New Programme Development

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 here.

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.

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 be rejected.

Suggested factors to be considered at this stage include:

  1. The aims and learning outcomes of the proposed programme and its "fit" with School/Faculty plan for Vision 2020 and education strategy.
  2. The need to take account of relevant sections of the UK Quality Code for Higher Education and relevant subject benchmark statements.
  3. Alignment with the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications.
  4. Its relationship with other programmes and modules in the area.
  5. Resources required (e.g. staff time including teaching input from other areas, library books, ICT, equipment and consumables).
  6. 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?
  7. Does the programme respond to the needs of society as prioritised in Vision 2020?
  8. 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 programme checklist should be completed as part of the programme team's discussion with ISS.

If the School and Faculty provisionally agrees the outline proposal, one individual should take responsibility for developing a more detailed proposal and for completing the necessary paperwork.

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 Courses and Regulations Group can it be marketed and published in the prospectuses, CourseFinder and the Direct Admissions Portal.

Documentation that is required by the Faculty will include: 

  1. The Approval to Proceed Form which will comprise of a brief rationale for the new programme, and a clear explanation of how the new programme meets Vision 2020.
  2. A Business Plan, developed in collaboration with the Faculty Finance Business Partner.
  3. Marketing intelligence, developed in collaboration with the Faculty Business Development Officer.

When Approval to Proceed is granted 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 move 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 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 (e.g. Part A: Setting and Maintaining Academic Standards: and Part B: Assuring and Enhancing Academic Quality: Chapter B1: Programme Design and Approval: Chapter B6 Assessment of Students and the Recognition of Prior Learning and Chapter B8 Programme Monitoring and Review).  Consideration must also be given to B3: Learning and Teaching in particular ‘Equality of opportunity involves enabling access for people who have differing individual requirements as well as eliminating arbitrary and unnecessary barriers to learning.’

The Panel

The programme evaluation panel will comprise:

  1. The Head of School (or nominee) as chair; for cross Faculty programmes it may be appropriate to have the relevant Faculty Dean in attendance.
  2. An academic representative from the University Education Committee (EC), the Courses and Regulations Group (CRG), the Collaborative Provision Group (CPG) or, the Research and Postgraduate Committee for Doctorate research degree programmes.
  3. An adviser from outside the University, nominated by the School.  (Please note that External Examiners can be consulted for their advice on the new programme but may not sit on the panel. If you are bringing someone from outside the UK/EU please contact Human Resources for advice on immigration compliance issues).
  4. A member of academic staff from the School who is not involved in the design and delivery of the programme.
  5. A student representative from the School Student Consultative Committee (SSCC).

A representative from Academic Affairs will attend the PEM in an advisory capacity. 

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 will be available from the Secretary of the CRG (contact academic-affairs@qub.ac.uk).

Issues to Be Considered

The PEM will consider:

  1. The definition and appropriateness of standards in accordance with the level and title of the award, and consistent with the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications, subject benchmark statements and QAA Degree Characteristics.
  2. The design principles underpinning the programme being considered.
  3. Its relationship with other programmes and modules in the area.
  4. The skills and learning outcomes students will acquire.
  5. The currency of teaching, learning and assessment methods.
  6. The contents of the programme specification
  7. Student support arrangements: e.g. inclusiveness, international student visa requirements.
  8. Anticipated demand and the resources needed to support the programme.
  9. How the programme fits in with the University’s Education Strategy.
  10. The School and Faculty marketing strategy.

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.

Documentation

The minimum documentation required for a PEM is as follows:

  1. Rationale for the programme (i.e. as prepared for the‌ Approval to Proceed Form ‌and updated as necessary).
  2. Business Plan (i.e. as prepared for the approval in principle stage and updated as necessary).
  3. Market Intelligence Report (i.e as prepared for the approval to proceed stage).
  4. Programme Specification Template (incorporating the programme regulations).
  5. Module Descriptions‌.

In addition, for programmes which are to be delivered through flexible or distributed learning (FDL) (e.g., distance learning or e-learning) the written submission should include:

  1. The educational and pedagogic‌al rationale for delivery by FDL methods.
  2. The technical arrangements to assure the quality of the delivery method.
  3. The range of resources to be used with perceptible information.
  4. The technical and academic support methodology for the course.
  5. The quality assurance process to be implemented before course delivery.           
  6. Evaluation of the quality of the design of learning materials (including pace of learning and presentation of material).
  7. Facilities for supporting interaction between students.
  8. Evaluation of systems of communication (including methods of obtaining student feedback).
  9. Results of any piloting of learning and assessment materials.
  10. Evaluation of the assessment methods (including notification of results to students.
  11. 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 PEM Agenda Template must be circulated to the panel at least one week in advance of the PEM.

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 chairperson.  The final report, when confirmed by the chairperson, should be circulated as soon as possible to:

  1. The members of the panel, including the internal and external assessors.
  2. The programme development co-ordinator.
  3. The Head of School.
  4. The appropriate Faculty Dean.

If the programme development team have difficulty in meeting the conditions specified by the evaluation panel, they should report this to the CRG, giving reasons, within five working days of receiving the PEM report.  Otherwise, the programme development team should submit to the CRG, within 10 working days of receipt of the report (or a date approved by the CRG):

  1. The PEM report.
  2. A final version of the programme specification or other documentation incorporating such amendments as are required to meet the PEM’s conditions.
  3. 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 the CRG who will report, via the CRG Secretary, recommendations/comments that require a School response.  Incomplete documentation will not be presented to CRG, but referred back to the School/Faculty.

The evaluation and approval process is concluded when the CRG 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

The Secretary to the CRG will inform all relevant administration areas once formal CRG approval has been secured, and this will be reported to Education Committee.  Final academic approval of professional doctorate research degree programmes is given by the Research and Postgraduate Committee on recommendation from the CRG. 

Details of the new programme will be circulated by the CRG Secretary to the relevant administration areas which include:

  1. The School Programme Team;
  2. 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;
  3. MRCI including the Admissions Office;
  4. Student Services and Systems.

Schools should then liaise with the Faculty Marketing Hub staff regarding promotion of the programme.