View Current

Courses and Units Approval Policy

This is the current version of this document. To view historic versions, click the link in the document's navigation bar.

Section 1 - Purpose and Context

(1) The Courses and Units Approval Policy is the third element in Western Sydney University course and unit development framework:

  1. Course Standards and Curriculum Design: the principles and pedagogies for the University's courses and units. This includes whole of course design related to course learning outcomes and the attainment of the University's graduate attributes, including the Indigenous graduate attribute; standards for course design, support and delivery; formative sequencing of units; integration of assessment across the course; opportunities for community-engaged or work-integrated learning; and international experiences.
  2. Structure and Nomenclature of Awards
    1. Bachelor Awards
    2. Honours in Bachelor Awards
    3. Postgraduate Coursework.
  3. Courses and Units Approval
    1. Data collection for course and unit approval, currently a combination of templates and the online Curriculum Approval and Publication System (CAPS)
    2. Delegations.

(2) The courses of the University are the primary means through which the majority of students engage with the University and through which the University builds its reputation for the quality of its graduates as well as its teaching income. The quality of a course is critical to the University and Academic Senate. As the key academic quality assurance agency of the University, Senate must be able to assess the quality through the approval process and by monitoring course performance.

(3) This policy facilitates the development and approval of courses, specialisations and units of study, taking into account the University's strategic plans for academic development, the academic quality assurance framework and the quality control delivered by the schools, University Research Institutes, external advisory committees and supporting units across the University.

(4) The information collected through the approval process is used for recruitment publications (University and UAC), the online handbook, Unit Outlines and Learning Guides, the timetable, setting fees, student enrolment, acquisition of Library resources and government reporting and approval. It is critical therefore, that approvals of courses, specialisations and units are finalised by the due dates.

(5) This policy recognises that approval occurs through the relevant academic governance and management structures of the University.

Top of Page

Section 2 - Definitions

(6) The following definitions apply for the purposes of this policy.

  1. Course - a program of study consisting of at least four units or 40 credit points leading to an award of the University (Diploma, Associate Degree, Bachelor Degree, Bachelor Honours Degree, Graduate Certificate, Postgraduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma, Postgraduate Diploma or Masters by Coursework Degree) which when successfully completed is conferred on the graduand by the Board of Trustees. (Also see the Structure and Nomenclature of Bachelor Awards Policy and the Postgraduate Coursework Policy).
  2. Core - a mandatory set of units to be completed by all students enrolling in the award course.
  3. Community-engaged or work-integrated learning - a unit or component of a unit that enables a student to participate in an approved learning activity that involves an interactive learning partnership with external community organisations (business, industry, government, not-for-profit or educational sectors). The learning activity can be done individually or in groups, must provide a clear knowledge benefit to student(s) and the partner(s), and is linked to specific learning outcomes including the demonstration of academic knowledge/professional skills related to the course of study.
  4. Course Concept Proposal - the plan for a new course that includes the name, rationale, business case including the Financial Evaluation template, and sufficient detail for the University to decide whether the course should be developed further.
  5. Course Design Standards - the characteristics of a course that allow students to achieve an appropriate set of course learning outcomes, including the University's graduate attributes. These are based on course design standards (see Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015 for details), and include active learning (including e-learning), theory-practice links, flexibility and accessibility, and appropriate assessment throughout the course. Course learning outcomes should be related to external reference points such as professional accreditation standards and other relevant external reference points (where these are applicable).
  6. Dean - the Dean of a school of the University, including the Graduate Research School.
  7. Course Support Standards - the infrastructure, resources, professional and technical support that is required for successful and consistent delivery of the course. See Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015 for details.
  8. Full Course Proposal - the Course Concept Proposal plus details of the full course structure for a proposed new course.
  9. Graduate attributes - the characteristics each graduate of the University should have developed by the time they have completed their course.
  10. Inherent Requirements - are the fundamental parts of a course or unit that must be met by all students. They are the abilities, knowledge and skills which students need to complete the course.
  11. International Opportunity - an elective component of a course that can be taken for credit and enables a student to undertake a period of study (or other approved activity) in an international context, usually in another country, before completing their course.
  12. Key Program - an approved sequence of core, specified units, totalling at least 160 credit points, that is the core requirement for a student to take out a particular bachelor degree. The title of the key program may, provided it has been approved to do so at the time Academic Senate has approved the course, form part of the degree title and appear on the student's testamur.
  13. Major - an approved sequence of eight units or 80 credit points that makes up an area of special focus within the bachelor degree. Normally majors will not appear on the testamur. See the Structure and Nomenclature of Bachelor Awards Policy for the only exceptions to this provision.
  14. Postgraduate Specialisation - a grouping of at least four units or 40 credit points with a special focus in a postgraduate course.
  15. Program Management Group - the team of academic staff within a school responsible for developing a course concept; this may be the Course Teaching Team in some schools.
  16. Sub-major - an approved sequence of four units or 40 credit points in a bachelor degree that makes up a shorter area of special focus within a course of study than a major.
  17. Unit - the subject of study in courses in which a student enrols.
  18. Specialisation - a formal grouping of units to form a postgraduate specialisation, honours specialisation, key program, major, sub-major or core (also see Structure and Nomenclature of Bachelor Awards Policy and the Postgraduate Coursework Policy).
  19. The University - Western Sydney University.
Top of Page

