Modifying an Existing Programme

Introduction

  • In line with UoB's risk-based approach to programme development, the greater the change to a programme, the greater the level of approval that is required, from creating a new version of the programme (exceptional modification, requiring University approval), to changing compulsory modules (major modification, requiring College approval), or changing the programme lead (no approval). 
  • The University has a responsibility to deliver to students what has been promised, particularly regarding core content: programmes should not materially change once students have accepted an offer (unless there is a clear rationale). 
  • Changes made for sound pedagogic reasons will always be considered.
  • The College Marketing and Communications team should always be consulted for modifications that may change how the programme is marketed and/or what is being offered to students. If there are changes that may impact fees and targets, ensure the Planning Partner and College Accountant are consulted.
  • The programme modification form must be submitted with a programme specification with the changes marked in tracked changes so those approving can clearly see what is being changed and the Curriculum Management Team know what to change in the Banner records system.
  • If the only change that is being made to the programme is the addition of a placement (e.g. a year or semester abroad), the placement proposal form should be submitted in place of the programme modification form (see below).
  • There is additional guidance on making changes to modules/the module portfolio, including on consultation with students, on the Module Development page

Please be aware that this page should be used as a guide only; there may be programme-specific components that will affect the classification of the proposed modification. Please contact your College Academic Policy Partner (CAPP) at the earliest opportunity to discuss the proposed modification for further advice and assistance.  

Guide to the Process and Approval 

Exceptional Modifications (University level approval)

This type of modification can be used to create a 'clone' of an existing programme, which may require an Approval in Principle form (see the proposing a new programme page) and/or the completion of the Appendix (see below).

Exceptional modifications include the following:

1a. Modifications that result in the programme being materially different to the original programme, e.g. the creation of an exclusively Distance Learning version of an existing programme or the creation of an Apprenticeship or Transnational Education version of an existing programme (using the programme modification form).

1b. Addition or withdrawal of a placement to an existing programme, such as a year abroad, or industrial placement (using the placement proposal form), or the creation of a new intercalated year for use across various programmes.

1c. Addition of research descriptor title to a postgraduate research programme (using the programme modification form).

1d. Any modification affecting or resulting from a change to the accreditation status of the programme (i.e. if accreditation by a professional, statutory or regulatory body (PSRB) is gained or lost).

1e. Modifications for which there is no accepted practice or relevant University Regulation, Code of Practice, or Guidance.

1f. Unavoidable in-session changes, to modules or to programmes. More guidance on what can reasonably be classed as ‘unavoidable’ is provided in the Policy on Consultation with Students (PDF - 123KB) and its associated guidance (PDF - 122KB). Note that any changes made in-session (i.e. in the current academic year) are classed as exceptional, even if the change itself is minor.

1g. Changing the majors (for Joint or Integrated programmes) and/or minors (for Specialist or Joint programmes) available on the degree – if these majors/minors primarily consist of new modules (completing the Appendix of the programme modification form in all cases).

1h. Creating a new major (for Joint/Integrated programmes) and/or minor (for Specialist/Joint programmes) for a range of degrees – if these majors/minors primarily consist of new modules (completing the Appendix of the programme modification form in all cases).

Major Modifications (College level approval)

Major modifications refer to changes that are significant and may have implications across a number of areas, such as students' learning experience, completion rates, or satisfaction; internal resourcing; planning, etc. Some major modifications will result in the creation of a new programme code. Major modifications include the following:

2a. Withdrawal or introduction of compulsory modules, or other significant modification to the portfolio of compulsory modules available on the programme, including modification to assessments of compulsory modules if the modifications result in a significant change to the overall balance of methods of assessment on the programme.

2b. Introduction of elements of a new delivery mode, for example elements of Distance Learning or adding a flexible or part-time route.

2c. Any modification that might lead to a significant increase in the resource required to deliver a programme and/or the cost to students, for example introduction of a lab-based element or field trip.

2d. Significant modification to the programme title.

2e. Any modification that intends to, or may result in, an increase in the number of students registered on the programme (including making an alternative qualification directly admissible).

2f. Modification of the award, providing the new award is within the same Level in the Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications of UK Degree-Awarding Bodies as the original award, whether directly admissible or not.

