Academic Programs Committee Reports
University of Saskatchewan Council Request for Decision
PRESENTED BY: Bob Lucas, Chair, Academic Programs Committee
DATE OF MEETING: April 18, 2002
SUBJECT: Revisions to the Program and Course approval policies
That Council approve the revisions to its approval policies for programs and courses, as described in the attached document.
SUMMARY OF PROPOSAL:
The policy reorganizes the approval authorities for new programs, courses, and revisions, between Council, the Academic Programs Committee, the Challenge procedure, and Colleges.
The changes to the procedures approved in 1998 are being recommended by the Academic Programs Committee to encourage faculty innovation in programs, to reduce the volume of paperwork required for program changes, and to clarify the types of programs and program changes which require Council approval.
Revision of the policy and procedures
for approval of curricular changes at the University of Saskatchewan
Academic Programs Committee of Council
Approved by Council April, 2002
This policy updates the Policy and Procedures for the Approval of Programs
approved by Council 1998
A Framework for the Evaluation of Programs at the University of Saskatchewan (approved by Council in 1996) summarizes the need for university-level approval of programs through the following description:
Of primary importance to the University of Saskatchewan is that academic programs:
- be of high quality
- be in demand by students and the public
- use resources efficiently
- the unique features of a program, and
- the relevance of the program to Saskatchewan
In 1998, Council approved Policy and Procedures for the Approval of Programs, based on this framework. In January, 2000, the Academic Programs Committee printed its Guide for Programs Submissions which outlined detailed requirements for colleges in submitting new programs and major program revisions to Council.
This document defines new programs as follows:
- A program that introduces a new discipline or a new degree in an existing discipline
- A new Special Tuition program
- A new program comprised primarily of existing courses, a new area of specialization within an existing discipline, or a new minor
ï a change in the character of the program (e.g. direct entry to non-direct entry, 4 year to 5 year, thesis-based to course-based)
a change in degree name or program name
a change in requirements for admission to the program (e.g. pre-admission year)
a change in requirements for promotion or graduation
a change in the total number of credit units required for an approved degree program (exception: graduate programs as noted under minor revisions)
changes to the majority of courses (structure, content, scheduling, etc.)
when the change will have an impact on other programs or another college offerings
when the proposed change requires new resources
when the preponderance of minor changes warrants consideration as a major change
I n both cases, Colleges must submit a significant amount of documentation to explain and justify their proposals, and much of this material is duplicated for Council.
II. Factors that cause problems with the existing procedures
While the policy that defines new programs and major revisions appears straightforward on paper, several problem areas have been found in practice, for faculty and colleges as well as for the committees and for Council.
1. Duplication of effort
The volume of material required for documentation for new programs and program revisions has proven to be daunting for colleges and excessive for the committee.
When the proposal forms were first drafted, in 1997 and 1998, the university had not experienced Systematic Program Review (SPR) and Integrated Planning. The level of detail required in these forms reflected the relative lack of any other information available to Council committees and to senior administrators at the time regarding overall departmental and college planning and how specific program proposals and proposals for revisions would fit into this framework.
Now that SPR is functioning, and integrated planning is underway, background information and documents regarding college plans will be available to committees and administrators from these sources, and these do not require restatement in program proposals.
2. Disproportionate documentation
The existing procedure has also introduced too wide a disparity between the documentation required for Challenge and for Council. To submit an item for Challenge requires a single-page memo; when an item requires approval by Council, it requires 10 to 50 pages of paperwork. As a result, Colleges much prefer submitting to Challenge and resist the documentation required for Council, particularly for program changes which technically fall into the ï¿½major program changeï¿½ category but which the college itself considers minor or routine.
This is not a productive situation, and it encourages colleges to limit program innovation and renewal due to concerns about the volume of work involved ï¿½ precisely the opposite of what the university actually wants.
3. Disputed definitions
Program revisions are often a continuum, rather than a fixed point. It is sometimes difficult to define the difference between a major revision and a minor revision in terms of actual academic content, but in terms of the administrative impact on colleges and departments the difference is significant -- a minor program revision can be approved at the College level in December and described in a paragraph, and still go through the Challenge process in time to appear in the next print Calendar, while a major program revision has to be approved at the College level in October and accompanied by at least five to ten pages of documentation so that it can be approved in Council by January to appear in the next print Calendar.
Needless to say, Colleges press to have all of their program revisions defined as minor and, in some cases, it is difficult to determine where on the continuum a revision should be placed until it is described in detail. The hairsplitting and arguments involved in these negotiations do not provide colleges with appropriate guidance, and may hinder the appropriate involvement of Council and Council committees in program changes which are more significant than they first appear.
4. Budget implications of proposals
The Budget Committee is now working on a template for colleges to use in preparing proposals for either revisions or new programs. This should reduce the questions and correspondence regarding budget issues that sometimes delays proposals now.
One significant area of difficulty for the Academic Programs Committee has been the review of proposals for program revisions from colleges that require new budget resources. Since these proposals have not been reviewed by the Planning Committee by way of a Notice of Intent, it has been difficult for either the Academic Programs Committee or the Budget Committee to determine whether the allocation of new resources will be supported by the Vice-President Academic and the Planning Committee.
