3.3.1: New Programme Approval Process
Aims of the programme approval process
[Note: in what follows 'programme' refers to degree programmes and to award bearing sub-degree programmes at certificate and diploma level]
1. The programme approval process should provide sufficient information to assure the University that the following issues have been considered:
a. the viability of the programme in terms of market and likely numbers of entrants (including the plan to recruit these students);
b. the resources required (teaching staff, support staff, IT, library and subject-specific laboratory or similar resources, including consultation with relevant service providers);
c. the contribution the proposed programme will make to achieving the aims and objectives of the department plan; faculty plan; and the University Strategy;
d. the views of students;
e. the views of an external subject specialist and, where relevant, of professional bodies;
f. the views of other departments which might be involved in or affected by the introduction of the programme.
2. The process should also provide sufficient information to assure the University that the programme is appropriate in terms of:
a. the specification of aims and learning outcomes;
b. the alignment of the aims and learning outcomes with the University's qualification and level descriptors (and thereby the national expectations set out in the UK Quality Code), and the appropriateness of the aims and learning outcomes to the subject benchmarks;
c. the design of the curriculum to meet the aims and learning outcomes;
d. the design of the modes of learning and teaching to meet the aims and learning outcomes;
e. the design of the modes of assessment to demonstrate that the aims and learning outcomes have been met;
f. the key skills provision within the programme;
g. comparability of standards with programmes elsewhere in the University including reference to the general regulations of the University, University-wide criteria for degree classification;
h. the arrangements for student support.
Overview of the programme approval process
3. The programme approval process has three phases:
a. Initial proposal: this sets out briefly the academic and strategic reasons why the University should consider approving a new programme, and why there is likely to be a market for this programme. This allows the department to make a case to the faculty for investing the time and resource required to develop a full business case. It also allows the key professional support services likely to be affected by the proposal to be identified, and involved in the process if the proposal progresses to Stage 1.
b. Stage 1: if an initial proposal is approved, the department develops a full business case setting out detailed costings and market research that allows the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor to consider whether there is an appropriate business case to support to support the development of a full proposal.
c. Stage 2: if the Stage 1 proposal is approved, the department is required to produce a full academic proposal for a new programme, ensuring that the proposed programme is academically appropriate and that appropriate resources are in place to support the delivery of the proposed programme.
4. The emphasis in the programme approval process is on dialogue to enhance good practice in programme design and approval, and the process therefore involves engagement at department, faculty and University levels with support and guidance provided throughout the process by relevant professional support services.
5. As resourcing issues are primarily the responsibility of departments and faculties, the resource aspects of new programme proposals are considered for approval by the relevant budget holders. Where a programme involves cross-faculty collaboration, approval will need to be gained from the relevant Faculty PVCs in all faculties involved in the proposed programme.
6. The responsibility for the programme approval process rests with Education Committee and its Quality and Standards Sub-Committee, operating under the delegated authority of Senate and reporting to Senate on all new programme approvals. Consequently, the Programme Approval Panels that consider the full academic proposal, and make the recommendation as to whether a proposed programme should be approved, are chaired by a member of Education Committee or Quality and Standards Sub-Committee and include faculty representatives.
7. The support available to departments through the programme approval process is detailed below. In addition to this specific support, more general guidance and support for the process as a whole is available from the appropriate Faculty Education Committee secretary in the Academic Support Office. Departments proposing new programmes are strongly advised to seek advice from the relevant professional support services, in order to achieve the best possible proposal and minimise problems during the approval process.
Preparation of an Initial proposal
8. The Initial proposal requires a department to prepare and submit an Initial proposal form (Appendix A3.15a). This proposal sets out the strategic reasons why consideration should be given to establishing a new programme. The Initial proposal is a light-touch scoping document, intended to provide sufficient information for a decision to be made as to whether time and resource should be allocated to developing a Stage 1 proposal. Consequently the departmental section of a completed Initial proposal should be no more than two sides of A4, in Arial 11pt, and Initial proposals that exceed this will be referred back to the proposing department for revision to meet the maximum length.
