if things seem to be falling into an
unbalanced pattern. Sharing credit, rather than just taking credit, can help
to smooth relationships.

As in any “team”, unequal efforts are good for neither part of the team,
whether at the institutional, programmatic or activity level of a multi-

     Promoting Partnership Initiative

institutional partnership. This would perhaps be most serious if it were to
occur at the institutional or leadership level, in part because the message will
filter down rapidly to the other levels. In addition, an inequality at this level
would make it harder to keep short-term problems in perspective by looking at
the longer-term big picture, because persistent inequality of effort would
jeopardise a long-term future.

And of course, because even partnerships between institutions boil down to
interactions among people, personality problems can always arise. This vast
cornucopia of potential problems could include, for example: people taking
offence at petty or imagined slights; persistence of views as to
superiority/inferiority; individuals taking unilateral action favouring their own
political agendas in defiance of agreed principles for joint action; or
programme champions losing interest or changing to an unrelated position.
Inevitable tensions arising from such problems need to be managed so that
they do not exert disproportionate influence and derail the partnership-building
process. Such management may necessitate effort at more than one level,
perhaps both at a level of peers or partnership brokers and also at a
leadership oversight level, with clear messages as to commitment to the
partnership being sent to outweigh the specific conflict.

Keeping the partnership-building process on track requires real commitment
- of will, of effort and of time. Institutional leaders need to be visibly
committed if overcoming obstacles is to be perceived as worth the effort.
While leaders, academics and other staff members will always need to
expend time and effort to ensure communication as well as action, sometimes
this burden can be shared strategically. Some initiatives may find it cost-
effective to hire staff dedicated to the partnership-building process, for
example. Ongoing dialogue, informal as well as formal meetings, and a
shared prioritisation of the big picture over petty details can all reinforce a core
will to make the partnership succeed. As a framework of operational
principles or other guidelines is developed, it may become easier to put
problems into perspective as well as to resolve them. Oversight by a
dedicated team (including leaders from both institutions) will be critical if the
partnership-building process is to be protected as more important than any
one problem.

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Introduction: rationale, types of ventures and approaches thereto

Changes in societal concerns, research discoveries and private sector
priorities can all drive demand for an ever-broadening array of degree
programmes. Collaboration between institutions can make new courses
possible as two pools of academic expertise can be drawn from to cover a
new subject area. This greater reservoir can also increase the rate at which
institutions can respond to new demands. Together, two institutions can even
sometimes stake out a leadership position in an emerging niche. Pooling
resources can minimise the risk of trying out a new course, compared to one
institution mounting a full-scale effort on its own and perhaps committing
scarce resources to complete the array of expertise needed.

1) Generation and refinement of a new idea
When groups of academics from different institutions come together, the idea
of collaborating on a degree programme may arise. This might occur for a
variety of reasons, among them: difficulty in recruiting a sufficient critical mass
at one institution; the appeal of sharing a prescribed teaching burden; the
opportunity to make use of complementary expertise, particularly if the topic is
inherently interdisciplinary; rising demand among students; rising demand
from employers; changes in academic fields themselves such that new niches
appear to be evolving into desirable territories to be seized; or funding
opportunities promulgated by bodies with particular visions or agendas. A joint
educational venture can allow institutions to diversify by limiting (sharing)
commitment to existing programmes.

Triggers or motivation may differ for new ideas for undergraduate and
postgraduate degree programmes. Sometimes short courses for Continuing
Professional Development may be the best (and least risky) vehicle for
experimenting with a new idea.

Ideas for new degree programmes can spring from people getting together;
face to face contact can also enhance the probability of new ideas then being
carried forward through refinement. Pro-active encouragement of informal
dialogue and even facilitation of brainstorming sessions can be helpful at this
stage. Collaboration cannot be forced, so individuals need to feel motivated if
they are to explore a new idea.

2) Market research, determining a business case for the venture
Market research consists in part of developing a clear definition of the
prospective collaborative venture and the advantages it offers; this will change
through iterations as the other components of market research are conducted.

In many ways, market research is simply targeted information gathering and
analysis. The point of market research is to answer the question, “Will
developing this new programme be worth the effort and cost?” To make as

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informed a judgement as possible, as illustrated by the sets of questions in
Annexes A-1, A-2, information needs to be gathered as to:

       Need for the programme
        (For example, is expertise desired by industry, the government or
        academia itself?)
       Demand for the programme
        (Are there any students out there who will take it?)
       Target market(s)
        (What categories of prospective students are most likely to yield a good
        number of strong applications?)
       Competition
        (Who else is offering something similar? Advantages/disadvantages?)
       Resources needed, in-hand and absent
        (Staffing, costs, infrastructure?)
       Potential return
        (Number of students, fees including international, reputation?)

Once information is gathered for each of these key parameters, analysis of
each can then be integrated to see if the venture makes sense. Effectively,
this is a risk/benefit analysis that allows the identification and weighing of
potential benefits of offering the course (such as fees or training grant income,
recruitment of good students, seizing an important new niche) with the risk
that it will be non-viable or in other ways lead to a negative outcome (such as
loss of reputation, time or money, or even breaking of trust among colleagues).

