Quality Manual

Programme Specification Regulations and Guidance

A programme specification is required for any programme on which a student may be registered (including Ordinary Degree programmes). Separate programme specifications are therefore not required for awards which are made solely as a result of a student not completing the programme satisfactorily on which they are registered.

In the case of Postgraduate Certificate and Postgraduate Diploma qualifications, it is only necessary to supply a separate programme specification for these qualifications if it is possible to apply directly to them. Where the Certificate or Diploma is only awarded to students not completing a Masters programme, the qualifications are encompassed by the programme specification for the corresponding Masters qualification.

It is also not necessary to provide a programme specification for a Bachelors degree that is only awarded to students not completing an Integrated Masters programme, where the student is registered on the Masters programme for the entire three years prior to the award of the Bachelors degree. If, however, students transfer to a Bachelors degree programme at an earlier point, and are registered on the Bachelors programme for a period of time before receiving their degree, then a separate programme specification should be provided for the Bachelors degree programme.

Please note that University policies and procedures as set out in University Regulations and the Quality Manual will automatically apply to all programmes, therefore please do not reproduce or summarise the content of any University regulation or any part of the Quality Manual in a programme specification.

Below is the template to be followed in completing a programme specification. A Word version of this document can be downloaded.  For any help in interpreting this document, or any other queries, please contact programme-specifications@nottingham.ac.uk.


A. Basic Information

1. Title

Please state the qualification that will be gained (e.g. BA, BSc, MA etc) and the subject title (e.g. Dentistry). These will appear on students’ degree certificates and transcripts in this form. In the case of Bachelors degrees, please specify whether the qualification is with Honours or Ordinary. For details of each type of qualification, please see the University of Nottingham Qualifications Framework.

2. Programme code

Please leave blank. A UCAS or programme code will be obtained by Student Services Development (Academic Processes), once a new programme has been approved in principle by the relevant PVC/s.

3. School managing the programme

Please state the one School which will have overall responsibility for the management, administration, and quality assurance of the programme. If operational responsibility for any of these matters is being delegated to any other Schools, please state these Schools and their role.

4. Type of programme

The types of programme are defined as:

  • Single subject (with title naming a subject or related subjects)
  • Joint (with title naming two distinct subjects as ‘x and y')
  • Major/Minor (with title naming two distinct subjects as ‘x with y' or similar)
  • Multidisciplinary (with title listing three distinct subjects)

Please refer to section 7 of the University of Nottingham Qualifications Framework for definitions of these programmes types.

5. Mode of delivery

Please indicate the various ways in which the programme will be delivered and the locations where it will be available by selecting all the relevant options from the list below:

  • Full-time
  • Part-time
  • Distance learning
  • UK campus
  • International campus (please state whether Malaysia or China or both)
  • Off-campus (please state location(s) where teaching takes place)
  • Collaborative (please state name(s) of partners – also please refer to Managing Higher Education Provision with Others.

If the information in B, C, or D below varies significantly depending upon the mode of delivery, Schools are advised to consider submitting separate programme specifications for each version of the programme.

6. Accrediting body

Please state the name of any professional body which will, or is expected to, recognise or accredit the programme and the level and type of that accreditation. Please state the manner in which accreditation or recognition is necessary to practise a profession. Please give the status of any application for accreditation or recognition and the timescale involved, including dates of professional body visits for accreditation or re-accreditation.

7. Relevant QAA subject benchmark(s)

Please state the QAA subject benchmarks which are most relevant to the programme. A list of benchmarks is given at http://www.qaa.ac.uk/assuring-standards-and-quality/the-quality-code/subject-benchmark-statements.  As there are few benchmarks for postgraduate study, it may not be possible to identify a relevant benchmark for postgraduate programmes – though it could still be helpful to list a benchmark for a corresponding undergraduate programme which would normally provide entry to the postgraduate programme.



B. General Information

Please provide any information you think would be of interest to applicants for this programme. As a minimum, this should be an outline of the programme and details on duration.



Educational Aims

Where the educational aims of the programme are not specifically stated in the Prospectus entry, these should be given here. Information for students once they are at Nottingham - and not covered in Sections C, D, and E below - should appear in the School’s own Student Handbook rather than being included in this section.



