Proposing a New Programme

All new programmes require verification by the University before recruitment can begin, via a two-stage programme proposal process. Please see the Guidance section below for deadlines for approval of new programmes.

The ‘Plan to Develop a New Programme’ form establishes the market for the programme and rationale, with other key information. The ‘New Programme Proposal’ form contains further details of the programme and is accompanied by additional documentation, including the programme specification form. For 2019/20 onwards, these two forms have been combined into one document, to avoid duplication and to streamline the process (a two-step process remains).

The sections below outline the different stages of programme development and approval, including who you need to consult and when an additional Approval in Principle form is required. You should also contact your College Academic Policy Partner, who will be able to guide you through the process.

Approval and Forms

Approval in Principle Forms

Completion of an Approval in Principle form is only required for the following types of programmes:

  • All new Degree Apprenticeships, regardless of whether they are created via the new programme proposal route or an exceptional modification (see the Degree Apprenticeship page for further information and to download the relevant form). For Degree Apprenticeships that are being created via the new programme proposal process, the Approval in Principle replaces Part A of the form, so no Plan to Develop a New Programme form is required.
  • All programmes to run at the Dubai campus, including those created via an exceptional modification of an existing programme.
  • A new collaborative programme, for which both Part A and B should be completed but only after the Approval in Principle has been approved (see below for more information on setting up a new collaborative programme).

Approval Routes

The diagram below (also available here) outlines the approval routes for Parts A and B of the programme proposal form (in addition to exceptional programme modifications and programme withdrawals/suspensions/reactivations). 

Further information about each stage of the approval process is contained in the two sections below. 

New Approval Process Diagram - the image outlines the approval route for the PDNP, NPP, exceptional modifications, and programme withdrawals/suspensions/reactivations. All the information is also provided in the two sections below

 

Part A, the Plan to Develop a New Programme (PDNP)

Submission to the School Education Committee

Before College approval, Part A must be approved by the School, by the School Education Committee or equivalent. The role of the committee is to:

  • Consider/approve Part A, ensuring it is accompanied by a full market research report. This is to determine unequivocally whether or not a viable market for the programme exists at the first stage of planning a new programme. The College Marketing and Communications team will undertake this research on behalf of programme proposers. Note that the Part A should also include details of the proposed external adviser (please see the associated guidance on external advisers).
  • Ensure that the Head of School is aware of the proposal before it is submitted for College approval.
  • Consider whether there has been appropriate engagement with internal stakeholders, including the Planning and Finance business partners, who should have been given an opportunity to complete their relevant part of the form. 

Submission to the College Education Committee

As a change for 19/20, Part A (the PDNP) should be approved by the College Education Committee (CEC), rather than the College Quality Assurance and Approval Committee (CQAAC). This is to ensure that the planned development fits with the College’s strategic aims.

CEC should ensure that the College Director of Education is aware of Part A before it is submitted to College Board, as well as that any feedback on Part A is communicated to the department/area proposing the programme, via the Head of Education. 

Submission to College Board

It is the role of College Board to:

  • Consider/approve the PDNP form (and accompanying market research report) in terms of its fit with the College’s strategic aims and priorities. College Board will generally consider the following strategic matters: market, resources, financial implications, size and shape of portfolio, fit with Compact.
  • Communicate the decision to the College Academic Policy Partner.

Part B, the New Programme Proposal (NPP)

Part B of the form, the NPP, must be completed once Part A has been approved by College Board. It should be completed alongside any required documentation (see below) and submitted, along with Part A, to the below committees.

Submission to the School Education Committee

It is the role of the School Education Committee (or equivalent) to: 

  • Consider/approve Part B and associated documentation.
  • Ensure that any new module proposals associated with the the form are in progress as appropriate.
  • Ensure that the Head of School is aware of proposal before it is submitted to the College.
  • Consider whether there has been appropriate engagement with internal stakeholders, including Finance, Planning, Marketing and Recruitment, Library Services, and other colleagues in Academic Services.