III. Factors that support revision of procedures:
1. Nomenclature framework
One of the goals of the Academic Programs Committee in revising theNomenclature Report was to use it as the basis for clarifying the university approval procedures for academic programs. Now that the Nomenclature Report has been approved by Council (December, 2001) the Academic Programs Committee has a framework to help define what is a major program change and what is a minor change, and a terminology to deal with programs.
2. Support for "frequent fliers"
In terms of program changes, some colleges are frequent fliers - College of Arts and Science, College of Graduate Studies, and, to some extent, the Colleges of Agriculture and Engineering submit the great majority of the programs and program changes approved both by Council and through the Course Challenge procedures. These colleges, therefore, have a significant interest in reducing the workload imposed by program changes.
The existing Academic Programs Committee procedures can cause duplication for colleges which already have their own program proposal formats. Other colleges, who may revise their programs only once or twice a decade, may find more detailed guidelines useful in making revisions or designing new programs.
3. Strategic direction
A Framework for Planning at the University of Saskatchewan (1998) established four goals for University Council: Improve instructional programs; Foster the Teacher-Scholar model; Improve research intensity; and Respond to the needs of Aboriginal peoples.
These goals are the basis for recent developments in defining new Strategic Directions for the University and implementing an integrated planning process to achieve these goals. Two of the requirements listed by the Office of the Vice-President Academic & Provost for integrated planning indicate that the process should be streamlined (defined as a process to reduce duplication and which organizes institutional effort around selected strategic initiatives and keeps bureaucracy to a minimum) and flexible (a process which provides a mechanism to respond to emerging opportunities).
The Strategic Directions identified by President MacKinnon state that the University of Saskatchewan should be known for its adherence to high international standards in all its activities, its preeminence in specific areas of innovative interdisciplinary programs, and its research and teaching programs related to Saskatchewan, Western Canada, the North and the Great Plains environments of the world. To do this, President MacKinnon indicated that the University should establish a commitment to innovation in the undergraduate learning experience, attract and retain a diverse and academically promising body of undergraduate students, attract and retain faculty who meet international standards, and establish an environment of collegiality and trust.
Program approval procedures are part of the planning process at the university, and should not impede or divert university progress toward its goals. The revised procedures which Academic Programs Committee is recommending support the requirements for streamlining and flexibility. The Academic Programs Committee felt revision of its approval process and forms would be timely so that faculty can offer programs which reflect the latest research and pedagogy in their fields, and the student experienced will be enhanced.
4. Importance of encouraging faculty innovation
The crucial role of individual faculty members in designing, establishing and maintaining many of our programs cannot be overstated. Interdisciplinary programs, in particular, are often initiated and/or managed by one or two individual faculty members. Some examples include Classical Archaeology, Guatemalan Term Abroad, International Studies, Public Administration, Biotechnology, Biomolecular Structure, Bioinfomatics, Linguistics, Palaeobiology, LUEST, Environmental Earth Sciences, Toxicology.
These successful programs, which represent innovation in undergraduate and graduate programs and which have attracted hundreds of academically-talented students to our university, were designed by individual faculty members who, certainly in the earlier stages and even after program approval, did not have secretarial or administrative assistance to complete voluminous forms and compile statistical databases.
If more such innovative programs at the university are to be developed, the faculty who will develop them cannot be discouraged and disheartened by unnecessarily lengthy and complicated proposal procedures.
5. Collegiality and trust
If collegiality and trust are to be encouraged at the U of S, the committees of Council should rely on the professional and academic judgment of departments and colleges regarding the amount of detail required in the program proposal.
Faculty who are designing programs require guidelines about how this should be done and what consultation is necessary -- for example, consultation with other departments and colleges, the Registrar, Financial Services and various academic support services like the Library are necessary when setting up a program and should still be required.
However, most of the time, faculty can determine the relative importance of a proposal and can evaluate how much, or how little, information would be needed by a university committees to understand a proposalï¿½s implications.
IV. Academic Programs Committee Proposal
The Academic Programs Committee proposes two changes to the existing procedures:
Within the broad framework laid down by the Academic Programs Committee, colleges would determine the amount and detail of documentation to submit for a new program or program change, based on their judgment about the relative importance of the change.
Attached is a one-page University form that lists required elements. Departments and Colleges can use their own forms or guidelines for proposals, though the points listed on the University form need to be covered. Consultation with various administrative and academic support services is required (Registrar, Information Technology, Library, etc.) A new requirement for completion of the Budget Consultation form, which will be required for new program and for program revisions which will be using new resources.
2. Delegation of some approval authority
Authority to approve those program changes which colleges would consider as less significant or which have little impact on students outside the program concerned, would be delegated by Council to the Academic Programs Committee or transferred to the Course Challenge procedure.
A summary of these changes is in the Curricular Changes chart.
This proposal was approved by the Academic Programs Committee at its Feb. 15 meeting. It has been circulated for comment to other Council committees and to all Colleges; as suggested by Colleges, several revisions and clarifications have been made in the areas of responsibility between Council, APC, Challenge and College.
Approved by Council April 18, 2002.
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