9. Support and advice on the development of initial proposals is available from the chair and secretary of the relevant Faculty Education Committee (the FEC secretary will comment on draft Initial proposals if requested), and Strategic Planning and Change Unit.
Submission and consideration of an Initial proposal
10. All Initial proposals must be approved by the head of the proposing department prior to their submission.
11. Once approved by the relevant department, an Initial proposal should be submitted to the secretary to the relevant Faculty Education Committee (based in the Academic Support Office). The FEC secretary will ensure that appropriate approval has been obtained at departmental level.
12. Once it has been confirmed that departmental approval is in place, ASO will arrange for the International Office, Marketing and SPCU to consider and comment on the Initial proposal. Comments from these professional support services will be returned to the ASO within one working week of an Initial proposal being sent out for comment. If an Initial proposal is submitted directly to the FEC chair without having undergone consideration as set out here, it cannot be approved by the FEC chair.
13. Having received comments from the International Office, Marketing and SPCU, ASO will then submit the completed form to the chair of the relevant FEC for consideration for approval. This consideration will take place against the criteria set out in Section 3.3.2, and the only decisions open to the FEC chair are to approve or reject the Initial proposal (although the FEC chair may ask for further clarification of the issues covered by the initial proposal before reaching a decision). If appropriate, the FEC chair may choose to consult with the relevant Faculty PVC prior to making a decision.
14. If the FEC chair approves the initial proposal, they will also be asked to state any additional professional support services (others than those listed in paragraph 21 below) who should be consulted as part of the preparation of the Stage 1 proposal.
15. Departments will be notified by the FEC secretary of the outcome of the consideration of the Initial proposal.
Preparation of a Stage 1 proposal
16. If the Initial proposal is approved, the department should prepare and submit a Stage 1 form (Appendix A3.15b) and a completed indicative business case template (3.3.3). Together, these documents provide:
a. the proposed levels of recruitment to the proposed programme, including information on the market research that supports these claims;
b. a full financial case, forecasting income and expenditure for the proposed programme;
c. and a brief marketing case detailing the steps that will be taken to ensure that the anticipated recruitment detailed elsewhere in the Stage 1 submission will be achieved.
17. It is the responsibility of the department proposing the new programme to complete all parts of the Stage 1 documentation before submission to ASO for consideration by the relevant Faculty PVC. However, professional support services will provide guidance and support to departments in developing the Stage 1 documentation as follows:
Anticipated recruitment and Marketing Case
Faculty Accountant, Treasurer's Department
18. Throughout the development of the Stage 1 application the FEC Secretary will be available to provide advice and guidance on the operation of the process, and to ensure effective co-ordination across professional support services.
Submission and consideration of Stage 1 proposal
19. All Stage 1 proposals (i.e. the Stage 1 Form and a completed Financial Case template) must be approved by the head of the proposing department before they are submitted for consideration. Where a proposed programme involves collaboration with another department, written confirmation that the collaborating department supports the proposed new programme should also be obtained and attached to the Stage 1 proposal documentation.
20. Once approved by the relevant department, the completed Stage 1 form and financial case template should be submitted to the secretary to the relevant FEC secretary. The FEC secretary will ensure that appropriate approval has been obtained at departmental level.
21. Once it has been confirmed that departmental approval is in place for the Stage 1 proposal, the FEC secretary will then arrange for the Stage 1 proposal to be considered by:
a. the International Office;
e. any other professional service that it was agreed at the Initial proposal should be consulted in the Stage 1 process.
Comments from these professional support services will be returned to the ASO within one working week of a Stage 1 proposal being sent out for comment. If a Stage 1 proposal is submitted directly to the FEC chair without having undergone consideration as set out here, it cannot be approved by the FEC chair.
22. The FEC secretary will then submit the following documentation to the Faculty PVC for consideration:
a. the approved Initial proposal;
b. the completed Stage 1 form;
c. the completed financial case template;
23. The Faculty PVC will then consider the Stage 1 proposal against the criteria set out at Section 3.3.2. If appropriate the Faculty PVC may request further information or clarification of the Stage 1 proposal from the department before reaching a decision. If in the view of the Faculty PVC the proposal raises significant issues of principle or business risk then they will also raise these issues with the University Executive Committee.
