Programme Validation - New Programmes and Major Revalidations

Stage 1: Initial Screening of Proposals

The aim of this stage in the process is to ensure that all proposals approved for further development are viable and consistent with the strategic aims of the College.  

New programmes or those undergoing a major revalidation may not be advertised prior to the Academic Planning Committee approving the proposal in principle, that is, approving that the programme may proceed (re-)validation). Following approval in principle the programme may be advertised 'subject to validation'.

a)  at Departmental/Faculty level

Proposals for a new taught programme or a major restructuring of an existing programme should have been identified and agreed with the relevant Faculty Dean(s) as part of the planning cycle discussions but may also arise at other times during the academic year as opportunities are identified. In this case they should also be discussed and agreed with the relevant Faculty Dean(s). Once proposals for new programmes have been agreed in principle, departments should convene programme teams to complete the Initial Programme Proposal Form,  the Draft Programme Outline Form and the Course finder entry form (UG) or Course finder entry form (PG).  For major revalidations departments should fill in a Programme Revalidation Proposal Form. Members of the programme team (and representatives of any external partners) should be available to participate fully in all stages of the validation process. It would be helpful if Deans alert the relevant Assistant Registrars to any proposals at this point. If proposals for a new programme involves a collaborative arrangement with a partner external to the College the programme team should consult the Guidelines for collaborative arrangements in the first instance. Please note that for such proposals there is a more detailed Initial Programme Proposal form for collaborative partnerships, which is considered by the Collaborative Provisions Committee rather than the Academic Planning Committee in the first instance. The Draft Programme Outline Form should also be filled where relevant.

b)  at College level

For new programmes:

The Programme Team needs to fill in an Initial Programme Proposal Form,and pass this onto Strategic Planning and Change for marketing analysis, in consultation with RHI where necessary. Once this has been completed the Initial Programme Proposal Form and market research should be sent to the Faculty Accountant for the financial analysis (see Initial Programme Proposal Form for details of relevant contacts). They will need at least one month in which to conduct the analyses required by the Academic Planning Committee. The Programme team should also complete the Draft Programme Outline Form and the Course Finder Entry Form (UG) or Course Finder Entry Form (PG).

Once all the required information has been gathered, the programme team submits the Initial Programme Proposal Form with supporting documentation (market research, financial analysis, Draft Programme Outline Form and Course Finder Entry Form UG or PG) to the Academic Planning Committee and Academic Quality and Policy Office for initial screening in relation to the Faculty plan (see Initial Programme Proposal Form for details of relevant contacts). This Committee will discuss the proposal and prioritise its validation.

For major revalidattions:

The Programme Team needs to fill in a Programme Revalidation Proposal Form. The proposed revalidation needs to be discussed and endorsed by the Faculty Dean before being submitted to the Academic Planning Committee for consideration.

Deadline for submission of paperwork to the Academic Plannning Committee and validation

Please note the following deadlines for submission of proposals to the Academic Planning Committee. For full details of validation timelines, please click here.

  • IPP and associated paperwork must be submitted to APC by the end of January  prior to the start of the pre-contractual period (i.e. the recruitment period) for 2018-19 entry (see dates of APC below). 
  • Validation of such programmes should be completed by the end of August latest prior the start of the contractual period (i.e. the offer making period), e.g. by August 2017 for students seeking admission to the 2018-19 academic year.

Relevant dates of Academic Planning Committee meetings relevant to the 2018-19 recruitment cycle  are 9 November and 19 December in 2016 and 25 January in 2017.

The Academic Planning Committee will reach one of the following decisions, to be communicated to the programme team via AQPO or the Faculty Dean:

  • approve the proposal in principle, subject to validation; or
  • reject the proposal; or
  • refer the proposal back to the programme team for revision.

Proposals which are approved in principle (that is, to be taken forward for validation) will be listed 'subject to validation' in appropriate College prospectuses and external directories, such as the UCAS handbook as well as in any online publicity material. Any decisions to withdraw, postpone or substantially amend the proposal after this point must be approved by the Faculty Dean in consultation with the Chair of the Academic Planning Committee. 

When a proposal is approved the Head of the Academic Quality and Policy Office will inform the programme team, the Academic Quality and Policy Office team, Admissions, Strategic Planning and Change and the Communications team so that the programme can be set up for Admissions, work can start on the Course Finder entry and a KIS data set can be compiled (for UG programmes only). 

If a proposal is rejected or referred back, the Faculty Dean will normally contact the Department to discuss concerns raised by the Committee.

Stage 2: Validation Planning Stage

The aims of this stage in the process are:

  • to establish effective links between the programme team and relevant parts of the College administration, in order to enhance and promote the smooth running of the process;
  • to provide at an early stage an appropriate level of support to the programme team by members of the Academic Quality and Policy Office team for the validation of the programme, e.g. ensuring that programme teams are aware of relevant policies, guidelines and external reference points and the Education Development team for curriculum design, where necessary;
  • to identify at an early stage issues which will need to be resolved during the development of this programme;
  • to plan the validation timeline.

The Faculty Assistant Registrar responsible for providing support for the validation meetings with the Programme Direction and/ or programme team to discuss the validation process and any support necessary for the development of relevant paperwork, for the validation. S/he will also agree a tentative validation date and associated timeline for submission of paperwork for the educational appraisal, revisions and submissions to the Programme Validation Panel.

