f Programs, Curricula & Courses

Programs, Curricula & Courses (PCC) Manual

Table of Contents
Approval Routes and Times
Centers and Institutes
College Contacts

The Design of Academic Programs

Curriculum Changes
Faculty Governance
Off-Campus and
Distance Learning

Bachelor's Degrees
Honors Programs
Master's Degrees
Doctoral Degrees
Combined Bachelor's /
Master's Degrees

Dual Master's /
Doctoral Degrees

Master and Graduate Certificate of Professional Studies

bullet Approved Programs

bullet Academic Planning and Programs Calendar


I. Academic Programs

An academic program is a defined curriculum leading to the awarding of a degree recognized by the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) and listed in its roster of approved programs. This includes bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees, as well as undergraduate and post-baccalaureate certificates. In addition, each individual area of concentration within an undergraduate or graduate degree program may be treated for approval purposes as a separate academic program. All new academic programs require the approval of the University Senate and approval (or simple acknowledgement in certain cases) by MHEC.

Curricula leading to forms of recognition not regulated by MHEC, including Honors Citations, College Park Scholars Citations, Graduate Credentials, Minors, Gemstone Program citations, among others, follow different approval procedures.

IA. Establishing a New Academic Program

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Proposal Format

Two versions of the proposal must be completed. The PCC Proposal is prepared by the originating department and must include information that will allow campus review committees to make an informed judgment. After this document is approved on campus, Academic Affairs condenses the information into the shortened USM/MHEC proposal (a maximum of five pages plus financial tables.) All PCC proposals must contain information on the the curriculum, learning outcomes and assessments, resource needs, and how the proposed program fits with the strategic directions of the institution. For interdisciplinary programs, the proposal must also explain the program's organizational and oversight arrangements.

Steps in the Proposal Process
Since proposals ordinarily require a considerable effort to complete, we strongly recommend that the proposers first consult informally with College colleagues, with their Deans, and with Academic Affairs, to determine if there are any obvious impediments to the program as conceived. Excessive resource requirements, conflict or inconsistency with the Institution's strategic objectives, insufficient attention to organizational details, or inappropriate overlap with existing programs, are examples of potential impediments. (The Design of Academic Programs and the undergraduate and graduate catalogs also contain useful information about structuring programs.) Academic Affairs is pleased to offer advice concerning format or content at all stages of proposal preparation. Program proposals will undergo the following steps in the approval process. Each step is substantial. At any step the proposal could be sent back to its initiators for reworking or rethinking.

a. Upon submission to and after initial review by Academic Affairs, the program proposal is then reviewed by the Provost's Academic Planning Advisory Committee (APAC). The major focus of this review is the need for new resources, and, if applicable, the fit of the proposed program with existing or already proposed programs and its consistency with the mission and strategic objectives of the University.

b. If a graduate program is being proposed, it is reviewed next by the Graduate PCC Committee and the Graduate Council. The focus of this review is mainly the academic quality of the proposal, including the adequacy of the deployed resources for the creation of a high quality program.

c. Every proposal for a new academic program is reviewed by the Senate PCC committee and the College Park Senate. The principle focus of this review is academic quality, but other issues may figure into the discussion as well.

d. Upon Senate approval, and if he concurs, the President approves the proposal.

e. The President sends the proposal simultaneously to the University System of Maryland (USM) offices and to the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC).The USM offices prepare the proposal for Board of Regents consideration. MHEC immediately circulates the proposal to other higher education institutions within Maryland, who then have thirty days in which to raise objections based on the allowed grounds. A final decision must be issued within another thirty days. If MHEC itself or any other institution has an objection, then these must be resolved within this second thirty day period. See the Academic Affairs calendar for program submission windows and other relevant meeting dates.

IB. Renaming, Merging, or Splitting a Program

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Proposals to rename, merge, or split a program consist of a cover sheet and narrative proposal only. Use of a particular proposal format is not required. A straightforward narrative justification normally will be sufficient. Appropriate justification for renaming, merging, or splitting a program might include a need for conformity with national norms or a requirement for a more accurate program description, in the interests of enrolled students.

Approval follows the sequence described above for on-campus review (items a. through d. in IA. Establishing a New Academic Program), and subsequent submission to USM and to MHEC are required. USM and MHEC approval does not require notification of other institutions, nor set time limits, but usually will be pro-forma and rapid.

