Proposing a New Major

Overview of the process
New major guidelines
Designating the Degree: BA, BS, BFA, BM
Proposal requirements
Assessment of student outcomes in the major

Overview of the Process

Departments must consult the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education about a possible new undergraduate major during the initial pre-planning phase for the proposal. This is best done in the spring semester so that there is ample time for a proposal to be considered in more detail by the College in the following academic year.

Proposals must have the Associate Dean's initial approval before moving from the pre-planning phase to the CLAS approval process that includes conversations with related faculty governance committees. 

The Associate Dean will advise on an appropriate action and timeline, indicating if a proposal also needs approval by the Executive Committee or the other appropriate associate dean because of questions of needed resources, with this matter first discussed with the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education. Generally, a thorough analysis of need and audience is indicated for any new major as well as a budget outlining required resources.

Other involved or affected departments or areas must be consulted early in the planning phase for a new major as well and throughout the design and implementation process. Letters of support from appropriate departments and other universities are important and should be included with the proposal.

After a final review of the finished proposal for compliance with CLAS policy and procedures, the Associate Dean will place the proposal on the agenda of the Undergraduate Educational Policy and Curriculum Committee (UEPCC). If the proposed program has resource implications for the College, it also must be approved by the Executive Committee.

If UEPCC (and if required, the EC) recommends approval, the proposal will be placed on the agenda of the Faculty Assembly. The Dean of the College will decide if and when to forward the proposal to the Provost. If approved by the Provost, the proposal will move toward final approval by the Regents.

Before moving to the Regents for approval, all proposed majors must be included on the Regents' planning list for a minimum of six months. A proposal may be placed on this list before being approved by CLAS, with the list non-binding.

All new majors and other significant curricular changes are implemented in a fall semester, with the process from beginning to end taking around one 1.5 calendar years. New majors and other additions are made in fall only since they must be in sync with the publication of the new addition of Catalog, with the final draft published in late August and with the new degree built from these Catalog requirements.  New programs must be in the Catalog for final implementation so that the UI community as access to requirement details and confusion is thus mitigated. Exceptions are not made to this timeline.

The Catalog is an important resource for advising and contains the official requirements for all majors, minors, and certificates. The degree audit and the analysis of student records to verify the completion of graduation requirements are based on the information in the General Catalog and not on what might appear on a departmental website. Departments planning to propose a new major should work backwards from this fall implementation deadline to provide ample time to enter the materials into the Catalog by the deadline.

New programs may not be advertised until Regent approval of the program has been granted. Websites may not be updated and prospective students may not be informed of the new program until approved. Faculty must refrain from updating publications, reports, and letterhead until the Regents have approved the request for a new academic program. All departments must adhere to this policy.

The Regents require detailed information for a new major and the completion of a number of forms. These forms should be completed and included with the proposal before it is discussed by UEPCC.

After a new major is approved by the Regents, the Registrar, Admissions, and the Academic Advising Center will be informed of the addition by the College via an implementation memo. Close communication is essential so that all UI offices are aware of the request for a curricular change and of the possible implementation date.

New academic programs may begin enrolling students on the implementation date set by the College. Traditionally, this is the first day of the fall semester after Regent approval of the proposal.

A department offering a new major should update its website after final approval has been granted by the Regents and should include the appropriate start-date information. The requirements listed on the website for the new major must be identical to those listed in the Catalog, while keeping in mind that websites may not be updated until Regent approval of the new academic program has been given. Departments may not inform prospective students of the new program until approved by the Regents.

The Regents review all new programs five years after implementation, with UEPCC reviewing new majors at the end of the third year.

Guidelines for Proposed New Majors

Please also see the proposal guidelines below which give additional information. Duplicative majors are not approved; each new major must be unique and must speak to a CLAS area of distinction, with evidence of student interest vital. No more should be proposed until a discussion with the associate dean has occurred to discuss these basic strategies.

  • The proposal for any new major should conform to the general design of existing CLAS majors.
  • Credit hours to complete a major should comprise a reasonable proportion of coursework taken in residence at the University of Iowa.
  • Departments may restrict the use of transfer credit that may be applied toward the requirements for a major and of credit by examination applicable toward a major. Such restrictions must be in the proposal and have CLAS approval.
  • Total hours per major and the ratio of courses offered by a department to cognate courses offered by other areas vary by discipline and should be reviewed before proposing a new major.
  • Ordinarily, a maximum of 56 semester hours of credit from one academic department is accepted toward the minimum 120 semester hours needed for a BA or BS. Note that the BFA and BM degrees do not fall under the 56-hour rule. See the section below on degrees for more information and their related requirements for students. The proposal should show a knowledge and use of these requirements, such as the required GPA, completion of the General Education requirements, and the limit of credit hours excepted from one department. The proposal must clearly state and give a rationale for the degree or degrees to be awarded with the proposed new major.
  • The College does not allow P/N courses to count for the major (for exceptions in cognate areas, see the Academic Policies Handbook).
  • The College rarely approves selective admission or selective enrollment majors. Academic areas planning such a major must immediately discuss the matter with the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs and Curriculum before proceeding and should review the CLAS selective and limited enrollment policies and guidelines.

Designating a Degree: BS, BA, BFA, and BM

Every major is awarded with a specific degree, with additional requirements attached to that degree. The value of one degree over another to a particular student is highly variable and often depends, in part, on an institution’s traditions and on available resources. 

In CLAS, the BA and the BS are the most awarded degrees, with the degree requirements for students in CLAS on this page. These include the completion of the GE CLAS Core requirements; completion of 120 s.h.; a minimum GPA in four areas; and other related requirements.

The following traits of the BA, BS, and the BFA/BM are meant as broad guidelines to help those creating new majors to understand the traditional and/or usual differences in undergraduate degrees and to choose the most appropriate degree or degrees to award with the new major.

