R401, Approval of New Programs, Program Changes, Discontinued Programs, and Program Reports

R401-1. Purpose. To establish criteria and procedures for new programs of instruction that ensure rigorous scrutiny—beginning at the institutional level and then by an institution’s peers—and encourage a range of sustainable degrees and other credentials within each institution’s mission and that meet or exceed national standards. This policy also creates procedures for approving or discontinuing programs and notifying the Board of Higher Education of changes to academic program and administrative units.

R401-2. References.

2.1. Utah Code §53B-16-102, Changes in Curriculum

2.2. Board Policy R220, Delegation of Responsibilities to the President and Board of Trustees

2.3. Board Policy R312, Configuration of the Utah System of Higher Education and Institutional Missions and Roles

2.4. Board Policy R315, Service Area Designations and Coordination of Off-Campus Courses and Programs

2.5. Board Policy R411, Cyclical Institutional Program Reviews

2.6. Board Policy R470, General Education, Common Course Numbering, Lower-Division Pre-Major Requirements, Transfer of Credits, and Credit by Examination

R401-3. Definitions.

3.1. Academic Awards.  Academic awards range from certificates to doctoral degrees. The following definitions describe common characteristics of each award. In compliance with accreditation, institutions may establish additional requirements and course work

3.1.1. Certificate of Proficiency. A program of study that prepares students for an occupation. It does not require, but may include, general education courses.  The certificate requires 16 to 29 semester credit hours or 600 to 899 clock hours. It consists entirely of undergraduate courses but does not require prerequisite courses, conditions, or degrees for admission to the program. CTE Certificate of Proficiency. A certificate of proficiency that prepares students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation, meets Perkins eligibility requirements and federal financial aid requirements, and consists entirely of lower division courses.

NOTE: Institutional certificates of proficiency require less than 30 semester credit hours, or 900 clock hours) and are not eligible for federal financial aid. Institutions may establish institutional certificates without notifying the Board. Institutions may use these certificates to address varying needs, including workforce preparation, bridging student pathways from high school, avocational interests, or development of specialized skills.

3.1.2. Certificate of Completion.  A program of study that prepares students for an occupation.  It requires a recognizable general education core in communication, computation, and human relations.  The general education core may be embedded within program courses.  The certificate requires a minimum of 30 semester credit hours or 900 clock hours and typically does not exceed 33 semester credit hours or 990 clock hours.  It consists entirely of undergraduate courses and has no prerequisite courses, conditions, or degrees required for admission to the program. Institutions should demonstrate how certificates requiring more than 36 semester credit hours or more than 1,080 clock hours can lead to an associate’s and/or bachelor’s degree within the normal credit hour requirements for that degree. When appropriate, institutions should include transfer agreements in the program proposal. CTE Certificate of Completion. A certificate of completion that prepares students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation, meets Perkins eligibility requirements and federal financial aid requirements, and consists entirely of lower division courses.

3.1.3. Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Degrees. Programs of study that include limited general education, course work in a subject, and are intended to prepare students for entry-level careers. These degrees require a minimum of 63 and a maximum of 69 semester credit hours. General education requirements are typically less extensive than in AA or AS degrees, and include composition, computation, and human relations. General education learning outcomes may be embedded in discipline courses, and the institution documents how and where the learning outcomes are embedded.  Institutions structure AAS degrees to enable students to complete requirements and electives without upper-division coursework.

3.1.4. Associate of Arts (AA) and Associate of Science (AS) Degrees. Programs of study primarily intended to encourage exploration of academic options that provide a strong general education component and prepare students for upper-division work in baccalaureate programs or for employment and responsible citizenship.  The degree requires a minimum of 60 and a maximum of 63 semester credit hours, which include 30 to 39 semester credit hours of general education course work. Institutions structure associate degrees to enable students to complete requirements and electives without upper-division coursework. Specialized Associate’s Degrees. Associate’s degrees that include extensive specialized course work—such as the Associate of Pre-Engineering—and are intended to prepare students to initiate upper-division work in a particular baccalaureate program. These degrees require a minimum of 68 and a maximum of 85 semester credit hours, which include a minimum of 28 semester credit hours of preparatory, specialized course work, and general education requirements that may be less extensive than in AA or AS degrees. Because students may not fully complete an institution’s general education requirements while completing a specialized associate’s degree, they are expected to satisfy remaining general education requirements in addition to upper-division baccalaureate requirements at the receiving institution.  Specialized associate’s degree programs have formal, written, articulation agreements for the courses transferring.  In some cases, articulation may be system-wide. Pre-Major. Associate’s degrees that include a set of courses designed to prepare students for upper-division work in a specific major.  Pre-major courses in an AA or AS degree should be the same or similar to courses offered at four-year institutions as determined by the USHE major committees.  Pre-majors must follow statewide articulation agreements where such agreements have been formulated.  When a pre-major affects students transferring from two-year institutions, sponsoring institutions should pursue formal articulation agreements and students should be clearly informed of the transferability of the courses taken in the pre-major at the two-year institution. Upon transfer, students should generally be able to complete the baccalaureate degree in two additional years of full-time study.

