Academic collaboration - language policy

Policy on programmes delivered in a language other than English

17.1   General policy position

17.1.1   As agreed by Senate in June 2014, QMU will not consent to deliver a programme in any language other than English with a new partner. However, if a current partner wishes to deliver a programme in another language, and QMU has sufficient confidence in the partner’s understanding of the expectations and processes of UK higher education, the proposal will be considered by the Academic Planning Board.


17.1.2   Postgraduate programmes will normally be delivered in English. This is because at this level students are expected to read widely and much of the relevant literature, in all subjects, is in English. The partner would need to provide a very strong rationale before the University would consider offering a postgraduate programme in a language other than English.

17.1.3   QMU will not undertake joint or dual research degrees in a language other than English.

17.2   Conditions for delivery in a language other than English

17.2.1 Necessary conditions:

  • There is evidence that it will be possible for QMU to secure the services of bilingual academics with the relevant subject specialism to act as internal moderators and external examiners.
  • The partner must normally have worked with QMU for at least four years and a full cohort of students must have been seen through to graduation.
  • There is evidence of good compliance with QMU quality standards and processes. (The programme or nearest equivalent programme must have a risk rating of low or medium.)
  • The programme team and key administrative staff must have a sufficient level of English to engage in discussions with QMU staff in English and to take advantage of staff development opportunities. All meetings involving QMU staff will be held in English.
  • There is a sufficient breadth of literature in the language of instruction to enable students to meet the programme learning outcomes. The partner institution’s library is sufficiently well stocked with these resources or can provide access to other local libraries. If this is not fully the case, English language classes must be available to help students to improve their English skills and take advantage of QMU library resources. The partner organisation must demonstrate a strategy to engage students with English language training and enhance their language skills throughout their studies.

17.2.2   Circumstances in which delivery in a language other than English may be appropriate:

  • Programmes which involve study of the language or are built around the development of professional communication skills in that language may be most effectively delivered and assessed in that language.
  • In countries where English is not routinely taught to a high level in secondary schools, delivery in English may create an excessive barrier to participation.

17.2.3   Note: the language of assessment (including feedback to students) and language of delivery must be the same.

17.2.4   Dual delivery: a partner may wish to offer a programme in the language of the host country for home students and in English for international students. It is advised that the partner establishes the programme first before attempting to run two streams of delivery.

17.3   Approval mechanism

17.3.1  New programme proposals in a language other than English will go to the Academic Planning Board for approval in the normal way. The Stage 2 form should include a rationale for delivery in another language and information about how the above criteria are met. Further information should be included in the Stage 3 form for School Academic Board scrutiny. Final approval rests with the validation panel, which will have the opportunity to assess the language ability of the programme team and to review reading lists on module descriptors. (It is also incumbent on the CAL to confirm that the texts are sufficient.)

17.3.2 It may be that some of the people the panel wishes to meet as part of the validation / review are not fluent in English (eg employer representatives, placement providers, students). In this case an interpreter may be provided. The interpreter should not be a member of the programme team. It may be appropriate to include at least one panellist who is fluent in the language of delivery, where this is feasible, but normally it will be expected that people meeting the panel will be sufficiently fluent in English to participate.

17.3.3   If a partner wishes to change the language of delivery for an existing programme, a proposal must go to the Academic Planning Board, for consideration of resource-related issues such as the appointment of additional bilingual staff. Following APB approval, a detailed rationale must be provided, explaining how standards and quality will be maintained.

17.3.4   If switching to delivery in a language other than English, how the above criteria will be met. Documentary evidence should include:

  • Evidence regarding reading lists and library resources at the partner (as QMU electronic library resources will be in English)
  • Evidence regarding availability of bilingual moderators and external examiners
  • Proposed quality assurance mechanisms for moderation of assessment

17.3.5   If switching to delivery in English, documentary evidence should include:

  • Evidence of demand. A statement about the minimum student numbers required to form a viable cohort.
  • Qualifications for entry and the minimum English level.
  • Information about the ability of the programme team to teach and assess in English. A list of teaching staff and CVs must be provided, with details of each individual’s English language level.
  • Language of student support, including non-academic support services. Confirmation of the English language level of key support staff.
  • Placement arrangements (if applicable). A list of suitable placement sites should be provided to confirm that students would receive the appropriate range of placement experiences. Information about staffing at each placement site and the level of English of likely supervisors should be included.
  • Availability of language classes (both English and the language of the host country).

