This online version is for convenience; the official version of this policy is housed in the University Secretariat. In case of discrepancy between the online version and the official version held by the Secretariat, the official version shall prevail.
Approving Authority: Senate
Original Approval Date: November 18, 2004
Date of Most Recent Review/Revision: December 2, 2022 (Senate approval); May 26, 2022 (OUCQA re-ratification)
Office of Accountability: Provost and Vice-President: Academic
Administrative Responsibility: Quality Assurance Office
A rigorous and transparent system for approving new undergraduate and graduate academic programs demonstrates accountability to the public and to current and prospective students. Within the university's commitment to the principle of academic freedom, the approval process should be open, objective, analytical, and constructive. The components of the program approval process have been mandated by the Ontario Universities Council on Quality Assurance (Quality Council) of the Council of Ontario Universities.
Wilfrid Laurier University’s Institutional Quality Assurance Procedures, comprising this policy and policy 2.1, represent the university’s commitment to quality assurance and continuous improvement as articulated in the principles outlined in the Quality Assurance Framework. Core to the university’s approach to quality assurance is the centrality of the student and their learning experience, the importance of transparency in its quality assurance activities, and the value of expert peer review and support of an independent external body, all of which operate in the context of the overall goal of continuous program improvement.
The Institutional Quality Assurance Procedures are subject to approval upon revision and will be audited by the Quality Council on an eight-year cycle.
As set out in the Quality Assurance Framework the approval process is designed to evaluate the proposed program’s objectives, requirements, structure, content, and resources as described in Section C below. In the Wilfrid Laurier academic calendar, a program is defined as a group of courses, generally a combination of required and elective courses and milestones, which leads to a degree. Policy 2.2 pertains to the approval of the following categories of proposal at Wilfrid Laurier University and all of its affiliated and federated colleges:
New Joint Programs with other Institutions
The following principles shall apply to the development process of new joint programs:
1. The first step in the new program development process is to prepare a Statement of Intent and present it to the Divisional/Faculty Council for approval (as an embargoed document). The Statement of Intent (accompanied by a letter of support from the relevant dean(s)) should then be submitted to the Senate Academic Planning Committee for approval (as an embargoed document). The Statement of Intent shall be submitted to Senate for information.
2. Subject to approval of the Statement of Intent and in accordance with Section D below, new program proposals shall be prepared by a program curriculum committee or like body after consultation with students and other relevant communities. These communities may include academic departments or programs within the university, as well as stakeholders in the broader community. The involvement of these groups in the program development process should be documented in the proposal. At least one author whose responsibility it is to assemble all material and shepherd a proposal through the various approval bodies must be identified and recorded on the document. This author may be a chair or program coordinator or other designated lead person. In the case of joint programs involving other institutions, one proposal may be prepared for all participating institutions’ review bodies as long as the information required by this policy is included. Program curriculum committees may be developed de novo in order to prepare proposals for new programs without a pre-existing home in an academic unit.
3. Once completed, the proposal shall be reviewed and recommended (as an embargoed document) in accordance with usual department/program/faculty procedures for curriculum, and then approved by the Faculty, school, or federated college. A proposal for a graduate program must also be reviewed and approved by Graduate Faculty Council (as an embargoed document). Program proposals will be brought forward by the dean of the Faculty responsible. Graduate program proposals shall be presented by the Associate Vice-President and Dean, Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.
4. A full proposal shall be submitted to the Program Review Sub-Committee to assess its completeness and appropriateness relative to the university’s mission, strategic academic plan, and standards of quality. This sub-committee shall decide if the proposal is ready for external review and communicate its decision to the Senate Academic Planning Committee.
5. The Program Review Sub-Committee shall review the program’s suggestions for external reviewers (in camera) and select a review committee from the names supplied or request additional nominees. Reviewers must meet the qualifications and requirements specified in section E below.
6. After external review and responses to the External Reviewers’ Report by the program and the relevant dean(s), the Senate Academic Planning Committee shall review the complete program proposal package (as an embargoed document) and make a recommendation to Senate.
