Three stages of Programme approval process
All programmes (whether they be entirely new provision or revalidation of an existing programme) require an initial proposal form to be completed by the proposing programme team. This proposal form must first be approved by the Faculty Senior Management team to ensure that they maintain oversight of all activity within the Faculty; this consideration should include input from meetings of the link Quality and Standards Manager, Associate Dean of Student Experience (ADSE) and Dean of Faculty/ Director of Institute.
Faculty/Institutes have the authority to propose new programmes of study to add to the University's portfolio where they have identified a market requirement, or wish to respond to strategic aims articulated in the Faculty or University Corporate Plans.
The proposal form should be completed with the relevant programme level information to enable Faculty Senior Management to ascertain whether the programme development aligns with Faculty level objectives and strategic priorities. Once the Faculty Senior Management have approved the proposal for development, it should be sent to all relevant stakeholders, as identified on the form and in sufficient time, for their comments and approval. Once all signatures have been obtained, the proposal form can be submitted to F/IADC for consideration and approval.
Please note: incomplete forms or those missing signatures should not be considered by F/IADCs. All completed proposals should be submitted and approved by July 2022 for September 2023 commencement.
F/IADC will discuss the proposal form and make the decision to approve the proposal to proceed for a panel event. Please complete the Initial Proposal form if (a) a new programme or (b) a new pathway or award which is based partly or wholly on existing validated modules or (c) the revalidation of existing programmes. Please refer to the guidance to complete the initial Proposal form.
Please complete one of the following costings templates to accompany the proposal submission to FADC. The costings should be completed in liaison with your Faculty's link Finance representative.
Useful Resources: JACS3-to-HECoS-mapping
Programme Development Stage
Institutional approval of a proposal for development leads to the programme development stage, which is led by the Programme Development Team (PDT). The PDT will be a structured group who will meet at regular stages (either virtually or in person) throughout the development phase. This part of the approval process is deliberately designed to take advantage of the range of expertise and knowledge held within the University, whilst also engaging with the principles for externality and student engagement. Programme proposers are required to engage with a comprehensive range of external reference points such as subject benchmark requirements, characteristics statements, professional competencies, academic peers, employers and professional bodies, as appropriate. This ensures that the programme proposal takes advantage of all opportunities for enhancement and sector engagement during this key development phase. Student engagement in the approval process is obtained through the use of feedback groups with current cohorts, where possible.
Requiring a range of colleagues to input into the design of the programme ensures a better understanding of good practice and expectations across the University, as well as providing a level of academic support for the lead proposer, who previously may have been the only person designing and writing a full set of validation documentation. The inclusion of a range of professional services at the development stage will help secure timely resolution to post-approval issues related to programme set-up, and ensures that all stakeholders in the approval process are aware of the planned portfolio for the next academic year.
The documentation coming out of the programme development stage will include:
(N.B. if the proposal is part of collaborative provision arrangements, there will be additional documentation requirements. Further information on these is provided in the Collaborative Provision section of the Quality Assurance and Enhancement Handbook.
Programme Development Team (PDT) Membership
The PDT will be constituted from the following key stakeholders in any Faculty/Institute's programme development:
- Lead academic programme proposer (this will normally be the current or proposed Programme Director)
- Other members of academic staff who will be contributing to the curriculum development
- Associate Dean Student Experience- PDT Chair
- Link Quality and Standards Manager (see contact details below)
- Learning and Development Lecturer
- Ethics Committee School representative
- Representatives from the partner institution (if the proposal forms part of a collaborative provision arrangement)
- Moderator (if the proposal forms part of a collaborative provision arrangement)
- Representatives from the following professional services (please invite additional services to those listed, as deemed appropriate to the specific proposal):
- Library and Learning Technology
- IT (programme and data support)
- Widening Participation
- Legal Services (if the proposal is part of collaborative provision, Legal Services should be part of the development team as early as possible so that they may prepare a draft contract)
It is not anticipated that every person listed above need attend every meeting (although the academic staff, ADSE and link Quality and Standards Manager should be considered key members), but they should be kept in the loop via email regarding progress and be invited to any meetings which may contain detail of specific relevance to them.
Student engagement is an essential part of any programme design and PDTs should ensure that student views are adequately represented during the development stage. The inclusion of student consultation during programme design is one of the methods the University employs to secure assurances student engagement as part of its quality processes and practices (see Student Engagement of the UK Quality Code).
For a revalidation, PDTs should consult with students on the existing programme to receive feedback on proposed changes to the curriculum and programme content. This consultation may be via small focus groups or discussion with student reps at Programme Boards; student views will also have been received through formal feedback mechanisms such as module surveys and the NSS as well as via informal routes.
Student consultation should also occur, where possible, prior to the introduction of new provision. This may take the form of discussions with students on cognate programmes, or students who are enrolled on a programme of study which may become a feeder route into the new provision.
It is sound academic practice to draw on as wide a range of external reviewers during the development stage as is appropriate, and colleagues should be encouraged to make full use of relationships with, for example: external examiners in cognate areas, partnerships achieved through personal and professional networking, employer/industry advisory boards, representatives from professional accrediting bodies (where relevant), academic subject associations and the Higher Education Academy. This list is not exhaustive and should only be taken as an indicative guide regarding the variety of external engagement which may be applicable.
