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  • 5.1 Decision-making
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How are decisions made? Who makes them? Is there a decision-making body? Who are its members and how are they nominated? How are decisions translated into action and followed? These are just some of the questions an agreement should give answers to.

Decision-making body

In order to make a consortium function, there needs to be a forum with decision-making powers. It can be called consortium, programme, academic or administrative board or committee or a combination of the terms. Here it is simply called the Board.

A definition of tasks for the Board is needed. It is not necessary to provide a detailed list of all possible matters to be handled by the board. A more general description is enough.

The Board directs programme development and delivery. It acts as a forum of consultation and cooperation for the implementation of the joint programme through member institutions. The Board has the authority and primary responsibility for:
a) overseeing programme development and delivery;
b) monitoring student achievement, progression and evaluation, including student feedback;
c) reporting to the donors on grants awarded for co-operation projects.

Many of the matters related to the joint programme cannot be regulated or ruled by a cross-national and multi-institutional body. For example, student admission and programme approval are typical examples of decisions falling under the jurisdiction of the institutions involved. Therefore, the Board usually prepares matters to be taken up by the relevant institutional bodies. In the University of Helsinki, the relevant body is usually the Faculty Council.

Student selection is approved at the spring meeting of the Board. The Board shall prepare and submit the decision for the final approval of the relevant bodies in the participating universities.

Who should be on the Board? Academic, subject-specific expertise is of crucial importance and is usually taken into account when deciding on the composition of the board. Another area of expertise to be considered is study/academic administration. It could be too much to have both an academic and administrative member from each partner institution on the Board. Administrative staff - and other experts - could be invited to the meetings or consulted when study and degree administrative issues are on the agenda.

The involvement of administrative experts is particularly essential when the agreement is being negotiated. The academics should not waste their time on overcoming administrative hurdles. They should be given to those who deal with university regulations daily.

The size of the Board also needs to be agreed on. Each partner institution must have a say in the decisions regarding the joint programme. If the result is a large body with tens of members, do not panic - sub-committees or working groups can be formed to deal with either permanent matters or issues arising. An executive committee could also be considered. These sub-groups should report to the Board either regularly or after their task has been completed.

The Board has a Chair. If there are more than two institutions involved in the joint programme, one of them usually coordinates the activities and also chairs the Board. This does not have to be the case, though. The responsibility can also be rotated among the partners, e.g. annually or every 2 or 3 years. It is advisable to share the responsibilities within the Board and make sure that everyone has the capacity and resources to perform the tasks entailed in the positions.

The making of decisions

The usual forum for making decisions regarding the joint programme are the Board meetings. It is not enough to say that the Board meets and decides, the ways in which decisions are reached need also to be described.

Here are some alternatives for decision-making: by consensus, by simple or by two-thirds majority. It is advisable that all members of the board are consulted if voting takes place. Rules on how decisions are taken in case of absence from meetings should be drafted. Also, the mechanism of making decisions between meetings is to be settled.


Meetings must be prepared and followed up. It is in the interest of all partners to have clear rules on how agendas are drafted, when relevant material is circulated and how decisions taken and discussions held are reported. For the Chair and/or the coordinator, advance dispatch of meeting documents ensure that all partners have had time to get acquainted with them and come prepared to the meetings. For members of the Board, it allows for time to consult relevant university authorities in matters regulated by such authorities.

Meetings of the Board may also be held by teleconference or other telecommunication means.

The co-ordinator prepares the agenda and the relevant texts at least two weeks prior to the Board meetings. The Board may make decisions via electronic means between regular meetings. In such cases, the co-ordinator will ensure that the texts of all motions to be acted on are circulated to Board members at least two weeks prior to the deadline for voting.

A time limit for finalising the minutes of the meetings can be set. A place where the minutes and other documents of the meetings are stored and available must also be agreed on.

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