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The University of Southampton
Quality HandbookProgrammes and modules

Programme and cohort size and viability

Cohort size is a business, educational and operational concern. Small cohorts of students may be economically unsustainable while cohort size may also impact on pedagogy or effective delivery of programmes. Larger cohorts may impact on quality, while smaller cohorts are vulnerable to being overlooked. Both may lack or lose cohort identity and educational cohesion (1), particularly where they are too large to be accommodated or too small in comparison to related programmes.

Decisions relating to sustainability and viability of programmes reside within Faculty business planning teams, although the resources that support delivery of education are provided within Faculties and also centrally. The University as a whole, therefore, has a valid stake in ensuring viable and sustainable programme sizes.



  1. O’Donnell, V.L., Kean, M. and Stevens, G., 2016. Student transition in higher education. Higher Education Academy and recommendations about low numbers on pathways/programmes by López-Pastor, Pintor, Muros and Webb (2013)
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