Quality Manual

Programme design, development and approval - UNNC & UNM

This page provides a step-by-step guide for the introduction of a new programme at the China and Malaysia campuses. Its content is primarily directed at staff but may also be of interest to students across the China and Malaysia campuses.

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This page provides guidance on the submission of new programmes to be offered by the University at the China and Malaysia campuses. 

The purpose of the approval process 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.

For more information about subsequent approval processes related to programmes, please consult the following:

Changes to programme specifications

Closing or suspending a programme


For similar information concerning modules, please consult the following section:



Quality assurance, advertising and recruitment

Includes: responsibility; permission

Once campus-level approval has been given, a complete set of documentation must be submitted to Student Services Development (Academic Processes) in all cases.

Student Services Development (Academic Processes) will be responsible for quality assurance in curriculum provision across the institution, managing cross-campus consultation (where relevant), confirming compliance with University regulations and seeking and confirming formal university-level approval for the programme. 

The advertising and recruitment of a new programme is only permitted once formal University approval has been confirmed. 

Programme content and types

Includes: registration status of students; campus-specific; mirror programmes; global programmes

Students may not be registered on a programme until the programme specification has been approved by Quality and Standards Committee (QSC). This applies equally to programmes based on existing provision to ensure their compliance with regulations.

Types of programme

The University has agreed three types of programme and one of these routes should be chosen in submitting a new programme for approval:

1.   Campus-specific programmes (entirely new provision): where a programme is only delivered at one campus. Documentation will be raised by the offering academic unit

2.   Mirror programmes (based on existing provision): where a programme is very similar to an existing programme already delivered on another campus. The title must be the same unless there is a local ministry or professional, statutory or regulatory body requirement to differ. Learning outcomes must be the same and at least 75% of the compulsory modules must be the same as for the existing programme. Documentation will be raised by the offering academic unit in collaboration with the home school or department

3.   Global programmes (entirely new or based on existing provision): where a programme is to be jointly delivered by two campuses or across all three campuses and where students will be transferring between campuses during their study. Documentation will be raised by the global programme team and the submission co-ordinated by the Director of Inter-Campus Collaboration. 


Academic unit design and approval

Includes: considerations; advice; submission documents and guidance (including Business Case); Programme specification; Curriculum map; degree apprenticeships; Circulation to colleagues; production and review

All new programmes should be developed 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, Quality Assurance Agency (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).


The following should be considered 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. For more information about the University's minimum expectations, please consult the following:

Minimum expectations for levels of teaching and learning activity

  • 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.


Advice should be taken 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 academic unit(s). Other sources of appropriate 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 Advanced HE. 
  • Employers - for example, through industrial advisory boards.
  • Organisations in communities with which the programme may be involved.
Students should be involved in the design and approval of the programme. This is in addition to external advice (provided under Business Case, within the Submission documents and guidance section below) which is a requirement of submission and approval.

1.   Submission documents and guidance

Those wishing to introduce a new programme must submit the following documents to their local Curriculum team: 

Business Case

* In some instances, a reduced case will be required - for example, in the case of mirror programmes, degree apprenticeships, research programmes, programmes involving the addition of a year (such as international study) to an existing programme, programmes approved as a result of a strategic bid (such as FIF) or a collaborative agreement.

External advice

  • Must be provided for all new programme submissions. This advice should accompany the Programme Specification and Business Case. For more information, please consult the following:

External advice

Checklist (to accompany the business case)

Programme specification

  • The programme specification should be produced using the outline provided above and with advice from local Curriculum teams.
  • For more information concerning programme specifications, please consult the following:

Programme specification guidance

  • For the procedure regarding collaborative courses, please consult the Partnerships and placements page:

Partnerships and placements

Curriculum map

  • Curriculum map (to accompany the programme specification)
  • It is essential that a curriculum map accompanies the programme specification. For more information, please consult the following examples:

Degree apprenticeships

  • Programmes created solely for a degree apprenticeship route may not be extended to students who are not degree apprentices without approval of a business case requesting this.
If you have any problems or queries relating to degree apprenticeships, please email: degree-apprenticeships@nottingham.ac.uk  Email

Schools are encouraged to contact their local Curriculum team, as appropriate, for assistance in producing the necessary documentation. 

