The process and systems universities use to develop their curricula can have a significant impact on student satisfaction and the institution's ultimate success.  Over the last year, SUMS Managing Consultant Claire Taylor has supported Durham University to explore software solutions and workflows which support its curriculum development process.  Below, we share more about the project, which has helped us produce a SUMS Briefing Paper on Curriculum Management, available only to members.

The institutional strategy is a key part of the curriculum lifecycle, both in terms of the structure of the curriculum (entry and exit routes, pathway frameworks etc.) as well as the portfolio which the institution delivers.  SUMS has seen an increase in the number of institutions making changes across both curriculum structure and portfolios.  While nearly all institutions and discipline areas modularised their curricula over ten years ago, some are now implementing:

  • Different credit structures (e.g. regularising module credit loads, implementing a consistent approach to UG and PGT capstone/dissertation modules, exchanging discipline-specific credits for elective or open modules)
  • Different pathway frameworks so that students have more control about the specificity or breadth of curricula they take. For example, a student entering on single honours French course could leave with a French & History joint honours qualification.

After the marketisation of the UK HE sector in the 2010s and the financial pressures exerted over the past five years, many institutions are making significant changes to their portfolios at UG and PGT levels. SUMS has seen a number of institutions close down whole discipline areas (e.g. Physics, Chemistry, Music) as well as other institutions opening new discipline areas (e.g. a growth in institutions offering Medicine or Veterinary Sciences). At a lower scale, all institutions are constantly monitoring their UG and PGT portfolios to ensure relevance and to respond to government policy changes: Apprenticeships and Microcredentialling are the two latest focus areas.

Over the course of the last year, SUMS Consulting has been supporting Durham University’s Creating an Integrated Student Experience (CISE) Programme. This larger programme of work includes a project to upgrade the student record system (SRS) to Ellucian Banner 9.  SUMS was asked to provide additional support in the form of an options paper to inform a parallel project to replace the various software solutions and workflows which support its Curriculum Development process.

The use of single-function curriculum management solutions across the sector has historically been low with most institutions either not using a specific solution (using a bespoke manual approach in Word, Excel and perhaps SharePoint more recently) or using native functionality available in their SRS. Around 10% of institutions use a single function curriculum management solution.

Initially, we focused on understanding the options available to Durham given their phased implementation of Banner 9.  SUMS conducted internal interviews, desk research and talked to vendors about their software solutions and UK universities using those solutions.   We continued our research, broadening the conversations to include other student record systems and other comparator institutions using SITS and PeopleSoft to make the contents of this paper as wide-ranging as feasible in the time frame.   The result is an in-depth SUMS Briefing Paper on Curriculum Management Systems, available only to SUMS members.

We would like to thank colleagues from the universities which supplied case studies and solution providers for their time and patience with our questions.

If you are a SUMS member and would like to access the paper, please email SUMS Managing Consultant Claire Taylor MBE at For any questions about various curriculum lifecycle elements, the processes associated with them, the systems covered, or any general support in this area, please contact

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