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Program Modifications and New Academic Programs : A-010

Policy/Guideline Area

Academic Guidelines

Applicable Divisions

TCATs, Community Colleges, System Office


The purpose of this guideline is to establish the criteria and process for submitting Letters of Notification, Letters of Application, Implementation Portfolios, new academic programs or units, and for modifications of existing academic programs, policies, or unit by institutions governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.


  1. Developing Academic Program Modifications
    1. Academic programs currently approved for offering have a number of options to amend or reconstitute the approved program including the following using the 30 Review Process  per the THEC Policy A.1.0 New Academic Program: Approval Process and the THEC Policy A1.1: New and Modified Academic Programs: Evaluation Criteria:
      1. Name change for existing program
      2. Change of degree designation for an existing academic program or concentration per written recommendation of a disciplinary accreditation body or to more accurately represent the title to the workplace. Documentation must accompany the change request.
      3. Change of degree designation for an existing academic program or concentration when the change involves a significant curriculum shift in redefining the program’s purpose.
      4. Consolidation of existing academic programs.
      5. Consolidation of existing academic programs within the same discipline regardless of degree designation for purposes of performance funding calculations only.
      6. Conversion of an existing on-ground program to a fully online delivery format, with or without termination of existing program.
      7. Substantive curriculum modification (see )
      8. Establishment of an undergraduate certificate program or a graduate certificate program less than 24 SCH. Proposals for certificates of 24 SCH or more submit a Letter of Notification, the Letter of Application and Implementation Form, if approved for development. The University must notify the community college within the designated service area to ensure there is no unwarranted duplication of effort. The community college must notify the Tennessee College(s) of Applied Technology (TCAT) within the designated service area to ensure there is no unwarranted duplication of effort. The Tennessee College(s) of Applied Technology (TCAT) must notify the community college within the designated service area to ensure that there is no unwarranted duplication of effort. Documentation must be submitted with the Letter of Application to identify actions taken to address the issue of any unwarranted duplication of effort.
      9. Establishment of a new concentration or minor. Newly proposed concentrations should be in keeping with the goals and mission of the existing program and must share the same core courses as all other existing degree concentrations.
      10. Establish a free standing degree program from an existing concentration. Any existing concentration with a steady enrollment and graduation rate for a period of at least three years may request to be recognized as a freestanding degree if the establishment of the concentration as a degree does not compromise the remaining degree and does not require new faculty resources.
      11. Establishment of a new academic unit or reorganization resulting in a net gain of an academic unit (i.e., department, on-campus center, institute, bureau, division, school, or college). This action also requires approval by the THEC Executive Director.
      12. Establishment of an articulation agreement between institutions.
      13. Establishment of an Off-Campus Site/Off Campus Center. In keeping with the THEC Policies, the THEC Off-Campus Site /Center Approval Forms must be submitted for review. No announcements may be made regarding opening new site or center until the THEC approval is granted per THEC Policy 1.0.60B.
      14. Revision of any admission, retention, and/or graduation policy (general or program specific).
      15. Extension of an existing academic degree to be fully offered at an off-campus location.
      16. Termination, inactivation, or reactivation of a program.
      17. Curriculum modifications which increase or decrease total hours required for a degree.
    2. Requests for academic action (other than new degree programs) received by 15th of each month (except December) will typically be reviewed by the end of the month and summaries prepared for consideration by the Board through the 30-day review process. Approval by the Chancellor, through delegated authority, will be given at the end the 30- day review period unless objections are voiced by the Board.  Letters will be sent to the appropriate institution to authorize implementation of the proposed action. If the THEC approval is required, the letter will inform the institution of the approval by the TBR and an explanation that the proposed academic action will be sent to the THEC for its review.
    3. Requests for program, concentration and minor name changes should be submitted on the appropriate form and will be approved through delegated authority by the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, or the Vice Chancellor for Community Colleges, as appropriate. Approval through the THEC is not required per THEC Policy A 1.1.10D.
