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What is a Master Plan?

A college or university states its mission, goals, and objectives in its master plan. The master plan describes the institution’s philosophy, purposes, and direction; the characteristics of the people it seeks to serve; the level and range of programs it offers; the research it conducts; and the services it provides. This plan may be modified by amendment as the institution evolves.

An institution’s or campus’s approved academic mission consists of the levels of study (associate, baccalaureate, first-professional, master’s, and doctoral) it offers and the set of disciplinary areas in the New York State taxonomy of academic programs in which it offers degree programs at each level of study.

What is a Master Plan Amendment?

When an institution seeks to expand its academic mission (e.g., by offering a degree at a new level of study or in a new disciplinary area), it must submit a master plan amendment application for review and approval by the Board of Regents. The Regents must approve an amendment of an institution’s master plan before the institution can undertake the proposed activities. The main purpose of this process is to permit public review of significant changes in an institution’s academic mission.

What actions require Master Plan Amendment?

Board of Regents approval of a first master plan or of an amendment to an existing master plan is required in the following instances for degree programs:

•   An institution’s initial authorization to award a degree (i.e., a new college);

•   An institution's first program at a new level of study (e.g., first master’s degree);

•   An institution's establishment of a branch campus or inter-institutional program;

•      At each degree level an institution’s first program (associate, baccalaureate, first-professional, master’s, and doctoral) in each of the following ten disciplinary areas:

  • Agriculture
  • Biological Sciences
  • Business
  • Education, including education, home economics, and library science; however, an institution offering home economics and/or library science but not education programs may not offer education programs without approval of a master plan amendment.
  • Engineering, including engineering, architecture, engineering technology, metallurgy, and related interdisciplinary studies; however, an institution offering architecture, engineering technology, and/or metallurgy but not engineering programs may not offer engineering programs without approval of a master plan amendment.
  • Fine Arts
  • Health Professions
  • Humanities, including humanities, area studies, classics, comparative literature, English, foreign languages. linguistics, philosophy, religious studies, theology, and related interdisciplinary studies
  • Physical Sciences, including physical sciences, astronomy, astrophysics, atmospheric sciences and meteorology, chemistry, computer science, earth sciences, geology, geophysics and seismology, mathematics, oceanography, paleontology, physics, and related interdisciplinary studies
  • Social Sciences, including social sciences, anthropology, archaeology, communication, criminology, economics, geography, history, political science, psychology, public affairs, and sociology.

How are Master Plan Amendments related to an institution’s academic mission and program of study?

An institution’s academic mission consists of the levels of study it offers and the set of disciplinary areas in the New York State taxonomy of academic programs in which it offers degree programs at each level of study. Each program of study at an institution is a curriculum as defined in Section 50.1 (i) of the Commissioner’s Regulations.

For purposes of administration, each program of study is categorized in a Higher Education General Information Survey (HEGIS) subject field, which reflects taxonomy of academic disciplines.

Are there any exceptions to the Master Plan Amendment process?

An institution authorized to confer baccalaureate and master’s degrees and offering registered baccalaureate programs in a HEGIS subject field (4-digit level) within one of the ten disciplinary areas (see above) may register a master’s degree program in the same subject field without approval of a master plan amendment, even if it would be the institution’s first master’s degree program in the disciplinary area. Subsequent registration of additional master’s degree programs in the disciplinary area would not need master plan amendment approval.

For example, if an institution authorized to confer master’s degrees offers a registered baccalaureate program in zoology (HEGIS 0407) and wishes to offer a master’s degree program in the same subject field, zoology, the only action needed would be registration, even if the program would be its first master’s degree program in the Biological Sciences disciplinary area.

Master Planning for New Institutions:

Establishing a new higher education institution requires Regents review and approval of a master plan amendment. This includes the conversion of an existing non-degree institution to a degree-granting institution.  Individuals interested in this process should review the Higher Education Authorization section of this Website.

Master Planning for Branch Campuses and Inter-institutional Programs

Establishing a branch campus or inter-institutional program requires Regents review and approval of an amendment to an institution’s master plan. Branch campus is defined as a unit of an institution located at a place other than the institution’s principal center, at which the institution offers one or more degree programs. For an independent institution, a concurrent charter amendment also may be needed. 

Is a Master Plan Amendment required for courses offered at an Extension Site?

Individual courses offered at an extension site would not require the approval of a master plan amendment and/or charter amendment. Institutions are required to inform the Department of the locations of extension sites and inter-institutional sites. They do this through the Inventory of Off-Campus Instructional Locations (NYSED-8 form) in the Higher Education Data System (HEDS). Part 54 of Commissioner’s Regulations also defines extension centers and inter-institutional centers and requires that institutions receive the Commissioner’s approval to operate them.

More information on off-campus instruction can be found here:


What is the process for requesting a Master Plan Amendment?

The institution should carefully read the guidelines found in the beginning of this section to determine if the proposal requires a master plan amendment (MPA).  If a MPA is determined to be required, the institution must complete and submit the MPA supplement in addition to the registration materials for new programs.

When both applications have been submitted and reviewed, the Department sends the required abstract to other colleges and universities in the region of the proposed program in order to solicit (canvass) their comments and advice on the need and demand for the proposed program(s) and the potential effect on other institutions.  (See section on Counties Organized by Regents Higher Education Region in the document.)

The letter (canvass) invites the regional institutions to voice support, concerns and objections and also informs them of the right to request a public hearing.  If a public hearing is requested, the Department coordinates the hearing and it is presided over by a member of the Board of Regents.  The purpose of the hearing is to provide an opportunity for colleges and universities in the region, and other interested parties, to comment on how the proposal may affect their institution.  It is not an adjudicatory hearing.  The hearing summary is presented along with the MPA item to the Board of Regents for its consideration at a Regents meeting.

If objections or concerns have been raised, the institution responds to those concerns in writing to the objecting institution.  The Department should be copied on the response. 

If no objections have been raised, the Department prepares a formal recommendation to the Board of Regents following its review and analysis of the information provided. (Following Regents approval of an amendment to the master plan of State University or City University, the Governor must approve the amendment. The Department cannot register the program proposed until the Governor has approved the master plan amendment.)

(Statutory Authority: Section 237 of Education Law. See also Section 52.1 and Part 54 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.)

Last updated
June 25, 2021 - 1:51pm