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Academic Program Approval Procedures

Winthrop University Criteria and Procedures

Proposals on New and Revised Degree Programs, Options,
and Off-Site Offering of Existing Degrees

Internal Development, Review and Approval of the Program Planning Summary 
Internal Development, Review and Approval of Program Proposal 
Commission Approval Process 
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools 


The Board of Trustees and the administration of Winthrop University require internal review and approval of new academic programs. This policy outlines the format, the calendar and the approval requirements for new program proposals, in addition to program modifications and offering programs at off-campus locations. 

The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education (CHE) approves new programs using the following procedures: submission of a Program Planning Summary, optional review by an advisor at CHE offices in Columbia, then submission of a Full Program Proposal. The Planning Summary must be approved by the CHE Advisory Committee on Academic Programs (ACAP). The final proposal must be approved by ACAP, the CHE Committee on Academic Affairs and Licensing (CAAL), then the full commission. (All Winthrop University programs must go through the Liaison to CHE/SACS through the Office of Academic Affairs.)

Notification to and approval from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools must be received to offer degree programs at new off-campus locations or to offer degree programs at a different level than what is currently approved.


New Programs --- Programs are offerings which lead to the conferral of a degree,  courses constituting 50 percent or more of a program of study not previously approved by the Commission offered on-campus or off-site, certificates in any field or major not previously offered that total more than 18 credit hours, or the establishment of any administrative unit such as an institute or research center engaged in research, public service or instruction. (For full definitions, see CHE Policies and Procedures, pg 4.)

Program Planning Summary --- The Program Planning Summary, three pages or less, is submitted to the CHE at the beginning of the institutional planning process. The purpose of a Program Planning Summary is to inform the Winthrop community and the CHE of the possibility of developing a new academic program proposal and submitting it to internal review and approval as well as CHE review and approval. (See CHE Policies and Procedures, Appendix A  for required format.) 

New Program Proposal --- Whether describing a degree program or an academic unit, the Program Proposal is submitted to the CHE once the internal College review and approval process (including Board of Trustees approval) has been completed. (See CHE Policies and Procedures, p. 16 for required format.) 

Program Modifications --- After Board of Trustees approval, the CHE expects to review program modifications such as the extension or transfer of a program to another site, the addition of new concentrations within a major, the elimination of majors or concentrations, consolidation of majors, and substantive modifications of majors or concentrations. (See CHE Policies and Procedures, pg. 18, for required format.)


The Program Planning Summary (PPS) should contain: justification of the proposed program; anticipated program demand and productivity; assessment of possible duplication with other programs; relationship to other programs; relationship to other programs at other institutions; information about faculty credentials; costs broken down into new cost vs. redirected cost summaries; and total cost summaries.   A cover letter for the proposal from the President of the University to the executive director of the CHE is prepared by Academic Affairs after review of the planning summary. 

Deans should notify the Office of Academic Affairs of the intention to develop a Program Planning Summary well in advance of submitting the letters for internal review and approval. Once the Program Planning Summary has been written, the dean of the college where the program resides submits the PPS to the Vice-President for Academic Affairs for review and approval no less than six weeks prior to the date the PPS will be submitted to the CHE. The VPAA may reject a Program Planning Summary. The Office of Academic Affairs will submit the cover letter to the President for final review and signature. Submission of a Program Planning Summary to the CHE in no way commits Winthrop University to the new program but simply signals the intention of the University to develop a new program within three years. Full administrative and faculty review and approval must take place prior to the implementation of any new academic program (see below). 


It is the responsibility of the department chair in the area where the new program will reside to develop a Program Proposal. The initial draft covers the following elements: cover page, classification, justification, enrollment projections, curriculum, faculty, physical plant, equipment, library resources, accreditation, and estimated costs. The CHE requires a specific format for a Program Proposal which appears in Appendix A of its Manual.

Chairs developing proposals should review them with their dean prior to beginning the internal review and approval process (below). The dean should also contact the CHE/SACS Liaison in the Office of Academic Affairs for information on the CHE process and possible examples of proposals from across campus and from other institutions in South Carolina. The CHE liaison will send the proposals for informal review by the CHE staff. The CHE staff will assure that the proposals are in the appropriate format with all the required elements. Appropriate assistance will require a minimum of 4 weeks prior to the submission of the documents to CHE. 