17.3.6   A change to delivery language will be treated as a major change. The documentation listed above must go to the original validation panel who will recommend approval on behalf of Senate. Exceptionally, it may be appropriate to delegate approval to a sub-group of the School Academic Board, taking advice from the Convener of the original validation panel. The University Secretary and the Convener of the Academic Planning Board will determine the appropriate approval route.

17.4   Arrangements for internal and external moderation

External examiners

17.4.1   If those parts of a programme that require external examiner scrutiny are delivered in a language other than English, a bilingual external examiner must be appointed.

17.4.2  For undergraduate degrees this will be modules at SCQF 9 and 10. For postgraduate degrees this will be all modules. Programme Leaders should seek advice from Governance and Quality Enhancement regarding external examiner requirements for short programmes and sub-degree level programmes.

17.4.3   The examiner must meet the standard appointment criteria, including familiarity with the expectations and procedures of UK higher education.

17.4.4   The external examiner will not necessarily be the same person as the examiner who oversees the equivalent programme at QMU. If the examiner is not familiar with the QMU programme, a representative sample of assessments should be made available in the examiner’s first year of tenure, so as to enable him or her to make a comparison between the academic standards of the overseas programme and the nearest QMU equivalent.

Approval of assessment instruments

17.4.5   The partner must make all assessment instruments available for approval, before they are issued to students. Draft assessment instruments will be sent to the QMU Collaborative Academic Lead before they are sent to the external examiner. (See Collaborations Manual.) These should be provided in the language of instruction (ie in the format to be supplied to students) with a translation.

Internal moderation for QMU

17.4.6   Partners will be expected to organise their own internal moderation in line with QMU’s assessment regulations. QMU academic staff will also normally require to moderate a sample of assessments. (In certain exceptional circumstances QMU may delegate moderation entirely to the partner if quality standards have been met.)

17.4.7   Note that moderation is required for each assessment component of each cohort undertaking each If a partner delivers the programme at more than one site, a separate sample should normally be provided for each site. This enables the QMU team to compare standards between different marking teams and identify any issues that might be particular to that site. (If teaching and assessment is undertaken by the same team at two sites separate samples may not be necessary.)

Use of translation

17.4.8   If 50% or less of the programme is delivered in a language other than English, QMU will not normally appoint a specific bilingual member of staff to support the programme. In this case, translation may be allowed to facilitate moderation of the following assessment types:

  • Written examinations
  • MCQ and short answer examinations
  • Essays, case studies and reports

17.4.9   It is normally the responsibility of the partner organisation to arrange translation. Only official professional translation services may be employed. It is not permissible for staff members at the partner organisation to undertake the translation themselves, or for students to do so. Translators should possess a relevant qualification, have at least five years’ experience, and demonstrate that they have internal proof-reading and quality control mechanisms.

17.4.10   Translators will be provided with model answers in English and glossaries of subject-specific terminology, as well as the assessment specification and marking criteria.

17.4.11   The following types of assessment are not suitable for translation and will normally be moderated in the original language:

  • Presentations
  • Practical exams
  • Posters
  • Dramatic performances
  • Honours projects and theses
  • Portfolios

A non-core bilingual member of staff may be appointed to assist with moderation of the above assessment formats. This staff member will also be asked to conduct spot checks on the quality of translation for other forms of assessment.

Use of bilingual moderators

17.4.12   If more than 50% of the programme is delivered in a language other than English, QMU will normally appoint a bilingual member of staff to support the programme. This staff member may act as Collaborative Academic Lead, or may work in conjunction with another member of staff who has relevant experience of programme management. The bilingual staff member will be responsible for the majority of moderation. If additional subject expertise is required, non-core staff may be employed to undertake moderation for individual modules.

