Undergraduate Academic Programs Policy

Undergraduate Academic Programs Policy


Office of Academic Affairs


Assistant Vice President for Academic Programs





Effective Date:


Implementation History:


Academic program, new program, Area of study, concentration, program registration, program revision

Background Information:

An academic program is a set of educational requirements necessary to qualify a student for a particular degree or certificate.  According to SUNY, “Planning for credit-bearing academic programs at the State University of New York (SUNY) is a multi-step process that rests on the foundation of faculty responsibility for academic content and quality. It is designed to ensure that academic programs:

  • reflect shared governance decisions made on each campus;
  • are consistent with each campus’ mission;
  • are aligned with SUNY’s mission, strategic goals, policies and procedures;
  • meet New York State and other external requirements and needs;
  • avoid unnecessary duplication and costs; and
  • benefit from opportunities for coordination and collaboration within SUNY” (SUNY System Administration).

The university is required to obtain academic program registration through the New York State Education Department (NYSED) for every academic program leading to a degree or certificate.  Accordingly, the university may not publicize the availability of an academic program, recruit students, or enroll students unless the program has been registered by NYSED.

Additional approvals from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education may be required before recruiting or enrolling students. The SUNY Provost’s office accepts proposals from the chief academic officer or president of the university. Upon approval and as described in the “Handbook for the Review and Approval of New Academic Programs,” the SUNY Provost submits proposals for academic programs by SUNY institutions to NYSED.


This policy establishes the responsibilities of the teaching and mentoring faculty in the planning, design, and review of new or existing undergraduate academic programs, as well as of new types of undergraduate academic programs, all in compliance with SUNY and NYSED policies. It presents principles and criteria for meeting these responsibilities.


Faculty refers to all teaching members of the University Assembly excluding professional and management/confidential employees. This definition is established in the University Bylaws, which establish a Committee on Teaching and Mentoring Faculty composed of any person eligible for membership in the faculty conference. Membership in the faculty conference is set out in the Faculty Handbook as “all teaching members of the University Assembly, excluding professional and management/confidential employees” and in the University Bylaws as “all teaching members of the Assembly in academic ranks, including qualified academic rank and excluding management confidential and professional employees.”

Academic Program refers to the set of educational requirements necessary to qualify for a degree or certificate.  A curriculum or program includes general education or specialized in-depth study in a particular field, or both.

Registration refers to approval by the NYSED of a curriculum for which the university awards a degree or certificate.  A program registration includes both the award (degree or certificate) and a program title that are unique within the institution.  For example, the AOS in Business Management and Economics (BME) consists of five separate program registrations:  AA in BME, AS in BME, BA in BME, BS in BME and BPS in BME. The degree awarded by the university is Business, Management, and Economics regardless of the concentration. 

Registered program refers to any academic program in which a credential is awarded.

Registered Areas of Study (AoS) refers to the umbrella programs that lead to degrees and that are registered by the SUNY Empire faculty with NYSED.  Areas of Study stand in place of majors (which refers to an area of focus in other registered programs) at other SUNY schools.  For example, the registered AoS in Business, Management, and Economics includes the five degree awards specified above.

AoS Guidelines refers to the curricula registered with the state, publicized to prospective and current students, and used by students as they develop their individualized degrees.

Area of Study Faculty refers to those members of the faculty responsible for a registered AoS and its guidelines.

Academic Department refers to an organizing structure of faculty.  An Academic Department is composed of the faculty who mentor, teach within, evaluate, and revise these programs according to the bylaws of SUNY Empire State University and the rules and regulations of both SUNY and NYSED.

Concentration refers to an area of academic focus within a registered Area of StudyA concentration must adhere to registered area of study guidelines and concentration guidelines created by AoS faculty and approved by the relevant governance committee.   The concentration is not the degree awarded, but the concentration title will appear on the transcript.

Certificate refers to a credential in recognition of the completion of a curriculum other than one leading to a degree. A certificate is a registered program.

