Quality Manual

Programme specification guidance

This page provides guidance on programme specifications and the information that must be publicised to students. Its content is primarily directed at staff but may also be of interest to students across all of the UK, China and Malaysia campuses.

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Key information

Includes: requirements; Postgraduate Diplomas and Certificates; Programme specification guidance document

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 Certificates and Postgraduate Diplomas, 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 master's programme, the qualifications are encompassed by the programme specification for the corresponding master's degree.

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


For more information, please consult the following:

Catalogue links (for examples of published specifications)


A. Basic Information

Includes: title; Programme code; School managing the programme; types of programme; mode of delivery; Accrediting body; relevant QAA subject benchmark and characteristic statements


Please state the qualification that will be gained (for example, BA, BSc, MA and others) and the subject title (for example, 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 more information about each type of qualification, please consult the following:

University of Nottingham Qualifications Framework

Programme code

Please leave blank. A UCAS or Academic Plan code will be obtained by Registry and Academic Affairs once a new programme has been approved in principle by the relevant Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellors (FPVCs).

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.

Partnership arrangement

For programmes that have a placement arrangement in place please include details of the partner and whether the programme is based on an existing programme.

For more information about partnerships and placements, please consult the following:

Partnerships and placements

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)

For more information about programme types and definitions, please consult section 7 of the following:

University of Nottingham Qualifications Framework

Mode of delivery

Please indicate the various ways in which the programme will be delivered and the locations where it will be available  (including University of Nottingham Malaysia (UNM) and University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) where applicable) by selecting all the relevant options from the list below:

  • Full-time
  • Part-time
  • Distance learning
  • In-Person
  • Blended Learning
  • UK campus
  • UNM or UNNC or both


Please confirm the duration of the programme and indicate if the programme has a standard or non-standard start.  If the programme has a start date of anything other than the start of the academic year, please state the start date and include all dates where there is more than one date of commencement.

Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS) codes

Please provide the relevant HECoS code.  

For more information about HECoS codes, please consult the following:

Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS) codes

 Accrediting body

Please state the following:

  • 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
  • The manner in which accreditation or recognition is necessary to practise a profession
  • The status of any application for accreditation or recognition and the timescale involved, including dates of professional body visits for accreditation or re-accreditation

Relevant QAA subject benchmark(s) and characteristic statements

Please state the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) subject benchmarks which are most relevant to the programme. 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.

For more information about lists of benchmarks, please consult the following:

Benchmarks on the QAA website

In addition to the above, schools should consider any QAA characteristics statements published relating to the qualification that they wish to introduce to ensure that the distinctive feature of the qualification being proposed are articulated within module and programme specifications.

For information on Characteristics statements, please consult the following:

Characteristic statements on the QAA website

If the information in sections B, C, or D (of this page) varies significantly depending upon the mode of delivery, schools are advised to consider submitting separate programme specifications for each version of the programme.


B. General information

Includes: minimum requirements

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

Includes: minimum requirements

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 of the programme specification – should appear in the School’s own Student Handbook rather than being included in this section.

C. Supplementary regulations

Includes: admission requirements; programme structure; non-compensatable modules; additional components; programme structure; assessment; academic regulations; progression information; degree information; marking and classification; other regulations

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. 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.

If the programme is only available by internal transfer from another University of Nottingham programme and is therefore not open to external applicants, then this should also be indicated.

Please also include the requirement for Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), if applicable, and any other requirements. 

For more information about the University's admission requirements, please consult the following:


Admissions Office

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.

Where a programme structure includes modules offered by another School, that School must be consulted with to ensure the appropriateness of offering these modules, that requisites are amended to ensure students can choose the modules and whether there will be sufficient capacity to accommodate the additional students.
    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; but that the majority of modules will have a value of 20 credits or more. 10 credit modules should remain in the minority for all Schools. No more than 50% of credits in a stage (including the taught stage of a taught master’s programme) should be comprised of 10 credit modules.
  • Please note there must be a maximum of 70 credits in each semester.  Dissertations must be set as SUM offering.
  • 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 self-directed learning in the programme as a whole and note the requirements in the University policy on minimum expectations for levels of teaching and learning activity.

For more information about the University's minimum expectations for levels of teaching and learning activity, please consult the following:

Minimum expectations for levels of teaching and learning activity

For more information on semester dates relating to the general teaching and examination periods at the University, please consult the following:

University calendar dates

Non-compensatable modules

Please identify any modules which cannot be compensated under the University’s regulations for the compensation of fail marks. For more information about the University's assessment and marking policies, please consult the following:

Assessment and marking policies

Please be aware of the following:

  • A non-compensatable module is one which must to be passed at the relevant level (40% for honours degrees, 50% for masters' degrees, PG Certificates and PG Diplomas).  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 (that is, a non-compensated pass acts as a pre-requisite to a later compulsory module) or achievement of the programme learning outcomes or accreditation requirements.