If benefits outweigh risks/costs by enough of a margin to encourage the
developers of the idea to go ahead, then the analysis can be used to present
the business case for the new venture. Most universities would want to review
an informed analysis of costs and benefits that makes the case for a new
educational programme before approving it.

(3) Marketing strategy
Happily enough, the information gathering and analysis conducted as part of
market research will directly inform a marketing strategy (Annex A-3).
Although the word “marketing” might conjure up intrusive dinnertime phone
calls and other negative commercial images, in reality word does need to get
out about the new educational opportunity to be provided. Getting the word to
precisely the audiences most likely to follow up on it - and persuading them to
follow up on it - is the goal of a marketing strategy.

Market research will have explored the demand for the programme and
identified these target audiences (perhaps for example new graduates with
degrees in certain fields, or individuals with work experience in a particular
industry needing to move ahead with the implications of new technologies).
Identification and analysis of competitors should make it possible to identify
the particular advantages of the new programme that can be touted –
“differentiation” of the programme from similar programmes elsewhere.

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Knowing about the need for graduates of the programme can help to frame
descriptions that will attract students.

Since marketing in an empty forest is unlikely to fill a classroom if no
prospective students are there to “hear” it, placement of attractive information
about the course is critical. Fortunately, Admissions offices know where the
best forests are. In addition to the conventional places in which print or
electronic materials can be circulated by these offices, academics can
enhance marketing through their own networks and insights gained during
market research. So, for example, a personal letter from an involved
academic to heads of relevant departments in the UK might make it more
likely that the best graduates of those departments consider a new
postgraduate course. Academics involved in the development of a course may
be able to identify particular conferences at which circulation of printed
brochures would have the most impact.

Of course, funding and/or increased likelihood of finding good jobs could lend
a competitive edge to the new programme. If, for example, market research
highlighted a pressing need for employees benefiting from the new
educational venture, pro-active communication with prospective employers
might generate bursaries or placements that would add immensely to the
attractiveness of the programme. Securing internal university seed funds or
external grants from Research Councils or charities could also widen both
appeal and access. This might be particularly important in the early stages of
a marketing strategy, while the programme has yet to make its name. For any
sort of fundraising, a persuasive argument can be made for investment in a
collaborative venture drawing on the best of two (or more) universities.

(4) Implementation (including: gaining academic approval, Principles,
Memorandum of Agreement template, Working with Registry, Finance and
Admissions offices, Course Committee “ownership”).

It is not enough for a great idea for a new venture to be generated, market
research to lead to a persuasive business case, and a marketing strategy to
be developed. At some point, the programme has to actually be delivered!
Implementation of a collaborative programme in many ways is like that of any
programme - the course content must be developed; the course itself must be
approved institutionally; Admissions, Registry and Finance offices must play
their roles; students must be admitted and taught, with quality assured;
students must be assessed, and degrees must be conferred. A few steps can
be taken specific to collaborative educational programmes that can minimise
potential obstacles, issues or irritations.

Academics leading the development of a new collaborative programme will
need to define its pedagogical goals, content and approach as they would for
any programme. This will then need to proceed through an institutional
academic approval process. Ideally, institutions involved will communicate
regarding approvals so that academics do not need to take a prospective
programme through more than one institutional process. (Removal of real and

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perceived “hassle factors” is often a critical step in encouraging collaborations.)
In the case of the University of Dundee and the University of St Andrews, for
example, only one process needs to be pursued, as each University has
agreed to accept the other’s approval of new collaborative courses. Planning
ahead is important, so that key stages of the approval process (such as
particular committee or Senate meetings) are not missed. Since approval is
necessary for new programmes to be included in the Universities’ listings,
which in turn is vital for recruitment of students, it can be useful to “count
backwards” in time from: 1) when the programme would ideally be offered to 2)
nearly a year before then for listing and marketing to begin back to 3) when
various stages of the approval process take place. (The full course
development, market research, approval and marketing strategy can easily
take 18-24 months.)

A set of Principles developed by the PPI. (Annex A-4) These Principles
clarify the way in which new collaborative programmes will be handled,
ensuring that students themselves face no more ambiguity than students in
any single-institution programme.

When approval has been secured, a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA)
based on such principles can be signed between the Universities involved,
with an Annex that describes the programme specifically (as entered into the
approval process, for instance) as it is conceived at that time, recognising that
it will evolve over time. Generic Memoranda of Agreement, one for
undergraduate programmes and one for postgraduate programmes, are
attached (Annexes A-5, A-6). Using these templates as a base for the tailoring
of specific MoAs may save a good bit of effort when collaborative programmes
are established, effort better spent on delivery of the programmes! It is,
however, important to have a MoA in place at the beginning of a joint course,
when the founding members of the course team are in place and all signs are
hopeful. Should problems arise later, the MoA will provide a common
understanding to which all can refer in resolving issues.

In the case of the University of St Andrews and the University of Dundee, a
distinction is made between “Primary Bureaucratic Responsibility”, having to
do with Registry and Finance arrangements, and “Primary Academic and
Regulatory Responsibility”, having to do with the academic management of
the programme and its students. The critical point is that each student knows
with utmost clarity with which University he or she has a “contract” that will
govern anything remotely “bureaucratic”. Even if two universities share out
responsibilities between them (for example, each university taking on different
programmes or different cohorts of students), any one individual student will
have a bureaucratic regulatory relationship with only one University
throughout the course of his or her degree programme.

