Programme Approval Committee (PAC)

What does the Programme Approval Committee do?

The Programme Approval Committee is the Committee charged by the Learning, Teaching & Quality Committee (on behalf of Senate) to review and approve all new programme proposals, changes to existing programmes and new or revised cross-institutional modules.

Once the Programme Approval Committee approves a programme, the Learning, Teaching & Quality Committee will ratify the programme approval, and report all approvals to the University’s senate.

Due to the level or scrutiny required, The Programme Approval Committee does not normally consider proposals executively, unless there is a clear rationale and at the discretion of the Chair, Deputy Chairs and Academic Quality Services.


When Would a Programme Need to be Reviewed by a Programme Approval Committee?

All new and amended programmes need to be reviewed by the Programme Approval Committee (where the amendments meet the minimum criteria).

In addition, any programme suspended for more than two years will also need to be reviewed by the committee prior to being re-activated, to ensure that they remain current and meet the requirements of the QAA and the University.


Who are the Members of the Programme Approval Committee?

The Programme Approval Committee is led by a Chair along with several deputies (currently four), and comprises a range of experienced and trained academic and Professional Services staff from across the University, with representatives from every College/School. In addition, there are specific experts in professional and work-based learning programmes, collaborative programmes and postgraduate research programmes.

Students are full members of the Committee, and are drawn from appropriate and trained College/School and Subject Representatives and/or from the Student Review Community. Where necessary, External Subject Specialists, Employers or other relevant external stakeholders are invited to engage with and/or join the committee on a temporary basis, depending on the proposal under consideration. The committee is supported by Academic Quality Services.


What is the Role of Students at PAC?

Students are key stakeholders in the development and approval of new programmes, and therefore are full members of the committee and are provided with training in the review and approval of programmes to ensure equity. Student representatives are particularly tasked to review the learning, teaching and assessment, student support and student experience aspects of proposals, but are expected to undertake the same scrutiny as the other members of the committee.


What will the Programme Approval Committee Review?

The Programme Approval Committee will review in detail the entire programme proposal, including constituent modules (both new and existing), supporting documentation and any additional documentation and reports required, including Due Diligence reports, Site Visit and facilities reports for collaborative proposals, to ensure that the programme will deliver the student experience expected of a Swansea University programme.


How Will my Proposal be Reviewed?

Each programme will be assigned an academic member of the Programme Approval Committee who will act as a Lead. The Lead Reviewer will review the proposal in depth and lead the committee’s questions, under guidance from the Chair. All members of the committee are required to review all programmes, therefore whilst the Lead Reviewer will conduct the most in depth review, all members may ask questions about any aspect of the proposal.


What will the Programme Approval Committee be Looking for?

Members of the Programme Approval Committee will be seeking to ensure that the programme is clearly benchmarked to relevant FHEQ/CQFW levels, and referenced to the QAA Subject Area Benchmarks where appropriate. The committee will look for clear, well defined and effective Programme and Module learning outcomes, a clear curriculum map, an effective and diverse assessment strategy, sufficient expertise and resources to effectively deliver the programme, and that the External Assessor/External Subject Specialist is content with the quality and standard of the academic content.

Where there is more than one subject area, the programme must be well-though out, integrated and coherent, and the content must reflect the title and expected award. Overall, the committee will be looking for a programme which will provide an exceptional student experience and deliver a high-quality learning experience.


How does the Programme Approval Committee Ensure the Student Experience will Meet Required Standards?

The Programme Approval Committee’s key role is to assure the quality of new provision and to the quality of the student experience which would be provided by the new provision. The committee will scrutinise in detail all academic and student-focused elements of the programme, and the committee’s student representative(s) will also focus on the student experience aspects. In particular for collaborative programmes, the committee will pay close attention to how the proposal team aim to ensure a comparable and equitable student experience for all students studying at any location (including overseas and during work placements), and how these students will have access to appropriate facilities, resources and support.


What happens at a Programme Approval Committee Meeting?

The Programme Proposer/Proposing Team will be invited to attend the Programme Approval Committee meeting at which their proposal will be reviewed. During the meeting, the Programme Proposer will be asked to provide a brief overview of the proposal, and then answer any questions raised by the committee on areas they feel further information or clarity is required, led by the Lead Reviewer. Once the committee has completed its questions, the Proposing Team will be asked to leave the room, whilst the committee discuss the outcome. The Proposing Team will then be invited to return to discuss any further issues identified, and receive the committee’s decision and feedback.


What is the role of the Programme Proposer/Proposing Team at PAC?

The Programme Proposer/Proposing Team will be invited to attend the Programme Approval Committee meeting at which their proposal is being reviewed by Academic Quality Services, and will be allocated a specific timeslot (please note that sometimes discussions on previous proposals may run over). The Proposing Team will be required to answer any questions about any aspects of the proposal which relate to the academic quality, content or student experience.


Who Should be Part of the Proposing Team?

