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Handbook of Operating Procedures

Academic Program and Substantive Change Policy

Policy Number: 223


Academic Programs and Substantive Change


Employees responsible for educational programs

Date Reviewed:
April 2024
Responsible Office:
Office of the Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Officer
Responsible Executive:
Senior Vice President for Academic & Faculty Affairs


The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (“University”), as an accredited member of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), is required to notify the SACSCOC of all substantive changes following the SACSCOC Substantive Change Policy for Accredited Institutions.  

The University, under the auspices of the Office of the Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Officer (EVP/CAO), has established and maintains academic program procedures to ensure that substantive changes are accurately reported in a timely manner to The University of Texas System (UT System), The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), SACSCOC, and/or any programmatic accrediting organizations as required.  The University’s SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison, as designated by the President and the EVP/CAO (currently the Associate Vice President for Institutional Research, Assessment and Accreditation), has the primary responsibility to notify SACSCOC, as well as UT System and THECB as required. The respective school Dean is responsible for notifying any programmatic accrediting agency (e.g., the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), Association of American Medical Colleges Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), and the Commission on the Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)) of academic program changes.


Academic program change: Broadly defined, includes any modification to an existing educational program, a request to offer new educational programs, changes in the percentage of course offerings by distance education for degree completion, degree title changes, administrative changes (such as school names, department and/or division changes) or campus address location updates.

Educational program: A coherent course of study leading to the awarding of a credential (i.e., a degree, diploma or certificate).

Dual academic award: An agreement by two or more institutions or schools to grant academic awards at the same credential level whereby students study at two or more institutions and each institution grants a separate academic award (degree, diploma or certificate) bearing only its name, seal and signature.

Joint degree: An agreement by two or more institutions to grant a joint academic award whereby students study at two or more institutions and the institutions grant a single academic award (degree, diploma or certificate) bearing the names, seals, and signatures of each of the participating institutions.

Substantive change: A significant modification or expansion of the nature and/or scope of an accredited institution that can impact the quality of educational programs and services.


Academic program changes can be considered either substantive or non-substantive in nature but may still require levels of institutional, UT System, THECB, or regional accrediting approvals.  These changes may include, but are not limited to: 

  • Any change in the established mission or objectives of the University
  • Any change in legal status, form of control, or ownership of the University
  • Any change to the governance of the University
  • The addition of courses or programs that represent a significant departure, either in content or method of delivery, from those that were offered when the University was last evaluated
  • The addition of courses or programs of study at a degree or credential level different from that which is included in the University’s current accreditation or reaffirmation.
  • A change between clock hours and credit hours
  • A substantial increase or decrease in the number of clock or credit hours awarded for successful completion of a program
  • The establishment of an additional location geographically apart from the main campus at which the University offers at least 50% of an educational program
  • The establishment of a branch campus or off-campus instructional site
  • Closing a program, a method of delivery, off-campus instructional site, branch campus or institution
  • Entering into a cooperative academic agreement that includes the initiation of a dual or joint academic award with another accredited institution
  • Acquiring another institution or a program or location of another institution
  • Adding a permanent location at a site where the University is conducting a teach-out program for students of another closed institution before all students have completed the program
  • Entering into a contract by which an entity not eligible for Title IV funding offers less than 25% (requires notification) or 25-50% (requires approval) of one or more of the University’s educational programs. Entering into a contract by which an entity not eligible for Title IV funding offers more than 50% of a University educational program is not permitted.
  • School, department or degree title name changes
  • Department additions or deletions
  • Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) Code changes as reported and approved by the THECB
  • Consolidation of programs as reported and approved by the THECB
  • New degree or non-degree credit-bearing certificate programs
  • Phase-outs of existing degree or credit-bearing certificate programs
  • Changes in the percentage of course offerings by distance education in degree or credit-bearing certificate programs (see HOOP 224, Distance Education) 

The Office of Academic Administration (OAA), under the umbrella of the EVP/CAO, is the designated office to provide guidance on the review and approval requirements needed for any proposed substantive or non-substantive changes for the University and its individual schools.  The OAA is responsible for communicating all Academic Program Changes on behalf of the University’s President to UT System, THECB and SACSCOC while maintaining a comprehensive record of all University academic offerings.

The determination of substantive versus non-substantive change will be determined by OAA. Schools must notify OAA far enough in advance of any change implementation to allow appropriate time for required notifications. Doctoral programs require a one-year advance Notice of Intent (NOI) to THECB prior to submission of a proposal, so OAA requires a two-year advance notice of planned doctoral programs.

The school designee for academic and administrative changes should submit notifications via email to the OAA Academic Program Change mailbox at along with pertinent supporting documentation for review. A formal approval notification from the Dean is also required with all supporting documentation for any proposed academic program changes. Any termination requests for educational program agreements (dual or joint) must also be in writing from the Dean.

The OAA will determine the necessary level of notification/approval of the substantive or non-substantive change needed for compliance and will consult with the Dean and/or designee to ensure documentation for these changes is submitted in a timely manner to the above mentioned entities as required. 

The Dean or designee is responsible for submission of substantive and non-substantive changes to the pertinent school or programmatic accrediting agency.

Certain types of substantive change, such as adding a branch campus or off-site instructional teaching location, degree level changes, mergers/consolidations with a change in ownership or control, and/or changes in governance will require notification and approval by UT System and THECB. Such changes may also require a visit by a SACSCOC substantive change committee to determine continued compliance with the SACSCOC Principles of Accreditation: Foundation for Quality Enhancement.