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Campus academic program development guidelines must follow the framework provided by the UNC System and the Board of Governors. The Academic Program Development Procedures and templates are found on the UNC System website. Academic actions requiring approval from the UNC System are:

  • Request for Preliminary Authorization to plan a new degree program (undergraduate)
  • Request to Establish a new degree program (undergraduate)
  • Request for authorization to change the name or delivery of an existing degree program
  • Discontinuation of a degree program

Step 1: Request for Preliminary Authorization

Proposals for new undergraduate degrees must submit a Request for Preliminary Authorization for New Academic Degree Program (using the Request to Establish as a guide).

  • The Department or Curriculum must create the proposal and have it approved through all internal, departmental, or program processes.
  • The Dean of the appropriate College or School must approve the proposal prior to submission to The Office of Undergraduate Curricula.
  • For degree programs housed in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Administrative Boards must approve the proposal prior to submission to the Office of the Provost. For degree programs administered in a Professional School, the College’s Administrative Boards will review and provide feedback.
  • The Office of the Provost will review the proposal, request any changes, and report on progress to the Faculty Council as appropriate.
  • Upon approval by the Provost, the Chancellor will review, approve, and update the Board of Trustees as appropriate.
  • The Chancellor will authorize submission of the proposal to the UNC System.

Notification to the UNC System may be sent at any time, but programs should plan on a year-long planning process at minimum prior to the proposed date of establishment.

Please see the sample timelines for the order and expected response times for the approval stages.

The UNC System’s approval of the Request for Preliminary Authorization and permission to submit the Request to Establish does not constitute a commitment on the part of the Board of Governors to approve the program. UNC System Academic planning maintains a listing of all programs being planning system-wide.

Step 2: Request to Establish

All undergraduate degree program proposals approved for planning must submit a Request to Establish New Academic Degree Program.

The proposal should be reviewed once again by the same campus units that reviewed the Request for Preliminary Authorization before it is submitted by the Chancellor to the UNC System. A report summarizing progress can be provided by the Chancellor to the Faculty Council or Board of Trustees as appropriate.

All proposals should ensure they address the following key areas:

  • Budget information, especially addressing how the new program will be implemented, supported, and sustained if there should be no enrollment growth funding;
  • Student demand for the program;
  • Societal need for the program (i.e., employment opportunities for graduates);
  • Collaboration opportunities considered/investigated with other institutions; and
  • How the proposed program supports the campus’ Institutional Mission.

Please see the sample timelines for the order and expected response times for the approval stages.

After collecting all feedback from the external reviews (where appropriate), the UNC System will recommend approval of the program to the Board of Governors’ Committee on Educational Planning, Policies & Programs, and through it, to the full Board. In general, reviews will be completed within three to six months.

Once complete, the UNC System will notify the Chancellor, who will inform the University and campus offices involved. The program, the Office of Undergraduate Curricula, and the Office of the University Registrar work collaboratively to institute the necessary procedures for the new degree program.

Reports on Progress to Implement the New Program

Reports on the progress of program implementation must be submitted twice to the UNC System. The first such report will cover the first one to two years of implementation, and the second report will cover the first three to four years of operation of the program.

Helpful Hints

Overview of the Process
The process of developing new undergraduate degree programs is a creative and challenging endeavor. It starts with extensive discussions among faculty and administrators to design the best program for the discipline(s) and then proceeds through University committees where the proposal is examined from a University-wide perspective. Many administrative offices on campus have an interest in how new programs are designed because of their responsibilities to provide accurate information to students, administrators, legislators, and state and national agencies. After receiving endorsement by all the appropriate University units, the proposal will then go to the UNC System where it must be justified and evaluated from the System and state’s perspective.

At any step along the way, recommendations for improving/revising/expanding the proposal may be made by UNC-CH faculty, administrators and staff, and by the UNC System. Such recommendations should be considered by the proposing department or curriculum as a means to build buy-in among all reviewers and ensure a new program’s success.

From the very beginning of the project, become thoroughly familiar with the formal guidelines for program development (both the Request for Preliminary Authorization and the Request to Establish) as outlined in the Academic Program Development Procedures found on the UNC System website.

Consult Broadly
It is never too early to seek advice and guidance from others during the proposal process. Ongoing University-wide planning may provide important information and support that can enhance the process at the program level. Meet with faculty and chairs of other programs who may have developed similar proposals and obtain their advice on what to include and how to plan. It is appropriate to forward copies of drafts of your proposal documents to:

  • Faculty colleagues in the interested programs
  • Departmental and program administrators
  • Dean’s Office of the appropriate school or college
  • Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education
  • Office of Undergraduate Curricula
  • Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost (especially Academic Finance)


  • The Office of Undergraduate Curricula has found it best that the Request for Preliminary Authorization stage be based on the guidelines for the Request to Establish. In this way, many of the difficult questions are answered early in the process, and a more realistic sense of what is possible can be ascertained.
  • This advice applies especially in the case of developing programs with significant interdisciplinary components.
  • If questions of budget, governance (inter- and intra-divisional), program need, material resources and building/laboratory needs, faculty affiliations, workload, staffing, student recruitment, student financial support and student services are addressed early in the process, there is less likelihood that major revisions will be required between the Request for Preliminary Authorization and Request to Establish.
  • It is also advisable to outline the curriculum, course offerings (new and established), new resource requests, external funding opportunities, optimization of existing resources, and all other budgetary items in a forthright and realistic fashion. Planning must be concrete and detailed.
  • Examples of successful proposals are available at the Office of Undergraduate Curricula for examination.

Updated June 2022