C. Supplementary Regulations

1. Admission Requirements

Please provide a summary of the minimum qualifications necessary to be considered for entry to the programme (including English language requirements), along with other skills or experience applicants must have. University policy on admissions requirements is online. English Language requirements should be set at one of the five levels designated by the University, details of which are available from the Admissions Office.

Please indicate if the programme is only available by internal transfer from another University of Nottingham programme and is therefore not open to external applicants.

2. Programme Structure

For each stage of the programme, please state:

  • The compulsory modules a student must take.
  • Where students are choosing modules from a list, how many modules they must choose and which modules are on the list. Each list should not contain active modules totalling over a maximum of 150 credits.
  • Whether students have any unrestricted choices of modules.

Modules should be assigned to one of three group types:

  • Compulsory Group: all students on programme must take all modules in this group.
  • Restricted Group/s: students must take a minimum of XX credits and a maximum of XX credits from this group. Where multiple restricted groups are in use students choose from group one AND group two.
  • Alternative Group/s: students must take a minimum of XX credits and a maximum of XX credits from this group. Where multiple alternative groups are in use students choose from group one OR group two.

In all cases, please state the credit value and level of modules and semester in which they are being delivered.  All new programmes should be constituted by modules with values of 10, 20, 30, 40, or 60 credits only; and no more than 50% of credits in a stage (including the taught stage of a Taught Masters programme) should be comprised of 10 credit modules. Where a programme specification is being written as part of a new programme, or significant revision, please also state whether the modules already exist or are new modules being submitted for approval.  In defining the course structure of the programme schools should consider the balance between directed and independent learning in the programme as a whole and note the requirements in the University policy on Scheduled Teaching and Learning Activities for Full-Time Undergraduates.

Please identify any modules which cannot be compensated under the University’s regulations for the compensation of fail marks (see Study Regulations at http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/academicservices/qualitymanual/studyregulations/index.aspx). A non-compensatable module is one which must to be passed at the relevant level (40% for Honours degrees, 50% for Masters, PGCerts and PGDips).  A student does have the opportunity to resit the module for progression purposes (unless they are in their final year of study as an undergraduate), but they must achieve over the minimum level in one of their attempts to be awarded the credits associated with that module.   In contrast, for compensatable modules a fail mark can be compensated by a better performance in other modules if the student meets the requirements set out in the relevant study regulations.  For example a poor performance of 35% in a compensatable module can be balanced out by a good performance of 60% in another module.

As part of the annual update and review of programme specifications Schools should consider whether the non-compensatable status of a module associated with a programme continues to be necessary for the achievement of either later study (i.e. a non-compensated pass acts as a pre-requisite to a later compulsory module) or achievement of the programme learning outcomes or accreditation requirements.

Please also identify any additional components i.e. programme components which students must take in addition to the above modules, stating the length of the time of this component and the stage within the programme when it must be taken.

The programme structure should be in line with the requirements of the University of Nottingham Qualifications Framework.

Please also identify any modules which cannot be compensated under the University’s regulations for the compensation of fail marks (see Study Regulations).

3. Assessment

This programme will comply with the University Undergraduate/Postgraduate taught assessment regulations which can be found at http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/regulations . It is an established principle of the University, endorsed by University Executive Board and Teaching and Learning Board, that when registered for a University of Nottingham qualification all teaching and assessment must be in English. The only exception is where the subject of study is a language or literature other than English.

Progression Information:

Undergraduate- Standard University progression regulations will apply except in the following circumstances; Integrated Masters programmes; honours degrees with a compulsory year out; between a Foundation Year and Qualifying Year in which cases non-standard progression regulations can apply if clearly stated in the programme specification. For Integrated Masters programmes, where applied, the single allowable enhanced progression requirement is that a student must achieve a weighted average mark of at least 55% at the first attempt.

Regulation 20 states that a student can proceed carrying up to 20 credits if they have not progressed by September. Programme specifications may state an opt-out if it is impossible or unwise for a student to proceed carrying credits. Possible circumstances where an exception may be permitted include:

  • 2+2 programme students coming from China and Malaysia – where the Home Office would not issue a visa unless the student has progressed
  • Programmes that could not cope with the additional resource/facilities implications of additional students – e.g. those with placements
  • Cases where it is essential for a student to have passed (as opposed to have taken) a pre-requisite module before starting the next part of their programme.
  • Progression from a Foundation programme to an Honours degree

Any requests for exemption must be approved by QSC and noted in the programme specification.