Section 3 - Policy Statement

Part A - Courses and Specialisations

(7) The schools are the custodians of the University's courses and specialisations, and provide the content and teaching, notwithstanding that some courses and specialisations may be comprised of units offered by more than one school and that there are a small number of units not attributed to a school.

(8) Courses must:

  1. align with the University's strategic and academic profile plans;
  2. satisfy the requirements of the national Higher Education Standards Framework;
  3. recognise the variety of educational backgrounds of students and provide educational opportunities that support transition and the acquisition of skills necessary for the student's successful participation in the course;
  4. support the achievement of the University's graduate attributes, including the Indigenous graduate attribute;
  5. incorporate the University's standards for course design, delivery and support;
  6. provide opportunities for service learning, study abroad or work-integrated learning; and
  7. provide quality outcomes for students.

(9) Specific features of bachelor degrees are set out in the Structure and Nomenclature of Bachelor Awards Policy and include specifications for key programs, majors and sub-majors.

(10) Specific features of bachelor honours degrees are set out in the Honours in Bachelor Awards Policy.

(11) Specific features of postgraduate coursework degrees are set out in the Postgraduate Coursework Policy.

Course Development and Approval

(12) The development of a new course is a significant project requiring: consideration of the rationale for development; the employment opportunities for graduates (including accreditation of courses by an industry or professional body); evidence of demand by prospective students; the relationship to other courses in similar disciplinary areas and potential for both synergies with and differentiation from those courses.

(13) Many courses include components taught by other schools. For any proposals for new courses, changes, discontinuation or suspension of an intake, where the course includes one or more specialisations that are the responsibility of another school or schools, the proposal must be considered by the School Academic Committees of those schools before proceeding to the Academic Planning and Courses Approvals Committee (APCAC).

New Courses

(14) A new course requires:

  1. a Course Concept Proposal sponsored by the Dean and developed in consultation with other interested schools. The purpose of the Course Concept Proposal is to allow the University Executive to consider how well the proposal fits with the University's strategic plans and academic profile, including an evidence-based assessment of student and employer demand for the course. The Course Concept Proposal includes the standard Financial Evaluation template (available under Associated Information).
  2. a Business Case that demonstrates the financial viability of the course including evidence of demand; cost of delivery; employability of graduates; details of partners and contracts approved by the University Executive Committee. (Where international partners are involved approval of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President, Academic is required.)
  3. a Full Course Proposal that includes the Course Concept Proposal as the first part of the documentation and identifies the structural elements (the specialisations) in the course, such as, core, key programs, majors, sub-majors and specialisations; admission requirements; course learning outcomes (with external reference points); any identified Inherent Requirements, and resource requirements. The full course proposal will explain how the Course Design Standards (see Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015  for guidance), including explanations of how the curriculum has been internationalised and how opportunities are provided for community-engaged or work-integrated learning, international experiences and attainment of the University's graduate attributes. The course proposal will also explain how the Course Delivery and Curriculum Support Standards will be satisfied (see Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015 for guidance). The School Academic Committee will only forward proposals to APCAC after it has satisfied itself of the academic quality of the proposals. APCAC may then recommend the course to Senate for approval.