2g. Creation of an integrated master’s version of an existing bachelor’s programme, whether directly admissible or not.

2h. Creation of pathways within existing programmes and/or introducing a specialism at PGT level.

2i. Addition of an intercalated year (e.g. Year in Computer Science, Year in International Business).

2j. Changing majors (for Joint or Integrated programmes) and/or minors (for Specialist or Joint programmes) available on the degree – if these majors/minors primarily consist of existing modules (completing the Appendix of the programme modification form if it is going to be directly admissible, i.e. part of an entry programme, but not otherwise).

2k. Creating a new major (for Joint or Integrated programmes) and/or a new minor (for Specialist or Joint programmes) for a range of degrees – if these majors/minors primarily consist of existing modules (completing the Appendix of the programme modification form if it is going to be directly admissible, i.e. part of an entry programme, but not otherwise).

2l. Creating a Flexible version of an existing Classic PGT programme or converting a Classic PGT programme to a Flexible programme. 

Minor Modifications (School level approval minimum)

Minor modifications refer to small changes that do not alter the fundamental character of the programme. Minor modifications should have minimal or no impact on students; in many cases current students will not be aware that any change has been made. 

The following would normally be considered minor modifications:

3a. Minor modification to the programme outcomes/aims/rationale in line with progress in the field and/or to better articulate the Birmingham Graduate Attributes.

3b. Addition or removal of optional modules to the portfolio of optional modules available to students. Removal of an optional module can be considered to be a minor change as long as the potential for its removal has been explicitly stated to students when making their decision to accept an offer of study at the institution.

A programme modification is not always required for introducing optional modules, as the programmes to which the new module will be added will be listed on the module specification form (ensure you include any information about the module's grouping, e.g. if the module is part of a particular subject theme or list/basket of optional modules). This will provide the Curriculum Management Team with all the information they need to add the modules to the relevant programmes without requiring a programme specification.

Similarly, a module withdrawal form can be used to remove an optional module from multiple programmes, without requiring a programme modification or revised programme specifications. 

For large-scale changes to the optional module portfolio, programme specifications are recommended in order to ensure the options are clearly mapped and the semesters are balanced. 

Administrative Changes (No approval required)

Some small, administrative changes do not require formal approval; these changes can be made via an email to the Curriculum Management Team. 

  • To confirm the category for a programme – where no other changes are being made to the programme
  • To amend the programme lead, School, or College administrative contact only. 
  • To change the semester in which a module is delivered.
  • Amendments to the programme specification to clarify existing practice rather than to make a change (e.g. adding information to the specification that is not currently captured on the specification). 

If you have any questions regarding whether approval is required for a change, please contact your College Academic Policy Partner. 

Approval Route

For exceptional programme modifications, following approval by CQAAC the Deputy Director of Education and College Academic Policy Partner should determine whether College Board scrutiny is needed. The paperwork will then be referred to the Chair of the University Quality Assurance Committee (UQAC) for verification, via the College Academic Policy Partner.

Table indicating the level of approval required for different modifications
 Approval required by...
Type of Programme ModificationSchool Education Committee (or equivalent)College Quality Assurance and Approvals Committee College BoardUniversity (UQAC and/or Provost/URAT)
Exceptional programme modification Yes Yes Optional Yes - UQAC (shared with Provost if there are resource implications)
Major programme modification Yes Yes (usually by Chair's Action) No No
Minor programme modification  Yes Reported to CQAAC No No
Administrative changes No approval required - changes to be sent directly to CMT

The Appendix to the Programme Modification Form

The Appendix takes key questions from the new programme proposal form, including around the programme's fee, the market, and admissions requirements. 

  • The Appendix should be completed when a new version of a programme is being proposed and should usually be accompanied by a market research report. 
  • Some types of new programme, e.g. new Apprenticeships, require the submission of an Approval in Principle form, which covers key questions regarding the market, in which case no additional market research is necessary. 
  • In some instances, only certain aspects of the Appendix should be completed. For example, the market questions do not need to be completed if an existing programme is being modified and the way it is to be marketed will not change. Questions that may need to be completed include those around the fees and admissions requirements (if these are to be different for the modified programme).
  • The Appendix should not be completed for major and minor modifications that do not impact fees, marketing, admissions requirements etc., e.g. changing compulsory modules.
  • The Appendix should also not be completed in instances where new programmes that are not open for admission are created, such as programmes with an intercalated year, e.g. year abroad or year in Computer Science.

