New Joint Degree Program

A joint degree program is developed and offered by Columbia in collaboration with another institution. On completion of the program, the students may be awarded one or more degrees by the two institutions. The approval of the University Trustees is required if students will receive one degree awarded jointly by both institutions.

A joint degree also requires an educational agreement. Educational agreements undergo a separate review and approval process. For more information please see our website:

The process to launch a new joint degree program is outlined below. Please consult with OVPAP ( if there are any questions regarding the necessary approval steps, appropriate forms to complete, or access to APAS (Academic Program Approval System). Once a proposal has been submitted to APAS, schools can log in and check the status at any time:

      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  joint degree program, regardless of the level of the Columbia 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 to APAS. Forms can be downloaded from the sidebar on the right.  The educational agreement should also be uploaded to APAS at this time. Both documents must be submitted together; otherwise a record cannot be created in APAS. Both documents are uploaded by the School Administrator. Once schools have completed their respective review processes, a representative for 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.

      Once a joint degree proposal has all of the approvals listed above, the Vice Provost for Academic Programs forwards it to the University Senate.

      The Education Committee of the University Senate reviews all new joint degree programs on behalf of the full Senate.

      • The Committee establishes a subcommittee at one of its meetings to review the proposal and report back to the full Committee at a subsequent meeting.  As part of its review, the subcommittee may discuss the proposal with the faculty sponsor of the program and may request additional information to complete their review. 
      • After receiving the subcommittee’s report, the full Education Committee discusses the proposal and votes on whether to recommend it to the full University Senate.

      Proposals that receive an affirmative vote in the Education Committee are forwarded to the Executive Committee of the University Senate for consideration at the next Plenary meeting of the full Senate.

      The Senate Education Committee meets monthly between September and April. It takes a minimum of 2-3 months (2-3 consecutive meetings) for the Senate Education Committee to complete their review. Therefore, it is advisable to submit proposals no later than November of the fall semester if the program is to make its way through the Senate process before the end of the academic year. 


      The approval of the University Senate is normally the final step within the University for starting a new joint degree program.  However, if the Columbia degree in a new joint degree program is one that the school has not previously been authorized to confer, the Trustees of the University must give it that authority by amending the Statutes of the University. Statutory amendments require consideration at two separate meetings of the Trustees.  Additionally, if the 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.

      The University may need to obtain an external review  of a proposal for a new joint degree program.   For information about the steps in the external review, please see the approval process for Master’s and doctoral degree programs.

      Once a proposal for a new joint degree program has received all of the necessary University approvals and the external evaluation(s) have been received, 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

      When the Columbia portion of a joint degree program is in another field or leads to the Ph.D. programs, it is approved by the Office of College and University Evaluation (OCUE).

      In a joint degree program, some courses typically count toward both degrees, thereby reducing the total number of credits its students must complete. Any reduction in the Columbia requirements might affect the eligibility of students to sit for a licensing exam within New York, especially when the partner institution is located in another state or abroad.  Therefore, a school that wishes to create a new joint degree program in a field for which the Office of the Professions conducts the NYSED review should inform the Vice Provost of Academic Programs of its intentions early in the program’s development.  The Vice Provost may forward that information to the Office of the Professions for its advice. 

      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 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 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.