New Courses taught by The College

(15) The approval process for courses to be taught by The College, such as diplomas and associate degrees, is the same as for the approval of undergraduate curriculum as detailed in this Policy with the additional College approvals required. Approval to develop new award courses to be taught by University must be endorsed by The College Board, as well as by the University Executive Committee and APCAC. A Course Concept Proposal and a full course proposal should be endorsed by The College Academic Committee as well as by the relevant School Academic Committee and APCAC. Following endorsement by those academic committees, the full course proposal will be referred to Academic Senate, for final consideration and approval.

Changes to a Course or Specialisation

(16) Some changes to an existing course or specialisation are treated as a new course for the components being changed. Refer to the Course Approval Authorities and Delegations and Specialisation Approval Authorities and Delegations documents under Guidelines for further details.

(17) Major change proposals must be submitted as a Full Course Proposal, approved by the Dean, explaining the rationale for the change, an assessment of the risks of changing and not changing and an assessment of the resource implications of the proposed change, including the continued financial viability of the changed course. The School Academic Committee considers the academic quality of the proposal and forwards its recommendations to Academic Senate via APCAC.

(18) Where required by the Course Approval and Authorities and Delegations document (see Guidelines), a proposal for a major course change will be referred to the Business and Infrastructure Development Committee for consideration of its strategic and resourcing aspects.

(19) When major changes to a course or specialisation result in the creation of a new course or specialisation version, the proposal must detail the transition arrangements for continuing students for consideration by APCAC.

Course or Specialisation Discontinuation

(20) Discontinuation of a course or specialisation may have significant impact on other courses, schools and campuses as well as relationships with partners, professional associations and the community.

(21) Proposed discontinuation of a course or specialisation, in the first instance, is discussed by the Dean with the Vice-Chancellor and President, and, where there is an international partner, with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President, Academic, prior to notification to the School Academic Committee, APCAC and Academic Senate.

(22) Proposals for discontinuation of a course or specialisation (and the stages leading to discontinuation) must take into account the students currently enrolled in the program and must specify arrangements for them to transfer to a new course or complete the existing course or specialisation including the time-frame for completion. The School Academic Committee should provide details of proposed transitional arrangements to APCAC for consideration and, if endorsed, will be recommended to Academic Senate for approval.

Suspension of Intake to a Course (this section does not apply to specialisations)

(23) A school may wish to suspend an intake of students to a course for a period of up to two years. The impact of suspending an intake is similar to course discontinuation (see above).

(24) The proposed suspension of an intake in the first instance, is discussed by the Dean with the Vice-Chancellor and President, and, where there is an international partner, with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President, Academic, prior to notification to the School Academic Committee, APCAC and Academic Senate.

(25) The proposal for suspension should provide the rationale for suspension, the arrangements to accommodate students currently enrolled in the course or an approved pathway to that course as well as the effect on other courses that may share units with the course. The School Academic Committee should provide details of proposed transitional arrangements to APCAC for consideration and, if endorsed, will be recommended to Academic Senate for approval.

(26) Normally, a course will be retired at the end of the period of suspension. If suspension is required for a third year, a notification should be provided to APCAC by November of the first year of suspension.

(27) If the suspension is to be lifted, advice should be provided to Academic Planning and Courses Approvals Committee at least six months before the planned intake. If a UAC and Handbook entry is required for courses recommencing in the Autumn Semester, notice must be provided by 1 March of the preceding year.

(Administrative note: a suspended version of a course is displayed in the online handbook as "SUSPENDED: This version of the course is under review and not available to new students.")

Retirement of a Course or Specialisation

(28) Retirement of a course or specialisation occurs where there will be no further intake of students and will no longer be available for admission:

  1. following a period of suspension in the case of a course; or
  2. when a course or specialisation is being replaced; or
  3. when a school decides it will no longer offer the course or specialisation; or
  4. when major changes to a course or specialisation result in the creation of a new course or specialisation version.

(29) Where there is no replacement course or specialisation proposed, the school will identify the arrangements and timeframe for continuing students to complete their study.

