Approval of New Academic Programs

Duke University continues to build on its mission of being a global university. Concordant with this goal, there is a growing number of planned degree offerings across the university which will include programs that have a strong professional Masters program component. These programs offer the opportunity for expanding our global mission as an institution by meeting educational needs in demand for today’s workplace, and have a secondary benefit of providing additional revenue to further the overall academic mission of the sponsoring department or school. Developing a new degree program at Duke is a lengthy process that requires considerable preparatory work by the faculty and program leadership.

You should anticipate needing 1-2 years to fully develop your proposal and then at least 6 months for it to pass through the various approval mechanisms. This document should give you an overview of the various features to include as you develop your proposal. The primary items to consider when developing your proposal are demonstrating how the proposed program fits into the academic unit’s and Duke’s global mission; demonstrating that Duke can offer a degree of high quality that would compete well in the marketplace of such programs; devising a suitable program structure, including curriculum, faculty, and required resources; determining the impact on other departments, institutes and centers within Duke and how to leverage these other groups for mutual benefit; and putting together a feasible financial plan. Each of these items is discussed in detail in this document.

II. Faculty steering committee

A first step toward developing a new degree proposal is establishing a steering committee comprised of key faculty members and leaders from the entity(ies) bringing the proposal forward. In the case of a global program proposal that crosses boundaries of departments, institutes, or schools, it is important that each of these entities be represented on the steering committee. An approach that has been successful in starting other programs has been to divide the steering committee into several working subcommittees dealing with the following components of the proposal:

(1) Curriculum

(2) Professional matters, including accreditation

(3) Faculty, staff, and resource requirements

(4) Comparative programs

(5) Financial considerations

(6) Global considerations.

The conclusions of these various subcommittees can be incorporated into the final proposal.


III. Elements of a proposal

A successful proposal is going to make a compelling case for why establishing this new program will advance the academic mission of Duke University. Below are several key components that you may want to consider including in your proposal. While not every degree program is the same, the items below are generally those that will be of most interest to those considering your proposal for approval. You should, of course, adapt these guidelines according to the specifics of your particular proposal degree program.

a. Overview of the field – The individuals who review your proposal may or may not be familiar with the particular opportunities or challenges facing your field. It is important to give a general overview of the field of study for the proposed degree, including a brief history of the evolution of the field, its current areas of academic focus, the types of employment that students in this field could expect to obtain, the reasons why there is a need for a professional degree in this field, and ways in which Duke already is (or is not) established in this field of study.

b. Key features of the new program – You should spell out the key components to this new degree program, including things such as the type of degree to be offered, different tracks of study (if any) available to students, the program leadership structure, major components of the curriculum, internship opportunities, the type of training that specifically addresses professional issues in the field, the mechanism for supporting faculty time, and the main ways in which the program will be financially viable. This portion of your proposal might be structured as a brief synopsis of the main components of your program, to be elucidated later on in the proposal, and may have the look and feel of an “elevator pitch” of your proposal that will acclimate the reviewers to your main points.

c. Rationale for a new program at Duke University – It is important to make a strong case for why starting this program would benefit Duke University.

  • What does the program offer that would complement or detract from existing academic programs at Duke?
  • How could Duke become a major contributor to this field of study?
  • What will make Duke among the top programs in this field?
  • Does this proposed program overlap with degree programs in other departments or schools within Duke, and if so, what benefits would accrue that would offset these potential overlaps?
  • What resources at Duke would contribute to the success of this program?
  • What benefits are there to participating faculty? How would the reputation of Duke as an institution be enhanced by this new program?
  • Are there the possibilities for joint degree offerings with existing degree programs?

d. Global considerations for program – The proposal should address the implications, rationale and global considerations of the program. For example,

  • How would Duke establishing this program in this country/region contribute to its global networks of embedded and connected relationships and institutions?
  • What benefits will accrue to the country/region by our presence?
  • What benefits will accrue to Duke, both abroad and in Durham?
  • To what extent, and in what ways, would the program build on or complement other Duke activities abroad and in Durham?
  • What is the current state of higher education in this country/region?
  • What other western educational institutions are in this context, and what are they doing?
  • How do the educational, research, and developmental needs of the country/region line up with Duke’s character, strengths, and vision?
  • What can Duke’s distinctive contribution be in this context? What potential partners are available, and what are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • Who are the best partners for us to work with?
  • What forms of collaboration would be most advantageous? What are the challenges and rewards of working in this country/region?
  • What are the long-term prospects for stability: politically, economically, and for potential partners? How will we address instabilities if they occur?
  • What political, legal, financial, cultural, or institutional obstacles exist which make working in this country/region difficult?
  • Can those obstacles be successfully navigated?
  • What are the reputational opportunities and risks for Duke in establishing an institutional presence in this region/country?
  • How do our potential partners and financial supporters affect these opportunities and risks?

e. Vision – It is important to think not only about the details of how the program will be structured, but also to state clearly what your overarching vision is.

