New Program Approvals

Proposals for all new undergraduate honours specialization, specialization, and major modules within approved degrees, graduate degrees, and joint programs with other institutions, regardless of whether the University will be applying for provincial funding, require review and approval by Western’s Senate and must be approved by the QC. 

As part of the development of a new joint program or inter-institutional programs, the IQAPs of all the participating institutions granting the degree should be followed. See the Quality Council’s guidance for elements to consider in the development and approval of joint programs.

The process is designed to ensure that in developing new programs, academic units 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 revised as necessary, in an ethos of continuous improvement.  

Institutional Process for New Program Approvals


MCU - Ministry of Colleges and Universities

SGPS - School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies

OAQE - Office of Academic Quality and Enhancement

GEC - Graduate Education Council

ACA - Senate Committee on Academic Curriculum and Awards

SUPR-G - ACA Subcommittee on Program Review – Graduate

SUPR-U - ACA Subcommittee on Program Review – Undergraduate

Summary of Steps

1. The proposal is developed by the academic unit(s).

2. Proposals are subject to Faculty-level internal review and approval processes. For graduate programs, the SGPS conducts a review prior to submission.

3. The proposal for a new program is received by SUPR-U/SUPR-G. The Chair(s) of SUPR-U/ SUPR-G appoint(s) internal reviewers and external reviewers to review the proposal and conduct a site visit. The external reviewers submit a written report of the review.

4. The external reviewers’ report is shared with the academic unit(s)/program and the Faculty for the provision of separate written responses. The internal reviewer (faculty member), in collaboration with the OAQE, will prepare a Final Assessment Report of the review for SUPR-U/SUPR-G.

5. On the basis of the external reviewers’ report, the academic unit(s)/program and the Faculty-level responses to the report, and the Final Assessment Report, SUPR-U /SUPR-G makes a recommendation to ACA.

6. ACA reviews the report of SUPR-U/SUPR-G and, if approved, forwards to Senate.

7. Senate approves the new program.

8. The OAQE submits the proposal to the QC for approval.

9. The proposal is submitted to the Ministry of Colleges and Universities for funding purposes, where applicable.

10. The new program is monitored via the continuous improvement plan outlined in the program proposal and by an Ongoing Improvement Progress Report submitted to the OAQE.

11. The first cyclical review occurs within eight years of the first enrolment into the program.

New Program Proposal Brief

For proposed new undergraduate programs/modules, academic units must submit a letter of intent to the Office of the Vice-Provost, Academic Programs (Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Program Review – Undergraduate [SUPR-U]) in order to determine the submission form to use in preparation for review by SUPR-U. Please see the “Undergraduate Program/Module Proposal Submission Process” at the following link for a description of the steps and copies of the submission form templates.

For proposed new graduate programs, academic units must meet with relevant SGPS members to initiate discussion. Following discussion of the proposed program with the VP (SGPS) or designate, the unit must prepare a New Program Proposal Brief for review conducted by SUPR-G.

New Program Proposal Briefs must describe unique curriculum or program innovations, creative components, and/or significant high impact practices, and are required to address the evaluation criteria as set out by the QAF. To facilitate this process, new Program Proposal Briefs must follow templates provided by the OAQE.

Evaluation Criteria

Program Objectives

Proposals for new undergraduate or graduate degree programs are evaluated against the following criteria.

a) Clarity of the program’s objectives;

b) Appropriateness of the degree nomenclature given the program’s objectives; and

c) Consistency of the program’s objectives with Western’s mission, values, strategic priorities, and academic plans.

Program Requirements

a) Appropriateness of the program's structure and the requirements to meet its objectives and program-level learning outcomes;

b) Appropriateness of the program’s structure, requirements and program learning outcomes in relation to the Western Degree Outcomes or the graduate degree level expectations;

c) Appropriateness of the proposed mode(s) of delivery (e.g., classroom format, online,  blended, community-engaged learning, problem-based, compressed part-time, multi-campus,  inter-institutional) to facilitate students’ successful completion of the program-level learning  outcomes;

d) Ways in which the curriculum addresses the current state of the discipline or area of study;  and

e) Ways in which the program actions Western’s commitment to Equity, Diversity, Inclusion (EDI), decolonization and Indigenization.

Program Requirements Specific to 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 (with a maximum of 6 terms for master’s programs and 12 terms for doctoral programs);

b) Evidence that each graduate student in the program is required to take a minimum of two- thirds of the course requirements from among graduate-level courses; and

c) For research-focused graduate programs, indication of the nature and suitability of the major research requirements for degree completion.