A “course committee” comprised of academics from both Universities will
need to take on the Academic and Regulatory responsibilities usually
assumed by a department or school:

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       1) design and delivery of the course;
       2) recruitment and selection of students and coordination with
          Admissions and Registry offices;
       3) ensuring the calibre of the learning experience for students;
       4) the quality assurance processes inherent to the degree programme;
       5) examination and determination of degrees.

Continuing involvement of champions from both Universities will be
important if the collaboration is to endure; responsibilities need to be shared in
an agreed and equitable fashion. For example, the Convenorship of the
Course Committee can alternate between Universities. In the case of the
University of St Andrews and the University of Dundee, responsibilities for
different degree programmes are divvied up, and sometimes alternated, with
an eye to fair distribution of work by central services offices.

Students can readily matriculate at both institutions, with Registry
identification and perhaps a little troubleshooting sufficient to ensure access to
libraries, entertainment, sports facilities, and so on. The Universities agree to
trust each other’s quality assurance and other procedures and, therefore,
each other’s decisions as to degrees. By and large, with an agreement
between Universities such as that existing between St Andrews and Dundee,
awarding degrees jointly is not problematic. The parchment can name both
Universities, though each student can select only one University for the actual
graduation ceremony.

Towards a fair distribution of rewards, the Universities of Dundee and St
Andrews have agreed to put all fees from a joint course into a common pot,
from which all expenses other than those related to routine teaching staff are
taken; the consequent net sum is divided according to the agreed investment
or proportionality of effort put into teaching by each University, with each
University registering the appropriate proportion of home/EU teaching
numbers with SHEFC for Teaching funding. (In order to achieve fair sharing of
expenses and income, joint courses will be “ringfenced”, subject to separate
counting and accounting within each institution’s Financial Management

An overview of practical matters and roles of key central service units is
provided in the slides from the PPI Joint Course Forum (Annex A-7).

(5) Evolution, sustainability, sunsetting
Naturally, any new educational venture will evolve over time. Part of
developing a plan is planning for change. Within the team leading the venture,
clear communication as to premises and principles will be important from the
beginning. Sensible planning will incorporate a timeframe with expectations of
different developmental “stages” that the venture is likely to go through as it
matures. For example, the first year might well serve as a pilot, with student
number kept low so that any glitches can be smoothed out more easily and
inevitable first-time problems can be dealt with while at a small scale.

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Mitigation of problems and seizing opportunities arising will call for course
corrections even beyond the pilot stage.

For this reason, it will be useful if early planning agrees upon benchmarks of
success, indicators that things are progressing along a desirable path, or
criteria by which go/no go decisions will be made in the future. With such
agreed tools in hand, a Course Committee will be able to conduct ongoing
“formative” self-evaluation, checking that progress is being made and pointing
the way to any necessary mid-course corrections that would optimise chances
for success. The Course Committee will need to step back on a regular basis,
look at the venture critically, and make necessary decisions for its future,
based on a continually growing bank of information as to student needs, what
works pedagogically, how the field itself is evolving, priorities of employers
and other stakeholders, recruitment figures, quality assessments and other

At some point, a key indicator will be the result of a time & effort cost/benefit
analysis - is the programme returning enough in terms of desiderata (fees,
reputation, good students, future PhD pool, connections with employers) to be
worth the time and effort required (cost)? Two Universities will be making this
decision, conducting their evaluations individually and then together. Planning
toward sustainability from the beginning (making good use of market research)
will therefore be critical, even if it takes several years for a programme to be
regarded as having achieved sustainability.

Regular self-assessment by the Course Committee and by both Universities
will lead to an additional benefit, should a lack of sustainability be anticipated.
Early warning will make it possible to “sunset” the programme gracefully,
planning ahead as to when to stop taking students and how to ensure that
those who have enrolled are able to complete their degrees.


     Is it even possible for a student to proceed in a joint course without
   A. Yes, see Principles and Joint Course Forum report. (Annexes A-4, A-7)

    Who benefits from a joint course?
   A. The student --- or else the course makes no sense! In addition,
      universities can benefit by positioning in an important field, attracting
      good students (perhaps prospective PhD students) and gaining income.

     Isn’t running a joint course at least double, maybe quadruple, the work
      of running a single-institution course?
   A. In the planning and first year, the joint course is probably more work,
      maybe 1.25-1.5X usual effort of launching any new course. However,
      once the course is established, it should be no more work. (This will be
      true particularly if central service offices such as Registry have in place
      matter-of-fact ways of working together.)

