Approval Processes for New Academic Degree Programs, Program Modifications and Phase-Out of Programs

University of Michigan – Ann Arbor Campus

All new academic programs leading to a new field of study (concentration or major) and/or a new degree must go through a series of internal and external review and approval processes before the program can be implemented and marketed to potential students. In addition, major program modifications — including expanding residential programs to be offered in an online or hybrid format — and the phase-out of programs must be reviewed internally and externally. Depending on the specifics of the degree program and field of study, new programs may also require approval by the Rackham School of Graduate Studies and the University’s Board of Regents. Finally, all new programs must also undergo external review through the Michigan Association of State Universities (MASU).

The Office of Budget and Planning (OBP) is responsible for coordinating Regental and MASU approvals. The table below indicates which proposal cases require approvals. The following outlines the basic steps an academic unit must take to obtain the appropriate levels of approval.

Approval Process Resources

Levels of Approval

All proposals for new programs will require some or all of the following levels of approval in the sequential order listed. Details for each step is shown below.

  1. Department and School/College (always required)
  2. Rackham Graduate School (may be necessary)
  3. Office of the Provost (always required)
  4. Vice Provost for Academic Innovation (may be necessary)
  5. Board of Regents (may be necessary)

For further information about these processes, contact Tammy Bimer at [email protected] or 763-9983.

Types of program changes and key approval steps required:

  • New Degree Level, New Degree Designation or New Type Of Offering. Requires U-M Board of Regents action and MASU action.
  • New Major, Degree Designation Change or Major Revision To Existing Program. Requires MASU action.
  • New Options, New Combinations of Existing Curricula or Title Changes. Requires MASU action.
  • New Minors or Concentrations. No Regents or MASU actions needed.
  • Program/Degree Phase-Out or Discontinuation. Requires MASU action.
    See SPG 601.02: Discontinuance of Academic Programs for additional information.

Details about Approval Steps

  1. Department and School/College: An academic unit will need to begin the process by following the prescribed internal procedures for obtaining approval within its own department/school/college.During this stage of the planning and approval process, the Dean of your school/college should discuss your plans with the Provost (and the Provost’s Office). If the new program represents a major change in academic programming such as a new degree level for your unit or a new degree designation, the discussion should focus on how the new program fits into the long-range directions of your department and school/college. These academic planning discussions should cover issues related to resource needs and allocations, program size, impact on other U-M programs or units, the appropriateness of the intended degree designation or level for your unit, and the like.If the proposal is for a new concentration/major within an existing degree that your school/college is authorized to award, discussions with the Provost will focus on issues such as the fit of the new program with planned directions for your unit and whether it is duplicative of other existing programs in other units on campus.
  2. Rackham Graduate School: If the new program will fall under Rackham’s administrative umbrella the next step is to submit the proposal to the Rackham. See Guidelines for Developing and Revising Rackham Graduate Programs (leave Provost website).
  3. Office of Provost: The next step in the process is to complete the Provost Office Academic Program Review Form. Download and save this form as a PDF file before completing. Submit the form and any supporting documents (if applicable) along with your proposal to Tammy Bimer, Associate Vice Provost for Academic and Budgetary Affairs (763-9983, [email protected]), who coordinates of the approval process in the Provost’s Office. The Provost’s Office is then responsible for seeing that your proposal is moved forward through the final two steps in the process.As part of this step, proposals for new online or hybrid degree programs will be reviewed by the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Innovation for key compliance considerations related to creating online programs. This questionnaire must be completed and included with the proposal: Online and Hybrid Program Approval. Academic units are strongly encouraged to work with the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Innovation prior to submitting a proposal. Contact [email protected] for more information, or to discuss an online or hybrid program proposal.
  4. Board of Regents: Board of Regents approval is needed only if you are proposing a new degree level for your unit (e.g., a new bachelor’s degree program in a unit that previously offered only graduate degrees) or a new degree designation (e.g., recent new degrees in this category include the Master of Health Informatics and Master of Advanced Corporation Law). Proposals for new concentrations/majors within an existing degree do not need Regental approval.
  5. Michigan Association of State Universities (MASU): The last stage of approval is at the state level through the Academic Affairs Officers Committee of MASU. The Academic Affairs Officers Committee includes representatives from all of Michigan’s 15 public universities. Programs can be submitted for review and AAO Committee approval prior to Institutional Governing Body (IGB) approval as indicated on the APR cover sheet. If the program is modified or not approved by the Institutional Governing Body, the university must notify MASU within two business days after the IGB’s action and the institution must go through the academic program review (APR) process again. Once you have received notice of approval by MASU, you can move forward with implementing the new program and advertising it.