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 content can be found on the Student Services Development (Academic Processes) staff pages. For more information, please consult the following:

Curriculum Management staff pages

2.   Circulation to colleagues

The business case and external advice will be circulated to relevant colleagues, including those in professional service department, for comment. Schools are encouraged to contact the following:

  • Performance
  • Planning and Strategic Change
  • Office for Global Engagement
  • Admissions
  • Market Insight Officer
  • IT Services
  • Timetable Services
  • Academic Support
  • Disability Support Service
  • Relevant equivalencies and colleagues on other campuses
  • The Faculty Financial Adviser – in the preparation of the Business Case, to avoid the need for further clarification later in the consultation process.

For more information about the key contacts in each of these areas, please consult the following Student Services pages:

Curriculum Management

Submit a new Programme (Contacts)

3.   Production of the specification and review

The programme specification should be produced using the template provided and with advice from local Curriculum teams.

For entirely new content, the Quality and Standards Committee (QSC) will review and approve the specification. Where the programme is based on existing provision, the programme specification must be submitted to Student Services Development (Academic Processes) who will ensure that it has been amended to reflect any changes as a result of local delivery and that it meets the requirements for a mirror programme.

The programme specification must be accompanied by a curriculum map.



Includes: review of business case; new and mirror programmes; global programmes; role of Student Services Development (academic processes); tri-campus delivery; Quality and Standards Committee;

For all types of programme, the business case should be reviewed by relevant colleagues, including those from professional service departments, and approved at campus-level.

  • In the case of entirely new and mirror programmes delivered on one campus only, approval of the business case will be undertaken by the Provost (University of Nottingham Malaysia (UNM) and University of Nottingham Ningbo Campus (UNNC). If there are significant resource issues surrounding the new programme, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (PVC) for Education and Student Experience will also be consulted.
  • In the case of global programmes delivered at two or more campuses, approval of the business case will be undertaken by the PVC for Global Engagement. The Director of Inter-Campus Collaboration will ensure that all relevant parties (including the Provosts and relevant UK Faculty PVCs) have been consulted and are in agreement before the submission is made for approval.
  • In all cases, Student Services Development (Academic Processes) will undertake final compliance check of all documentation before issuing formal confirmation of approval on behalf of the University. This will include circulating the case to External Relations teams on all campuses for mirror programmes (to ensure no inadvertent competition or adverse reputational impact) and to Curriculum teams on all campuses in the case of global programmes. Where there are any outstanding issues these will be passed to the relevant Provost or PVC for resolution.
  • In 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 PVC or Provost will consider, in conjunction with colleagues managing programme approval 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 to maintain) the overall intake of students to the University and the Faculty PVC 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 PVC or Provost may request additional information from or hold discussions with the school, or seek further guidance from one of the offices listed in 2 above. In giving campus-level approval, 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 (UNQF), 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 and Student Experience.
  • A school unhappy with the decision of the PVC or Provost may request that the matter be considered by the PVC for Education and Student Experience.
  • In the case of new programmes that are delivered jointly by the international campuses and the UK campus (for example, 2+2 programmes), or are programmes currently delivered in the UK that will in future be delivered also at UNM or UNNC, the business case is considered by the Provost of the relevant campus and the appropriate Faculty PVC in the same manner as indicated by paragraph 5 above. The Office of Global Engagement should also be informed of any proposed new programme. For programmes approved for delivery on UNM, other than those subject to professional body accreditation, 'self-accreditation' (comprising Quality and Standards Committee (QSC) receiving information confirming the satisfactory operation of the programme on UNM) must be undertaken before the first cohort of students has completed the programme.
  • When a business case has been approved, Student Services Development (Academic Processes) will circulate formal notification of this and the local Curriculum team will enter the new programme on University systems The same applies when a contract for a degree apprenticeship has been signed. 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, at UNNC, the Chinese Ministry of Education). Only when both University and relevant external approval has been given can the programme be advertised and delivered.
  • In putting forward the programme specification to QSC, Student Services Development (Academic Processes) will provide an assurance that the document adheres to the requirements of the Quality Manual or will point to any possible conflicts. The school must assure QSC that the programme specification addresses the requirements of the relevant benchmark statement.

Quality and Standards Committee

In considering the programme specification, Quality and Standards Committee (QSC) 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 – that is, 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.

QSC 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 (for example, 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 QSC.

For more information about QSC, please consult the following page:

Quality and Standards Committee

If you have any problems or queries relating to these processes, please email: ss-curriculumadvice@nottingham.ac.uk Email
This content was last modified on 17 September 2021

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