1. Scope of the chapter

  • 1.1 Both the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area and the UK Quality Code for Higher Education expect procedures for programme design and approval to be clearly described and communicated to all interested parties. The University is accountable to the HE Funding Council for England (HEFCE) for the quality and standards of its provision, via the assurance processes currently in place in the sector. A substantial proportion of the University’s academic programmes are professionally oriented, and the University is therefore also accountable to a range of professional, statutory and regulatory bodies (PSRBs). This chapter therefore aims to be an accessible and comprehensive guide to procedural requirements for the approval, modification and closure of taught programmes leading to Oxford Brookes awards, in particular for:

    • staff (in Faculties, Directorates and partner organisations) responsible for the quality management of academic provision;
    • HEFCE, professional bodies and other external quality agencies with an interest in the quality and standards of the University’s academic provision.

    1.2 This chapter covers the following procedures in respect of taught programmes developed and delivered by Brookes staff:

    • approval of new programmes of study leading to University awards, and the re-validation of existing programmes of study [section 2]
    • approval of the addition of new awards to the University’s portfolio [section 3]
    • approval of variations from the University Regulations [section 3]
    • approval of modifications to existing provision [section 4]
    • procedures for programme closure [section 5]

    1.3 The University is responsible for the academic quality and standards of all programmes of study leading to its awards. The programme approval process is a key way in which the University satisfies itself that appropriate academic standards are set and high quality learning opportunities are secured for students. Through their discussions with proposing teams, approval panels should be able to form a judgement of confidence in the proposing Department’s likely future management of a new programme, and their capacity to take steps to continually improve the provision for which they are responsible. Formal procedures are also in place for the approval of modifications to, and closure of, programmes, to ensure quality and standards are maintained and students’ interests are protected.

    1.4 The principles set out in Chapter 1 – the University’s Quality Strategy statement – underpin the procedures for programme approval. In particular, the principle of externality is reflected in the requirements for Programme Development Teams to engage with a range of relevant external reference points and to carry out a broad-ranging consultation during programme development, to ensure that new proposals meet the needs of relevant stakeholders and to take advantage of opportunities for enhancement of the proposal; and also independent external members of approval panels. Independent and expert judgements can be made through the involvement in programme design and approval of academic peers and, as appropriate, students, graduates, employers, service users, collaborative partners, etc. Decisions to approve or modify provision are made by appropriately authorised approval panels which are independent from the proposing department, including independent chairs, with access to expert (internal and external) academic and, where applicable, professional advice. The University’s Strategy for Enhancing the Student Experience (2010, refreshed in 2014/15) provides the framework for the University’s programme of quality enhancement initiatives - it is a driver for the provision of the highest quality learning experience for Brookes students, and therefore a key internal reference point for programme development teams and approval panels.

    1.5 Specific procedures governing the approval of programmes of study delivered through collaborative arrangements are covered in Chapter 5 of the Quality & Standards Handbook; however, there is some cross-referencing between the chapters, and sections in this chapter are also relevant to collaborative provision (for example, the programme approval criteria).

    1.6 For information about the approval, monitoring and review of on-campus short course provision, refer to Chapter 6 of the Quality & Standards Handbook.