This section of the framework covers the development and approval of new programmes and modules, amendments to existing curriculum and suspension and closure of curriculum.
Key Reference Points
QAA Quality Code (especially Part A including the Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications and Chapter B1: Programme design, development and approval, B3: Learning and Teaching, B4: Enabling Student Development and Achievement; and B6: Assessment of Students and the Recognition of Prior Learning), Southern England Consortium (SEEC) Credit level descriptors and appropriate institutional strategic documents, e.g. Higher Education Strategic Plan.
Members of staff and particularly Heads of Department, members of programme or module design teams, and members of committees involved in the development of programmes and modules.
Periodic curriculum review sections
1. Scope and principles
This section outlines the principles and processes for approval of new curriculum, amendment, suspension and closure of all programmes and modules.
The curriculum development process aims to ensure that developments:
This is tested by a period of consultation involving internal and external sources as appropriate. At all points, ensuring a programme of study offers a high quality and vocationally relevant student experience is central to this process.
2. Key roles and responsibilities
a) The Associate Dean: Quality and Standards has oversight of the curriculum development and approval process.
b) The Curriculum Records Manager is the primary source of advice on curriculum design and approval, including the collation of all documents required for final approval, the administrative responsibilities in ensuring the process is logged and complete and the arrangements for the external reviewer’s attendance at a Curriculum Approval Committee.
c) The Head of Department is responsible for planning and monitoring curriculum development activity within their department, to ensure it aligns with the institution’s mission, meets key objectives and provides a high quality and vocationally relevant student experience.
d) The nominated Curriculum Development Leader is responsible for leading the development work, compiling all the necessary documentation, chairing/coordinating design meetings, ensuring deadlines are met and liaising with the necessary team members and support services.
e) The Curriculum Design Team (in collaboration with the Curriculum Development Leader) is responsible for designing the academic content of a curriculum development and ensuring the development:
a) The Corporation has responsibility for the overall educational character and mission of the institution and as such oversight of curriculum development that may affect it, including large scale curriculum development and closure.
b) The Associate Faculty Board has delegated responsibility for the final approval of curriculum development to the Curriculum Approval Committee.
c) The Curriculum Approval Committee, is responsible to Associate Faculty Board for the approval of new programmes and modules and for the approval of revisions to approved programmes and modules. It also oversees closure of curriculum once approved by AFB (permanent closure of curriculum to new entrants and subsequent removal from the curriculum portfolio). The Curriculum Approval Committee provides an annual report of activity to Associate Faculty Board.
d) The Higher Education Executive is responsible for ensuring that a proposed curriculum development or suspension is aligned to the Higher Education strategic plan, and will consider the resource and public information implications of initial proposals for curriculum approval, amendment, suspension and closure. HE Executive provides a forum which can responsd promptly.
e) The Curriculum Scrutiny Panel oversees the implementation of the guidance on curriculum approval and amendment and provides a detailed peer scrutiny of proposals that contributes to the curriculum development process, prior to the Curriculum Approval Committee.
f) The Departmental Committee Meeting facilitates student and staff input to proposed curriculum developments within a department, and ensures that the Departmental Enhancement Plan includes recommendations made during the curriculum development process.
In advance of an academic year the Heads of Department will be asked to present the planned curriculum development for the year to Higher Education Executive. At that point a timetable of curriculum development will be agreed. Normally the concept for a new programme and a Market Impact and Authorisation Form would be considered by February of the year before proposed entry to enable a fully informed marketing cycle to be completed prior to the first enrolment. The Curriculum Records Manager will agree appropriate deadlines with the Curriculum Development Leader to ensure timescales are met. Should a development fall outside of these timescales, please speak to your Head of Department in the first instance.
4. Approval of new curriculum
An initial concept for new curriculum is raised by a Head of Department to Higher Education Executive as part of the Higher Education Executive’s planning activities. Informal discussions will have been held prior to this, potentially at Departmental Committee Meetings.
The Higher Education Executive is responsible for ensuring that the proposal is aligned to the Higher Education Strategic Plan and for considering the academic credibility, resource implications (physical and human) and feasibility (including timescales) of developments. If the concept is supported, the Department then nominates a Curriculum Development Leader who must undertake the Impact and Authorisation process.
4.1 The Impact and Authorisation forms
The Impact and Authorisation forms provide an opportunity to capture detailed rationale and information on the resource implications of the curriculum development proposed. The Curriculum Records Manager will provide advice to the Head of Department and Curriculum Development Leader during its completion.
For a new programme a Market Impact and Authorisation form facilitates proposed developments to be evaluated to establish where the new programme will sit in comparison to competitors and to provide sufficient information to enable the programme to be marketed to prospective applicants (contingent on approval). It will include details of any new modules proposed as part of the programme development.
For a new module being developed independently of a programme a Resource Impact and Authorisation form is completed.
The form will be sent to the appropriate Head of Department for review and then considered by Higher Education Executive. Where appropriate the Higher Education Executive will ensure that the Senior Management Team and Corporation are consulted (for example, where a proposal may have a significant impact on the educational character of the institution or resource requirements).
