Teaching & Learning


Programme Excellence Project

The Programme Excellence Project (PEP) is a comprehensive review of UCL’s undergraduate and taught postgraduate programmes, and one of UCL’s strategic priorities over the next five years.


  • October 2023 - The Programme Excellence Project formally launched at a Town Hall with the President & Provost, Dr Michael Spence. Full recording can be accessed here. 


The project includes a comprehensive review of UCL’s portfolio and curriculum: 

Workstream 1

Portfolio Review will look at UCL’s lists of programmes, routes and pathways to ensure that we are offering realistic and coherent choices to students, to reduce complexity across a wide range of systems and processes, and to ensure that all students belong to a substantive community. 

Workstream 2

Curriculum Review will look at diets, modules and assessments. The aim is to reduce the high degree of variability in programme structures across UCL whilst also ensuring that disciplinary differences are respected and supported. By reducing complexity we can also create more shared spaces for our educational priorities, such as research-intensive education, employability, the Grand Challenges, Sustainability, and the Student Life Strategy. 


  • Project launch: October 2023 
  • UG Prospectus Copy Call: December 2024 
  • PGT Prospectus Copy Call: July 2025 
  • Students enrol on refreshed programmes: September 2026 

Frequently asked questions

Programme Excellence

What is the Programme Excellence Project (PEP)?

The Programme Excellence Project (PEP) is one of the core academic initiatives in UCL’s Strategic Plan 2022-27.  

The main aim of the project is to find better ways of organising our current programmes and modules so that UCL’s systems and processes work better for students and staff.  

We will do this through a two-stage process: The Portfolio Review will look at the underpinning structures of our programmes and routes, while the Curriculum Review will look at the underpinning structures of our modules and diets. 

Why do we need to do PEP?

UCL has grown considerably over the past few years, incorporating a number of new disciplines, institutes and schools. However, our growth has been very organic and this has created a very high degree of variability in the underlying structures of our programmes.  

Of course, some degree of complexity is unavoidable, particularly on some of our interdisciplinary programmes where student choice is fundamental to the design of the curriculum. The aim of PEP is to support faculties and departments in identifying unnecessary complexities and finding solutions which work for the local context. This will make it easier for UCL to design systems and processes which support our students and staff effectively. In turn, departments will find it easier to manage their programmes on a day-to-day basis, allowing them to focus more time on teaching, research and supporting students.

You can find out more about the rationale for change in the UCL Strategic Plan discussion papers which were part of a year-long cross-institutional consultation: 

UCL Now Discussion Paper (UCL login required) 

Education Priorities and Programmes Discussion Paper (UCL login required) 

Strategic Plan Consultation (UCL login required) 

Is Programme Excellence getting rid of any programmes or subject areas?

No. The Programme Excellence Project has a strategic mandate to review the underpinning structures of UCL’s programmes and modules but it does not have a mandate to remove disciplines or programmes. However, as part of the tidying up process, faculties may agree to ‘retire’ some older versions of programmes that are no longer recruiting, or take the opportunity to refresh the different choices within a programme. These will be discussed with individual departments. 

When will changes be brought in?

The first PEP changes will be implemented for new students in 2026-27 (current students will not be affected).  

However, some changes may take longer and will be implemented in 2027-28 or 2028-29. We will work with each Faculty to establish local action plans which take their disciplines’ needs into consideration. 

How will PEP affect interdisciplinary programmes?

One of the core assumptions of PEP is that interdisciplinarity is fundamental to the future of education at UCL. In fact, one of the foundational principles in the new UCL Excellence in Education and Student Experience statement is “Strong academic disciplines and powerful cross/interdisciplinary collaborations”. These principles were developed through an extensive consultation with the UCL community and are being used as a key reference point for PEP. 

Interdisciplinarity can take many forms – UCL has a number of dedicated interdisciplinary degrees such as the BASc and Natural Sciences, but many other programmes are increasingly realising the importance of incorporating collaboration and cross-disciplinarity into their curriculum. The aim of PEP is not to create a one-size-fits-all solution – or to change the fundamental nature of interdisciplinary programmes - but rather to optimise the underpinning structures of programmes and modules so that they work better for both students and staff. 

For example, PEP can support programme teams to spread assessments more evenly throughout the year, which can reduce the pressure on students and make it easier for staff to return feedback quickly. PEP can also support departments in considering how they might find space in their curriculum for some of UCL’s educational priorities, such as Sustainability, the Grand Challenges or the Student Life Strategy – for example through cross-UCL modules or Term 3 projects.

The PEP team is currently working on the process design for the Curriculum Review, which is due to launch in the Spring Term 2023. This will include more detailed information about how we will work with individual programme teams to optimise their curriculum structures. We are envisaging that there will be dedicated discussions with interdisciplinary programmes to ensure that we understand their needs and together find solutions which work in the local context. 

How does PEP relate to the Scheduling Transformation Programme?

The Scheduling Transformation Programme (UCL login required) is a separate project under UCL’s Strategic Plan 2022-27. 

While both projects are looking at UCL’s curriculum, Programme Excellence is a longer-term and more in-depth review, where changes have to be phased in. As a result, the benefits of PEP will only be seen for new students enrolling in 2026/27 at the earliest. In the interim, the Scheduling Transformation Programme is asking departments to identify quick wins which can help to reduce complexity for current students so that we can get UCL’s timetable working.  

