The EAIE 2017 conference centre
Third-party pathway partnerships debated at EAIE

The pros and cons of third-party pathway partnerships and in-house university provision were discussed in a special seminar at the EAIE conference in Spain last week.

In a session entitled Preparatory pathway programmes: Why and how?, Gunilla Carlecrantz of Lund University in Sweden and Suzanne Alexander from the University of Leicester, UK, led a discussion on the decision process that institutions need to go through when deciding what model of pathway provision to undertake and tips for creating a smooth and beneficial partnership.

The presenters said that the main reasons for signing a third-party agreement with a private provider were: internationalisation; to increase international student numbers; and to gain access to the providers' extensive agency networks.


They added that the relatively quick turnaround and minimum investment required were further attractions of the third-party model.


Lund University was the first higher education institution in Sweden to sign a pathway agreement with a private-sector provider (Cambridge Education Group) in 2015, while the University of Leicester is approaching the end of an initial ten-year contract with Study Group.


Typical apprehensions of the private provider agreement were concerns over standards, loss of control, loss of autonomy and in some cases legal constraints, they said.


The presenters emphasised that recruitment through agents was one of the predominant ways that pathway provision worked, and highlighted that a number of students will use agents even if institutions don't have formal relationships with them.


They said that there were implications across universities when signing pathway agreements, including for admissions, recruitment, support staff and leadership, and that securing 'buy-in' across the university was an essential factor in smooth transition.


Other important elements included an understanding of institutional cultures across both partners, selecting a compatible partner and presenting a realistic business plan. "Don't expect huge numbers in the first year, and for quality assurance purposes maybe you shouldn't have huge numbers," Suzanne commented.


They added that there were several different types of pathway provision, and that institutions should be very clear on what types are being offered and which models fit the institution's portfolio.


Several attendees at the seminar indicated that they were currently considering setting up a third-party pathway partnership.


See our previous news story for an overview of the EAIE 2017 themes.



By Matthew Knott

News Editor