The most important thing in preparing a new degree programme is the clear purpose of the programme and the fit of the programme as part of Aalto University's degree programme portfolio.
Joint programme governance and management
- For the purposes of this guide joint programme is used as a general term to refer to degree programmes that are carried out through multidisciplinary collaboration by two or more Aalto schools, or through national or international collaboration.
- The joint programme governance model needs to be tailored individually to suit each programme. This guide offers no particular solutions or step-by-step instructions to the governance arrangements of individual programmes.
- This guide does not override the president’s or vice president’s decisions, school or Aalto bylaws, degree regulations, meeting procedure guidelines or any other regulations that set the foundations of programme governance at Aalto. The guide aims to help in recognising the core issues and practices that need to be considered for good programme governance.
- Drafting a governance model for a joint programme is teamwork and requires contributions from a number of different actors. For initial support, please contact [email protected] or [email protected] from Programme Management Services, or [email protected] from LES Legal.
- Organising a governance model is part of the process for preparing a new programme. Please refer to the Programme Director’s Handbook: Preparing a new programme, for further information on new programme initiatives.
Notes for International Joint Programmes
- International joint programme governance is agreed in a contract. A separate governance model decision at Aalto is still normally needed if two or more Aalto schools are involved. If only one Aalto school is involved the decision is not needed.
- Aalto governance-model decisions cannot override contractual agreements. Hence, this guide is a good starting point for the core issues and practices that need consideration prior to and during contract negotiations at Aalto.
- International joint programme governance may involve roles and responsibilities not included in this guide, for example, from funding arrangements, or consortium or programme partners. These additional elements should be considered to ensure their relationship with the programme governance at Aalto is clearly defined.
This guide contains the key elements that are needed for the good management and governance of joint degree programmes at Aalto. Instructions for drafting and updating governance model decisions are also included.
This guide suits all types of joint programmes and aims to provide further help in considering the guidelines of the president and vice president, as well as the relevant regulations, concerning programme governance. The framework provides enough flexibility to allow for the individual characteristics of any particular programme.
Aalto’s internal responsibilities and resources are governed by the bylaws of each school. They are normally clarified during the programme development process.
For joint programmes, a separate governance model is normally needed to tailor the governance for the given needs and arrangements of the programme, and to ensure that the legal and regulatory obligations are respected.
In international programmes with external partners and only one Aalto school, a separate governance model decision is not required, but legal and regulatory compliance at Aalto must be ensured prior to signing the contract.
A governance model for a joint programme is decided by the Aalto president or vice president normally during the establishment of the programme. The decision contains provisions on the central tasks and responsibilities of the parties and safeguards the possibilities of the schools to be involved in the development of the programme.
The guide will be improved as the programme governance and management at Aalto develops. All feedback is valuable.
“If the programme is jointly implemented between two or more schools at Aalto University, the governance model is decided on the basis of what is fitting for the programme content, character and success of studies.” - Aalto President
The essential purpose of Aalto joint programmes is to facilitate close cooperation and multidisciplinary education between different fields of expertise at Aalto and beyond. Joint programmes connect with the strategic goals of collaboration, greater disciplinary excellence and internationalisation, among others.
Decisions on joint programme governance
For the execution of the joint master’s programmes of Aalto University, the establishment or discontinuation of a joint master’s programme is decided by the Aalto president or vice president, depending on the programme type:
- If the programme is set up as a new master’s degree programme, the decision is made by president at a proposal of the coordinating school’s dean;
- If the programme is set up within existing master’s programmes, the decision is made by the vice president of education at a proposal of the coordinating school’s dean.
For international joint programme governance, guidelines are given in the vice president’s decision.
When establishing a joint programme, the president or vice president decides:
- the name of the programme
- the language of the degree (note: if the programme is set up within an existing programme, the language of the joint programme cannot differ from that of the existing programme)
- the degree(s) granted by the programme (note: one common degree certificate issued jointly between different institutions is not possible in international joint programmes at the moment, due to certificate language requirements in Finland and a number of other countries)
- the schools involved in the programme
- the school in charge of the programme (hereafter ‘the coordinating school’).
Revision of the governance model decision
If the joint programme has a separately decided governance model, it must be updated by means of a new presidential or vice-presidential decision if any of the five items listed above change. The president or vice president of education initially decides the governance model for a joint programme at a proposal of the coordinating school’s dean, but the dean may, if delegated authority from the president or vice president, decide on subsequent revisions of the model after hearing from other participating schools in the matter.