The Placement Proposal Form

If the only change that is being made to the programme is the addition of a placement (e.g. a year/semester abroad or work placement), the placement proposal form should be submitted instead of the programme modification form. This covers key questions around pastoral support for placement students, the learning agreement, the learning programme, and the assessment.

If the intention is to create a placement version of a programme that is directly admissible (i.e. students will apply directly to the placement programme, rather than transferring to it later in their degree) the programme modification form should be completed, to address questions regarding market, admissions, etc. 

When creating a new placement, the placement proposal form should be accompanied by a module proposal form for the placement itself, i.e. the module on which the students will be registered while undertaking the placement. This would usually be a 120 credit module for a year-long placement and a 60 credit module for a semester. 

If no other changes are being made to the programme, e.g. to its aims or learning outcomes, a revised programme specification may not be required (it should be made clear on the programme proposal form whether the programmes with the placement will have a different title and whether it is available for transfer only).

When considering the addition of a placement to an existing programme of study, to ensure that placement learning opportunities can be offered to international students with visa requirements, Schools should ensure that the following requirements are met:

Work Placements

  • (a) A course that includes a work placement must lead to an approved qualification and the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies must be assigned by a student sponsor (who is not a probationary sponsor) if the course of study is below degree level.
  • (b) A work placement must be assessed as an integral part of the course and must not be longer than one third of the total length of the course, except when there is a statutory requirement that it must be so, or where (c) applies.
  • (c) A work placement on a course that is at degree level or above at a higher education provider with a track record of compliance or at an overseas higher education institution must not be longer than half of the total length of the course. 

Study Abroad:

  • A placement must be an integral and assessed part of the programme and, for degree level programmes, must not be more than 50% of the total length of the programme. 

If adding a placement to a programme, please ensure you refer to the Code of Practice on Placement Learning (PDF - 163KB). For more information on visas, please contact the International Student Team.

 

Frequently Asked Questions 

 General

The modification I want to make isn't included in the list of examples

Please contact your College Academic Policy Partner, who will be able to advise. Considerations when ascertaining the classification of modification include the risk involved, whether additional resource is required, and the similarity in content to the existing programme. 

Do I have to complete a programme modification form when introducing/removing optional modules?

No (see major modification section above) - a new module can be added to multiple programmes via the module proposal process, as the programmes to which the new module will be added will be listed on the module specification form. (Ensure you include any information about the module's grouping, e.g. if the module is part of a particular subject theme or list/basket of optional modules). This will provide the Curriculum Management Team with all the information they need to add the modules to the relevant programmes without requiring a programme specification.

Similarly, a module withdrawal form can be used to remove an optional module from multiple programmes, without requiring a programme modification or revised programme specifications. 

For large-scale changes to the optional module portfolio, programme specifications are recommended in order to ensure the options are clearly mapped and the semesters are balanced. 

Are additional forms required for changing/creating an Apprenticeship or Distance Learning version of a programme?

If the modification will result in a new Distance Learning programme or Apprenticeship then the relevant checklist should be completed, in addition to the relevant Approval in Principle (AiP) form. An AiP is also required if an exceptional modification is being used to create a new Collaborative Provision programme or programme that will run at the Dubai campus (see the page on proposing a new programme for more information). Note that the AiP must be approved before the exceptional programme modification form is submitted.

How do I add an intercalated year to a programme?

To add a pre-existing intercalated year to a programme, e.g. a Year in Computer Science or a Year in International Business (Dubai), please complete the programme modification form only. This should list all the programmes to which the intercalated year is to be added (to avoid a proliferation of programme codes, this is usually only submitted once students have selected the relevant intercalated year). These programmes are generally only available for transfer only (i.e. they are not openly admissible), so the Appendix of the programme modification form should be left blank.

No programme specification form is required as the Curriculum Management Team will already have a record of which modules are available on the intercalated year. 

How do I modify an existing collaborative programme?

