Proposing a New Programme

Introduction

  • UoB employs a risk-based approach to programme and module development: the higher the risk associated with an activity (e.g. creating a new programme), the higher the level of approval required.
  • Creating a brand new programme is usually a two-step process: first, the 'Plan to Develop a New Programme' (Part A) form is submitted, accompanied by market research and (ideally) a business case. This requires approval at University level. (In some instances this is replaced by an approval in principle form, see below).
  • Once approved, a New Programme Proposal (Part B) is submitted, with the programme specification and further documents, including comments from an external adviser.
  • If a new version of an existing programme is to be created, e.g. a programme for delivery at the Dubai campus or an MSci version of a BSc, this can be achieved through a one-step process called an exceptional programme modification, which requires University-level approval. (Note that some types of programmes, e.g. new Apprenticeships, require an approval in principle form to be submitted first, see below).
  • There are no fixed deadlines for creating a new programme: the later a programme is set up, the less time there is to market it (which may impact the level of recruitment) - see below for suggested deadlines for UG and PGT programmes.
  • When creating a new programme, ensure you contact your College Academic Policy Partner at an early point as they will be able to guide you through the process.

Guide to the Process and Approval

Approval in Principle (including Microcredentials)

Completion of an Approval in Principle (AiP) form is required for the following types of programmes/courses:

  • All new Apprenticeships, regardless of whether they are created via the new programme proposal route or an exceptional programme modification. For Apprenticeships that are being created via the new programme proposal process, the AiP replaces Part A of the form, so only the standalone New Programme Proposal form is required. See the Apprenticeship page for further information and to download the relevant forms.
  • All programmes to run at the Dubai campus, including those created via an exceptional modification of an existing programme. The Dubai Steering Group approves all AiPs before the School proceeds to the programme modification stage. Note that for brand new programmes, completion of the AiP replaces Part A of the form, so in these cases the standalone New Programme Proposal form should be completed once the AiP has been approved. 
  • New Distance Learning programmes. Completion of the AiP replaces Part A of the form. Schools should complete the standalone New Programme Proposal form once the AiP has been approved by the Distance Learning Steering Group (a Distance Learning checklist is still required to be submitted with the New Programme Proposal). 
  • New Collaborative programmes, for which both Parts A and B (the Plan to Develop a New Programme and New Programme Proposal) should be completed but only after the AiP has been approved by the Collaborative Provision Committee (see below for more information on setting up a new collaborative programme).
  • New Microcredentials: the University of Birmingham and FutureLearn are working together to deliver a new online microcredential short course portfolio targeting CPD topics in high demand. If you have an idea for a microcredential please contact your College DL/Digital Lead and Director of Education. An Approval in Principle form will need to be completed and submitted to micro@contacts.bham.ac.uk for consideration by the Short Course & Microcredentials Steering Group. Once the AiP is approved, the course can proceed to module approval using the Microcredential Proposal and Specification form. If you have any questions, please email micro@contacts.bham.ac.uk. 

Approval Routes

The table below outlines the approval routes for Parts A and B of the programme proposal form, in addition to exceptional programme modifications and programme withdrawals, suspensions, and reactivations). At University level, two committees are involved in programme development and approval, the Quality Assurance Committee (UQAC) and Recruitment, Admissions and Targets Committee (URAT).

Table indicating the level of approval required for different processes
 Approval required by...
ProcessSchool Education Committee (or equivalent)College Education CommitteeCollege Quality Assurance and Approvals Committee College BoardUniversity (UQAC and/or Provost/URAT)
Programme proposal Part A (Plan to Develop a New Programme) and market research Yes Yes N/A Yes Yes - UQAC and URAT (ideally with business case)
Programme proposal Parts A & B (New Programme Proposal) and all associated documentation Yes N/A Yes Optional Yes - UQAC only
Exceptional programme modification  Yes N/A   Yes Optional Yes - UQAC (shared with Provost if there are resource implications)
Programme withdrawal/suspension/ reactivation Yes N/A Yes Yes Yes - UQAC (shared with Provost if there are resource implications)

(Note the Approval in Principle forms are approved by their relevant Steering Group/Committee separately).

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

Programme Proposer: Key Tasks

  • Liaise with the College Marketing and Communications team, who will produce a full market research report (this must be submitted alongside Part A). This is to determine unequivocally whether a viable market for the programme exists at the first stage of planning a new programme.
  • Undertake appropriate engagement with internal stakeholders, including the Planning and Finance Business Partners, who should be given an opportunity to complete the relevant part of the form (see section below). They can also guidance regarding financial planning and targets, which are a crucial part of planning a new programme. (It is best practice to have a meeting at an early stage with key internal stakeholders to ensure all relevant areas have the opportunity to contribute to the programme's development).
  • Find a suitable external adviser and ensure their details are included in the relevant section of Part A (please see the associated guidance on external advisers). 
  • Ensure that Part A indicates how the new programme aligns with the College’s strategic aims and priorities; this is a key aspect approval committees will consider. College Board in particular will consider the market, resources, financial implications, size and shape of the portfolio, and the fit with Compact.

Next Steps

Part A (with market research) should be submitted for approval to the School Education Committee (or equivalent), College Education Committee, and College Board.

Once Part A has been approved by College Board, the College Academic Policy Partner will submit it to the University Quality Assurance Committee (UQAC) for verification by the Chair. The Chair will also facilitate approval by the University Recruitment, Admissions and Targets Committee, via the Provost. This ensures that University-level oversight of the approval process is maintained, while enabling Colleges to make the key decisions regarding their portfolio. 

The College Academic Policy Partner will convey the University-level decision to the relevant colleagues in the College.

