A Guide to Developing a Taught Course

A Guide to Developing a Taught Course


A guide to developing a taught course


  1. Getting Started2
  1. A Checklist for Course Development2
  1. Regulations for Taught Courses6
  2. Course Approvals7
  1. Modifications7

1.1 The University encourages innovation in curriculum development and design. New ideas should be channelled in the first instance to the Head of School and the University’s Integrated Curriculum Information System (ICIS) facilitates this by incorporating this first internal approval stage into the overall approvals process. It should be noted that courses with new collaborative partners require an additional formal proposal to be made to Deans and Executive. TheCollaborativeQuality Unit (CQU) should be consulted on this in the first instance.

1.2 Throughout this document there are links to useful sources from which further advice may be sought.

1.3 Ideally the development process commences at least eighteen months prior to planned commencement of a new course so that there is time to:

  • Gather market intelligence
  • Ensure that the curriculum development phase involves liaison with a wide range of people
  • Ensure that the staffing and research is adequate for the delivery of the course and that there is adequate consultation with IT Support Services and Student Support and Library Services

1.4 However, it is recognised that this is not always possible. Regardless of the nature of the proposal there must be at least one term (or three months) between the approval of the course and the actual delivery start date.

1.5 There are a variety of ways in which course development takes place but academic staff must use ICIS in producing the formal documentation required for approval purposes. In terms of course content and managing the approval process staff are encouraged to be inventive, liaise with colleagues inside and outside the University.

  • Consider the potential market for the course and potential entry requirements. This will influence the nature and level of the award, the content of the curriculum, the overall learning outcomes (to meet the needs of the diverse range of students who will be recruited), teaching and learning, and the assessment strategy which will test the learning outcomes.
  • Refer to the Regulations for Taught Courses which take account of the Credit Qualification Framework for Wales (CQFW) and Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ). This is to ensure that the most appropriate level of target award is chosen and that the design of the course takes account of the requirements of that award, and the desirability of any exit awards for students who exit their course prior to completing the target award.
  • Consider how the course design and content needs to respond to the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) Subject Benchmark Statements and UK Quality Code and other external reference points e.g. the needs of local employers, industry, professional/statutory bodies and legislation.
  • Consider ethical issues in delivery, content and/or assessment and whether these need to be referred to the Faculty Ethics Champion (or equivalent) and on to F/CQAC.
  • Consider whether Foundation Degree proposals reflect the distinctive identity associated with Foundation Degrees, take account of the QAA Benchmark and the University’s Guidelines for the Development of Foundation Degrees.
  • Consider the range of skills which the diverse range of students to be recruited to the course will need to developin terms of practical and thinking skills, career/employability skills and key skills; how they might be developed and assessed and whether they form an essential part of the course for all the students recruited. If they are essential, these skills should become part of the overall learning outcomes for the course. If not essential for all students, they could be included in optional modules for those students who wish to choose them.
  • Ensure that employability skills are embedded within the curriculum, rather than as a ‘bolt-on’ to the course.
  • Use the Course Specification as a tool in course development from the outset so that the Course Development Team continues to reflect on the broad aims for the course and on the essential overall learning outcomes, and skills development, which all successful students will need to satisfy to gain the relevant course or named exit award. SeeCourse Specification template and guidelines forfurther information.
  • Consider whether some existing modules can be utilised to contribute to the course and whether there is anything within these module specifications which may require amendment. If the module belongs to the proposing Faculty/College, the proposal for change can be processed during the Course Validation, although care must be taken to ensure that any changes required to meet the needs of a new course do not adversely affect those courses to which an existing module already contributes Check whether the existing modules are current in terms of the standards now expected for module specifications so that (if necessary) they can be updated for submission to the Course Validation Panel. See the current template and the modifications section of theProcedures for Course Approvalfor further information.
  • Consider any new modules which will need to be developed and liaise with IT Support Services and Library Services to ensure there are sufficient resources in place for the delivery of both new and existing modules.
  • Contact the relevant Dean of Faculty/Principal of College to seek written permission to use any existing modules which are to be ‘adopted’ from another Faculty/the College. If changes are required to existing modules this must be agreed and processed by the relevant Dean of Faculty/Principal of College either by Chair’s Action or via the F/CQAC. See Appendix 8 of The Procedures for Course Approval for further information.
  • Check that sufficient staffing expertise and specialist resources can be made available for all the modules contributing to the course. See Appendix 9of The Procedures for Course Approval for further information.
  • Review all the modules which will contribute to the course to identify whether the teaching, learning and assessment strategies will meet the diverse needs of the students to be recruited. In addition identify those modules which are to be core modules (which all students must pass to be successful in the course as performance in core modules cannot be compensated) and that the essential learning outcomes from the course are included in those modules or sufficiently in the combination of options available so that all students will be assessed in the overall learning outcomes for the course.
  • Ensure that there is progression in the development of knowledge and skills throughout the course, that there is course coherence and that the curriculum as a whole stretches students academically, particularly in the final year of undergraduate study and at postgraduate levels. This should be evidenced in the content of the module, the level of the learning outcomes and in the demands of the indicative assessments.
  • Ensure appropriate guidance is made available to students undertaking work placements either as part of a sandwich course, professional course or on a voluntary basis. This should include appropriate mechanisms for securing placements of an appropriate quality and on-going support for students whilst on placement, including health and safety. See the Placement and Work-based Learning Procedures on the ASaQS website; the Health and Safety website and Careers and Employability website for further information.
  • Give consideration to the assessment strategy across all modules to anticipate where adjustments may be necessary for students recruited with a disability or learning difficulty. Reflect upon whether a particular form of assessment or a particular learning outcome is actually essential for all students recruited to the course.
  • Consider the proposed course title to ensure that it reflects the content and aims of the course, that it is self explanatory, attractive to students and can be easily found within an index of other courses. Also check ICIS to ensure that no other courses of that title already exist.
  • Construct a student handbookwhich will be clear and welcoming and informative for students and the Course Validation Panel. Liaise with your Faculty/College quality or administrative team in the event that there is a Faculty/College template.
  • Produce a draft promotional material in liaison with Marketing and Student Recruitment which is attractive to students and accurately and honestly describes the course. All collaborative partner promotional materials should be produced in liaison with the relevant Faculty/College. Marketing will review the documentation on an annual basis one month prior to the collaborative partner’s course board(s).
  • Review the complete set of course documentation for course validation to ensure that the information provided is accurate and consistent throughout. The complete set of documentation is set out under each type of validation event in The Procedures for Course Approval.
  • For Collaborative Provision, ensure that the appropriate Link Tutors have been established.One of the major factors contributing to successful course approval of proposals for working with collaborative partners is the link which has been developed between the Faculty and the relevant people with responsibility for quality assurance aspects of the development. It is essential for there to be close liaison with nominated representative(s) from the Faculty (known as Link Officers). If the proposal includes adopted modules from other Faculties/the College, it is important that the liaison process includes representatives from those Faculties/the College.