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      Differentiation
      Prospective sustainability
      Entropy

Lessons learned

      Differentiation of any new degree programme is very important
      An important step that is often overlooked is making a “business
       case” using market research and other information to gauge
       potential sustainability.
      Entropy is powerful; chances for success are enhanced by
       establishing and maintaining a momentum of meetings and joint
       steps. A designated staff member can help academics by
       ensuring such a momentum and by “going the extra mile” to
       smooth out potential obstacles
      Connections to private sector (bursaries, placements, interaction
       with employers’ advisory groups) can add to the competitiveness
       and impact of a course
      Ongoing communication among members of the Course
       Committee can help a new course to engage commitment from
       both universities
      Early communication with central service units (Admissions,
       Registry, Finance, Development) can prevent a lot of headache
      Effective communication and collegial relationships between
       counterparts at the two Universities’ central service units can
       make a huge difference in the feasibility of new degree

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Illustrative case study: Managing Environmental Change

- Academics began discussing a possible postgrad course, working outward
from a nucleus of two heads of departments/schools who already knew each
- PPI staff assisted, facilitating group meetings, directing attention to issues
such as comparable/competitive programmes elsewhere, attractive course
title, etc.
- PPI staff assisted in market research, e.g. conducted a focus group among
existing students to gather insight into prospective postgrad recruitment,
marketing strategies
- Academic group developed a “draft” course description
- PPI staff organised and facilitated a think tank with individuals representing
organisations that would be prospective employers of the “products” of the
new degree programme under consideration
- Academics revised their draft course description, incorporating insights and
recommendations from prospective employers (“Virtual Advisory Group”)
- Academics as a proto-Course Team progressed new programme through
academic approvals, fine-tuned course plans and worked with Admissions to
“market” the new course
- Pilot year with small initial student cohort is launching the new Masters in
Managing Environmental Change; University of St Andrews has contributed to
bursaries that are advertised in marketing the course.

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Introduction, rationale, types of ventures and approaches thereto

As with joint courses, external changes can open up opportunities for new
research initiatives. Changes in societal concerns, research discoveries,
technology developments and private sector priorities can drive change in
research; indeed not only new problems but entire new fields can emerge.
Very often, complex problems and emerging fields require a mix of disciplines
or expertise. Drawing upon the “research reservoir” of more than one
institution makes it possible to generate new mixes of capabilities that may
even lead to accelerated capture of a new, rare or even unique research niche.

(1) Generation and refinement of a new idea
In most cases, researchers will have colleagues in their own fields at other
institutions and will work together with them if this allows them to explore a
question of interest, secure research funding, and/or add a sense of
collegiality and intellectual spark to their own work. Communication is likely to
be easy and may well generate or refine an idea for a joint research venture.
The collaborative colleagues may well work at some distance from each other,
perhaps even in different countries. Common conferences, funding agencies
and journals help them to build and maintain collaborative connections. This
sort of joint research goes on all the time and both researchers and research
administrators have experience in managing these fairly focused

In some other cases, a newly emerging problem, issue or field may present an
opportunity not for one or even two individuals in one field but only for a larger
group of mixed expertise. Such an out-of-the-ordinary opportunity may not
register automatically at the front of any of the individual’s minds even if they
might, by working together, gain more funding and tackle a more unusual
challenge than they would by continuing to work along conventional lines. A
catalyst of some sort may be necessary to open up this sort of opportunity to
inspection, by bringing together a group to explore the potential of a new issue,
problem or field. An exploratory meeting, think tank or even a full-fledged
brainstorming event (perhaps complete with stakeholder participation) can
provide the catalyst for the generation of new ideas for research themes and
multifaceted research initiatives. (It may be axiomatic that good researchers
always have plenty of research to do, but it may be just these particularly busy
and vital researchers whose imagination can be captured by a new idea
generated in such a way.) Participating in an event with researchers from two
(or more) different institutions can be intellectually stimulating and can provide
a “fresh” look at an issue because a new and broadened repertoire of
perspectives will be brought to bear upon it.

(2) Market research, determining a business case for the venture
Market research for joint research initiatives is for the most part a logical
extension of what researchers do as a matter of course - try to address a new
problem or an existing problem in a new or improved way. This will mean

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pretty much business as usual for colleagues in the same field. If the
prospective research initiative is tackling a relatively new area requiring
interdisciplinary effort, however, scanning published literature will not be
enough. Some market “intelligence” may have to be gathered that is more in
the nature of which institutions are building up what sorts of capabilities or
promoting a certain profile or “brand” in the area. This could entail the use of
informal methods like networking, watching for patterns of staff recruitment at
competing universities; sending representatives to conferences to pick up
news and noticing which institutions are particularly well-represented as
speakers or participants at pertinent conferences. A particularly pro-active
approach in a newly emerging area would be to hold a highly visible
conference, or a brainstorming event, with stakeholders and thus gain
intelligence about an area while positioning for leadership in it!

At some point, the team involved needs to do some serious self-evaluation –
the equivalent of developing a business case. If they have no chance of
winning a particular grant, or – if the effort is directed toward a more formal
centre or institute - if they are not likely to stand out from other attempts, then
the significant effort to put together a particular joint team effort is probably not
worth the time, energy and good-will. Since competitive proposals for large-
scale initiatives (certainly centres or institutes but also very large-scale
research projects) will quite likely require evidence of commitment from both
institutions, an internal business case will need to be made before institutional
leaders make such a commitment.