The Proposing Team should normally include the Programme Director, staff members from the specific area of the programme proposal, if work placements/year abroad options are included in the proposal, the relevant member of staff for that area, along with a Professional Services colleague related to the department.  


What are the Outcomes of the Programme Approval Process?

Once the Programme Approval Committee have reviewed the proposal in detail and reached a conclusion, they will make a decision as to whether or not the programme should be approved. The outcomes of the Programme Approval process are outlined below:

Approved

Where the programme meets all of the expectations of the committee, or where any amendments are minor, the committee will approve the programme without conditions. The committee may still make recommendations for further enhancement.

Approved with Conditions

Where the programme is generally sound and meets most of the expectations of the committee, but requires additional work before the committee is content to approve, then the committee may elect to approve the programme subject to conditions. All conditions must be met and subject to final review by the Programme Approval Committee before the programme can be deemed to be fully approved. The committee may also make recommendations for further enhancement. All conditions must be addressed within one month of the Programme Approval Committee outcome to ensure that the programme launch is not unduly delayed.

Approved with Affirmations

Where the programme is generally sound and meets most of the expectations of the committee, but requires additional work before the committee is content that the programme is fit for delivery, which the committee is confident that the Proposing Team is able to complete before delivery commences, then the committee may elect to approve the programme subject to completion of affirmations.

All affirmations must be addressed and subject to final review by the Programme Approval Committee before the programme can be delivered to students, but the programme is deemed to be fully approved. The committee may also make recommendations for further enhancement.

Affirmations should normally be addressed (but not necessarily completed) within one month of the Programme Approval Committee meeting at which the approval decision is confirmed, but the committee may permit a longer timeframe depending on the nature of the affirmations (e.g. for planned building work or recruitment).

Not Approved: Referred to College/School

If a programme does not meet the required standards (which should be very rare due to the engagement approach taken by Academic Quality Services and initial scrutiny), then the committee will refer it back to the proposing College/School with a range of recommendations with enhancement. Depending on when this happens during the academic year, the committee may also decide that the programme may not run and the launch must be delayed, which will obviously impact on recruitment plans and should be avoided wherever possible.

Should any proposal be referred, Academic Quality Services will provide additional support to the Proposing Team to enhance the proposal.


What do I do if the Programme Approval Committee Approves the Programme Subject to Conditions?

If there are conditions attached to the approval of your programme, these must be addressed in full and approved by the Programme Approval Committee before the programme can be considered approved and therefore delivered to students. Where conditions are set, they will be defined within the Programme Approval and Management System or via a Outcomes Response Form (as appropriate), and full and evidenced responses will be required, which may require further enhancements to the proposal documentation. Conditions must normally be met within one month of the committee meeting.

A programme with conditional approval cannot be marketed and formally recruit students until the conditions are addressed and approved by the Programme Approval Committee.

Please note: fulfilment of conditions is a requirement for approval.


What do I do if the Programme Approval Committee Approves the Pprogramme Subject to Affirmations?

If there are affirmations attached to the approval of your programme, these must be addressed in full and approved by the Programme Approval Committee before the programme can be delivered to students. Where affirmations are set, they will be defined within the Programme Approval and Management System or via a Outcomes Response Form (as appropriate), and full and evidenced responses will be required, which may require further enhancements to the proposal documentation.

Affirmations do not affect the approval of the programme, but unless met the committee may withdraw approval at any point to safeguard the student experience, which may result in reputational and financial damage to the University.

Please note: fulfilment of affirmations is a requirement for delivery.


What is the Timeframe for Completing Conditions/Affirmations set by the Programme Approval Committee?
The Outcomes Response Form should be completed at returned to the Committee Secretary within one month of the Programme Approval Committee meeting at which conditional approval was granted, or the time-frame for completion noted on the Outcomes Response Form. Any resulting amendments to the programme specification or associated documents must also be made within the timeframe via the online Programme Approval and Management system.

What do I do if the Programme Approval Committee Makes Recommendations for Enhancement?

If the Programme Approval Committee makes any recommendations for enhancement for your programme, these must be considered and responded to (not necessarily implemented), and your response approved by the Programme Approval Committee. Recommendations will be defined within the Programme Approval and Management System or via a Outcomes Response Form (as appropriate), which may require further enhancements to the proposal documentation.

Recommendations should be addressed (but not necessarily actioned) within one month of the Programme Approval Committee meeting at which the programme is approved.


What do I do if the Programme Approval Committee Does Not Approve my Programme?

This is highly unusual and very rarely occurs, as Academic Quality Services and the Colleges/Schools work closely with Programme Development teams to ensure that a new programme proposals has the best chance of success. However, it can still be the case that the proposal is not good enough to convince the Programme Approval Committee that the programme will be able to deliver the level of student experience required.

If your programme is not approved, in the first instance contact Academic Quality Services at academicprogrammes@swansea.ac.uk and the team will assess any weaknesses in the programme and support you to enhance the programme. Once addressed, the proposal can be resubmitted for reconsideration by the Committee through the Programme Approval and Management System. 


