Quality Manual

Programme design, development and approval




This section of the Quality Manual gives guidance on the submission of entirely new programmes to be offered by the University on any campus.  Shortened approval processes are in place for offering existing programmes on a different campus, research degrees and programmes at a lower level than an already approved programme.   Please contact Student Services Development (Academic Processes) for advice on approval relating to the above.

Related policies on the approval of module specifications, approval of changes to existing programmes and modules and approval of programme closures are available in other entries in the Quality Manual.

The purpose of these approval processes is to ensure that appropriate academic standards are set and maintained and that the programmes offered to students make available learning opportunities which enable the intended learning outcomes to be achieved.

School design and approval

All new programmes should be developed in School(s) drawing on good practice in programme design.  New staff involved in programme design should be supported by colleagues with experience and draw on relevant sources including subject benchmark statements, QAA level descriptors and appropriate professional, statutory and regulatory body guidance. Advice, guidance and training on the programme approval process can be sought from Student Services Development (Academic Processes) and on good practice in programme design from the Teaching and Learning Directorate.

Schools should consider the following in the design of new programmes:

• The balance between practical and academic study

• The mode and location of study

• The use of technology

• The balance between directed and independent learning (but also see policy on Scheduled Teaching and Learning Activities for Undergraduate Programmes)

• The breadth and depth of subject content

• The opportunities for personal and academic development

• That the entitlements of students with protected characteristics are considered such that they face no unnecessary barriers.

Schools should take advice from individuals not directly involved with the programme. At a minimum this should include consultation and approval of the business case and programme specification at an appropriate committee (which should include student representation) of the School, but other appropriate sources of advice include:

• internal academic staff from related subject areas

• contacts made through partnerships with other educational institutions, industry, professional practice or through research collaborations

• contacts from academic subject associations and the HEA

• employers, for example through industrial advisory boards

• organisations in communities with which the programme may be involved.

Schools must ensure that students are involved in the design and approval of the programme.

This is in addition to external advice, described below, which is a requirement of submission and approval.

1. Schools wishing to introduce a new programme must submit the following documents to Student Services Development (Academic Processes): 

Schools are encouraged to contact Student Services Development (Academic Processes) for assistance in producing the programme specification (see 3 below).

External advice must be sought on all new programme submissions. This advice should accompany the Programme Specification and Business Case.

Schools may decide whether to submit the two documents consecutively or (particularly where time is a factor) in parallel.  Significant dates regarding the submission of programme specifications can be found on the Student Services Development (Academic Processes) staff pages and guidance and indicative time can be found on the Student Services Development (Academic Processes) web pages. 

2. Student Services Development (Academic Processes) will pass the Business Case to relevant Professional Services Departments for feedback on matters relating to all sections of the Business Case.  Following any necessary clarifications the case will be passed with the feedback from these offices to the relevant Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor (or, in relation to the international campuses, the Provost for the relevant campus).  Schools are encouraged to contact the following: Strategy, Performance and Planning Division, International Office, Admissions Office, Market Intelligence Unit, IT Services, Timetabling, Academic Support and Disability Support and relevant equivalencies and colleagues on other campuses, along with the Faculty Financial Adviser, in the preparation of the Business Case.  For details of the names and contact details of colleagues in each of these areas who can provide further support, please see the Curriculum Management webpages on new programme development.

3. Student Services Development (Academic Processes), along with colleagues in the Admissions Office, will work with the School in putting together the programme specification which will be made available for other Schools  to comment and will then submit this document to Quality & Standards Committee.


4. Approval of the Business Case is undertaken by the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor, except where there are significant resource issues surrounding the new programme, in which case the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor will consult the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (PVC) for Education and Student Experience. The Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor will be seeking to determine whether the market for the programme exists and whether income and other benefits generated by a new programme will at least match the resources that it will consume. The Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor will consider, in conjunction with Student Services Development (Academic Processes) and Faculty level committees, whether the newly proposed programme would compete with existing programmes within and outside the School and to what extent. One of the aims of a new programme should be to increase (or, at least, help maintain) the overall intake of students to the University and the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor should have a reasonable expectation that the programme will attract a minimum of eight students annually within three years of launch. In order to arrive at this judgement, the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor may request additional information from or hold discussions with the School, or seek further guidance from one of the offices listed in 2 above. The Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor will inform Student Services Development (Academic Processes) once a decision has been made. A School unhappy with the decision of the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor may request that the matter be considered by the PVC for Education and Student Experience. 