  • What is it you want to achieve by the establishment of this new degree offering?
  • How will you enhance knowledge in the service of society?
  • How will you advance the field?
  • How will your training position your students to advance in their careers and become leaders in the field?
  • How will your program enhance the reputation of Duke?
  • What are your “big dreams”?
  • List the goals you have for the first five years that will help bring about your vision.

f. Program structure – In this part of the proposal, you should spell out the overall academic structure, faculty appointment and review procedures, admissions requirements, specific degree requirements, professional training requirements, assessments (e.g., comprehensive exams), accreditation (if appropriate), plans for how faculty teaching will be compensated or taken into account for AP&T, administrative structure, roles of key leaders, anticipated committees, faculty governance, and which entities within Duke (e.g., schools, institutes or existing programs) would “own” or contribute to this degree program.

g. Comparison with existing programs; competitive advantage and value added – In order to make a compelling case for how this proposed program will be successful, it is important to do the due diligence of evaluating comparable competitive programs at other universities.

  • How many other such programs exist?
  • What are the top five programs in the U.S.? (You should consider giving a brief summary of the strengths and weaknesses of these top few programs.) How will the proposed program at Duke compete for the best students among the existing programs?
  • What will be the selling points that will make students want to attend Duke?
  • What factors are unique to Duke when compared with the other top programs?
  • What potential risks are there that would keep your program from effectively competing in the marketplace of existing programs?
  • Can you leverage outside relationships with these other institutions to insure Duke is seen as a leader in such programs?

h. Curriculum considerations – In this section, you should first give an overview of the proposed curriculum, and then provide detailed information on each of the courses that would constitute the full curriculum offering. In the overview, indicate how many credit hours are required for graduation (30 is typical for many MA/MS programs at Duke but there are some programs that require more). I

s a thesis required or optional? What tracks of study are available?

What courses are considered core? How many electives are required?

If there are major and minor track requirements, describe those. Are there specific professional components (such as practicum courses or internships) that are required?

Present the prerequisites for admission. Provide a brief description of each course to be offered, including those cross-listed from other departments. Indicate in which semesters you anticipate offering each course. Which courses currently exist and which would need to be developed?

Provide sample curricula for students in each of the possible tracks within your program, and indicate in which semesters each course would be taken to complete their degree program in the specified time. Give example curricula from other comparable programs. Indicate which faculty members you anticipate will teach each of the required courses.

i. Professional components, accreditation, assessment – If graduates from your program are likely to need certain professional requirements (e.g., board certification), indicate how your program will prepare your students for these requirements. Also, if accreditation of your program is required, indicate the accrediting body and the timeframe for the normal accrediting process, including renewals. Indicate how this program will assess student learning outcomes on a regular basis, and the evidence-based practices that will be used to make changes in the program, curriculum, and learning outcomes over time. This documentation will contribute to the university’s periodic SACS accreditation reporting. Some new programs may also require Substantive Change documentation for SACS accreditation; a checklist for Substantive Change can be found at: http://www.provost.duke.edu/pdfs/Substantive_Change_checklist.pdf.

j. Faculty, staff, and resource requirements – Provide a thorough analysis of the number of faculty members needed to teach and mentor your students, and what FTE faculty time is required for the entire program.

Will additional faculty members need to be hired, or can the overall FTE requirements of your program be met from among the existing faculty?

Will faculty or courses be drawn from other departments or programs?

If a new program is anticipated to increase demand for existing courses in other departments or programs, include a letter of support from the chair, dean, or director indicating support for the increased demand. Indicate the fractional FTE required per student for your program, including all elements of instruction, mentoring, and administration. Also provide an analysis of how many non-faculty staff members will be required to run the program. Include program coordinators, financial or business office staff, administrative assistants, and other similar positions. Indicate how many staff positions will need to be hired new, and how many can be filled by reallocating partial effort of existing staff. Provide an analysis of the space requirements for your program. Indicate how many square feet are required specifically for your program. Include space for classroom teaching, study space (carrels or cubicles) for your students, office space for any new faculty or staff, common space for students to work together on projects, areas for reading or a program library, any breakroom space for students, laboratory space, and storage space. Provide a summary of the total space requirements in categories as indicated above, and then indicate how much of that space currently exists and can be used for the program and how much will need to be acquired new. It is important when considering space to design your program so that there is some common location that serves as a locus for your program’s activities. This physical space is important in defining a “home” that the students know defines your program’s identity and which will serve to help your students bond into a community. Discuss these space needs with your chair or dean, and indicate the buildings where this designated space will be located.