3.1.5. Baccalaureate Degrees: Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BS), and Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS).  Programs of study that include general education and major course work, and that prepare students for employment in a career field and responsible citizenship.  Students can typically complete these degrees in four years of full-time study. Baccalaureate degrees require a minimum of 120 and maximum of 126 semester credit hours. Professional Bachelor’s Degrees. A professional degree that prepares students for a particular profession by emphasizing skills and practical analysis built upon theory and research and, most often, has specialized accreditation that sets acceptable practice standards. It may exceed the maximum of 126 credit hours to meet accreditation requirements. Professional degrees often lead to third-party licensure. Baccalaureate Pre-Major.  At four-year institutions not offering an AA or AS degree, the term “pre-major” applies to preparatory, lower-division courses required for acceptance into a major. Pre-major course work is not sufficient to admit the student to the major in cases where the institution has admission requirements for the major and a limit on the number of students who may pursue the major.  Courses in a baccalaureate pre-major should be the same or similar to those offered by the two-year programs as determined by the USHE major committees. General Studies Bachelor’s Degrees.  See General Studies Bachelor’s Degrees Guidelines, Appendix A, for conditions that should be met in the design of general studies degrees. Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) Degrees. Programs of study typically designed as completion programs that build upon a prerequisite core of learning acquired from previous educational attainment that may have occurred through a variety of programs, higher education institutions, or applied learning contexts. The degree focuses on workforce or other specific applied preparation, and links to industry or organizations where opportunities for applied learning are available to students and are integrated into program requirements.  When a BAS program is designed to receive an AAS program as a stackable credential, students can typically complete the BAS within two years of full-time study beyond the AAS degree.  Minor.  A grouping of related courses that are deemed to be a student’s secondary field of academic concentration or specialization during undergraduate studies. K-12 Teaching Endorsement. A collection of courses, built upon an approved teacher education program that prepares K-12 teachers or teacher candidates to meet specific area certification as established by the Utah State Board of Education.

3.1.6. Post-baccalaureate Certificate. A program of study requiring less than 30 semester credit hours and composed of undergraduate and/or graduate courses.  The program requires a bachelor’s degree for admission.

3.1.7. Post-master’s Certificate.  A program of study less than 30 semester credit hours and composed entirely of graduate-level courses.  The program requires a master’s degree for admission.

3.1.8. Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MS) Degrees. Graduate-level programs of study beyond the bachelor’s degree.  A master’s degree requires a minimum of 30 and maximum of 36 semester credit hours of course work. Professional Master’s Degrees.  Professional master’s degrees, such as the Master of Business Administration or Master of Social Work, may require additional course work or projects. May exceed the maximum of 36 semester credit hours to meet accreditation requirements. Professional degrees often lead to third-party licensure.

3.1.9. Doctoral Degrees. Graduate-level programs beyond the master’s degree in an advanced, specialized field of study requiring competence in independent research and an understanding of related subjects. Doctoral degrees generally require three to six years of study, preparation and defense of a dissertation based on original research, or planning or execution of an original project demonstrating substantial artistic or scholarly achievement. Professional Practice Doctoral Degrees. Provide knowledge and skills for credentials or licenses required for professional practice. Pre-professional and professional preparation for degrees such as the juris doctorate and medical doctorate requires at least six years of full-time study.

3.2. Academic and Student Affairs Committee (ASAC). A Board of Higher Education committee responsible for academic and student affairs planning and program review. The committee provides feedback and guidance for proposed new programs, colleges or professional schools and general guidance on academic policies and strategies.