Postgraduate - Where Schools require students to pass or to perform at a particular minimum level in the taught stage of a programme before progressing to the research stage (ie the dissertation or research project) this will be explicitly stated in the programme specification.

Please state the marking criteria used by the lead School, or provide here a reference to a Student Handbook or other publications containing this information. These criteria should provide students with clear guidance on the performance required to obtain marks at various levels (e.g. 70%+, 60-69, 50-59 and 40-49). If the programme includes any additional components (see 2 above), please state here how these will be assessed (if they are being assessed).

Degree Information:

Undergraduate - For undergraduate programmes, please state here the weightings attributed to Parts I, II and (for Integrated Masters) III for the purpose of degree classification. For students registering on programmes from the 2009/10 academic year onwards, approved weightings are as follows:


Part I

Part II

Part III

































*Following a change to regulations in 2015/16 the standardised weighting for a Bachelor’s degree should be 33/67 for Parts I and II respectively, and that the standardised weighting for an Integrated Master’s degree (undergraduate) should be 20/40/40 for Parts I, II and III respectively.  It is noted that some programmes may need to be exempted from this if there are professional body requirements which conflict.

Undergraduate degree classification is based on the weighted (arithmetic) mean mark achieved over identified stages (with defined weightings given to the stages being considered). Details can be found online.

Classification borderline: Mark bands for undergraduate honours degrees / Programme average mark (credit and stage weighted)

  • 2:1-1st / 68%, 69%
  • 2:2-2:1 / 58%, 59%
  • 3rd-2:2 / 48%, 49%

A student should be given the higher class if either of the following criteria are met:

  • Half or more of the final stage credits are in the higher class;
  • Half or more of the final and penultimate stage credits are in the higher class.

Students who initially registered for their programme of study prior to 2014/15 may be subject to different borderline arrangements and should refer to their School for information.

If the award of Ordinary degree is available to students not meeting Honours requirements this should be stated clearly in the programme specification and an Ordinary degree programme specification should be held on Saturn. Please note that from 2015/16 transfer to Ordinary Degree is not allowed. The Award of Ordinary Degree on exit is only allowed in UNUK and UNNC.  

Postgraduate - Postgraduate Masters, Diploma and Certificates will be awarded with Merit to students who achieve a final credit-weighted mark of at least 60% and with Distinction to students who achieve a final credit-weighted mark of at least 70%. Any or all of the following may be stated: 

(a) a mark of at least 70% must be gained in the dissertation/project stage for a Distinction to be awarded;


(b) a credit-weighted mark of at least 70% must be gained in the taught stage for a Distinction to be awarded;

(c) a mark of at least 60% must be gained in the dissertation/project stage for a Merit to be awarded;

(d) and/or a credit-weighted mark of at least 60% must be gained in the taught stage for a Merit to be awarded.

The borderline threshold for a First/Distinction must be specified as at either 68% or 69%.  Please state which borderline range applies and the metric used to decide the degree classification of borderline candidates.  The profiling system must be explicit and achievable.  In accordance with the regulations on marking and grading, viva voce examinations should not be used to decide whether or not a borderline candidate should have their degree class raised.


Schools that wish to count the dissertation mark towards the award of a Postgraduate Diploma must specify this in the programme specification.

In addition to normal University compensation regulations the following can be applied to Taught Masters Degrees and Diplomas: Compensation of 20 credits can be below 40% and be compensated if the student has passed modules worth at least 80 credits and has a weighted average of at least 50%.


Notwithstanding the above all regulations may be non-standard if there is a demonstrable requirement from a professional or accrediting body.  Any such requirement must be clearly stated in the programme specification. Students who fail to satisfy the more stringent requirements in programme specifications associated with a professional or accrediting body but who satisfy University regulations should normally have the opportunity of transferring to a named ‘fall back’ non-accredited degree.  The only exceptions to this will be where PSRB or local government requirements prohibit the award of a ‘fallback’ degree or where no suitable ‘fallback’ can be made available. Where such a circumstance exists this must be clearly stated in the programme specification.