k. Financial considerations – A very important component of your proposal is a sound financial plan. This financial plan should indicate how you anticipate financing the costs of the program, and specifically, how many students you anticipate to make the program viable from a financial as well as an academic perspective. Listed below are common line items to consider when drafting your proposed financial plan. These should be adjusted to accommodate the particular nature of your program. There are several items that may vary from program to program:

(1) Faculty pay – Your program may be structured in such a way that faculty time for teaching and administration is directly compensated by your program, or these components of faculty effort may already be covered by another entity such that no specific line item for these is required. You should indicate clearly how faculty time for teaching and administration will be covered by your chair, director, or dean if these are not included specifically in your financial plan.

(2) Space rental – Your program may be charged for the space used. Indicate in your financial plan whether your program will be directly charged, or whether the charges for space utilization will be covered by another entity (such as a department or institute). Indicate the number of square feet and the rate per square foot for the space charge that is allocated directly to your program’s finances.

(3) Recovery of tuition and other revenue – Indicate the agreement with the appropriate dean for the amount of tuition and other revenue recovery approved for your program.

(4) Scholarship – Indicate what total scholarship amounts you anticipate granting to your students from your program funds. You are allowed to adjust the net expense to your students by providing scholarships to set the price point of your program to be competitive with your main competitor institutions.

(5) University overhead charges – In certain administrative units within the university (e.g., School of Medicine), there is an overhead charge on expenditures. Include this charge and any other fees or assessments by the university units you will report to.

(6) Gross versus net income and expenses – You may want to consider showing the gross revenues and expenses for various items associated with tuition, stipends, fellowships, and scholarships rather than a net income and expense. For example, if the total tuition from your students is $100,000 but you provide $20,000 in total scholarships, listing $100,000 in revenues and $20,000 in expenses is more instructive in understanding your overall financial plan that just listing $80,000 of net tuition revenue. This process allows the true cost of your program to be understood more fully.

(7) Anticipated capitated costs for ancillary support services – Include an estimate for the ancillary costs required for your program’s students (e.g., career center, international house, bus utilization) and indicate this per student. You may wish to consult Vice President Larry Moneta about which charges to include. Do not include the estimate of ancillary support service costs as part of your regular financial plan, but as a separate section. In the description of your financial plan, it is important to provide a sound financial rationale for the number of students you anticipate matriculating. Discuss anticipated sources of income (including tuition, external fellowships, internal scholarships, grants, etc.) and all anticipated expenses. Last, indicate the major risks to the financial stability of your program and how you anticipate mitigating against those risks. Table 1 lists line items you may wish to consider including in your financial plan. Provide a prospective pro forma financial plan for five years.

l. Endorsements – Include in your proposal a list of the chair, directors, deans, and other relevant leaders within Duke who have reviewed and endorsed your proposal prior to taking it through the university committees for approval. m. 5-year student, faculty, and resource projection

n. Students

o. General characteristics of applicant pool

p. Opportunities available to graduates


IV. Approval process

The approval process can take 6 months or more. You should take your proposal to the chairs or directors of the relevant departments or institutes to discuss issues related to academic mission, faculty time, and space availability. The proposal should also be reviewed by the deans of the relevant schools. Any faculty committees within the school that houses the program should then be consulted and provide their approval. Programs within the Graduate School will also go to the Executive Committee of the Graduate Faculty (ECGF). In the School of Medicine, your proposal will be presented to the Clinical Sciences Faculty Council and the Basic Sciences Faculty Steering Committee. After school-level approval, proposals should next be submitted to the Provost’s office, and to the advisory Academic Programs Committee, and Global Priorities Committee (for global programs) . Upon approval by the Provost, proposals next go to the Academic Council, where they are first reviewed by the Executive Committee of the Academic Council (ECAC). Following approval by ECAC, the proposal is taken to the full Academic Council and considered in two subsequent meetings – once for presentation and a month later for a vote. The final version of the proposal then goes to the Board of Trustees for final consideration and approval. (See Table 2 for a list of committees and contacts in the approval process.) Include in your proposal a brief synopsis of the dates your proposal went through each step of the approval process. Also, include a list of the faculty and administrators who participated in the process of developing your proposal, including the various committees and subcommittees that worked on developing your overall plan.

Current Cross-School Degree Programs

Click here for a list of cross-school degree programs.