New SchemeProgramme Approval Validation Panels

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					New Course Approval: Validation Panels

The approval mechanism used to validate new courses or award bearing courses is dependant
upon the nature of the proposal. These guidelines concern approval via a Validation Panel.

Approval Panel

A validation Panel comprises members who are able to judge the academic integrity of the
course in relation to the University’s regulations and the national standards expected of the
type of award, and who can evaluate the course in terms of its structure and content. A
variety of experience and views should be available among the Panel members. Members
will normally be dissociated from the planning and development of the course, but within the
Panel as a whole there should be sufficient understanding of the subject matter and academic
context to enable the Panel to make a sound judgement. Panel membership is approved by
the Dean on behalf of the Faculty Board.

It is normal practice to include members of staff from other departments within the Faculty
who have not been involved in the development process and one or more external academic
members. Validation Panels for vocational courses would normally include employer

Duties of the Panel

It is the duty of the validation Panel to:

       examine critically the documentation and undertake discussion with the
        module/course development team in order to make a collective judgement as to the
        quality and standard of the course and to ensure that the award conferred by the
        University of Essex is of the same standard as similar awards conferred throughout
        Higher Education in the UK;
       recommend to the University whether the proposed course should be validated either
        conditionally or unconditionally, or should be rejected;
       additionally, the Panel may need to make recommendations which are issues to be
        dealt with in due course.

The choice between whether to validate the course conditionally or to reject for possible re-
submission is based on:

       the magnitude of change required to reach an acceptability threshold;
       the confidence the Panel has that the course team will be able to deliver the changes
        to reach this threshold by a specified date.

Validation Documentation

A briefing pack containing relevant documentation is sent to members of the validation Panel
two weeks in advance of the event.

The validation pack typically includes:

       details of Panel members;
       structure of the validation event;
       explanation of validation procedures;
       guidance for validation Panel members;
       course documentation consisting of a reflective document and supporting information
        (for     guidelines    on      producing       validation    documentation      see

The course documentation is compiled by the departmental team, with other validation
documentation being provided by the QAEO.

The course documentation should be produced in line with the template and must include
programme specifications for all the proposed awards and new module proposals for all new
modules. Departments will need to provide sufficiently detailed information to allow the
Panel to evaluate the proposal.

Where there are external requirements for validation, the documentation must also meet any
criteria published by the external body.

Where the proposal is for a foundation degree, detailed information will be needed in relation
to work-based learning and the proposing department should be in a position to demonstrate
how they will meet the University guidelines for work-based/placement learning (see The proposal will also need
to be designed in line with the QAA's foundation degree benchmark. Proposers might also
find it helpful to review the QAA's overview report of previous foundation degree reviews,
which provides insight into national best practice and common problems.

Departments should provide 6 or 7 copies (depending on the number of external experts
involved) to the Quality Assurance and Enhancement Office (QAEO) no later than 2 weeks
before the event.

Copying costs are paid for by the QAEO - please complete the appropriate requisition form
and use code 5155-NT00100, forwarding the pink copy of the requisition to the QAEO.

Validation Event

Typical Agenda and Chair’s Duties

A validation event normally takes place over a half or full day depending on the size and
nature of the award(s) being validated. The agenda is normally based upon a standard
programme which may be modified as appropriate for each validation event.

Standard programme:

   Arrival of Panel and agenda setting
   The departmental Team join the Panel
   Confirmation of agenda

           Curricula
            To include:
            Structure and appropriateness of the curriculum;
            Overall coherence of the course;
            Alignment with national benchmarks and any relevant professional requirements.

           Learning, Teaching and Assessment
            To include:
            Coverage of learning outcomes;
              Innovation and balance of assessment methods.

             Student recruitment, admissions and support
              To include:
              Proposed student numbers and anticipated market;
              Support for work-based learning/placement (where appropriate);
              Student support.

