The Board of Higher Education (BHE) is responsible for authorizing all programs and degrees in the public system. The BHE established procedures that apply to all public institutions of higher education, including the community colleges, state colleges, and the University of Massachusetts.
The BHE's fundamental responsibility is to coordinate a system of public higher education that provides citizens with opportunities to participate in academic and educational programs, contribute to an existing base of research and knowledge, and add value to the state’s future economic growth and development. Following the BHE vote to revise the public program review process after a two-year collaboration with public campuses, the BHE shall add a more valuable review of proposed programs by focusing on alignment with the Commonwealth’s overarching goals for public higher education and the campuses’ individual strategic plans.
Beginning in July 2019 the BHE will focus on approval of public programs at the Letter of Intent (LOI) phase of development, with the Commissioner presiding over the second phase of the full academic review in most cases. The BHE determined that the process of internal governance on campuses, expert external reviewer of programs, and the staff review for completeness provides a rigorous and proficient validation of program quality. A related year-long collaboration with campuses included the development of an LOI template that could provide the Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) and entire Board, information that would be timely, relevant and actionable in reviewing proposals. After extensive campus input, the revised review processes were formally approved by the BHE..
Complete guidelines for the public program review process may be found in the Revised Public Program Review Procedures and Guidelines Handbook, which is intended to provide support to institutions, faculty and staff in navigating the revised process. An academic program is defined as any credit bearing program of study for a certificate, a concentration, a major, or a degree at the undergraduate or graduate levels, including a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study.