24. The only decisions open to a Faculty PVC in respect of a Stage 1 proposal are to either approve or reject the proposal. Once the decision has been taken, the FEC secretary will notify the proposing department
Permission to advertise prior to full approval of a proposed programme
25. Normally no advertising of the proposed programme should take place prior to the approval of the final recommendation on the proposal to Quality and Standards Sub-Committee. If the proposing department feels that there is a case for exceptional permission to be granted to allow a proposed new programme to be advertised prior to this point, they should seek permission to do this in writing setting out the rationale for the request. Such requests can only be made once a Stage 1 proposal has been approved by the relevant senior Faculty officer.
26. A request for permission to advertise a programme prior to its recommendation to Quality and Standards Sub-Committee for approval should be submitted to the relevant Faculty Support Officer, who will pass the request to the Head of the Academic Support Office who will arrange for the request to be considered by the chair of Education Committee. The decision on whether to approve such a request rests entirely with the chair of Education Committee.
27. If permission to advertise is granted, this on the condition that:
a. all advertising (in electronic or hard copy) includes a clear 'subject to approval' flag until such time as Quality and Standards Sub-Committee approves the introduction of the programme;
b. the Stage 2 Programme Approval Panel is held within three months of the date on which the chair of Education Committee grants permission to advertise with a 'subject to approval' flag.
Stage 2: Consideration of the full programme proposal
28. If permission is granted to progress to Stage 2, the proposing department will need to develop a full academic proposal for the proposed programme.
29. Following approval of the Stage 1 proposal, the proposing department should start to develop the following documentation:
a. a programme specification;
b. a curriculum mapping template;
c. draft programme regulations;
d. module outlines for any new modules to be offered in the proposed new programme;
e. a completed statement from at least one external subject specialist.
30. The proposing department should also:
a. make arrangements to consult with its current students. This may be undertaken via the Staff-Student Consultative Committee or a specially prepared questionnaire;
b. consult with the Library and CIS regarding the resource implications of the proposed new programme (obtaining signed resources forms available at Appendix a3.04 from the directors of these services);
31. Once the Stage 1 proposal has been approved, the proposing department must nominate an external subject specialist to comment on the proposed new programme. A nomination form (Appendix a3.16) giving the details of the proposed external subject specialist must be submitted to the Faculty Support Officer, and this form will be considered for approval by the chair of the relevant Faculty Education Committee. External subject specialists must possess appropriate and significant teaching and research expertise in relation to the proposed programme, and should not be a current or recent (i.e. the last five years) external examiner in the department proposing the new programme, or a recent member of staff or student of the University (i.e. the last five years).
32. If the nomination is approved, the proposing department will be notified by the Academic Support Office, and sent the University's guidance notes on the role of external subject specialists. It is the proposing department's responsibility to send the external subject specialist the approved Stage 1 proposal; the programme specification; all new module outlines; and degree programme regulations. The external subject specialist may request additional information if they feel it necessary to fulfil their duties.
33. A fee of £250 payable by the department proposing the programme should be paid for fulfilment of the role, with the proposing department making arrangements for this payment to be made once it has received the external subject specialist's report.
34. A Programme Approval Panel will be convened to consider the full academic proposal. The proposing department must submit to the Faculty Support Officer the documentation detailed in paragraph 27a-e above, together with:
a. the assessment criteria to be used for the marking of masters level work or final honours work;
b. the relevant subject benchmark statement(s);
c. evidence of student consultation (e.g. an extract from SSCC minutes, the results of a questionnaire, or a specially prepared statement explaining what has been done to elicit student opinion);
d. copies of the resources forms available at Appendix a3.04 , signed by the Director of University IT, and the Librarian.
If this documentation has not been submitted to the Academic Support Office at least eight days prior to the scheduled date of the Programme Approval Panel, the chair of the Panel shall have the authority to postpone/rearrange the date of the Panel meeting.
