Initiation and Approval of Curricular Changes

Policy number: 2.20

Policy section: Academic Affairs

Revised Date: August 4, 2020

1.  Policy Statement

It is the policy of the University to ensure the integrity of our educational programs and to be in compliance with the policies established by our accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (“SACSCOC”).

2.  Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to establish the University’s internal procedures to be followed for the initiation and approval of curricular changes. The possible changes might be modest, such as renumbering a course without changing its pedagogical level, changing a course title, or changing a course prefix. Other changes might be substantial, such as adding or discontinuing a department, degree, diploma, certificate, off-site location, etc. These curricular changes might be initiated by a faculty member, a department, or a School/College, but must follow policy guidelines prior to implementation.

3.  Basic Guidelines

The following basic guidelines apply to academic changes:

  1. All academic changes must go through the internal approval process of the originating School/College or academic unit. All of the Schools of the University have internal development, vetting, and approval processes for changes ranging from modest to substantial. Modest changes require the approval of the Dean or delegate designated by the Dean. New courses and other curricular changes usually require departmental approval and then approval by the School’s curriculum committee. Changes or additions to general education courses go directly from departments to the Council on General Education.
  2. After approval by the School, (or, in the case of general education, the department), all changes should be submitted to the Office of Curricular Innovation and Policy in the Office of the Provost. General education changes must be approved by the Council on General Education and by the Provost. A new general education curriculum must be approved by a vote of the SMU faculty followed by approval of the Provost, the Board of Trustees and SACSCOC. Substantial changes such as opening or discontinuing a department and opening, closing, or substantially changing a program (degree, diploma, or certificate), or a general education curriculum require review by the Educational Policies Committee, approval by the Provost, Board of Trustees, and often SMU’s accrediting agency SACSCOC. All changes to off-site locations must be submitted to SACSCOC for approval prior to implementation. For SACSCOC related inquiries, please contact SMU’s Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness, or 214-768-4984. Even changes that could seem relatively modest or routine to a School might nonetheless require review and recommendation by the Provost as well as approval by the Board of Trustees. The Office of Provost may also need to approve modest changes before the Office of the Registrar and the University Catalog Editor can proceed with implementation.
  3. Curricular changes that involve education abroad should be submitted to the Education Abroad Council. This University-wide committee reports to the Associate Provost for Curricular Innovation and Policy.
  4. Substantial changes that significantly impact the positions of tenure-track and tenured faculty such as closing a department, discontinuing a program, or relocating a program are subject to University Policy 2.18, School or Program Discontinuance.

4.  Substantial Changes

Substantial changes include the following: creating a new department or degree program, altering an existing program by more than 25% in a single year, creating a new credit-bearing certificate or diploma program, initiating off-campus sites or joint curricular ventures with another university, college, or institution, initiating distance learning, hybrid programs and/or fully online programs, and closing or discontinuing a program and/or off-site location.

Changes of this nature require approval by the Office of the Provost after input from the Educational Programs Committee (“EPC”). The EPC is a standing committee whose charge is to advise the Provost on curricular and academic program issues. In addition, the changes noted above normally require approval by the Board of Trustees at one of its quarterly meetings: February, May, September, or December. If it is to be implemented in the fall of the upcoming academic year, changes must be reviewed and approved at the December meeting.

Many of these major changes will be deemed “substantive changes” within the meaning of the University’s accrediting agency and will have to be submitted to SACSCOC for approval after approval by the Board of Trustees. Such approval by SACSCOC may take up to six months and must follow a rigorous review and approval calendar. Any proposal that will require SACSCOC preapproval should be submitted to the internal approval process about a year in advance of desired implementation.

5.  Modest Changes to Courses or Curriculum

Modest changes to courses include changing the title, changing the number of the course without changing the course or its level, or changing the description of the course. Depending on the School, these modest changes are ordinarily approved by the Dean or Associate Dean. Approval by the Provost is not required, but the Office of Curricular Innovation and Policy within the Office of the Provost must be notified. The School should also notify the Office of the Registrar and communicate these changes to the University Catalog Editor.

Modest alterations to the curriculum of an existing major or minor include adding, deleting or substituting a course in the major or minor, changing a prerequisite for a major, etc. These changes should be approved according to the School’s own process and the Office of the Provost should be notified of the changes.

6.  Questions

Questions regarding this policy are to be directed to the Office of the Provost.

7.  Related Policies

  1. University Policy 1.22, Substantive Change.

Revised: August 4, 2020

Adopted: December 16, 2019