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Program Accreditation and Review Procedure

Procedure overview

1 Purpose

To describe the University's requirements regarding the preparation, submission and approval of requests to establish, modify, accredit, reaccredit, suspend or disestablish Academic Programs and to establish responsibilities in relation to these processes.

To set standards for these processes to ensure compliance with the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) and the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA), and to ensure a quality institutional academic portfolio.

2 Scope

This procedure applies to all Academic Programs offered by the University.

3 Procedure Overview

This procedure establishes the process and responsibilities to accredit, review and implement Academic Programs at the University.

4 Procedures

The process for the planning, accreditation and review of Academic Programs consists of six separate procedural steps:

  1. proposal and accreditation;
  2. changes to existing Academic Programs;
  3. changes to existing Courses;
  4. mid-term report;
  5. end-of-term review/reaccreditation; and
  6. suspension and discontinuation of an Academic Program.

As a result of the integrated academic planning accreditation and review process, it is expected that the University will improve its:

  • suite of Program offerings;
  • retention, progression and graduation results;
  • market share of first preferences for the State (Queensland/New South Wales) for undergraduate programs;
  • results in relation to graduate employment and Student experience questionnaires;
  • capability to deliver Academic Programs;
  • financial performance;
  • Program quality; and
  • Student experience.

Each of the six procedural steps is able to operate discretely, but all represent an integrated package directed towards achieving both improved academic and business rigor. The Education Management Committee (EMC) has a key role in developing and guiding the composition of the University's institutional academic portfolio. The shape and mix of the academic portfolio is critical in assisting the University to achieve its strategic goals and objectives.

Each year, the EMC will provide clear guidance to the Academic Division regarding the preferred shape and mix of the University's portfolio of Academic Programs. The EMC will also work with areas within the Academic Division to establish the criteria for analysing and assessing the business performance of all Academic Programs at the University. Each Academic Program must be directed towards contributing to the University's goals, and it is expected that annually each area within the Academic Division will review the performance of each of its Academic Programs and work towards improving the overall performance of its suite of Academic Programs.

4.1 Proposal and accreditation

  1. There are two types of new Academic Programs: (1) New Academic Programs and (2) Significant New Academic Programs.
  2. A New Academic Program may involve one or more of the following characteristics:
    1. expansion upon an existing discipline within the University;
    2. the merger of existing Courses within the University to create a new program, with the addition of four or more new Courses; or
    3. the merger of current programs into a new program, with the addition of four or more new Courses.
  3. A Significant New Academic Program may involve one or more of the following characteristics:
    1. a new discipline;
    2. new infrastructure;
    3. substantial investment or risk; or
    4. a new capability which will involve significant impact on staff, Academic Programs or infrastructure.
  4. The Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor will determine whether an Academic Program is a 'New Academic Program' or a 'Significant New Academic Program'.
  5. Proposals for New and Significant New Academic Programs may be initiated by Faculties, other organisational units including campuses or Marketing and Student Attraction, members of the Senior Executive Group, or by the EMC.
  6. As an initial step in the approval process, proposals for New Academic Programs, Significant New Academic Programs and Program reaccreditations must include the Program Proposal Form. The Program Proposal will indicate how the proposal fits with the Faculty's and University's strategic directions. It will identify market analysis undertaken; the alignment with University strategy; articulation with other University Programs; modes and locations of offerings; and the competitive edge for the University. Preparation of the Program Proposal will include consultation with key University stakeholders, including the Students and Communities Division (Marketing and Student Retention) and the Campus Executive Managers, as appropriate.
  7. The Program Proposal must be submitted to the EMC for endorsement. The Head of School or nominee may be invited to address the item at EMC if appropriate. If the Program Proposal is endorsed by the EMC, it will be forwarded to the Faculty to complete the Business Case (in conjunction with the Faculty Management Accountant), Program Specifications (to which a full handbook entry and relevant Course specifications should be attached), appropriate Accreditation Case, Relationship of Learning Objectives to Courses Form, and New Course Specification Short Form (if appropriate). The endorsed Program Proposal, the Business Case, Program Specifications and Accreditation Case should be returned to the EMC for consideration within a timeline to be negotiated, but normally no longer than six months of the endorsement of the Program Proposal. Preparation of the Business Case will include consultation with key University stakeholders, including the Library, Learning Resources Development and Learning and Teaching Support for their assessment of resources. Preparation of the Program Specifications and Accreditation Case will include consultation with staff and Students as appropriate.
  8. The completed Business Case, Program Specifications, appropriate Accreditation Case, Relationship of Learning Objectives to Courses Form, and New Course Specification Short Form (if appropriate) will then be submitted to the EMC accompanied by the previously endorsed Program Proposal for approval. Once approved the Business Case will provide details of the key financial and resource consequences of the Academic Program including investments required, staffing, impacts on campus facilities, and likely revenues and expenses. The Program Specifications will outline the target market for the Program, as well as any additional English Language Proficiency requirements and other appropriate Marketing details. The Accreditation Case will provide evidence on the quality of the Academic Program, and how it will meet external regulations. The Relationship of Learning Objectives to Courses Form, will provide evidence of how the learning objectives for each Course are met, and the New Course Specification Short Form will outline the proposed rationale, instructions and assessment items for each Course.
  9. Once approved by the EMC, the Program Proposal, Program Specifications, Accreditation Case, Relationship of Learning Objectives to Courses Form, and New Course Specification Short Form (if appropriate) will be forwarded to the Education Committee for its endorsement and then to Academic Board and the Vice-Chancellor for approval.
  10. Any Program Proposal not approved by the EMC should not be resubmitted for a further two years unless significant changes have occurred.
  11. In exceptional circumstances where rapid approval of an Academic Program is required, the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor in consultation with the Chair, Academic Board and Chair, Education Committee as appropriate, may, on request from the Faculty or campus, bypass the Committee approval process and recommend approval of an Academic Program to the Vice-Chancellor. Any such decisions will be reported to the EMC, the Education Committee and Academic Board.