(3) Marketing strategy
For the most part, in research, strategic marketing consists of writing the best
possible bids for funding. However, in emerging areas or issues of social or
industry need, there may well be room for some strategic “positioning”. The
goal would be that external entities perceive the joint initiative as the best, a
safe place to invest even when outcomes (as of an emerging field) are
uncertain. Some deliberate efforts at visibility (visits to key stakeholders, talks
at key conferences, possibly hosting an event as mentioned above) may be
helpful in this regard. A useful plank of the strategy will be the attraction of
drawing upon a rich resource of expertise from more than one institution.
However, some reviewers savvy in the ways of the world may be sceptical of
the ability of two institutions to work well together. Therefore, being able to
demonstrate that the institutions have worked out the practical mechanics of
sharing, say, a centre bid, will be a competitive advantage. Getting internal
champions and institutional leaders on board can be very helpful, and critical
in the case of any site visit for a large-scale grant.

(4) Implementation
Implementation of conventional small-scale collaborations is quite
straightforward, once funding is acquired. Perhaps it is more useful here to
consider the other end of the spectrum and touch on points relevant to larger-
scale initiatives involving multiple researchers in a variety of disciplines
from more than one institution. It may be useful to distinguish among
several categories of such initiatives before considering points relevant to at

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least the two most formal of them. 1) In some cases, a research initiative will
be composed of an easy, very unbureaucratic relationship which may well be
temporary, even if large-scale. Academics leading such an initiative should for
the most part just be left alone to get on with it. 2) An initiative may become a
formal centre or institute which spurs on large-scale research undertakings
and positions the institutions involved, but does not seek to become “profit-
making” in its own right. By not pushing for shares of indirect costs or other
funding streams and thus by not being seen to interfere with the RAE, such an
initiative can enjoy a happy coexistence with home departments of
participating researchers by providing them with valued activities which
complement or enhance their own efforts. In this case, institutions overall may
gain by increased research funding and profile as a return on investment in
the joint institute, rather than by seeing inputs to the joint institute directly. 3)
Institutions may choose to launch a full-blown joint institute that does seek to
become a profit centre. In this sort of situation, institutional leaders will need to
not only review a business case before making (presumably equal)
investments; they will also need to help the institute calculate, communicate
and negotiate tactics for securing fair shares of research funding, indirect
costs and any other (e.g. philanthropic) income. Home departments of
participating researchers will still have to “see something in it for them” but in
a sense the joint institute will have to be at least as aggressive and pro-active
as the departments with which it interacts.

With good will and clear thinking, it is possible to make a joint research
institute work, such that universities share in investment and in returns, both
qualitative and quantifiable. As an example, answers to likely questions are
provided for a hypothetical model of such an institute (Annex B-2). Early
agreement on a clear framework for financial management and governance
will be critical – an example of such a framework is also provided (Annex B-3).
For the most part, the points offered for consideration below would pertain to
all three categories of complex joint research initiatives.

The proposal-writing process itself can involve the balancing of not only
multiple scholarly approaches but also personalities and institutional politics,
since commitments will need to be made by individual researchers and, quite
possibly for large bids, institutional leaders. The more easily the two Research
Offices communicate, the better, so that a proposal’s costings, arrangements
for staff to be hired and so on can satisfy both institutions. The Research
Offices can draw on experience with focused collaborative grants in which
they have worked with other institutions. (Annex B-1 offers a few points to
consider.) Motivation for researchers to participate in a joint initiative will be
greatly increased if there is a perception (and reality) of the administration of
joint research as straightforward or even deliberately streamlined.

Beyond this, the proposal stage (before any money appears) is probably the
best time to sort out trickier issues as to which individual researcher will get
what (e.g. postdoctoral fellow or other funded budget item) and which
institution will get what (e.g. facilities). Sharing credit can be handled
graciously, even in the face of an upcoming RAE, if researchers and

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administrators are encouraged to do so by institutional leaders. Sharing of
income is always potentially fraught with tension, particularly if the home
departments or schools of participants in a joint initiative worry that they will
lose out if their people participate in the initiative.

In the happy event that funding is secured, the momentum achieved in
building a team through the proposal-writing process needs to be maintained.
Within the team, it will be important to foster some champions, perhaps a
steering group with committed members from the involved institutions.

Continuing communication across the players will be necessary, creating a
sense of belonging to a team and moving forward, while not overutilising busy
researchers’ time. Some initiatives will have found it worthwhile to bid for
funding for a project manager to ensure good communication and/or assist the
team in securing its next funding.

Leaders of the team will need to ensure accountability for promises made in
proposals. Accepting that research evolves and so directions may change, still
research should be conducted along the lines agreed and to a high standard.
Planning becomes important for effective implementation of any venture.

(5) Evolution, sustainability, sunsetting
If the joint research effort is in the form of a research grant, the end is
determined naturally. Determining the endpoint of joint ventures such as
centres or institutes can be much more problematic. Leaders of the team, or
a steering committee, perhaps given assistance by an advisory committee if
appropriate, will want to check progress periodically against a plan or a set of
benchmarks or indicators agreed early in the process. Change is to be
expected but it should be deliberate rather than the result of drift. This
“formative self-evaluation” allows mid-course corrections to be made. When
setting indicators of progress, the team will need to be aware of the different
nature of various developmental stages in the growth of a complex initiative.

