Academic Partnerships and Accreditation

The University actively engages in collaborative arrangements with partner institutions based in the UK and at many located overseas. Such arrangements are formalised through a process of negotiating and approving a variety of arrangements.

The University has created a clearly defined set of procedures for the approval of such agreements. The guidelines are set out in the relevant sections


Heriot-Watt University (HWU) engages in collaborative arrangements with partner institutions based in the UK and overseas. The University has primary and ultimate responsibility for academic standards and quality across all its provision. It works collaboratively with other bodies whose roles include accreditation, licensing and regulation in the UK and overseas. Read more about the accreditation process.

Approved learning partnerships

In an approved learning partnership (ALP) arrangement, HWU retains responsibility for the curriculum, learning outcomes, assessment, award, approval of all teaching staff and all quality assurance matters and the partner is responsible for providing local support and teaching of specific Heriot-Watt programmes of study. Graduates are awarded an HWU degree certificate. 

Read more about approved learning partnerships.

Articulation partnerships

An articulation partnership is a particular form of formal credit rating and transfer agreement between two institutions. The partner’s programme of study will provide suitable preparation and certified evidence of students reaching the appropriate academic standard to articulate at a pre-defined point of entry to a HWU programme. Graduates are awarded an HWU degree certificate.

Read more about articulation partnerships.

Joint collaborative partnerships

A joint collaborative partnership (JCP) is an arrangement in which HWU and the partner institution are jointly responsible for the development, management and delivery of the programmes of study through a School collaborative board of studies.

These partnerships are typically entered into with peer institutions, where joint degree programmes are delivered or where dual degree arrangements are required under the regulatory framework of other jurisdictions. An agreed lead institution takes responsibility for the administration of the programme. Depending on the nature of the programme, graduates may receive a joint award (a single degree certificate which references the joint nature of the award) or a dual award (a separate certificate from each degree awarding body). 

HWU may also work with an education provider to develop a customised HWU programme offer. This will vary in nature but may include provision from the partner comprising part of the programme of study but will not include joint programmes. In this case, HWU retains responsibility for the overall programme.

JCPs are particularly complex in nature and require a great deal of negotiations to initiate. The University has a JCP agreement template which can be used but it is likely that amendments will be required to incorporate the partner's own legislative requirements.  Read more about joint collaborative partnerships.

As JCPs usually involve the development of a new, bespoke programme, please note that the programme itself will require approval by the University Studies Committee before the partnership agreement can be taken forward for approval by senior officers. 

Exchange agreements

An exchange agreement is an arrangement between the University and a non-UK higher education institution to accept students onto each other's programmes for a period of time – usually one academic year – with the credit gained usually contributing to the overall award. 

Further information for colleagues, about the exchange programme, including guidelines on the approval process for new exchanges are available from our exchange approval process SharePoint site.

Industrial partner agreements

An arrangement with industry or a business organisation to enable students to undertake a period of work-related learning. Read more about industrial partner agreements.

Memorandum of understanding

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) is often used as the starting point of partnership negotiations. An MOU is a document which demonstrates an intention to commit to a more formal partnership in the future (such as those listed above). It is important to note that an MOU is not legally binding and as such it differs from a memorandum of agreement (MOA) which is an umbrella term for ALPs, JCPs and articulation partnerships.

If you are considering a memorandum of understanding, please contact Academic Quality in the first instance for advice and a template document.

Key information

Academic Partnerships