5. In the case of new programmes delivered entirely at the international campuses, the Business Case is considered by the Provost and Vice-Provost for the relevant campus.  The Vice-Provost, on the basis of advice and guidance from Student Services, will confirm that the proposed programme is aligned with the University of Nottingham Qualifications Framework, the University’s study regulations and any other relevant Quality Manual provisions.  If the programme deviates from these provisions in any regard, then approval is also required from the PVC Education & Student Experience.   In the case of new programmes that are delivered jointly by the international campuses and the UK campus (e.g. 2+2 programmes), or are programmes currently delivered in the UK that will in future be delivered also at UNMC/UNNC, the Business Case is considered by the Provost of the relevant campus and the appropriate Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor in the same manner as indicated by paragraph 4 above.  The Office of Global Engagement should also be informed of any proposed new programme. For programmes approved for delivery on the Malaysia Campus, other than those subject to professional body accreditation, 'self-accreditation' (comprising QSC receiving information confirming the satisfactory operation of the programme on the Malaysia Campus) must be undertaken before the first cohort of students has completed the programme. 

6. When a Business Case has been approved,  Student Services Development (Academic Processes) will enter the new programme on University systems and inform the School and other interested parties. At this point (but not before), the School may advertise the new programme, accept applications, and make offers of places.  As well as the University-based approval process outlined below, individual campuses may be required to seek further approval from local external bodies prior to or during the process (for example, in China, the Ministry of Education).  Only when both University and relevant external approval has been given can the programme be advertised and delivered.

7. In putting forward the programme specification to Quality & Standards Committee, Student Services Development (Academic Processes) will provide an assurance that the document adheres with the requirements of the Quality Manual, or will point to any possible conflicts with the Quality Manual. The School must assure Quality & Standards Committee that the programme specification addresses the requirements of the relevant benchmark statement (see QAA website).

8. In considering the programme specification, Quality & Standards Committee will therefore need to:

  • Make a judgement on any issues which fall outside the current scope of the Quality Manual or where there is a lack of agreement between the School and Student Services Development (Academic Processes).
  • Consider the key academic aspects of programme specifications i.e. the learning outcomes and how they may be taught and assessed. This consideration will be largely limited to ensuring that the learning outcomes are appropriate to the level of qualification being awarded.
  • Ensure that there has been adequate consultation with other affected Schools, and that any comments or objections from these other Schools have been appropriately addressed.
  • Ensure that the overall programme has coherence in terms of logic in structure, intellectual integrity and assessment methods being aligned with programme content, learning outcomes and learning and teaching activities.

9. Quality and Standards Committee will make one of the following decisions in regard to the programme specification:

  • Full approval
  • Approval subject to changes to the programme specification (full approval will be given on acceptance of recommended changes)
  • Resubmission of the programme specification to the committee.

Full approval of the programme specification is required before any students may be registered on the programme. The decision of the committee will be communicated by Student Services Development (Academic Processes) to the School and other interested parties. Student Services Development (Academic Processes) will also publish the programme specification, which then becomes the definitive record, and will make use of the data contained in the specification (e.g. course structure) in University processes.

New programmes require approval of both the business case and the programme specification before confirmation of full and definitive approval is reported to the Quality and Standards Committee.

Please see the flowchart illustrating the approval process for new programmes. Some local differences apply to the procedure for Asia campus programmes. 

Processes associated with the approval of programmes and modules are subject to periodic audit and review.  Please provide any feedback to programme-specifications@nottingham.ac.uk.


 Updated December 2017 


Further information


Guidance on Curriculum Management is available at:










 Revised 3 November 2015



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