If Sustainability of the initiative is likely to be a pressing concern (as it usually
is), the quest for the second batch of funds may begin when (or before) the
first grant is won. Formation of a fundraising strategy, combined with
informed opportunism, could allow for different facets of the initiative to pursue
opportunities yet still contribute to the overall common framework.
Identification of funding opportunities will be an ongoing activity; securing
investment will be critical for any initiative’s survival. External visibility can be
enhanced by working with university press offices (which will themselves have
to learn to collaborate in joint press releases) to position the venture in the
eyes of potential funders and communicate its benefits to the public.

If the joint initiative is to stay viable, in the eyes of both external funding
sources and internal institutional leaders confronted with competitive pleas for
support, it will need to evolve to stay on the cutting-edge. Interaction with
stakeholders on an ongoing basis, for example, is a method that can refresh

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and update understanding of needs toward which the initiative’s research
resource could be deployed.

Sometimes, even the best of ideas and teams reach the end of the road. This
is often through no fault on anyone’s part, perhaps key individuals leave or
become involved in other responsibilities; perhaps the “new area” becomes
overrun with other players. If plans and benchmarks are used in self-
evaluation and subsequent reports to the institutions, leaders will be able to
make the tough decision to “sunset” the joint initiative (perhaps indeed
original plans will have included go/no go critical decision points) in as
graceful a way as possible, minimising problems for related postgraduates or
postdoctoral staff, for example.


     Why would anyone bother building or participating in a large-scale joint
   A. Many researchers find real intellectual excitement in novel ventures of
      this sort, allowing them to tackle complex questions they could not
      tackle alone and to bounce their own approaches off the quite different
      methods and insights of others. Because funding bodies themselves
      want to make progress in tackling complex issues, proposals
      demonstrating genuine integration of approaches to multiple facets of
      an issue are attractive, as is the prospect of benefiting from two
      universities’ capacities. By participating in a large-scale grant, an
      individual researcher may have access to funding that he or she would
      never be able to attract alone.

     Will research administrators run screaming at the sight of a multi-
      institutional research initiative?
   A. They shouldn’t! Most have had experiences with handling small-scale
      research collaborations involving more than one institution; they may
      for example be very comfortable with sub-contracting. If necessary,
      blessings from institutional leadership may be motivating!


       Making the best match between expertise and opportunity
       Personal and institutional politics
       Perceived hassle factor

Lessons learned

       Complex research initiatives are hard work, but worth the effort if
        they are likely to be competitive enough to bring in rewards
       A catalyst and/or facilitator can help to bring a team together until
        a focus is identified and a plan agreed.
       Champions (from both institutions) are necessary

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    The team needs to be hungry for success and sustainability
    Leaders at the top of the institutions need to be engaged
    Some windows of opportunity (e.g. to be early in on emerging
     areas) close rapidly – institutions may need to take an
     entrepreneurial, even risk-taking approach!
    Research support offices need to remove obstacles rather than
     create them!

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Illustrative Case Study: Social Dimensions of Health Institute (SDHI)

- PPI conducted an inventory of existing and potential collaborations; some
combination of social sciences and health-related fields began to emerge as a
hitherto unrecognised cluster
- PPI organised a workshop for academics from multiple disciplines related to
the concept at two universities and facilitated exploration/identification of a
possible commonality of interests
- An Academic Committee and a Business Committee met separately and
then together, drawing up plans for a new joint institute, the Social
Dimensions of Health Institute
- Even before plans were finalised, proposals were submitted
- A wide-ranging directory of some 70 researchers in related areas was
compiled, first as documentation for a site visit for one large proposal, then as
a tool for consolidating a sense of community among researchers, attracting
the interests of other funders and providing helpful contacts to the media
- A variety of calculations were used to examine a business case for the
SDHI, including ways in which rewards secured could be shared across
institutions and across home departments of any participating researchers
- Both institutions committed significant funding over several years and a
Management Team, including a Founding Director, four Associate Directors
and a Research Manager, was launched.

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Introduction, rationale, types of ventures and approaches thereto

The ability of central service units to work together across institutions can
have far-reaching effects. Central service joint efforts can be put into two
categories: 1) like units sharing workloads to handle existing/prospective
workloads more effectively or to benefit their own staff 2) like units working
together to expedite joint teaching or research ventures by academics at their
institutions. As with joint teaching or research ventures, collaborations across
central service units require both internal champions and explicit buy-in from
institutional leaders.

(1) Generation and refinement of a new idea
One way of generating new ideas (for example, response to problematic new
regulatory issues) is for people to come together and discuss issues, sharing
their own approaches and exploring possible new ones. Many central service
unit leaders have regular meetings with counterparts from many other
institutions, on a Scotland or UK level, at which such discussions can take
place. Since networks exist beyond such meetings, if one individual has an
idea for a joint endeavour he or she can then contact a counterpart in another
institution to explore working together to refine the new idea. Whether or not
this is done will depend not only on the imagination and attitude of the central
services staff but also on the tone or context established by institutional
leaders. Whether due to geography or common interests, leaders of some
institutions may be motivated and/or accustomed to working with certain other
institutions. Since the PPI generally was motivated by interest at the highest
levels, for instance, central staff were assured that experiments with
collaboration would be supported, philosophically and perhaps practically.
Such experiments can take on quite different forms, as illustrated in PPI
examples (Annex C-1). In addition, in fact, some central service units were
brought together by the PPI specifically to expedite academic ventures such
as joint courses.

