2. Protocol for New Program Approvals
Ontario’s universities are committed to delivering high quality programs at all levels – undergraduate and graduate – and therefore, they have committed to a process to ensure their quality and continuous improvement, from inception. The degree of rigour established throughout the Protocol for New Program Approvals plays an essential role in ensuring that new programs are developed using internationally accepted practices and that the value of that new program is sustained. Further, the Degree Level Expectations (see Appendix 2) are the Quality Assurance Framework’s link to the OQF, which identifies the main purposes of each postsecondary qualification, outlines the learning expectations for graduates who hold each type of qualification and shows the relationship between the different qualifications.
The Protocol for New Program Approvals details the quality assurance processes and consent steps required to develop and approve a new degree program. Universities take considerable care in developing new programs. Each IQAP (see Section 1.1) is the local expression of this Protocol and details the steps to be taken for the preparation, external review and approval of a New Program Proposal, as well as the important mechanisms for monitoring and continuous improvement (see Principle 13) once the new program is running (see Section 2.9.2).
The Protocol is designed to ensure that in developing new programs, universities ensure that the educational experiences offered to students are engaging and rigorous, and that the approved programs through which those experiences are provided are routinely monitored and, if necessary, revised. Continuous improvement of those facets of education that most directly impact the academic experiences of Ontario students is fundamental to quality assurance and, thus, an important objective of this Protocol is to ensure that the universities’ IQAPs include sufficient monitoring plans for new programs to ensure continuous improvement.
The Protocol for New Program Approvals applies to both new undergraduate and new graduate programs (but not to new for-credit graduate diplomas, which go through the Protocol for Expedited Approval) whether offered by one institution or jointly with another institution.
In developing a new joint program and other inter-institutional programs, the IQAPs of all the participating universities granting the degree should be followed. See Guidance for important elements to consider in developing and approving these joint programs and in subsequent Cyclical reviews.
(See Principles 1 – 5 and 7 – 15)
The primary responsibility for the design and quality assurance of new programs lies internally, with universities and their governing bodies. When preparing a New Program Proposal, universities are responsible for the development of program objectives (see Guidance) and curriculum design, the creation and clear articulation of program-level learning outcomes (see Definition and Guidance) and the design of their assessment, and generally for the assembly of human, instructional and physical resources needed to achieve those program-level learning outcomes. Independent expert review is foundational to this process. Flow Chart 1: Overview of the Protocol for Undergraduate and Graduate New Program Approvals shows the major steps, within the institution and through the Quality Council, required for the approval of new programs by this protocol.
The Quality Council’s Appraisal Committee reviews the Proposals. The Council has the final authority to approve (with or without conditions) or decline New Program Proposals.
The Protocol details the robust oversight role of the Quality Council and its Appraisal Committee; this oversight is essential to ensuring that the integrity and reputation of Ontario’s university degrees are maintained.
The process of applying for and approving a new program is designed to ensure that Quality Council decisions are provided quickly. It is an essential outcome of the process that decisions by the Quality Council be made carefully and efficiently. Universities need efficient processes to ensure that new programs can be launched to meet upcoming term application deadlines, and more generally, to support innovation. A second important outcome of the Protocol for New Program Approvals is a demonstrated commitment to ongoing and continuous improvement of the approved program, particularly in the areas of program-level learning outcomes and the assessment of the student achievement of these learning outcomes. The monitoring of a new program is therefore an essential element of continuous improvement within the Protocol for New Program Approvals.