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Education Quality and Policy Office



The following template should be used when creating a programme specification for a new course:

Expected level of detail

An archive of programme specifications for each year is published on the CamDATA: course information and statistics website. However, most specifications will not change dramatically from year to year, except where there have been substantial structural changes to the course.

Programme specifications should be detailed enough to give an accurate overview of the course for each year, but in-depth information about course content should not be included. Instead more detailed sources of information can be referenced from the specification (course handbooks, prospectuses, Statutes and Ordinances etc). However, please do not include this information as a direct weblink, as the specification should be able to stand alone as a ‘snapshot’ of data for each year; linking to webpages which are later updated can cause confusion when accessing the archive.

In some more complicated programmes (e.g. those with significant borrowing or sharing of courses), a greater level of detail may be needed. Such programmes may be difficult to characterise in a broad document, but the generic aims and learning outcomes should be articulated and close attention paid to the programme structure and progression requirements.

Where there is more than one course outcome (e.g., a Postgraduate Certificate or a Postgraduate Diploma in the same subject), then a separate specification should be produced for each course.  This is because the aims and outcomes, and in some cases sructure, will be unique to each course.  

Required information

All programme specifications contain a disclaimer on the final page that reads:

Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this programme specification. At the time of publication, the programme specification has been approved by the relevant Faculty Board (or equivalent). Programme specifications are reviewed annually, however, during the course of the academical year, any approved changes to the programme will be communicated to enrolled students through email notification or publication in the Reporter. The relevant faculty or department will endeavour to update the programme specification accordingly, and prior to the start of the next academical year.

Further information about specifications and an archive of programme specifications for all awards of the University is available online at:

And are prefaced by a standard set of information about the programme:

Awarding body University of Cambridge
Teaching institution University of Cambridge
Accreditation details [if relevant, otherwise "None"]
Name of final award e.g. Bachelor of Arts; Master of Philosophy
Programme title [as above]
UCAS code [for u/g courses only]
HECoS code(s) [all associated with the programme]
Benchmark statements [if relevant, otherwise "None"]
Qualifications framework level either 6 (Honours) or 7 (Masters) in most cases
Date specification produced month and year

The following required information should demonstrate that, in designing the programme, account has been taken of relevant subject benchmark statements, requirements of PSRBs, and that learning outcomes are aligned with the qualification descriptors (FHEQ). 

What are the educational aims of the programme?

The educational aims of the programme are often articulated in student handbooks or prospectuses and can be copied from there if appropriate.

Statements to aid reflection on aims:

  • It is important to produce graduates from this programme because . . .
  • This programme is distinctive and/or unique because . . .
  • In taking part in the programme, we want students to have experienced . . .

What are students expected to learn from the programme?

The QAA suggests dividing learning outcomes into the following categories:

  • knowledge and understanding (of the subject matter)
  • skills and other attributes, the development of which are integral to the programme. These can be further broken down (if appropriate) into:

    - intellectual skills (such as analysis, synthesis, evaluation and problem-solving);

    - practical skills (such as direct practical work, the use of computers and other equipment, the use of libraries and development of bibliographies, learning a foreign language etc;

    - other transferable skills (such as communication, independent and/or team-working, time management, learning and/or teaching techniques and experience etc).

Statements to aid reflection on learning outcomes:

  • In taking part in the programme, we want students to achieve . . .
  • On completion, students will understand . . .
  • If they pass, students will be able to . . .

What is the structure of the programme?

This information is almost certainly provided in detail elsewhere, but please outline all parts of the course (referring to more detailed information elsewhere as appropriate). This section can also give a broad overview of the scope of the curriculum, why it is special or distinctive, and what the main subject areas are.

What are the teaching and learning methods?

Usual examples include lectures, supervisions, seminars, practicals, field trips and language classes.

If the course includes placement learning, please include broad details of the location and expected duration of the placement, and the activities that students are likely to undertake.

How are students assessed?

Please outline the assessment methods used and how they are explicitly derived from the learning outcomes and teaching methods. For example:

  • the practical skill of carrying out a laboratory experiment which is taught in a practical class is assessed through practical book write-ups;
  • the knowledge of a subject taught in lectures is assessed through a three-hour unseen written paper.

You should ensure that this information is consistent with that in Statutes and Ordinances, the formal source of information about University awards.

Optional information

You may feel that other information could be included to aid understanding of the programme. You are encouraged to include the following categories:

Entry and/or progression requirements

You could outline entry requirements for the course and the common progression routes through and between Triposes (and any formal or informal requirements for this).  Note that if your course's entry requirements differ from the University's standard offer, then this must be included in the specification as a required, rather than optional, field.

For short courses (such as Certificates, Diplomas and postgraduate awards) there are generally no formal progression requirements within the programme itself, so only the criteria for awarding the degree need be included. This may simply be a condensed version of the formal marking criteria, which themselves probably expand upon the formal requirements indicated in Statutes and Ordinances.

Student support

You might wish to outline any distinctive student support mechanisms.

Postgraduate employability and career destinations

As part of quality assurance across the Higher Education sector, institutions are required to make certain information publically available, which includes links with employers where employers have input into a course or programme.  Preparation for employment in general is usually provided in the opportunities for the acquisition of relevant transferable skills outlined in programme specifications.

If you are writing a programme specification for a course with a specific vocational or professional element you may wish to highlight the relevant professional body, since their requirements presumably take employers' views into account.

The Careers Service maintains links with employers and takes their needs and opinions into account in the services which it provides for students. The Careers Service also allocates a Careers Adviser to each College, faculty and department to act as a point of contact.

Managing teaching quality and standards

On the template, we have provided some explanatory information about University-wide quality assurance mechanisms.  You might wish to include a brief statement about other, local, mechanisms which ensure that the quality of teaching remains high.  

Quality indicators

This may include any QAA or REF indicators, and may also include any awards or recognition that the programme has received (e.g. from accrediting bodies).