If a fallback award (Foundation Certificate, UGCert, UGDip, PGCert, PGDip) should have a different title than the original programme this should be stated in the programme specification (e.g. it may be unaccredited and therefore carry a different title or it may not be appropriate to award the title to someone getting a lower credit value award).  

4. Other Regulations

Please state any other requirements on students which are in addition to those stated in the University’s study regulations and the University of Nottingham Qualifications Framework.  If the programme has a total absolute maximum that is less than those defined in the Regulations on Maximum Period from Initial Registration this should be stated.



D. Learning Outcomes

For examples please refer to other published Programme Specifications.

1. Definition

Learning outcomes are relatively general statements of what a student is expected to know, understand and/or be able to demonstrate at the end of a period of learning. They are phrases which complete a sentence of the form "A student who completes this programme successfully should be expected to …", or ".. should be able to …."

It is good practice for learning outcomes to comprise a verb, object and context. An example (from Human development) would be "Critically examine (verb) theoretical frameworks (object) relevant to neonatal development and adaption (context). All three parts are needed to make the learning outcome workable.

Learning outcomes are an essential part of programme and module design and should be clearly related to the content/aims of a programme/module.  It is the purpose of assessment to allow students to demonstrate the extent to which they have achieved the intended learning outcomes.

Programme learning outcomes should address in an appropriate manner the QAA Subject Benchmark Statement, the level descriptors in the University of Nottingham Qualifications Framework and any professional or statutory body requirements.

2. Categories of Learning Outcomes

Up to 6 learning outcomes are reasonable for a module with fewer learning outcomes expected for modules of a smaller credit size, and between 12 and 16 are reasonable for a programme.  In some cases, for example due to PSRB requirements, more learning outcomes may be necessary.

The reoccurrence of the same learning outcome in a large number of modules should be avoided. This is with a view to minimising the number of learning outcomes in each module and thus restricting the amount of assessment that needs to take place to test those learning outcomes. Overassessment of learning outcomes will be checked through the approval of the curriculum map.

Learning outcomes for both programmes and modules should be written under one or both of the following two categories (other categorisations may be used where there are PSRB requirements):

1. Knowledge and understanding

These are outcomes which describe broadly the subject matter of the programme/module.

2. Skills

These are outcomes which can come under one or more of the following three sub-headings:

1. Intellectual skills

- the abilities required to process the subject matter

2. Professional / practical skills

- those skills specific to a particular subject area, such as lab or field work, or the requirements of a specific professional or regulatory body

3. Transferable / key skills

- more specific skills which will commonly comprise most of the following:

  • Oral and Written Communication
  • Team Work
  • Self Management
  • Problem Solving
  • Critical Thinking
  • Professionalism
  • Information Technology Literacy
  • Numeracy

3. Assessing and Attaining Learning Outcomes within Modules

To attain a learning outcome within a module it is a minimum expectation that a student will have had the opportunity to acquire the knowledge/develop the skills and have passed the module overall.

4. Attaining Learning Outcomes within Programmes

The learning outcomes listed for a programme should be reflective of the modules on which a student can expect to enrol as part of that programme.

In some cases, for example due to PSRB requirements, a student will be required to attain all the learning outcomes listed for a programme.

Please also give a brief summary of the teaching, learning and assessment methods used to enable these learning outcomes to be achieved and demonstrated, (e.g. 'Teaching & learning: Lectures; tutor-led tutorials; student and tutor led seminars; on-line tutorials; problem-based learning scenarios. Assessment: coursework; written seen/unseen examinations; poster presentation’).  These statements should demonstrate how the programme has been organised to enable students to achieve the intended learning outcomes in terms of student workload, volume and nature of assessment, progression through the programme and increasing intellectual demand.



E. Curriculum Map

Please map the learning outcomes of the programme against the modules comprising the programme. You may use either the standard grid, one of the example formats attached here, or a grid of your own devising for this purpose. 

The curriculum map should show that a student cannot successfully complete the programme without having acquired all the learning outcomes listed in Section D. This can be demonstrated by ensuring that for each learning outcome there is at least one compulsory, non-compensatable module which delivers that outcome; or that the outcome features in a range of modules, such that it would not be possible for the student to complete the programme without passing at least one of those modules.


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Last amended 26 October 2015

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