(2) Market research
In the case of new ideas, central service units will want to examine any useful
models to make sure they are making the most of opportunities. They do not,
however, have to worry about competition per se (unless of course they are
bidding for external support). Understanding their “market”, e.g. their
institutions and the teaching and research missions thereof, will be a critical
component of this analytical stage. When central services units are asked for
help, as with joint courses, the demand is self-evident!

Examination of costs and benefits will be necessary, taking into account
important qualitative factors as well as quantitative or monetary factors. (For
example, the joint staff development course described as a case study
contributes to career progression and job satisfaction among staff; the
resultant benefits are not easy to quantify but are surely important to the

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institutions.) A business case can then be made, whether for support, staff
release time or modification of the unit’s strategic or operational plans.

(3) Marketing strategy
The joint venture may seem to be so unusual as to need to be communicated
to unit staff and to institutional leaders in a clear and persuasive way. Buy-in
of the staff, for example, might be more readily engaged if lurking concerns as
to redundancies are addressed openly. The fit between the new venture and
job descriptions or performance evaluations will need to be developed.
Institutional leaders may need to be shown in quite concrete terms how the
direction of time and effort of one of their own staff toward an effort that will
benefit another institution will actually provide a greater return than loss to the
home institution. If possible, it may be helpful in gaining support to frame the
first stage of the effort as a pilot, to test both the validity of the concept and the
ability of the institutions to work together effectively.

(4) Implementation
As with any new joint venture, a collaborative effort across central services
units will need a plan developed by representatives from all involved
institutions. Time taken for open dialogue at the initial stage of identifying joint
aims and opportunities will be a good investment, as it will provide a broader
framework against which operational glitches can be seen in perspective.

A steering committee composed of at least one champion from each
institution will be necessary to ensure ongoing communication and rapid
response troubleshooting. The building of trust and a collegial relationship will
be important responsibilities as well.

Effective implementation of the joint venture is of course a key step. Again the
joint steering committee will need to take responsibility for watching over the
first stage(s) of the joint venture. When central service units are asked to
expedite a joint academic venture, enlightened self-interest should take over!
In collaborating, central service offices need to design procedures and
formal/informal modes of communication that will streamline their own work as
well as that of the collaborating academics.

(5) Evolution, sustainability, sunsetting
Evaluation of the effectiveness of the joint venture will be key to decisions as
to its continuing from year to year. (This is particularly true if the first stage is
billed as a pilot.) If the steering committee agrees benchmarks or indicators of
progress at the start, it will be easier to review the venture periodically.
Feedback from participants and “customers” will be useful, along with more
formal cost/benefit analyses of return on investment/effort.

If the collaboration was instigated to streamline a joint venture among
academics, in teaching or research, it will be important for the steering
committee both to note problems arising and effectiveness of solutions and to
check with the involved academics as to the degree to which they perceive
that the “hassle factor” has been removed from their joint venture.

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At some point the joint venture will either cease to be useful or will become
embedded in “business as usual”. Even if the venture is closed down, lessons
can still be learned and will be helpful in other ventures. If the venture proves
its worth enough to be sustainable, evaluation could still take place over
longer periods of time, just as other operations are reviewed.


     How, in practical terms, can academics working on a joint venture, say
      a joint degree programme, secure the help of central services units?
   A. First, ask nicely! Staff in the central services units have a deep
      understanding of the mechanics involved; if you can engage their
      imagination as colleagues, you might be surprised at the creative
      solutions that are generated! Second, Annex A-7 provides a summary
      of what the central service units of the Universities of St Andrews and
      Dundee have developed as mechanisms to expedite the management
      of joint courses. This is the “practical” side of the Principles and
      template MoA referred to in the above section on Joint Educational

     Even if I, as someone in a central services unit, see a new area which
      could only be addressed effectively if it involved the larger critical mass
      brought about by joining efforts with another institution (e.g. provision of
      particular services for students with disabilities), how do I persuade my
      colleagues in my own institution that I am not simply adding to our own
      already heavy workload?
   A. This could be challenging. Try to look creatively at a slightly larger
      picture. For example, perhaps your own and the other institution could
      not only share effort on the “new” responsibility you’ve come up with;
      perhaps the two institutions could also divide up other related efforts
      that they are now both doing. Rather than duplicating work, sharing the
      results could free up staff time at both institutions. Perhaps your idea is
      so new, or would have such potential for adoption by institutions across
      the sector, that you could apply for funding to pilot the initiative.

     Why would I want to work with just one or two institutions, rather than
      with a consortium of, say, all the institutions in Scotland?
   A. Sometimes you wouldn’t! The alternative of participating in a large
      network should be considered in the analysis for the business case.
      You and your institution will need to decide if, on balance, the larger
      network offers more - perhaps through greater purchasing power,
      stronger political clout or a broader range of expertise - than a venture
      involving perhaps just two or three institutions. The latter could be
      preferable if the joint effort depended greatly on trust and close
      collaboration between individuals or if the activity were based on local
      access to people or infrastructure.

