2.4 Executive Approval Pathway

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. Schemes will be approved for a five year period, after which they will need to undergo a process of Departmental Periodic Review (Section 2.9).

2. Scheme provision at the University is overseen by the Portfolio Planning Committee (PPC), a sub-committee of Academic Board. PPC is responsible for maintaining an overview of proposals for new schemes, suspensions and withdrawals. Proposals for new schemes will be considered by a standing Scheme Approval Panel, which reports to PPC.

3. The approval process is designed to address the guiding principles, and meet the core and common practices as outlined in the UK Quality Code. This is to assure the University that, in developing new study schemes, academic departments 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. Academic departments planning to introduce a new study scheme, or significantly modify an existing one, should allow for sufficient time for recruitment and advertising. Staff who are developing proposals must liaise with the relevant Faculty Pro Vice-Chancellor(s), Planning Office, Global Marketing and Student Recruitment and Information Services in the early stages of development.

            5. The timescale for marketing and approval (two year planning cycle) are published online and updated on an annual basis: https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/academic-registry/handbook/dev-review/. Proposals should be submitted to PPC and the deadlines for the submission of papers are available online: https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/academic-registry/aqro-coms/. In cases where proposals for new schemes are not in line with a two year cycle, PPC will determine the feasibility of an earlier introduction.

            6. The executive approval pathway is for proposals which are considered as major changes or restructures, development in an area of new provision, and where there are resource or university-level implications which require sign off by PPC and the University Executive Group. The process is split into two stages:

            Stage 1

            SDF1.1, PAF1/PAF2 – Consideration of business case and impact on overall academic portfolio by PPC and University Executive Group.

            7. Departments should submit the following documents supporting the initial proposal to the PPC and the University Executive Group. Deadlines for submission of paperwork can be found here: https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/academic-registry/aqro-coms/. Departments should consult with the Faculty PVC, Planning Department, Global Marketing and Student Recruitment, and the Academic Registry QA link before submitting a proposal.

            (i) Committee coversheet

            (ii) Scheme Development Form 1: Proposal for a New or Restructured Scheme: SDF1.1 only is required for consideration by the PPC, and additional guidance is provided within the form

            (iii) Preliminary Finance form (PAF1 / PAF2): Faculties/Departments should liaise with the Planning Department in good time prior to submission of the proposal. Following this detailed discussion, the Planning Department will provide the template for these forms for consideration by the University Executive Group; they are only available on request from the Planning Department (https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/pag/).

            8. The PPC and University Executive Group will consider proposals in the context of strategy, business viability including costs, risks (including reputational risks), student numbers and practical considerations and will determine whether they should go forward for academic consideration by the standing Scheme Approval Panel, referred back to the Department for further discussion or rejected. The Department should consult with the Faculty Executive as appropriate, including the Associate Dean (Learning and Teaching) and the Associate Dean (Welsh-medium Academic Provision). If the proposal is likely to affect provision in other subject areas, the Department should also consult with the other departments.

            9. Departments will be notified of the decision of PPC and the University Executive Group.

            Marketing of scheme

            10. The scheme may be advertised as ‘subject to approval’ in the next formal University prospectus following approval from the PPC and University Executive Group. Schemes cannot be advertised on UCAS or online until they have fully completed the approval process, unless the department has made a successful case for advertising the scheme as ‘subject to approval’ in printed and online materials in addition to the formal University prospectus. The Academic Registry QA team will communicate the decision to the proposing department(s) and to relevant service departments.

            Stage 2

            SDF1.2 and remaining proposal paperwork - Consideration of academic rationale and overview by the standing Scheme Approval Panel.

            11. Once approval to proceed to the next stage of the approval process has been received from PPC and the University Executive Group, detailed consideration of the academic content, curriculum design and delivery, the student experience, learning resources, support and administration arrangements, and formal sign-off of the proposal, will be considered by the Scheme Approval Panel (see dates here: https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/academic-registry/handbook/dev-review/). The Scheme Approval Panel may not reject a proposal unless it is on QA grounds.

            12. Departments should complete the SDF1.2 and remaining proposal documentation and submit it with SDF1.1 to the Scheme Approval Panel;

            (i) Committee coversheet

            (ii) Programme specification(s), including scheme/module learning outcomes mapped against assessment (SDF9)

            (iii) Evidence of external consultation

            (iv) Evidence of consultation with current students/ alumni

            (v) New/restructured module approval forms, where appropriate, or links to existing modules

            (vi) Nomination of an External Assessor Form (SDF7).

