Substantive Changes Policy

Substantive Changes Policy

This policy establishes UAB's expectations and process for making substantial changes as defined by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Effective Date:
Responsible Party:
None Assigned
Administrative Category:
Applies To:
Faculty, Staff
Material Original Source:


UAB - Office of the Provost

Substantive Changes Policy

August 1, 2014



There are a number of third parties from whom UAB must obtain approval, or whom UAB must inform, often in advance, if any substantial changes in operations is undertaken. These third parties include accrediting bodies, including the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama System, and the Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE). In addition, the UAB Faculty Senate has an important role in providing advice on certain substantive changes and should be notified in advance of such changes.


SACSCOC defines substantive change broadly as any “significant modification or expansion of the nature and scope of an accredited institution.”  The term “substantive change” includes items which are required by regulations of the U.S. Department of Education governing accrediting bodies of higher education institutions (34 CFR Sec. 602.22), as well as some additional items required by SACSCOC. Appendix A contains a table summarizing these substantive changes as well as the approval and/or notification requirements with which UAB must comply.

The most common substantive changes that originating at the school or department level include, but are not limited to:

  • The addition of courses or programs that represent a significant departure, either in content or method of deliver, from those that were offered when the institution was last evaluated by SACSCOC
  • The addition of courses or programs of study at a degree or credential level different from that which is included in the institution’s current accreditation or reaffirmation
  • A substantial increase in the number of credit hours awarded for successful completion of a program
  • Closing of a program Entering into certain collaborative agreements with other institutions

The most current requirements, polcies, and definitions can be found on the SACSCOC website (

The Provost appoints a SACSCOC Liaison to send periodic written reminders to all schools regarding their responsibility for compliance. The SACSCOC Liaison offers periodic training sessions on substantive change and ensures that information regarding this policy, associated resources available from SACSCOC, and answers to frequently asked questions are made available on the Provost’s website.

Policy Statement

At the earliest stage of preliminary planning, deans are required to give notice in writing of any potential change that could be deemed substantive (as defined in this policy) to the Provost or his or her designee. These notifications must include: (a) the title of the proposed change; (b) a brief description of the change, including its nature (e.g., new educational program, initiation of distance education) and its scope (one program, multiple programs in one college, inter-collegiate program, etc.); (c) contact information for the responsible individual; (d) a tentative timeline for approval, including steps in the approval process (e.g., UA System Board of Trustees, Alabama Commission on Higher Education, etc.); and (e) the earliest possible date for implementation.

After consultation with appropriate internal individuals and committees, including where appropriate the Faculty Senate, the Provost determines whether the proposed change should move forward for further development, be modified, or be set aside.

UAB must notify SACSCOC when substantive changes are proposed, and some changes require that body’s prior approval. To that end, even if the Provost approves a proposed change from a school, the proposers of changes approved for further development must keep the Provost and the SACSCOC Liaison apprised of the continuing viability and progress toward implementation of the potential change, so that timely notification of SACSCOC can be given. The Provost and the SACSCOC Liaison oversee the process of preparing appropriate notification, in conjunction with those involved with the change, to meet the requirements of  SACSCOC Policy.”