IC. Suspending or Discontinuing a Program

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A proposal to suspend or discontinue a program may be non-adversarial, arising from the offering unit as part of a planned reconfiguration of its academic offerings. In that case, approval follows the sequence described above for on-campus review (items a. through d. in IA. Establishing a New Academic Program). USM and MHEC must be informed, but their approval is automatic. There is no special format for the required justification.

A proposal to suspend or discontinue a program may also be adversarial, imposed upon the offering unit by a College or School, or by Academic Affairs, based on programmatic, quality, or fiscal considerations. In this case, special discontinuance procedures have been established, allowing for full participation by the campus community in the decision. No specific formats are required for the extensive documentation needed in these cases. Any eventual recommendation by the University to suspend or discontinue a program will be approved automatically by USM and MHEC.

ID. Offering an Approved Program Off-Campus and/or Through Distance Education

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An already approved program may usually be offered as an off-campus or distance education program. There is no prescribed form for the proposal but it must address fully the issues described in the following paragraph. As confirmed in the "Approvals for Distance Education Programs" and "Approvals for Existing Programs to be Taught in a New Off-Campus Location" policies in The Design of Academic Programs, Academic Affairs has the authority for final institutional approval of such a proposal. The need for any approvals beyond the institutional level depends on the particular circumstances, as described below.

In its review, Academic Affairs will be particularly concerned with the assurance that the quality of the program to be delivered off site is commensurate with the quality of the corresponding on-site program. This is a requirement of our general accrediting agency, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), accrediting agencies for individual disciplines, and the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC). Specifically, MHEC requires that "campuses offering programs off-campus must provide for adequate and appropriate library resources within reasonable distance of the instructional site. Students enrolled in off-campus instruction shall have access to academic support services equivalent to those provided to students enrolled in on-campus resident credit courses, including academic advising, counseling, library and other learning resources, and financial aid. At least one-third of the classes offered in an off-campus program shall be taught by full-time faculty members of the parent institution." In addition, telecommunications programs must conform to the Standards of Instruction Delivered by Distance Education policy adopted by MHEC in 1998, and "Principles and Guidelines for Online Programs," in Section III: Off-Campus and Distance Education Programs of The Design of Academic Programs.

Additional Notifications and Approvals

Both the Board of Regents and MHEC encourage the establishment of off-campus and telecommunications programs, with the goal of providing instruction to the Maryland community "without limitation of time or place." They require no additional action beyond institutional (Academic Affairs) approval in order to offer an existing program entirely through distance education (electronic) means. If an already existing program is to be offered off-campus partially through electronic means, or if a program is to be offered at a closed site (see below) then MHEC and the Board of Regents need only be notified. If an existing program is to be offered off-campus entirely through traditional instructional means, then MHEC approval must be requested, but this is through an expedited procedure that normally will be pro forma and very quick. There is no required approval outside the institution for off-campus courses that do not constitute an off-campus program, or for non-credit offerings.

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) requires notification of programs to be taught off-site or through distance education. Without such notification and subsequent formal approval, such programs are not considered to be covered within the University's accreditation.

Closed Sites (See also Offering a New Master or Graduate Certificate in Professional Studies)

Maryland colleges and universities maintaining full and unconditional accreditation and approval from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and from the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) may respond to the request of a sponsoring agent to offer a previously approved academic degree program at a business/industry or governmental site solely for its own employees by submitting a letter of notification to the Secretary of Higher Education. The letter must describe the program and affirm that there is access to library resources and faculty consistent with the scope and nature of the offerings. Academic programs may be offered through traditional means as well as through various technological modes. Under this policy, the general public will not be recruited nor admitted to these programs. If an institution elects to open the program beyond the designated employees, the Commission's off-campus policies and procedures will prevail.

IE. Making Curriculum Changes

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A proposal to modify the curriculum of an existing program does not require review by APAC. The University Senate has delegated to its PCC Committee the authority to approve such changes. Proposed modifications in the curriculum of a graduate program must be approved by the Graduate Council before they will be considered by the Senate PCC Committee. The Graduate Council acts with the prior advice of its PCC Committee, and recently has delegated authority to its PCC Committee for final action in some cases. No specific format is required for the justification of a curricular change proposal. However, the PCC Committee(s) expect that the information specified in Section I: Information Required for Curriculum Change Proposals of the Design of Academic Programs will be included in the submitted documentation.

IF. Course Changes

Curriculum changes (such as adding or dropping a required course from an undergraduate major curriculum) are overseen by the PCC process as described in section IE above. However, proposals to add, remove, or or make changes to individual courses (such as changing the course number or grading method) are considered only by the Vice President's Advisory Committee (VPAC), acting under the delegated authority of the Senate and Graduate Council PCC Committees. Proposals are submitted to the Office of Academic Affairs by Colleges, using an electronic web based form. See VPAC for details.