Submission to the College Quality Assurance and Approval Committee

The role of College Quality Assurance and Approval Committee (CQAAC) is to:

  • Consider Part A and all its associated documentation, including new module proposals. 
  • Ensure that the College Director of Education is aware of the proposal before it is submitted to College Board. 

Submission to College Board

College Board does not need to scrutinise all of the associated documentation that is submitted alongside Part B. The whole proposal form (Parts A and B) should be submitted to College Board with only the external adviser comments, as these documents will enable a strategic decision to be made. 

College Board's decision should be communicated to the College Academic Policy Partner.

Submission to the University Quality Assurance Committee

Part A and B are subsequently submitted to the University Quality Assurance Committee (UQAC), via the College Academic Policy Partner, for verification by the Chair. This ensures that University-level oversight of the approval process is maintained, while enabling Colleges to make the key decisions regarding its portfolio. 

The College Academic Policy Partner conveys the decision to the relevant colleagues in the College and the paperwork is then submitted to the Curriculum Management Team for action. 

Forms and Documentation to be Submitted Alongside Part B (the NPP)

New programme proposal form (Parts A and B).

All NPP forms must be accompanied by:

It may also be necessary to complete:

  • Documentation relating to the collaboration in the case of a collaborative programme.
  • A Distance Learning checklist in the case of a Distance Learning programme.
  • A placement proposal form if the new programme includes a placement.

All of the forms are available in the Form Bank.

Creating Programmes via Exceptional Modifications

The programme modification form can be downloaded here (DOC - 85KB).

If considered necessary by the College Deputy Director of Education and CAPP, exceptional modifications to existing programmes are approved by the relevant College Board, in order to ensure that the proposed change will fit with the strategic aims of the College.

Exceptional modifications to existing programmes are subsequently verified by the Chair of University Quality Assurance Committee (UQAC).

As with programmes created via the PDNP/NPP process, new programmes created via exceptional modification should include consultation with key stakeholders (see below).

 

Guidance

 

Deadlines for New Programmes

This guidance has been created through consultation with Registry, External Relations, Planning, and the Deputy Pro-Vice Chancellor (Education). The timelines below are best practice rather than strict deadlines, and provide new programmes with the optimum chance of success in terms of meeting student recruitment targets. The guidance outlines the rationale behind these timelines and additional considerations, in order to ensure approval bodies (namely College Boards) are aware of the potential impact of the timing of when programmes are approved, in order to appropriately manage any risks involved.

This advice applies to the submission of new programme proposals and also exceptional programme modifications when the Appendix has been completed. 

New Undergraduate Home Programmes

Advised Deadline for Final Approval: Approx. 20 months before planned delivery of the programme (e.g. December 2020 for September 2022 delivery). Meeting this deadline would allow the programme to be included in the prospectus (signed off in December) and in the market for the beginning of the admissions cycle in February, which is also when UCAS fairs begin. There are also UG Open Days in June. Additionally, from February staff will advertise the programmes in schools/colleges. 

New Postgraduate Taught Home Programmes

Advised Deadline for Final Approval: 13 months before planned delivery of programme (e.g. August 2020 for September 2021).

Meeting this deadline would allow the programme to be included in the PGT prospectus, which is finalised in August, and at the PG Open Days in November and March.

Managing Risk and Additional Recommendations

Admissions data has shown that programmes that do not meet these deadlines are likely to have their recruitment potential in their first year significantly impacted, due to reduced visibility, e.g. if the programme is not included in the prospectus. While it is possible to add programmes to the market after the deadlines, the risks involved in potentially recruiting fewer students must be carefully managed.

The risks are correlated to the resource required to run the proposed programme. There could be a lower risk if the deadlines are not met if there is less resource associated with running the proposed programme, e.g. if it:

  • Has shared modules with other programmes and very few/no bespoke modules.
  • Does not require the recruitment of additional members of academic or non-academic staff.
  • Is intended to recruit small numbers and/or only requires small numbers to be financially viable (in every year or in the first year).
  • Is a Degree Apprenticeship or commissioned programme that has guaranteed (or very likely) applicants. 
  • Is a smaller programme, e.g. a PGCert.