If you have any questions about what levels of approval are needed for your proposal, contact Tammy Bimer at [email protected] or 763-9983.

The Provost’s Office will notify you once the Regents (if necessary) and MASU have approved your proposal.

Approval Process Summary

1. Academic Planning and Review

a. The Dean of your school/college discusses the proposed new academic program or modifications with the Provost (and the Provost’s Office).

b. Academic units with online or hybrid program proposals are strongly encouraged to work with the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Innovation during the planning process.

c. School/College reviews the proposal with the Provost’s Office (and OBP).

OBP will review the proposal, the Provost Office Academic Program Review Form, any supporting documents (if applicable), discuss the process and address these items with the school/college:

  • Timeline for Board of Regents and/or MASU meeting submissions
  • Which proposal checklist should be followed
  • Any recommended proposal modifications based on the MASU checklist
  • Timeline and process to request a new or differential tuition rate (if applicable), See Note 1
  • School/College notifies the Registrar’s Office, See Note 2

2. U-M Approvals

a. School/College approval

b. Rackham approval (if applicable)

c. Office of the Provost approval, See Note 3 (if applicable)

  • Vice Provost of Academic Innovation approval (if applicable), See Note 4

d. Board of Regents approval (if applicable)

  • School/College prepares a Regents Action Item, See Note 5
  • OBP coordinates with the Provost’s Office to submit the materials for the Regents meeting


a. OBP submits the final proposal and cover sheet to MASU

b. MASU institutions review and provide feedback on the submitted academic program proposals

  • OBP will notify the school/college if any feedback on the proposal requires a response

c. Proposals are voted on at the MASU Academic Affairs Officers Meeting

d. OBP will notify the school/college regarding the outcome of the MASU meeting

– Note 1: Requests for new or changes in tuition rates are submitted through the annual budget process. For more information, see your unit budget administrator or contact [email protected].
– Note 2: The Registrar’s Office should be consulted if the new or modified program will be structured differently than any existing programs on campus. It is also good to confirm that the proposed program or modifications are feasible within our student records system.
– Note 3: Office of the Provost approval is required for online or hybrid degree programs. The Dean of your school/college should discuss your proposal with the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Innovation.
– Note 4: U-M defines online and hybrid programs in a manner consistent with the Higher Learning Commission’s definition of distance-delivered programs: certificate or degree programs in which 50 percent or more of the required courses may be taken as courses in which at least 75 percent of the instruction and interaction occurs via electronic communication, correspondence or equivalent mechanisms, with the faculty and students physically separated from each other.
– Note 5: The Provost’s Office obtains the required signatures for the Regents Action Item. (Although the school/college may have already provided the Dean’s signature.)

Submission Procedures

Considerations in the Review of Academic Programs

In presenting new program proposals, institutions are expected to address the issues of need, adequacy of resources, academic quality and consistency with institutional mission and future directions.

Institutional Mission and Future Direction. It is expected that new programs and modifications of existing programs will be aligned with the institution’s mission and strategic goals. Therefore, how the proposed program is consistent with the institution’s stated mission and plans for the future should be articulated.

Need. With respect to the need for the proposed program, questions such as the following are examined: What is the rationale for the proposed program? How does the proposed program fill or address identified needs? Will the program serve a specified purpose in the local community, a particular region, the state as a whole or within a particular discipline, field, or profession? Are there similar programs offered by other institutions in the state or region? If so, how does the proposed program differ? Will the new program provide access to underserved constituencies?