3.3. Articulation Agreement. A formal agreement between two or more institutions documenting the transfer policies for a specific academic program or degree.  Agreements may cover any course of study, including certificates and/or degree programs. Institutions shall address transfer and articulation agreements between lower and upper-division programs at the annual USHE major committee meetings. Institutions may enter into additional transfer and articulation agreements, such as those in Career and Technical Education (CTE). If the CTE agreements affect general education transfer and articulation, the sponsoring institution shall inform other USHE institutions through the USHE majors committee.

3.4. Branch Campus/Extension Center.  For the purposes of this policy, a location of an institution that is geographically apart and independent of the main campus and is permanent in nature.

3.5. Career and Technical Education (CTE). Designation given to certain programs consistent with state and national career and technical education definitions.

3.6. Centers, Institutes, or Bureaus. Administrative entities that primarily perform research, instructional, or technology transfer functions and are intended to provide services to students, the community, businesses, or other external audiences, or to obtain external funds.

3.7. Chief Academic Officer (CAO). The institution’s chief academic officer responsible for the institution’s academic affairs.

3.8. Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) Code. The code associated with a particular program of study as specified by the USHE institution and informed by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) taxonomy of programs.

3.9. College or Professional School.  An academic unit within a Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) institution that is headed by an academic dean.

3.10. Council of Chief Academic Officers.  The CAOs of all USHE institutions.

3.11. Emphasis. A collection of courses within an associate of applied science, baccalaureate, or graduate degree that gives students a specific focus in a particular sub-area related to the identifiable core of courses required for the degree. Emphases must be clearly within the major field of study specified for the degree.

3.12. Institution of higher education/Institution. An institution that is part of the Utah System of Higher Education described in Utah Code 53B-1-102(1)(a)-(i).

3.13. Major.  The discipline in which the degree resides.

3.14. Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education (OCHE). The Utah Commissioner of Higher Education and his/her staff.

3.15. Peer Review Committee:  The Council of Chief Academic Officers or designees who review programs of instruction, new colleges or schools.

3.16. Program. A program of curriculum that leads to the completion of a degree, certificate, or other credential.

R401-4.  Authority for Program Approval and Mission Alignment. 

4.1. An institution may, with the approval of its Board of Trustees, establish a new program of instruction that is within the institution’s primary role as established in Board Policy R312 and Utah Code Section 53B-16-102(4)(b).

4.2. An institution may not establish the following without Board of Higher Education approval:

4.2.1. A branch, extension center, college, or professional school;

4.2.2. A new program of instruction that is outside of the institution’s primary role.

4.3. The following chart shows the program levels for which institutions are authorized to offer programs without Board of Higher Education approval.

4.3.1. Institutions unsure whether a proposed program is within their mission may consult the Office of the Commissioner for a determination from the ASAC.

4.3.2. Programs determined to be outside an institution’s mission may be approved under the process described in R401-5.

R401-5. Notification of New Programs, Credentials, Reviews and Other Changes.

5.1.  Institutions shall notify OCHE for the following new programs, credentials or changes:

5.1.1.    All programs considered for peer review under section 6.1.

5.1.2. New Certificates of Proficiency (except Institutional Certificates of Proficiency);

5.1.3. New Certificates of Completion;

5.1.4. New Post-baccalaureate and Post-masters Certificates;

5.1.5. New Minors;

5.1.6. New Emphases within an approved degree;

5.1.7. New K-12 Endorsements;

5.1.8. Existing Program Changes including: Program Transfer; Program Restructure; Program Consolidation; Program Suspension; Program Discontinuation; Program Name Change; Out-of-Service Area Delivery of a Program; and Reinstatement of a Previously Suspended Program.

5.1.9. Program Reports including: Three-Year Follow Up Reports; and Cyclical Institution Program Reviews (R411).

5.1.10. Administrative Unit Changes including: New Administrative Units; Administrative Unit Transfer; Administrative Unit Restructure; Administrative Unit Consolidation; and Reinstatement of Previously Suspended Administrative Units.

5.1.11. Creation of Non-Administrative Units including: New Centers; New Institutes; New Bureaus.

5.2. Institutions shall follow R401-7, Proposal and Notification Submission Procedures, and appropriate template instructions.  Notification items will be posted to the OCHE database and will appear as an information item on the Board of Higher Education agenda.  Notification items do not require Board approval but may be examined to ensure they are congruent with the institution’s mission under R401-4.

5.3. Notification Guidelines.

5.3.1. Out-of-Service-Area Delivery of Programs.  Institutions that offer programs outside their designated service area must seek approval (see R315, Geographic Service Regions; R312, Institutional Mission and Roles).