How does PEP relate to the UCL Size & Shape project?

The Size & Shape Project (UCL login required) is a separate project under UCL’s Strategic Plan 2022-27. 

While both projects involve looking at UCL’s portfolio, Programme Excellence is looking at how we organise UCL’s current programmes, routes and modules. The Size & Shape project is a longer-term, strategic review of UCL’s disciplinary mix, the breadth of our teaching portfolio and future areas of priority growth. 

What support with UCL provide for departments?

The Portfolio Review is largely a restructuring and tidying exercise which will not require significant work from individual departments. The process will be led by individual Faculty Steering Groups who will consult with departmental teams. Faculties will receive data and guidance as well as support from the PEP project team, an Academic Advisory Group, the ‘HEDS’ Faculty Partnership Teams, Faculty Marketing and Communications, and Strategic Planning. A launch event for Faculty Steering Group members is planned for November 2023.

The Curriculum Review will take a similar, faculty-led approach with support from experts across UCL. However, departmental staff will be more involved in this process to ensure that any changes are appropriate to their local context. The PEP team are currently working on the process design with input from the Vice-Deans Education. We are aiming to launch the Curriculum Review workstream in Spring 2024. This will include more detailed information about the role of departments.

Portfolio Review 

Why do we need to review our Portfolio?

At present, UCL has a very high number of separate ‘programmes’ but many are a variation of another programme (e.g. a study abroad version, a major/minor version, or a PG Cert version). Each of these additional ‘programmes’ creates student choice, but also generates extra work for staff across a wide range of systems and processes. Many are enrolling very low student numbers which can make it much harder for students to feel a sense of community and belonging. 

Student choice and cross-/ interdisciplinarity are key features of a UCL education. The Portfolio Review is not, therefore, about removing student choice, but finding better ways of organising our programmes so that our systems and processes work better.

How can UCL organise programmes differently?

As part of the Portfolio Review we are planning some changes to UCL’s underlying data structure. A new three-tiered structure will include ‘Programmes’, ‘Courses’, and ‘Specialisms’:

The ‘Course’ will be the degree to which the student applies. Cognate ‘Courses’ will be grouped into ‘Programmes’ which support departments in the day-to-day organisation and management of their curriculum and ensure that all students belong to a substantive community. Some ‘Courses’ may also have ‘Specialisms’ where students can opt to focus on a specific area at some point after enrolment.

For example, a fictional Undergraduate Basketweaving programme might be structured as follows:




UG Basketweaving

BSc Basketweaving  

BSc Basketweaving with Music

BSc Basketweaving with History of Art

BSc Basketweaving (with Study Abroad)

BSc Basketweaving with French (with Study Abroad)

MSci Basketweaving 

MSci Basketweaving with Music

MSci Basketweaving with History of Art


This new data structure will significantly reduce the number of separate ‘programmes’ that staff are managing on a day-to-day basis but also ensure that we still have the granularity we need in admissions and degree outcomes.

How will the data restructuring help?

UCL currently has around 1,100 separate taught programmes. We are hoping that the restructuring will bring the number of programmes down to 500 – 600. By reducing the number of ‘programmes’ we can significantly reduce staff workloads across a wide range of day-to-day processes that rely on the ‘programme’ data field – for example, there will be far fewer Programme Summaries and Programme Diets to maintain, and departments will need to run fewer separate exam boards.

Why are we changing terminology?

Terminology has been chosen to both align with standard sector practice (‘Course’ is the term used by the OfS, UCAS etc.) and to create a clear separation between regulatory terms and (similar but not identical) Portico terms such as ‘Route’.

What is the timeline for the Portfolio Review?

We are aiming to implement changes to UCL’s portfolio for new students in 2026-27. To meet this deadline, faculties will be asked to review their programme lists during 2023/24. Changes will need to be agreed by the UG Prospectus Copy Call in December 2024 and the PGT Prospectus Copy Call in July 2025.

Curriculum Review

Why do we need to review UCL’s curriculum?

As well as having a high number of separate programmes and routes, UCL also has a very high degree of variability in how each individual programme is structured. This makes it very difficult to design systems and processes which work for our whole community – as can be seen in the recent timetabling difficulties which UCL has been trying to tackle.

The aim of the Curriculum Review is not to change what departments teach or how they teach, or to create a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter curriculum, but rather to look at the underpinning structures of our modules, diets and assessments. If we can reduce unnecessary complexities in our curriculum, our systems and processes will work much better for staff and students.

How will the Curriculum Review benefit students?

As well as reducing complexity, the Curriculum Review can support departments in tackling some of UCL’s long-standing student experience challenges – for example, we can use the curriculum to help students feel a sense of belonging to a community, which is essential for student wellbeing. We can also support departments in reducing the number of assessments and spreading them more evenly throughout the year, which not only improves student wellbeing, but also supports staff to return feedback more quickly.

By creating more consistent programme structures we can also create more shared spaces for our agreed educational priorities, such as interdisciplinary projects, cross-UCL electives, the Grand Challenges, Sustainability, the Student Life Strategy, and research-intensive education.

When will the Curriculum Review start?

The Curriculum Review is due to be launched in the Spring Term 2024.

When will we find out more about how the Curriculum Review will work?

The project team is currently working with the Vice-Deans Education to design the Curriculum Review process. Further information will be published in the Spring Term 2024.