It is strongly recommended that all new programmes have threshold student numbers, by which its success can be measured.

In addition, Colleges should consider:

Consultation

In the development of any new programme(s), engagement with the relevant professional services colleagues (both in the College and beyond) is crucial. 

Part A (the PDNP) requires comments from the College Marketing and Communications Manager, College Planning Partner, and College Accountant, in addition to the Head of Collaborative Provision (if a Collaborative programme is being proposed, see below also) and a representative from a partner College/School/Institute (if a joint programme is being proposed). These consultations should take place before Part A is submitted to the School Education Committee, and ideally at the earliest possible opportunity. 

Additionally, a range of other colleagues can offer their expertise at an early stage of programme design and you are strongly encouraged to engage with them as early as possible. The College Academic Policy Partner will also ensure that Part A of the proposal is shared with key colleagues in External Relations, Planning, and Academic Services, and Part B with a wider pool of colleagues.

Colleagues who should be consulted during the development of a new programme, and given an opportunity to offer their expertise, include: 

  • Careers Network (Matt Edwards). 
  • Higher Education Futures institute (the College's Educational Development lead and the College's Partnership and Development Manager from Birmingham Digital Education).
  • Library Services (Library Engagement Advisors).
  • International Student Team (if the programme intends to recruit international students). 
  • Taught Student Administration (this is essential if the programme contains non-standard elements).
  • Research Student Administration (research programmes only).
  • Student Conduct (this is essential if students on the programme will be subject to Fitness to Practise regulations).
  • Admissions Manager for your College (before the submission of Part B). 

Integrating employability and enterprise into the curriculum

Employability and enterprise can be contextualised within degree programmes in many different ways, which will be different for each programme. Some ideas, questions, and issues to consider are:

  • What transferrable skills and/or enterprising behaviours will students develop through the programme? (See box below for a list of transferable skills). For discipline-specific information on transferrable skills see the QAA Quality Code Subject Benchmark Statements; for further information on enterprising behaviours see the QAA Guidance for UK HE providers on Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education.
  • How will students know that they have developed these transferable skills and/or enterprising behaviours? How can we ensure that skill development is explicit – rather than tacit – for students (e.g. opportunities to reflect, building reflection into assessment at relevant points)?
  • Where are there opportunities to complement the discipline-specific content of the programme through contextualised experiential learning (e.g. on-campus activities with employers, off-campus placements), and/or enterprise education (which includes the capacity to generate ideas and attributes to make them happen)? 
  • Where are there opportunities to broaden students’ horizons by showcasing the range of career options available to them?
  • Are there opportunities to utilise ‘authentic assessment’ within the programme? (‘For ideas on ‘authentic assessment’ see Gulikers, J.T.M., Bastiaens, T.J., and Kirschner, P.A., (2004) ‘A five-dimensional framework for authentic assessment’, Educational Technology Research and Development, 52 (3), pp. 67-86).
  • Looking at the programme as a whole, how can we ensure that all students have the opportunity to engage in some or all of the above activities at some point?

Careers Network can help you in a number of ways, including by consulting on ways that contextualised employability and enterprise can complement your programme, ideas for ‘authentic assessment’, and examples of how these approaches have been implemented at the University of Birmingham and elsewhere. Contact Matt Edwards (Learning Development Consultant) to discuss further.

