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Guide to Starting an Academic Program in
Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD)

Section 2 - Developing a Proposal for a New Program

Navigating the Approval Process

A well-planned program balances the ideas of faculty, staff, and administrators who have contributed to the program's development. Be careful not to design a program that is so different from the custom at the institution that central administrators will turn it down. Therefore, consider at what point(s) in the process the program proposal should be reviewed and by whom. There is no definitive answer to this question. The best way to know is to have a number of open, honest preliminary conversations with your dean, to work closely with him/her throughout the process, and to be very aware of and sensitive to campus politics.

Generally, when the dean completes and reviews the new program proposal, your team will present it to the curriculum committee. This committee typically consists of faculty representatives from each department/program in the unit. One of their charges is to ensure that the curriculum of a new program meets the standards established by the institution regarding the relationship to mission, culture, and academic rigor, while not duplicating existing resources. Be sure to emphasize these points when presenting the new program proposal to this group.

Once approved by the curriculum committee, the new program proposal is ultimately presented to the board of trustees or other unit for final approval. In many private institutions, the board of trustees is the group to whom the university/college president reports and has overall fiscal responsibility for the institution. Decisions, therefore, primarily are made based on the fiscal benefit to the institution. Fiscal decisions are determined within the context of mission, culture, and core values. Either the board of trustees or the college-wide committee is responsible for approving academic programs offered at the institution. Remember that persons who sit on committees usually are not experts in your discipline. Therefore, give careful consideration to how best to frame the presentation with regard to mission, culture, and core values and who from your department should attend. The presentation should be clear, concise, and free of professional jargon. Logical development of the case-explaining why the new program is needed and the fiscal benefits to the institution-is crucial to the board or committee's approval. Generally, the program director, department chair, and dean collaborate on making the formal presentation to the academic affairs committee or the board of trustees.


A variety of items may get approved following submission of the proposal at various stages. Recognize that the proposal in its current form may not be accepted or approved, as the approving authority will review and suggest alternatives to the original proposal. Budget considerations often play a major role.

Examples include

  • approval to create the program by the university administration, contingent on approval by the Board of Trustees or other governing body;
  • approval of the curriculum and the program by the university's curriculum committee;
  • approval of the new program by the state higher education governing body;
  • approval by the regional accreditation agency;
  • approval by the state Department of Education, in some cases.

If the original proposal does not get accepted, the team may have to rewrite sections or provide additional arguments to support the proposal. In some cases, timing may be the issue; your team may want to consider resubmission at a later date. Depending on which entity-for example, the curriculum committee, the state Department of Education, or the accrediting agency-denies approval, the team may examine alternatives consistent with the proposal submission process. Other possibilities include submitting the proposal to another school or college (e.g., Graduate School of Arts and Sciences vs. School of Allied Health), which may require adapting certain sections of the proposal to ensure consistency with the goals and directions of the alternate unit.

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