  2. Developing New Academic Programs
    1. In order to propose a new academic program which is not covered under section I.A. of this Guideline and the THEC Policy A1.1 New Academic Programs and A1.0 New Academic Programs: Approval Process, four steps must occur: the Letter of Notification; the Letter of Application; the Implementation Portfolio; and the External Review.
      1. The Letter of Notification
        1. The Vice Chancellor for Community Colleges (in the case of community colleges), the TBR Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs (for all universities), and the respective Assistant/Associate Vice Chancellor for Community Colleges or Academic Affairs should be electronically notified in advance that a Letter of Notification will be forthcoming. The Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs should be notified additionally of all community college letters of notification. The Letter of Notification is the documentation for the System of the initiation of the planning stage for the proposed program and must include the following:
          1. Title of the proposed program (and any concentrations);
          2. CIP and SOC codes for the overall program (and any proposed concentrations);
          3. Fit with Institutional Strategic Plan and Mission;
          4. Proposed implementation date;
          5. Proposed location(s) where the program will be offered;
          6. Explanation of the resources available to support the program;
          7. Anticipated new cost;
          8. Duplicate programs offered at other institutions serving the same region or population;
          9. List of all comparable or closely related programs, regardless of assigned CIP and SOC code;
          10. Anticipated submission date of the Implementation Portfolio, if approved for development.
        2. The Letter of Notification must be submitted at least 30 days prior to the anticipated date for the submission of the Letter of Application and Implementation Portfolio.
        3. Academic Affairs will notify the institution f another institution is currently engaged in development of a similar program in order to avoid duplication of effort and encourage collaboration.
      2. The Letter of Application
        1. A Letter of Application for any new academic degree program or certificate (24 SCH or more) program proposed precedes the establishment of any new academic program (See THEC policy A1:0 and A1:1). The requirement for a Letter of Application may be waived by the TBR Vice Chancellor for Community Colleges in cases where the proposed degree program fully duplicates an already existing community college program.  If a waiver is requested and granted, the institution will be notified that it may proceed with development of the Implementation Portfolio based on delegated authority from the THEC, however, the THEC Financial Projection form must be completed and approval documentation and through all campus committees prior to implementation.  Any required Letter of Application must be submitted electronically to the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for all proposed university programs and the Vice Chancellor for Community Colleges for any proposed community college programs. The Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs should be notified of any proposed community college’s letter of application. Current forms are available on the Academic Affairs website.
        2. The Letter of Application will include the following:
          1. A letter from the President stating his or her support for the development of the Letter of Application.
          2. All information initially submitted in the Letter of Notification.
          3. PDF of the signed COVER page.
          4. Completed Letter of Application Form located on the Academic Affairs website with special attention to the THEC Policy 1.120L components for a diversity plan and the THEC Policy 1.120I call for a future sustainability need/demand.
          5. THEC Financial Projections form. In keeping with the THEC Policy 1.1.20P, the benefit to the state should outweigh the cost of the program with detailed explanations of reallocation, grants, gifts and partnerships accompanying the Letter of Application.
          6. Copy of signature sheets from approval committees (e.g., Institutional Curriculum Committees, Faculty Senate, Graduate Council) verifying that the Letter of Application has cleared through all the appropriate campus approval committees prior to submission.
        3. The Letter of Application will be reviewed by the TBR and by the THEC staff.
        4. Forwarding the Letter of Application from the TBR to the THEC indicates the support of the TBR for the proposed academic program.
        5. The TBR and/or the THEC may take one of four actions in response to the Letter of Application. Based on THEC Policy A1.0, the Letter of Application may be awarded approval, disapproval, conditional approval or defer approval to develop an Implementation Portfolio. Conditional approval is awarded only to temporary programs with specified terminations dates.
