Programme Approval Process


Approval Phase: Approving a New Programme of Study

Once you have completed the development of the full proposal for your new programme through the online Programme Approval and Management System, and have submitted the proposal for initial scrutiny by Academic Quality Services, it will then be reviewed by the Programme Approval Committee. All new and amended programmes must be fully approved by the Programme Approval Committee and ratified by the Learning, Teaching & Quality Committee on behalf of senate, in order to be launched for students.

Programme approval is the term applied to the process required by the University and the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) to ensure that any programmes of study provided to students has been rigorously reviewed by the University, with relevant external input from academics, employers and students to ensure the new programme meets the required internal and external standards, and will be fit-for-purpose.


What is ‘Programme Approval and Why are New Programmes Approved ’?

Programme approval is the term applied to the process required by the University and the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) to ensure that any programmes of study provided to students has been rigorously reviewed by the University, to ensure the new programme meets the required internal and external standards, and will be fit-for-purpose.

All new programmes at all levels, including taught, research and collaborative programmes, which are proposed for delivery to students must be reviewed and approved by the University before delivery, with appropriate engagement with students, employers and external input from subject specialists. This enables the University to assure the quality of new programmes against relevant external benchmarks and to assure that the programme will deliver the excellent student experience that it expects from every programme delivered.


How are New Programmes Approved?

All new programmes follow a review and approval process which ensures that they are fit-for-purpose and meet the standards set by the University and external agencies (including accrediting or professional bodies, and will deliver an excellent student experience. All new proposals are subject to initial scrutiny by Academic Quality Services upon submission. The purpose of this scrutiny is to judge whether the proposals are of the appropriate standard to proceed to the approval stage by the Programme Approval Committee.

New programmes are then reviewed in detail by the Programme Approval Committee. If successful, the Committee will approve the programme, which will then be ratified by the Learning, Teaching & Quality Committee on behalf of Senate.

The Committee may set conditions or affirmations on any approval, which will need to be addressed by the Proposing Team.

Programmes which either do not pass initial scrutiny or are not approved by the Programme Approval Committee will be referred back to the proposing College/School with recommendations for enhancement.

There are three methods of approval available to the Programme Approval Committee, to provide a proportionate and risk-informed approach to the approval process, balancing efficiency with rigour:

Standard Programme Approval (Committee only)

If the Committee decides that the proposal represents minimal risk and meets the relevant criteria, then Standard Programme Approval applies. Wherever possible, and enabled by thorough initial scrutiny, the Committee will review the proposal and make recommendation for approval at the same meeting.

Enhanced Programme Approval (Committee with External Subject Specialist & Employer Reports)

If the Committee decides that the proposal represents a higher degree of risk, or has specific professional requirements, and meets the relevant criteria, the Programme Approval Committee may elect to follow the Enhanced Programme Approval process. The proposal will follow the Standard Programme Approval process, but the Committee will commission additional reports, one from an independent External Subject Specialist and one from an Employer.

The Proposing Team must complete the External Subject Specialist Nomination Form, and one External Subject Specialist will be selected to provide a report by the Chair of the Programme Approval Committee.

Full Programme Approval (Committee with External Subject Specialist/Employer attendance)

Where programmes are innovative, in a completely new subject area, collaborative or represent a potentially high risk for the University, the Committee will undertake a Full Programme Approval. The External Subject Specialist and any Employers will be invited to join the Committee meeting (either physically or virtually) to probe the proposal rigorously.

N.B. Accreditation by a Professional, Regulatory or Statutory Body can take place at the same time as the approval meeting with prior agreement with all parties (although is discouraged), but must not take place prior to the programme approval process.

Who decides which approval method should be used?

The level of risk represented by a programme is assessed by Academic Quality Services when the proposal is in development, and this is built into the Programme Delivery Plan. An approval method is then assigned to the programme. In complex cases, the Chair of Programme Approval Committee will decide on the method of approval. In general, where cases are borderline, the Committee will select the approval method which best mitigates risk.


Who Decides Which Approval Method should be Used?

The level of risk represented by a programme is assessed by Academic Quality Services when the proposal is in development, and this is built into the Programme Delivery Plan. An approval method is then assigned to the programme. In complex cases, the Chair of Programme Approval Committee will decide on the method of approval. In general, where cases are borderline, the Committee will select the approval method which best mitigates risk.


Are there Different Approval Processes for Different Programmes Types?

Programme ‘types’ are defined as follows: taught undergraduate (including Foundation Degrees/Degree Apprenticeships), taught postgraduate, postgraduate research programmes and collaborative programmes (taught or research).

The process for each programme type is broadly the same, but there are some differences which reflect the special characteristics of each programme type. At present, all standard undergraduate and taught postgraduate programmes will be submitted through the online Programme Approval and Management system.

Postgraduate Research programmes are currently submitted through the New Research Programme Proposal Form.

Collaborative Programmes will follow either the Taught or Postgraduate Research process, but will required additional information as defined in the Code of Practice for Collaborative Partnerships.


How are New Postgraduate Research Programmes Approved?

Review and approval of postgraduate research programmes will generally follow the same processes as for all other programmes, but will focus more on the research culture and environment, supervision, facilities and resources, and for research programmes with a taught element, the teaching-research nexus. The Programme Approval Committee will ensure that members are sufficiently experienced in the operation of Postgraduate Research programmes to ensure the approval process focuses on the key issues.


How are Collaborative Programmes Approved?

All proposals for new collaborative programmes are reviewed and approved in a similar way to the processes outlined for taught and postgraduate research programmes, but have a number of additional stages to ensure the additional risks such as off-site delivery are taken into consideration. Along with the programme proposal, which should be produced through the Programme Approval and Management system, all collaborative programme proposals will need to include a range of due diligence activities on the partner institution(s), and also be reviewed and approved by the Collaborative Partnership Board, as well as the Programme Approval Committee. Normally these both groups are unified when considering new Collaborative Programme proposals to ensure the process is streamlined without risking reducing the level of scrutiny.

Please see the Code of Practice for Collaborative Partnerships for full information and Guidance.


 

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