17.4.13   Bilingual moderators must have the following characteristics:

  • Fluency in English and the language of assessment, spoken and written.
  • Possession of a higher degree in a related subject
  • Experience of teaching and assessment across the relevant subject(s)
  • Experience of UK higher education (whether as a student or a teacher)

17.4.14   Duties:

  • Approval of assessment instruments (in conjunction with module co-ordinators)
  • Moderation of assessment
  • Periodic checks on the quality of translation (where this is used) and materials produced by the partner in the language of delivery. (If quality of translation is found to be below standard, that translation service would no longer be used.)
  • Scrutiny of non-standard applications and evidence submitted for RPL.

17.4.15   Bilingual moderators will be briefed by colleagues within the host division regarding the modules they are moderating. This will include guidance regarding marking criteria. Where appropriate, moderators may be provided with examples of assessments from similar modules delivered at QMU. Bilingual moderators will produce a report on each module, with recommendations regarding potential changes to marks and highlighting any issues raised. This report will be submitted to the CAL, if the bilingual moderator is not the CAL.

17.4.16   Where the bilingual moderator is not the CAL, the CAL will conduct follow up discussions with the partner regarding confirmation of marks and resolution of issues raised through the moderation process. (For example, evidence that students have struggled with one element of the module, misunderstandings about the marking criteria etc.)

17.4.17   It is recommended that a sample of assessments from each year of the programme is translated into English to allow other members of staff to view examples of student work. This may happen after the moderation process is complete. The purpose of this is to allow the wider staff team to understand the level of work produced by students on the programme.

17.4.18   In the event that it proves impossible to recruit a bilingual moderator, work will be translated (as above) for moderation by QMU staff.

17.5   Programme management

17.5.1   Where a programme is delivered in another language it is expected that student support and day-to-day programme management will be conducted in that language. However, for quality assurances purposes, the following documents must be made available in English (although in some cases the originals may be in the delivery language):

  • All documentation for validation and review
  • Student staff and programme committee minutes
  • Annual programme monitoring reports
  • Responses to external examiners
  • Module evaluation information
  • Student handbooks

17.5.2   Boards of Examiners, Joint Boards of Studies and staff development will take place in English. Minutes of Boards of Examiners and Joint Boards of Studies will be taken by members of staff of the University in English. All associated papers will be in English.

17.5.3   The partner will make available on request translations of publicity materials. The University will also conduct periodic checks of publicity materials through bilingual members of staff.

17.5.4   The partner will make available on request translations of materials supplied to students including information provided via a virtual learning environment (VLE). The University may conduct periodic checks of VLE materials through bilingual members of staff.

17.5.5   QMU will ensure that key University policies are translated into the language of delivery for the benefit of students:

  • Assessment regulations
  • Appeals procedure

Students should also have access to referencing guidelines and information on the prevention of plagiarism.

17.5.6   Materials written by the partner organisation in the language of delivery will not normally bear the QMU logo. The QMU logo may, however, appear on documents that are direct translations of QMU materials.

17.6   Language dictionaries

17.6.1   If examinations are held in a language other than English, students whose first language is not the language of instruction may use translation only dictionaries in accordance with standard University regulations.

17.7   Placements

17.7.1   Placements will normally take place in the language of the host country. Placement supervisors will complete assessment documentation (if required) in that language.

17.7.2   The overall procedures for approval and management of placements are considered by validation and review panels. As part of the University’s standard procedures, the panel sees English language versions of handbooks for students and/or placement providers, which should include information about respective responsibilities for management, approval and oversight of the placement experience.

17.7.3   Following validation, it is the responsibility of the Collaborative Academic Lead (CAL) to work with the programme leader and/or placement co-ordinator to support the implementation of these procedures. The CAL’s role is to provide training and advice to the programme team, rather than to be involved directly in liaison with the placement providers.

17.7.4   For healthcare programmes, CALs and external examiners typically visit a sample of placement sites during their visits to the host country. CALs may also ask to see evidence of student feedback or samples of clinical assessments. The partner will be expected to provide translations of these on request.

17.8   Certificates and transcripts

17.8.1   The language of instruction will be noted on the student transcript.