(30) Where a replacement course or specialisation is proposed, the proposal must detail the transition arrangements for continuing students for consideration by APCAC and, if endorsed, will be recommended to Academic Senate for approval.

(Administrative note: a retired version of a course is displayed in the online handbook as "CONTINUING: This version of the course is available only to continuing or completing students.")

Termination of a Course or Specialisation

(31) A course or specialisation will be terminated by the Senior Manager, Student Operations when there are no students enrolled in the retired course or specialisation. Any former student presenting for completion of the course after termination has taken effect, will be advised to seek admission to a current course and seek advanced standing for previous study.

(Administrative note: a course that has been terminated has a status of "INACTIVE" and no longer displays in the online handbook. A course that is retired has a status of "CONTINUING" and continues to display in the online handbook.)

Part B - Units

(32) Schools are responsible for the quality of unit content and delivery for the courses in which the units are located.

(33) The Unit Proposal outlines how the unit contributes to any course or specialisation in which it is offered, the learning outcomes for the unit, assessment requirements, its relationship to other units, including the contributions that it makes to the Course Design Standards, course learning outcomes and assessment schedules of the relevant courses (see Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015 for guidance) any identified Inherent Requirements, the resources required to deliver the unit, as well as when and how it is to be taught. Unit developers must provide all the information required in the template or system as the information will generate the Unit Outline and feed to other systems supporting the scheduling of the unit and student enrolment.

(34) Unit Proposals require a detailed resource assessment, referring to the Course Support Standards (see Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015), and proposers must consult with the supporting service areas (Library, Learning and Teaching Unit, Courses and Timetabling for all student administration, and Information Technology and Digital Services) and include a statement from the designated officer in each of those areas that the unit can be supported or the nature of the support issues.

(35) All units must adhere to the provisions of the:

  1. Unit Outline and Learning Guides Policy; and the
  2. Assessment Policy - Criteria and Standards-Based Assessment.

New Units

(36) A new unit requires the completion of a Unit Proposal and Variation Form (see Associated Information).

(37) For the purposes of this policy, a new unit is a unit that:

  1. introduces curriculum content and related learning outcomes that are not currently offered by the School or Research Institute; or
  2. replaces one or more existing units and substantially changes their curriculum content and/or learning outcomes;
  3. changes the level of a unit, (depending on the implications of the change. Refer to Unit Approval Authorities and Delegations for clarification);
  4. changes the discipline code to a new band; or
  5. changes the credit point value.

(38) A change in unit code and/or title does not automatically constitute a new unit for the purposes of this policy, as some curriculum changes may be minor.

(39) The School Academic Committee considers the academic quality of the proposal and forwards its recommendations to APCAC.

(40) Coursework units in research programs must be considered by Academic Senate's Research Studies Committee. Proposals may be referred back to the proposing staff members, when appropriate.

Changes to a Unit

(41) Proposals for changes to a unit require the resubmission of the approved proposal with changes highlighted.

(42) Variations to units may be approved by the School Academic Committee in accordance with the Unit Approval Authorities and Delegations under Guidelines.

(43) Other variations to units outside of the delegations are considered by the School Academic Committee, which forwards its recommendation to APCAC.

Retirement or Deletion of a Unit

(44) Proposals to retire or replace a unit must take into consideration students in all courses where the unit is offered or is an integral part of a specialisation.

(45) Schools wishing to retire a unit should notify the School Academic Committee at least six months prior to the implementation of the decision. The notification should provide:

  1. the arrangements to accommodate students currently enrolled in the course/s or specialisations where the unit is offered as a core unit; and
  2. the effect on other courses that may include the unit as part of a pool of alternate elective units.

(46) Where a unit will be replaced by a new unit, the request for retirement will accompany the proposal documentation of the new replacement unit.

(47) Any continuing students affected by the decision to retire a core unit should be given a minimum of one semester's notice that the change will occur. Advice to affected students should include a formal letter from the Dean or Deputy Dean of the School which includes, where appropriate, the available options or alternative arrangements.

Part C - Timing of Approvals for Courses and Units

(48) Annual Curriculum Approval Calendars are set by the University to ensure that externally imposed deadlines are met and that internal processes depending on the approved course and unit data, can be completed. [Timeline for Course Approvals - see Associated Information and University Meeting Schedule.]

