The University continually reviews and enhances its portfolio of taught programmes. Schools/Programme Co-ordinators are required to provide a range of documents to help ensure that all programmes are delivered in accordance with an approved programme specification; that students have accurate and comprehensive information about their programme of study and that they will meet fully the relevant expectations of the UK Quality Code for Higher Education.
Procedures for the introduction of new collaborative programmes with other institutions and organisations, including proposed joint/dual awards, can be found in the Educational Partnerships Framework.
There are four stages when developing a new programme. A full overview of the procedures and timelines are shown in the New Programme Approval Flowchart.
STAGE 1: Initial Consideration by the School and Faculty
The Faculty, in consultation with the relevant School, will give strategic direction on proposals for new programmes in advance of the appropriate recruitment cycle. Schools should consult Academic Affairs at the earliest opportunity to discuss a timescale for the approval process.
Schools should discuss their proposal with their Faculty Dean of Education who will then consult with the other Faculty Deans of Education concerning potential overlap or similarities with existing programmes or new programmes being developed elsewhere in the University.
A member of staff who has a proposal for a new programme should arrange for it to be discussed and considered in fairly general terms by the appropriate School body. This should be done at an early stage, before a lot of time is spent developing detailed proposals which may ultimately not be approved.
Suggested factors to be considered at this stage include:
- The aims and learning outcomes of the proposed programme and its "fit" with School/Faculty plans and Strategy 2030.
- The need to take account of relevant sections of the UK Quality Code for Higher Education and relevant subject benchmark statements.
- Alignment with the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications.
- Its relationship with other programmes and modules (direct or indirect) in this area.
- Resources required (e.g. staff time including teaching input from other areas, library resources, Canvas and ICT, equipment and consumables).
- Projected student demand and the nature of the students - will they be genuinely new students, or will it simply mean a redistribution of existing students within the constraints imposed by the MASN cap on student numbers?
- Does the programme respond to the needs of society as prioritised in Strategy 2030?
- Student visa arrangements - The initial consideration by the School and Faculty for new programme development requires that the programme team have consulted with International Student Support (ISS) and that they have confirmed whether or not it is possible for international students requiring a visa to undertake this course. The Student Visa Checklist should be completed as part of the programme team's discussion with ISS. For detailed guidance for student visa requirements on work placements, please contact ISS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Will the programme, or any element of the programme, be delivered on-line to students based outside the UK (if so, there must be consultation with the Taxation team within Finance).
STAGE 2: Approval to Proceed
The Approval to Proceed process replaces “Approval in Principle” for New Programmes. Schools can no longer advertise a new programme “subject to final approval”. Only when a new programme has been fully approved by the Education Committee (Quality and Standards) can it be marketed and published in the prospectuses, CourseFinder and the Direct Admissions Portal.
Documentation that is required by the Faculty will include:
- The Approval to Proceed which will comprise of a brief rationale for the new programme, and a clear explanation of how the new programme meets Vision 2030.
- A Business Plan, developed in collaboration with the Faculty Finance Business Partner.
- Marketing intelligence, commissioned in collaboration with the Faculty Business Development Officer.
When Approval to Proceed is endorsed by the Faculty, the Faculty should inform the relevant School and departments of approval to proceed and arrange for the documentation to be forwarded to Academic Affairs. It is only when Approval to Proceed has been granted by the Faculty that the School moves to the Programme Evaluation Meeting stage.
STAGE 3: Programme Evaluation Stage
The purpose of the programme evaluation stage is to ensure that programme approval decisions are informed by full consideration of subject benchmark statements, academic standards and the quality of the learning opportunities. Accordingly, the Head of School will convene a Programme Evaluation Meeting (PEM) to scrutinise the draft course content, regulations, assessment methods, learning outcomes, programme specification and consistency with both the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications and relevant sections of the UK Quality Code for Higher Education including the Advice and Guidance themes. Expectations include:
- Courses are well-designed, provide a high quality academic experience for all students and enable a student's achievement to be reliably assessed
- From admission through to completion, all students are provided with the support that they need to suceed in and benefit from higher education.
Consideration must also be given to equality of opportunity which involves enabling access for people who have differing individual requirements as well as eliminating arbitrary and unnecessary barriers to learning. The programme design team should consult the University's Centre for Educational Development (CED) for support and guidance on learning outcomes, and assessment strategies as required when developing the programme.
The programme evaluation panel will comprise:
- An independent Chair from another School.
- Relevant Faculty Dean(s) for cross Faculty programmes.
- Independent academic representative(s) from the University – a list of reviewers is available on request from email@example.com.
- An external adviser from outside the University, nominated by the School. (Please note that School External Examiners can be consulted for their advice on the new programme but may not sit on the panel. If the School is bringing someone from outside the UK/Ireland please contact People and Culture for advice on immigration compliance issues).
- A member of academic staff from the School who is not involved in the design and delivery of the programme.
- A student representative from the Student Voice Committee.
- For certain programmes in the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences, it may be appropriate to have a service user/carer representative in attendance.
- Academic Affairs representative.
- Relevant Professional Services staff e.g. CED, Library, Disability and Well-Being.
The inclusion of an external adviser (business/academic) is required in order to provide specialist information and guidance on current developments in the workplace and/or in the discipline(s). The external adviser will attend the PEM. Schools may also consider contributions from appropriate professional or statutory bodies, or other programme partners. In exceptional circumstances, the Director of Academic and Student Affairs may give permission for an external adviser to submit written comments if he or she is unable to attend the PEM. The PEM will be supported by an administrator from the School/Faculty. Advice and guidance and review of draft documentation is available from the Academic Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Issues to Be Considered
The PEM panel should be invited to comment and consider the proposal. The Chair should direct discussions to ensure that:
- Programme design has taken account appropriateness of external reference points e.g. FHEQs, subject benchmark statements, degree characteristic statements and any professional accreditation requirements.
