External Accreditation of Private Providers of Standalone Credit

The traditional approach to collaborative provision is that full awards, usually of significant study size (120 credits-points+), are validated to approved partners of the awarding institution. However, the University has found some demand from external, mostly private, providers of workforce development courses for recognition of those courses by a university.  Recognition would convey higher status on the course, provide a clear indication of quality, and enable course participants to gain transferrable credit.  The University has responded to this demand by offering an external accreditation service, awarding standalone credit for specified courses provided by approved organisations.

External Accreditation is therefore the recognition through a credit-rating process of the provision of an external provider.  This might be, for example, an in-house training programme of an employer, or a course offered by a private training provider. It allows the University to award credit at the appropriate academic level for the accredited provision, without necessarily the need for a programme of studies to be validated.

The process for the accreditation of the provision of an external organisation enables the University to assure itself that the organisation has a consistent approach to the delivery of its courses, and to determine the appropriate level and amount of credit that each course is worth.  The process embodies elements of partner approval, programme validation and the short course approval process.  In some cases an organisation may not wish to assess the learning from the course, in which case the University would do this, ensuring that where appropriate the assessment is work-based and tailored to the work context of individual learners.  The outcome is that credit is awarded to successful participants which may be aggregated with credit from other sources.

External organisations providing courses accredited by the University become formal partners of the University.  It is therefore necessary to seek preliminary approval for an intended external accreditation partner prior to embarking on the accreditation process. Successful completion of the accreditation process is marked by the signing of an External Accreditation Agreement (EAA).

Process for External Accreditation

The accreditation process is outlined in the flowchart below. Central to the process is an audit of the existing arrangements.  The audit tool, the Accreditation Audit – External Provider form (AAEP) is available from HertsHub.

Please get in contact with the CAQA team if an accessible version of this diagram is needed:

Flowchart of External Accreditation Process

a) The first stage in the process is an Initial meeting with the company, an informal meeting to familiarise them with the process, identify their needs and discuss possible fees. This initial dialogue will normally be conducted by the School representative (identified by the Dean of School), an academic member of staff with a good knowledge of the subject area, if necessary supported by a member of the  Centre for Academic Quality Assurance team. This should allow the company and the University to decide whether or not to progress with the external accreditation process.

It is essential to establish at an early stage whether the provider actually wants its training accredited to the extent that a credit-rating is attached to the study involved. If an award is not possible for the volume of study concerned, then some companies may not value academic credit as an alternative option, particularly as this requires the outcomes of the course to be assessed. Alternatively, some companies may prefer an ‘endorsement’ for their training, rather than credit for transfer or accumulation towards a HE award. The University does not offer this at present.

The School involvement in the externally-accredited provision will differ according to the needs and abilities of the partner.  The most common arrangement is likely to be where a course is currently offered, but there is no assessment of the learning.  In this case, under the accreditation agreement, the provider would continue to deliver the course, and UH would undertake the assessment work. But other possibilities are identified in the table below, showing Models of Partner and University Engagement:

Nature of Engagement




External provider led

External provider

External provider


UH assessed

External provider



Shared 1




Shared 2




It is likely that the issue of cost will be raised near to the start of the discussions It is advisable not to make any undertakings on fees to the organisation until the full extent of the University undertaking (i.e. involvement in delivery and assessment) related to the proposal has been reached and fees agreed with the Dean of School.

There are two elements to the fee structure:

  • The cost of the upfront accreditation process itself, which has typically been in the region of £5000.
  • The fee for credit, payable for each learner who achieves the credit, will vary according to the extent of the involvement of the University.  The minimum involvement is to internally moderate the assessment (and externally moderate for courses at academic levels 5, 6 and 7), operate Module Boards and monitor performance on the courses concerned, and so the fee will reflect the costs of these as well as the administrative cost (for registering learners, generating the certificate of credit, etc.). The fee is likely to be in the region of 50% of the normal module fee. The accreditation of smaller packages of credit should not be financially dependent upon HEFCE co-funding.

The UH Centre for Academic Quality Assurance delivers workshops on the External Accreditation process, primarily for auditors and moderators. It is advisable that those School staff who are negotiating and/or liaising with organisations on potential external accreditation arrangements attend one of these workshops.

b) If the initial meeting is positive, a proposal for a new External Accreditation partner (using form ADC2a, available from the ADC Sharepoint site ) must be presented to the University for approval.  The partner approval process is summarised below:

Flowchart of Partner Approval Process

Form ADC2a is prepared by the School in liaison with the Centre for Academic Quality Assurance, for consideration by the appropriate School Executive Group (SEG) and then onto the University Chief Executive’s Group (CEG) for Vice-Chancellor’s initial approval. However, in most cases, the PVC (Enterprise) will approve as the VC’s nominee. The VC (or nominee) will take a view on the suitability of the proposed partner, in terms of strategic fit, potential for growth and financial benefit to the University. They will also take a view (based upon the risk assessment of the potential partner presented in the ADC2a form) on whether further due diligence is required, in the form of a financial audit. This initial approval (i) initiates the liaison between Academic Registry and the School in respect of preparation of the EAA, and (ii) allows the School to formalise the accreditation arrangements. Note that the EAA template may only be accessed by staff from Academic Registry or UH Global.