What are the Likely Causes of Failure to Secure Programme Approval?

Whilst it is rare, it has happened on occasions that programme proposals do not meet the required standards and quality to be approved at the first attempt. The Programme Approval Committee must be assured that the programme as evidenced in the proposal documentation can deliver the quality, standards and level of student experience expected.

The primary causes of failure of programme approval are as follows:

  • Incomplete or inadequate documentation
  • Rushed documentation and/or documentation submitted late
  • Failure to evidence key elements of student experience
  • Lack of engagement with the process or relevant expertise during development
  • High risk and/or poorly considered proposals
  • Lack of resources or over-reliance on individual members of staff
  • Lack of contingency planning for when things go wrong

What Happens After the Programme Approval Committee Approves a Programme?

Once the Programme Approval Committee have recommended a programme for approval (and any conditions have been met), the Academic Quality Services team will undertake the following actions to ensure the programme is fully approved by the relevant teams (in brackets):

  • Complete the appropriate sign off stages on the Programme Approval and Management System (Academic Quality Services).
  • Notify Professional Services Departments to ensure they are aware of the new programme (Academic Quality Services).
  • Ensure that relevant Programme and UCAS codes have been established, and the programmes are listed in the Programme Catalogue (Admissions and Academic Records and Systems).
  • Ensure that full course pages are established and UCAS codes generated (where necessary) (Marketing, Recruitment and International).
  • Ensure that the new programme is included in the KIS return (where relevant) (Academic Records and Systems).
  • Establish the Quality Review Process (Academic Quality Services).

In addition, the Programme Director will be required to undertake a range of actions to ensure the programme is appropriately promoted, the learning infrastructure is established and the programme recruits students.


How and When are Programme/UCAS Codes Allocated?

Following approval by the Programme Approval Committee, all programmes will be allocated a University programme and route code and will, and where necessary a UCAS code. This process is managed by Academic Services and Admissions, and should not require input from the College/Schools. If you experience any delays or challenges, please contact Academic Quality Services


Guidance for PAC Members

How can I Become a Member of the Programme Approval Committee?

The Programme Approval Committee can co-opt members as required to ensure good practice is shared and to offer staff the opportunity to develop skills in review and approval of programmes. Normally, committee members are nominated by Heads of Colleges/Schools, and membership is reviewed annually to ensure there is a balanced membership across all Colleges/Schools. In addition, some members of the committee are appointed due to the specific nature of their role, such as expertise in quality assurance, work-based learning, collaborative partnerships, postgraduate research or professional programmes.

If you are interested in joining the Programme Approval Committee, please contact Academic Quality Services.


What is my Role as a Programme Approval Committee Member?

As a member of the Programme Approval Committee, you have a key role in assuring the quality and standards of taught and postgraduate research across the institution, and in ensuring students enrolling on new programmes receive an excellent student experience. The key duties are to attend meetings (not all meetings), and undertake reviews on programme proposals and any amendments to existing programmes. Members will be asked to act as Lead Reviewers for specific proposals.


How Much Work will I be Expected to Complete when Reviewing a Programme?

The work of Programme Approval Committee members generally consists of reading through the programme proposals for each meeting you attend, and being prepared to question the Proposing Team to ensure that the committee can assure the quality and standards of the proposal and the academic content. In general, committee meetings are limited to considering three proposals, or proposal groups (where there may be full and part time versions, or different qualification levels within the same subject area) to ensure the proposals can be considered in sufficient depth.

Programme Approval Committee members should also attend training sessions provided by Academic Quality Services to provide them with the tools to review programmes effectively.


What is my Role as Lead Reviewer?

This role ensures that each programme and substantial amendment is scrutinised in depth.

The Lead Reviewer will lead questioning of the Proposing Team during the Programme Approval Committee meeting, as directed by the Chair. The workload is shared amongst committee members according to their expertise and experience and availability across the years.


What is my Role as a Student Member of the Programme Approval Committee?

Students play a key role in the review and approval of new and amended programmes. The students’ role is the same as the other Committee members, to review the new programme proposal to ensure it is fit-for-purpose, meets external and internal standards and will provide an excellent student experience. In particular, student members are tasked with looking at the programme from a student perspective, to ensure that the learning and teaching, support and overall student experience is likely to meet the high standards expected by the University.

To help you, Academic Quality Services has developed this handy guide for students on reviewing and approving programmes. In addition, the Academic Quality Services team will be able to give you general and tailored support and training.


How Many Programme Proposals will PAC Review per Meeting?
To ensure the Programme Approval Committee can give appropriate scrutiny to programme proposals, it will review no more than three new programme proposals per meeting. The committee may assess the risk and load and accept additional proposals where it can assure that the depth and rigour of review will be maintained.

Is there Training Available for PAC Members?
Academic Quality Services provides several training sessions for Programme Approval Committee members to support them in reviewing and assuring the quality of new programmes. For further information, please contact Academic Quality Services.

 

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