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Chapter B1 of the QAA Quality Code contains guidance about programme approval.[1] Again, HEIs will have measures in place at institutional level to ensure compliance with the Code. However, when designing a curriculum, there are some key things to be aware of. In particular, there will be a formal process to be followed in taking a programme through to approval, which is the institution’s way of ensuring that it is adhering to the Quality Code. This will involve some sort of external scrutiny. You will need to be aware of the timescale over which the approval process will be spread. Missing key deadlines can delay the launch of the new programme, possibly by a whole year. Box 1 shows one university’s timescale for the approval of a new programme.

A similar schedule applies for major changes to existing programmes. The decision on when to launch would also depend upon being able to advertise and recruit. Ultimately, this may be the deciding factor in choosing how quickly to launch. Timescales are likely to vary from institution to institution.

Box 1: Programme approval at the University of Southampton – timescale

For a programme to be approved for launch in September of year (t):

October (t – 1): Faculty Programmes Committee receives notification of new programmes expected to be seeking academic approval during the coming academic year.

Late October (t – 1): University Programme Committee receives report from Faculty Committees, and checks strategic fit of proposed new programmes

January (t): Faculty receives programme specification and associated documentation for detailed scrutiny, with independent external report.

February (t): University Programme Committee receives report from Faculty recommending academic approval.

March (t): Approved programmes entered into student record system and constituent units timetabled.

Note: This timescale refers purely to the academic approval process; more time is likely to be needed for marketing and recruitment.