7. Senate is responsible for approving the program proposal, following which the proposal ceases to be embargoed.
8. Following Senate approval, a complete program proposal package shall be submitted by the Quality Assurance Office to the Ontario Universities Council on Quality Assurance for approval and to the Ministry of Colleges and Universities (MCU) for funding approval (as applicable).
Subject to approval by the Provost and Vice-President: Academic, the university may announce its intention to offer a new undergraduate or graduate program in advance of approval by the Quality Council and/or MCU (where MCU approval is required). When such announcements are made in advance of Quality Council and/or MCU approval, they must contain the following statement: “Prospective students are advised that the program is still subject to formal approval.”
10. The chair or co-ordinator of a new program shall submit a brief New Program Report to the Program Review Sub-Committee at the end of the second and fourth year of an undergraduate program, at the end of the first two years for a master’s program, and at the end of three years for a doctoral program. This report shall include enrolment numbers by year and comment on the program’s success in realizing its objectives, requirements and outcomes, as originally proposed and approved, as well as address any notes provided by the Appraisal Committee from the program’s initial approval. Once the program enrolls students, it will also be entered into the schedule of cyclical program reviews. All programs must be reviewed within eight years of their initial approval or last review.
Prior to submitting a Proposal Brief to the Quality Council for appraisal, the university will evaluate any new programs against the following criteria:
1. Objectives of the program
The distinction between program objectives and program-level learning outcomes is an important one in the new program development process. For the purposes of the new program proposal, program objectives refers to clear and concise statements that describe the broad goals of the program. Clear and thorough articulation of program objectives can provide transparency in what the program seeks to accomplish, describe to potential students why the discipline is important, and explain how the program is unique and meaningful in the context of the discipline as a whole. Program objectives are often framed or phrased from the perspective of the program and what it aims to accomplish through its curriculum.
In contrast, program-level learning outcomes are framed or phrased from the perspective of the student, rather than the program. They are clear and concise statements that describe what successful students should have achieved, as well as the knowledge, skills, and abilities that they should have acquired, by the end of the program. Program-level student learning outcomes emphasize the application and integration of knowledge rather than simply coverage of content. They articulate the expectations for student success—what students should know and/or know how to do by the end of the program.
The new program proposal will address the following related to the program objectives and program-level learning outcomes:
a. Consistency of the program’s objectives with Wilfrid Laurier University’s guiding documents, including the Laurier Strategy, Strategic Academic Plan, and other guiding documents that speak to academic priorities such as the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan, and the Indigenization Plan.
b. Clarity and appropriateness of the program’s requirements and program-level learning outcomes addressing Laurier’s undergraduate (UDLEs) or graduate (GDLEs) degree level expectations.
c. Consistency with provincial, national, international and professional standards (if applicable).
d. Appropriateness of degree nomenclature considering disciplinary traditions and requirements.
2. Admission requirements
a. Appropriateness of the program’s admission requirements for the learning outcomes established for completion of the program.
b. Sufficient explanation of alternative requirements, if any, for admission into a graduate, second-entry, or undergraduate program (e.g. minimum grade point average, additional languages, portfolios or creative work, along with how the program recognizes prior work or learning experience).
a. Appropriateness of the program's structure and regulations to meet its objectives and program-level learning outcomes.
b. Appropriateness of the program’s structure, requirements and program-level learning outcomes in meeting the institution’s undergraduate or graduate Degree Level Expectations.
c. For graduate programs, a clear rationale for program length that ensures that students can complete the program-level learning outcomes and requirements within the proposed time.
a. Ways in which the curriculum addresses the current state of the discipline or area of study.
b. Employment of unique curriculum or program innovations or creative components.
c. Ways in which the proposed program intends to incorporate principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion into its curriculum and teaching and learning practices.
d. Identification of any ways in which the program plans to incorporate Indigenous knowledges, perspectives, and methodologies into its curriculum.
e. The inclusion of professional or transferable skills in the program curriculum.
f. For research-focused graduate programs, clear indication of the nature and suitability of the major research requirements for degree completion. These include thesis and major research paper options as well as course components designed for the development of critical and analytical skills.
g. For graduate programs, course offerings designed to ensure that each student in the program is able to meet the Quality Council requirement that a minimum of two-thirds of required coursework consist of graduate-level courses.