(49) New courses or major changes to courses, including the introduction of new units, should complete the approval process by the March meeting of Academic Senate of the year preceding introduction. The approval of the Chair of APCAC must be obtained if new course proposals are to be presented to the Academic Senate after this date.

(50) New units should be approved by mid-March of the year preceding introduction to ensure alignment of unit and course versions. Major changes to units to be offered in the second half of the year should be approved by 1 March of the same year.

(51) Notification of the intention to suspend or retire courses, key programs and majors should be made to the Vice-Chancellor and President by the Dean by October of the year prior to the last offering of the course or unit, unless there are extenuating circumstances such as minimal applications received during the admission period.

(52) A variation to the above timeframe to allow major course changes and new units to be considered late may be made in exceptional circumstances.

Part D - Summary of Delegations

(53) Courses and Specialisations

  1. Course Concept Proposal: approved by the University Executive, on the recommendation of the Business and Infrastructure Development Committee, and endorsed by APCAC. Approval of the Course Concept Proposal constitutes approval to develop and submit a Full Course Proposal.
  2. Business Case and resourcing: endorsed by the Dean for consideration by the Business and Infrastructure Development Committee.
  3. Full Course Proposal: quality assurance endorsement by the School Academic Committee, with approval by Academic Senate on the recommendation of APCAC.
  4. Approval of changes to courses: depends on elements changed (refer to the Course Approval Authorities and Delegations and Specialisations document under Guidelines).
  5. Director, Academic Program: Appointed by the University.
  6. Discontinuation of courses:
    1. Approval by Vice-Chancellor and President following discussion with the Dean; and
    2. Academic Senate approves transition arrangements on recommendation of APCAC.
  7. Suspension of an intake to a course:
    1. Approval by Vice-Chancellor and President following discussion with the Dean; and
    2. APCAC approves transition arrangements on the recommendation of student administration.
  8. Resource requirements: the delegation for the following elements lies within the relevant business unit:
    1. Timetabling and Student Administration;
    2. Library resources;
    3. E-learning if number of students >700;
    4. Computing resources.

(54) Units

  1. Approval of new units: APCAC.
  2. Approval of discontinuation of units: School Academic Committee.
  3. Approval of changes to units: SAC or Dean, refer to the Unit Approval Authorities and Delegations under Guidelines.
  4. Detailed Field of Education Code: approved by the Dean.
  5. Unit Coordinator: approved by the Dean, on the recommendation of the Deputy Dean and/or the relevant Director, Academic Program.
  6. Resource requirements: the delegation for changes to the following elements lies within the relevant business unit:
    1. Timetabling and Student Administration;
    2. Library resources;
    3. E-learning if number of students >700;
    4. Computing resources.
Top of Page

Section 4 - Procedures

Course Concept Proposals

(55) The Course Concept Proposal (CCP) is developed by the Program Management Group and includes the following:

  1. the standard Financial Evaluation template, intended size of the course, resource requirements, an evidence-based business case, an analysis of the expected effects on unit offerings and enrolments, significant impacts on support areas, associated risks and how they will be addressed;
  2. how the course meets AQF requirements;
  3. approval of the Deputy Dean for the first page;
  4. cross school collaboration and socialisation of the concept through the Deputy Deans; and
  5. review by the Client Services Accountant prior to submission to the Business and Infrastructure Development Committee.

(56) The CCP is submitted to the University Executive Committee via BIDC, and to APCAC.

(57) Where changes to an existing course result in more than 25% of non-elective units being changed a Course Concept Proposal must be submitted as above. Significant changes may include re-packaging of an existing version, addition of an off-shore offering, or additional placements that have resource implications.

Variation of Timeframe

(58) The Chair of the APCAC will decide whether exceptional circumstances warrant consideration of a new or amended course or a new unit outside of the meeting schedule.

Top of Page

Section 5 - Guidelines

Guidance on completing course and unit documentation is available under Associated Information to this policy.

(59) Timeline for Course Approvals and University Meeting Schedule

(60) Advice on identifying Inherent Requirements in courses is available on the following webpage (staff login required) and from the Disability Service for students.