The Initial Programme Proposal Form and associated documents provided to the Academic Planning Committee and any relevant feedback from this Committee are made available to staff from the Academic Quality and Policy Office team, the Educational Development team, Library Services, Information Services, Careers Services, Data Management and Student Administration. Members of staff from these teams are therefore alerted at an early stage to the validation and can raise any issues of concern at the earliest opportunity. Exceptionally they may refer issues of significant concern to the Academic Planning Committee, which has authority to curtail the validation process at any stage.

Stage 3: Educational Appraisal 

The aims of this and the final stage in the process are to ensure that programmes validated by the College:

  •  are robust, well-designed and intellectually challenging to students;
  • are fully consistent with College and national guidelines, frameworks and standards;
  • are delivered in ways which are of the greatest possible educational benefits to students;
  • in the case of a collaborative arrangement that the College and others involved in educational provision are fully are of their respective responsibilities.

The programme documentation is prepared and compiled by the programme team and consists of:

  • the draft handbook, including full details of the programme;
  • the programme specification;
  • Course Unit Proposal Forms and Course Specifications (plus any further attachments) for all new and amended courses which form part of the proposal;
  • any other documents normally issued to students, if requested by the Programme Validation Panel;
  • in the case of a collaborative arrangement an Operations Manual will also be required
  • for programmes involving more than one department, a note from the Heads of Departments affected by the programme to confirm that they are satisfied with the arrangements.

Save for the note from the Head of Department, all documents prepared for the validation process are only those which would also be required for students (with the exception of the Operations Manual for collaborative programmes), unless the Programme Validation Panel specifically requests otherwise.

 The Educational Appraisal will focus on ensuring that:

  • learning, teaching and assessment methods at course level are appropriate to support and measure student's achieve of the learning outcomes;
  • appropriate marking criteria have been set;
  • the learning resources demonstrate good practice and support independent study;
  • appropriate quality maintenance and enhancement systems are in place at programme level;
  • the programme as it is designed can be administered, through from recruitment and admission of students to assessment, graduation and the production of statutory returns.

A written record of the Educational Appraisal is given to the programme team who are normally asked (if time allows) to respond to issues raised and make relevant revisions to the paperwork prior to the submission of programme documentation to the Programme Validation Panel.

Stage 4: Programme Validation

Programme Validation Panels scrutinise programme proposals (using the programme documentation and written records of the Educational appraisal and responses from the programme team) on behalf of the Faculty Boards, but do not have delegated powers to give final approval for programmes in their own right.

Their terms of reference are:

  •  to consider proposals in respect of the rationale, structure, balance, level and content of programmes in consultation with programme teams and others involved in the programme validation process;
  • to explore the validity of the stated aims and learning outcomes of programmes and to determine whether programmes are designed, with the resources known to be available to them, can achieve those aims and learning outcomes;
  • to assess the appropriateness of the proposed teaching and assessment methods in light of the intended learning outcomes;
  • to ensure that proposals accord with College policies and regulations, including those which relate to the health and safety of students;
  • to ensure that proposals accord with any national or professional requirements and guidelines, such as subject benchmark statements and the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (
  • to make recommendations on the approval or re-consideration of proposals to the Faculty Boards;
  • in the case of programmes to be delivered as part of a collaborative partnership to ensure that appropriate measures are in place for the management of such arrangements (

The membership of the Panel is determined by thee Chair in reference to the following template, while aiming to achieve a balance of specialist backgrounds and of different levels of experience in the programme validation process:

Chair: Dean or Associate Dean of Faculty

Members: usually two academic staff from the Faculty; one or more external subject specialists

Secretary: Faculty Assistant Registrar

The external subject specialist is full and equal member of the Panel and will be asked to advise on the currency and academic level of the programme content in relation to subject benchmark statements in the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications 


and whether the aims and learning outcomes of the programme can be achieved. Criteria and the process governing the selection of external subject specialists are outlined here.

For the validation of programmes involving a collaborative arrangement attention will also be given to the management of the education provision by the partner as detailed in the Operations Manual.

Programme documentation is circulated to members of the Panel in advance of the meeting, to encourage constructive and informed debate and to identify an agenda outlining relevan issues. Meetings normally include private discussions among Panel members, discussion between the Panel and the programme team, and feedback to the programme team. In case where the proposal consists of there packaging or restructuring of an existing programme, the Chair may decide that the Panel will conduct its business by correspondence.

Outcome and follow-up

The Programme Validation Panel will determine one of the following recommendations to the Faculty Board:

  •  the programme may be offered unconditionally;
  • the programme may be offered, subject to specific conditions being met within 30 days (or longer, if the Chair agrees);
  • the programme may not be offered, and must be referred back to the department/ school.

In the case of the first two outcomes the Programme Validation Panel may also make some recommendations for consideration by the programme team.

Once the conditions have been met, the Faculty Board formally approves the validation. In some cases the Faculty Board may be asked to play a role in ensuring that all outstanding conditions are met before the proposal is formally approved.


Royal Holloway, University of London logo

Minor Amendments

Proposals for minor restructuring of existing programmes (i.e. changes up to one quarter of the existing programme) must be submitted on the Programme Amendment Form and a completed Visiting Examiner's Statement, and are considered through a streamlined process (see Course unit validation, amendment and withdrawal).