Quality Manual

Programme design, development and approval

This page provides step-by-step guidance for the approval of new programmes of study, including approval of new programmes by change. Its content is primarily directed at staff on all campuses but may also be of interest to students.

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This page provides step-by-step guidance for the approval of new programmes of study (including new micocredential programmes offered by UoNO), to be offered by the University on all campuses. 

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

For more information about making changes to programmes of study via the annual curriculum review cycle, please consult the following:

Changes to programme specifications

Closing or suspending a programme

New Programme by Change


In order to meet the responsibility for academic standards and quality of learning opportunities, please consult the following:

UK Quality Code for Higher Education Advice and Guidance – Course Design and Development

And where applicable:

QAA Characteristic Statements

QAA Subject Benchmark Statements

Additionally, for more information about the University's minimum expectations relating to teaching and learning, please consult the following:

Minimum expectations for levels of teaching and learning activity


Programme approval process

Includes: programme approval process flow chart, new programme by change flow charts

New programme approval process

The process set out in the numbered sections below should be read in conjunction with the programme approval process flow charts for each campus, which can be accessed here:

Please note, colleagues in UNM and UNNC complete each of the required steps for new programme approval but vary the order of completion due to local campus structures. These are reflected in the flow charts.


1.   School and Faculty endorsement

Includes: role of Faculty Pro Vice Chancellor; role of Faculty committees; role of School committees 

Endorsement from the School and Faculty must be sought prior to developing a new programme of study. In the UK, endorsement at School level should come from the Head of School, Head of School nominee or School Committee, and endorsement at Faculty level should come from the Faculty Pro Vice Chancellor (FPVC), FPVC nominee or Faculty level committee (e.g. Faculty Education and Student Experience Committee). In UNM endorsement should come from Head of School/Department or Faculty Teaching and Learning Committee. In UNNC endorsement at School level should come from the School Meeting and endorsement at Faculty level should come from Faculty Executive Board.

Consideration should be given at this stage as to whether the new programme contributes to School, Faculty and University level strategic priorities.

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 the next stage.

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

Once endorsement has been obtained, Schools must provide a brief overview of the proposed new programme to ensure that relevant university colleagues are aware of developments. Forms can be accessed here:

New Programme of Study - MS Form

The data collected via the MS Forms will be reviewed by CAAT and shared with other internal stakeholders, as appropriate, for business planning purposes. Stakeholders include, but are not limited to: 

  • Admissions
  • Marketing
  • CTP Faculty Curriculum Design Managers (if participating in CTP)
  • Teams within Registry and Academic Affairs
  • Other teams as appropriate to the programme of study or campus
  • Professional and Workbased Learning Team (if relevant)

The purpose of providing information this stage is to understand the number of new or revised programmes in development to prepare for business partnering and business planning. CAAT will only follow up on submissions if content appears to deviate from regulations, has unusual delivery aspirations which may present problems operationally (i.e. compatibility with systems), or may present Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) regulation challenges. Queries at this stage need not hold up development of the business case (if applicable), but issues identified by CAAT should be considered and resolved as early as possible in the development stage to prevent having to unpick them later on in the process.

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

Curriculum Approvals and Advisory Team (internal SharePoint)


3.   Development of business case

Includes: apprenticeships; exceptions; programmes redesigned through CTP; advice and recommendations; external advice

3.1 Full business case

The School is required to develop a full business case for most new taught programmes of study (see below for exceptions) using the following templates:

For new apprenticeship programmes, contact the Professional and Workbased Learning Team for support with business case development.

3.2 Alternative forms where full business case is not required 

In the following scenarios a full business case is not required and an alternative form is provided:

Alternative forms where full business case is not required scenarios
 Scenarios Form
 Introduce a new programme which is based on an existing programme of study (Mirror Programme offered on another campus) Business case addendum
 Introduce a higher award where a lower award already exists Business case addendum
 Introduce a placement or industrial year to an existing programme  MS Form
 Introduce a new programme with no qualification  MS Form
 Introduce a new PG Cert or PG Dip where a Masters programme already exists  MS Form
 Introduce a new research degree  MS Form
 Introduce a fall-back award (for exit awards only)  MS Form
 Introduce a pathway(s) to an existing programme  MS Form

Please note colleagues in UNM require a full business case for all new programmes.

For further advice and guidance about development of the business case or relevant forms, please contact - ss-curriculumadvice@nottingham.ac.uk 

3.3 Advice and recommendations

Schools are expected to proactively engage with internal and external stakeholders, including students, alumni and employers, for appropriate advice and guidance in developing their business case or addendum: details of engagement with stakeholders should be recorded in the appropriate section of the business case or addendum document. 

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, as identified in the full 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

3.4 External Advice

An external advice form must accompany all full business case submissions, which can be accessed here:

External experts, including relevant Professional, Regulatory and Statutory Bodies (PSRBs), employers and other external stakeholders, contribute to course design and review. 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

It is expected that full consideration will be given to business viability, recommendations and feedback from stakeholders and external advice on the business case. Business cases will not proceed further in the process without appropriate sign off.

Business cases may be held at this stage until the relevant authority is satisfied (i.e. if revisions, further development, evidence, or consultation is needed) or be rejected.

4.1 UK Campuses

When the business case or business case addendum are completed (if applicable), the School should fill out the form below and attach the business case or business case addendum to it. The external advice form should also be submitted along with any full business case. 

Submission of a business case (UNUK) - MS Form  Flag of United Kingdom

The submitted form will be automatically routed to the Faculty Pro Vice Chancellor (FPVC) or FPVC nominee for consideration and sign off.

