Integrated Curriculum Design Framework

The Integrated Curriculum Design Framework (ICDF) consists of an three-stage approach to curriculum design. The underlying ethos of the curriculum design tools is Knowing, Doing and Being

An Overview of ICDF

Designing for success: Knowing, Doing and Being

The Integrated Curriculum Design Framework (ICDF) is an overarching framework that consists of a three-phased approach to curriculum design, guiding programme teams to pro-actively design, develop and deliver a holistic and innovative curriculum for our learners, industry and economy.  It has been developed from a sound pedagogical evidence-base and encompasses the three dimensions of curriculum design of Knowing, Doing and Being (Barnett and Coate, 2005).

What does the student need to know?

What does the student need to be able to do?

What does the student need to be?

The three phases of the framework guides and supports programme teams to approach curriculum design as an opportunity to critically reflect and self-assess as individuals and teams and to engage with other staff, students, employers and professional, statutory and regulatory bodies (PSRBs) to create a coherent fit-for-purpose curriculum.  This process of quality enhancement is aligned with the Quality Assurance Agency's (QAA) UK Quality Code for Higher Education which sets out the expectations that UK Higher Education providers are required to meet in respect of: approval of new courses and periodic review of existing courses.

The processes of programme design, development and approval are an essential part of higher education providers' internal quality assurance and enhancement. They ensure that appropriate academic standards are set and maintained and the programmes offered to students make available learning opportunities which enable the intended learning outcomes to be achieved (QAA, 2013, p.4).

The ICDF also integrates Ulster’s internal processes for Programme Approval (Evaluation) and Revalidation.

Each individual phase of the framework is process driven, articulating the inputs to inform the design process and the expected outputs, which will inform the next phase and/or the programme artefacts. Programme and Module Planners are part of the framework which allow the outputs to be captured and disseminated.

A three-phase approach:

The three phases of the framework guides and supports programme teams to approach curriculum design as an opportunity to critically reflect on the curriculum, as individuals and teams, and to design, develop and deliver a holistic and innovative curriculum for our learners, industry and economy.

  • Phase One: Desk-based Research and Stakeholder Engagement 

    This involves two parts as referred to in the graphic above:

    • Contextualised research and analysis
    • Stakeholder engagement

    Contextualised research and analysis essentially involves desk-based research, which encourages teams to make use of reference points and expertise from outside the programme team.  For programmes that were validated five years or more in the past, these reference points may have changed significantly so it is essential that they be revisited at this point of the design process.

    Reference points may differ depending on the subject area and/or nature of the programme but core points to analyse include:

    • Continuous Assurance Enhancement Cycle (CAEC) Data
    • Professional, statutory and regulatory bodies (PRSB) requirements
    • Subject Benchmark Statements
    • NI Economy 2030 & Skills Barometer
    • Learning and Teaching Strategy
    • Competitor Analysis
    • Discipline Research
    • Student Profile/Characteristics (intended or existing)

    Stakeholder engagement - building on the desk-based research carried out in stage 1, programme teams need to garner the opinions of experts and stakeholders from outside the programme, and the views of current and past students. This can be carried out in a variety of ways and may include: focus groups, surveys, and/or face-to-face curriculum design workshops with employers/service users etc.

  • Phase Two: Programme Design and Development

    This involves three parts as referred to in the graphic above:

    • Programme design
    • Module design
    • Programme development

    Team-based programme design – the resources provided and activities associated with this stage provide opportunities to encourage innovation regarding all dimensions of the curriculum. Programmes may reflect developments in the subject area and in educational research and practice. Reflecting on the characteristics of students (Phase 1); programmes may embrace new technologies or innovative modes of delivery and study, including those which offer flexibility to students.  It is also essential for teams to consider student transitions in, through and out of higher education.

    This stage would usually involve other institutional departments, such as Library, Career Development Centre, Student Support, and Students’ Union.

    It is expected that teams would agree:

    • the programme philosophy and aims
    • a visual representation of programme structure diagram
    • identification of modules including those to be redesigned and any new modules
    • the overarching learning, teaching and assessment approach
    • team members responsible for the (re)design of each module

    Module design - working individually or in pairs/triads, module leaders should consider how the outputs from stages 1-3 inform the design and development of their module. Co-designing with students and/or other academic/professional colleagues is encouraged. Modules must align with the Programme Philosophy, aims, and the agreed learning, teaching and assessment approach.

    Constructive alignment should be used to underpin the development of:

    • learning outcomes
    • feedback and assessment methods
    • learning and teaching methods
    • indicative content
    • indicative resources to support learning activities

    A Module Design Planner and guiding resources are provided to assist with module development.  The outputs from the Planner will form the Module Description (available to the Panel) and the student-facing module handbooks.

    Developing a programme from the initial design is an iterative process and depends on feedback from a range of sources, which may include other staff, students, employers and professional, statutory and regulatory bodies. As the programme takes shape, consideration and adjustment of Philosophy and Aims may take place - this is part of the creative and iterative nature of the design process.

    It is important at this stage that all team members revisit the Programme Structure Diagram with the developing modules to ensure that the programme is coherent, progressive, maps to internal and external reference points and considers all dimensions of curriculum. It is expected that at the end of this stage the programme team will have produced outputs/artefacts that now can be considered by internal/external reviewers.

