Review of Pre-Structured Programs Procedure

Review of Pre-Structured Programs Procedure


Office of Academic Affairs







Effective Date:


Implementation History:

February, 1996


Pre-Structured Programs, Curriculum, Academic Review

Background Information:


Guiding Principles and Their Implications for Pre-Structured Programs

  1. Throughout its history, the university has offered programs that vary along a continuum from highly individualized to highly pre-structured (Cf. 1989 self-study). Programs are considered
    "pre-structured" when significant academic decisions are made in the generic planning of the program. Pre-structured programs may present students with a fixed curriculum or a required set of core studies, may limit choices for degree program components to pre-structured courses, or may serve students whose choices of learning contract components are circumscribed by cross-registration or other inter-institutional agreements. Pre-structured programs fulfill the university ’s mission to provide access to educational alternatives as do individualized programs. As this point is sometimes not well understood, proposals for such programs should articulate the relation to the university’s mission and core values
  2. In individualized programs, the collective judgment of the faculty is brought to bear on a program when the center assessment committee conducts its review. In pre-structured programs, key academic decisions are made outside the individual planning context. The procedures for review of pre-structured curricula will assure that academic review occurs at a time point when revisions to the program are still possible. 
  3. The university has a strong tradition of local control of academic matters by mentors and centers. We have never had a traditional curriculum committee and center academic responsibility was further strengthened with the decision to move final academic program approval from OPRA to centers. In term programs such as CDL and the Van Arsdale School apprentice program, curriculum development and program approval have long been the responsibility of center faculty. Similar local responsibility is envisioned in these procedures for new pre-structured programs. 
  4. The university also recognizes the need to draw on appropriate expertise with respect both to academic substance and standards and to titling and other matters of policy and external regulation. Therefore consultation with appropriate area of study faculty and with OAA/OPRA must occur during program development. 
  5. The sharing of information about program development serves several important university purposes, among them stimulating further program development and maintaining a sense of community and trust within the university. The development of new programs, however, may involve extensive collaboration, negotiation and consultation during which public discussion may be inappropriate. The timing of review, approval and information sharing about new programs would need to take these processes into account. 
  6. Pre-structured programs should incorporate means to assure program quality. 
  7. Like all institutions of higher learning, SUNY Empire is increasingly pressed to demonstrate student learning outcomes. There has been increased activity in outcomes assessment within the university with particular attention given to the individualized programs of regional centers and units. Developers of new pre-structured programs are strongly urged to explicitly state academic objectives and expected learning outcomes and to identify means to assess entry and exit levels of students’ skills and knowledge. Building in outcomes assessment from the outset can contribute to the quality of a new program and also generate approaches with potential application elsewhere in the university.



Premise. All student degree programs undergo faculty review and approval. For individualized degree programs, center assessment committees are the locus of program review and approval. A parallel process of timely faculty review should be put in place for programs designed to serve special groups of students through a pre-structured curriculum.

Development of center review procedures. Each center is to develop a review process for pre-structured curricula. Center procedures for review of pre-structured curricula should be proposed to the Office of Academic Affairs for approval by May 1 1996. The review body may be an existing committee, such as the academic review committee or assessment committee, a committee of the whole or a committee created specifically for this purpose. The review must include consultation with at least one faculty member from outside the center who has academic expertise relevant to the proposed program. Changes to center or regional procedures should be reported in the annual center/regional planning and budget document.

If a program involves more than one center, but is confined to a single region, a regional review and approval is called for and the region should designate or create a review body for this purpose. When the university’s regional structure does not fit a proposed program, group of similar programs, student clientele, or sponsor, the Office of Academic Affairs will create a review team, similar to those created for generic evaluations, that will include representatives of the relevant area(s) of study.

Elements of program proposals. Program proposals should resemble individual degree program plans. The proposal should contain a degree program outline that conforms to university policy. A rationale must indicate the target audience, relate the program to the university’s mission and describe how the program meets applicable area of study guidelines. The rationale should explain how the degree program provides for breadth of learning within the concentration and within general learning. It should also explain how the pre-structured program enables students to develop capacities that are central to SUNY Empire’s educational philosophy: ability to articulate and pursue educational goals, ability to engage in self-assessment of skills and learning ability to engage in self-directed learning, ability to use a broad range of learning resources, including those that are technology-based.

The proposal should give particular attention to the nature of educational planning in the program. Pre-structured programs present a degree program design that may obviate the need for certain aspects of the conventional educational planning contract. While there are other academic objectives commonly called "educational planning," these may also be addressed outside the context of program design and prior learning assessment. Such objectives include: orientation to university study, liberal studies and/or professional issues and perspectives; assessment and enhancement of skills; reflection on educational and professional goals; and clarification of university and program expectations. The proposal should indicate whether the program’s educational planning tasks are sufficient to warrant academic credit. If the proposal includes a request for an exception to the requirement of a course/contract labeled "educational planning," it should describe what credit and non credit activities will assure proper advisement and orientation of students.

The proposal should describe standard components of the program, e.g., group studies, courses, and any special CBE features. Ideally, the proposal would also state the expected outcomes of the program and indicate how entry level skills and exit-level performance will be assessed at individual and programmatic levels.

When the program has elements not within the expertise of center faculty, appropriately qualified experts from elsewhere within or outside the university should be involved in program development. The proposal should explicitly address how individuals with appropriate expertise, as academics and/or as practitioners, have been involved. Instructional design expertise appropriate to the delivery model should be represented in the development process, e.g., CDL faculty or staff for distance delivery, faculty with expertise in field-based education for practicum components, etc.

Approval Process.

The center director or other program developer must consult the Office of Academic Affairs at the beginning of the program development process. For programs within a single center/region, program development and review should then proceed according to local procedures, with preliminary reporting and consultation outside the center as appropriate. When a center/region approves a new pre-structured program, the proposal should then be forwarded to the Office of Academic Affairs for final review and approval. Approvals of new programs will be reported to APLPC and the appropriate area of study.

For programs that cut across regional divisions, the program developer will work with the Office of Academic Affairs to arrange appropriate consultation and review.

Outline for Proposals for Pre-Structured Curricula

  1. Rationale
    1. Target audience
    2. Relation to university's mission and educational values
    3. Conformity of program to area of study guidelines
    4. Provisions for breadth of learning within general learning and concentration portions of degree program
    5. Support for development of independent learning skills:
      1. Ability to articulate and pursue educational goals
      2. Ability to engage in self-assessment of skills and learning
      3. Ability to engage in self-directed learning
      4. Ability to use a broad range of learning resources, including those that are technology-based.
    6. Nature of educational planning in the program
      1. How are the following objectives addressed:
        design of degree program;
        orientation to college study;
        liberal studies and/or professional issues and perspectives;
        assessment and enhancement of skills;
        reflection on educational and professional goals;
        clarification of university and program expectations
      2. If the program seeks a waiver of the requirement of an educational planning contract for credit, what activities assure proper advisement and orientation of students?
  2. Description of program
    1. Degree program outline (using standard university format)
    2. Description of standard components, e.g., group studies courses, special CBE features, residencies
    3. Expected learning outcomes
    4. Provisions for assessment of learning skills at entry and exit

Applicable Legislation and Regulations

Related References, Policies, Procedures, Forms and Appendices

Policy: Advanced Standing: Policies and Procedures That Govern the Assessment of Prior Learning Procedure: Considerations for the Review of Credit Bearing Programs