Resources. Faculty, infrastructure costs (space, renovations, etc.), lab & computer equipment/software/databases, administrative staff, and other needs (e.g., library, marketing, etc.) are recognized as being essential for quality academic programs. So in addition to consideration of program need, recognition is also given to the availability and source of funds to provide adequate support for the proposed new program. Does the program require one-time or ongoing infrastructure costs? How will the resources allocated to a new initiative impact funding for existing programs? Will new faculty need to be hired? Does the proposed program require extensive new expenditures for computers, laboratory space or equipment, and library holdings? Finally, will the addition of the proposed program represent an effective and efficient use of institutional resources?

Quality. While each institution attends to the issue of quality control in the development of academic programs, the Academic Affairs Officers Committee systematically reviews proposals noting in particular curricular design, faculty qualifications, plans for learning assessment and support services. The objective is to assure that new programs are not only needed and can be adequately supported, but that high standards will prevail in all such academic endeavors.

All of the above criteria and considerations apply to both undergraduate and graduate programs. Additionally, for post-baccalaureate level programs, special attention is given to such matters as faculty quality, as indicated by publications, externally funded projects, and specialized expertise. Questions may include: What are the trends in the profession? Does the proposed program conform to existing accreditation standards? Do (or will) faculty have the requisite skill and experience to provide a high quality opportunity? Does the proposed curriculum reflect the best thinking on the future of the profession?

Program Definitions

New Academic Programs or Major Revisions involve the introduction of (1) new majors; (2) new degrees including degree changes (for example, Ed.D. to Ph.D.); or (3) a major revision to an existing program. A new program in most cases will result in a new major or degree offering. In many cases, a new program will add new faculty and/or staff, may utilize existing campus resources, and reflect a new set of needs in professional practice and the regional workforce. Additionally, a new program or major revision will include either a substantial proportion of new courses or some significant combination of interdisciplinary offerings that do not currently exist within an existing degree program. The key distinction for a major revision is that it requires significant new curricular elements beyond what currently exists and is likely to require additional resources. A conversion of a minor or concentration to a stand-alone major is a new program.

Program Modifications (“spin-offs”) represent new options, new combinations of existing curricula, and title changes. Program modifications may resemble new programs in a number of ways, but will differ in terms of the number of new courses and additional resources required for the offering of the program. In many cases, a program modification will simply reflect minor changes to existing programs, which adapt to evolving needs in the field of study.

Program modification proposals do not require full documentation and review; however, they must be channeled through the review process, even though such programs ordinarily refer to initiatives or developments too minor to require actions by the Academic Affairs Officers Committee.

Choosing between a program modification and a major revision for the purposes of review is a matter of professional judgment. Our suggestion is that if there is any question about whether a program is a major revision or a modification, it is better to submit as the former. In the event that a proposed program modification is challenged at a meeting of the academic officers, a majority vote, as defined under “Procedures,” shall determine whether the program will be considered a “major revision” program requiring resubmission with full documentation, discussion, and a vote.

Phase-Out of Programs represent academic programs that an institution plans to eliminate from its suite of offerings. Institutions are expected to report all major program deletions and phase-outs for informational purposes only. Like approved programs, the phased-out programs will be reported to the legislature but are not included in the actual legislative language. Phase-out programs do not require formal approval from the Academic Affairs Officers committee.

Programs not reviewed. It has been established by the members of the Academic Affairs Officers (AAO) Committee that associate degree programs, minors, concentrations, and certificates are not to be reviewed by this body. Nor will they be reported to the legislature. Proposals for dual degrees that simply double-count or overlap existing curricula without changes do not need to be reviewed. Core curriculum changes that affect the entire university or college catalog of programs do not need to be reviewed.

The same proposal can be submitted for both Rackham approval and MASU approval if the proposal covers all elements required by both Rackham and MASU.

Use common U-M acronyms only after you have fully spelled out what they stand for the first time they are mentioned. For example, “CoE” should be referenced first as the “College of Engineering (CoE)”. Please keep in mind that your proposal will be reviewed by individuals at each of the other 14 Michigan public universities who will not be familiar with our local terminology.

Your proposal may require editing by the Provost’s Office before it’s submitted for approval to MASU. Usually such editing is minor. However, if there is a need for more substantive revision, the academic unit submitting the proposal will be contacted for their consent to the changes. Units will be sent a copy of the final version of the proposal that’s submitted to MASU.

