2.4 New or Restructured Study Schemes

1. This section describes the process for the approval of taught degree schemes and other schemes of study leading to awards at Aberystwyth University, and applies to new scheme proposals and to existing schemes which are being restructured. Schemes will be approved for a five year period, after which they will need to undergo a process of Periodic Scheme Review (Section 2.7).

2. Scheme provision at the University is overseen by the Academic Development and Planning Committee (ADPC), a sub-committee of Academic Board. ADPC is responsible for maintaining an overview of proposals for new schemes, suspensions and withdrawals. Proposals for new and revised schemes will be considered by scheme approval panels, which report to ADPC.

3. The approval process is designed to address the guidelines of the UK Quality Code, Chapters B1 Programme Design and Approval, A4 Approval and Review and B8 Programme Monitoring and Review. This isto assure the University that, in developing new study schemes, institutes have given proper consideration to the following:

(i) External reference points, including any relevant subject benchmark statements and the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ);
(ii) The advice of external subject specialists (for example a current external examiner or members of an external advisory body) and, where appropriate, the requirements of PSRBs and employers;
(iii) The compatibility of scheme proposals with existing provision and with institutional goals and mission;
(iv) Resource requirements including staff, library, IT and any subject specific resources (e.g. laboratory facilities);
(v) The likely level of demand.

The approval timetable and process

4. Institutes planning to introduce a new study scheme, or significantly modify an existing one, should aim to commence the process well in advance. The earlier the process is put in train, the earlier it will be completed, and the more time will be available for recruitment and advertising to give the best chance of a healthy intake. Staff who are developing proposals must liaise with the Planning Office, who will provide the template for a Business Evaluation and Market Research Report.

5. Proposals for new/restructured schemes should be sent to AQRO for consideration by ADPC. The deadlines for submission and the timescale for marketing and approval are published online and updated on an annual basis. ADPC will decide on the level of the approval panel required and determine the timeframe.

6. Scheme proposals should be submitted to ADPC in line with the two year planning cycle. Deadlines for the submission of papers to ADPC are available online here. In cases where proposals for new / restructured schemes are not in line with the 2 Year cycle, ADPC will determine the feasibility of an earlier introduction.

7. Institutes have the option of completing Section A only of the Schemapp1 for initial consideration by ADPC. This must be accompanied by the Business Evaluation and Market Research Report, but completion of Section B of the form can be delayed until confirmation by the committee that the proposal will be referred to a scheme approval panel.

8. Where it is determined that an External Assessor is required, institutes will be invited to nominate an External Assessor to take part in the approval process. Nominations must be submitted to AQRO by completing the Schemapp2 form.

Scheme approval panels

9. ADPC will consider all proposals for new and restructured schemes and will determine the level of scrutiny required. Where a free-standing Certificate or Diploma is offered, it must be approved as a new study scheme with a programme specification and scheme structure. ADPC will also consider proposals for a change of scheme title (see section 2.5) and the withdrawal/suspension of a scheme (see section 2.6). Following initial consideration, ADPC may convene and External or Internal Approval Panel, or may be assured that the proposal is sufficiently similar to existing provision to warrant approval without referral to an approval panel. If an Internal Panel is convened, ADPC may also decide that an external assessor should be required to contribute a written report. ADPC may convene an internal panel, in cases where:

(i) It is proposed to offer an existing schemes through a new mode of study;
(ii) A major restructure of an existing scheme is proposed;
(iii) A new scheme is based entirely on existing provision.

ADPC may also require the appointment of an external assessor to submit a written report for an internal panel.

10. The membership of an External Approval Panel will be as follows:

(i) The Chair, to be drawn from outside the proposing Institute, e.g. an Institute Director, or an Institute Director of Undergraduate / Postgraduate Studies. The Chair should have suitable independence and critical distance from the proposed scheme, and will be selected by AQRO.
(ii) A minimum of one member of academic staff, with suitable independence and critical distance from the proposal;
(iii) An External Assessor with relevant subject expertise (who will usually participate through video-link);
(iv) A student representative, to be drawn from a pool nominated by the Student’ Union;
(v) A member of staff from the AQRO Quality Assurance team, who will also draft the panel report.

