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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?

ICDF SharePoint resources

We've created an ICDF SharePoint Site to support unit coordinators, course directors and course teams.

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 aid  Module Design and Programme Design.

ICDF Workshops

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 in Semester II. 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.

Overview of ICDF

The three phases of the framework guides and supports programme teams to approach curriculum design as an opportunity to critically reflect on programme designs and to co-create with peers, students, employers and professional, statutory and regulatory bodies (PSRBs) to create a coherent, innovative and a fit-for-purpose curriculum for our learners, industry and economy.

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:

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.

ICDF framework

This diagram explains the ICDF three-phased approach:

ICDF Development Framework

ICDF framework

Development Framework Phases

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.

  • Phase One: Desk-based Research and Stakeholder Engagement 

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

    1. contextualised research and analysis
    2. stakeholder engagement

    Contextualised research and analysis

    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 & OECD Report
    • Competitor Analysis
    • Discipline Research & Scholarship
    • Student Profile/Characteristics (intended or existing)

    Stakeholder engagement

    Building on the desk-based research completed, programme teams need to identify stakeholders and benefactors of the programmes and adopt a co-design approach to ensure future curricular design are indeed fit for purpose and aligned to regional and national economic needs for economic prosperity.

    This can be carried out in a variety of ways and may include: focus groups, surveys, and/or face-to-face curriculum co-design workshops with employers, service users, alumni, students, etc.

  • Phase Two: Programme and Module Design

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

    1. Programme design
    2. Module design
    3. Programme alignment

    Team-based programme design

    The resources provided and activities associated with this phase 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 involve co-design approaches with professional services, including: Employability and Careers, Library, Office of Digital Learning, Student Wellbeing and UU Students' Union.

    It is expected that teams would agree:

    • the programme philosophy and aims
    • a visual representation of the 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 Phase 1 and the Programme Design 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
    • assessment methods and criteria
    • indicative content
    • learning and teaching methods and
    • 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.

    Programme alignment

    Developing a programme from the initial design is an iterative process and depends on feedback from your identified stakeholders. As the programme takes shape, consideration and adjustment of the 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:

    1. Programme approval
    2. 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 Phase 3, 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.


  • 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.

In this section

ICDF Workshops

Details and registration link for the ICDF/revalidation institutional workshops.