Chapter 3 - Business Approval

  1. Business Approval
    1. The Purpose of Business Approval
      1. Business Approval is typically required for all new and significantly amended programmes (including non-award programmes). The purpose is to demonstrate a compelling business case for the planned activity and to provide professional services with technical information that they need to set up admissions; market the offering; arrange access to student finance; ensure compliance with legislation (e.g. immigration and consumer protection); and make statutory returns to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).
      2. Prior to submitting a programme for Business Approval, the strategic fit of the proposed programme must be considered by the Faculty. Strategic level discussions will usually take place at the Faculty Education and Student  Experience Committee, Faculty Taught Portfolio Group or equivalent.

        To support strategic level decisions about the programme/s that will be submitted for Business Approval, Faculties must document as appropriate a preliminary assessment of market and delivery risks.
    2. The Process of Business Approval
      1. First, the Programme Director/Developer must consult the Credit and Qualifications Framework (CQF) to check the following:
        1. The proposed award (e.g. BA, MEng) must be listed in the CQF. Where there is an intention to introduce a new award type, please contact the Quality and Standards team who will establish the approval requirements for the necessary amendments, for example, to the TQA, University Regulations and University Ordinances. In such cases the Programme Director/Developer should liaise with the Quality and Standards team at the earliest opportunity to facilitate the process. Contact should be made prior to any advanced planning and the final completion of the Programme Approval or Amendment Form.
        2. In the case of a combined, major/minor, or triple honours programme, the title (e.g. English and Drama; Mathematics with Economics) must follow the conventions set out in the CQF.
        3. The structure of the proposal must comply with the requirements stated in the CQF, with regard to the number of constituent credits and their RQF level.
        4. The academic demands of the proposal must be consistent with the descriptor for the relevant RQF level, which is provided in the CQF.
        5. Where there is a possibility that an exit/interim award might be conferred at a certain juncture (e.g. a Certificate of Higher Education after stage one of a Bachelor’s degree), the programme up until that point must enable participants to meet the generic learning outcomes for the level of the exit/interim award, as defined in the CQF.
        6. Any pre-requisites in the constituent modules of a programme must not prevent the student from pursuing a coherent course of study. If in doubt, the Programme Director/Developer should contact the relevant module convenors to establish if pre-requisites will be applied within the context of the proposed programme.
      2. Next, the Programme Director/Developer should complete the Programme Approval or Amendment Form. During this process the Programme Director/Developer should enlist the Faculty Marketing Manager  to help complete those fields relating to marketing and market research. The Faculty Marketing Manager should, in addition, conduct discussions with Marketing and Finance colleagues to establish the appropriate level of any non-standard fees. Faculties may also consult Student Recruitment and Widening Participation, Admissions and the International Office, regarding demand for the proposal and the potential to charge non-standard fees. To assist Faculties in performing market research the University Marketing Office has prepared advisory resources. The Faculty Marketing Manager should sign the Programme Approval or Amendment Form to confirm his/her contribution.
      3. The proposal will now undergo a bipartite process of scrutiny, as follows:
        1. Operational Endorsement: the completed Programme Approval or Amendment Form should be signed by the Chair of the Faculty Education and Student Expereince Committee (or its nominated body). In signing the form they confirm that the proposal has been discussed and approved at a meeting of the Faculty and Student Experience Committee (or its nominated body). Where the proposal is to be jointly delivered by two or more Faculties, the respective figure in each Faculty should sign.
        2. Executive Endorsement: the completed Programme Approval or Amendment Form should be signed by the Faculty Pro Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean. In signing the form they confirm that the proposal has been discussed and approved at executive level within the Faculty. Where the proposal is to be jointly delivered by two or more Faculties, the respective Pro Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean in each Faculty should sign.
      4. Signing of the Programme Approval or Amendment Form verifies that the following points have been discussed and confirmed at both Executive and Operational level:
        1. The proposal is consistent with Faculty business plans.
        2. The fee level is appropriate.
        3. There is strong and sustainable demand for the proposal.
        4. There are adequate resources, which can and will be used to deliver the proposal to acceptable standards.
        5. The proposal compares favourably with competing offerings (including those within the University).
        6. The proposal is consistent with research activity within the Faculty.
      5. To gain Operational Endorsement the completed Programme Approval or Amendment Form should be made available to members of the Faculty Education and Student Experience Committee (or its nominated body), together with a finalised Module Descriptor in the case of a non-award programme.
      6. Records must be collected, confirming all decisions made by the Faculty Education and Student Experience Committee (or its nominated body). These must be retained in Faculty for future reference.
      7. Where the proposal involves an academic partnership, a senior officer from each partner institution must also sign the Programme Approval or Amendment Form to indicate approval.
      8. At this point the following documents should be submitted to the Quality and Standards team:
        1. A completed and signed Programme Approval or Amendment Form.
        2. A finalised Module Descriptor in the case of a non-award programme.
      9. Where submissions have incomplete fields or missing signatures they will be returned to the lead Faculty for remedial action, prior to further processing.
    3. Timings
      1. In most instances, maximal exposure of the programme in University publicity materials will be important for recruitment. Therefore, unless alternative arrangements have been agreed with the Quality and Standards team, documentation should be submitted in accordance with the following deadlines:
        1. Undergraduate: 25 November for offerings commencing 22 months hence.
          1. e.g. 25 November 2020 for an offering commencing in Autumn 2022.
        2. Postgraduate: 15 June for offerings commencing 15 months hence.
          1. e.g. 15 June 2021 for an offering commencing in Autumn 2022.
      2. These dates ensure that the programme can be included in the appropriate printed prospectus and, for undergraduate offerings, the UCAS directory, which is finalised in early January for programmes commencing 21 months hence. It should be noted that in order to obtain all of the information required, work on some aspects of the Business Approval phase should be initiated well in advance of these deadlines (e.g. discussions between Faculty Marketing Managers and their colleagues in Marketing and Finance to establish the appropriate level of any non-standard fees).
      3. Postgraduate programmes, which miss the 15 June deadline, will be included in the more frequently updated online prospectus, once Business Approval is completed.
      4. In appropriate circumstances the process of approving a new programme can depart from the timelines stated in sections 3.3.1, 3.3.3 and 4.4.3, and be completed more quickly. For instance, where a programme has identified a ready-made market (e.g. National Health Service professionals), inclusion in the University prospectus and/or UCAS listings may not be critical to successful recruitment. Where Faculties are handling a programme of this nature they should seek guidance from the Quality and Standards team at the earliest opportunity. In addition, they should use the Programme Approval or Amendment Form to articulate what alternative means will be used to ensure successful recruitment.
      5. In all instances, Faculties should seek to finalise the start date of a programme by the following deadline:

        Undergraduate and Postgraduate: 25 November in the preceding academic year.
      6. Where the finalised start date differs from that specified on the original Programme Approval or Amendment Form, the lead Faculty should contact Student Records immediately. Amending the start date after the 25 November deadline can create problems for students, in terms of accessing student loans and gaining visas.
    4. Actions Following Submission of Business Approval
      1. Once the Quality and Standards team receives the Programme Approval or Amendment Form they will liaise with Planning, Admissions, Student Records and Finance Services, for further processing. The University Education Board will also be informed that the programme is scheduled for delivery.
      2. At this point Business Approval is considered complete. Faculties and professional services may proceed with detailed academic planning, advertising and recruitment. Partner institutions may proceed similarly, although any publicity materials should be approved by the University of Exeter prior to advertisement and/or recruitment.
      3. Completion of Business Approval signifies that the University is committed to offering the programme from the date indicated.
      4. The process of recruitment normally places a contractual obligation on the Faculty/Faculties  and University to run the programme. It is important to note, however, that until Academic Approval is complete applicants cannot register for the programme and should not, therefore, attend scheduled sessions or any placement.
      5. Faculties should avoid altering the name of the programme between Business Approval and subsequent phases. This could negatively impact upon recruitment as the initial name may have been used in marketing activities.
      6. Once complete, Business Approval is valid for 24 months. During this time the Full Approval Process should be completed. After 24 months fresh Business Approval may be requested, in recognition that the prevailing market and resources could have changed.
      7. Where a Programme Approval or Amendment Form has already been submitted to the Quality and Standards team and the lead Faculty becomes aware that corrections are needed, a new version should not be submitted. Rather, a summary of the deviations should be sent to the Quality and Standards team, along with documentary evidence (e.g. an email) showing the approval of the Chair of the Faculty Education and Student Experience Committee (or its nominated body). Where the changes are deemed to constitute a fundamental departure from the original proposal the Quality and Standards team may request that a new Programme Approval or Amendment Form be prepared.
      8. On occasions, Faculties may need to change the title or status (interruption/withdrawal) of a programme that has been granted Business Approval but which is yet to receive Faculty and/or Academic Approval, or has not welcomed a first cohort of participants. In these instances, Faculties should follow the standard procedures laid down in Chapter 6. Failure to do so could mean that the programme continues to be advertised and to accept applications on an inaccurate basis.

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