11. An Internal Approval Panel will include the same membership, with the exception that it will not include an External Assessor. It is expected however that comments from the current external examiner(s) of the scheme should be submitted as evidence of external consultation.

12. Institutes will be invited to nominate a representative to present the proposal at the panel meeting. In the case of cross-institute schemes, a representative from each institute involved will be nominated by their respective institutes.

The role of Scheme Approval Panels

13. Scheme Approval Panels are constituted as a standing panel reporting to the Academic Development and Planning Committee (ADPC). Panels are responsible for making final decisions on the approval of scheme proposals, but may refer final decisions to ADPC if there are significant areas of concern or issues of wider consideration for the University. ADPC will retain oversight for the operation of scheme approval panels and will monitor the effectiveness of the QA processes.

14. The following documentation must be presented to scheme approval panels:

(i) Section B of Schemapp1 (if not previously completed), giving details of the rationale for its introduction;
(ii) Programme specification(s) including detailed information on the scheme structure;
(iii) Evidence of external consultation during the development of the proposal, and any other relevant information, e.g. CVs of non-AU staff involved in the delivery assessment criteria for new assessment modes, information on special facilities should be submitted to AQRO;
(iv) New/restructured module approval forms for any new or amended modules;
(v) Scheme/module learning outcomes mapped against assessment.

15. The Panels will ensure that there is evidence of sufficient external consultation during the development of the scheme, for example with current external examiners, departmental external advisors, and representatives of professional or accrediting bodies. External Approval Panels will take full account of the views of the external assessor, who will be required to complete a written report (Schemapp4) prior to the event for consideration by the panel. Internal approval panels may also request a report from an external assessor.

16. Meetings of approval panels will be ordered as follows;

(i) Welcome by the Chair
(ii) Summary of the proposal by the proposing institute
(iii) Opening comments by the External Assessor
(iv) General discussion, which will consider the following questions and take account of the needs of all students:

  • Is there evidence of demand for the scheme and are the entry requirements at an appropriate level?
  • Are the aims and learning outcomes of the scheme appropriate particularly in relation to relevant subject benchmarks, the Framework of Higher Education Qualifications and the Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales?
  • Is the curriculum content and design appropriate for achieving the intended learning outcomes of the scheme?
  • Is the curriculum organised such that the demands made of the learner in terms of intellectual challenge, skills, knowledge, conceptualisation and learning autonomy increase progressively?
  • Is the assessment regime suitable to measure achievement of the intended outcomes?
  • Are there adequate resources, i.e. staff, library, IT and any specialist requirements, to deliver the scheme effectively?
  • Are there any special features of the scheme that have implications for its viability, management or delivery, or for the regulations of the University?  

(v) Deliberation by the panel, for which the representative of the proposing institute will not be present;
(vi) Decision.

Decisions of Scheme Approval Panels

17. Approval Panels have the choice of one of the following decisions:

(i) Unconditional approval,
(ii) Approval with minor modifications (to be approved by the Chair of the Panel);
(iii) Conditional approval: approval is subject to specified conditions being met within a given time scale. This will require the proposing department to submit a response to the Chair of the Panel, which will also be ratified by the external assessor;
(iv) Referral back to the institute. In such cases it is anticipated that considerable revision would be required before re-presenting the proposal;
(v) Rejection.

18. The Secretary to the Approval Panel will produce a report of its meeting (Schemapp5), noting its decision,which the Chair will sign. The proposing institute will be invited to complete Section C of Schemapp1, to be reviewed by the Chair of the Panel, and External Assessor if required. If the Chair is satisfied that there are no issues of concern then the decision of the panel shall be considered final and reported to the ADPC. Where there are any issues of concern the final decision shall be referred to ADPC.

19. Where proposals are approved and all recommendations and conditions have been met, the Approval Panel’s Schemapp5 report and the final version of Section C of Schemapp1 will be submitted to ADPC.

Marketing and Introduction

20. Following approval of a scheme, the AQRO QA team will communicate the decision to the proposing Institute and to relevant service departments.