A meeting is arranged between the UH School and the organisation, with the support of  the Centre for Academic Quality Assurance where necessary. This meeting will identify:

  • the proposed level and credit-rating of the credit;
  • the extent to which the University is involved with curriculum development, Short Course Descriptor (SCD) production, delivery & assessment (this will govern the costing arrangements).

There are ten areas included in the audit process through which the University seeks to assure itself that the client has the capability to deliver HE courses (see Appendix 4N), and that the courses which will be the subject of the agreement are themselves at an appropriate HE level. The School representative will explain the process to the organisation, using the Accreditation Audit – External Provider Form  and it is the responsibility of the organisation, supported by their University liaison person to provide the evidence to meet the criteria in the ten areas, which are:

  • Rationale and demand
  • The proposal
  • Management of the course
  • Publicity, recruitment & admissions
  • Physical resources for delivery of the course
  • Staffing resources and staff development
  • Learning and teaching strategies
  • Assessment
  • Quality Assurance
  • Learner guidance and support

It is the organisation’s responsibility to prepare and then submit the agreed evidence & SCD(s) in support of the ten approval criteria for auditing and moderation. Evidence is submitted to the School. SCDs should be prepared jointly by the organisation and the UH School. All SCDs should then be signed by the organisation (an appropriate resource/training manager), externally-approved and then signed by the appropriate UH Dean of School to confirm the School will provide the required resource to support and/or undertake delivery and assessment; and by the  Associate Dean of School (AQA) to confirm that the aims, learning outcomes, academic content, level, credit-rating, etc. are appropriate, Final  School sign-off of SCDs follows the successful completion of the audit.

Most organisations will need support and advice through this process from the School (and, if requested, the Centre for Academic Quality Assurance), and this involvement should be reflected in the cost of the accreditation.

The accreditation fee is payable when the evidence and Short Course Descriptors (SCDs) have been submitted for audit and moderation.

Following submission, an audit is undertaken by the School, using a trained School auditor who has had no prior involvement with the organisation, but who has some knowledge of the subject area. The auditor will scrutinise the material and complete the Accreditation Audit – External Provider form based upon the ten criteria.

The Centre for Academic Quality Assurance delivers workshops on the External Accreditation process, primarily for auditors and moderators. It is essential that those School staff who are conducting audits will have attended one of these workshops. The Centre can supply a list of trained auditors, upon request.

The auditor does not have any direct contact with the external organisation.  S/he scrutinises the evidence, writes a commentary, and makes a judgement on whether the criteria for each area have been met, or if further evidence is needed. If the auditor determines that more evidence is needed in one or more of the ten areas, it will be referred back to the School, who in turn will request the additional evidence from the organisation.

If the ten criteria are all deemed to have been satisfied, the completed audit is signed off by the auditor. All documentation is then submitted to CAQA for independent moderation.

The Short Course Descriptors (SCDs) can then be signed off by the Associate Dean of School (Academic Quality Assurance) and returned to Academic Registry. Any SCDs at levels  5, 6 or 7 will need to have been externally reviewed (see the section on Credit-Bearing Short Courses of the Flexible Credit Framework for details on short course approval).

The Centre for Academic Quality Assurance will inform the University’s Academic Development Committee (ADC) that all aspects of the audit and moderation process have been satisfactorily completed, including, where applicable, the financial audit. The Centre will forward the completed audit and moderation document, plus a copy of the financial audit, to ADC. If this occurs at a time which does not coincide with a formal meeting of ADC, then provided there are no concerns, the Chair of ADC (a member of CEG) will give ADC approval by Chair’s action.  If there are concerns, the proposal will be taken to ADC for a decision on partner approval. Approval will be noted at ADC.

Once ADC has formally approved the partnership, the Centre will inform the partner in writing.

The final stage is the completion of the formal External Accreditation Agreement (EAA), which is signed by the Vice Chancellor and the CEO of the partner organisation. The EAA must be approved and the original retained by the Head of Legal and Compliance Services at the University. A copy is lodged with Academic Registry and with the School. However, note that students cannot be accepted onto the accredited short courses until the accreditation fee has been paid to the University.

This process for the accreditation of external providers of standalone credit does not allow for approval of an award title. The standard collaborative provision validation process applies wherever an award is being validated at a partner.

Ongoing quality assurance arrangements

The following on-going monitoring arrangements are expected of the partnership and courses.