Part B, the New Programme Proposal (NPP)

Programme Proposer: Key Tasks

  • Ensure Part A of the form has received approval by College Board and UQAC/URAT (the College Academic Policy Partner can confirm this).
  • Complete Part B, ensuring any changes to Part A since approval are noted in the first section of Part B (changes to Part A can also be made in tracked changes).
  • Complete any additional documentation alongside Part B, which must include the programme specification, as well as curriculum, assessment, and skills mapping documents, and (if required) a distance learning checklist and placement proposal (the College Academic Policy Partner can advise).
  • Complete module proposals and specifications, which should ideally be submitted and considered by the School Education Committee (or equivalent) alongside Part B. 
  • Engage with internal stakeholders, including Finance, Planning, Marketing and Recruitment, Library Services, the Higher Education Futures institute, and other colleagues in Academic Services.
  • Send all relevant documentation to the external adviser for review and ensure they complete the external adviser form, which must be submitted alongside Part B.

Next Steps

Part B (with associated documentation) should be submitted to the School Education Committee (or equivalent) for approval, followed by the College Quality Assurance and Approvals Committee (CQAAC). If required, Part B should be approved by College Board (this is not mandatory).

Once Part B has received appropriate approval from the College, the College Academic Policy Partner will submit Plan B, the programme specification, external adviser comments, and other programme-level documentation to the University Quality Assurance Committee for verification by the Chair.

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

Creating Programmes via Exceptional Modifications

This process uses the programme modification form (rather than the new programme proposal Parts A and B) and is used to create a new or 'cloned' version of an existing programme. It does not generally require the same two-step level of scrutiny as the full new programme proposal process as the programme on which it is based will have already been through that process. 

The programme modification form (including the appendix) should be completed and submitted to the School Education Committee (or equivalent) and then the College Quality Assurance and Approvals Committee for approval, alongside a programme specification and any other required documentation. 

If considered necessary by the College Deputy Director of Education and College Academic Policy Partner, exceptional modifications to existing programmes are approved by College Board, 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 the University Quality Assurance Committee (UQAC).

As with programmes created via the new programme approval process, new programmes created via exceptional modifications should include consultation with key stakeholders.

The following types of programmes can be created via the exceptional programme modification process (this list is not exhaustive):

  • A programme for delivery at the Dubai campus, based on an Edgbaston programme (note this will require the completion of a Dubai Approval in Principle form before submission of the programme modification form).
  • An Apprenticeship version of an existing programme (note this will require the completion of an Apprenticeship Approval in Principle form before submission of the programme modification form, and it must be accompanied by an Apprenticeship checklist).
  • A Distance Learning version of an existing programme (note this will require the completion of an Apprenticeship Approval in Principle form before submission of the programme modification form).
  • Creating an additional award, e.g. an MSci version of an existing BSc.  

 

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, to ensure approval bodies (namely College Boards) are aware of the potential impact of the timing of when programmes are approved, to manage appropriately 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 2022 for September 2024 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 2022 for September 2023).

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 an 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) 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. 

It is strongly recommended that pre-Part A/PDNP meetings take place in each College, which bring together those key stakeholders (especially Planning and Finance) for informal discussion. Early discussion of new programmes can save time and ensure no key elements are missed in the first submission of the paperwork. 

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 (see the Consultation page for a full list and further information). 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. This takes place via a Programme Development and Approval Teams site, which hosts paperwork for Parts A and B. Key College stakeholders can also be granted access to this site, just contact Jennifer Palmer (j.l.palmer@bham.ac.uk).

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

For further information about consultation, see the guidance on consultation here

Integrating Graduate Attributes into the curriculum

Embedding the University's Graduate Attributes in the curriculum is crucial to ensuring UoB's education offer is future-focussed. Students want their degrees to equip them to fulfil their aspirations, and employers’ expectations of graduates are developing rapidly. The employment markets of the future will not look like the employment markets of the present. 

Some ideas, questions, and issues to consider when embedding Graduate Attributes in the curriculum 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.
  • 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 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.

How long does it take to gain approval for a new programme?

Generally, completion of Part A takes approximately 4 months:

  • 2 months: Completion of the form alongside the market research and consultation with Business Partners (Marketing, Finance, and Planning, as well as the College Academic Policy Partner).
  • 1 month: Circulation to expert reviewers elsewhere in the University and responses to their comments as required.
  • 1 month: Part A considered by CEC and then College Board, with feedback provided at each stage.

Completion of Part B takes approximately 5 months:

  • 2 months: Completion of Part B alongside additional documents, in consultation with Business Partners.
  • 1 month: Part B and accompanying documentation sent to independent external adviser for comment, as well as expert reviewers at UoB.
  • 1 month: School responds to feedback and amends paperwork as necessary prior to School approval. 
  • 1 month: Part B and accompanying documents considered by approval by CQAAC and then College Board (before submission to UQAC).

These timeframes are based on the College Academic Policy Partners' experience for new programmes, and should be taken as a minimum timeframe. How long it takes paperwork to be written depends on the nature of the proposed programme and the staff resource/effort involved in completing the paperwork. 

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 minimum 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) (PDF - 201KB)) 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 programme combining two subjects - what guidance is available on the balance between the 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 line with the University's enhanced curriculum framework, the number of credits to be undertaken by students in the/each subject named in their degree title are as follows:

  • For a Bachelor's degree, 160 credits in a major subject (and for a 'joint' degree, both subjects are major), 100 credits in a minor subject. 
  • For an Integrated Masters degree, 220 credits in a major subject, 120 credits in a minor subject.

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 New Programme Proposal and programme specification?

Ideally, yes. As well as giving approval committees and stakeholders 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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