35. In addition to the documentation provided by the proposing department, the Academic Support Office will provide the Programme Approval Panel with:
a. the University's Principles for the development of the taught curriculum;
b. the University's generic qualification descriptors, level descriptors and assessment criteria;
c. the Stage 1 proposal and detailed business case and marketing plan approved by the Head of Faculty;
d. the external subject specialist nomination form approved by the chair of Faculty Education Committee;
e. confirmation that the proposed fee level for the proposed new programme has been approved by the Fees Advisory Board (a recommendation to QSSC to approve a new programme cannot be made until the Panel has received this confirmation).
36. The membership of the Programme Approval Panel considering the full academic proposal shall be:
a. a member of academic staff who is a member or former member (within the past five years) of the University’s Education Committee/Quality and Standards Sub-Committee, or an appropriate member of academic staff appointed by the Chair of either Education Committee or Quality and Standards Sub-Committee (Chair of the Panel)
b. the Chair of the Faculty Education Committee that will be responsible for the proposed new programme (or nominee in the case of a conflict of interest, such as a proposal from an FEC Chair's own department);
c. one member of the relevant Faculty Education Committee from a department not involved in the proposal (where the proposed programme is to be offered at Queen's Campus, consideration will be given to nominating a panel member with experience at this campus).
The Panel will be serviced by the Secretary to the Faculty Education Committee concerned, and a senior member of the Academic Support Office will also be in attendance. The following will be invited to attend the meeting:
d. the head of the department making the proposal (or nominee);
e. one other member of the department making the proposal (usually the prospective programme director, or departmental Director of Postgraduate Research in the case of proposed new integrated PhDs or professional doctorates);
f. in the case of cross-departmental programmes, one representative from each other department involved in the proposal, nominated by the head of department for each subject area.
If the Panel deems it necessary, it has the authority to co-opt:
g. representatives of any of the services and/or members of the administration;
h. an additional panel member from Queen's Campus or Durham City as appropriate, to facilitate the sharing of practice between the two campuses.
37. The Panel will proceed as follows:
a. prior to the Panel meeting the papers will be circulated to all members of the relevant Faculty Education Committee(s) so that cross-departmental issues not identified in the documentation can be brought to the attention of the Panel;
b. the Panel will meet in the first instance without the proposers present to consider the documentation in light of the criteria given at 3.3.2. The Panel will also consider whether the full academic proposal is consistent with the business case approved by the relevant senior Faculty officer. The Panel will then meet with the proposers to discuss issues arising from the documentation;
c. the Panel may request revised documentation or further comments from external advisers. It may also refer the business case back to the relevant senior Faculty officer if this is not consistent with the full academic proposal submitted to the Panel. In the event that the Panel requests revisions to documentation, these revisions must be made by the department and submitted to the Academic Support Office within six months of the Panel meeting. If revisions are not made within this timescale, a further meeting of the Panel must be held;
d. the Panel will meet without the proposers present to decide on a final recommendation;
e. a recommendation will be made to the Quality and Standards Sub-Committee using the form at Appendix a3.06.
38. Panel recommendations may only take the form of:
a. a recommendation to approve the programme as documented (following revisions arising from the deliberations of the Panel);
b. a recommendation not to approve the programme as documented (despite any revisions arising from the deliberations of the Panel);
c. exceptionally, a statement that agreement cannot be reached between the proposers and the panel members over some aspect of the proposal which is therefore referred to Quality and Standards Sub-Committee.
'Approval in principle' subject to further information or revisions to the documentation is not acceptable. The Panel can only recommend one of options a, b or c.
39. Once a Programme Approval Panel has recommended a proposed new programme to Quality and Standards Sub-Committee for approval (i.e. once any revisions arising from the deliberations of the Panel have been made by the proposing department, and these have been 'signed off' by the Panel), departments may advertise the programme with a 'subject to approval' flag. This flag must remain on all advertising until Quality and Standards Sub-Committee has approved the new programme.
40. The Panel's recommendation will be considered by the Quality and Standards Sub-Committee. The decision of Quality and Standards Sub-Committee will be reported to Education Committee, which will in turn report the outcome to Senate.