Follow the normal programme modification process, ensuring you consult with the Collaborative Provision Office.

 

Programme Changes and the Competition and Markets Authority

How does the Competition and Markets Authority impact programme changes?

Competition and Markets Authority guidance may need to be considered for any modification submitted after students have accepted their offer. In these cases in particular, colleagues are asked to consider whether the proposed change is going to make a difference to something that prospective/current students are expecting to experience and, if it is, to make an appropriate risk-based decision about whether to proceed with the change and whether/how to communicate with prospective/current students. (The Module Development page also contains useful guidance on making changes and consultation required). 

Where can I access more guidance and support regarding the CMA?

The University have put together a short Canvas course where you’ll learn about the University’s obligations under Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) guidance, and how we can make sure that we are providing up-to-date, accurate and timely information to prospective students. If you’d like to complete the course then please contact Lauren Neale, who can add you to the course on Canvas.

To which sources of information about a programme might students have had access?

When consider programme changes and their impact on students, it is useful to take into account what information students have about the programme. Sources of information available to students include: the prospectus, Coursefinder and other marketing materials, the Programme Factsheet, the online Programmes and Modules Handbook, student handbooks produced within the School/Department, module choice information provided to students, etc. Verbal sources of information should also be considered, such as Open Day and Offer-Holder Visit Day talks (some of which are available to students online afterwards) and/or their accompanying slides, which outline details of the programme. 

What is the ‘Programme Factsheet’?

The Programme Factsheet is a PDF document made available alongside offer letters that provides key information about the relevant programme of study and forms part of the University’s contract with offer-holders.

Each Programme Factsheet contains the key summary information specified in CMA guidance including a list of compulsory modules and an indication of the broad allocation of assessment methods across the programme. The full suite of Factsheets is hosted on our website (on the Information for Applicants page).

How important is the Programmes and Modules Handbook as a source of information for prospective/current students?

The Programme Factsheet provides offer-holders with a link to the Programmes and Modules Handbook (PMH), as it contains information that we are required to supply to them, so it should be assumed that some offer-holders will have consulted it.

The PMH includes a clear explanation of what students can expect from it (e.g. it is indicated that changes to compulsory modules will only be made after consultation, where appropriate, with registered students and offer-holders affected by the proposal and that optional modules are subject to change).

It is possible that, having been introduced to it by the Programme Factsheet, students will continue to use the PMH as a source of information once they are here.

Additionally, the PMH reflects what is in Banner (the student record system), which contains the definitive record of all programmes and modules. It is therefore more than just a source of information for students.

When changing a programme, when should I contact Marketing?

Minor programme changes

As minor modifications are largely of an administrative or operational nature, in many cases the changes will not affect prospective students (or relate to information used to promote the programme), so your College Marketing Team do not need to be consulted.  If, however, these changes relate to the addition or removal of optional modules, please advise Marketing once the changes have been approved so that any marketing materials can be updated accordingly; where new modules are introduced this could also provide an opportunity to initiate positive communications with the prospective students as a conversion activity.

Major/exceptional programme changes

Please be aware that your College Marketing Team is not able to publicise programme changes until they have been formally approved, as it is important that the approved version of a programme is promoted at all times. However, it is helpful if you can advise Marketing colleagues when significant changes are in progress so that they plan accordingly – for example, to ensure that updates to print materials are scheduled at appropriate times. 

Some changes may also require you to communicate with prospective students. If you are in a position where you need to communicate with prospective students, you should work with your College Marketing Team to develop the communication (contact your College Marketing Team for further information).

Programme withdrawals

These should be processed in time for Marketing to reflect the withdrawal in the print and online prospectuses. In the case of undergraduate programmes, Admissions will also be able to ensure that the withdrawal is reflected on the UCAS website.

Does CMA guidance apply equally to undergraduate and postgraduate courses?

The CMA has focused on undergraduate programmes, but the University is applying the same principles to postgraduate programmes (although students on postgraduate programmes do not receive a Programme Factsheet).

What is the role of Legal Services when late making changes that impact students?

If it is not considered possible to make a risk-based decision within the College (e.g. because it is a particularly complex or high risk issue) then either your College Academic Policy Partner or College Marketing Team will contact Legal Services on your behalf.

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