Helpful Hints for Obtaining Permission to Start a New Program
No new program can begin until it has received all of the necessary approvals, both within and outside of the University. Moreover, a school or department may start to advertise a new program before completing the process of review only with the prior approval of the Vice Provost for Academic Administration and only if it makes clear in its publicity that the introduction of the program is conditional on receiving the needed approvals before its anticipated start date. It is, therefore, incumbent upon the originating department or school to seek authorization for a new program and prepare the supporting materials in a timely manner.
Once a new proposal has been approved within its school of origin, it will take a minimum of 4-5 months to gain all of the necessary University and external approvals, and, most likely, more. Departments and schools should, therefore, keep the following considerations in mind in asking for permission to start a new program.
1) Coordinate the submission of proposals with the schedule of the University Senate. The Senate and its Education Committee meet monthly between September and April. Since it takes at least two months for the Senate to complete its review and sometimes more, departments and schools should send their proposals to the Vice Provost for Academic Administration as early in the academic year as possible. The closer to April the Vice Provost receives a proposal, the greater the likelihood that the Senate will not consider and approve the new program until the following academic year.
2) Properly complete the proposal forms. The department or school is expected to follow all of the directions for the relevant degree described on this web site and, in particular, to complete all of the required forms and tables. Missing information will delay the proposal's review. The department or school should not change any of the forms or tables. If it does not feel that some of the required information is relevant or applicable, it should contact the Office of the Vice Provost.
3) Determine if a proposal requires Trustees' approval. If a school wishes to offer a program leading to a degree it has not previously awarded, the Trustees will need to amend the University Statutes to give it that authority. The process of amending the Statutes requires a minimum of three months and can take longer, depending on the schedule of the Trustees' meetings and when the Senate completes its own review. Schools should consult with the Vice Provost whenever they have any questions about whether a proposal will need Trustee approval.
4) Avoid the customization of degrees. The New York Board of Regents will take months, if not years, to review requests to award a new type of degree. Moreover, past experience indicates that Albany will reject requests for new degrees unless there is strong evidence of a need for it, not just at Columbia but throughout New York State. Therefore, schools and departments should avoid customizing the name of the degrees they wish to offer. They should confine themselves to ones that are already listed in the Regents' Rules unless there is a compelling need for a new type of degree and they can demonstrate that it is likely to become a widely used credential throughout their discipline.
5) Coordinate the collection of external evaluations with the Senate review. The New York State Education Department will not accept a proposal until it is complete. In the case of post-baccalaureate programs, it considers one or more external reviews an essential part of the proposal. Departments and schools should, therefore, line up the external reviewers of their proposals early rather than waiting until they have received all of the necessary approvals within the University.
6) Do not count on a rapid approval from Albany. The New York State Education Department can register a new program in as little as 2-3 weeks. It is, however, much more likely to require 2-3 months and often takes more. Therefore, the earlier a proposal is ready for review, the greater the chances are that it will receive State approval in time to start the new program on the desired date.
7) Be Aware of Middle States requirements for new programs. A new program cannot begin without the prior approval of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education if it involves a substantive change in the University's accredited status. Commission authorization is most likely to be necessary when a new program will be offered jointly with another institution, especially if it is located overseas. Individuals developing a new program should, therefore, determine if it will need Commission approval by consulting the Middle States' Substantive Policy Statement. If it does, they should also keep in mind the schedule included in that Statement for when proposals need to be forwarded to the Commission.