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Approval of Contractual Arrangements for the Delivery of Credit Instruction
Protocol established November 2016
When UW-Madison enters into a contractual arrangement for the delivery of instruction that results in the awarding of UW-Madison credit, such arrangements require academic approval by the faculty of the contracting department or unit, the dean of the school/college, and the University Academic Planning Council.
After these campus approvals, contractual arrangements for credit instruction must be approved by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) under the policies for substantive institutional change.
The academic approval, including HLC approval, must be complete before Procurement Services signs the contract.
For information about this requirement contact:
Vice Provost for Academic Planning and Institutional Research
HLC Accreditation Liaison
HLC Policy INST.F.20.040 requires that an accredited institution obtain HLC approval if the institution plans to initiate a contractual arrangement in which the institution outsources some portion of its academic degree/major programs offered for academic credit (including instruction, oversight of the curriculum, assurance of the consistency in the level and quality of instruction and in expectations of student performance and/or the establishment of the academic qualifications for instructional personnel) to:
- an unaccredited institution,
- an institution that is not accredited by an accreditor recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, or
- a corporation or other entity.
The following types of contractual arrangement are not included in this requirement:
- The contractual partner is another college or university. However, arrangement with other universities may be considered “consortial relationships," which also require academic and HLC approval through a separate process.
- The contractual partner provides only non-credit instruction, but does not provide any for-credit instruction.
- The contractual partner provides guest instruction in a course that is fully overseen by a qualified UW-Madison instructor (make sure the ASSA is clear about this context including course, instructor, and relevant terms the course is being offered)
- The contract is solely for goods and services that support the learning environment but are not for the provision of for-credit instruction.
- The contractual partner provides only books or supplies supporting the academic program or only equipment or a platform for Internet-based instruction.
- The contract provides only for the articulation or transfer of courses that are transcribed as transfer credit on the students’ transcripts and not the outsourcing of courses carrying academic credit from the institution.
- Conventional arrangement for internships, clinical placements, or practica and study abroad arrangements are not considered contractual relationships under this requirement and HLC policy.
HLC Rationale, quoted from HLC materials: When an institution outsources a portion of an academic program particularly to an entity not accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, a Commission priority is to ensure the institution has not delegated its fundamental responsibilities in a way that diminishes its capacity to ensure and maintain educational quality. Institutions should consider carefully whether a contract represents an "outsourcing" of its educational activities and whether Commission approval is required. Commission expectations as expressed in the Assumed Practices, the Guiding Values, and the Criteria for Accreditation are congruent with an evaluation of contractual arrangements where they touch upon teaching and learning. The Commission's Guiding Values state: "The responsibility for assuring the quality of an institution rests first with the institution itself. Institutional accreditation assesses the capacity of an institution to assure its own quality and expects it to produce evidence that it does so." Contractual arrangements remain subject to Commission review during comprehensive evaluations, or at other times if they become a matter of concern, as part of the Commission's efforts to ensure the institutions' ongoing compliance with the Assumed Practices and the Criteria for Accreditation. In addition, the U.S. Department's expectations of institutions with regard to contractual arrangements can include significant implications for Title IV funding.
III. Information to Include in the Screening Proposal
- Name and contact information for lead faculty member for the academic program
- Primary contact person, if different, and their contact information
- Degree/major and/or certificate program(s) served by the contractual arrangement and the total number of credit hours required to complete the listed program
- Planned start date
- Information about the contractual partner – include contractual partner’s name and address, and information on a primary contact person
- List all courses and credits that will be provided by the contractual partner using their UW-Madison subject/title
- Provide the number of program credits offered by the contractual partner under the proposed contractual arrangement
- Provide a complete list of any courses and number of credits offered for this program by any other contractual partners
- A brief narrative of the nature of the contractual arrangement and the scope of what the contract covers.
- Provide a rationale for establishing this contractual arrangement. Provide a description of the role of program faculty in relation to the delivery of instruction by the contractual partner. Why is it necessary to contract for instruction? How will the UW-Madison partner monitor the quality of instruction?
IV. Approval Process
Because these types of contractual arrangements require reporting to and possibly approval by the HLC, UW-Madison academic approvals are required. These approvals demonstrate that the contractual arrangement has oversight by the program faculty, the dean, and the faculty governance process.
Step 1. The proposed contractual arrangement is first approved by the program faculty.
Step 2. The proposal is approved by the dean, and may be approved as well by the school/college academic planning council.
Step 3. The dean’s office forwards the proposal to the Office of the Provost with a supporting cover memo from the dean to the provost, copy to the vice provost for academic planning and institutional research.
Step 4. The proposal will be subject to faculty approval through the University Academic Planning Council.
Step 5. After campus approval, information about the contractual arrangement for instruction will be submitted to HLC by the University’s HLC Liaison.
HLC’s first step is a screening step. The response from the Commission based on the screening information will determine if a full proposal is required. A full proposal will follow the form specified by the HLC and will also be subject to dean approval and faculty/UAPC approval before submission to HLC.