- The design and content of the curriculum and the assessment strategy will allow students appropriate learning opportunities to achieve the intended outcomes of the programmes/modules, and that they remain valid and current.
- The necessary student consultation has taken place.
- Student support arrangements are fully articulated e.g. that programmes are inclusive and consider the use of a variety of assessment methods and e-learning.
- The programme is compliant with international student visa requirements.
- The contents of the programme specification, and any programme specific requirements are clearly written for the intended audience. Please note that programmes are expected to follow the General Regulations and any exceptions must be fully articulated for formal approval e.g. at the request of a PSRB.
It should be noted that although the Faculty have endorsed the programme to proceed to PEM, the Panel should discuss anticipated student demand; the resources needed to support the programme and how the programme fits within both the School and University provision. There are several tax issues relating to the provision of remote learning to students based outside of the UK. If any element of a programme is likely to be delivered as remote learning, or any current programmes are being developed to be delivered as remote learning, appropriate tax advice must be taken from Finance (https://www.qub.ac.uk/directorates/FinanceDirectorate/Staff/finance-services/TaxandVAT/ ). Failure to do so may lead to financial penalties and reputational risks.
Normally the programme development lead will provide an overview of the programme/modules to the PEM Panel.
Special arrangements may be made to streamline the evaluation of programmes which carry professional recognition, for example, a joint meeting of the evaluation panel and representatives of the professional body. Where the academic structure of a new programme is based on similar programmes already on offer by the School/Faculty, there may be an opportunity to streamline the approval process in consultation with Academic Affairs.
The minimum documentation required for a PEM is as follows:
- Rationale for the programme (i.e. as prepared for the Approval to Proceed stage and updated as necessary).
- Business Plan (i.e. as prepared for the approval in principle stage and updated as necessary).
- Market Intelligence Report (i.e as prepared for the approval to proceed stage).
- Programme Specification (incorporating the programme regulations).
- Module Template.
In addition, for programmes which are to be delivered through flexible or distributed learning (FDL) (e.g., distance learning or e-learning), the Centre for Educational Development (CED) should be contacted for guidance on the written submission which should include:
- The educational and pedagogical rationale for delivery by FDL methods.
- The technical arrangements to assure the quality of the delivery method.
- The range of resources to be used with perceptible information including the use of Canvas.
- The technical and academic support methodology for the course.
- The quality assurance process to be implemented before course delivery.
- Evaluation of the quality of the design of learning materials (including pace of learning and presentation of material).
- Facilities for supporting interaction between students.
- Evaluation of systems of communication including methods of obtaining student feedback.
- Results of any piloting of learning and assessment materials.
- Evaluation of the assessment methods including notification of results to students.
- How the organisation assures itself that assessed work is properly attributable to the appropriate student.
Schools seeking approval for postgraduate programmes must provide separate programme specifications for each possible award of the programme e.g. for Master’s and Postgraduate Diplomas, if the latter is offered as an exit award.
The above documentation and PEM Agenda must be circulated to the panel at least one week in advance of the PEM to give Panel members time to review the proposal.
The Report of the Meeting
A Report of the meeting should be produced, setting out the evaluation panel’s findings and any conditions that a recommendation(s) may be subject to. A draft of the report, prepared by the PEM secretary, must be circulated to PEM members for approval, normally within five working days of the PEM. If one or more panel members have reservations about the report that are not addressed, these should be included in an appendix to the report along with an explanation from the Chair. The report should contain a conclusions, recommendations and actions section to track progress of recommendations made by the Panel. The final report, when confirmed by the chairperson, should be circulated as soon as possible to:
- The members of the panel, including the internal and external assessors.
- The programme development co-ordinator.
- The Head of School.
- The appropriate Faculty Dean.
If the programme development team has difficulty in meeting the conditions specified by the evaluation panel, it should report this to Academic Affairs, giving reasons, within five working days of receiving the PEM report. Otherwise, the programme development team should submit to the Academic Affairs at email@example.com, within 10 working days of receipt of the report (or a date communicated by Academic Affairs):
- The PEM report.
- A final version of the programme specification(s) and module templates, or other documentation incorporating such amendments as are required to meet the PEM’s conditions.
- A brief paper indicating the nature of the amendments and page/paragraph referencing within the relevant document.
Under the fast-track process the documentation will be considered for approval by Education Committee (Quality and Standards) who will report, via the ECQS secretary, recommendations/comments that require a School response. Incomplete documentation will not be presented to ECQS, but referred back to the School/Faculty.
The evaluation and approval process is concluded when the Education Committee (Quality and Standards) has approved the programme and the associated documentation. It is only at this stage that the programme can be said to have been approved and may be listed in University websites or publication material.
Stage 4: Final University Approval and Follow-up
Academic Affairs will inform all relevant administration areas once formal ECQS approval has been secured. Final academic approval of professional doctorate research degree programmes is also given by ECQS.
Details of the new programme will be circulated by Academic Affairs to the relevant administration areas which include:
- The School Programme Team;
- The relevant Faculty to include: the Director of Operations; the Faculty Marketing Hub; Deans of Education and or Postgraduates; and for Collaborative Programmes Deans of Internationalisation and Research;
- MRCI including the Admissions Office;
- Student Services and System and Student Finance Office.
Schools should then liaise with the Faculty Marketing Hub staff regarding promotion of the programme.