Major Modifications to Existing Programs

Continuous improvement is the ultimate goal of the ongoing and dynamic work of academic programs at Western as they create living documents that meet evolving standards and measures of quality in their programs. The quality assurance processes associated with major program modifications arising from program renewal and/or significant changes are designed to ensure that the educational experiences students have are engaging and rigorous, but also that the programs through which the experiences are provided are routinely monitored and, if necessary, revised. Typically, major modifications to a program are made to:

  • implement the outcomes of a Cyclical Program Review; 
  • reflect the ongoing evolution of the discipline; 
  • accommodate new developments in a particular field;
  • facilitate improvements in teaching and learning strategies;
  • respond to the changing needs of students, society, and industry; and/or
  • respond to improvements in technology.  



Common programmatic changes that fall under major modifications to existing programs include one or more of the following:

a) Introduction of a new undergraduate module (honours specialization, specialization, major, and minor) that comprises primarily existing courses and that is offered with existing faculty expertise and resources. However, if the proposed module has requirements and learning outcomes that are substantially different from those of any existing module, it must be reviewed as a New Program;

b) A change in program requirements that differ significantly from those existing at the time of the previous cyclical review or the introduction of the program, including, for example:

     • the merger of two or more existing programs; 

     • the introduction of a combined program option;

     • the introduction or deletion of a thesis requirement;

     • the introduction or deletion of a laboratory requirement;

     • the introduction or deletion of a practicum, work-experience, internship, or portfolio requirement; and

     • creation, deletion or renaming of a field in a graduate program or a collaboravtive specialization.

c) A change in program name and/or degree nomenclature, when this results in a change in learning outcomes;

d) Changes to program content, other than those listed in a) above, that necessitate changes to the learning outcomes, but do not meet the threshold for a new program. For example:

     • major changes to courses (or program milestones) comprising a significant proportion of the program (approximately one-third or more of courses).

     • changing the mode of delivery of a program to online for all or a significant portion of a program that was previously delivered in-person (or vice versa). 

Institutional Process for Major Modifications


SGPS - School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies

OAQE - Office of Academic Quality and Enhancement

ACA - Senate Committee on Academic Curriculum and Awards

GEC - Graduate Education Council

SUPR-G - ACA Subcommittee on Program Review – Graduate

SUPR-U - ACA Subcommittee on Program Review – Undergraduate

Summary of Steps

1. The proposed major modification is developed by the academic unit(s).
2. Proposals are subject to Faculty-level internal approval processes. For graduate programs, the SGPS conducts a review prior to submission.
3. The proposal is received by SUPR-U/SUPR-G. SUPR-U/SUPR-G makes a recommendation to ACA.
4. ACA reviews the recommendation of SUPR-U/SUPR-G and makes a recommendation to Senate.
5. Senate approves the proposal.
6. The OAQE will submit an annual report to the QC that includes all Senate approved major modifications made during the academic year.

Proposal Brief

The proposal brief will include the following elements together with the evaluation criteria outlined in Section 2.1.3, as applicable:
• Description of, and rationale for, the major modification and consistency with the unit's academic plan;
• Outline of the major changes to the program description, requirements, and program learning outcomes;
• As appropriate, description of how the proposed modification is in alignment with the relevant program-level learning outcomes;
• Description of the way in which the proposed major modification will improve the student experience;
• Description of any resulting resource implications, including, but not limited to, such are as   staffing, space, libraries and computing facilities, enrollment/ admissions and revenue/costs; and
• Description of any impact that the major modification may have on students or other divisions; description of consultation with those affected.

Input from current students and recent graduates of the program should be considered as part of the development of the proposal (e.g., targeted survey, focus group, consultation with designated student representatives), with the proposal including a statement on the way in which the proposed major modification will improve the student experience.

When changing the mode of delivery of a program to online for all or a significant portion of a program that was previously delivered in-person, consideration of the following criteria is requested as part of the approval process for the proposed major modification:

• Maintenance of and/or changes to the program objectives and program-level learning outcomes;
• Adequacy of the technological platform and tools; 
• Sufficiency of support services and training for teaching staff; and 
• Sufficiency and type of support for students in the new learning environment. 
• Access to the learning environment and to the necessary technological tools.

Program Closure

An academic program may be closed for a variety of reasons such as low enrollment or a changing disciplinary environment. Whether identified as part of a cyclical review or by the academic unit, program closure is viewed as a specific type of "major modification" that requires its own process.
The brief for program closure will include the following elements, along with any additional requirements that the academic unit(s) choose(s) to apply:

• Rationale for the closure, including alignment with the unit's academic plan;
• Impact on the nature and quality of the division's program of study;

• Impact of closure on other units, including inter-Faculty and inter-institutional agreements/contracts; and
• Impact on and accommodation of any students currently enrolled in the program.
The reporting/approval process will follow the same steps outlined in 4.2.1.

Annual Report to the Quality Council

All major modifications to existing programs and program closures that were approved through Western’s internal review and approval process will be included in an Annual Report to the QC, submitted by the OAQE.