Program revisions refers to revisions that encompass one of several changes to a program:

  • changing more than one third of the curriculum of a program including cumulative changes over time
  • changing the focus of the program
  • adding or eliminating a track or concentration
  • title changes
  • change in degree award
  • creating a dual-degree program from existing registered programs

creating new programs from existing programs or parts of existing programs, known as disaggregations.


Academic Programs

The university requires planning for the development and refinement of academic offerings so that they reflect the evolving needs of learners and society. The Policies of the SUNY Board of Trustees place with the faculty, defined as “the Chancellor, the chief administrative officer and other members of the voting faculty of the college, other members of the academic staff of the college, and such nonvoting administrative officers and professional staff as may be designated by the faculty bylaws of the college,” the responsibility “to participate significantly in the initiation, development and implementation of the educational program.” SUNY Administration (see above) further requires that all proposed changes to the academic programs be reviewed through the university's governance structure.

Faculty, more narrowly construed in the context of this policy to indicate teaching and mentoring faculty, are the academic leaders in defining and maintaining the curricula of the university. In consultation with the administrative leadership, faculty participate in the development of the university's strategic, academic, and academic assessment plans, and the planning and development of new programs.  Any revision of existing programs stems from this participation as well. The goal of all of these efforts is a range of academic programs that serve student needs and that are sound and fiscally viable. While ideas for new programs can arise from any area of the university, it is the purview of the faculty, working with administration and through governance structures, to develop and approve program curriculum.  This will ensure proper process, input, and transparency in the development of new programs or the revision of existing ones.

General Development of New Academic Programs

Initiators of new program ideas should consult initially with their associate deans.

After a brief preliminary announcement, a new program idea should be circulated among members of the university community with experience and expertise in the program’s discipline(s). Department chairs, associate deans, and faculty should review the announcement, offering advice and collaboration as appropriate.  Approval by the Provost or his/her designee is required for a prospective program to move forward.

Program Concept

Empire State University calls for the development of a brief concept paper for any potential new program. “The program concept provides sufficient description about the proposed program to allow academic affairs, in consultation with the relevant standing committee of the Senate, to make an informed judgment about whether the proposed program should move ahead” (Academic Program Handbook). The concept paper includes documentation of early consultation and feedback received as well as approval by the Provost and Office of Academic Affairs. The concept paper should be circulated more widely for review by the wider university community, SUNY/NYSED, and the appropriate governance bodies.

A concept for academic program development will receive favorable attention to the extent that it meets the criteria outlined below, which comprise the framework to support, guide, and review academic program development.  The criteria are interdependent, and all the criteria need to be met to sanction or certify an academic area as one that merits support.  The order in which the criteria are presented does not reflect a hierarchy of importance.  These criteria apply across the university to any new program at the undergraduate level. 

Initiators wishing to present a concept for a new registered program must document how their concept meets the following:

  • Serves the needs of our current and prospective students
  • Advances or is consistent with the university's mission and core values
  • Improves the university's ability to reach new student populations or constituencies
  • Represents a growth area or economic opportunity
  • Is academically and fiscally feasible.  (The Office of Academic Affairs assists developers in attaining appropriate data including market scanning).
  • Reflects, builds on, and/or augments the expertise of our faculty
  • Has support from across pertinent Areas of Study.  Support may be indicated by letters or documentation of discussion and votes in academic units
  • Integrates effectively with other curricular areas and is conducive to interdisciplinary approaches to program and curriculum development
  • Demonstrates how the program meets any criteria specified by professional organizations within the field
  • Demonstrates understanding of regulatory barriers, if any
  • Supports the university's strategic plan, academic plan and other major university and SUNY initiatives and mandates
  • Is grounded within the liberal arts and sciences

Criteria for Identifying and Naming Potential New Registered (non-AoS) Programs

If a specific individualized concentration title becomes popular among students, and the environmental needs creating this popularity are such that even individualized programs are typically similar to each other, then the faculty may consider creating and registering programs to meet those needs. Because the creation of such a program will restrict the use of its title such that individualized degrees with that title will no longer be available to students, documentation of early, deliberate, and deliberative consultation, inter- and intra-AoS, is essential to the successful development of the concept and proposal for a new registered program.