The Curriculum Records Manager will complete the outcome section of an Impact and Authorisation form including any conditions and recommendations. If the Impact and Authorisation form is authorised to proceed the Curriculum Development Leader must explicitly address the conditions or recommendations during the approval process. Once new curriculum has been authorised then it can be marketed as ‘subject to validation’. The Curriculum Development Leader, Admissions Department and Marketing work together to ensure that marketing information is accurate, up to date and informative, in line with legislative requirements, guidance and best practice.
Usually the approval process would be expected to be complete within two years of the authorisation, otherwise the Impact and Authorisation Form should be re-presented to the Higher Education Executive for consideration.
Higher Education Executive should be consulted as to whether the authorisation to develop still applies.
4.2 Following authorisation to develop
The Curriculum Development Leader, in discussion with the Head of Department, will identify a design team. Whilst the membership of the design team may vary depending on the nature of the development it will usually include the following:
|Curriculum Records Manager||Arrange communications, assist in drafting and development of documentation, provide advice to the programme team on process, requirements and regulations, oversee the timeline for consideration by relevant committees.|
|Module leaders||Draft new module specifications or consider whether existing modules may contribute to the development.|
|Student Representation||To provide insight from a student perspective.|
|Subject external advisers (eg external examiners, employers, industry experts)||To advise on the development of the curriculum within the context of their specialist expertise. This must include advice on current developments in the discipline and relevant benchmark statements.|
|Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (as appropriate)||To advise the development team of specific PSRB requirements|
4.3 The design phase
The following documentation must be completed during the design of the curriculum:
The Programme Design and Consultation form is designed to support the Curriculum Development Team through the significant consultation which will underpin a proposal for a new curriculum development.
A programme specification is the definitive description of a programme and will be made publicly available. A module specification is the definitive description of a module. They should be written in a way that is comprehensive to a lay audience but are mainly intended for both current and future students. All curricula must have completed definitive documentation.
The subject external advisers must be able to comment on the content and learning outcomes of the proposal, the level, and its currency in the market, as well as its alignment to subject benchmark statements or professional body requirements as appropriate. The approval process may require the involvement of one or more Professional, Statutory or Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs). PSRB representatives may be invited to join the Curriculum Approval Committee or be involved as part of the design team. For more detail on PSRBs please visit the PSRB section of the HQEF.
Student input into the design team is a key part of the process. This can be achieved by using the existing representation system within the committee structure, inviting student representatives to join design meetings, by holding open meetings or organising discussion groups for students to attend.
The design team may wish to include others such as National Teaching Fellows, Research Group Leads, specialist input for alternative forms of delivery or members of our support services (e.g. Library, Innovation, Careers and Enterprise or Achievement and Success Centre). In addition, alumni may also provide useful input into the design process.
4.4 Committee scrutiny and approval
When the new curriculum has been designed and the documentation has been confirmed as complete by the Head of Department, the proposal will be submitted to the Curriculum Scrutiny Panel. Once satisfied that the documentation is appropriate and complete, the Curriculum Scrutiny Panel will recommend the proposal for consideration by the Curriculum Approval Committee for approval. This is a peer review process aimed at supporting the improvement of proposals during the development process as well as assuring their quality.
The Curriculum Approval Committee meetings are responsible to Associate Faculty Board for the approval, amendment and closure of new curriculum. Members of the curriculum design team will usually be invited to present new programmes. Additional panel members may be invited to attend as appropriate and in particular this may include individuals at the request of a PSRB.
The Curriculum Approval Committee ensures the design and organisation of the curriculum promotes student learning and achievement of the learning outcomes. As part of this process it considers the impact on the student experience of teaching, learning and assessment strategies within curriculum and facilitates external scrutiny of the proposal. It considers whether there is evidence that academic profiles underpin and enhance the provision. It ensures that the range of learner requirements has been considered and that external requirements (e.g. QAA Quality Code) and good practice have been used to enhance the learner’s experiences.
The outcome of the Curriculum Approval Committee’s consideration for the proposed new curriculum will be:
The outcome of the Curriculum Approval Committee will be confirmed in a Notification of Outcome document. This will contain identification of good practice and innovative curriculum design to facilitate dissemination. The Curriculum Approval Committee will set a deadline by which the response to any conditions should be submitted. This will be considered at a future Curriculum Approval Committee meeting. The curriculum will not be open for enrolment until all conditions have been met. If recommendations are made, the response to these must be included within the Departmental Enhancement Plan and must be overseen by the relevant Head of Department. Where a proposal is not approved, a full report outlining all the concerns with specific recommendations or conditions will be produced by the Officer and appended to the Minutes of the Curriculum Approval Committee. If a programme or module reaches the end of its approval period it must be considered as part of a Periodic Curriculum Review that will consider whether to recommend it for re-approval.
