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’ (Part A) form establishes the market for the programme and rationale, with other key information. The ‘New Programme Proposal’ (Part B) form contains further details of the programme and is accompanied by additional documentation, including the programme specification form. Parts A and B are combined into one document to avoid duplication and to streamline the process.

The sections below outline the different stages of programme development and approval, including who you need to consult and when an 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

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

  • 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).

All the Approval in Principle forms, and the standalone New Programme Proposal form, can be downloaded from the form bank.

Approval Routes

The diagram below (also available here (JPG - 323KB)) 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. (Note the Approval in Principle forms are approved by their relevant Steering Group/Committee separately).

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 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 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 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 the relevant part of the form. 

Submission to the College Education Committee

Part A (the PDNP) should be approved by the College Education Committee (CEC). 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, and 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 Part A (and accompanying market research report) in terms of the programme's 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 the portfolio, and the 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 form are in progress as appropriate.
  • Ensure that the Head of School is aware of the 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 the College Quality Assurance and Approval Committee (CQAAC) is to:

  • Consider Parts A and B and all the associated documentation, including programme specification. 
  • 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 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

Parts 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 their 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)

Part B (the NPP) 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, e.g. a year abroad.

All the forms are available from the form bank.

Creating Programmes via Exceptional Modifications

The programme modification form can be downloaded from the form bank.

The form should be approved by the School and CQAAC (see above approval process diagram). 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 (see below).




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 2021 for September 2023 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 2021 for September 2022).

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:


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 (

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 Future Skills into the curriculum

Embedding Future Skills 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. 

In line with the University’s new employability strategy, students should engage with Future Skills provision at each stage of their degree, and this should be reflected in the programme learning outcomes. Much of this will be subject-embedded/contextualised (i.e. delivered via the compulsory and optional modules offered to students by Schools). However, a shared suite of Future Skills opportunities will also be available, and students must be given the chance to engage with this suite of opportunities to some extent and at some point during their degree.

Some ideas, questions, and issues to consider when embedded Future Skills 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 - 226KB)) 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 an Adaptive 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 line with the Programme Framework for the Future (ProFF), for Adaptive programmes, these are the key points of which to be aware:

  • For a Joint degree, where students pair two different subject areas and take roughly the same number of credits in each, students should attempt at least 160 credits in total in both of the two subjects (220 for an Integrated Masters degree).
  • For a Major/Minor degree, where students pair two different subject areas and take more credits in one than the other, students should undertake at least 160 credits in the major subject and at least 100 in the minor (220 and 120 respectively for Integrated Masters).

Please see the ProFF page for further guidance.

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.



Professional Services