UK Apprenticeship programmes require further approval from the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education and Student Experience and the Academic Director of Degree Apprenticeships. 

4.2 UNM/ UNNC Campuses

Colleagues in UNM and UNNC should email approved business cases and accompanying external advice forms (if appliable) to ss-curriculumadvice@nottingham.ac.uk 

Business cases in UNM will be approved by the Campus Teaching and Learning Committee, Planning and Resources Committee and the Global Engagement Committee (if applicable).

Business cases in UNNC will be approved by the Planning and Resources Committee for non-curriculum sections and signed off by the Education and Student Experience Committee. 


5.   Development of curriculum documentation 

Includes: business partner; CTP Team; programme specification; curriculum map

Upon receipt of the approved business case (if applicable), 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 Schools receive appropriate and useful advice about University regulations and operability of programmes of study in any systems. CAAT will seek advice from relevant professional services colleagues on any areas which might need specialist input. For new programmes by change, the Marketing Team will be consulted to ensure compliance with Consumer and Markets Authority (CMA) guidance (UK only). Redesigned programmes involved in CTP will already have considered CMA compliance as part of the design process.

If the new programme also requires a partnership agreement, curriculum documentation should be submitted with the partnership agreement to the Partnership Operational Development Meeting (POD) so they can be considered together.

For more information about partnership approval process please consult the following:

Partnership and Placements

Programme specification

For more information concerning programme specifications, please consult the following:

Programme specification guidance

Module specification

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 curriculum documentation (programme specification, module specifications, curriculum map) external advice (if applicable) and business case/addendum (if applicable) to a wide range of internal stakeholders across the University, including Schools, Faculties and Professional Services Departments, for a two-week period for scrutiny. This is an interactive process which allows stakeholders to post comments/queries for the School to address. The School should ensure any comments/queries raised by stakeholders during this consultation process are responded to in a timely manner and addressed to the stakeholder’s satisfaction to avoid delays in approval. This is the final opportunity for stakeholder queries to be raised.

Any unresolved issues raised during the consultation period will be referred to a Programme Review Panel for consideration and approval (see section 7).


7.   Programme approval 

Includes: programme review panel; apprenticeships

Programmes of study which have full stakeholder support in the business case (if applicable), no unresolved issues from the consultation with stakeholders, and do not present any challenging operational or regulatory issues, will be approved by the Associate Director (Curriculum & Timetabling) or the Senior Manager (Head of Curriculum) on behalf of Quality and Standards Committee (QSC).

All other programmes will be put forward for consideration at the next available Programme Review Panel. Panel dates are 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 respond to questions. 

The completed curriculum documentation (programme specification, module specifications, and curriculum map) should be submitted to CAAT at least one month prior to the Programme Review Panel to allow time to complete the two-week Stakeholder Consultation (see step 6) and for the Programme Review Panel to consider the documentation in advance.

For panel dates for the 2023/24 session, please consult the following:

Programme Review Panel Dates (internal SharePoint)

Colleagues in UNM and UNNC will require a further approval from local authorities before a programme is launched. In UNM approval is required from the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) and the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE). In UNNC approval is required from the Ministry of Education (MOE).

7.1 Timeline for approval and CMA considerations (UK Only)

To meet the university’s UKs publishing deadlines for the undergraduate and postgraduate prospectus, and to achieve a full cycle of marketing, Schools should aim for their programme to be developed and approved ahead of the publishing deadlines in the table below.

UK Publishing deadlines for UG and PGT programmes
 Undergraduate  31 January in the calendar year before students commence the course (ahead of publication of the online prospectus in March)
 Postgraduate Taught  31 May in the calendar year before students commence the course (ahead of publication of the online prospectus in July)

For further advice and guidance about timelines for approval, please email:                              


There may be occasions when Schools request the introduction of a new programme after the release of the online prospectus. Each request will be carefully considered by CAAT, Marketing, Admissions, the Legal team and other key individuals in the University as appropriate. For new programmes, the main consideration would be whether there would be a viable cohort of students recruited without a full marketing and recruitment cycle. In these circumstances the Faculty Pro Vice Chancellor (FPVC) or FPVC nominee will be presented with information about potential recruitment or CMA risks and asked to decide whether to proceed as planned or delay, weighing up the benefits against the outlined potential risks.

7.2 Latest dates for programme approval (all campuses)

The latest possible dates for programme approval 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. 

Latest dates for obtaining university approval for new programmes
Require UCAS recruitment Require timetablingLatest date for university approval 
  Yes   Yes

31 July in the calendar year before students commence the course 

 No  Yes 31 January in the same calendar year students commence the course 
 No   No  31 July in the same calendar year students commence the course 


For further advice and guidance about timelines for submission and approval, please email:                              ss-curriculumadvice@nottingham.ac.uk 

7.3 Programme review panel

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). The academic lead(s) for the programme of study being considered will be expected to attend the panel and answer any queries put to them. Other colleagues may be invited to attend the panel if they have noted issues on the business case or during the consultation that are yet to be resolved.

In considering the curriculum documentation, the Programme Review Panel will:

  • Make a judgement on any issues that fall outside the current scope of the Quality Manual.
  • Review the operability of the proposed new programme, considering stakeholder feedback in relation to this.
  • Consider the key academic aspects of programme specification – that is, the learning outcomes and how they will 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 has been approved.

The decision of the Programme Review Panel will be communicated by CAAT to the School and other university stakeholders. Programme and module specifications will be published online in the Online Course Catalogue, which then becomes the definitive record.

For further advice and guidance on any aspect of programme approval, please email:                              ss-curriculumadvice@nottingham.ac.uk


This content was last modified on 09 November 2023

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