      3. The Implementation Portfolio
        1. For University academic programs, an Implementation Portfolio for a new university academic program is electronically submitted after approval of the Letter of Application by the TBR and the THEC.  For new community college programs, the Implementation Portfolio is submitted upon approval from the Vice Chancellor for Community Colleges.
        2. The Implementation Portfolio (whether or not a Letter of Application is required) consists of:
          1. A completed Implementation Portfolio Form located on the Academic Affairs website.
          2. A copy of the THEC approval letter for Letter of Application development (universities) or the Vice Chancellor of Community Colleges approval letter for development based on the Letter of Notification or the Letter of Application, if required.
          3. The SACS-COC approval letter, if change of designation is required.
        3. The submission of an Implementation Portfolio should be carefully planned in order to assure timely review and approval by the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and the Vice Chancellor for Community Colleges, when appropriate, prior to submission for Board approval -- and, as may be required, THEC review and authorization.
        4. The TBR and the THEC considers Implementation Portfolios for new university degree programs at each of its quarterly meetings. Community college Implementation Portfolios are approved by delegated authority to the TBR and forwarded to the THEC upon Board Approval.
      4. External Review
        1. All university programs (excluding certificate programs) submitted for development must undergo an external review. If an external review includes a site visit, the time necessary to arrange an external reviewer is generally 4-5 weeks. Upon completion of the visit, reviewers have 30 days to submit a report which is then submitted to the institution with an essential concerns for amendment identified by the TBR. Campuses have 30 calendar days to provide a written response to the Office of Academic Affairs and Community Colleges (if appropriate). Institutions may dispute or amend recommendations continuing along the approval path or determine to withdraw the proposed program for consideration.
        2. The external review for newly proposed undergraduate programs at the universities will consist of a paper review or a site visit by a disciplinary expert at the joint discretion of the TBR and the THEC.
        3. All graduate level programs will undergo a site visit.
        4. Community colleges must submit a report from their external advisory or industrial board or skills panel supporting all components of the proposed Implementation Portfolio. The external review report should be submitted at the time of the Implementation Portfolio with the exception of a graduate program or an undergraduate program which is determined to require a site visit. Those reports should be submitted following the submission of the Implementation Portfolio by the TBR staff upon completion and campus response to any recommendations prior to forwarding the final Implementation Portfolio to the THEC.
      5. Based upon the determination of the TBR and approval of the THEC (if required), the newly proposed program as supported by the external review will move forward in the approval process.
        1. Proposed Implementation Portfolios must be submitted to the appropriate Vice Chancellor with sufficient time to allow for the external review process to occur before the desired Board approval. The time required for the review will vary according to the number and nature of the portfolios already under review, external review consideration, and the other workload issues of the Academic Affairs staff and may determine whether or not the review of a particular portfolio is completed in time for submission to the Board at the desired time. Implementation Portfolios are generally reviewed on a first come basis. Should the review of an Implementation ​Portfolio not be completed in time for the next meeting of the Board, it will be carried over with priority the next subsequent meeting.
      6. Approved Letters of Application are valid for three academic years after which a new Letter of Application must be submitted if the program has not been approved for Implementation.
      7. All newly approved academic programs at universities and community colleges are subject to post approval review by the TBR and the THEC. Per the THEC Policy 1.1.30, pre- baccalaureate programs are subject to post approval monitoring for five years, baccalaureate and masters programs for five years and doctoral programs for seven years on an annual basis. 



T.C.A. § 49-8-203; THEC Rules


TBR Meeting March 5, 1976. Revised December 12, 1980 TBR meeting; November 8, 1982, May 29, 1984, February 10, 1987, and February 14, 1989 Presidents Meeting, Presidents Meeting, February, 2003, Presidents Meeting, May 20, 2003, Presidents Meeting, February 7, 2006; Presidents Meeting, November 8, 2006; Presidents meeting, February 12, 2008, Presidents Meeting November 9, 2010; December 8, 2011; Revisions approved at Presidents Meeting, February 4, 2014; Presidents Meeting February 11, 2015.