Quality Assurance of Graduate Programs at Dalhousie University

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1 Quality Assurance of Graduate Programs at Dalhousie University The quality of graduate programs at Dalhousie University is addressed in three ways. First, programs are evaluated by the university s own processes of self-study and review conducted in accordance with internal policies and procedures. Second, the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission (MPHEC) reviews all new program proposals and all significant changes to existing programs. The commission focuses on continuous quality improvement of programs and teaching. The overall objective of program reviews is to ascertain the suitability of the program given its objectives, structure, institutional appropriateness, resources, stated student outcomes, and their relevance. The third quality assurance activity is the monitoring of quality assessment procedures used by Dalhousie University. This is especially important given that the cornerstone of quality assurance is self-assessment by the institution. The specific objective of the MPHEC monitoring function is to ascertain that the procedures used by institutions to assess the quality of existing programs are performing adequately. The process is formative; institutional policies and practices are reviewed with a view to providing assistance and advice. Information Requirements for Proposals for New Graduate Programs (Tier 1) The purpose of these information requirements is to outline the information required to allow the MPHEC, an external reader, a Dalhousie-internal review committee, the Faculty of Graduate Studies, Senate and the Board to assess that a proposed graduate program meets the following assessment criteria: Program content, structure and delivery modes reflect a coherent program design that allows for the program objectives and anticipated student outcomes to be achieved, while providing sufficient depth and breadth to meet the standards of quality associated with the credential. Clearly defined and relevant program objectives and anticipated student and graduate outcomes. Appropriate fit of name, level and content to ensure truth in advertising and to facilitate credential recognition. Adequate resources (human, physical and financial) to implement and sustain the program. Program need and viability. An academic environment that supports scholarship such as original research, creativity and the advancement of professional knowledge, as relevant to the program. Clearly defined collaborative agreements [Criterion for programs offered by two or more institutions only, including articulated programs]. For further information on the Commission s program assessment process, including detail on the above-noted criteria, please refer to the full policy document, Academic Program Assessment Prior to Implementation at: 1

2 (http://www.mphec.ca/quality/assessmentacademicprograms/publiclyfundedinstitutions. aspx). Units planning to develop new graduate programs are strongly advised and encouraged to consult with the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) and Kim Thomson, Office of the Vice- President Academic and Provost ( or at a very early stage. Internal Process Before a full program proposal can be developed, a concept paper must be approved by the FGS s Academic Planning and Curriculum Committee (APCC) and Faculty Council and the Senate Academic Planning and Research Committee (SAPRC) on behalf of Senate. This step was introduced to avoid a full program proposal potentially being rejected after a lot of time and effort has been invested in developing it. Once the full proposal is developed, it is first vetted and approved by the FGS prior to submission to Senate. The proposal including a review of library resources, approval by Faculty Council of the proposing Faculty and a letter of support from the Dean of the submitting Faculty id submitted to the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, who is in charge of academic programs and program reviews. Any proposal that is likely to draw on resources of another institution in the system must be developed in conjunction with that institution. Similarly, if the program is likely to affect other Dalhousie unit(s), those unit(s) must be consulted. Once these conditions have been met, APCC on behalf of the FGS Faculty Council in consultation with the proposers will establish a Dalhousie-internal review committee to examine the proposal. The review committee will consult with the Associate Dean to appoint an external reviewer from a list of individuals nominated by the unit and/or the Faculty Dean. While the reviewers assess the proposal support is sought by FGS from the following offices: IT, Facilities Management, the Registrar s Office and the Centre for Learning and Teaching, if appropriate. Once reports from the internal review committee and the external reviewer, following a site visit, as well as the supporting documentation have been received, the proposal will be considered by the APCC. APCC in turn will bring the proposal to Faculty Council. Unit representatives will be invited to the relevant APCC and Faculty Council meetings to answers questions concerning the proposal. If approved by Council, the proposal will be forwarded by FGS through SAPBC to Senate, to the Board of Governors, and ultimately to MPHEC. The final version of a program proposal for any new graduate level program must have been assessed (including a site visit) by an expert external to the institution, who is not in a biased situation, prior to submission to MPHEC. Should a program be terminated as a result of the introduction of a new program, and to avoid the need to submit a separate proposal for its termination, the program proposal for the new program should include information on the transition from the existing to the new program, including a phase out plan for the program being terminated. Additional information pertaining to health and health-related graduate programs is covered elsewhere in this document. 2