            13. Academic Registry will liaise with the External Assessor who will be required to complete a written report prior to the event for consideration at the approval panel: SDF8 External Assessor’s Report. This will be requested by Academic Registry once the External Assessor has accepted the invitation. External Assessors are not invited to attend the Panel unless issues arise from the report which require further discussion, then they may be consulted by video conference.

            Outcome of approval panel

            14. Following the meeting of the panel, minutes of the meeting are produced by the Secretary to the Panel (normally a member of the Academic Registry QA Team) in consultation with the Chair.

            15. A committee coversheet should be completed by the proposing Department in response to the minutes, providing details of amendments made to the original proposal as a result of the feedback from the Scheme Approval Panel. No further changes should be made to SDF1.1 and SDF1.2 unless it is a recommendation of the Panel. The committee coversheet and the minutes of the approval panel will be submitted to FAAC and PPC. PPC minutes are submitted to Academic Board.

            Scheme approval panels

            16. The standing Scheme Approval Panel will have membership of 12-16 academic members of staff with each faculty nominating members to normally sit for a period of up to 4 years. These will include the Associate Dean (L&T) but there will be a quorum of 4-5, to include an Academic Registry and student representative, and not all nominated faculty members would have to attend each time. Normally an Associate Dean will chair the Panel.

            17. The standing Panel will normally sit 5-6 times between October and April. Proposals for scheme approval will be considered at these meetings and departments will need to plan accordingly, but additional meetings may be scheduled if necessary.

            18. External Assessors are not required to attend meetings but must submit a written report. The panel may ask for further comments where appropriate or the External Assessor may be invited to attend via video conference if issues are identified in their written report that require further detailed discussion.

            19. The Secretary to the Panel (usually a member of the Academic Registry QA Team) is responsible for taking minutes, identifying decisions and any recommendations. These minutes will go to the proposing department for any further action, and will also be submitted to PPC as a record of the decisions taken.

            20. The membership of the Scheme Approval Panel will be as follows:

            a. The Chair, to be drawn from outside the proposing academic department, and usually an Associate Dean (Learning and Teaching). The Chair should have suitable independence and critical distance from the proposed scheme, and will be selected by Academic Registry

            b. A minimum of one member of academic staff, with suitable independence and critical distance from the proposal

            c. A student representative, to be drawn from a pool nominated by the Students’ Union, normally a Student Reviewer

            d. A member of staff from the Academic Registry QA Team, who will also draft the panel report.

            21. Academic Registry will be mindful of Welsh-medium representation on panels.

            22. Academic departments will be invited to nominate a representative to present the proposal at the panel meeting. In the case of cross-academic department schemes, a representative from each academic department involved will be nominated by their respective department.

            The role of the Scheme Approval Panel

            23. The Scheme Approval Panel is constituted as a standing panel reporting to the PPC. The Panel is responsible for making final decisions on the approval of scheme proposals, but may refer decisions back to PPC or on to Academic Board if there are significant areas of concern or issues of wider consideration for the University. PPC will retain oversight for the operation of the Scheme Approval Panel and will monitor the effectiveness of the QA processes.

            24. The Panel 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. The Panel will take full account of the views of the external assessor, who will be required to complete a written report (SDF8) prior to the event for consideration by the panel.

            25. Meetings of approval panel will be ordered as follows:

              (i) Welcome by the Chair

                (ii) Summary of the proposal by the proposing academic department(s)

                  (iii) 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?

                  (iv) Deliberation by the panel, for which the representative of the proposing department(s) will not be present

                  (v) Decision.

                  Decisions of Scheme Approval Panel

                  26. The Approval Panel will have the choice of one of the following decisions:

                    a. Unconditional approval

                      b. Approval with minor modifications (to be approved by the Chair of the Panel)

                        c. Conditional approval: 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

                          d. Referral back to the academic department(s). In such cases it is anticipated that considerable revision would be required before re-presenting the proposal

                            e. Rejection (on QA grounds only).

                            27. The Approval Panel will define actions as recommendations or conditions:

                              a. Recommendations: should be areas for consideration by the proposing department, or minor corrections, but will not delay the approval of the proposal.

                                b. Conditions: which should be stated clearly where approval is subject to specified conditions being met within a given time scale. Approval will not be granted until these conditions have been met.

                                28. The Secretary to the Approval Panel will produce minutes of the meeting, noting its decision, which the Chair will sign. The proposing academic department will be invited to complete a committee coversheet, 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 PPC. Where there are any issues of concern the final decision shall be referred to PPC or Academic Board depending on the level of the issues raised.

                                Marketing and Introduction

                                29. The subject to approval flag will be lifted, and the scheme advertised online and on course search, once it has fully completed the approval process. The Academic Registry QA team will communicate the decision to the proposing department(s) and to relevant service departments.