Assessment of Teaching and Learning

a) Appropriateness of the methods for assessing student achievement of the program-level learning outcomes and the Western Degree Outcomes or the graduate degree level expectations; and

b) Appropriateness of the plans to monitor and assess:
     i. the overall quality of the program;
     ii. whether the program is achieving in practice its proposed objectives;
     iii. whether its students are achieving the program-level learning outcomes; and

iv. how the resulting information will be documented and subsequently used to inform continuous program improvement.

Admission Requirements

a) Appropriateness of the program’s admission requirements given the program’s objectives and program-level learning outcomes; and

b) Sufficient explanation of alternative requirements, if applicable, for admission into a graduate, second-entry, or undergraduate program, e.g., minimum grade point average, additional languages or portfolios, and how the program recognizes prior work or learning experience.


Given the program’s planned/anticipated class sizes and cohorts as well as its program-level learning outcomes:

a) Participation of a sufficient number and quality of core faculty who are competent to teach and/or supervise in and achieve the goals of the program and foster the appropriate academic environment;

b) If applicable, discussion/explanation of the role and approximate percentage of adjunct and part-time faculty/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;

c) If required, provision of supervision of experiential learning opportunities; d) adequacy of the administrative unit’s planned utilization of existing human, physical and financial resources, including implications for the impact on other existing programs at the University;

e) 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; and

f) If necessary, additional institutional resource commitments to support the program in step with its ongoing implementation. 

Resources Specific to Graduate Programs

Given the program’s planned/anticipated class sizes and cohorts as well as its program-level learning outcomes:

a) Evidence that faculty have the recent research or 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; and

c) Evidence of how supervisory loads will be distributed, in light of qualifications and appointment status of the faculty.

Quality and Other Indicators

a) Evidence of the quality of the faculty (e.g., qualifications, funding, honours, awards, research, innovation, and scholarly record; appropriateness of collective faculty expertise to contribute substantively to the program and commitment to student mentoring); and

b) Any other evidence that the program and faculty will ensure the intellectual quality of the student experience.

External Reviewers

All proposals for new programs will be subject to review by external reviewers. For new undergraduate programs, two external reviewers will be chosen from a list supplied via the academic unit (or proposed program) by the Chair(s) of SUPR-U. In addition to reviewing the program brief, the reviewers receive all relevant faculty CVs and will conduct an on-site review, accompanied by two internal reviewers selected by SUPR-U (normally one member of SUPR-U and one student). A desk review or virtual site visit may be undertaken if both the VP (AP) and external reviewers are satisfied that the off-site option is acceptable, and if a clear justification for the alternative format is provided.

For new graduate programs, two external reviewers will be chosen from a list supplied via the academic unit (or proposed program) by the Chair(s) of SUPR-G. In addition to reviewing the program brief, the reviewers receive all relevant faculty CVs and will conduct an on-site review, accompanied by two internal reviewers selected by SUPR-G (normally one member of SUPR-G and one graduate student). While an on-site visit for a new master’s or doctoral program is normally required, certain new master’s program’s (e.g., professional master’s programs) may be conducted by desk review, virtual site visit, or equivalent method if both the VP (SGPS) and external reviewers are satisfied that the off-site option is acceptable. This may be the case for programs that are predominantly taught online and/or that do not make use of specialized on-site facilities.

Reviewers will normally be associate or full professors with suitable disciplinary expertise, qualifications and program administration experience, including an appreciation of pedagogy and learning outcomes, and must be at “arms length” from the program under review. “Arms length” reviewers have no family ties, partnership links, supervisory relationships or other relationships with anyone in the program being reviewed. A conflict of interest would exist in cases where the proposed reviewer has collaborated or published with a member of the program within the past seven years, has an administrative or family link with a member of the program being reviewed, has been a supervisor or supervisee (graduate or postdoctoral) of a member of the program being reviewed within the past seven years, is a former member of the program being reviewed, is a friend of a member of the program being reviewed, or has been a recent (within the past five years) visiting professor in the program being reviewed.

The Chair(s) of SUPR-U/SUPR-G has the responsibility to ensure that the Review Team will:

a) understand its role and obligations; 

b) identify and commend the proposed program’s notably strong and creative attributes;

c) describe opportunities for improvement and further enhancement;

d) recommend specific steps to be taken to improve the proposed program, distinguishing between those that the program can itself take and those that require action or support from outside of the academic unit;

e) recognize the University’s autonomy to determine priorities for funding, space, and Faculty allocation; and

f) respect the confidentiality required for all aspects of the review process.

These expectations will be shared with the Review Team in the form of written instructions and
through face-to-face meetings.

