Organizational change

Students in a classroom

An organizational change is any alteration in the structure of an academic unit. These changes include:

  • Establishing a new department
  • Changing the name of an academic unit/department
  • Closing/terminating an academic unit
  • Reorganizing a college/school
  • Establishing an off-campus site
  • Any organizational change at or above department level

Organizational changes must undergo a rigorous approval process — both internal and external (i.e., SCHEV and potentially SACSCOC) — before they can be implemented and advertised to potential students.

The Office of the Provost provides support and guidance for developing proposals and efficiently guiding them through VCU’s review and approval processes. These processes include priority setting, formal vetting of the proposed organizational change and full proposal development.

Types of organizational changes

For SCHEV's purposes, organizational changes fall into one of two categories:

  • Simple organizational change: A structural alteration (establishment, reorganization, or closure/termination), proposed solely for the purpose of internal management, that would not alter the institution’s mission or curricular offerings and would be executable within currently authorized funds (e.g., re-naming an academic department or establishing a “fully-exempt” or “partially-exempt” off-campus instructional site)
  • Complex organizational change:  A structural alteration (establishment, reorganization, or closure/termination), not proposed solely for the purpose of internal management, that may alter the institution’s mission or curricular offerings and/or may not be executable within currently authorized funds (e.g., establishing a new unit — college, school, or department — or a “non-exempt” off-campus instructional site.)

Development and approval process

The process for getting organizational change proposals approved and implemented at VCU requires the following steps:

The first step in requesting an organizational change is to make the Office of the Provost aware of your proposed change. To do so, fill out the online organizational change request form.

Once your request form is received, the SCHEV liaison will touch base with you to collect additional details about your proposed change. This may be done via email, phone call or a face-to-face meeting, depending on the complexity.

The purpose of the pre-proposal is to ensure university support and resources for the request are available before extensive time and effort are invested in developing a full proposal. The pre-proposal should make an academic and business case for the proposed request, and should identify resources needed to initiate and sustain the program.

The pre-proposal stage requires the completion of two forms:

  • Pre-proposal form: This form, sent to the initiator by the SCHEV liaison after their preliminary discussion, collects detailed information related to the purpose and justification for the request, resources needed for the proposed change, as well as its impact on existing academic units. It is developed in consultation with the SCHEV liaison and is typically no more than 10 pages in length, including any supplemental attachments.
  • Pre-proposal authorization form: This form collects the signatures of the department chair, the dean, and the unit's fiscal coordinator. It also will be provided to the request initiator by the SCHEV liaison following their preliminary discussions.

The purpose of the full proposal development and review is to respond to SCHEV’s requirements for the submission of a proposal to request an organizational change. VCU's SCHEV liaison will provide the program initiator with relevant resources to facilitate this process.

The VCU Substantive Change Checklist [Word Doc] must also be completed and emailed to the SCHEV liaison. Once received, the Office of the Provost will review the checklist to determine if the proposed program will require SACSCOC notification or approval prior to implementation.

The full proposal provides a comprehensive description of the proposed request for an organizational change and a detailed rationale to provide justification for the proposed organizational change. The program initiator will develop all sections of the proposal required by SCHEV, with particular attention given to the purpose and justification for the organizational change, impact on existing academic units, and resources required.

It is recommended that the proposal be read by at least two reviewers before sending it to the SCHEV liaison. One reviewer familiar with the field should assess the content of the proposal. The second reviewer should edit the proposal for clarity, thoroughness, organization, grammar, and basic formatting.

After review by the Office of Provost, the SCHEV liaison will work with the program initiator to move the proposal into the institutional approval process.

Consistent with university policy and governance procedures, all proposals for organizational changes must be approved at the unit/department level and the school level before going through institutional review and approval. Upon review by the Office of the Provost, the proposal moves through appropriate institutional-level review and approval.

Proposals for organizational changes will be presented to the University Council Academic Affairs and University Policies (UCAAUP), University Council (UC), President’s Cabinet, and the Board of Visitors (BOV), consistent with university policy. Following Board of Visitors approval, proposals will be submitted to SCHEV (and, if required, SACSCOC).

Type of organizational changeUC/AAUPUCCabinetBOVSCHEVSACSCOC
Establishing a new department Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Depends*
Changing the name of an academic unit or department Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Depends*
Reorganizing a college or school Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Depends*
Establishing an off-campus site Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Closing or terminating an academic unit Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Any organization change at or above dept. level Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Depends*

* SACSCOC notification or approval depends on whether the proposed program represents a significant departure, either in content or method of delivery, from those that were offered when the institution was last evaluated.

Once approved by the BOV, the proposal can be submitted to SCHEV for review and approval. If the proposed organizational change constitutes a substantive change for the institution as per SACSCOC policy, then approval or notification to SACSCOC must be obtained prior to implementation.

SCHEV staff will send a written approval to the provost. The SCHEV liaison will send the written notification to the college/school dean and all relevant parties, which will include the date for program implementation.

If the organizational change constitutes a substantive change as per SACSCOC policy, then approval must be obtained by SACSCOC as well prior to implementation.