The partner will:

  • Identify an individual as being responsible for the course(s), and as the primary point of contact for the University;
  • Submit a CV for any person engaged to deliver a short course whose current CV is not already held by the University, providing details of qualifications and relevant experience, for the approval of the Dean of School (or nominee). Those who have not had their suitability confirmed shall not be engaged to offer the short course;
  • Submit all assessments for internal (and external) review, and an appropriate sample of marked learner work for internal (and external) moderation (for further details, see Collaborative Partnerships Handbook);
  • Undertake learner evaluation each time a course runs, and submit a summary of the outcome to the University (through the annual course monitoring report – see the section on Credit-Bearing Short Courses of the Flexible Credit Framework);
  • Prepare an annual course monitoring report in a format specified by the University, in order to evaluate the delivery and assessment of the course(s) over the previous year.

The University will:

  • Enrol all learners taking the course(s) on the UH Management Information System (Campus IT);
  • Appoint a Collaborative Partnership Leader, to support the partner in understanding the University’s expectations for the quality of the learner experience, and the University’s processes for assessment and quality assurance. The UH Collaborative Partnerships Handbook defines many of the responsibilities of the Collaborative Partnership Leader
  • Agree, through the  Dean of School (or nominee) the suitability of those staff engaged to deliver short courses at partners;
  • Undertake the review of assessments and moderation of marked learner work, according to its normal moderation processes (or set, mark and internally moderate assessments, if agreed) (for further details, see Collaborative Partnerships Handbook);
  • Arrange for the appointment of external examiners for all courses delivered at levels 5, 6 or 7 (for details on appointment, see UPR AS17: Academic Quality, and for details of their duties, see UPR AS14: Structure and Assessment Regulations – Undergraduate and Taught Postgraduate programmes);
  • Arrange for Short Course Boards of Examiners to make decisions on the award of credit and (if appropriate) grades (for details, see UPR AS14: Structure and Assessment Regulations – Undergraduate and Taught Postgraduate programmes);
  • Issue certificates of credit for successful learners (for details, see UPR AS14: Structure and Assessment Regulations – Undergraduate and Taught Postgraduate programmes);
  • Consider annual course monitoring reports from the partner (including an evaluation of the learner experience).

Process for addition of new short courses to an existing accreditation

When additional short courses are proposed, the proposing organisation must demonstrate that appropriate demand exists, that the provision is educationally sound and that physical and teaching/assessment resources are available. A proposal must therefore be prepared by the provider, using sections 1, 2, 5 and 6 of the Accreditation Audit External Provider Form as a guide, to address the above. If the University approves this, the additional short courses concerned must be accredited through the normal procedure (see the section on Credit-Bearing Short Courses of the Flexible Credit Framework).

The EAA must be amended to recognise the additional provision, and the school should charge a fee to the organisation in respect of the University work undertaken.

Partner re-approval

The period of approval for an externally accredited partner is 6 years maximum, but typically only 2 years for a newly-approved partner (the agreed period will be stated in the EAA), after which a partner re-approval process needs to be undertaken. The process is as follows:

a) The Partner should be informed of the University’s intention to review the partnership, and requested to provide a one to two-page report summarizing future demands for their accredited course(s), any future developments, QA issues encountered over the previous 2 years, any comments on the working relationship with UH, etc.

b) An internal (UH) review needs to be conducted, chaired by the Associate Dean of School (Academic Quality Assurance) from the School responsible for the partnership, and with membership including the Associate Director of Academic Quality Assurance; the  partnership link tutor and relevant Associate Dean of School. The panel should take into account:

  • Income from the partnership (against estimated delivery costs);
  • Success of learners on the course (pass rates);
  • Annual course reviews (including external examiner reports);
  • Evaluation of learner experience;
  • A review of the partner’s assessment practices, and experience of UH moderation of assessment (if the partner is responsible for assessment);
  • A 1-page report from the partner (see above).

c) A short (1-page) statement should be prepared by the panel, indicating its recommendation (re-approval or not) and any conditions attached to that approval. A copy of this should be forwarded to the Centre for Academic Quality Assurance.

d) CEG (or the PVC (Enterprise) would be invited to confirm in principle that the partnership should continue, through re-submission of form ADC2a and the 1-page panel statement.

e) The same information will then be considered by ADC where re-approval will be formally granted subject to any conditions that must be met. Provided there are no concerns, the Chair of ADC (a member of CEG) will give ADC approval by Chair’s action.  If there are concerns, the proposal will be taken to ADC for a decision on partner approval. Approval will be noted at ADC and notified to the School .

f) A review of the External Accreditation Agreement (EAA) needs to be undertaken in parallel to the above, with a new document to be signed by both parties in the event of re-approval (unless no changes are deemed necessary and the existing EAA has not yet expired, in which case the existing EAA can be retained). The signature of the EAA by both parties then formally concludes the partner re-approval process.

There is a cost to the organisation for re-approval – this will be lower than the normal accreditation fee, and guidance is available from the Centre for Academic Quality Assurance.

All forms, including the Accreditation Audit - External Provider Form are available to UH staff on the CAQA HertsHub site under the heading 'Flexible Credit Framework'.