Procedure for Establishing New Academic Units and/or Programs

Policy Number ACA-001
Effective Date January 01, 2006
Responsible Office/Person Academic Affairs
Related Policies
Additional History
Additional References


University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Academic Affairs Division

Procedure for Establishing New Academic Units and/or Programs


(This document replaces the Procedure for Establishing New Academic Departments, November 29, 1999. It also incorporates UMass Board of Trustees and Massachusetts Board of Higher Education policies and procedures for establishing new degree programs.)

A proposal to establish a new academic unit (i.e., an administrative unit) or a new academic program (i.e., a structured curriculum offering that may or may not lead to a degree) may be prepared by the faculty or by the administration. It should be noted that it is not uncommon to propose a new academic program and, at the same time, propose a new academic unit that would be responsible for offering that academic program. Those proposing modifications to existing academic programs, including changing, adding, or deleting formal options or adding certificate programs, do not follow the process outlined below, unless those changes involve modifications to existing departmental structures or administrative units. An Addendum specifies the process for modifications of existing academic programs.

A.   Intent to Develop a Proposal to Establish a New Academic Unit and/or Program

Since the establishment of a new academic unit or program has resource implications, human and financial, the faculty member(s) or administrators(s) who intend to develop such a proposal should prepare an Intent to Develop memorandum briefly describing the purpose and goals, the need and justification, and the resource requirements for the proposed academic unit and/or program (i.e., no more than 3 pages). If the proposed academic unit and/or program will be “housed” within an already existing academic unit on the campus, then the Intent to Develop proposal should be submitted to the appropriate chair and/or dean for review and recommendation. After all the appropriate reviews

have been conducted, the Intent to Develop proposal, along with the reviews, shall be forwarded to the provost. After careful consideration, the provost will inform those proposing the new academic unit and/or program whether they should proceed to develop

a full or complete proposal.

B.   Development of a Proposal to Establish a New Academic Unit and/or Program

The main body of the proposal should be limited to approximately 10 pages plus attachments as appropriate, and should address the following areas:

  1. Purpose and Goals – Includes strategies for achieving goals and assessment measures.
  2. Need and Justification – Includes quantitative assessment of need (including student demand) and benefits, impact on existing academic units and/or programs, and why existing academic units and/or programs cannot meet the need.
  3. Administration and Operation – Includes reporting structure, oversight, and evaluation.
  4. Resources – Includes faculty and staff (new positions, transfers), operating budget requirements and the sources of these funds, library resources, facilities (office and   lab space), and equipment.
  5. Curriculum (if applicable) – Includes an overview of the curriculum consisting of program objectives, a course program plan, total number of credits, and the courses  that will be offered by the new academic unit as well as the courses to be offered by other academic units; and where the extant degree-granting authority is held. If  changes to existing curricula are proposed, the existing process for gaining approval  for these changes must be followed.

In the case of a new degree program, the proposers shall prepare their Proposal in accordance with the criteria and procedures necessary for off-campus approval. UMass Trustee Policy T92-012 stipulates submission of an up-to-five page long Preliminary Application. The on-campus Proposal document will serve as a draft for this Preliminary Application At the conclusion of the on-campus approval process (step E below), the Provost or designee will review the Proposal and advise on modifications to prepare it    for submission to the UMass Board of Trustees as a Preliminary Application; earlier consultation with the Provost/designee is recommended. In accordance with BOT policy, submission of a Preliminary Application requires a cover letter from the Chancellor (or the Provost in the case of joint programs).

C.   Submission of Proposal

     It is recommended that the proposer of the new academic unit and/or program solicit informal feedback, prior to submission, on the substance of the proposal from the departments and/or colleges directly affected by the proposal as well as from the Provost. The proposal, along with any other relevant materials, shall be submitted to the Provost with a copy to the President of the Faculty Senate and, in the case of new graduate degree programs, to the Graduate Council. The Provost shall send copies to the deans of the colleges directly affected by the proposal and to the chairs of any departments directly affected by the proposal. Those receiving the proposal shall forward their comments to the Provost, with copies to the President of the Senate and to the proposer.

D.   Review of Proposal

The Provost, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Faculty Federation Agreement and in consultation with the President of the Faculty Senate, will determine the appropriate faculty governance bodies and academic administrators who should review the proposal as well as an appropriate schedule for conducting those reviews. At each stage of the review process, which occurs sequentially, the proposer shall have the opportunity to respond to any suggested changes or modifications. The reviews and recommendations from all the levels of review shall be forwarded to the Provost who shall prepare her/his recommendation for the Chancellor.