3 Information Requirements for Proposals to Modify Programs Major Modifications (Tier 2): A program is considered modified, and a proposal ought to be submitted, when the revisions result in a significant impact on the program as designed and approved by the MPHEC, including modifications to: program requirements (e.g., duration, admission requirements, practicum/work term requirements, residency requirements) program structure (e.g., integrated, sequential, interdisciplinary, full-time only, parttime only) program curriculum (e.g., breadth/depth of content areas, number of upper-level credits, thesis component) program objectives/outcomes (e.g., preparation for graduate-level study, directentry to the labour market) delivery mode (e.g., available via distance/online learning) target clientele (e.g., mature students only; baccalaureate degree holders only) program priority (e.g., continuation of a pilot/term program) resources (e.g., full cost-recovery, government-funded) As a rule, modifications that affect approximately 25% or more of the program (as listed above) are significant modifications that ought to be submitted for approval. The MPHEC acknowledges, and expects, that minor modifications will be made to programs as they are implemented and evolve; it does not expect that a proposal will be submitted for every single modification. As a general rule, when program changes occur over time, it is the MPHEC s expectation that institutions will monitor, as part of their ongoing quality assurance processes, the evolution of individual programs and submit a proposal for a modified program if the accumulation of small changes over time results in a program that is significantly different from that originally approved by the MPHEC, or, where applicable, from the most recent MPHEC-approved modification. Normally, these modifications ought to be submitted using the Information Requirements for Proposals to Modify Programs. In some instances, however, the modification ought to be submitted as a proposal for a new program given the extent of the change; for example, normally, if the proposal is to introduce a new stream within an existing degree program, the proposal ought to be submitted following the Information Requirements for Proposals for New Programs. Internal Process Major modifications may require a concept paper depending the extent of the modification. This determination is usually done at a very early stage by discussions of the proposers with the FGS Associate Dean, the Chair of Senate and Kim Thomson from the Office of the Vice-President Academic and Provost. Major modifications, at either the concept-paper or full-proposal stage, are initially reviewed by APCC. Following internal and external review, the latter in most cases without a site-visit requirement, APCC reviews the request again in light of the review reports; it then recommends to Faculty Council that the modification be 3

4 accepted with or without change. Subsequently, major program modifications require approval by SAPBC, Senate, the Board before being submitted to MPHEC. For more information about the MPHEC s process, its scope and information requirements, please refer to the full policy document, Academic Program Assessment Prior to Implementation at: (http://www.mphec.ca/quality/assessmentacademicprograms/publiclyfundedinstitutions. aspx) and/or contact Kim Thomson, Office of the Vice-President Academic and Provost at or by to Minor Modifications (Tier 3): Minor program modifications may include changes in core course requirements (but no changes in total course requirements), program sequence, or any other changes, which modify an existing graduate program by <25%. If the total of minor program adjustments in a 3-year period modifies more than 25% of an existing academic program content, the changes are considered major and will trigger FGS review; programs modified by numerous subsequent minor modifications will also require Senate, Board, MPHEC (and AACHHR, if it meets criteria) approval. Minor program modifications per se must only be submitted to the APCC for approval; they do not require approval by SAPBC, Senate, the Board and MPHEC, and AACHHR for minor modifications of health and health-related programs. The request submitted to APCC via the FGS Associate Dean should address the following: Description of the type of change. Description of the purpose of the change, e.g., following national trends, accommodating the clientele to be served, establishing a better focus, resulting from an external review (provide details), etc. Side-by side comparison between the current and the modified programs of: o Program objectives. o Overall program structure. o Anticipated student/graduates outcomes and their relevance. o Admission requirements, standards, etc. o Courses required (course name and number; whether existent or planned for the modified program, its status in the program (elective or mandatory); brief description of the course (for example calendar entry) if new or modified). Changes to program duration and/or graduation requirements should be stated and explained. o Other graduation requirements such as thesis, project, practicum, apprenticeship, etc. o Method of program delivery (e.g., traditional classroom, distance education, co-operative education or a combination). o In the case of articulated programs, changes to the inter-institutional arrangement should be stated and explained. Impact of the change on human, physical and financial resources, to include anticipated impact on expenditures and revenues. 4

