New Bachelor's Degree Program

The University Statutes give the individual schools the responsibility for organizing curricular programs leading to new degrees, defining their requirements, and approving the courses that fulfill those requirements.  Each school relies upon a Committee on Instruction (COI), Curriculum Committee (CC),  or an equivalent faculty body, to ensure that its programs meet its standards of quality and contribute to its educational mission.  Therefore, every new program and every substantial change in an existing program, regardless of the level of the degree, must first be reviewed and approved by the COI, CC,  or an equivalent body, of the school in which it will be offered.  It also needs the approval of the dean of the school.

Schools should complete and upload the appropriate internal University proposal form to APAS. Forms can be downloadedfrom the sidebar on the right. The internal proposal is uploaded by the School Administrator. Once schools have completed their respective internal review processes, a representative of the COI/CC and a representative for the school dean must give their approval in APAS.

The Vice Provost for Academic Programs evaluates proposals for new programs on behalf of the Provost and forwards them to other offices for the following reviews:

  • The University Registrar reviews proposals for conformity with University policies and New York State regulations;
  • The University Librarian certifies that the University has the information resources to support them;
  • The Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning, who serves as the University’s Chief Digital Officer, evaluates any proposals involving  online education; and
  • The Vice Provost for Academic Programs also sends proposals for new programs or program name changes to the deans of all other Columbia schools to determine if the program will conflict with any they already offer or intend to offer. If questions about the new program are raised during decanal review, further consideration of the proposal is suspended until they are resolved. If the deans are unable to resolve the issue, the Provost determines when and how the proposal will move forward.

New programs leading to the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Science do not require the approval of the Senate Education Committee or the full University Senate. 

If a proposed undergraduate program leads to a degree a School previously has not conferred, the Trustees must amend the University Statutes to allow the School to award that degree. Statutory amendments require consideration at two separate meetings of the Trustees. Additionally, if the proposed program will lead to a degree that has not previously been awarded in New York State, the New York Board of Regents must amend their rules before the University Trustees can act.

Once a proposal for a new bachelor's program has received all of the necessary University approvals, the Vice Provost for Academic Programs submits it to the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

Within NYSED, proposals for new educational programs are reviewed by one of two offices, depending on the field of study.  The Office of the Professions (OP) is responsible for reviewing programs in most fields for which the state issues licenses. Currently, OP approves new programs, with the exception of those leading to the Ph.D., in the following fields in which the University currently educates students:

  • Accounting
  • Architecture
  • Dental Medicine
  • Engineering
  • Landscape Architecture
  • Medicine
  • Mental Health
  • Nursing
  • Nutrition
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Physical Therapy
  • Social Work

OP also evaluates programming in other fields leading to a license.  A complete list of its areas of responsibility is available on-line at www.op.nysed.gov/prof

Programs in other fields and all Ph.D. programs regardless of field are approved by the Office of College and University Evaluation (OCUE).

 OP and OCUE each require different forms to establish a new degree or certificate program or to modify an already registered program.  Schools should contact the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Programs at ovpap@columbia.edu for guidance on how to complete the appropriate NYSED forms.

NYSED generally reviews applications within 12 to 18 months,  depending on the volume of programs being reviewed and whether there are any questions about the program proposal that require supplemental information be submitted to NYSED. Therefore, it is wise to start the process early.

The University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).   If the University makes any significant changes in its programming in between reviews, it is obligated to seek the Commission's approval before putting them into effect.

The Commission defines the type of programmatic changes that require its review in a document entitled Substantive Change Policy Statement.  While the policy statement describes all of the actions that might trigger a substantive change review, there are two types that are most likely to require the Commission's approval. These typically occur when a school is seeking to create collaborative programs with other universities, especially in other countries:

1. Additional Educational Locations

MSCHE requires a review of new degree or certificate programs, including joint programs with other institutions, in which 50 percent or more of the instruction leading to the Columbia degree will be delivered at a site other than one of the University's campuses. In MSCHE terminology, such a site is an "additional location."

The 50 percent rule applies only to the credits required for the Columbia degree and not to the total number of credits the students will take as part of a joint degree program. For example, assume that a school with a 60-credit program wishes to offer it as part of a joint degree program with another university and that some of the courses taken at the partnering institution will count toward the University degree. As long as the credits completed at Columbia are greater than 30, the University does not need the permission of the Middle States Commission, no matter how many credits the students will take at the two institutions combined.
 

2. Contractual Relationship with another Educational Institution

If the University enters into a contractual relationship with another institution to deliver instruction leading to a degree or a certificate, it may need the prior approval of MSCHE.

If the University's partner is a for-profit company or an American institution that is not accredited by a federally recognized agency, the Commission's approval is necessary regardless of the number of credits given at Columbia.

In the case of joint degree or certificate programs with accredited, non-profit American universities and colleges and with institutions outside of the United States, the Commission's approval is normally necessary if 50 percent or more of the instruction is given on the partner's campus.

Departments and schools interested in creating degree and certificate programs with other educational institutions should contact the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Programs (OVPAP) at ovpap@columbia.edu to determine if the Middle States Commission needs to review its plans.  When the Commission's approval is required, the originating unit should prepare a proposal that follows the guidelines included in the Substantive Change Policy Statement. That proposal differs in content and form from the one that must be prepared for the University Senate and the New York State Education Department. Please contact OVPAP to confirm if Middle States approval is required.