Programme approval and review

Academic Services manages the following University’s processes: course planning and approval; modifications; suspension and discontinuation; and periodic reviews.

Course planning and approval

Sandwich years

Sandwich years comprise a single 120-credit module, mapping to Level 5 of the Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications. The ‘sandwich’ module is marked as Pass/Fail only, and does not contribute to the degree algorithm.

Students registered on a programme with a sandwich year need to take and pass 480 credits, including the 120-credit ‘sandwich’ module; if this is not passed, the student’s registration will switch to the equivalent non-sandwich programme with the standard 360 credits.


Open modules

The introduction of open modules in 2011/12 evolved through the University's review of the Undergraduate Modular Scheme in 2008/9. Since then, the number and variety of open modules available to students has grown.

Open modules are monitored and their success evaluated by a working party, led up by the Head of Enterprise & Employability and the Head of Learning & Teaching. Evaluation of open modules and updates from the working party are regularly reported to the Learning and Teaching Committee.

In terms of quality assurance processes, open modules are managed as follows:

Introduction of new open modules

Proposals for new open modules should following the existing modifications process.


For the purposes of modifications, open modules are considered separately from their home subject. Therefore, a modification to an open module does not count towards the permitted quota for the home subject. In the case of open modules, only one modification can be approved at School Board, with the exception of addition or deletion. Thereafter, subsequent modifications must be approved at Programme Approval and Review Sub-committee (PARS).

Periodic Review

Open modules are considered at the home subject periodic review.

Annual Monitoring

Open modules should be monitored through the home subject academic developmental reporting.

External Examiners

External examining duties should be carried out by the home subject external examiner.


The modifications process

Proposals for modifications need to be submitted to Academic Services by 31 October in order to be considered for the next academic year. This deadline was agreed by AQSC due to requirements now made of all Higher Education Institutions with regards to information for students. It helps to ensure that modifications to programmes or modules are completed early in the academic year. Therefore, there will be one submission and consideration point in the academic year for all modification proposals.

An internal stakeholder meeting to capture stakeholder feedback in one session will take place annually in November.

The specific forms for consultation with students and External Examiners and the use of mapping documents to demonstrate how the programme-level intended learning outcomes (ILOs) and assessments are affected by the modification(s) will continue to be used. 

Please note that the Modifications Policy has been updated to reflect the operational changes to the modifications process.

Modifications policy (section 3 of Course Planning and Approval Handbook)

Stage 1 - Prepare paperwork

Consult with Professional, Strategy and Regulatory Bodies (PSRB)

  • If applicable, consult on the proposed changes with Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRB) and complete Section two of the modification proposal template.

Stage 2 - Consult with stakeholders

  • Discuss the proposed modification(s) with students (e.g. current students' at SSLC/focus groups or with students from a similar subject area) and the External Examiner(s). Ensure the student consultation template and the External Examiner consultation template is completed.
  • Send the Modification Proposal and Approval template (with Section one and two completed), the module descriptor, ILO and assessment maps to Academic Services (academicservices@bathspa.ac.uk) who will forward it to internal stakeholders for their consideration, prior to the annual internal stakeholder meeting. The deadline for all modification proposals to be sent to Academic Services is 31 October.

Stage 3 - Internal stakeholder meeting

  • Internal Stakeholders hold an annual meeting in November to discuss all proposals and to give feedback and/or approval to proposers.
  • The proposer is invited to attend the internal stakeholder meeting to answer any questions. At this point, proposers should confirm whether any changes to the module descriptors based on feedback from External Examiners and students have been made. Stakeholders will only approve the final version of the module. Where further changes are necessary as a result of feedback, proposers have one week to make amendments and can re-submit their proposal for consideration at a final stakeholder meeting in December.
  • Detailed notes of the discussion and the outcome should be taken to support the proposal at the School Board stage. The proposer can choose to take these notes or can bring a member of professional services staff from the School (e.g. the School Board Officer) to the meeting for this purpose. 
  • If the modification is approved, the internal stakeholders will each complete the approval pro-forma to confirm approval of the modification(s) at the end of the meeting.
  • If the modification is not approved, the proposer is asked to make any necessary amendments to the proposal based on the feedback from internal stakeholders and resubmit the proposal for internal stakeholder approval by sending it to Academic Services within one week of the internal stakeholder meeting. It will then be considered at the December meeting.