Submission to F/IADC
Once the documentation has been prepared by the PDT and they are satisfied that the paperwork is of the highest standard they can produce, it should be submitted to the F/IADC Committee for scrutiny. This part of the process is vital in ensuring that the Faculties retain ownership of their own portfolio submissions and remain accountable for the academic quality and standards of programme documentation produced by their programme teams.
The F/IADCs have designated responsibility from the University ADC to either approve a programme to proceed to the approval stage, or reject it and request revisions. Rejection of a submission must be based on significant concerns regarding the coherence or viability of a programme, or concern based around the integrity of the student experience or security of the University's academic standards. It is not expected that a submission will be rejected for minor issues, such as typographical or grammatical errors (although such items should be noted and the paperwork tidied up prior to the approval event).
Once the Faculty/ Institute Development Committee has indicated approval of the documentation, it should be submitted to the Quality and Standards Office no later than four weeks prior to the date of the approval event. This is to ensure that it can be circulated to Panel members in a timely manner, and any comments from the Panel obtained in readiness for discussion at the approval event itself.
Approval Event details
The formal Panel approval event is the means by which the institution devolves responsibility for ensuring the security of the academic standards and student experience on all programmes awarded by St Mary's University. The Panel is constituted as follows:
- Chair - senior member of University staff such as a Associate Dean Student Experience, Director of Institute or Head of Department. The Chair should be from a different Faculty / Institute to the proposing team
- Internal Panel member - this can be either a member of staff from the proposing Faculty / Institute, but not from the same discipline area as the proposing team, or from another Faculty / Institute. Ideally, they will have previous experience of being part of an approval Panel
- External adviser – this should be an academic subject expert from outside the institution. If the proposal has a large vocational element (for example, foundation degrees), a second external adviser should be obtained who is able to provide industry relevant expertise - External Advisor Nomination Form
- Student Advisor – this will normally be a student programme representative, taken from a discipline area which is not the same as the proposing team (although the student may be from the same Faculty / Institute)
- If the proposal is accredited by a professional, statutory or regulatory body (PSRB), a member of the PSRB may need to be present on the Panel. Advice should be sought from the link Quality & Standards Manager
- Panel Officer and Secretary – this will normally be the link Quality & Standards Manager
The proposing team should consist of the Programme Lead and any supporting delivery staff. At least one member of the Faculty / Institute management team should be available for the section of the event which focuses on Faculty / Institute management issues (rather than programme delivery and curriculum content).
The Panel should aim to challenge the proposing team, but ensure that discussions are carried out in a collegiate and supportive manner. The purpose of the event is to ensure that the proposing team are confident in their programme delivery structure and to assure the Panel that the quality of the student experience is being maintained.
Approval Event outcomes
Following the approval event, the Panel will decide whether to approve the proposal under consideration (with or without conditions), offer limited approval or to not approve the proposal.
Approval may result in conditions and recommendations being set by the Panel. Conditions are items which the Panel believe pose a threat to the academic standards of the programme, and which must be addressed by the programme team prior to the programme being delivered. Recommendations are items which the Panel believes would enhance the quality of the student experience on the programme; the programme team must provide responses to any recommendations set, but they may be addressed through discussion within the next annual monitoring report as part of the updates to the Programme Enhancement Plan.
If the proposal is not approved, the proposing team will be informed as to the reasons why. Non-approval of a proposal must be based on significant concerns regarding the academic standards and quality of the programme under question which the Panel believes could not be redeemed in time for programme delivery to begin. This outcome is not expected to occur often; the system of programme development and Faculty approval should highlight any significant concerns prior to the approval event.
A Panel may also note a series of commendations for a programme; these should be issues which the Panel felt were particularly well considered during the development of the programme (for example, a close integration of the academic requirements of the programme with the professional requirements of employers and industry) which have been evident in the paperwork or have arisen through discussions with the programme team at the approval event itself.
A deadline for responding to any conditions and recommendations will be agreed between the Panel and proposing team at the time of the event (this deadline should be no longer than two months from the date of the event). Details of the conditions and recommendations will be circulated to the proposing team as soon as possible following the event, to allow for work to begin. A fuller report of the event, detailing the relevant discussions will then be written up by the Panel Officer and circulated to the proposing team, following its approval by the Panel. The proposing team must ensure that the programme paperwork is revised appropriately and resubmitted to the link Quality & Standards Manager by the agreed deadline.
The resubmitted paperwork will be agreed and signed off by the Chair of the Panel (following initial scrutiny by the link Quality & Standards Manager) and the Associate Dean Student Experience, if the team are deemed to have met the conditions. The full report and details of the team's responses will be reported to the Academic Development Committee (ADC), who will notify Academic Board of approval of the programme. Correspondence will be circulated by the link Quality & Standards Manager following ADC approval to inform relevant parties that the programme can be considered as approved. This email will be sent to members of the academic proposing team, members of the Faculty / Institute enior management team, representatives from IT, Application Services, Marketing, Admissions, Library and Learning Resources, Timetabling, SITS and Registry to enable programme set-up.
Further advice and guidance
For any type of validation and revalidation information, you are encouraged to seek advice and guidance in the first instance from the Quality and Standards Office email@example.com
Faculties, Institutes, Collaborative and Academic Partnership programmes have a dedicated Quality and Standards Manager who are able to provide support and assistance on any aspect of the programmes approval process.