New Certificate

If our students will benefit from an official credential outside of a degree, the faculty may consider creating and registering a certificate. According to the NYSED Commissioner’s Regulations, a certificate program must be fully applicable to a degree program within the university. Although the creation of a certificate will not limit other use of the title, documentation of early, deliberate, and deliberative consultation at the inter- and intra-departmental levels is essential to the successful development of the concept and proposal for a new certificate program.

A new certificate (concept and/or proposal) should include a plan for the coordination of the certificate. Areas that should be addressed include who will monitor, mail, and answer questions from prospective students; who will answer questions from mentors and administrators; who will help mentors identify required courses within an individual student’s degree program; and who will answer questions about advanced standing and PLA.

Formal Program Proposal

If a concept for a new registered program of any type completes the first round of review by the faculty at large, appropriate university committees, and SUNY, program initiators should be prepared to create a fully developed proposal. This fully developed proposal, in addition to meeting the above criteria, should comply with the formal requirements of SUNY and NYSED. Full explanations of the need for specificity within the program’s structure should be included within the proposal. A separate consultation history should be prepared; this document should explain when the concept paper was reviewed and approved, as well as when the formal program proposal was reviewed and approved by the relevant faculty including content area experts and academic departments, administrative, and governance bodies.

The formal program proposal will be circulated for review among the university community, especially the department chairs, before being approved by the appropriate governance bodies, by SUNY, and by NYSED.

Program Revisions

A proposal to revise an academic program development should also endeavor to reflect the criteria outlined above. All revisions to programs must be reviewed and approved by the relevant governance bodies. However, it is clear that some changes may not warrant full explication of the program as a whole; revisiting the criteria in such cases in not required. If the program revisions do not significantly alter the previously stated program outcomes, then the revisions, without a full explication of the program as a whole, may be presented to the relevant governance committee. If, however, the program revisions significantly alter the previously stated program outcomes, then a full explication of the program, with its new outcomes and methods of achieving those outcomes, must follow the same process as a new program proposal.

Program Discontinuance

Discontinuance of a program, through deactivation or deregistration, occurs when the President or his/her designee, after consultation with the faculty and consideration of the impacts of discontinuance on students, support staff, professional employees, and faculty, determines that the need for the program, the availability of resources to sustain the program, the student and society needs that the program meets, the centrality and contribution of the program to the university, the program’s relationship to the university, the factors and dynamics impacting enrollment and retention of students within the program, and/or the effect of deactivation or deregistration on overall cost and institutional effectiveness are such that discontinuance serves the greater good of the university, its students, and its faculty and staff.  See the Discontinuance of a University Academic Program Policy.

Consultation with the faculty, in this instance, should include discussion with the academic department in which the program resides and with the appropriate governance bodies.

Faculty Responsibility for Current, New, or Revised Programs

Empire State University's Areas of Study are umbrella-type registered programs that house individualized undergraduate concentrations and individualized degree programs developed by students. Responsibility for the general guidelines belongs to the faculty of the relevant Area of Study, and concentration guidelines belong to the relevant academic department. Such responsibility includes periodic review and revision of guidelines, development and periodic review and revision of concentration guidelines, and assessment in the major. This responsibility extends to any new program proposed within a disciplinary area represented by faculty members of the academic department and/or Area of Study.

Applicable Legislation and Regulations

Chapter I of Title 8 of the Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York Section 3.47. Requirements for Earned Degrees and Section 3.50. Registered Degrees: Education Law, Rules and Regulations (Office of Higher Education, University of the State of New York, New York State Education Department)

Program Registration Guidance Documents

Title 8 Chapter II Regulations Of The Commissioner Parts 50 To 54. Commissioner's Regulations Concerning Program Registration: Education Law, Rules and Regulations (Office of Higher Education, University of the State of New York, New York State Education Department)

Middle States Commission on Higher Education Substantive Change Policy Statement

By-Laws of the SUNY Board of Trustees

Related References, Policies, Procedures, Forms and Appendices

State University of New York Policies of the Board of Trustees

Discontinuance of a University Academic Program Policy

Guidelines for Developing Certificate Programs

Guidance for Developing New Academic Programs

SUNY Forms