Additional components

Please ensure additional groups are added where a programme allows students to have free choice for a module(s).

Please also identify any additional components – that is, 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.

Please also identify any modules which cannot be compensated under the University’s regulations for the compensation of fail marks. For more information, please consult the following Student Services page:

Study regulations

Programme structure

The programme structure should be in line with the requirements of the University of Nottingham Qualifications Framework. For more information, please consult the following:

University of Nottingham Qualifications Framework


The programme must comply with the University's Undergraduate and Postgraduate taught assessment regulations. For more information, please consult the following:

Academic regulations

It is an established principle of the University, endorsed by University Executive Board (UEB) and Education and Student Experience Committee (ESEC), 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:


Standard University progression regulations will apply except in the following circumstances: integrated masters' programmes; honours degrees with a compulsory year out; and between a foundation year and qualifying year. In these 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 University of Nottingham Malaysia (UNM) and University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) – where the Home Office would not issue a visa unless the student has progressed
  • Programmes that could not cope with the additional resource or facilities implications of additional students – for example, 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 Quality and Standards Committee (QSC) and noted in the programme specification.

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 (that is, the dissertation or research project) this will be explicitly stated in the programme specification.


The programme specification should be read in the context of the relevant University Study Regulations.  For more information, please consult the following:

Academic regulations

Degree Information:


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). For more information, please consult the following:

Marking and classification

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

  • 2:1 to 1st /  69%

  • 2:2 to 2:1 /  59%

  • 3rd to 2:2 /  49%

  • At the Pass/Fail boundary there is no borderline.

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

  • Two thirds or more of the final stage credits are in the higher class;

  • Two thirds or more of the final and penultimate stage credits are in the higher class.

This does not preclude the consideration of Extenuating Circumstances of students, whether inside or outside the borderline.

Students who initially registered for their programme of study prior to the 2020/2021 academic year may be subject to different borderline arrangements and should refer to their school for information.

If the award of an 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 2015/2016 transfer to the ordinary degree is not allowed. The award of the ordinary degree on exit is only allowed at the UK campus and University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC).  


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 or 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 or 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 or distinction must be specified as at either 68% or 69%. 

In addition, please note the following:

  • 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%.




Despite 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, UG Certificate, UG Diploma, PG Certificate, PG Diploma) should have a different title than the original programme this should be stated in the programme specification (for example, 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).  

Other regulations

Please state any other requirements on students which are in addition to those stated in the University’s regulations and the University of Nottingham Qualifications Framework (UNQF).  If the programme has a total absolute maximum that is less than those defined on the Maximum period from initial registration for completion of studies page, this should be stated. For more information, please consult the following:

Registration, attendance and study

University of Nottingham Qualifications Framework

Maximum period from initial registration for the completion of studies


D. Learning outcomes

Includes: definition; key links; categories of learning outcomes; knowledge and understanding; skills; assessing and attaining learning outcomes within modules; attaining learning outcomes within programmes


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 and aims of a programme or 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 Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) Subject Benchmark Statement, the level descriptors in the University of Nottingham Qualifications Framework (UNQF) and any professional or statutory body requirements. For more information, please consult the following:

Benchmarks on the QAA site

University of Nottingham Qualifications Framework

Categories of learning outcomes

Up to six 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, more learning outcomes may be necessary (for example due to PSRB requirements).

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 broadly describe the subject matter of the programme or 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 or practical skills – those skills specific to a particular subject area, such as laboratory or field work, or the requirements of a specific professional or regulatory body
    3. Transferable or 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

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 and develop the skills, and have passed the module overall.

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, a student will be required to attain all the learning outcomes listed for a programme (for example, due to Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRB) requirements).

Please also give a brief summary of the teaching, learning and assessment methods used to enable these learning outcomes to be achieved and demonstrated. For example:

  • Teaching and learning: Lectures; tutor-led tutorials; student and tutor led seminars; on-line tutorials; problem-based learning scenarios.
  • Assessment: coursework: written seen or 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

Includes: standard grid template; examples 

Please map the learning outcomes of the programme against the modules comprising the programme. 

The curriculum map should show that a student cannot successfully complete the programme without having acquired all the learning outcomes listed in Section D of this page. 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.


F. Delivery plan

Please map out the timelines for the full programme. 
If you have any problems or queries relating to Programme specification guidance, please email: ss-curriculumadvice@nottingham.ac.uk  Email
This content was last modified on 21 February 2023

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