5. Mode(s) of delivery
Appropriateness of the proposed mode(s) of delivery (e.g., classroom format, online, blended, community service, problem-based, compressed part-time, multi-campus, inter-institutional) to facilitate students’ successful completion of program-level learning outcomes and degree level expectations.
6. Assessment methodologies
a. Description of the assessment methodologies that will be used to evaluate student learning within the program.
b. Explanation of the alignment between these assessment methodologies and the intended program-level learning outcomes and degree level expectations.
c. Explanation of how the program will measure and document the overall quality of the program, its adherence to its objectives, student achievement of program-level learning outcomes and degree level expectations, and how the resulting information will be used to inform continuous program improvement.
7. Resources for all programs
a. Adequacy of the administrative unit’s planned utilization of existing human, physical and financial resources (indicating, where appropriate, if the program will be cost recovery), including implications for the impact on other existing programs at the university, and any institutional resource commitments to support the program in step with its ongoing implementation.
b. Participation of a sufficient number of core faculty who are competent to teach and/or supervise in and achieve the goals of the program, as well as to foster an appropriate inclusive and intellectual environment. Faculty participating in graduate programs must be appointed to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.
c. If applicable, a discussion of the role and approximate percentage of adjunct and part-time/limited term appointments used in the delivery of the program and the associated plans to ensure the sustainability of the program and quality of the student experience.
d. Evidence that there are adequate resources to sustain the quality of scholarship and research activities produced by students, including library support, information technology support, and laboratory access.
e. If applicable, a discussion of the provision of supervision of experiential learning opportunities for students.
8. Resources specific to graduate programs
a. Evidence that faculty have the recent research or creative/professional/clinical expertise needed to sustain the program, promote innovation and foster an appropriate intellectual climate.
b. Where appropriate to the program, evidence that financial assistance for students will be sufficient to ensure adequate quality and numbers of students.
c. Evidence of how supervisory loads will be distributed, and the qualifications and appointment status of faculty who will provide instruction and supervision. Faculty participating in a graduate program must be appointed to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.
9. Quality and other indicators
a. Evidence of the quality of the faculty (e.g. qualifications, funding, honours, awards, research, innovation and scholarly record) and appropriateness of collective faculty expertise to contribute substantively to the proposed program and student mentoring.
b. Evidence of a program structure and faculty research that will ensure the intellectual quality of the student experience.
The template for new program proposals must be used to prepare the brief. Proposals for new degree programs (categories 1, 2, and 4 in section I, Objectives) follow all of the following procedures. Proposals for new graduate diplomas (category 5) follow the unit and faculty level curriculum approval procedures and then proceed to step H below (Senate Academic Planning Committee Recommendation).
External review is required only for new graduate and undergraduate program proposals (including new undergraduate majors).
The academic unit(s) responsible for the proposed program shall submit to the Quality Assurance Office the names and contact information of and rationale for those they wish to nominate as reviewers, as specified here:
In keeping with the requirement that reviewers must be at arm’s-length, the academic unit(s) shall not contact the reviewers directly but shall submit the names of prospective reviewers to the Quality Assurance Office. The Quality Assurance Office shall contact the nominees to determine their interest and availability and collect the information to complete the required Volume III template.
For joint programs, the university shall consult with the office of the Provost, or equivalent, at partner institutions.
From the lists of nominees, the Program Review Sub-Committee will use the criteria outlined above, as well as additional considerations such as diversity, institutional affiliation, and complementary to select a review committee that consists of one internal reviewer from outside the academic unit(s) proposing the program and two external reviewers, for both undergraduate and graduate programs. If the Sub-Committee is not satisfied with the appropriateness of the nominees, they may request additional names from the academic unit. The Sub-Committee shall submit the names of the review committee members to the Senate Academic Planning Committee for information.
