New programs enable the university to maintain a position of intellectual leadership as well as stay current in the educational marketplace. Ideas for new degree, certificate and other programs arise in response to the emergence of new disciplines or changes in existing disciplines, and they help realize the potential for new interdisciplinary movements in and across our schools. New populations of students who may be served within existing disciplines may also create opportunities (e.g., by adding an online Physical Therapy program or by adapting programs for high school students).
Our goal is to maintain policies and processes that encourage the development of new ideas and support established programs. At the same time, we intend these policies to serve as tools for ensuring that only ideas that fit our mission, promise to be sustainable, and do not duplicate other efforts within the university grow into programs. The Office of the Provost and the Office of Strategy & Program Development work as partners on the Program Development & Approval Committee (PDAC) to support the development of new programs and to help them through the approval process. We know that developing a new program is time-intensive and can be confusing, and the PDAC is designed to streamline this effort allowing faculty to primarily focus on the curriculum, teaching, and research.
In order to ensure that we have a full sense of university offerings and do not run redundant programs, all new academic programs must be proposed to the PDAC through the process outlined below. All such programs must have the written approval of the school or college dean or deans. The provost must approve any new certificate, and new degree programs require the approvals of the provost, president and trustees. Inquiries may be made to PDAC@tufts.edu, which will reach both the Office of the Provost and the Office of Strategy & Program Development.
Scope: What is an Academic Program?
Academic Programs are broadly defined as educational offerings provided to any population using Tufts resources (including faculty, websites, brand, space, etc.). Each of the following qualify as “Academic Programs” and fall under the scope of these guidelines.
Two other categories are also in scope and described below: (1) substantive changes to existing Academic Programs and (2) Grants, MOUs, or contracts with third parties impacting or soliciting the development or operations of Academic Programs.
Questions about scope and whether an idea is in or out of scope can be addressed to PDAC@Tufts.edu
Definitions of Academic Programs
Certificate of Advanced Graduate study
All proposals for new academic programs require a short letter of intent (3-5 sentences), addressed to the provost and sent to PDAC@tufts.edu copying any relevant Deans, EADs, and Department Chairs. A template has been provided in this document. At this stage, ideas for new programs do not require formal approval from department chairs and school deans, but we strongly recommend that you include them in developing your ideas. Once the PDAC has received your Letter of Intent, we will be in touch regarding next steps within four weeks. Most programs will take 9-10 months from Letter of Intent to final approval and 24 months until the first cohort matriculates. Please see the Timeline section for details on when to submit a Letter of Intent.
For Certificate and Degree programs, the letter of intent will form the basis for conversations between the proposer and the PDAC to help the proposer develop the idea, ascertain its appropriateness to Tufts’ mission, locate potential redundancies with other programs, conduct marketing research, create a business and marketing plan and generate other necessary features of a successful proposal.
For all other Academic Programs, Substantive Changes, and MOUs, the use of and next steps following the Letter of Intent depends on the specific circumstances of the Program type. In some cases, the Letter of Intent may be sufficient for approval once the dean and EAD of the school(s) have signed off. Other cases may warrant a full proposal following the process below.
Consultation with PDAC
The PDAC will meet with proposers to discuss the ideas contained in the Letter of Intent. If the ideas are consonant with Tufts’ mission, have strong educational and intellectual foundations, have the potential to be financially sustainable or profitable, and do not duplicate other Tufts’ programing, the group will work with proposers to begin developing the proposals. Support for concept development as well as light market research are appropriate at this point. The PDAC will also share examples of strong formal proposals approved in the past and any guidelines, policies or processes specific to the type of Academic Program being proposed. The proposers may need to revise their Letter of Intent based on this feedback.
Program Planning Strategy Meeting
The PDAC will convene semi-annual meetings (meeting in interim quarters as proposal volume demands) with deans and EADs to evaluate the updated Letters of Intent, deciding which to invite for formal proposals. Proposals will be evaluated on a rolling basis, so that proposers not chosen in one round may nonetheless be selected in the next. If a proposal is chosen, the proposer will be given the go-ahead to proceed to the formal proposal (with further support from the PDAC) by the Dean / EAD of the School.
When given the go-ahead by the PDAC, proposers should proceed to creating a formal proposal. The PDAC will review with the proposer the specifications for the type of proposal they will be developing and provide guidance and support on the consultations, market research, and approvals required. The PDAC will also facilitate completion of certain pieces of the proposal including the Operating Plan, Financial Statements, and Evaluation Plan.
When given the go-ahead by the PDAC, proposers should proceed to creating a formal proposal (a template proposal is provided here). The PDAC will review with the proposer the specifications for the type of proposal they will be developing and provide guidance and support on the consultations, market research, and approvals required. The PDAC will also facilitate completion of certain pieces of the proposal including the Operating Plan, Financial Statements, and Evaluation Plan.
While a generic proposal template has been included in this document, at the most basic level, proposals should contain the following features:
Non-degree/certificate programs: department chair(s), school dean(s), EAD(s), PDAC
Certificate programs: department chair(s), school dean(s), PDAC, VP Finance, provost
Degree programs: department chair(s), school dean(s), PDAC, VP Finance, provost, Trustee Academic Affairs Committee
Approval from Department Chairs / Deans / EADs is considered to be conferred upon the receipt by the PDAC of a signed Letter of Support, addressed to the Provost, indicating (A) how this program fits into strategic priorities (e.g., academic, research, hiring, financial, administrative, other) and (B) that they understand the proposal, specifically the financial targets and Exit Plan
Approval from the Provost and VP Finance is considered to be conferred upon the receipt by the PDAC and all school-level participants of an email indicating approval. Note that the Provost and the VP Finance will not review the proposal until the Letter of Support and Proposal is received from the Dean of the school
Approval from the Trustee Academic Affairs Committee is considered to be conferred upon the vice provost’s email notification of the school deans or, in the case of university-wide programs, the appropriate faculty director of a positive trustee vote
Provost’s Council: a quarterly update on the program pipeline will be provided
Administrative Council: a quarterly update on the program pipeline will be provided
Key Administrative Functions: will receive a notification upon approval of a program and will have ability to view pipeline in University Program Database
The Evaluation Plan section of the Proposal will set-up review timelines for the Program for Academic, Business, and, in some cases, legal or other Administrative functions. The PDAC will work with relevant functional areas to ensure reviews are completed on the stated timelines. Results will be reviewed with Deans and EADs during their regular meetings.
Given the time and effort required to complete a formal proposal and the risk to Tufts University if Programs launch with insufficient time for development, Letters of Intent should be submitted to the PDAC as soon as possible. We have developed the below timeline to give a sense of the development timeline:
School Year 2018-19
Board of Trustees Meeting Date
Proposal Due to PDAC
PDAC Submits Final Proposal to Provost & VP Finance
PDAC submits Proposal to Trustees Office
November 1, 2019
September 11, 2019
October 2, 2019
October 11, 2019
February 7, 2020
December 18, 2019
January 8, 2020
January 17, 2020
May 15, 2020
March 25, 2020
April 15, 2020
April 24, 2020
PDAC will work with you on the draft; this part of the process is iterative and the proposal does not need to be in its final state, but should be as close to it as possible
Results of all required Department, Faculty, and other Committee votes must be submitted along with the School Dean and EAD letters of support
Letter of Support from the Provost and VP Finance will be appended to the proposal materials from the School
Programs may begin provisional marketing upon Provost approval