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Office of General Counsel Policies & Guidelines

Vocational Program Review and Approval :

Policy/Guideline Area

Academic Policies

Applicable Divisions

TCATs, System Office


This policy should serve as a resource for the development of all Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology proposals.


  • Establishment of a New Vocational-Technical Program - a new vocational-technical program that differs in designation from currently approved programs in the institution's program inventory.


  1. Introduction
    1. T.C.A. § 49-8-101 et seq. authorized the establishment of the State University and Community College System of Tennessee.
    2. Among the powers given to the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) by this Act is the power "to prescribe curricula and requirements for diplomas and degrees."
    3. Institutions have the authority to create new courses, determine course content or design, and carry out curriculum revisions less extensive than those that the Board has reserved to itself or otherwise delegated.
  2. Process
    1. TCAT Program Proposals That Must Be Taken to the Board
      1. Beyond those delegated responsibilities, the Board reserves to itself the authority to review and approve all proposed actions pertaining to establishment of vocational-technical diploma and certificate programs.
      2. Establishment of a New Vocational-Technical Program is defined as a new vocational-technical program that differs in designation from currently approved programs in the institution's program inventory.
      3. Establishment of New Proficiency Certificates - A proficiency certificate is awarded for achieving a proficiency level that is less than would be achieved upon full completion of the program.
    2. TCAT Program Proposals Approved by Board through Delegated Authority
      1. Other than new programs, TCAT proposals may be approved by the Board through delegated authority to the Chancellor.
      2. Summaries of these proposals will be reported monthly to the Board, with a 30-day period following for Board concerns.
      3. Any proposal identified by a Board member during this 30-day period will be brought before the full Board at its next quarterly meeting.
      4. Institutions shall provide, to the Vice Chancellor for Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology, proposals related to the following:
        1. Establishment of Program Options - A program option may be established within an ongoing full-time program when the basic portion of the new option is the same as the ongoing program but with the addition of specialized units of instruction that result in an additional diploma level job titles. Other examples include: moving a program to an off campus site, adding or deleting exit points, etc.
        2. Substantial Revision of the Curriculum of Existing Programs -Technological changes and the changing needs of businesses and industries from time to time make it necessary to delete, add to or otherwise revise the instructional content of program offerings.
        3. Consolidation of Existing Vocational-Technical Programs - two or more ongoing instructional programs may be combined under the title of one of the existing programs or under a new title.
        4. Inactivation of a Vocational-Technical Program - inactivation of a program may be requested when enrollment and placement factors indicate the program operation is not presently needed but it is the opinion of institution personnel that reactivation will be needed within a three year period of time.
        5. Termination of a Vocational-Technical Program - termination of a program may be requested when enrollment and placement factors indicate the program is no longer needed in the institution's service area and it is the opinion of institution personnel that reactivation of the program is not expected in the foreseeable future.
        6. Establishment or Revision of Institutional Policies and Standards Covering Student Admission.
        7. Current on-ground programs that will be converted to a fully online delivery format.
    3. Academic Proposals Requiring Only Notification to Vice Chancellor
      1. Changes to existing academic programs not listed above, that require no new costs or minimal costs that the campus will fund through reallocation of existing resources or through sources such as grants and gifts, may be approved through an established process by the institution.
      2. The Vice Chancellor for Colleges of Applied Technology must be informed of such changes prior to implementation.
      3. Such action includes, but is not limited to, establishment of new credentials and changes such as the modification of the title of a program.
  3. Procedures
    1. Institutions wishing to effect program changes that fall into any of the above categories will, therefore, comply with the following procedures as well as those contained in Guideline No: TCAT-060.
      1. A Letter of Intent
        1. A Letter of Intent must be submitted for all proposed actions prior to implementation.
        2. At the outset of the planning process, the Director will inform the Vice Chancellor for Colleges of Applied Technology by means of a Letter of Intent of the following:
          1. the nature, purpose, and scope of the intended action;
          2. the expected date upon which the completed proposal will be submitted;
          3. the intended implementation date, and
          4. a statement of total estimated cost for the first year and anticipated source of funding.
        3. Once a Letter of Intent is received, the proposed action will be reviewed by TBR staff for consistency with broad institutional, System, and State objectives; and the results shall be conveyed to the Director.
      2. Approval Route of Proposals
        1. Proposals for all new programs and other actions that require approval by the Board of Regents shall be submitted to the Vice Chancellor for the Colleges of Applied Technology for review.
        2. At the conclusion of the review, the Chancellor will transmit the proposal along with his recommendation to the TBR Committee on Vocational Education which, in turn, will recommend appropriate action to the full Board of Regents.
      3. Schedule for the Submission and Approval of Vocational-Technical Proposals
        1. The Board will consider vocational-technical proposals at each of its quarterly meetings.
        2. Proposals must, however, be submitted sufficiently in advance of the meeting at which Board consideration is desired in order to permit adequate review by the staff.
        3. The time required for this review will vary according to the nature of the proposal.
    2. Finally, the Board reserves the authority to review either directly or through the Chancellor all other actions affecting the vocational programs of its institutions.
    3. It shall, moreover, receive from the Chancellor periodic reports on the status of vocational programs as well as on matters pertaining to student access and to quality.
    4. For this purpose, institutions shall provide to the Chancellor the following and any other information specifically requested:
      1. Articulation Agreements: Articulation agreements between institutions or between distinct levels of programming (TBR Policy at the same institution;
      2. Accreditation Activities: Notice of scheduled self-studies, site visits, and other activities relative to institutional or programmatic accreditation and reaffirmation as well as a copy of the formal notice of accreditation or reaffirmation.
    5. Institutions wishing to effect changes that fall into any of the above categories will, therefore, comply with the following procedures as well as those contained in TBR Guideline A-010.
  4. Criteria for Reviewing Vocational Program Proposals
    1. A summary of the major criteria used by the TBR staff in evaluation of vocational proposals is presented below.
      1. The proposed action is appropriate to the mission, role, and scope of the institution.
      2. Need for the proposed action is evident from the supporting data on student interest, employer demand, and societal needs. Need must also be reflected in the projected level of student enrollment and the anticipated number of graduates.
      3. The proposed action does not constitute unnecessary duplication of vocational programs available at other public institutions.  Partnerships or collaborations should be considered whenever needs might be met with greater efficiency
      4. The proposed action reflects appropriately innovative design and the best available pertinent knowledge.
      5. The proposal documents the institution's ability to implement the proposed action in terms of:
        1. fiscal resources,
        2. support resources,
        3. physical facilities, and
        4. qualified personnel.
      6. When the proposed action is supported in whole or in part by articulation with another institution or by affiliation with other agencies for the provision of clinical or internship experiences, such articulation or affiliation should be acknowledged in the program design and copies of the articulation or affiliation agreements should be appended to the proposal.
      7. The proposed action is consistent with the achievement of the institution's goals.
      8. The proposal includes information about the online delivery format (if applicable).
      9. Proposals pertaining to programs should include a description of procedures for regular evaluation of the programs and units, including evaluation of the program's enrollment and productivity.
      10. Proposals should include information related to accreditation, both COE and professional, and when applicable, provide a time frame for achieving the appropriate accreditation.
  5. Sources of Specific Criteria
    1. Listed below are illustrative sources of specific criteria that serve as bases for staff decisions relative to vocational proposals.
      1. TBR Policy No., Principles for Articulation in Vocational/ Technical Education
      2. TBR Policy No., Admissions
      3. TBR Policy No., Academic Retention and Readmission at the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology


March 17, 1989 State Board of Regents' Meeting; June 29, 2007 Quarterly Board Meeting.

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