The internal reviewer is included as a member of each review committee in order to provide valuable institutional context. The internal reviewer has access to the same documentation as the external reviewers, and participates as an active member in all of the review meetings. The internal reviewer is not expected to contribute to the writing of the reviewers’ report, but may take on the role of reviewing the report prior to submission.
The Quality Assurance Office shall contact the nominees to confirm their role and to schedule the site visit. It is the responsibility of the Associate Vice-President: Academic to ensure that the review committee:
These expectations shall be conveyed to the reviewers in written instructions and face-to-face meetings with the relevant dean(s) and the Provost and Vice-President: Academic and/or Associate Vice-President: Academic. The Provost and Vice-President: Academic and/or Associate Vice-President Academic shall also be responsible for providing the reviewers with explicit instructions that the program is to be evaluated against the criteria listed in C above.
The review committee shall evaluate the Program Proposal Brief and faculty CVs, which will be sent to them, along with other relevant review materials, by the Quality Assurance Office approximately one month in advance of the external review. The review committee may request additional information (programs must inform the Quality Assurance Office of any additional information provided to the reviewers). External reviews will normally take the format of a one to two day site visit at the relevant Laurier campuses. External reviews for new undergraduate programs will normally take place on campus, but may be conducted via desk review, virtual site visit, or equivalent method if the external reviewers are satisfied that the off-site option is acceptable and a clear and sufficient rationale is provided by the Provost and Vice-President: Academic, or delegate. External reviews of master’s level programs will normally be conducted on campus; exceptions made be made for professional master’s programs be conducted via desk review, virtual site visit, or equivalent method if the external reviewers are satisfied that the off-site option is acceptable and a clear and sufficient rationale is provided by the Provost and Vice-President: Academic, or delegate. External reviews for new doctoral programs must take place on campus.
Regardless of the review format, the review committee shall meet with the Provost and Vice-President and/or Academic and/or Associate Vice-President: Academic; faculty, staff, and undergraduate and graduate students within the unit (where applicable); the deans of the relevant Faculties; the chair/director of the unit proposing the program and of any collaborating units (for interdepartmental programs); the University Librarian; and any other members of the university community who can provide needed information. The review committee shall prepare an external reviewers’ report, which must be submitted to the Quality Assurance Office within four weeks following the external review.
In their report, the review committee should:
Upon receipt of the reviewers’ report, the Quality Assurance Office shall distribute copies to the Provost, dean(s) and chairperson(s)/co-ordinator(s) of the academic unit(s) proposing the program, and the author of the New Program Proposal. Within four weeks of receiving the report, the unit(s) and the relevant dean(s) shall each prepare a separate response that includes:
An exception to the requirement for separate responses from the unit and the dean is in the case of single-department Faculty (or equivalent), where the Dean (or equivalent) is essentially the Divisional Head (e.g. Faculty of Education).
At this time, the program shall make any necessary revisions to the program proposal, using track changes or recorded elsewhere, and forward them to the Quality Assurance Office.
The Quality Assurance Office will submit the proposal package to the Senate Academic Planning Committee, who shall review all materials and make one of the following decisions:
The author of the proposal brief shall be invited to attend the meeting to present the proposal and answer any questions. If the Senate Academic Planning Committee recommends approval of the proposal, and the provost concurs, the proposal will move forward to the Senate for final approval.
The new program proposal shall be presented for approval by the dean(s) responsible for the units proposing a new undergraduate program, and by the Associate Vice-President and Dean, Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, in the case of graduate programs.
Following Senate approval, the complete program proposal package (new program proposal, external reviewers’ report, unit and decanal responses) will be forwarded by the Quality Assurance Office to the Ontario Universities Council on Quality Assurance for approval. The submission package will also include background information on the two external reviewers selected to review the proposed program with regard to their qualifications in the following areas:
The Appraisal Committee will review the new program submission package and make one of the following recommendations to the Quality Council:
Once a new program is approved by the Quality Council, it must commence within 36 months of this approval, or approval will lapse.
