Degrees, Majors, and Options 

The following documents and links provide information about planning new academic degrees, majors and options, and reorganizing or discontinuing those programs.   Also, see information about certificate programs.  

An overview table of procedures for establishing or changing academic programs and units
Educational Innovations (EI) Program Principles - for consideration with EI programs
• New majors and degree programs approval process - see section below
• Renaming or restructuring major/degree programs - see section below
Suspending or discontinuing major/degree programs 
Named Options (a sub-major within a major program) 
• Program Revenue Programs - Guidelines and Requirements (Revised May 2014)
Distance education programs and courses (updated March 2013)
Off-campus Academic Degrees Sites and Course Locations
Academic program collaborations with universities in other countries - this document lists the various modes of establishing collaborations (study abroad, exchange programs, transfer, dual degrees, etc). 
Guidelines for dual degrees between UW-Madison and universities in other countries - (adopted by UAPC, May 2011)
Summary of Considerations for Off-Campus Courses and Programs (Letters & Sciences)
Awarding of Duplicate Degrees - limits on awarding the same degree multiple times to the same student.



The UAPC has endorsed the use of the Wisconsin Experience as a framework for describing the student experience at UW-Madison and endorsed the Essential Learning Outcomes as goals and expectations for student learning (April 2008). All new undergraduate program proposals are to address the ways in which the program aligns with the Wisconsin Experience framework and evaluates student progress to the Essential Learning Outcomes.  

Undergraduate program proposals should include explicit planning for timely degree completion.  In May 2000, the UAPC passed the following motion unanimously: As part of the review of new undergraduate program approvals, the UAPC will examine whether proposals make it clear how students can complete the degree in four years, or in a timely fashion if more than four years are necessary. 

New Majors and Degree Programs

Process for the Approval of a New Academic Major or Degree

New major and degree programs represent significant commitments by faculty and deans.  The approval process to authorize their implementation is structured to assure wide communication and sufficient planning to make sure that the program is ready for students at the time of implementation.  After approval by the school/college, GFEC, and UAPC is complete, the Board of Regents formally authorizes new degree/major programs.  

Contact Jocelyn Milner, director of APIR, to assure that you are structuring your request so that academic approvals will flow as smoothly as possible. 

The approval process is based on UW System Administration and Board of Regents policy. In August 2012, UW System Administration and the Board of Regents adopted new program planning and approval policies. In December 2012, the UAPC adopted revised program planning guidelines are under revision to align with the System/BOR guidelines and past policy and practice at UW-Madison.

Renaming Academic Programs

Guidelines for Renaming Degrees or Academic Majors

Advice: Things to Think About When Proposing Name Changes 

1.Proposals to rename academic majors begin with the major or program faculty.

2.The program faculty will prepare a brief proposal requesting the name change and giving supporting reasons. 

Some common justifications for a change in major name are: that the new name more accurately reflects the curriculum than the old name; that the activities of the program faculty and the training they offer are more accurately reflected by the new name; and that the name of the discipline has changed and consequently the major should be renamed to reflect this change in the discipline. In these situations, program faculty judge that both new and in-course students are best served by the requested name change. The proposal should explain the degree to which in-course students accept the name change. Generally, in-course students accept and use the new program name. In-course students will be permitted to complete the program under the name of the program when they were admitted if they make a request to do so.

If the proposed name is similar or related to an existing major, program, or department it is especially important that the proposal clearly and explicitly address any issues of overlap. If there are likely to be any concerns about overlap issues, the affected program(s), department(s), school(s) and college(s) should provide letters of endorsement. All affected parties should be made aware of the planned name change in advance and endorsements should accompany the proposal.

The proposal should specify the intended effective date of the change.Typically, when a major name is changed all currently and subsequently enrolled students will use the new name from the effective date forward. For major programs that want to keep both the existing and newly proposed names fully active, that request should be justified in the proposal. If a request for a major name change is based on a major curricular reorganization, the proposal may be viewed as a request for either restructuring of a major or for a new major. (Both of these actions require UW System and Board of Regent approval, whereas name changes are final after UAPC approval.)

3.The program faculty will forward the proposal to the school/college level. Following approval at the school/college academic level, the Dean will send the proposal to the Provost. For undergraduate programs, the University Academic Planning Council (UAPC) will consider the proposal. For graduate programs, the Graduate Faculty Executive Committee (GFEC) will consider the proposal. GFEC actions will be ratified by the UAPC. The Provost's Office will communicate the name change to the Registrar's Office for action and to UW System Administration for information.

(Adopted by the UAPC, May 2002.)