External Reviewers’ Report

Using a report template provided by the OAQE, the external reviewers will complete a joint report that responds to the evaluation criteria in 2.1.3. In addition, the report will address the substance of the New Proposal Brief, comment on the adequacy of existing physical, human and financial resources, identify any innovative aspects of the proposed program, and recommend any considerations for improvement. While the authors of the report are the external reviewers, internal reviewers may be invited to provide comment, in particular to institution specific information, terms and/or structures. The external reviewers will be instructed to submit the report to the OAQE within two weeks of the on-site visit, where possible.

Administrative Responses

The report of the external reviewers will be shared with the Chair(s) or Director(s) of the proposing academic unit(s) and relevant Dean(s) or designate. Separate responses from the academic unit(s) and Faculty(ies) are required. Exceptionally, one report can be submitted where the Dean (or equivalent) acts as divisional head (e.g., for a Faculty without departments). In addition, the report of the external reviewers will be shared with the VP (AP) or the VP (SGPS), who may also provide a written response. Any subsequent amendments to the New Program Proposal Brief, primarily resulting from the external reviewers’ recommendations and/or the internal responses, must be summarized in a separate document.

Institutional Approval

Once the report of the external reviewers and the responses to the report are received, the OAQE will draft a Final Assessment Report with the support of the internal reviewers. The Final Assessment Report provides the institutional synthesis of the external evaluation of the program, recommendations for further enhancement, and strategies for continuous improvement. SUPR-U/SUPR-G will review the proposal, the report of the external reviewers, the academic unit(s) and Faculty-level responses to the report, and the Final Assessment Report. SUPR-U/SUPR-G will subsequently make a recommendation regarding approval to ACA. ACA will review the recommendation from SUPR-U/SUPR-G and, if approved, will provide its Western University – IQAP 11 recommendation to Senate. Recommendations to ACA regarding approval generally take two forms:

a) Approved to commence; or

b) Approved to commence, with report.

When a program is approved to commence, any reporting condition (generally 1-2 years following program commencement) is typically the result of a provision not yet in place but considered essential for a successful program (e.g., facility, equipment, staff).

Quality Council

Following Senate’s approval of the new program, the New Program Proposal Brief, along with the report of the external reviewers and the academic unit(s) and Faculty-level responses, and the Final Assessment Report, will be submitted to the QC from the OAQE. As part of the submission checklist to be included, a brief commentary regarding the qualifications of the two external reviewers will be added, as well as whether the proposed program will be cost-recovery.
The QC’s Appraisal Committee will review the submission and may seek further information. The Committee will submit a recommendation to the QC. Following the consideration of the recommendation, the QC will make a decision, which will typically be one of the following:

a) Approved to commence;

b) Approved to commence, with report;

c) Deferred for up to one year during which time the University may address identified issues and report back;

d) Not approved; or

e) Such other action as the QC considers reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances.
Any reporting conditions will require that the Appraisal Committee reviews the subsequently submitted report(s), conducts consultations as needed, and makes one of the following recommendations to the Council:

a) Approved to continue without condition;

b) Approved to continue, but the Council requires additional follow-up and report within a specified period, prior to the initial cyclical review; or

c) Required to suspend admissions for a minimum of two years. The QC will then specify the conditions to be met in the interim in order for admissions to the program to resume.

Announcement of New Programs

Following approval by the Provost or designate, Western can announce its intention to offer a new undergraduate or graduate program in advance of approval by the QC. The announcement must contain the following statement: “Prospective students are advised that the program is still subject to formal approval.”

Implementation Window

After a new program is approved by the QC to commence, the program will begin within 36 months of the approval date; otherwise, approval will lapse. 


To facilitate the continuous improvement of the new program, the monitoring process will include a brief Ongoing Improvement Progress Report. In general, new programs will be reviewed on the same cycle as other programs offered by the academic unit introducing the program. When the next Cyclical Program Review is more than three years after final approval of the new program, a brief Ongoing Improvement Progress Report will be produced by the academic unit(s) between the program’s launch and its first cyclical review, and be submitted to the OAQE (specific date to be determined by SUPR-U/SUPR-G). This Report should carefully evaluate program administration, resource allocation and outline the program’s success in realizing its objectives, requirements, enrollment targets and learning outcomes as originally proposed and approved, any changes that have occurred in the interim, and address any notes from the QC’s Appraisal Committee. The Ongoing Improvement Progress Report applies to all new programs and is not to be confused with reports requested as part of program approval decisions (e.g., Approved to commence, with report). The outcomes of the Ongoing Improvement Progress Report must be considered in the first cyclical review of the new program. Should any issues emerge from the monitoring process, the OAQE will report these to SUPR-U or SUPR-G for consideration.

First Cyclical Review

The first cyclical review of the program will be conducted no more than eight years after the date of the program’s initial enrolment and normally in accordance with Western’s program review schedule.