Division of responsibilities
A clear division of responsibilities, effective communication and well-organised, timely cooperation on the central tasks of joint degree programme ensure the possibilities of the schools to be involved in the development of the programme, to define the study-related decision-making procedures, and to establish clear service-paths for students so that programme quality and resources are in line with Aalto’s strategic objectives.
The action and resource plan of the joint programme is presented and approved as part of the resource dialogue of the coordinating school.
Degree requirements, curriculum and admission criteria
The University Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) normally decides on the degree requirements, curricula and admission criteria of the programmes, but the AAC has in many cases delegated authority on these tasks to the school academic affairs committees. In such cases, it is the responsibility of the coordinating school to ensure that the delegated decisions (for example, on degree requirements, curriculum and admission criteria) of the joint programmes follow the Aalto University Degree Regulations and the Aalto University General Regulations on Teaching and Studying.
Students of the programme
Students of the programme are admitted to one of the schools involved in the programme, depending usually on the study option they are admitted to. To ensure that the admission targets at the programme level are met, it is important to ensure effective communication between the participating schools and the partner universities prior to and during the admissions.
While the study option that the student is admitted to usually determines the school of the student, in some circumstances it may be possible for the student to change the study option later, in which case the school of the student may also change. The school of the student makes decisions regarding the studies and right to study of the student, including e.g. decisions on admission, approval of the thesis and the granting of the degree, and measures related to personal study plans. The participating schools have guidance services for the students of the programme.
In unclear cases, it is the responsibility of the dean of the student’s school to decide the correct decision-making body. Decisions regarding students of the school and applicants to the school are prepared and presented primarily in a manner like that used in other matters relating to the school’s applicants or students.
In resourcing the programme services, it is worth noting that students in international joint programmes are likely to require more guidance and services, as they only spend one or two terms at Aalto and generally have no peer-support from earlier student cohorts. The service workload may even be substantially higher than that required for the standard student; however, the workload varies from programme to programme and needs to be considered in detail to ensure that students are well-supported.
Further reading - Programme Director’s Handbook
This is not an exhaustive list of responsibilities or tasks. Programmes, especially international joint programmes, may have other roles and tasks that need to be taken into consideration in the programme governance and communications.
The president or vice president of education appoints the director of the joint degree programme at a proposal of the dean of the coordinating school. Thereafter the dean, if authorised to do so by the president or vice president, appoints the subsequent programme leaders after hearing the other participating schools in the matter. The authorisation for the dean to decide subsequent programme leaders is normally given in the decision for the governance model or for the establishment of the programme.
The director of a joint programme has all the standard tasks of a programme director specified in the Aalto degree regulations, Section 2: ‘The director of the degree programme is in charge of the planning, execution, assessment and development of the programme.’
In a joint programme, the tasks can be expected to involve broader communication, consultation, representation and preparation responsibilities to ensure that other schools, partners and stakeholders may effectively participate in the development of the programme.
Tasks of the programme director:
a. direct the programme in accordance with its goals and action plan and to assume responsibility for the use of the budget.
b. prepare the action plan and budget for the programme together with the professors, teachers and heads of departments in charge of the schools or units for presentation to the dean of the coordinating school.
The joint programme goals and action plan should be formulated cooperatively with the participating schools and partners, in accordance with the strategic objectives of Aalto and with due consideration for the feedback from students and staff.
The controller responsible for the programme assists the programme director as well as the professors, teachers and heads of departments in charge of the schools or units in the use and design of the budget, but it is the programme director’s responsibility to ensure the budget is negotiated together with the programme actors and partners so that it best serves the strategic development of the programme.
c. put forward to the concerned parties the proposals on the programme budget, curriculum, student admissions criteria and admission decisions
The curriculum and student admission criteria of joint programmes have the flexibility, specified in the Aalto Degree Regulations, Sections 9 and 11, and the Aalto University Student Admission Criteria, to accommodate the requirements of different schools and national or international partners, and to enable necessary compromises in formulating the common objectives of the programme.
The language requirements of admission can be tailored, to an extent, to suit the partner’s requirements and objectives, but by and large should follow as closely as possible Aalto’s criteria (which in turn follow the national guidelines in Finland).
LES Legal Services and Admissions Service staff offer help in interpreting Aalto’s regulatory framework for language requirements, curriculum and admissions criteria as applied to joint programmes.
d. act as a representative for the programme (to president, Aalto Aacademic Committee, schools, external stakeholders)
e. report on the preparation of the plans and the results of the operations to the vice president of education and to the dean of the coordinating school.