Transferable skills to future proof our graduates

  • Communication & Interpersonal (relationship building, customer handling/service orientation; responding to concerns, motivating people, resolving conflict, persuading, influencing or selling, networking, public speaking, translating, writing, editing, written comprehension, reading comprehension, speech clarity, making speeches, presentation, oral expression, oral comprehension, active listening).
  • Complex Problem-Solving (critical thinking, analysis, sourcing, retrieving and evaluating primary and secondary information, intuition, financial literacy).
  • Creativity, Enterprise & Innovation (ideas generation, fluency of ideas, originality, opportunity recognition, pursuit and evaluation, taking calculated risks, learning from failure, resourcefulness, intuition, reviewing networks, co-ordinating and collaborating with others, benefiting others by adding value e.g. social, cultural, environmental, technological, operational, economical).
  • Digital & Data (interpreting information, compiling reports and statistics, social media, technical writing, coding and programming, online safety and data protection, creating websites and digital magazines)
  • Leadership (evaluating, decision-making, initiating, self-direction, visioning, complex problem-solving, team-building, planning, mobilising others, spotting and pursuing opportunities)
  • Planning, Organising and Management (follow-though, task prioritising, multi-tasking, setting and attaining goals, meeting deadlines, time-management, monitoring and measuring performance, mathematical reasoning, basic numerical skills, managing up).
  • Resilience & Adaptability (coping with ambiguity, uncertainty and risk, iteration, responding positively to change, flexibility).
  • Self-Awareness (self-reflection, integrity, emotional intelligence, judgement and decision-making, responsible & ethical).
  • Team-Work (relating well to others, responding to concerns, motivating people, assisting others, handling the feelings of others, organisation and SMART objective setting).
  • Understanding of the sector/industry (also known as Commercial Awareness & Business Acumen) (understanding and awareness of how an industry, sector or organisation operates; general knowledge of business to understand what makes an organisation successful which serves its customers well).

 

Creating New Programmes with Collaborative Provision

A collaborative arrangement is an arrangement whereby learning opportunities are provided to students in collaboration with another party, and which leads to an award of the University of Birmingham. Before engaging with the programme approval process, a collaborative arrangement needs to be approved in principle by the Collaborative Provision Committee, by completion of an Approval in Principle (AiP). This must be approved by the Collaborative Provision Committee in advance of the submission of a new programme proposal. Completion of the AiP form should be undertaken following conversation with Collaborative Provision.

The aim of the AiP is to ensure that the new arrangements contribute to the strategic development and goals of the School, College, and University, that the academic standards and the quality of learning opportunities for students are maintained and that the potential financial, legal, academic, and reputational risks are appraised.

The AiP requires comments and sign off by College and non-College staff and approval at School and College level. (For Research programmes, following approval at School and College level, if relevant, the Collaborative Provision Office circulates the AiP for comments to selected colleagues across the University).

Some arrangements follow a different approval process and are approved via Chair’s action, including doctoral training arrangements, collaboration with Universitas 21 (U21) institutions, European Joint Doctorates and any other arrangements that, following consideration by the Collaborative Provision team are deemed to be suitable for the alternative approval process.

Please contact the Collaborative Provision Office for advice on the approval process, management and review of collaborative provision arrangements.

 

Frequently Asked Questions 

For questions relating to information contained in the programme specification, please see the programme specification guidance page.

Does it matter if what is in Part B (the NPP) is different from what is in Part A (the PDNP)?

No, it is expected that there would be development and changes in response to feedback from the first stage of consultation, e.g. within the College and with experts in Academic Services. Changes since initial submission of the Part A can be made in tracked changes on Part A when it is submitted with Part B. 

I want to set up a full- and part-time version of a programme; do I need two sets of forms?

No, you can do this on one proposal/modification form and one specification, just be clear that you require a full- and part-time pathway. The full- and part-time versions will be given separate programme codes. If the part-time version can be studied flexibly, please ensure you specify the miniumum and maximum lengths on the programme specification. 

For PGT programmes, what is the definition of full- and part-time and how long should the programme(s) be?

The University of Birmingham’s Regulations (section 5) state that: ‘For taught postgraduate and graduate taught programmes, the standard pattern of attendance, for a full-time Registered Student, is based on a credit load of up to 180 credits per University Session. This equates to attendance of up to forty hours per week over 45 weeks.’ There is no definition of part-time, to provide flexibility as it is expected that workload will vary by subject. 

