Programme approval process
Includes: programme approval process flow chart
The process set out in the numbered sections below should be read in conjunction with the programme approval process flow chart, which can be accessed here:
1. School and Faculty endorsement
Includes: role of Faculty Pro Vice Chancellor; role of School committees
Endorsement should be sought at School level for development of a new programme of study from the Head of School, Head of School nominee or local equivalent (UNM/UNNC) and discussed at Education and Student Experience Committee or equivalent, followed by endorsement from the Faculty Pro Vice Chancellor or campus equivalent (UNM/UNNC).
The School and Faculty Pro Vice Chancellor or campus equivalent (UNM/UNNC) should give appropriate thought to School, Faculty and University level strategic priorities in considering merits of the new programme.
There may be local variations for seeking endorsement depending on Campus and/or School structures; however, at the end of this stage there should be clear support from both the School and the Faculty to proceed to development of the business case.
Endorsement can be recorded via email or noted in committee minutes. Colleagues are advised to keep evidence of this for future audit purposes.
2. Completion of programme outline form
Includes: Curriculum Approvals and Advisory Team (CAAT); review; circulation to colleagues; business planning
Following School and Faculty endorsement the School will be required to provide a brief overview of the new programme of study via a MS form, which can be accessed here:
Programme outline - MS form
This information will be received by the UNUK Curriculum Approvals and Advisory Team (CAAT) where it will be reviewed, logged, and shared with other internal teams, as appropriate, for business planning purposes, such as:
- Professional and Workbased Learning Team
- New Programme Design Team
- Registry and Academic Affairs
- Other teams as appropriate to the programme of study or campus
The purpose of this stage is to understand the number of new programmes in development to allow for preparation of later partnering and business planning. CAAT will only follow up on submissions if content looks to deviate from regulations or has unusual delivery aspirations which may present problems operationally (i.e. compatibility with systems). Exchanges at this stage need not hold up development of the business case, but advice from CAAT should be considered and incorporated.
For more information about CAAT, please consult the following page:
Curriculum Approvals and Advisory Team
3. Development of business case
Includes: apprenticeships; exceptions; programme level design; advice and recommendations; external advice
The School will be required to develop a business case for the new programme of study using the relevant templates, which can be accessed here:
Apprenticeship programmes will receive support at this stage from the Professional and Workbased Learning Team.
A full business case is not necessary in the following circumstances; a Business case addendum form should be used instead:
- Where a new programme is based on an existing programme of study
- Where a school wishes to introduce changes to a programme of study which are so significant the programme becomes unrecognisable from the programme of study originally approved (including Programme Level Design – see below)
- Where the school wishes to introduce a higher award where a lower award already exists
Business case addendum - MS form
- Programmes involving the addition of a placement year to an existing programme:
Request to introduce a placement or industrial year to an existing programme - MS form
- Programmes involving no qualification award:
Request to introduce a programme with no qualification - MS form
- Introduction of PG Cert or PG Dip where a masters programme already exists:
Introduction of PG Cert or PG Dip where masters programme already exists - MS form
- Standard research degrees without significant resource implications or without a taught element:
Request for a new research degree - MS form
- Introduction of a fall-back award (for exit award only):
Introduce a fall-back award - MS form
- Introduction of a pathway(s) to an existing programme
Introduce a pathway(s) to an existing programme - MS form
Programme level design
All new programmes should be developed drawing on good practice in programme design. From the 2021/22 academic year, some Schools developing new programmes will be invited to participate in the Programme Level Curriculum Design Pilot, which will help facilitate engagement with key stakeholders and consider a programme level approach as part of the design process. Those new programmes of study not directly involved in the pilot should still expect to receive useful tools and information to help inform development of their business cases.
Programmes of study participating in programme level redesign will be considered new programmes if the redesign introduces changes which make the programme unrecognisable from the original programme of study.
Advice and recommendation
Schools are expected to proactively engage with internal and external parties for appropriate advice and guidance in developing their business case: engagement with internal and external parties should be recorded in the appropriate section of the business case. Engagement with students is also expected (see external advice section below).
An up-to-date list of internal contacts is available to assist with this process, which can be accessed here:
Other sources of appropriate advice might 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
Key stakeholders identified in the business case must complete the recommendation section, reporting any areas of concern which need addressing. Recommendation options for key stakeholders are:
- 1 – Support
- 2 – Support with amendments
- 3 – Do not support
An external advice form must accompany all business case submissions, which can be accessed here:
For more information relating to external advice in the programme approval process, please consult the following:
External advice in programme approval
4. Approval of business case
Includes: role of Faculty Pro Vice Chancellor; considerations; outcomes; apprenticeships
The completed business case and external advice form should be submitted by completing the Submission of a business case form which will be automatically forwarded to the Faculty Pro Vice Chancellor for consideration and sign off.
Submission of a business case (UNUK) - MS Form
If the new programme is also a partnership agreement, evidence of external agreements and Partnership Operational Meeting (POD) approval should also be attached to the submission form.
The Faculty Pro Vice Chancellor (or local equivalent for UNM/UNNC) is required to confirm intention to proceed with the new programme, giving full consideration to recommendations and feedback from stakeholders and external advice on the business case.