The reporting of a joint programme should include relevant input from other schools, partners, controller(s) and stakeholders so that the reporting reflects the programme as a whole. The liaison with different actors should be systematic in the annual cycle of programme. The programme will benefit from its own annual clock, guided by the programme director’s annual clock in the Programme Director’s Handbook, to implement the relevant tasks and their preparation time to provide a common reference point for all parties involved.
Professors and teachers in charge at other schools
At a proposal by the director of the degree programme, the dean of each participating school appoints a professor or teacher to be in charge of the programme.
a. direct the programme at their school
b. serve as members of the steering group and as contact persons for their schools
c. participate in the academic development of the programme.
Programme coordinator and/or planning officer
The tasks are agreed with the relevant manager or team-leader of the respective school’s learning services.
a. coordinate the practical implementation of the programme
b. act as secretary of the steering group
c. communicate and keep contact with the student services staff of the schools and otherwise ensure that programme information is available to the schools, applicants and students
d. to report in matrix to the programme director on items regarding programme administration.
The controller is selected in agreement with the coordinating school and holds the main responsibility for the financial services and control of the programme, but requires input from other controllers of relevant departments and units to provide the service.
a. support the director of the degree programme in preparing the budget and to monitor the finances of the programme
b. support the work of the steering group in financial matters as necessary
Further reading - Programme Director’s Handbook:
Accession and withdrawal of partners
Who decides, who proposes, and what are the criteria for withdrawal and accession. Neither the accession nor the withdrawal of external partners requires a new governance model decision.
Governance model follow-up and revision
See the section 'Drafting a governance model for a joint degree programme' (above) for when and how to update the governance model.
Student mobility plan in programmes with external partners
Clarify how students may move between institutions and how the institutional responsibilities are divided. In programmes with multiple partners, explain the mobility tracks where Aalto is involved and the institutional responsibilities of each partner included in each track.
Indicate the conflict resolution policy for disputes and disagreements.
Consortium or partner agreements and the governance model
Clarify the relationship between these two types of agreements if necessary. Normally, the consortium agreement regulates the roles and responsibilities of the programme between the partner universities, whereas the governance model regulates the roles and responsibilities between Aalto schools.
- What bodies are involved in the programme and what are their responsibilities?
- Distinguish decision-making bodies from strategic development and oversight bodies.
- Specify any further groups involved in steering, coordination, management, implementation, evaluation or development.
- Pay special attention to decisions on teaching, student matters, services and resources, and how these are prepared.
- Indicate the relevant Aalto school bodies, which may differ from school to school: for example, management teams, Aalto degree programme committees or the equivalent, and school-level academic affairs Committees.
- Indicate any new degree programme committee established for the programme, and indicate its responsibilities.
- Indicate how members for each body are appointed and by whom.
- One or more of the following should be members of the decision-making bodies and steering groups where programme development is discussed (as it is important that programmes are maintained and resourced as part of the overall Aalto programme portfolio management): dean, vice dean, head of department.
Consider which body is responsible for:
- presenting proposals on the curricula, degree requirements and admission criteria
- deciding the thesis topics, advisors and supervisors
- evaluating and approving the theses
- deciding on the development of the degree programme, ensuring the quality of teaching and the processing of feedback
The programme may have a strategic group responsible for strategic planning and resources, quality, evaluation, and stakeholder collaboration.
The programme may also have a steering group to support the programme director, in the following manner, in developing the programme:
- The dean of each participating school appoints 1–2 representatives to the programme director's steering group (professors and/or teachers in charge of the programme at each school).
- The dean of a school providing other teaching in the programme may also appoint a representative to the steering group.
The steering group membership also includes a student member (appointed by the Aalto student union primarily from amongst the students of the programme) and the manager of student services of the coordinating school.
- The director of the degree programme takes part in the steering group meetings.
- The dean of the coordinating school appoints a chair for the steering group.
Examples of the steering group’s tasks:
- to direct, evaluate and develop the programme (however, the steering group is not a decision-making body)
- to process the proposals for the curriculum, admission criteria and admission decisions
- to process proposals for the action plan and budget
- to process the joint policies of the programme as well as any other matters submitted to it by the programme director
In programmes with external partners, there may be a programme board, with the following additional responsibilities:
- Overseeing the implementation of the programme
- Defining the learning outcomes of the programme
- Ensuring the academic quality of the programme
- Planning and implementing joint quality assurance activities, to supplement the national and institutional quality work
- Seeking external funding opportunities e.g. for the mobility costs of students or staff; programme development or new forms of co-operation
- Drafting a strategic plan for the development of the programme and the academic partnerships
- Ensuring consensus on programme structure, content and revisions
- Evaluating programme coordination and proposing changes o responsibilities
- Reviewing the admission criteria and student intake numbers
- Maintaining dialogue with stakeholders and industry with regards to candidates’ competence profiles, job-market needs and scholarship possibilities
- Defining a marketing strategy for the programme and contributing accordingly to the marketing activities.