Reports on new programs may be required by the Quality Council when significant actions, such as a number of new hires or other additional resources, are required to assure the quality of the new program. When a new program is approved to commence, with report, the Quality Assurance Office will coordinate the completion of the report with the program in advance of the due date.
Subject to approval by the Provost, the university may announce its intention to offer a new undergraduate or graduate program in advance of approval by the Quality Council. When such announcements are made in advance of Quality Council approval, they must contain the following statement: “Prospective students are advised that the program is still subject to formal approval.”
All new program proposals (for non-core undergraduate programs or for graduate programs) which require operating grant funding must be submitted to the Ministry of Colleges and Universities (MCU) for funding approval. The required information will be provided by the relevant chair/coordinator/dean to the Quality Assurance Office who will prepare the submission for the MCU.
The chair or co-ordinator of a new program shall submit a New Program Report to the Program Review Sub-Committee at the end of the second and fourth year of an undergraduate program, at the end of the first two years for a master’s program, and at the end of three years for a doctoral program. This report shall include enrolment numbers by year and comment on the program’s success in realizing its objectives, requirements and outcomes, as originally proposed and approved, as well as any changes that have occurred in the interim, including in response to any notes provided by the Appraisal Committee from the program’s initial approval. Once the program enrolls students, it will also be entered into the schedule of cyclical program reviews. All programs must be reviewed within eight years of their initial approval or last review. Cyclical reviews of new programs will take into account any outcomes of the New Program Report.
Any new undergraduate or graduate programs that have been approved since the university’s last Audit (see Audit description in Policy 2.1) are eligible for selection in the subsequent Audit by the Quality Council.
All changes to existing programs, as well as proposals for new adjunct credentials, such as minors, options, undergraduate certificates or diplomas, shall be approved by Senate according to the procedures outlined below. The types of major modifications listed below in a. Program Changes do not require approval by the Quality Council, but may be submitted to the Quality Council should the university wish to do so. Those outlined in b. Expedited Approval do require submission of a new program proposal to the Quality Council for approval. All major modifications are reported annually to the Quality Council.
Major modifications provide an opportunity for programs to engage in continuous program improvement, and are often made for one of the following reasons:
The university encourages programs to engage in this form of self-assessment and positive program renewal, in particular when the goals of program changes are to improve the experience of students. Major modifications will be discussed and approved on the basis of its rationale, alignment with the university’s Strategic Academic Plan, impact on the program’s students, impact on the program’s learning outcomes, and the impact on resources. Input from current students and recent graduates of the program should be considered as part of the development of the major modification proposal, and should include a statement on the ways in which the proposed major modification will improve the student experience.
Major modifications can be characterized as significant changes that have program-wide impact through either major changes to the courses offered and/or program requirements. The following list is not exhaustive and units are encouraged to consult with the Quality Assurance Office if they have any questions about how to classify curriculum changes for which examples are not given.
a. Program Changes. These include:
(i) Requirements that differ significantly from those existing at the time of the previous cyclical program review.
(ii) Significant changes to the learning outcomes.
(iii) Significant changes to the faculty engaged in delivering the program and/or to the essential resources as may occur, for example, when there have been changes to the existing mode(s) of delivery (e.g. different campus, online delivery, inter-institutional collaboration).
b. Expedited Approvals. These include:
Expedited approvals use a new program proposal template for submission that includes all relevant criteria described in Section 3 of this policy. Following approval at Senate, expedited approvals are submitted to the Quality Council for approval. Expedited approval proposals submitted to the Quality Council will be assessed by the Appraisal Committee and result in one of the following decisions:
Steps in the review and approval process of major modifications:
Minor curriculum changes (either substantive or editorial) must be approved by the university, but Quality Council approval is not required.
For the purposes of approval and review, changes should be divided into:
Substantive minor changes are changes to degree programs, minors, options, concentrations, and specializations which are less significant in scope than major modifications. These include:
Editorial: all other minor curriculum changes (e.g. course addition, change to course element, course deletion), including editorial changes to curriculum material.
Steps in the Review and Approval Process for Minor Curriculum Changes