4.2 New Academic Programs

  1. A New Academic Program proposal will be developed using the Program Proposal, Business Case, Program Specifications, appropriate Accreditation Case, Relationship of Learning Objectives to Courses Form and New Course Specification Short Form (if appropriate) as outlined in steps 6-10 above.
  2. Preparation of the proposal will involve consultation with the Library and, where applicable: non-host Faculties providing Courses in the Academic Program; Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Services; Learning, Teaching and Quality; and the Campus Director.
  3. If the EMC approves the proposal, it shall forward the New Academic Program proposal to the Academic Board through the Education Committee for quality assurance checks. Once endorsed by the Education Committee, and approved by Academic Board, it will be forwarded to the Vice-Chancellor for final approval. If the Committee is not satisfied with the program proposal, it will advise the appropriate Faculty. If the program has significant research implications, Academic Board may also require the endorsement of the Research Committee. The Chair of Academic Board will advise if the endorsement of the Research Committee is required.
  4. Once the approval of a New Program is granted, accreditation of this program will be established automatically for a period of five years from the commencing program date, unless otherwise advised by Academic Board. The relevant details will be entered in a Program Accreditation Register maintained by the Office of the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

4.3 Significant New Academic Programs

  1. A Significant New Academic Program proposal will be developed using the Program Proposal, Business Case, Program Specifications, appropriate Accreditation Case, Relationship of Learning Objectives to Courses Form, and New Course Specification Short Form (if appropriate) as outlined in steps 6-10 above.
  2. If the EMC is satisfied that the proposed Significant New Academic Program represents a desirable objective for the University, it will establish a specific working group including a representative(s) from the sponsoring Faculty to prepare the Significant New Academic Program proposal. The working group may also include an Industry expert.
  3. The Significant New Academic Program proposal will require a more rigorous analysis of the market demand compared with a New Academic Program proposal.
  4. The Significant New Academic Program proposal will be submitted to the EMC for approval before being submitted to the Academic Board through the Education Committee for quality assurance checks. Once endorsed by the Education Committee, and approved by Academic Board, it will be forwarded to the Vice-Chancellor for final approval. If the Committee is not satisfied with the program proposal, it will advise the appropriate Faculty. If the program has significant research implications, Academic Board may also require the endorsement of the Research Committee. The Chair of Academic Board will advise if the endorsement of the Research Committee is required.
  5. Once the approval of a Significant New Program is granted, accreditation of this program will be established automatically for a period of five years from the commencing program date, unless otherwise advised by Academic Board. The relevant details will be entered in a Program Accreditation Register maintained by the Office of the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