Each department participating in the proposed program should review and approve the proposal. The dean of the college where a proposal resides should review and approve the proposal. 

Once the faculty review process has been completed, review by and approval of the VPAA, the President and the Board of Trustees are required. This must be accomplished before documents may be forwarded to the CHE. 

Process for Internal Review and Approval 

The CHE approval process requires a minimum of one year from the time of submission of a Program Concept Letter until approval of a new program by the Commission. The CHE sets deadlines annually for receipt of Program Planning Summaries and Program Proposals. View the deadlines for 2013-14.

Program Planning Summary

Draft Program Planning Summaries must be submitted to the VPAA no later than six weeks prior to the deadlines for submission to the CHE. (See CHE Policies and Procedures, page 23.) Final Program Planning Summaries require approval of the department, dean, VPAA and President before being forwarded to the CHE.

Program Proposal

New program development requires ongoing consultation among all parties and therefore often takes a great deal of time. New programs and program changes must be submitted through Winthrop’s online Curriculum Application System. (View the Approval Process Timetable.)

The approval follows this process:

* Department develops and submits the proposal in the Curriculum Application System

* Department Chair reviews and approves proposal.  Upon approval, the system forwards to the appropriate College Curriculum Committee.

* The College Curriculum Committee reviews and approves; the system forwards to the appropriate college Faculty Assembly.  

* The College Faculty Assembly reviews and approves; the system forwards to the Dean of the College offering the program.  

* The Dean forwards the proposal to the appropriate University-wide committee.

* If the proposal is for a Teacher Certification program, the proposal is forwarded to the Teacher Education Committee.  If the program is for a Bachelor's degree program, it is forwarded to the Committee on University Curriculum (CUC).  If the proposal is for a graduate degree program, it is  forwarded to the Graduate Council.

* The Teacher Education Committee reviews proposals in light of the State of South Carolina teacher certification regulations.  After approval, proposals are forwarded to either CUI or to Graduate Council.

* CUI reviews and recommends approval of undergraduate degree programs to the Academic Council.  The Academic Council then reviews, approves and submits the proposal to the Faculty Conference.

* The Faculty Conference reviews and approves the program.  

* Graduate programs are reviewed and approved by the Graduate Council and then by the Graduate Faculty Assembly.

After programs clear the University-wide faculty approvals, the proposals are forwarded by the Registrar to the Office of Academic Affairs for approval by the Board of Trustees and submission to CHE with a cover letter from the President.

COMMISSION APPROVAL PROCESS (See page 13 of CHE Policy and Procedures Manual.) 

The CHE publishes timelines with the scheduled meeting dates and deadlines on its website.  The current timeline may be found on the CHE website.  


The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) requires notification of significant changes to program offerings.  Read the SACS policy statement on the substantive change process.  The most common change for which Winthrop will need to notify SACS is for offering existing degree programs at off-campus sites.

The process for substantive change requires notification to SACS at least 6 months prior to the start of the new program or site.   The SACS substantive change policy statement contains the format required for the Substantive Change Prospectus.  (See Appendix.)

SACS Substantive Change Policy:

A department interested in offering an existing degree program at a new location off-campus must notify the appropriate academic dean and contact the Office of Academic Affairs 10 to 12 months prior to offering the first course at the new site.  Each program/site combination must be approved by SACS prior to offering the first course and/or awarding financial aid to students taking those courses.

The department prepares information necessary for completion of the prospectus for SACS and forwards to the college dean.  The dean reviews and submits the draft prospectus to the Vice President for Academic Affairs for review.  The Office of Academic Affairs then prepares the appropriate cover letter for the President’s review and forwards to the President for approval and signature.

Notification to SACS

The chief executive officer of an institution undergoing substantive change requiring prior approval must provide written notification of the change to the President of the Commission six months in advance of implementation of the substantive change. If an institution is unclear as to whether a change is substantive in nature, it should contact Commission staff for consultation. (See page 8 of the Substantive Change Policy.)

Submission of a Prospectus

Upon notification, the President of the Commission will ask the institution to submit a completed prospectus if one has not been submitted. The prospectus must be submitted at least three months in advance of the planned implementation date to allow ample time for review and approval.  Please submit the completed application prospectus in print copy only.  (See page 8 of the Substantive Change Policy.)

Note:  Access the Approval Process Timetable.