Stage 4 - Prepare for School Board approval

  • Complete Sections Three and Four of the Modification Proposal and Approval template to confirm that consultation has taken place and how this has informed the proposal.
  • The final version of the module descriptor, the complete Modification Proposal and Approval template, the assessment map, the ILO map, the signed internal stakeholder proformas, and the student and External Examiner consultation templates must be submitted to School Board.

Stage 5 - Approval of modification

  • The modification proposal and the final version of the module descriptor are approved at School Board. If necessary, the modification proposal and documentation will also be submitted the Programme Approval and Review sub-committee (Academic Services will advise if this is required).
  • Once all approvals have been received, Section five of the Modification Proposal and Approval template is completed and the proposer notifies Academic Services.
  • Academic Services will notify Student Services and other relevant stakeholders and will save a copy of the approved module descriptor (as submitted to internal stakeholders) as a definitive record of the module.
  • All Schools must provide an annual summary of all modifications for the final PARS meeting of the academic year.

Suspension and discontinuation


The University's procedure for Suspension of Recruitment and/or Discontinuation of a Named Award was approved by the Academic Quality and Standards Committee in April 2013, and subsequently reviewed and re-approved in June 2014 following the first year of operation. The procedure comprises two processes: one for the suspension of recruitment and one for the discontinuation of a named award. Flow charts are linked below which provide a step-by-step guide, however processes for BSU and collaborative provision vary. Please ensure you follow the appropriate flow chart.

Exit strategy

When the procedure was introduced, the decision was taken not to provide an exit strategy template, to allow flexibility in the development of such documents and the information that might be included. Following the first year of operation of the procedure the experiences of academic staff who had overseen the procedure were sought. As a result, the following guidance notes are provided to assist in the completion of exit strategies and subsequent updates to them.

All provision

  1. The exit strategy should anticipate potential issues that may arise and identify specific responses in readiness, rather than reacting to such issues. It may also be helpful to identify the likelihood of potential issues and the impact they would have.
  2. The exit strategy should include a student/cohort profile status indicating student achievement taken at the initial point of discontinuation (Vice-Chancellor's approval). This will enable members of staff overseeing the discontinuation (including the link tutor in the case of collaborative provision) to identify at the earliest opportunity any potential difficulties with regard to students who may be trailing modules, intercalating or at risk of failing. This should be updated as the discontinuation progresses.
  3. The exit strategy should be specific with regard to alternative options of study available to students.
  4. The exit strategy should detail number of staff and details of FTE. The specialisms offered by these members of staff should be included. (NB The exit strategy should not name individual members of staff, but should instead say, for example, course leader, subject leader, link tutor.)
  5. The exit strategy should provide assurance with regard to cross-specialism support in the event of staff changes, with processes in place to monitor any such changes in staffing arrangements.
  6. The exit strategy should list the key resources required until the discontinuation process is complete. For collaborative provision that is to be brought in-house, the exit strategy should provide detailed assurance that students have access to equivalent resources as those available at the partner provider.
  7. Where there are optional modules associated with a discontinuing award, these should be listed.
  8. The exit strategy should make clear the possibility that delivery may be brought in-house as a final sanction where the University considers this the best option to ensure that student experience and opportunities are not compromised.
  9. It is helpful if the exit strategy is clear about resource implications of a discontinuation. For example, an award at a partner provider will require significantly increased time and effort from the link tutor as the discontinuation progresses.

General guidance

  1. A full file of correspondence and notes should be kept to support the exit strategy, for example copies of emails and correspondence with staff and students regarding the discontinuation, notes of meetings with students that have informed the exit strategy, and copies of the reports that will go to each School Board until there are no longer any students registered on it. In the case of collaborative provision, this should include the letter sent to students advising of the discontinuation and providing reassurance of ongoing support, whether this was sent by the Principal (or equivalent) or the partner provider or the University.
  2. Formal notification to the external examiner of the discontinuation of an award will be the responsibility of Academic Services. The member of staff overseeing the discontinuation and exit strategy should ensure that the external examiner is kept fully informed throughout the discontinuation process.
  3. For collaborative provision, the exit strategy should be written jointly by the University and the partner provider. Responsibility for the academic standards and quality of learning opportunities rests with the University.
  4. For collaborative provision, link tutors should continue to attend examination boards as usual.

Periodic review

About periodic reviews

Each academic subject unit is subject to periodic review every 6 years. The review normally lasts 1-3 days, depending on the size of the provision to be reviewed and is conducted by a panel consisting of members both internal and external to the University. In December 2009, AQSC approved our current periodic review process.

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