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Programme and Unit Development and Approval

Guidance on the development and approval of taught programmes and units at the University.


The University has a rigorous process for the approval of new programmes and units, and for changes. If you are considering establishing a new programme or unit, or making changes to an existing programme or unit please contact your Faculty/School Assistant Registrar in the first instance.

Please read the guidance below on programme variants, as these affect the approval route and the information required to develop and approve a programme.

This guide is part of the University's overall approach to Quality Management.

Curriculum Transformation

The guidance on this page applies only to programmes that are NOT undergoing Curriculum Transformation, which are instead known as 'courses'. If you are developing a course under the new academic framework for curriculum transformation, please visit the Centre for Learning and Teaching's pages.

Creating a new programme

New programmes are developed and approved using a two-stage process:

  • Stage 1 - initial approval which involves strategic consideration of the academic fit and financial viability of the programme.

  • Stage 2 - full approval which involves close consideration of the academic arrangements for the delivery of the programme, including assessment.

QA3 Approval of New Programmes of Study details the information required, and the committees, student groups, professional services and external expertise to involve. It provides programme design guidance and templates.

A programme approval flowchart also summarises the approval route and the documentation required at each stage.

Staff interested in creating a new programme should read QA3 and contact their Faculty/School Assistant Registrar for advice and guidance.

Making changes to a programme or unit, and developing new units

Continuous development is an important part of the enhancement of the University’s taught programmes.

To make changes to a unit or a programme that will require approval, please follow QA4 Amendments to Existing Units and Programmes and the Approval of New Units.

Indicative Taxonomies of Assessment and Delivery Methods

When developing a change proposal that affects the assessment or delivery methods for a unit or units, you are encouraged to consult the indicative taxonomies of assessment and delivery methods to help you best describe the changes.

Further advice

Faculty/School Assistant Registrars provide advice on changes, especially those during Curriculum Transformation. They will also confirm if proposed changes may instead require new programme approval.

Withdrawing a programme

Where a programme is no longer required, the University must confirm its withdrawal, paying particular attention to 'teaching out' arrangements.

QA4 Amendments to Existing Units and Programmes and the Approval of New Units provides details on the process to follow, including consulting current students and review of the University's Student Protection Plan (SPP).

Collaborative academic partnerships

The University has arrangements with a number of institutions in the UK and overseas to deliver its programmes. If a programme is run in partnership with another organisation, additional approval steps are required to ensure quality and verify the suitability of the collaboration. These steps are detailed in QA20 Collaborative Provision. It should be read alongside QA3 Approval of New Programmes of Study.

If you are considering establishing a partnership with another institution, you should contact your Faculty/School Assistant Registrar early in the process.

The University also publishes annually its Register of Partnerships.

Student exchange programmes

QA37 Student Exchanges provides guidance for establishing and maintaining an overseas student exchange partnership.

If you are considering establishing an exchange partnership, you should contact your Faculty/School Assistant Registrar for advice and guidance early in your negotiations.

Professional accreditation

Recognition by an external body that a University programme meets specific standards or criteria can demonstrates the quality of a programme and provide useful or vital professional accreditation for a student. Any programme that involves professional accreditation must follow the approval process and quality requirements of QA8 Professional Accreditation.

The University’s publishes a register of accredited programmes and departments.

Distance learning, work-based learning and apprenticeships

QA41 Distance Learning Provision provides guidance on the expectations for the quality, delivery and support for distance, work-based learning, and apprenticeship programmes.

Distance learning is the term used to describe teaching and learning that takes place remotely from the University campus, but is part of a programme or unit of study. Distance learning may be delivered through a virtual learning environment, travelling teachers, the use of local agents or partner organisations. Teaching and learning that takes place at the Pall Mall campus is not distance learning.

Work-based learning (WBL) is learning that is integral to the programme of study. It is usually achieved and demonstrated through engagement with a workplace environment, the assessment of reflective practice and the designation of appropriate learning outcomes. WBL might also be called “professional practice”.

Apprenticeship programmes are a form of work-based learning, delivered working in close partnership with an apprentice's employer. Delivery is also defined by external programme design and delivery rules.

Placements opportunities

Arrangements for the quality assurance and enhancement of placement learning are detailed in QA6 Placements Learning.

For further advice on developing placement learning as part of a taught programme, staff should contact their Faculty/School Assistant Registrar.

For further details on placements, and guidance on support contact your local Placements team.

Continuing professional development (CPD)

CPD are a range of short and long training programmes for learners to support professional development. They do not typically award credit. However, the University has an academic framework specifically for CPD provision and associated qualifications.

QA56 Continuing Professional Development provides guidance on the development, approval and delivery of CPD programmes and units.

Sources of further guidance