The Regulations for Taught Courses provides the framework for course design and specify the minimum credit requirements for awards. It is important that course developers always work with the current set of Regulations for Taught Courses.

Particularly useful sections for Course Developers and Course Validation Panels are indicated below.

Section A.1.2The Course and Awards of the University incorporating:

  • Free-standing and embedded awards
  • Sandwich courses
  • Shared ownership courses

Section A.1.3The Credit Accumulation and Transfer Systemincorporating:

  • Credit levels
  • The pace of credit accumulation
  • Credit transfer

Section A.1.4/A.1.5The Modular Structure and The Design and Management of Modular Courses incorporating:

  • The mode and pace of study
  • The structure of the teaching year
  • Teaching and learning methods
  • Responsibility for courses and students

Section A.2.3Admissions incorporating:

  • Criteria
  • Entry requirements
  • Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL)

Section A.2.5/A.2.6Assessment Policy and AssessmentManagement incorporating:

  • Formative and summative assessment
  • Assessment Boards
  • Extenuating Circumstances
  • Suspension/withdrawal from studies

The University is responsible for the standard of awards made in its name and for ensuring that the courses are set at the right standard from the outset. The purpose of the course approval process is to ensure that the proposed course offers a coherent course structure which is appropriate to the name of the course, the level of the course within the national qualifications framework and the subject to be validated, including any relevant QAA subject benchmarks. It also ensures that the requirements for students to achieve the learning outcomes are clear, that there are appropriate learning and teaching methods and that the assessment is designed to test the learning outcomes. These procedures have been written for all those involved in the development of new taught courses.

The course approval process cover two main sub-processes: course development approval and course validation. Course development approval is sought from Deans and Executive who ensure that proposals are in line with the University’s strategic objectives and who grant permission for development teams to proceed to course validation.

For further information on course approval, see theProcedures for Course Approval. The following information is included:

  • The requirements for approving courses for off-campus delivery which already have on-campus approval
  • Advice on common shortfalls in documentation provided to Validation Panels
  • The requirements for approving employer-responsive provision
  • The requirements for approving distance learning provision
  • The requirements for approving bitesize provision

For further information on review and re-validation see the Procedures for Course Review & Re-validation.


The University aims to facilitate curriculum developmentand to be responsive to its stakeholders. The procedures for making modifications to existing courses of study are therefore designed to help achieve these aims.

All modifications affecting courses and modules must be approved prior to the start of an academic session because students enrol on their diet of modules for the entire year at the beginning of each cycle.

Section 10 of the Procedures for Course Approvalprovides further guidance about modifications.