This concludes the on-campus review and recommendation process. If a proposal that is submitted for off-campus approval becomes substantively changed during off-campus reviews, the appropriate faculty governance bodies and academic administrators may   need to conduct a new review. Copies of the off-campus proposals and official responses will be provided to the President of the Faculty Senate.

E.    Approval of Proposal

The Chancellor shall approve or not approve the establishment of a new academic        unit or program within 21 business days after receiving the recommendation of the         Provost, along with the reviews and recommendations of all prior levels of review. If the proposal involves a degree-granting program and is approved by the Chancellor, the  Chancellor shall then initiate the Board of Trustees and the Board of Higher Education approval process.


Approval of New Academic Programs Other than Majors and Minors

This addendum outlines the process for approving academic programs such as options within majors and certificate programs. Although these do not require off-campus approval, curricular and resource issues need to be addressed, administrative procedures ensured, and documentation provided.

Process Comment: We all desire to have the approval process for academic programs of this type to occur relatively quickly. Review processes within a college can be accomplished quickly if the proposers of a program have done the appropriate planning. Program proposers should involve the Dean from the beginning of the planning process.

The creation of options within a major or a certificate program follow the curriculum review process outlined in the Faculty Federation Agreement and is governed by the following texts:

  • Adding an option within a major or a certificate program is a “curriculum change,” a term that “refers to new courses, new programs of courses, discontinuing of existing courses and programs and substantial changes in either title or content of existing courses.”
  • Curriculum committees “…review and make recommendations regarding all curriculum changes involving courses or programs…”
  • Whether a proposed option within a major or certificate program needs to be reviewed by the College Curriculum Committee is a matter of context and judgment. The college level is used if the change “involve[s] two or more departments within the college” or if there is a disagreement between departments, and the CCC “shall serve as an Appeals Committee if the recommendations of the Dean of the College and a Departmental Curriculum Committee should differ.”
  • Options within majors and certificate programs are not degree programs. The University Curriculum Committee “make[s] recommendations on all new degree programs being recommended by any of the colleges.” Thus, UCC review will usually not be needed for options and certificates. The proposal goes directly to the Provost’s Office.
  • Upon receiving a proposal, the Provost’s Office will notify the President of the Faculty Senate. If the Faculty Senate needs to review the proposal, the President of the Faculty Senate shall forward the proposal to the appropriate curriculum committee for review and recommendation.
  • The Provost can approve the program, not approve the program, or request additional information or consultation with the proposers.

Sequential recommendations are required for each level; a modified course change cover sheet has often been used for the signatures. A signature sheet and proposal document may be all that is needed; if the program needs new courses, course approval documentation would also be included. Notifications should be given at each step in the process, as stipulated in the contract.

Approvals and Implementation

Proposals should describe the program and its curriculum requirements in the level of detail that is normally presented in the catalogue and in program announcements.

Options and certificate programs must be described in official university catalogues (general, graduate, or both).

After the Provost approves a program, it is entered into the PeopleSoft, administrative processes are arranged, and catalogue and web descriptions are prepared.

An approved new program can be announced, promoted, and offered without waiting for the next catalogue edition.

A Note on Admission to and Completion of Non-Degree Academic Programs

Undergraduate Minors, Options, and Certificates: Students receive authorization for admission to minors, options, and undergraduate certificates from the department and dean in a process handled by the Office of the Registrar. In some programs, admission to specific options occurs when the student enters the university through undergraduate admissions.

Graduate Program Options: In some programs, admission to specific options occurs when the student enters the university through graduate admissions. For other programs the selection of an option occurs after admission, through a process handled by the Office of the Registrar.

Post-Graduate Certificate Programs: Post-graduate certificate programs require formal admission. The admission process is overseen by the Office of Graduate Studies to  ensure that the student meets entrance qualifications and is formally accepted into the program. In this way, unlike general “non-degree” students, these students have an identified department and program goal. (Note: UMass Dartmouth also has an Individualized Post Graduate Certificate Program [IPBCP] which invites individuals with a bachelor’s degree to create an individualized program of study; these individuals receive acceptance through the Office of the University Registrar and remain in status as non-degree, special students.)

Completion: Completion of minors, options, and certificates is verified, like completion of majors or graduate programs, through a certification of program completion and approved by the same sequence of signatures. Completion of minors, options, and certificates is recorded on the official transcript, and those who complete a certificate program receive a document prepared by the Office of the Registrar.



These procedures are effective January 1, 2006.