  • Phase Three: Programme Approval 

    This involves two parts, referred to in the graphic above:

    • Programme approval
    • Post approval responses and revisions

    Programme approval - the Academic Office is responsible for standards assurance arrangements in respect of the initial approval and revalidation of the University's award-bearing programmes of study. At stage 6, the Panel (made up of internal and external experts) is expected to conduct a critically constructive and independent assessment of the provision within the unit.

    At the end of the meeting, the Chair of the Panel reports to the (Associate) Dean, Head of School and the revalidation unit co-ordinator the Panel’s conclusions and recommendations, minimum and maximum cohort sizes, and any conditions of approval.

    Post approval responses and revisions - A report of the meeting is prepared which includes:

    • overview of main characteristics of provision
    • conclusions on creativity, innovation and good practice
    • conclusions on currency and validity
    • conclusions on quality and standards
    • forward-looking recommendations for action to remedy any identified shortcomings, and for the enhancement of quality and standards.

    Subsequently, the programme team lead will submit to the Academic Office, within a specified time:

    • through the CMS, the revised revalidation document incorporating such amendments as are required for approval;
    • a brief paper indicating how recommendations and conditions have been addressed, and the amendments made.

    When a programme is approved, a definitive record is made, which becomes the reference point for the delivery of the programme. This includes a clear and informative name for the programme and whether the programme is approved to be delivered for a fixed time period or indefinitely, subject to usual monitoring and review.

ICDF Resources

To support unit coordinators, course directors and course teams an ICDF Sharepoint Site has been created. This site guides staff through the three-phases of ICDF, outlining the processes and expected outputs for each phase. The site also contains toolkits and resources to support the design and enhancement of the programmes and subsequent modules.

If you are leading revalidation or evaluation of an Ulster programme, please register for the ICDF Institutional Workshops. These workshops will be delivered on a yearly basis, starting in January. It is recommended that you attend the workshops prior to the Academic Year that your Programme is being evaluated/revalidated.

If you are unable to attend these workshops, please liaise with your CHERP Faculty Consultant:

ICDF Information

For any questions regarding the development of the ICD Framework contact:


  • Barnett R. and Coate K. (2005). Engaging the Curriculum in Higher Education. Berkshire: Society for research into Higher Education and Open University Press
  • QAA (2011).Quality Code, Chapter B1: Programme Design, Development and Approval. Gloucester: The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education ;2018.

The Integrated Curriculum Design Framework (ICDF) – Leading Team-based Curriculum Design Workshops

To support Revalidation Unit Coordinators (UC) and Course Directors (CD) preparing for the evaluation/revalidation of Programmes in AY 2021/22, CHERP in partnership with Central Departments, will be running three core workshops during Semester II, 2021.  The workshops aim to facilitate course leaders through Ulster’s Integrated Curriculum Design Framework (ICDF) which consists of a three-phased approach to designing curricula. The framework guides course teams to pro-actively design, develop and deliver a holistic, coherent and innovative curriculum for our learners, industry and economy.  Each Phase of the Framework is process driven, with defined inputs to inform design decisions and expected outputs that contribute to the revalidation documentation required.

The accompanying ICDF workshops are designed to be practice-based and active in nature with action plans and outputs produced during each workshop that will contribute to the continual development of the revalidation documentation.  The three workshops focus on the first two phases of the ICDF Framework.

The ICDF – Leading Team-based Curriculum Design Workshops

Workshop Titles (10:30 - 12:30)Online
Workshop One : ICDF Phase 1 - Contextual Research and Analysis and Stakeholder Engagement20th January 2021 
Workshop Two : ICDF Phase 2A - Programme Design (Integrated Curriculum Design at Ulster)2nd March 2021
Workshop Three : Writing the Programme Specification14th April 2021

Once the Unit Coordinators/Course Directors complete the above workshops, the programme design documentation can be completed and effectively communicated to the course team to inform and influence the distributed module (re)design stage (Phase 2B).  Support can be tailored to meet local design needs, led by CHERP Faculty Curriculum Consultant (with support from Curriculum Theme Leads in Central Departments).  ICDF Phase 3, signifies the final phase of the process, the Programme Approval event and post approval response and revisions.

Workshop Target Audience: Unit Coordinators, Course Directors, and those leading the design of new courses.  If you cannot attend the dates outlined, it is imperative that you send a replacement on your behalf.

Accredited of Learning

Programme Leaders participating in the workshops may wish to gain credit for their learning by completing assessments for PHE711 Leading Team-based Curriculum Design.  PHE711 is a 30-credit point at Level 7 and is available as a stand-alone Continuing Professional Development Module with credit transferable to Ulster’s Master of Education Programme. If you are interested in gaining credit for your learning, visit the MEd page for more information on PHE711 . Applications for Semester II stand-alone CPD Module will open in December (2020). You can express your interest using the workshop registration forms below and we can keep you informed.

Approaching revalidation before June 2021?

We hope that you enjoyed the scheduled workshops in Jan-Mar 2020. If you missed these workshops, we recommend the following:

  • Access Ulster's ICDF Workshop site for presentations, recordings and resources to guide you.
  • Attend and register for 'An ICDF Summary Webinar' on Wednesday 14th October, 14:00-16:00. This will include time for any Q&As.
  • Contact your CHERP Faculty Consultant.

Workshop registrations

Contact Colette Murphy ( if you have any questions regarding the above.