4.4 Changes to existing Academic Programs

  1. The Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor will approve the following changes to an existing Academic Program where there are no new Courses, where there are fewer than four new Courses, or where there are changes to fewer than four Courses.
    1. a new specialisation;
    2. a new major or changes to a major;
    3. a new minor or changes to a minor;
    4. the discontinuation of an existing minor;
    5. a new mode of offer or change to mode of offer;
    6. a new place of offer;
    7. new admission requirements;
    8. a new Semester intake; or
    9. changes to English Language Proficiency requirements.
  2. The Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor will approve the discontinuation of an existing major in an existing Academic Program. A proposal to discontinue a major will involve:
    1. a Student impact statement, and how the quality and integrity of the Student experience will be maintained during the phase-out stage;
    2. arrangements for Students during the phasing-out of the major, including timelines for implementation that are consistent with the lead times necessary for international applicants;
    3. disclosure of comprehensive information to all affected parties, including details of the communication strategy;
    4. an impact statement as to the future viability of the program without that particular major; and
    5. All modes of delivery shall be assessed when planning to discontinue a major.
  3. The Faculty will be required to submit a Program Proposal to the EMC for endorsement, where:
    1. changes to an existing program involve four or more new Courses, or
    2. where the delivery or assessment of a program is in a language other than English.

Upon endorsement of the Program Proposal by the EMC, the Faculty must then submit the endorsed Program Proposal, an updated Business Case, Program Specifications, Accreditation Case, Relationship of Learning Objectives to Courses Form, and New Course Specification Short Form (if appropriate) to the Academic Board through the EMC and the Education Committee as per steps 6-10 above.

  1. The approval of major changes to a program will not affect the period of accreditation of the program.
  2. The Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor will report all minor change approvals to the EMC and the Education Committee.
  3. For all submissions, only brief Course outlines are required and only one Course outline will be submitted for each Course, irrespective of the place or mode of offering.
  4. In all cases, prior to approval, consultation with relevant University stakeholders is required, including Campus Directors.

4.5 Changes to existing Courses

4.5.1 Adding new Courses

  1. New Courses may be approved during the program accreditation process.
  2. The Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor will approve new Courses proposed for inclusion in existing Academic Programs via the change to an existing Academic Program process.

4.5.2 Changes to existing Courses

  1. The Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor will approve changes where a new Course number or funding category is required. Changes to the mode or place of offer for a Course will also be considered to require the approval of the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor.
  2. All other changes to Courses will be approved by the relevant Executive Dean after appropriate consultation with key University stakeholders has occurred.

4.5.3 Discontinuation of existing Courses

  1. The discontinuation of a Course will be approved by the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, with advice to any Faculties using that Course in their Academic Programs. This action requires careful consideration of the impact on Students, and appropriate communication with Students affected by the decision to discontinue a Course.
  2. For all submissions to the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, only brief Course outlines are required and only one Course outline will be submitted for each Course, irrespective of the place or mode of offering.

4.6 Mid-term report

  1. A mid-term review report is not required for Academic Programs that are performing satisfactorily according to the Annual Program Performance Reports (APPR). The Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, in consultation with the relevant Executive Dean, will decide whether a program is performing satisfactorily.
  2. The Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor will determine the nature of the mid-term review for Academic Programs that have not performed satisfactorily according to the APPR process.
  3. The report will be received and discussed annually by the EMC.
  4. Outcomes from the report will be submitted to the Academic Board for information.
  5. Executive Deans will be responsible for reviewing and ensuring all new Academic Programs are meeting the requirements outlined in the Accreditation Case.

4.7 End-of-term review/reaccreditation

  1. The normal period of accreditation of a program is five calendar years, although a shorter time period may be allowed to align with external accreditation requirements.
  2. The Executive Dean will initiate the reaccreditation process no later than the beginning of the year in which the accreditation of a program expires (unless it is proposed that the program be discontinued).
  3. A full proposal will be prepared and submitted to the EMC as per steps 6-10 above. The Faculty will also need to outline the performance of the current program, including Enrolments and retention rates.
  4. A Faculty may bring forward the date of the reaccreditation of a program to coincide with the timing of the external professional accreditation.

4.8 Suspension and discontinuation of a Program

  1. A program may need to be suspended or discontinued. The grounds for suspending or discontinuing a program may include insufficient demand to maintain specified minimum class sizes, changes in Faculty or University objectives, and financial constraints.
  2. A proposal to suspend or discontinue the offering of a program shall require the approval of the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, and should be submitted directly to the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor's Office.
  3. A proposal to suspend or discontinue a program will involve:
    1. a Student impact statement, and how the quality and integrity of the Student experience will be maintained during the phase-out stage;
    2. arrangements for Students during the phasing-out of the program, including timelines for implementation that are consistent with the lead times necessary for international applicants; and
    3. disclosure of comprehensive information to all affected parties, including details of the communication strategy.

