SOAS University of London

Registry

Section A: Programme and Module Approval/Amendment/Withdrawal

Programme Approval

Programmes offered by departments potentially lead to the award of SOAS degrees, and changes to the programme-level curriculum are therefore the responsiblity of Academic Board [AB]. From 2017/18 AB has delegated the approval of new and amended programmes to the Learning and Teaching Quality Committee [LTQC], which has approved the following principles and process following their endorsement by Executive Board.

Sections:

A1 Programme or Module

Many Quality Assurance procedures, including those for approving new provision, are different for programmes and modules. This terminology is well-established but it may be useful to define it clearly, especially as new types of provision are introduced. By programme we mean a whole programme of study leading to an award, usually a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, certificate or diploma.  Module can mean an element or unit which combines with others to constitute a programme, or a short (one year or less) offering which may or may not be credit-bearing, but from which students would not ‘graduate’ with an award. In cases of uncertainty advice can be sought from the QA Team.

The Academic Teaching Developer has considerable expertise in the design and development of new programmes, and can be called upon to advise - please contact Mehmet Izbudak.

A2 Principles for the approval of new programmes and amendments

  1. Until further notice, no programmes will be approved which would require additional staff recruitment unless the School had previously agreed a key strategic project, such as expansion in to a new academic area.
  2. No Programmes will be approved without a realistic expectation that they will break even within two years - this includes a robust enforcement of deadlines to ensure that all new programmes are approved in time to allow for timely and effective promotion ahead of the application cycle.
  3. New programmes will undergo a full review (academic and financial) within two years, with the possibility of closure to new applicants if they have not broken even.
  4. New undergraduate programmes should have a mainly fixed curriculum.  This enables a more accurate assessment of costs; reduces strain on systems such as timetable; and (most importantly) supports student success: a fixed curriculum at this level provide a clear structure for students' initial period in HE, for which academic guidance can more effectively be provided.  By seeing the first year as a coherent whole, departments can also more easily adapt it, to ensure that - by including appropriate formative feedback, methods of assessment and skills training - it facilitates transition and retention for the whole student body, including groups for whom there are currently attainment gaps.
  5. New undergraduate programmes, and existing programmes undertaking major amendments, should ensure that they comply with UK expectations (as set out in the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications), including ensuring students take a minimum of 90 credits at level 6.
  6. New two subject degrees will no longer be approved as amendments to one subject degrees, but will be expected to undergo the full approval process for a new programme, including testing of viability.
  7. From 2018/19, Comprehensive Reviews will include revalidation of existing programmes, testing their continued viability and contribution to SOAS strategy.

A3 What does a 'fixed curriculum' mean?

Year 1

Very limited choice - 75% fixed:

  1. 30 credits core (level4)
  2. 60-90 credits compulsory (level 4 or 5)
  3. 0-30 credits EITHER chosen from a limited list (no more that 4 modules*) OR a language module at an appropriate level.
Year 2

More space for choice, but still 50% fixed:

  1. 30 credits core (level 5)
  2. 30-60 credits compulsory (level 5 or 6)
  3. 0-30 credits chosen from a limited list (no more than 6 modules*, which should include some at least level 5 or above)
  4. 0-30 credits for an open option at any level, which may include a language module at an appropriate level.
Year 3

Far more scope for choice - 25-50% fixed:

  1. 30 credits core (level 6)
  2. 0-30 credits compulsory (level 6)
  3. 0-60 credits chosen from a limited list (no more that 6 modules*, all at level 6)
  4. 0-30 credits for an open option at level 5 or 6, which may include a language module at an appropriate level. (This must be included if it is not in Year 2.)

* Where a maximum number of modules is suggested, this is intended to be the maximum available in any given year.  If you anticipate that modules will run in alternate years, or that a number will be unavailable in any given year, this should be made clear.

Programme proposers are encouraged to consider whether any open options likely to be chosen in later years of a proposed programme need pre-requisite modules to be completed in Year 1. Committees approving programmes may take this into consideration if it requires a larger number of options to be included in the limited list than suggested above.

A4. Amendments to existing programmes

Amendments may include:

  • Change of title
  • Changes to the intended learning outcomes of the programme
  • Introduction of a year abroad or changes in the location of duration of existing arrangements
  • Changes to core (or compulsory) modules: addition or removal of such module requirements, amendments to existing core modules, or a change from one modules to another
  • Additions or removal of a large number of optional modules at once (six, or fewer if they constitute half or more of the options available to students)
  • Changes in the mode of delivery: e.g. introduction of a distance learning element or time spent at a partner institution.

