Practical Guidelines for Joint Programmes on the Consortium Agreement

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This article brings together the practical guidelines, suggestions and recommendations from several publications. All practical guidelines are to be considered as general guidance for joint programmes.

European Commission

Source: European Commission. (2012) Handbook of Excellence – Master Programmes, EMQA – Erasmus Mundus Quality Assessment 2012. Brussels.

This handbook puts forward the following overall challenge and checklist of actions:

Overall Challenge We have developed in detail a planned consortium agreement, detailing the justification for fees etc. We have our institutions ‘signed up’ to the jointness needed to deliver a successful EM Programme.

Checklist of Actions

  • There is a formal consortium agreement signed by all partner institutions;
  • There are agreed protocols for conflict resolution;
  • There is a formal process by which tasks within the division of labour are allocated and can be reviewed;
  • The consortium agreement clearly documents information management and intellectual property policy and practice;
  • The degree(s) to be awarded are clearly documented and are fully agreed by all partners;
  • There are defined criteria for the expected performance levels of consortium members, agreed quality standards and processes for removing a consortium partner, and clearly stated standards for potential new partners.


Source: European Consortium for Accreditation. (2013). Assessment Framework for Joint Programmes in Single Accreditation Procedures. ECA Occasional Paper. The Hague.

This assessment framework includes the following specific criterion (Criterion 1b) on the consortium agreement:

It is clear from both the cooperation agreement and the subsequent implementation that the partners in the consortium agree on the following points:

  • Overall coordination of the programme and/or sharing of responsibilities;
  • Admission and selection procedures for students;
  • Mobility of students and teachers;
  • Examination regulations, student assessment and recognition of credits in the consortium;
  • Type of degree (joint, multiple) and awarding modalities;
  • Teaching language(s);
  • Coordination and responsibilities regarding internal quality assurance;
  • Administration of student’s data and performance records;
  • Support for student mobility;
  • Public information on the programme;
  • Financial organisation (including sharing of costs and incomes, charging registration and/or tuition fees, grants and fellowships);
  • Change in partnership.


Source: JOIMAN Network. (2012) Guide to developing and running joint programmes at Bachelor and Master’s level. Bologna.

This guide presents the following overview of the consortium agreement (or the cooperation agreement as it is referred to below):

The cooperation agreement should be drawn up when applying for approval for the study programme. The agreement, together with the programme and course descriptions, constitutes the contractual relationship between the partner institutions and between the students and the institutions. The process of drawing up an agreement should be started in the development stage. It takes time for the cooperating institutions to agree on the text, and one should start the work as early as possible. The agreement should be signed during the development stage or at the latest at the beginning of the management stage. The agreement shall regulate the partners’ responsibilities and may contain the following points:

The content of the agreement:

  • Who is to function as coordinator, and whether an executive committee, a programme committee or any other kind of steering committee should be appointed. The committee’s composition and mandate should be specified.
  • The financial responsibilities of each partner institution.
  • The structure of the programme (including its nominal length, aim/objective, language of instruction, student and teacher mobility).
  • Responsibilities relating to the awarding of degrees and diploma design. Information about admission, registration and appeal policy and procedures.
  • The students’ financial responsibilities.
  • Quality assurance.
  • If relevant, Intellectual Property Rights.
  • If the agreement is entered into before the study programme is formally approved by all partners, the agreement must contain a clause/proviso stating that the agreement is only valid if the joint degree is approved by all institutions.
  • The date of entry into force and duration of the agreement and procedures related to amendments, renewal or termination.
  • On which national laws the study programme and the consortium is to be based.

See also