5 Potential impact of the change on other programs at the institution or at other institutions in the region. An indication of other institutions involved, or that have been consulted. Health and Health-Related Graduate Programs Evidence of approval by the Atlantic Advisory Committee on Health Human Resources (AACHHR) is required prior to making a Tier 1 or Tier 2 program submission to the Senate, Board, and MPHEC. The information required for submissions of new programs and program modifications to AACHHR is similar to that required by MPHEC. The AACHHR forms for new programs and program modifications can be downloaded from the Senate website at: Once completed, the AACHHR form is to be submitted to the Office of the Vice-President Academic and Provost for formal submission to AACHHR. Once approval is received, the letter of approval is to be submitted with the Senate program proposal/modification form. Ultimately, MPHEC will not consider any health and health-related program proposals or modifications that are not supported through AACHHR by the Atlantic Deputy Ministers of Health and Post-Secondary Education. AACHHR expects to review proposals and modifications for health and health-related programs in the early development stages. In an effort to promote the education and training of employable health professionals, the AACHHR requires that institutions submit for approval all health and health-related program proposals and modifications to which one or more of the following attributes apply: The program is aimed at training health practitioners. Provincial governments will become de facto employers of a significant portion of program graduates. The delivery or management of health-related programs may be influenced by the availability of these graduates. The proposed health or health-related education or training program is provided with provincial government support. For more information about the AACHHR s process, its scope and information requirements, please contact Kim Thomson, Office of the Vice-President Academic and Provost, at or by to Information Requirements for Proposals to Terminate Programs The purpose of these Information Requirements is to outline the information required to allow an external reader to assess that the proposed program termination appears warranted. A proposal for a program termination should be submitted when the university intends to no longer admit students and to remove the program from its offerings. A proposal should 5

6 also be submitted when a program has become inactive: that is, the institution(s) has (have) not admitted and/or graduated a student in the program for a period of four years (or them normal timeframe through which one cohort could complete the program). Please note that should a program be terminated as a result of the introduction of a new program, and to avoid the need to submit a separate proposal for its termination, the program proposal for the new program should include information on the transition from the existing to the new program, including a phase out plan for the program being terminated. For more information about the MPHEC s process, its scope and information requirements, please refer to the full policy document, Academic Program Assessment Prior to Implementation at: (http://www.mphec.ca/quality/assessmentacademicprograms/publiclyfundedinstitutions. aspx) and/or contact Kim Thomson, Office of the Vice-President Academic and Provost at or by to Degree Name Changes A degree name change, which does not affect degree requirements, existing academic program content and has no resource implications requires the completion of the Modified Program Proposal form, Parts 1 and 2. The request will need to be approved by the appropriate Faculty Council as well as by APCC, FGS Faculty Council, SAPRC/Senate, the Board, MPHEC, and AACHHR if it meets its criteria. Graduate Certificates and Diplomas MPHEC will be developing a certificate framework much along the lines of their degree framework outlined in their existing program assessment policy document. They will of course be consulting with all Maritime institutions during this development process. This is timely given that Dalhousie University is starting a similar internal process for certificates and diplomas. MPHEC has decided that, in the interim, until such time when the certificate framework is completed, certificate programs normally do not require internal Senate/Board approvals and will also, for the time being, not require MPHEC approval. So, we need to be diligent in making determinations around what certificates do/do not require Senate approval. Graduate diplomas require FGS, Senate, Board, MPHEC and AACHHR, if appropriate, approval, since they create a new exit credential. 6

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