These changes constitute an amendment to the programme and therefore need early approval, in order to publish correct information before prospective students accept offers of admissions.

The approval process is as follows:

  1. Development by academic staff, recorded on the Programme Amendment Form and Module Approval/Amendment forms as necessary;
  2. QA co-ordinates confirmation by professional services that the programme and modules can still be supported;
  3. Consideration in departments;
  4. Approval by Head of Department;
  5. Forwarding to FLTC secretary for inclusion on the next agenda;
  6. Consideration and approval by FLTC and forwarding to Quality Assurance for inclusion on the next agenda of JFPP;
  7. Consideration and approval by JFPP and forwarding to LTQC;
  8. Consideration and approval by LTQC;
  9. QA team informs all relevant parties of approval;
  10. Recording on UnitE by Quality Assurance team;
  11. Information about programme published online;
  12. Applicants admitted to programme;
  13. Teaching begins.

Any changes to the order of these steps could lead to incorrect information being given to students, causing unnecessary confusion, disrupting their studies, and breaching SOAS' obligations under Consumer Rights legislation.  Fines and other costs incurred as a result of such breaches will be passes on to the department responsible.

It is strongly recommended that approval takes place in time for it to be reflected in all published information, including the prospectus.  For undergraduate entry, this is produced in the spring in order to be available for prospective students well ahead of the UCAS opening in early September.  Approval in the early spring is therefore desirable and allows for a full programme of marketing and recruitment activity.

The last possible approval date allows steps 8-10 to take place before the closing date for application closes, but for very little recruitment activity.  Programme amendments will have twelve months added to the start date if they are brought forward after these dates.

Amendments will apply only to new students starting the programme from the approved start date.  It will be assumed that students already enrolled will be able to complete the programme in its existing format UNLESS permission is given by the Pro-Director (Learning & Teaching) for the change to include them.

Students should not be given information which has not yet been approved: this will not be accepted as a reason for making a change after the deadline.

The programme proposal forms (Parts 1 and 2) are available to download on the right hand side of the screen and should be completed by the programme proposer.

A5. Approval of new programmes

The approval of new programmes has additional steps, as development of a programme should not be started until SOAS has agreed that is would be a valuable addition to its portfolio.  Programmes need early approval, in order to publish correct information before prospective students accept offers of admission.

The approval process is as follows:

  1. Informal discussion between department and Marketing & Student Recruitment, to establish possible demand for such a programme - this would usually form part of the Comprehensive Reviews, but can be carried out between reviews if there is strong justification for doing so;
  2. Informal discussion between department and Timetabling to allow for modelling of provisional curriculum;
  3. Identification by the Department of external subject specialists who can comment on the proposal, particularly the learning outcomes and structure of the programme;
  4. QA co-ordinates confirmation by professional services that the programme can be supported;
  5. Consideration of Part 1 of the Approval Form at Executive Board, and approval in principle of the development of a programme and of the nominated external subject specialists;
  6. Development by academic staff, recorded on Part 2 of the Approval Form and Module Approval/Amendment forms as necessary;
  7. Comment by the external subject specialist (and response or amendment by the programme team as appropriate);
  8. Consideration in departments;
  9. Approval by Head of Department;
  10. Forwarding to FLTC secretary for inclusion on the next agenda;
  11. Consideration and approval by FLTC and forwarding to Quality Assurance for inclusion on the next agenda of JFPP;
  12. Consideration and approval by JFPP and forwarding to LTQC;
  13. Consideration and approval by LTQC;
  14. QA team informs all relevant parties of approval;
  15. Recording on UnitE by Quality Assurance team;
  16. Information about programme published online;
  17. Applicants apply and are admitted to programme;
  18. Teaching begins.

Any changes to the order of these steps could lead to incorrect information being given to students, causing unnecessary confusion, disrupting their studies, and breaching SOAS' obligations under Consumer Rights legislation.  Fines and other costs incurred as a result of such breaches will be passed on to the department responsible.

It is strongly recommended that approval takes place in time for it to be reflected in all published information, including the prospectus.  For undergraduate entry, this is produced in the spring in order to be available for prospective students well ahead of UCAS opening in early September.  Final approval in the early spring is therefore desirable and allows for a full programme of marketing and recruitment activity.

The last possible approval dates allows steps 8-10 to take place before the closing date for applications closes, but for very little recruitment activity.  Programme amendments will have twelve months added to the start date if they are brought forward after these dates.

