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Policy - Course Proposal Review Process

Policy detailing the course proposal review process, including the purpose, standards, and responsibilities.

This is a summary of the policy detailing the Course Proposal Review Process. Click here to view the official policy in its entirety in the UW-Madison Policy Library. 

The course proposal review and approval process is a governance process intended to insure that: 
  • There is communication across campus regarding the curriculum.
  • The review provides an opportunity to offer feedback and to enhance the quality of instruction.
  • The review process makes sure that the course meets the standards of accreditation, the university and the disciplinary area.
  • There is evidence that the course is ready for student enrollment.
A course proposal consists of: 
  • A completed, accurate course proposal form
  • A sample syllabus including all required elements 
  • Additional supporting materials as provided or requested on a case-by-case basis.

A. Review and Approval

All course proposals are subject to at least three levels of review and approval:
  • The department that owns the subject listing where the course is being proposed.
  • The school or college that owns the department.
  • The University Curriculum Committee.
Cross-listed courses are owned equally by all cross-list partners and each partner must approve the proposal before it may advance to the next level. Subject owners with courses that may share content with the proposed course are notified of the course proposal but are not required to approve.
Proposals may require an additional approval step for course attributes (e.g. General Education, Ethnic Studies). In this document, the approving body at each level of review will be referred to generally as a curriculum committee.
At each level of review the entire proposal is available to the committee. The expectation is that each review committee will review the entire proposal in the context of all relevant department, school/college and university policies. It is understood that the specific nuances of some policies are beyond the scope and purview of the department curriculum committee. At each level of review a good-faith effort to assess adherence to school/college and university policies is needed. For example, it would be inappropriate for a department curriculum committee to approve a course that requests the graduate course attribute if the course is numbered below 300 because that is not consistent with university policy. The expectation is that with each successive level of review, less attention will need to be focused on the discipline-specific content of the course and more attention will be focused on how the course fulfills the missions of the school/college and university.

B. Responsibilities of the Course Proposer 

The proposer of the course is responsible for completing all required course proposal form components. Help documentation and policy references are hyperlinked to each item in the form. Once the form is submitted, the proposer is responsible for monitoring the progress of the proposal and responding to questions, requests for additional information, and resolving issues. From the time the proposal is initiated, the proposer has six months to submit the proposal for review. A proposal has one year from the time of submission to receive full approval. If not fully approved within one year the proposal is canceled and removed from the proposal system. The proposer may delegate responsibility for monitoring the progress to others.

C. Department Review and Approval

Subject listings are owned by departments or department-like units within the schools and colleges. FP&P 5.31 gives the chair of the department responsibility for submitting new courses, major revisions of existing courses, and deletion of courses proposed by the department for action by the school/college and the University Curriculum Committee. The chair may delegate responsibility for course proposal review to a departmental curriculum committee. Regardless of who reviews, course proposals must be thoroughly reviewed by the department that owns the subject(s) that will house the course being proposed.
Approval of a course by a department/subject owner is a commitment by the department to the following:
  • The course meets quality standards.
  • The course is of value to the educational mission.
  • The course meets a student learning need.
  • The department has the resources to offer the course on a regular basis.
  • The course meets the policy and quality standards of the university.

The responsibility for a particular course rests not only with the proposer but with the department(s) that approve the course. The specific focus of the department review should include:

  • Is the content of the course substantially similar to that of another course already in the course catalog?
  • Is the course appropriate for the subject listing?
  • Does the course description clearly and accurately describe the content of the course in a concise manner? 
  • Does the course have appropriate and complete requisites? The purpose of catalog level requisites is to ensure that enrolled students have the appropriate level of academic preparation.
    • If the requisite includes cross-listed courses, are all cross-list partners included?
    • Are all similar or equivalent courses included?
    • Does the requisite meet campus standards? (see:
  • The title should accurately convey the purpose or content of the course. Course titles should be unique with a few exceptions. A search of the Course Guide should be performed to make sure that the title is not already in use. (This search is also useful in determining whether there are other existing courses that may share content.)
  • Does the course description accurately reflect the content or purpose of the course? The title and description are the primary ways a student will find the course (the search functions pull key words from each) and it may be the only information students have when deciding to enroll.
  • Is this course fulfilling an unmet need? Every course should be aligned with program or university learning outcomes, or meet a degree/major or certificate requirement. 
  • Does the department have the resources to offer this course on an ongoing basis?
  • Does the proposal clearly demonstrate how the credit hour policy is being met?
Approval by the department is an indication that department/program's faculty, via an appropriate approval body such as a curriculum committee, has approved the course and agrees to support it.

D. School or College Review and Approval

The next level of review is by the school/college. In addition to affirming that the department level review is complete, the school/college curriculum committee should address:
  • Have all appropriate academic units reviewed the proposal? Are there units in other schools/colleges that should review for either overlapping content or for possible interest in using the course in a program they offer? Has the department considered the course in the broader university context?
  • The course adheres to school/college and university policies.
  • The credit hour policy is being met.
  • Learning outcomes align with the intended audience and purpose of the course.
  • Is the proposed course fulfilling an unmet need at the university?

Approval by the school or college curriculum committee is an indication that the school/college approves the academic merits of the course and of the decision of the department/program faculty to offer it. Generally, courses are offered within existing departmental/program resources, and dedication of new school/college-level resources or assignment of course scheduling preferences are not conveyed by this approval unless specified in the proposal.

E. Special Review and Approval

Review of course proposals with specific content or attributes may also be required. An example is review by the Ethnic Studies Committee when that course attribute is requested. In cases where such review takes place, the review body is responsible only for the aspects of the proposal that relate to the attribute.

F. University Curriculum Committee Review and Approval

The successive levels of review allow for evaluating broader contexts. As stipulated in FP&P 6.53, the final level of review and approval is by the University Curriculum Committee (UCC). A proposal requesting UCC approval is assumed to have been refined during the departmental and school/college review such that it will require few or no corrections.
The UCC will consider only complete course proposals. Proposals with missing information will be returned to the school/college. The UCC will focus on:
  • The broader context which may identify trends related to potential policy inadequacies.
  • Potential conflicts of interest or course overlap that may not be apparent to individual schools or colleges.
  • The UCC bears the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that courses meet all university policies.
Review and approval by the UCC signals that a course:
  • Is ready to be offered to students.
  • Meets university curricular policy requirements, including the credit hour policy.
  • That the department and school/college has endorsed the course and is committed to delivering it with established quality standards.

G. Disciplinary Boundaries

The UCC expects that those submitting a course proposal will consult with the subject listing units who offer courses with similar content or learning outcomes. The course proposal form includes a field for indicating those subject owners. The Lumen Course Proposal System automatically notifies the department chair and designees of those units offering the opportunity to review and comment on the proposal (either by contacting the proposer and/or entering a comment on the proposal. If relevant subject listing units are not entered by the proposer the proposal will not be approved by the UCC.
The UCC expects that this process will provide appropriate notification of possible impingement of disciplinary boundaries. Any contentions related to disciplinary boundaries should be resolved by the involved subject listing units and/or among the schools and colleges that house those subject listing units. If resolution at the department or school/college level is not achieved the issue will be considered by the UCC.

Keywords:course proposal, responsibilities, review process   Doc ID:116438
Owner:Karen M.Group:Academic Planning
Created:2022-02-02 10:16 CSTUpdated:2022-08-17 09:50 CST
Sites:Academic Planning
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