For Taught Postgraduate programmes, the norm is that full-time programmes last one year and part-time versions last two years. There are however many instances in which it is preferable to offer more flexibility, particularly for part-time programmes; the Regulations allow that ‘Students are normally expected to complete an Award within the period specified in the programme requirements’. If a programme can be studied flexibly part-time it is essential that the programme specification provides the minimum and maximum periods of study.

When considering the appropriate length for a programme, it is important to consider the possible implication for students’ eligibility to apply for the Masters loan. The guidance states that, for students to be eligible, Masters courses can be ‘full-time, lasting 1 or 2 academic years’, ‘part-time, lasting 2 to 4 academic years (no more than twice the length of the equivalent full-time course), or ‘part-time for up to 3 years’ if there is no equivalent full-time course. See the form bank for further information around PGT funding.

When setting set up a programme with a School/Department in another College, which College needs to approve the programme?

The programme needs to be approved by the College that will ‘own’ it, e.g. the College that runs most of the modules. The partner College should be consulted. The modules attached to the programme will need to be approved by whoever owns them (all modules have to have an owning department).

I want to set up a Joint Honours or major/minor programme - what guidance is available on the balance between subjects?

The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), in its Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications of UK Degree-Awarding Bodies, states in section 6.23: 

'Qualification titles that reflect the subject focus of programmes of study in two disciplines (for example, a joint honours qualification) adopt nomenclatures based on:

  • 'A and B', where there is an approximately equal balance between two components.
  • 'A with B' for a major/minor combination where the minor subject accounts for at least a quarter of the programme.’

In terms of the Regulations (sections 6 and 7) and programme design, these are the key points of which to be aware:

  • For Joint Honours programmes, students shall attempt at least 160 credits in total in both of the two subjects.
  • For Major/Minor programmes, at least 180 credits are achieved in one subject and at least 120 in the other (for 3-year programmes; see Regulations 7.3.1 (c) for provisions for other programmes).
  • For Major/Minor programmes, the credits will normally be distributed on the basis of two thirds to the major subject and one third to the minor subject at each level. i.e. a total of 240 credits in the major subject and 120 credits in the minor subject split in equal proportions across the levels.
  • For Joint Honours programmes, the final year dissertation can be taken in either subject. In Major/Minor programmes, the dissertation should be taken in the major subject.
  • 60:60, 80:40, and 40:80 are the only permissible combinations of credits and, if a student does only 40 credits in one department in final year, that 40 credits cannot be made up of the dissertation alone.
  • Allowing choice in final year only will not be sufficient to change the programme to a Major/Minor programme (e.g. Subject A with Subject B, rather than and), this would only be possible if a student was doing an 80:40 split in both years 2 and 3.  

Do I have to do the market research myself?

No, the College Marketing and Communications team will do this for you as they have the necessary expertise. Get in touch with your College's Head of Marketing and Communications as soon as possible.

Do I need to develop the module paperwork at the same time as the NPP and programme specification?

Ideally, yes. As well as giving approval committees and stake-holders the opportunity to understand the programme as a whole, it ensures there are no inconsistencies in the paperwork that can arise if they are not developed side-by-side, e.g. differences in module titles between what is listed on the programme specifications and in the module paperwork. Moreover, it is best practice for the external adviser on new programmes to have access to the module proposals when making their comments. 

When setting up a collaborative programme, who are ‘Recognised Lecturers/Supervisors’?

Before engaging with the programme approval process, a collaborative arrangement needs to be approved in principle by the Collaborative Provision Committee. ‘Recognised Lecturers/Supervisors’ are members of staff of a collaborative organisation who play key roles in the management, delivery, and assessment of programmes in collaborative arrangements. The award of the title is granted by the Collaborative Provision Committee following consideration of the Recognised Lecturers/Supervisors nomination form.

Please click here for contact details for the Collaborative Provision Office and to access the relevant forms and guidance.

 

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