Prospective students should not be given information which has not yet been approved: this will not be accepted as a reason for approving proposals after the deadline.

A programme proposer may be asked to attend a committee meeting at which their proposal is to be considered, if they are not already a member of that committee, and if in the opinion of the Chair there are likely to be further questions regarding the proposal.

The programme proposal forms (Parts 1 and 2) and proposal timeline are available to download on the right hand side of the screen and should be completed by the programme proposer.

A7 Programme withdrawal

Programmes which are no longer offered, and which a department does not anticipate offering again in the near future, should be withdrawn. A department which has agreed to seek the withdrawal of a programme should submit the Withdrawal/Amendment Form to Faculty Learning and Teaching Committee, which will decide whether or not to recommend the withdrawal of the programme to JFPP, then if approved on to LTQC. LTQC will have final decision on whether or not a programme should be withdrawn.

The programme withdrawal/amendment form is available to download on the right hand side of the screen and should be completed by the programme proposer.

A8 Module approval

New modules are considered for approval by Faculty Learning and Teaching Committees. A department (or appropriate centre/institute) wishing to propose a new modules should complete and submit the form below to the FLTC. No module will be permitted to run if it has not been approved through this process:

Please note that the following amendments are considered to be major and must be completed as a new Module Approval:

  • Amendments to the credit value of existing module
  • Amendments to the FHEQ level of an existing module
  • Amendments to the department ownership of a module
Non-Faculty Programmes

Institutes, professional services directorates and other sections of the School which do not belong to a Faculty may propose modules, and should contact the Quality Assurance Manager for advice when planning to do so. LTQC has approved a procedure for their consideration whereby scrutiny of a module approval form and supporting documentation is delegated to a panel consisting of academic and student members from across the School. The panel will carry out all parts of the procedure which would otherwise be undertaken by an FLTC, and will make a recommendation to JFPP regarding approval of the proposal.

A9 Module changes

Module amendments are considered for approval by Faculty Learning and Teaching Committees. Major changes need to be completed on the Module Approval Form (see A8 above). Minor changes need to be completed on the following form:

Minor Module Amendments include:

  • Amendments to the Module title (if you are just changing the Title you should use the Module Title Amendment Form)
  • Amendments to the Module description/content
  • Amendments to the Module availability
  • Amendments to the Module status
  • Amendments to the teaching and learning pattern
  • Amendments to the assessment

Changes to modules cannot normally be approved retrospectively. In exceptional circumstances such cases should be forwarded to the Chair of the appropriate FLTC with a written statement from the Head of Department of the reasons for seeking retrospective approval. The statement should include evidence that all the students on the module have signed a document agreeing to the changes, or evidence that the details of the module in its amended form were in the documentation or electronic information supplied to students at the beginning of the module. In the latter case, an explanation should be provided as to why the documentation or electronic information supplied to students did not reflect the approved version of the module.

Non-Faculty Programmes

Institutes, professional services directorates and other sections of the School which do not belong to a Faculty may amend modules, and should contact the Quality Assurance Manager for advice when planning to do so. LTQC has approved a procedure for their consideration whereby scrutiny of a module amendment form and supporting documentation is delegated to a panel consisting of academic and student members from across the School. The panel will carry out all parts of the procedure which would otherwise be undertaken by an FLTC, and will make a recommendation to JFPP regarding approval of the amendment.

A10 Module withdrawal

Modules which are no longer offered, and which a department does not anticipate offering again in the near future, should be withdrawn using the Module Withdrawal Form. It is the School’s policy to withdraw modules which have repeatedly failed to attract a minimum number of students (these quotas are set by Faculties).

Module Withdrawal Forms should be submitted to the appropriate Faculty Learning and Teaching Committee for approval. A Module Withdrawal Form will also need to be completed in the following circumstances:

  • Where a new Module supersedes a current module and the current Module is to be withdrawn
  • An amendment to the credit level
  • An amendment to the FHEQ level
  • A change of department ownership of a current module
Non-Faculty Programmes

Institutes, professional services directorates and other sections of the School which do not belong to a Faculty may withdraw modules, and should contact the Quality Assurance Manager for advice when planning to do so. LTQC has approved a procedure for their consideration whereby scrutiny of a module withdrawal form and supporting documentation is delegated to a panel consisting of academic and student members from across the School. The panel will carry out all parts of the procedure which would otherwise be undertaken by an FLTC, and will make a recommendation to JFPP regarding approval of the withdrawal.