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      Overload versus sharing the burden
      Redundancy concerns
      Risk-taking/experimenting

Lessons learned

      Identify and communicate clearly “win-wins” as an essential step
       so that all participating individuals or institutions gain from the
       joint effort (whether or not they gain exactly the same benefit).
      Try to ensure that each institution puts in approximately the same
       amount of investment (whether or not the investments are in
       exactly the same “currency”, as some may be in extra staff time or
       in money or in infrastructure).
      Develop at least one champion from each institution; work toward
       approximately equal engagement of all institutions as a goal (even
       if one unit leads initially).
      If there are collaborating academic “customers”, check
       periodically that the joint effort is satisfying their needs.
      The road to collaboration may be a bit more fraught for central
       service offices that spend much of their effort directly on
       competition (e.g. knowledge transfer, press or admissions); not
       only will benefits need to appear likely to outweigh costs but also
       institutional “will” may have to motivate change in staff attitudes
       so that these risks can be taken. Indeed, some areas (e.g. some
       aspects of student recruitment) may be so competitive or lop-
       sided in terms of institutional capacity that they may need to be
       explicitly designated as “no-go” areas for the collaboration,
       leaving units free to pursue their own course.

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Illustrative Case Study: Career Bridges

- PPI leaders brought together central service unit leaders, encouraging them
to explore ways of working together; PPI staff facilitated follow-up explorations
in more specific areas
- Staff development staff in both Dundee and St Andrews Universities were
encouraged to explore novel mechanisms for facilitating career progression,
especially among staff who were stuck at the top of their job scale but doing,
and capable of doing, much more than their job descriptions.
- This idea was explored with representatives of HR at the University of
Abertay, in Dundee, and communicated to leaders of all three institutions. The
decision was made to make it a three-way effort.
- A plan was developed for a new staff development course, “Career Bridges”,
which would provide participants with education in business and management
- The course was marketed in all three universities, with university leaders
encouraging managers to allow their staff to apply.
- A significant level of response showed that the course had hit a nerve.
Criteria for selection were decided by the steering committee, consisting of
one representative from each of the three institutions and a PPI staff member.
Students from all three universities were selected; team projects entailed
learning about other universities’ management approaches.
- Within a year of the idea first being discussed, the course was launched.
- Positive student evaluations, and even early evidence of career progression,
have persuaded the team and the institutions to offer the course again.

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Whether partnerships are built to develop a joint course, a joint research
initiative or centre, a central services effort or indeed a multifaceted institution-
institution relationship, certain guiding insights may be helpful.

Facilitated, not forced
Genuine, effective partnerships cannot be forced. However, they can be
facilitated, especially in the vulnerable early stages. Facilitation can take many
forms, among them: assistance in bringing people together often enough to
build trust; design and facilitation of workshops or other events at which new
ideas can be generated or refined; removal of real or perceived “hassle” such
as logistics or bureaucracy. At some point, the venture will need to be carried
by its own leadership team, not facilitators. Natural selection may ensue.

Top-down and bottom-up
Since any new venture needs entrepreneurs, grass roots innovation and coal-
face champions with drive are critical. At the same time, because anything
new will carry risk, may encounter political problems or simply need to combat
entropy - another critical element will be institutional leaders’ affirmation of the
value of partnerships in general and the new venture in particular.

Talking and trusting
Frequent communication helps to avoid some problems and manage others.
Some glitches and tensions are inevitable. At the same time, frequent contact
helps to build trust, so that a comfort level can be maintained even when
troubles arise or responsibilities have to be shared.

Sunrise to sunset
The dawning of new ideas for collaborations can be sparked in a variety of
ways, among them structured brainstorming events bringing people from
different institutions together. In addition, an “inventory” can be conducted to
ascertain existing overlaps in interests, however preliminary, and encourage
suggestions for further development. For any new idea generated for a joint
venture, intelligent planning - market research, marketing strategy,
implementation plans - can make the difference between success and failure.
Following the original business case, periodic self-evaluation of the project
(according to agreed indicators) by team and institutional leaders can ensure
that, as projects evolve, changes to the plan are made deliberately, not
accidentally. A planning framework can actually increase adaptability and
ability to seize new opportunities. Sustainability of a joint venture will require
planning, fundraising and/or clear demonstration of benefits that far outweigh
costs. With planning and evaluation providing early alerts, closure of a venture
can be handled as gracefully as possible.

Polygamy as a social good
Some institutions will find it worthwhile to weave multiple strands of
collaboration connecting them, so that they have a special “umbrella
partnership” relationship; yet even for these there will doubtless be many

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additional collaborations with many additional institutional partners. In fact, the
more experience an institution and its central service units have with joint
ventures at whatever scale, the easier it will be to establish and reap benefits
from additional partnerships. If visible “wins” occur due to particular
partnerships and institutional leaders encourage and celebrate such ventures,
institutional cultures may gradually change so that partnerships are viewed as
a natural inclusion in an institution’s repertoire of strategies for achieving its


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