Advising is essential for helping students to choose not only the most appropriate major but also the degree that best reflects a student’s interests and future career path or choice of graduate or professional study.

Guidelines for the Bachelor of Science Degree (BS)

The distinguishing trait of the BS is the rigorous study of science, technology, and of the quantitative and social sciences. Generally, the BS in CLAS has the following additional traits:

  1. The required courses for the BS are highly sequential, often requiring the completion of prerequisites and thus resulting in fewer student choices about course selection or order.
  2. This structure is necessary since specialized upper-level courses in majors associated with the BS rely on foundational knowledge and skills.
  3. Quantitative courses are central to the BS, whether they occur as courses taken outside of the administrative home of the major or within it.
  4. Generally, foundational courses are integrated into the major through the use of key concepts and skills in advanced course work.
  5. The BS culminates in an activity that finalizes this integration, such as a research experience or a capstone course requiring a research project and/or presentation.
  6. The major awarded with the BS might require more than 56 s.h. if these required courses are from both within and outside of the administrative home of the major.
  7. A maximum of 56 semester hours of credit from one academic department is accepted toward the minimum 120 semester hours needed for a BS. 

Guidelines for the Bachelor of Arts Degree (BA)

In CLAS, the BA is associated with majors in the humanities, the arts, and the social sciences; however, many CLAS majors related to the sciences, social sciences, and the quantitative disciplines offer both a BA and the BS.

  1. The BA degree tends to offer a flexible choice of courses to fulfill requirements.

  2. Requirements have few prerequisites, with students allowed to take at least some courses in any order. This non-sequential structure gives students the opportunity to create different pathways through the curriculum.

  3. After the completion of more introductory courses, knowledge and skills in the BA stem from study at a broad but advanced level.

  4. The BA generally requires around 32-46 semester hours, giving students ample credits to earn a second major, a minor, or a certificate.

Guidelines for the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, and Bachelor of Music (BA, BFA, BM)

The BFA and the BM awarded with a performance or studio major, such as in studio art, dance, music, and theater, is a particular subspecies of the BA, sharing some traits of the BS.

  1. The performance BFA and BM requires more semester hours than the BA and often in advanced courses.
  2. A specialization is vital in these degrees, allowing a student to excel at a more specific set of skills.
  3. Performances and art shows integrate these skills, moving along the continuum from practice to production.
  4. The BFA and BM require an audition or other the fulfillment of other requirements for admission.
  5. The BFA and BM degrees do not fall under the CLAS 56-hour rule.

Proposal Requirements

Proposals should be addressed to the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education. Proposals must provide the following information:

  • A heading to the proposal should be used, giving the name of the unit proposing the new major, the title of the major, the submission date of the proposal, and contract information representing the unit or units who can answer related questions.
  • Historical background material or the impetuous for the major.
  • An analysis and justification for the importance of the new major at UI with a statement about audience interest.
  • A comprehensive description of the proposed curriculum, with a list of requirements with all prerequisite courses for those requirements and a calendar of anticipated offerings. This discussion should include a rationale for offering the major as a BA, BS, BFA, with the BM reserved for programs from the School of Music. See section above on the differences and similarities of these degrees. Some majors are offered with the BA and BS and others offered with only one or the other.
  • A comparison and contrast of the requirements of the major with other related majors offered by UI and at Iowa Regents institutions or other CIC institutions.
  • Evidence of continual and appropriate consultation with affected or otherwise involved units with letters of support included with the proposal.
  • Discussion of the impact on other UI programs and majors, including enrollment movement across programs.
  • Statements of current faculty expertise, such as research and teaching experience, in relation to the new major and the availability of such faculty to teach courses in the major.
  • New resources or faculty needed currently and over a five-year period or a discussion of current resource reallocations and related issues over a five-year period, with a budget included.
  • Expected enrollment and graduation numbers and growth of those numbers over a five-year period.
  • Anticipated frequency of course offerings.
  • A completed four-year graduation plan or a rationale for why the major is not included in the plan.
  • A sample plan of study showing the typical student's semester by semester course enrollment through graduation.
  • A plan for advising students in the proposed major, with specific faculty or staff indicated as advisors.
  • A plan and the curriculum for offering Honors in the major, if appropriate, keeping in mind Honors in the Major requires a UI GPA of 3.33 with other Honors requirements, including GPA in the major, set by the proposed administrative home of the major.
  • A chart indicating which courses should be calculated in the major GPA.
  • The impact of the new program on the University Libraries, Information Technology Services, the Office of the Registrar, and other central offices that may be affected, with evidence that such offices have been consulted, if appropriate.
  • A tentative plan for outcomes assessment of the new major.
  • An anticipated start-up date, noting that the traditional implementation date for any new CLAS program is the first day of the fall semester following approval.
  • Letters of support from appropriate sources, such as related and involved units; advisory committees; and other colleges and universities with an interest in the major (some noted above).
  • Letters of support from other Regents' institution showing consulting and collaboration.
  • Completion of the Board of Regents forms; see Proposal to Implement a New Baccalaureate Degree Program and ICCPHSE Notice of Intent to Offer a New Program or Location.

After Regent approval is given, units proposing a new major must disseminate information about the major to the campus community (the Registrar, Admissions, the Academic Advising Center, and faculty and advisors of other departments). Until this final approval is given, departments or programs may not advertise the new program of study or inform students about it.

Assessment of Student Outcomes in the Major

To comply with the Regents' Policy on Student Outcomes Assessment, each department has established a method of assessing the level of achievement of students completing a departmental major. New majors should be included in such a plan. The assessment is conducted each year, and the results are used when the department evaluates and revises its academic programs. A report on assessment activities is required whenever a program is reviewed.