Developing a New Degree Programme?

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Guidelines for getting it right. 

Having the opportunity to develop a brand-new degree programme is something every lecturer dreams of, but it’s not easy to make it work. What can you do to maximize success, and deliver something that you can be truly proud of?

Research the competition

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel entirely, and it’s important for what you offer to be comparable to what other universities provide in programmes on the same topic. Your research should also indicate what you can do to distinguish your new course from existing programmes.

Get a guide for the paperwork mountain

If it’s your first time making your way through the module or programme approval process, ask an experienced colleague to advise you. They can tell you how to ensure that your paperwork clears internal hurdles, and about things to watch out for. Most “new” programmes also incorporate shared core modules, and you’ll need help to know which ones will be the best fit and which are past their sell-by date.

Incorporate perspectives from outside the university

Talk to employers and colleagues in the area of work your programme is being set up to prepare students for. Even for broad, liberal arts programmes, these contacts can advise on key transferable skills. For finely targeted programmes, “industry” input is absolutely crucial, and can also lead to important links via work experience, sandwich terms or years, and guest speakers. Students increasingly look for these, because they improve confidence and employability.

Talk to former students

Ask graduates what would have further enriched their university experience, what topics they wish had been covered, what kind of activities and projects would have kept them excited and prepared them for careers. Also ask them about assessment patterns: a new programme is an excellent platform for trialing new ways to motivate students and measure progress.

Consider crossdisciplinary possibilities

Think about how your discipline fits with others across the university, and in real life. Making links across disciplines by bringing in colleagues from outside your area to contribute to programme design or to teach can be a powerful driver for attracting students from beyond the usual group. It also encourages boundary-crossing research and development—and may be the factor that gives your new programme an edge over others.

Think about new directions—because you can

It’s easy to replicate what others have done, or just tweak something existing by adding a couple of new modules. It may be more work, but we don't often get a chance to start from a blank piece of paper and design the perfect programme structure, content and outcomes from the bottom up. Don't squander that opportunity.

Finally, be sure to stop and reflect on the fact that being trusted to undertake this task is a measure of your esteem in the eyes of your peers. It is also exactly the kind of intellectual and pedagogical challenge that should truly excite you: the chance to make your mark in a very public way.

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