5.3.2 Discontinuing or Suspending Programs. An institution discontinues a program when it removes the program from the institution’s and the Board’s list of approved programs, but only after current students have an opportunity to complete. An institution suspends a program when it temporarily prohibits students from enrolling in the program. The program remains on the Board’s list of approved programs and may, at the institution’s discretion, remain in the online and/or printed catalog until fully discontinued. Student Completion in Discontinued or Suspended Programs. Students currently admitted to the program must be provided a path to complete the program in a reasonable period of time compatible with accreditation standards. This may require: (1) enrolling students at other institutions of higher education; or (2) offering courses for a maximum of two years after discontinuing the program or until there are no other admitted students who are entitled to complete the program, whichever comes first. System Coordination. Institutions should consider the statewide impact of discontinuing the program and identify opportunities for establishing the program at another USHE institution. Institutions should consider discontinuing unnecessary duplicative programs within the USHE, particularly programs that may be high cost and/or low producing.

5.3.3. Reinstatement of Previously Suspended Program or Administrative Unit. If circumstances change and an institution plans to restart a suspended program or an administrative unit, the institution shall notify the Board of Higher Education using the notification template. Notice should include a statement verifying the program name, administrative unit structure and/or the curricular content that are identical to the original program. If either the name or curricular content of the program have changed, the institution will submit the program as a new program and discontinue the suspended program.

R401-6.  Peer Review for New Proposed Programs. 

6.1. The following Programs Require Peer Review before being approved by either the Board of Trustees or the Board of Higher Education:

6.1.1. Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Degrees.

6.1.2. Associate of Arts (AA) and Associate of Science (AS) Degrees.

6.1.3. Baccalaureate Degrees.

6.1.4. Master’s Degrees.

6.1.5. Doctoral Degrees.

6.1.6. New colleges or professional schools.

6.2. Peer Review Process.  The Commissioner’s staff will coordinate the peer review process.

6.2.1. Review by the Commissioner’s Staff. Institutions shall submit full program proposals, including financial and budget analyses, to the Commissioner’s staff for review and comment.

6.2.2. Peer Review by Council of Chief Academic Officers. After the Commissioner’s staff has determined the proposal is ready for peer review, they will forward the proposal to the CAOs. The CAOs will review the proposal and may submit comments or questions for response from the other CAOs. The Peer Review Committee will meet with the Commissioner’s staff to discuss the proposal, the peer institutions’ comments or questions, external reviews (if applicable), and the Commissioner’s staff’s evaluation. Feedback from the CAOs may be included in the Peer Review Report.

6.2.3. Report on Peer Review.  The Commissioner’s staff shall issue a report with the results of the peer review to the board of trustees for its consideration when determining whether to approve the proposed program.  The Commissioner will convey the final report to the Board of Higher Education. If the proposed program is within the institution’s mission, the report will be an information item for the Board of Higher Education. If the proposed program is outside of the institution’s mission, the institution and its board of trustees shall determine whether they wish pursue the program by seeking Board of Higher Education approval as outlined in section 7.1. Budgetary Considerations Separate From Approval. Program approval by the Board consists only of authorization to offer a program. Budget requests necessary to fund the program, such as differential tuition or building appropriations, shall be submitted separately through the regular budget procedure.

6.3. Review by Specialized Groups.  Review by specialized groups may be conducted concurrently with peer review. The following types of programs require specialized review as noted.      

6.3.1. Career and Technical Education (CTE) Programs.  CTE programs shall go through the regional career and technical education planning process, as implemented in the proposing institution’s region, which has the primary purposes of: (1) planning CTE certificate and associate’s degree programs that are responsive to the needs of business/industry and the citizens of the region, and providing a transition for secondary students into postsecondary programs; and (2) avoiding unnecessary duplication of CTE certificate and degree programs among higher education institutions in a region.  Results of the review process shall be provided to the Board when a CTE program proposal is submitted for notification.

R401-7. Board’s Review, Approval, or Elimination of Programs. 

7.1. Proposed New Programs Outside an Institution’s Mission. An institution may submit a program determined to be outside of its mission to the Board of Higher Education for consideration as follows:

7.1.1.  Institutions shall first submit their proposal in accordance with the Proposal and Notification Submission Procedures established in section 9.

7.1.2.  The institution’s CAO will forward full program proposals to the Commissioner’s Academic and Student Affairs staff for review and comment.