             Resources
              To include:
              Course management;
              Staffing and staff development;
              Resource requirements, including library resources, physical and technical

   Departmental team leave

   Panel discussion of recommendations

   Representative(s) from the department join the Panel for a summary of findings and


The Chair will normally commence the event by:

            explaining the purpose of the event;
            introducing Panel members;
            confirming the agenda;
            explaining validation procedures and the responsibilities of the Panel;
            identifying any collective or individual issues raised by Panel members in relation
             to the module/course documentation.

The agenda will include one or more blocks of time in which the Panel may discuss the
proposed course in detail with the departmental team, and in which the departmental team
will have the opportunity to respond to points raised. The Chair is responsible for
highlighting positive aspects of the modules and the course and raising issues in a
constructive but critical manner. The validation Panel should conduct its discussions in the
spirit of a ‘critical friend’.

After debate, it is usual for the departmental team to depart to allow the Panel to determine
their recommendations. The Chair normally commences this second private meeting of the
Panel by summarising the issues and the departmental team’s responses and s/he will
conclude the meeting by agreeing the outcome of the event with the Panel before inviting the
departmental team back for verbal feedback. A unanimous decision of the Panel is required
for the conclusion of the validation event.

The outcome of the event, including any conditions or recommendations made by the Panel,
is formally recorded in the validation report, which is submitted to the Faculty Board.

Validation Report
The validation report summarises the Panel’s conclusions and specifies any conditions or
recommendations that are to be met before the course may commence. It is usual for the
Panel to specify the date by which the conditions and/or recommendations must be met.

There are three possible outcomes from a validation event, one of which will conclude the

        approval of the proposed course, in which case no further action by the department
         is required;
        rejection of the proposed course, in which case no further action is required;
        approval of the course with conditions and/or recommendations, in which case the
         department must provide the Chair with evidence, within any agreed timescales,
         that the conditions have been met, and must respond to any recommendations.

In exceptional circumstances the report may recommend suspension of the validation process
whilst the departmental team undertakes a major revision to the proposal.

Conditions are those issues that must be addressed to the satisfaction of the validation Panel
prior to a course’s commencement.

Recommendations are those issues on which action is expected in due module/course,
possibly after the course has commenced.

The validation Panel may not set further conditions after it has reported. The Faculty Board
and/or Senate may amend the conditions set by the Panel or set further conditions but this
would be very unusual. In such a case, these amendments or additional conditions would
over-ride the conditions set by the validation Panel and the department would be obliged to
adhere to them.

Department’s Response

In the case of conditions which must be met before delivery commences, the department must
make a formal response evidencing how specific conditions have been met. This response is
formally reported to the Faculty Board.

Information about how recommendations have been addressed should be included in the next
annual monitoring, unless the Dean of Faculty or Faculty Board requires a response before

Departments should include information about action taken in response to conditions and
recommendations in the subsequent annual monitoring report and where the conditions and/or
recommendations require ongoing action then they should be included in the annual
monitoring action plan.

Not all conditions or recommendations arising from Validation may be within the power of
the department to action. For these University level recommendations departments should
follow the following procedure:

University level conditions arising from validation events

Resource based issues arising as a result of validation events should be discussed by the
Faculty Board/Dean in the light of advice from the relevant PVC. If a proposing department
is considered to have inadequate resources, the department should bid for resources prior to
the validation report going to the Faculty Board so that the Board can be informed about the
outcome of the bid and make a decision about whether the condition has been adequately
addressed. In the event that a bid for resources is not successful the department should
specify to the Board how it intends to address the issue(s) raised by the validation condition.

Any other University level issues arising from conditions should be raised with the PVC in
advance of the Faculty Board at which the validation report is being considered. The
outcome of this discussion should be appended to the validation report.

University level recommendations arising from validation

The department should raise University level issues with the PVC and include the outcome of
these discussions in the next annual monitoring report.

The PVC will refer matters for discussion to the Faculty Steering Group and decision by USG
as appropriate and inform the department and Quality Assurance and Enhancement Office of
the outcome.

Final Approval

The Faculty Board considers the validation report together with the department’s response to
the report and makes a recommendation to the University Senate that the course(s) be
validated for delivery.

Assistant Registrar (Quality), July 2005 (update August 2008)

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