All modes of delivery shall be assessed when planning to suspend or discontinue a program.

  1. Where a program is to be replaced by a program with equivalent or related outcomes, Enrolled Students are to be transferred to that new program ('Equivalent Program'). The Faculty shall be responsible for coordinating the transfer of the Enrolled Student's Enrolment to the Equivalent Program.
  2. If no Equivalent Program exists (for example, where professional accreditation cannot be attained through a similar or related program), Students will be taught out. This may occur under restricted Course offerings and pathways.
  3. The Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor will report all suspensions to the EMC and the Education Committee.
  4. The EMC will report all discontinuations to the Education Committee.

5 References

Nil.

6 Schedules

This procedure must be read in conjunction with its subordinate schedules as provided in the table below.

7 Procedure Information

Subordinate Schedules

Accreditation Case Schedule

Accreditation of Programs Offered by Other Institutions Schedule

Course Naming and Numbering Schedule

English Language Proficiency Requirements Schedule

Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma Standard Schedule

Program Nomenclature Schedule

Protocol for Jointly Badged Awards Schedule

Standard Admissions Statements Schedule

Accountable Officer

Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor

Policy Type

University Procedure

Approved Date

25/6/2015

Effective Date

25/6/2015

Review Date

28/3/2017

Relevant Legislation

Australian Qualifications Framework

Related Policies

Academic Programs and Courses Policy

Admissions Policy

Related Procedures

Admissions Procedure

Assessment Procedure

Related forms, publications and websites

The following forms may be accessed in SharePoint (restricted access):

  • Program Proposal
  • Business Case
  • Accreditation Case
  • Program Specifications
  • Relationship of Courses to Learning Objectives of Program Form
  • New Course Specification Short Form
  • Reaccreditation Project Proposal Form
  • Request for Minor Changes

The following flowcharts may be accessed in SharePoint (restricted access):

  • USQ Minor Changes flowchart
  • USQ Major Changes flowchart
  • USQ Program Accreditation flowchart

Definitions

Terms defined in the Definitions Dictionary

Academic Program

An approved Higher Education Award of the University, consisting of a combination of Courses the successful completion of an offering of which, together with any credit transfers and Exemptions in accordance with the relevant requirements, will fulfil the prescribed requirements for that particular Award....moreAn approved Higher Education Award of the University, consisting of a combination of Courses the successful completion of an offering of which, together with any credit transfers and Exemptions in accordance with the relevant requirements, will fulfil the prescribed requirements for that particular Award.

Academic Year

A period of time consisting of Semesters and teaching periods that all commence in the same calendar year....moreA period of time consisting of Semesters and teaching periods that all commence in the same calendar year.

Award Program

A sequence of study which leads to an academic qualification granted by the University and conferred by Council....moreA sequence of study which leads to an academic qualification granted by the University and conferred by Council.

Course

The basic unit of study and assessment for which a Student may be awarded a grade, and may accumulate credit units towards completion of a Program....moreThe basic unit of study and assessment for which a Student may be awarded a grade, and may accumulate credit units towards completion of a Program.

Enrolment

The process of admitting Students to one or more Courses for the current Academic Year....moreThe process of admitting Students to one or more Courses for the current Academic Year.

Semester

The period of time during which instruction is provided, learning is undertaken and Assessment is carried out. There are three periods during an Academic Year known consecutively as Semester 1, Semester 2 and Semester 3....moreThe period of time during which instruction is provided, learning is undertaken and Assessment is carried out. There are three periods during an Academic Year known consecutively as Semester 1, Semester 2 and Semester 3.

Student

A person who has been Admitted or Enrolled at the University, but has not yet graduated from their Academic Program....moreA person who has been Admitted or Enrolled at the University, but has not yet graduated from their Academic Program.

University

The term 'University' or 'USQ' means the University of Southern Queensland....moreThe term 'University' or 'USQ' means the University of Southern Queensland.

Definitions that relate to this procedure only

Keywords

program management

Record No

14/90PL

Failure to comply with this Policy or Policy Instrument may be considered as misconduct and the provisions of the relevant Policy or Procedure applied.

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