As appropriate the Curriculum Development Leader and Head of Department must then work with Marketing and Admissions Departments to ensure that public information (including that externally reported) about the curriculum is accurate, up-to-date and informative, in line with legislative requirements, guidance and best practice. If changes to public information are required these must be communicated to current students and applicants as quickly as possible, ensuring that it is clear how their interests are being protected.
5. Curriculum amendment
Where curriculum requires amendment the Programme Manager or Module Leader will need to complete a Rationale and Impact Assessment Form. The Curriculum Records Manager will offer advice on its completion. Part of this form will request information to assess whether the proposed amendment would materially alter the curriculum. A material alteration is one which would change it in such a way that marketing information about it would require amendment, e.g. change of programme title, change of learning, teaching or assessment methods significant enough to change Key Information Set (KIS) data significantly. An amendment that materially alters the curriculum advertised will require timely, written communication advising affected parties (usually applicants and/or students) of the change and the impact it may have on them (in line with legislative requirements and sector good practice).
On completion the Resource Impact and Authorisation Form is submitted to the Curriculum Records Manager. A report of completed Resource Impact and Authorisation Forms, highlighting whether they propose material alterations or involve resource implications will be provided to Higher Education Executive, including those with significant implications. The outcome of the Higher Education Executive’s consideration of the Resource Impact and Authorisation Forms will be:
Curriculum amendments that would materially alter curriculum for students currently enrolled on that curriculum would not normally be permitted unless it can be evidenced (e.g. via student or external examiner feedback) that the change would have real and substantial benefits to the students. Support from the Departmental Committee Meeting, and evidence of discussion and advice from colleagues in the Admissions and Marketing Departments (particularly with regard to the effect on, and implications for, public information) would strengthen any such proposals.
5.1 Following authorisation to develop
To support the development of documentation that ensures the enhancement of the student experience for all potential students enrolling on that curriculum and the future employability of graduates (as well as align with current regulations, strategies and guidance) curriculum consultation should be undertaken and recorded. The nature of that consultation will differ between proposals and will usually involve any Programme Managers and/or Module Leaders that are affected by the proposed amendment, enrolled students and the external examiner(s) for the curriculum. Records of the consultation must be made and provided to the Curriculum Records Manager in addition to the documentation in order for the proposed amendment to progress. From this point the proposal will be considered as described for new curriculum.
6. Curriculum suspension and closure
There are a number of drivers which may precipitate a decision to remove a programme from the institution’s portfolio on either a permanent (closure) or temporary (suspension) basis. These include, but are not limited to, as an outcome of programme monitoring or programme review, changes in patterns of demand from prospective students, or for other reasons, underpinned by analysis of management information. The suspension or closure of curriculum should be considered as early as possible, and normally before the intake is marketed (e.g. UCAS advertising for undergraduate provision).
Whatever the rationale for the removal of the curriculum for new entrants, the interests of current students will be paramount. In the case of closure, currently enrolled students and individuals holding an offer will be consulted, alongside the Students’ Union, and wherever possible steps will be taken to ensure they are fully supported.
Consideration will also be given to how academic standards on the programme(s) will be maintained and where necessary significant external stakeholders (e.g. employers or Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies) will be consulted.
Steps will be identified, at the point of decision, to support individuals holding an offer to study the programme or expecting to study the module to find an alternative programme or module, either at the institution or with another higher education provider. At all points the interests of applicants will be protected.
Where a programme exists in a dormant state and there are no students or applicants holding offers, closure can take effect immediately following appropriate approval.
6.1 Proposal format
The Head of Department (or nominee) will normally, and where timeframes allow, submit a Curriculum Suspension and Closure Form to the Higher Education Executive. The Higher Education Executive can approve a suspension but if a closure is recommended the resource implications should be considered (with advice sought as necessary) and the Curriculum Suspension and Closure Form (including Higher Education Executive’s recommendations) must be referred to Associate Faculty Board for consideration and approval, and submitted to Corporation.
The Curriculum Account Manager will ensure the completed Curriculum Suspension and Closure Form is circulated, normally within five working days of the decision, to:
|The Vice Principal: HE and Associate Deans||Arrange communications, assist in drafting and development of documentation, provide advice to the programme team on process, requirements and regulations, oversee the timeline for consideration by relevant committees.|
|Admissions||Draft new module specifications or consider whether existing modules may contribute to the development.|
|Marketing||To provide insight from a student perspective.|
|Academic Services and MIS||To advise on the development of the curriculum within the context of their specialist expertise. This must include advice on current developments in the discipline and relevant benchmark statements.|
|Chair and Officer of Curriculum Approval Committee||To advise the development team of specific PSRB requirements.|
|Head of Department||To inform academic staff and include in planning. In the case of closure, currently enrolled students must be contacted to confirm the outcome of the proposal, and the arrangements made to protect their interests. Particular attention should be given to articulating how student feedback as part of the closure process has been taken in to account.|
|Student Union||For information and action as appropriate.|
Log of operational changes made to HQEF Curriculum Development Section
8. Section documents