Further reading - Aalto Handbook:
Here you will find guidance and practical considerations to help you plan the programme implementation.
Indicate the key actors, responsibilities and decision-making bodies for each process.
Pay attention to the special characteristics and processes of the programme. Make them transparent and ensure that all parties are aware of and agree on their management and resourcing.
You can use the sample list of tasks (attached below) as a basis for more detailed discussion, planning and follow-ups with the programme actors.
Describe the key activities needed for programme implementation and delivery, and how they will be managed and resourced. It is essential to reach a clear agreement on the responsibilities and the coordination of the key activities, such as:
Student marketing and recruitment:
- Marketing plan and budget
- Division of resources and responsibilities
- Feedback, follow-ups and revision
Student intakes and studies:
- Student intake numbers: a roadmap of annual intake could be considered
- Student admission procedures and criteria
Tuition fee system and decisions on scholarships. Explain if these are different from Aalto’s regular system, but please note that deviations are limited and are only allowed in international joint programmes as regulated by the vice president’s decision.
- Thesis supervision
- In joint programmes: how many degree certificates are issued? Who awards them? Who signs them?
- Student services
- Teacher services
- Other services – such as career and alumni services
Curriculum: teaching, planning, development, evaluation:
- Who prepares curriculum proposal? Who approves or decides?
- How is feedback collected and processed? Who evaluates? When?
- How are revisions proposed and decided?
Programme lifecycle and development processes, including feedback processes:
- How the programme is funded throughout its lifecycle
- How the programme is implemented and when is the first and last intake
- How the programme is delivered, developed and quality-assured
- How funds and resources can be adjusted in the event of changes
- How feedback is collected and processed
- How revisions are made and communicated
- How the programme ends or is merged
- How the rights of students are guaranteed if there are changes
Stakeholder management and programme collaboration
With external partners and stakeholders, whether Finnish or international, the following matters are normally included in the agreement, but it is still recommendable to ensure that each point is regularly discussed, reviewed and agreed as part of degree programme management.
- How communication with stakeholders is ensured and coordinated
- How communication with programme staff in other schools or with external Finnish or international partners is coordinated
- What needs to be communicated and when
- What requires wider collaboration: e.g. budget, curriculum, admissions
- What can be decided without wider collaboration: e.g. student matters
- With international partners or stakeholders: how to ensure decisions comply with local rules, regulations and laws
- How to resolve disputes
- How to collect feedback from stakeholders and when
- How partners and stakeholders can access/exit the programme
- Are there any additional reporting duties from the stakeholders or partners that need to be coordinated within the programme?
What internal and external reporting duties are there? How these are coordinated in the programme? For example:
- Finance and budgets
- External funding or contractual obligations
- Student intakes
- Student numbers and attendance
- Student internships
- Intellectual property rights
- External collaborations
- Quality assurance
- External evaluations
- Post-graduation employment
Further reading - Programme Director’s Handbook:
Effective communication is a core requirement for delivering a quality degree-programme.
Agree on and indicate the communication responsibilities, practices and channels for each key process.
Use the Programme Director’s Annual Clock as a guideline, and complement the clock with programme-specific indicators for essential activities and their preparation time.
Collect feedback on a regular basis and revise accordingly.
Key considerations for programme communications
Parties, actors and stakeholders
- clear division of responsibilities
- establishing and maintaining effective communication channels
- regular communications meetings, both formal and informal
- changes, feedback and revisions
- communications between students and academic staff
- communications between students and administrative staff
- communications between academic and administrative staff
- external collaborators, partners and other stakeholders
- timing, scheduling (e.g. annual clock)
- communications in crises and emergencies
Programme identity, experiences, and student engagement
What are the practices and processes for building and supporting the programme’s identity in:
Further reading - Programme Director’s Handbook:
Selected articles from the Programme Director's Handbook & Aalto Handbook
Data about teaching and studying is one of the key bases that support the monitoring, evaluation and development of education and our programmes.
Continual development of the quality of teaching and learning is one of the university's key strategic objectives. Aalto University promotes a positive culture of learning. Special attention is paid to supporting the progress of studies and monitoring the study process to ensure learning outcomes.