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Program Development & Approval Committee (PDAC)

New programs enable the University to maintain a position of intellectual leadership as well as stay current in the educational marketplace. Ideas for new degrees, certificates, 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 University Strategy & Program Development (OUSPD) 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.

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 and Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees.  Inquiries may be made to, which will reach both the Office of the Provost and the OUSPD.

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

Definitions of Academic Programs

Degree Associate
Certificate Certificate
Certificate of Advanced Graduate study
Conservatory Certificate
Post-Bac Certificate
Post-Graduate Certificate
Expanded Campus Learning Athletics
Continuing Ed.
Executive Ed.
Bridge Year
Lifelong Learning
Open Enrollment
Pre-K-9 Programs
Professional Ed.
Workforce Training
Auxiliary Large use of space Housing
Off-Campus Programs Affiliations
Faculty-Led Trips
Short-Term Abroad
Tufts Abroad
Other Academic Programs Centers
Co-Op Program
Research (Program)
Substantive Change Curricular Refresh
Intensive Timeline
Online Adaptation
Structural Refresh
New Major
New Minor
New Track


  1. Letter of Intent

All proposals for new academic programs require a short letter of intent (3-5 sentences), addressed to the provost and sent to copying any relevant Deans, EADs, and Department Chairs. The letter should include a summary of what is being proposed and its broad strategic goals. Before the Letter is provided to PDAC, while ideas for new programs do not require formal approval from department chairs and school deans, we strongly recommend that you include them when developing your ideas. Once the PDAC has received your Letter of Intent, we will be in touch regarding the 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(s) and EAD(s) of the school(s) have signed off. Other cases may warrant a full proposal following the process below.

  1. Consultation with PDAC

The PDAC will meet with proposers to discuss the ideas contained in the Letter of Intent.  If the ideas are consistent 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Formal proposal

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, but please contact PDAC when determining which proposal form you will need for your specific purposes). 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:

  • Executive Summary – (Overview, Purpose, Rationale)
  • Program Content – (Structure, Curriculum, Student Learning Outcomes & Assessment Plan, Faculty, Admissions, Advising, Student Affairs and Services)
  • Governance – (Accreditation, Faculty Oversight, Student Records, Program Delivery)
  • Administration – (Program Director, Department, School, logistics of Applications, Faculty Hiring, Budget, and Policies)
  • Program Launch – (Key dates around launch, applications / marketing opening, and planned approval timeline)
  • Operating Model – (define how the program will function (qualitative and quantitative)
  • Financial Statements – (3-5 year Income Statement in the standard template)
  • Evaluation plan – (Exit Plan, Evaluation Metrics, Evaluation Frequency, Growth Plans)
  • Appendix (will vary by proposal)
    • Detailed support for any proposal content (e.g., faculty bios, course descriptions, market research, etc.)
    • Evidence of requested consultations:
      • Library Resource Evaluation
      • Administrative Planning Consultations (e.g., Marketing, ETS, CELT, Finance, PDAC, Vice Provost for Education, Legal, etc.)
  1. Approvals
  • Approvals Required
    • 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
  • Conferring Approval
    • 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
  1. Communication
  • 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
  1. Review

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. Please note that these deadlines are subject to change:

School Year 2023-24

Board of Trustees Meeting  Proposal Due to PDAC PDAC Submits Final Proposal to Provost &                VP Finance Provost Submits Proposal to Trustees Office
August 2023 July 19, 2023 August 9, 2023 August 18, 2023
November 2023 September 13, 2023 October 4, 2023 October 16, 2023
February 2024 December 22, 2023 January 10, 2024 January 22, 2024
May 2024 March 27, 2024 April 17, 2024 May 3, 2024
Requirements 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

Programs may begin provisional marketing upon Provost approval

Letter of Support from the Provost and VP Finance will be appended to the proposal materials from the School