Faculty Pro Vice Chancellor (or local equivalent for UNM/UNNC) approval of the business case is required before proceeding further in the programme approval process.
In seeking to determine whether a 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 (or local equivalent for UNM/UNNC) will consider, in conjunction with 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. In order to arrive at this judgement, the Faculty Pro Vice Chancellor may request additional information, or hold further discussions with the School.
The Faculty Pro Vice Chancellor (or local equivalent for UNM/UNNC) has discretion to hold the business case at this stage until satisfied (i.e. if revisions, further development, evidence, or consultation is needed) or reject.
Apprenticeship programmes require further approval from the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education and Student Experience.
5. Development of curriculum documentation
Includes: business partner; Programme Level Curriculum Design Team; programme specification; curriculum map
Upon receipt of a Faculty Pro Vice Chancellor (or local equivalent for UNM/UNNC) approved business case, the Curriculum Approvals and Advisory Team (CAAT) will assign a Business Partner to work with the School to assist in the development of their curriculum documentation (programme specification, module specifications and curriculum map). The partnering process will ensure the School receives appropriate and useful advice about University regulations and operability of the programme of study in the student records system. CAAT will seek advice on any areas which might need resolving and will also consult with the Programme Level Curriculum Design Team.
For more information concerning programme specifications, please consult the following:
Programme specification guidance
For more information concerning module specifications, please consult the following:
Module specification guidance
The Business Partner from CAAT will confirm with the School when all paperwork is complete and meets the required standard to proceed to the next stage.
6. Consultation on curriculum documentation
Includes: internal stakeholders; consultation period
The Curriculum Approvals and Advisory Team (CAAT) will make available the programme specification, module specifications, external advice and business case to key internal stakeholders for a two week period for scrutiny.
This will be an interactive process which allows the School to respond directly to stakeholder queries/comments and respond/make amends to curriculum documents as appropriate.
Responses from key stakeholders at this point are not mandated; however, stakeholders are strongly advised to satisfy themselves that any operational challenges they identify are highlighted and resolved to their satisfaction as there will be no further opportunity to do this.
Schools should ensure any queries raised by stakeholders during this consultation process are responded to in a timely manner to avoid delays in approval.
7. Programme approval
Includes: programme review panel; apprenticeships
Faculty Pro Vice Chancellor (or local equivalent for UNM/UNNC) approved programmes, which have full stakeholder support and do not present any operational issues, may be approved and signed off by the Associate Director (Curriculum, Timetabling, PGR) or the Senior Manager (Head of Curriculum) on behalf of Quality and Standards Committee (QSC).
Programmes without full stakeholder support and/or those which present more challenging considerations will be put forward for discussion at the next available Programme Review Panel. Panel dates will be published prior to the start of the academic year, with around six meetings scheduled in each academic year. Representatives from the School are expected to attend the Programme Review Panel to address any questions from the panel.
The completed academic paperwork, confirmed by your Business Partner, should be submitted to CAAT at least one month ahead of the Programme Review Panel to allow time to complete the two-week Stakeholder Consultation (see step 6) and allow sufficient time for the Programme Review Panel to consider the documentation in advance.
All new apprenticeships programmes will be considered by a programme review panel.
For panel dates for the 2021/22 session, please consult the following:
For panel dates for the 2022/23 session, please consult the following:
The latest possible dates for obtaining university approval for new programmes are detailed in the table below. Colleagues should consider building in ‘slack’ to their development timelines to allow for possible delays, for example if the Programme Review Panel ask for major revisions to be submitted to the next panel or if the stakeholder consultation surfaces issues which need time to be resolved. We recommend colleagues aim for one or two panels earlier than the latest possible dates to ensure programmes are approved in time for planned start dates. If unsure, contact the CAAT team for advice.
Deadlines for obtaining university approval for new programmes
|Require UCAS recruitment ||Require timetabling||Latest date for university approval |
31 July in the year before students commence the course
|| 31 January the same year students commence the course
|| 31 July the same year students commence the course
The Programme Review Panel at a minimum will consist of two QSC members, one of which will take the role of Chair, and senior representation from the Curriculum Approvals and Advisory Team (CAAT): Associate Director (Curriculum, Timetabling, PGR) or the Senior Manager (Head of Curriculum). Other colleagues may be invited as considered appropriate to the programme being approved or stakeholder feedback provided.
In considering the programme specification, the Programme Review Panel will:
- Make a judgement on any issues which fall outside the current scope of the Quality Manual.
- Consider the operability of the proposed new programme, taking into account stakeholder feedback in relation to this.
- 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.
The Panel can either:
- Approve (either outright or with minor changes which can be returned for final approval by Chair’s Action within an agreed timeframe)
- Ask for major revisions to be submitted to a future panel
- Reject the proposal
Programmes approved at the panel, or with amends subject to Chair’s action, will be created in the student records system, UCAS codes created (if applicable) and opened for marketing/recruitment.
Students may not be registered on a programme until the programme specification has been approved.
The decision of the Programme Review Panel will be communicated by CAAT to the School and other interested parties in the University. The programme specification will be published online in the Curriculum Catalogue, which then becomes the definitive record, and will make use of the data contained in the specification (for example, course structure) in University processes.