7.1.3.  Once they have reviewed the proposed program, the Commissioner’s staff will submit the full program proposal and all attendant issues to the ASAC for review. The ASAC will review the program proposal and request additional information or consultation as appropriate. The ASAC will determine whether or not to forward the program proposal to the Board of Higher Education for approval.

7.2. Board Review and Termination of a Program Outside an Institution’s Mission.

7.2.1. If the Board of Higher Education determines a Board of Trustees has approved a program that is outside the institution’s mission, the Board of Higher Education may call for review of that program.

7.2.2. The Commissioner shall notify the institution’s President and Board of Trustees Chair in writing that the Board will review the program.

7.2.3. Within 30 days of notification, the institution shall submit to OCHE the materials the Board of Trustees reviewed in approving the program.

7.2.4. The ASAC will review the materials, request additional information or documentation as necessary, conduct a hearing in which the institution may participate, and make a recommendation to the Board of Higher Education for final action.

R401-8. Reports. Within three years of implementation, institutions shall submit a report on all programs that require a peer review under R401. Institutions shall submit reports using the appropriate USHE report template.

8.1. Cyclical Institutional Program Reviews. Institutions submit five- and seven-year reviews of programs approved under R401 (See Board Policy R411, Cyclical Program Reviews).

8.1.1. List of Scheduled Program Reviews. The annual list of scheduled reviews as defined in R411, Review of Existing Programs, including date of review, is due at the beginning of each September.

R401-9. Proposal and Notification Procedures.

9.1. Proposal Templates.  Proposals for new programs, administrative units, changes to existing programs and administrative units, out-of-service area delivery, or program reports are submitted to the Commissioner’s office using the designated USHE Full Template, Abbreviated Template, or Notification Template (see R401-7 and R401-8).  Current versions of all proposal and report templates are available online. Institutions must follow the template’s instructions.

9.1.1. Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) Codes. When preparing the Full, Abbreviated, or Notification Template, the institution must choose an appropriate CIP code.  For CIP code classifications, see nces.ed.gov/ipeds/cipcode/. The CIP code is a critical data element and will be recorded by the OCHE and used for data requests, reporting, and tracking.

9.1.2. Transmission of Proposals. The Chief Academic Officer will submit proposals to the Academic and Student Affairs Staff (academicaffairs@ushe.edu).

9.1.3. Records. The institution is responsible for maintaining a record of proposal. OCHE is not responsible for storing electronic copies of submitted proposals.

R401, Appendices

Appendix A: General Studies Bachelor’s Degree Guidelines 

A General Studies Bachelor’s Degree proposal must:

  1. Define the purpose of the degree and the institution’s rationale for offering the program. Explain how the proposed degree differs from other multidisciplinary degrees (such as university studies, integrated studies, etc.) that may be offered by the institution. Compare the General Studies degree proposal to others around the country.
  1. Define the audiences for this degree including types and needs of students.
  1. Discuss the value of the degree to graduates of this program.
  1. Set admission requirements for entry into the degree program and require students to petition for admission by explaining why they want the degree and what they intend to study. (Discussion of appropriate GPA and accumulated credits at entry in a concentration is ongoing.)
  1. Provide evidence that intentionality of student learning is expected and built into the course of study.
  1. Show how the proposed degree will require and evaluate curricular coherence.
  1. Show how the degree program will require and facilitate student intellectual engagement with relevant academic content.
  1. State the institution’s procedure for incorporating learning goals with demonstrable learning outcomes.
  1. Show how students will demonstrate integration of content and learning experiences through reflective activities, such as capstones, research projects, responding to critical questions, and/or portfolios, during their programs.
  1. Require a curricular concentration.
  1. Clarify how academic oversight will be provided by faculty.
  1. State graduation standards.

Approved November 7, 1972; amended September 25, 1973, February 21, 1984, April 27, 1990 and revised and combined with R402 October 27, 2000. [R402 was approved September 10, 1971, amended November 18, 1980, July 19, 1983, March 20, 1984, September 12, 1986, August 7, 1987, October 26, 1990, April 16, 1993, January 21, 1994, May 1, 1997, May 29, 1998, and revised and combined with R401 October 27, 2000.] R401 amended June 1, 2001, November 8, 2002, May 30, 2003, October 19, 2004, December 14, 2007, April 1, 2010, November 18, 2011, November 16, 2012, July 19, 2013, September 18, 2015, July 21, 2017, and September 21, 2018.