New Graduate Program

The development of a new graduate program can take between 12-24 months from the date of submission of a Statement of Interest. Click here to see an overview of the entire New Program Approval Process flowchart (pdf).

The process may be shorter for programs that do not require an external reviewers’ site visit (i.e., collaborative programs and diplomas).

Phase One

When a department is planning to develop a new program, a Statement of Interest should be sent to the Quality Assurance (QA) Office.

The Statement of Interest (please use the template provided) is a brief  1-2 page document that includes the following:

  • Describe the emphasis of the new program and the impetus for proposing this new program.
  • How does your program differentiate from existing programs in terms of learning outcomes?
  • How will this program benefit students? 
  • Whether the program will be regular, co-op or both
  • A suggested start date for the program and projected enrolment (Canadian vs. International)
  • Do you expect to use an existing tuition rate or another one?
  • Space needs (renovations and/or new space)

Once a Statement of Interest is received, the QA Office consults with the Associate Vice-President, Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (AVPGSPA), and the related academic support units (listed on the right sidebar). The QA Office will then recontact the department to let them know whether they are ready to proceed to prepare the first draft of the proposal brief (Volume I).

The proposal brief must include learning outcomes mapped to the graduate degree level expectations (GDLES). The Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE) has created PhD sample formats and Masters sample format  programs. Contact Veronica Brown, in the CTE Office for further information.

If the new program includes a co-op experience, a Feasibility Study from Co-operative Education and Career Services is required, and all programs require a library report.

Once the proposal brief (Volume I) has been drafted and submitted to the QA Office, the Office works with Institutional Analysis & Planning (IAP) to prepare a Financial Viability Analysis (FVA). The Budget Planning Resource Team in IAP will work with the Faculty Financial Officer to complete the FVA. Both the FVA and the draft of the proposal brief (Volume I) will then be given to the Provost for decision.

The proposal brief (Volume I) cannot proceed for approval at Faculty Council, until everything in Phase One has been approved by the academic support units, the Provost and the Quality Assurance Office.

Phase Two

Once Phase One is complete, the final version of Volume I (the Proposal Brief), Volume II (Faculty CVs), and Volume III (suggested reviewers), as well as the calendar descriptions, can be finalized by the department and shared with the QA Office. Once all the aforementioned materials have been reviewed and approved by the QA Office, the AVPGSPA, and related academic support units, then it can proceed to Faculty Council for approval.

Phase Three

The proposed new program submission (Volume I, II, III) must be approved at the appropriate department/school and Faculty Council Committees before a site visit is scheduled.

Co-ordination of a two-day site visit will be arranged by the Quality Assurance Office.  The review team will consist of two external reviewers and one internal faculty member of the University.

The external reviewers are selected from those suggested by the program in Volume III (see criteria for choosing arm’s length reviewers).  The internal faculty reviewer and external reviewers are selected by the APVGSPA. 

During the site visit, the external review team will address the review criteria and submit a report, using the External Reviewers' Report template (doc), within two weeks after the site visit.

After the External Reviewers' Report is received, the Quality Assurance Office and APVGSPA will review it and seek clarification from the reviewers, if needed. Then the report is sent to the Provost, Dean, Associate Dean, Graduate Studies, and the department/school Chair/Director.

If the reviewers suggest modifications to the proposal brief (Volume I), the program will prepare a response to the reviewers recommendations and revise the brief. Depending on the amount and significance of the revisions, the brief may need to be re-approved through their Faculty Council, the Provost and the Quality Assurance Office, before it goes to Senate Graduate and Research Council, and then Senate for approval. All new program submissions should come through the Quality Assurance Office to  Senate Graduate & Research Council (SGRC). Please submit all three Volumes to the QA Office well in advance of  SGRC meeting deadlines.

Once approved through SGRC and Senate, the Proposal Brief (Volume I), Faculty CVs (Volume II) and Proposed Reviewers (Volume III) are sent electronically to the Quality Council as well as the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (MAESD), if needed. The Quality Assurance Office submits the proposal to the Quality Council. If MAESD approval of funding is required, the submission to MAESD is made by Institutional Analysis and Planning (IAP).

Phase Four

After the new program proposal has been submitted to the Quality Council, the department may begin to advertise the new program. However, any ads must clearly note that the program is "subject to final approval by the Quality Council".

In addition, the following text must be including when referring to applications for the new program


Disclaimer Statement:

The University of Waterloo is now accepting applications for the proposed (ENTER PROGRAM NAME HERE) degree program. Processing of these applications and admission of students will not occur until the program is approved by the Ontario Universities Council on Quality Assurance. The University will acknowledge and store applications, but will be unable to evaluate or act on them in any way until the program has been formally approved by the Quality Council. In the unlikely case that the program is not approved, the application fee will be refunded*.

Please contact (ENTER CONTACT HERE) for more information.

 *Refunds are provided by the department.


The Quality Assurance Office will notify the department of the Quality Council's official decision. Institutional Analysis and Planning (IAP), will notify the department about approval for funding from MAESD. 

If approved, the department must complete the online application setup with Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA). 

GSPA will set up a meeting with Graduate Administrator for admission training.

GSPA will add approved courses to Quest and based on effective date the course will be published in the graduate calendar. The unit will schedule the classes.

Phase Five

A Two-year Progress Report (please use template provided) is required for all new programs. The purpose of the Two-year Progress Report is to provide initial data on student progress and implementation of the program, and to respond to any issues raised by the reviewers'.

The new program will then enter into the regular seven-year academic program review cycle.

Academic Support Units involved in the development of new programs:

Graduate Studies & Postdoctoral Affairs

Institutional Analysis & Planning

Space Planning

Centre for Teaching Excellence

Co-operative & Experiential Education


Waterloo Professional Development Program

Centre for Extended Learning