IG. Combined Bachelor's/Master's Programs

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Combined programs permit superior students to earn both the Bachelor's and the Master's degrees following five years of study. The combined program is to be an integrated learning experience, not simply the completion of the required number of undergraduate and graduate credits. Such a curriculum necessitates careful planning.

In a combined program, a student will usually enroll in some graduate courses during his/her senior year, and these courses will count both towards the Bachelor's degree and the Master's degree. Formal approval is required for such "double counting." It may be done on an individual student basis with the approval of appropriate Deans and Chairs. A standing structured program requires institutional approval, however.

If both the Bachelor's and the Master's degree programs already exist, then final approval of a structured program is at the campus level. Approval by the Graduate PCC Committee, the Graduate Council, and the Senate PCC Committee is required. APAC may be consulted if there are significant resource implications.

IH. Dual Master's and Doctoral Programs

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A dual program permits a doctoral student in one academic program to pursue concurrently a master's degree in another field. The dual program policy approved by the Graduate Council in December, 1997 refers to individually crafted programs "recommended only for the most academically gifted students who can handle the demands of two concurrent degree programs," and requiring specific agreement of the two concerned programs and Graduate School approval in each instance.

It may be appropriate in some cases to create a standing structured program for achieving a master's degree in a second field. This would be a preapproved agreement that any Ph.D. student within a particular discipline could receive a master's degree in a second discipline upon satisfying specified requirements, which would include the normal requirements for the second discipline's master's degree. This would extend the common practice of awarding a master's degree in the same field to students pursuing a Ph.D. who have satisfied the master's requirements. The prohibition (with defined exceptions) against pursuing two master's degrees concurrently would continue to apply. Final approval of a proposal for such a structured program is at the campus level. Approval by the Graduate PCC Committee, the Graduate Council, and the Senate PCC Committee will be required.

IJ. Minors, Academic Citations, and Graduate Credentials

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A minor is an established program of concentrated study for an undergraduate student that is separate from and supplementary to the student's major field. An academic citation is similar to a minor. Initiated in 1998, academic citations were phased out by the end of the spring semester, 2005, and converted to or replaced by minors in most cases. Other awards known as citations, such as those given for satisfactory completion of University Honors, College Park Scholars, Gemstone, etc. will continue to be offered with no changes.

A credential is an established program of concentrated study for a graduate student that normally does not rise to the level of an academic degree. Credential programs were approved by the College Park Senate on May 4, 1992, and by the President on May 15, 1992. Individual programs require the approval of the Graduate Council PCC Committee. Originally designed to recognize study by continuing education students receiving ITV courses, credentials may also be earned by graduate degree candidates and by advanced special students. At least nine graduate credits in one specialty area are required for a credential award. The original proposal sets out in full the specific requirements to be satisfied by each group of potential students.

IK. College and Departmental Honors

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In addition to programs within the Honors College, colleges and departments have more specialized honors programs, generally beginning with the junior year. New departmental and college Honors programs should be developed by a faculty Honors committee, following established guidelines and approved by the College PCC committee and the College Dean. They are then reviewed by the Director of the Honors College and, with the Director's advice, by the Senate PCC Committee, which must give final approval.

IL. Offering a New Master of Professional Studies or Graduate Certificate of Professional Studies

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The Master of Professional Studies and the Graduate Certificate of Professional Studies were developed as a means to foster mutually beneficial partnerships between the University and important external constituencies in business, government, and non-profit organizations. The Professional Studies frameworks allow the University to respond quickly to requests from external organizations for customized programming without modifying or compromising the integrity of its existing graduate degrees. The programs were approved by the Board of Regents on February 18, 2005 and the Maryland Higher Education Commission on February 22, 2005. The Graduate School oversees the Master and Graduate Certificate of Professional Studies, but they may be administered either through the Office of Extended Studies or through a Department or College.

Departments seeking to develop Professional Studies programs are encouraged to contact Academic Affairs early in the process. Each version of the Master of Professional Studies will follow a template requiring the following: a core set of courses (at least 4) normally from a current graduate degree, a minimum of 30 credits, and adherence to all guidelines as established by the Graduate School for professional Master's degrees. The review process for new Professional Studies programs includes the relevant department or unit, the College Dean, the Graduate Council PCC committee, the Dean of the Graduate School, the Senate PCC, the Provost, and the Chancellor.



Office of the Associate Provost for Academic Planning & Programs