Proposal Format

In general, the version of the proposal submitted to the Provost’s Office must be in an electronic format that can be edited using software such as MS Word or MS Excel. It can be sent in separate parts if different electronic formats are used. For example, the main narrative document could be in Word and an appendix could be in Excel. A separate .pdf document is acceptable for anything that would not need editing, such as a cover memo confirming the approval of the proposal by the submitting unit and containing the signature of the dean.

Schedule and Deadlines

To determine the schedule and deadlines for obtaining approval for your program, you must first ascertain what levels of approval are needed. Once you know that, it is often easiest to figure out your timing by working backwards in time from when you would like to implement your program. Since the last step in the process prior to implementation is approval by MASU, you should start by viewing their meeting schedule. The Academic Affairs Officers meet only four times a year in October, January, April, and June. All new program proposals to be reviewed by MASU Academic Affairs Officers group at a given meeting must be submitted six weeks prior to the meeting. The MASU Schedule for the current year.

If Regental approval is not needed for your proposal, send the proposal to Tammy Bimer [[email protected]a minimum of two weeks before the MASU submission deadline. Please contact OBP ahead of the deadline; time is needed to review your proposal(s) based on MASU requirements. If OBP does not hear from you in advance, there is a chance that submission of your proposal(s) to MASU might be delayed.

If Regental approval is needed, your proposal can be submitted for review and AAO Committee approval prior to the Board of Regents approval. If the program is modified or not approved by the Regents, the university must notify MASU within two business days after the Board of Regents action and the institution must go through the APR process again. U-M Board of Regents Meeting Dates (leave Provost website)

Obtaining approval within your academic unit and by Rackham (if necessary) must occur before submitting your proposal to the Provost’s Office and thereby to the Regents.

Other Administrative Tasks and Follow-up

Before beginning the approval process for your proposal, consult with Peggy Guevara[email protected], in the Office of the Registrar to discuss procedures for setting up your new program in the Student Administration System. Occasionally, there can be technical issues that need further discussion and resolution in order to properly reflect the intent of the program in our student data systems. It is better to identify these problems sooner rather than later in the process so as not to slow down the implementation of your program once it’s been approved. Also, the resolution of any issues or problems may affect the content of your proposal.

Consideration of tuition rates should be incorporated into the planning process. Tuition rates are approved every June and are effective beginning in the Fall term through the subsequent Summer term. Communication of rates after program approval, but before the rate approval, must contain language referring to the contingency of the rate approval. Please contact Tammy Bimer ([email protected]) or [email protected] for additional information.

New programs and program modifications can be submitted for review and AAO Committee approval prior to Institutional Governing Body (IGB) approval as indicated on the APR cover sheet. If the program is modified or not approved by the Institutional Governing Body, the university must notify MASU within two business days after the IGB’s action and the institution must go through the APR process again.

For each category – New Program/Major Revision, Program Modification, and Phase-Out/Drop – there is a MASU cover sheet that must completed, signed and included as the first two sheets of the PDF program proposal that is submitted on the APR online database. MASU staff will not approve a program for distribution that does not have a fully completed cover sheet.

Checklists of Elements to Address

MASU does not require a common format for each proposal, as each campus has its own guidelines.

At a minimum, each New Program/Major Revision proposal should address the following checklist of elements:

1. What related programs exist?
2. Rationale
3. Curriculum Design
4. New Course Descriptions
5. Projected Enrollments
6. Scheduling Plans
7. Program Costs
8. Description of Available/Needed Equipment
9. Statement on Faculty Qualifications
10. Internal Status of Proposal
11. Planned Implementation Date
12. Library and Other Learning Resources
13. Specialized Facilities, including External Sites as Required
14. Accreditation Requirements

At a minimum, Program Modification proposals should address the following checklist of elements:

1. Related Programs – own and other
2. Rationale
3. Curriculum Design
4. New Course Descriptions
5. Planned Implementation Date
6. Accreditation Requirements

Cover Sheets

If you have any questions about approval process in general or the specifics of your proposal, please contact Tammy Bimer, Office of Budget and Planning, 523 South Division Street, Room 2225, campus zip 2912, or [email protected].

August 2022