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New Academic Program Planning Process

Effective March 1, 2023

To elevate its global competitiveness, NC State must attract the world’s best undergraduate and graduate students. The institution must offer cutting-edge educational programming that provides students not only an exceptional knowledge base, but also with a range of real-world skills equipping them for leadership roles in a complex global society. Effective academic planning is essential for achieving this goal.

As developed by the UNC System Office (UNC SO), the process of initiating new degree programs at NC State is a two-step process, consisting of the Request for Preliminary Authorization (RPA) and the Request to Establish (RTE). Ultimately, this will be a flexible process as we work to spur innovation. This SOP aims to provide a structured framework and efficient approach to support departments and colleges in developing new degree programs and navigating the RPA and RTE processes. 

The Office of Instructional Programs (OIP) will work with the Office of Undergraduate Courses, Curricula and Academic Standards (OUCCAS) for undergraduate programs or the Graduate School (GS) for master’s and doctoral programs, and Enrollment Management and Services (EMAS) to form a New Degree Program Planning Advisory Team to facilitate the program development process.

Authorize the Planning Process


  1. Initializing Departments: The initializing department(s) are responsible for working with the advisory team to develop an initial proposal and seeking authorization from the relevant endorsements from dean(s).
  2. New Degree Program Planning Advisory Team: The advisory team is responsible for reviewing and evaluating the proposal and making recommendations for its approval or modification.
  3. Authorizing Authority: The provost is responsible for reviewing the memo, considering the planning advisory team’s recommendations, and making the final decision on whether to authorize the planning process.


  1. The initiating department(s)/faculty will contact the GS or the OUCCAS before starting the required documentation process.
  2. The New Degree Program Planning Advisory Team will hold an overview meeting with the initiating departments to provide an overview of the process, answer common questions, and address similar issues. If the program is interdisciplinary, the needs for endorsement for Step 3 will be established at this step.
  3. The initiating department(s) will obtain a letter of endorsement from the dean(s) or the parties established in Step 2, demonstrating that the program is aligned with the college and NC State’s strategic priorities and has the potential to be financially sustainable. 
  4. The New Degree Program Planning Advisory Team will hold planning meetings to create a timeline and working document. The meetings will include disciplinary experts, initiators, and process experts. This process is expected to take four weeks.
  5. The Office of Instructional Program will draft a memo for the provost, requesting review and approval to proceed. The planning team will address any questions or concerns raised by the provost. 

If the provost approves to proceed, the planning team will start the proposal development process. 

Proposal Development

  1. In collaboration with the initiating department/faculty, the team will collect initial data including comparison data from the UNC System Institutions and peer programs, labor market demand data, cost and revenue projections, student debt and return on investment, and institutional prioritization information.
  2. The initiators will identify financial commitments and requests to the Provost’s Office, which will be reviewed by the Provost’s Office and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration. This will serve as the basis for completing the financial sheet.
  3. On-Campus Routing: Once the financial sheet is approved, the on-campus routing process will take about 12 weeks. A meeting schedule will be provided to facilitate the routing and ensure transparency and open communication.
  4. The RPA Submission: Once on-campus approval has been obtained, the Request for Preliminary Authorization (RPA) will then be transmitted to the UNC SO for approval and authorization to plan. The RPA will be submitted to the UNC SO and will take four weeks to review. The planning team should prepare to answer any questions from the system office.

Once UNC SO grants approval to plan, a Request to Establish will be completed and routed through the existing approval process (including the NC State Board of Trustees) prior to submission to UNC SO. Note: Current UNC SO guidelines indicate this submission must take place within 4 months of UNC SO granting authorization to plan.

Request to Establish

  1. Once the RPA is approved, the Request to Establish (RTE) will be prepared, typically taking 14 weeks to complete the necessary documentation and on-campus routing.
  2. Review and Approval: The UNC SO will review the RTE and forward it to selected external reviewers or ask for additional information. The campus will be notified of any issues raised in the reviews. The UNC Board of Governors (BOG) Committee on Educational Planning, Policies and Programs will approve and recommend it to the full BOG. Reviews will be completed within three to six months.
  3. Notification and Implementation: The UNC SO will notify the chancellor and provost once the RTE is approved, and the initiator, GS or OUCCAS, and the Office of the University Registrar will collaborate to implement the necessary procedures for the new degree program.

Guiding Principles

The following principles should be used to inform development and prioritization of new degree programs:

  • Aligns with our mission and strategic goals;
  • Establishes a novel degree program for the university building on existing research strengths;
  • Holds potential to achieve national prominence in the area of inquiry and/or its instruction;
  • Meets existing needs in or expands the workforce;
  • Is inter- or transdisciplinary;
  • Enhances existing academic / faculty capacity and scholarship (shown by grants, publications, successful collaborations, etc.);
  • Creates or integrates into a network of certificates, digital badges, or other microcredentials;
  • Is economically viable to launch;
  • Is economically viable to sustain, with enrollment growth funding, premium tuition, fees, and other external support; and
  • Meets all UNC SO procedural requirements

Final Note:

This planning and prioritization procedure is for all new on-campus and distance education programs. The conversion of existing programs (currently authorized by UNC SO for on-campus delivery) to distance education (offered either by technology or at a remote site) requires completion of UNC SO Request to Deliver and should be done following existing OUCCAS (undergraduate) and Graduate School (graduate) procedures.