Reporting and Approval of Academic Actions Constituting Substantive Change

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University Policy Number 3003


Responsible Office:

Policy Procedure:

Related Law & Policy:

I. Scope

This policy applies to all academic actions defined by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) as substantive change, including but not limited to:

  • Adding courses or programs that represent a significant departure, either in content or method of delivery, from those that were offered when the institution was last evaluated
  • Closing a program, off-campus site, branch campus or institution
  • Initiating programs or courses through contractual agreement or consortium
  • Initiating programs or courses through direct assessment (i.e., competency-based)
  • Initiating off-campus instructional sites
  • Establishment of a branch campus
  • Initiating joint or dual degree programs with another institution
  • Initiating a certificate program – typically for workforce development—at a new off-campus site (if a previously approved program) or that is a significant departure from previously approved programs
  • Altering significantly the length of a program
  • Initiating degree completion programs

II. Policy Statement

The purpose of this policy is to ensure that the George Mason University operates in compliance with regulations established by SACSCOC.  Because it is the responsibility of the Provost, as chief academic officer, to ensure that all college-level units of the university consistently meet these regulations, all such actions must be reviewed and approved by the Office of the Provost prior to implementation.  A centralized approval process is also intended to relieve the deans and directors or college-level units of the responsibility of remaining familiar with the details of an external policy that changes frequently.

All substantive changes to academic degree programs must be reported by the colleges and schools to the Office of the Provost, and obtain formal approval for the action itself and the timeline for implementation.  College-level units are not permitted to implement substantive change actions without formal approval by the Office of the Provost.

III. Definitions

“Substantive change” is defined in accordance with relevant SACSCOC policies.  In general, the term refers to the kinds of actions outlined in Section I.  Questions about whether a given academic action constitutes substantive change should be directed to the Office of the Provost for clarification.

IV. Compliance

Deans and directors of college-level units are expected to ensure that their units remain in compliance with this policy.  If necessary, the Provost may address non-compliance through performance reviews or other measures as appropriate.

V. Forms


VI. Dates:

A. Effective Date: August 15, 2010
B. Date of Most Recent Review:  April 16, 2016

VII. Timetable for Review

This policy, and any related procedures, shall be reviewed every three years or more frequently as needed.


Peter N. Stearns

Date approved: August 25, 2010

Revised: May 3, 2016