Course and Programme Approval

Overview of the Approval Process

There are revised arrangements for the approval of courses running in 2020-21 given the need to alter significant elements of academic delivery in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. These are available on our course approval webpages.

For 2019-20 the approval process remains largely the same as 2018-19. (See section below for changes introduced in 2019-20.)


  • College Boards of Studies have the authority to approve new programmes, programme amendments and programme withdrawals. This process is monitored by the Academic Standards Committee (ASC). ASC maintains a Programme Approval Group (PAG) to consider proposed new/amended programmes that are novel collaborative/TNE programmes and to advise ASC on cases where the proposed provision is non-standard or a College Board of Studies has concerns about whether the proposal conforms to University policy. Further guidance is available here.
  • Schools and Research Institutes have the authority to approve all new courses, amendments to existing courses and the withdrawal of courses. This is monitored by ASC and College Boards of Studies.
  • College Boards of Studies are required to audit annually and report to ASC on course approval activity by the corresponding Schools/ RIs. Further guidance is available here.
  • College Boards of Studies' (or equivalent) composition will include two members from other College(s) who are past or present members of ASC, ideally with programme approval experience.
  • School/Research Institute Learning & Teaching Committees' (or equivalent) composition will include two members of the relevant College Board of Studies from outwith the School/RI concerned.*
  • Colleges and Schools are required to have all of their new/amend proposals in PIP by 30 April, and approved by 31 July. Please note that, separate to the PIP process, other deadlines may be set by Colleges for planning purposes. Colleges will notify Schools/RIs directly, as appropriate.

* It is appreciated that it can be difficult, in practical terms, to involve two members of other Schools’ Boards of Studies in the approval process. However, their involvement in such decisions is essential to acceptable QA practice. Firstly, having two members from other Schools on the committee provides strength in numbers and reduces the vulnerability of a single external member coming under duress to approve something they are perhaps uncomfortable about approving. Their membership of the College Board of Studies and access to the Board thereby should also strengthen their hand if necessary. Secondly, having two external members is intended to ensure some flexibility in the process - with two external members, it would be easier to obtain the presence of at least one of the two. While it is preferable for all members to be present to engage with discussions at the Board, anyone not able to attend should submit comments on the proposals.

2019-20 Changes

A number of changes have been introduced into the course and programme approval process in 2019-20.

1. Course Specification

A new appendix has been added to the course specification. This gathers information on anticipated teaching accommodation requirements for the course. The information will be forwarded automatically to Space Management and Timetabling thus removing the need for a separate consultation form to be completed.

2. Course Proposal Support Document

A new field has been introduced requiring proposers to set out the steps being taken to comply with the Accessible & Inclusive Learning Policy.

3. Course amendments

Previously any changes to courses – apart from minor corrections – required consultations. This position has been reviewed and consultations are now only required where substantive changes are being made. Guidance is available to assist proposers and Schools/RIs in considering whether this applies.

4. Programme Proposal Support Document

Field A1 previously required a page reference to the relevant degree regulations. The ‘University Regulations’ (previously known as the ‘University Calendar’) is now published as a web-based document and no longer has page numbers. The revised wording on the support document reflects this. Please enter the name of the applicable regulations or, where a new set of degree regulations is required, upload the new regulations data input form.

Definition of Course and Programme

A course is defined as a self-contained unit of study on a particular topic, with defined level, credit value, aims, intended learning outcomes, mode(s) of delivery, scheme of assessment, and possibly also pre- and co-requisites.

A programme is defined as a set of compulsory and elective courses leading to a defined award, with defined aims, intended learning outcomes, mode(s) of delivery, and scheme of assessment.

Our approval processes are required to and comply with the QAA UK Quality Code Advice and Guidance on Course Design and Development as well as the University Academic Quality Framework.