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The Graduate College Handbook

for students, faculty and staff – August 2016

Chapter 2: Graduate College Policy for the Approval of New and Revised Graduate Degree Programs

Review and approval of all proposed new and revised graduate degree programs by the Dean and Executive Committee of the Graduate College are required, as one mechanism for fulfilling the statutory functions of the Graduate College to "develop and safeguard standards of graduate work." Criteria by which proposals for graduate programs are judged by Graduate College committees and the reviews required are described below.

Recognizing the diversity of graduate programs on campus, the criteria are deliberately general to permit flexibility in evaluation of programs by the standards of the discipline.

Procedures to assist you in creating and structuring a proposal and more details regarding the processing of approvals are available online.

A. Graduate Degree Programs

  1. Master's Degrees
    In a university where the emphasis is on the research Ph.D., there is wide variety in the objectives and organization of master's degrees. In general they fall into two categories:
    1. Those leading to the academic degrees of Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.) and are an introduction to scholarly activities and research for the Ph.D.
    2. Professional master's programs that prepare graduates for careers outside the academy, such as teachers or practitioners.
       
  2. Doctoral Programs
    1. The traditional Doctor of Philosophy is a rigorous research degree.
    2. In place of or supplementing the research component, professional doctoral programs usually contain more coursework or professional experience in the form of doctoral projects or practica.
       
  3. Certificate of Advanced Study
    A terminal degree beyond the master’s degree for those professionals seeking further course-based education, but not intending to continue for a research doctorate.

B. Master’s Degree Programs

  1. Criteria for Master's Programs
    Because of the variety in master's degrees' objectives, it is difficult to set criteria that are appropriate for all programs. The following are criteria that should guide judgment with recognition of standards of the discipline and objectives of the particular master's program.
    1. A master's program should encompass a well-defined and recognized area of advanced study based on an established body of knowledge.
    2. A master's program should consist of a coherent pattern of courses, which, at the unit's discretion, may be capped by a comprehensive examination, a thesis or project report, or a creative project. The unit has the option of requiring a final evaluation and determining its form if required.
    3. The relation of the master's program to other graduate programs in the unit, particularly to doctoral degree programs, should be clearly defined. There should also be a defined and complementary relation to other master's programs on the campus; unnecessary duplication should be avoided.
    4. A core faculty of demonstrated experience and achievement in teaching and research in the field should be available and committed to conducting the master's program.
    5. Typically, the core faculty should be members of the Graduate Faculty. Evidence of scholarly productivity through publication or of creative achievement through performances and exhibits should be presented.
    6. The core faculty should be sufficient in number to teach the graduate courses and supervise the research connected with a thesis or project if required.
    7. The demand for graduates of the program should be addressed in the proposal, but the demand should not be the primary criterion for measuring the need for a master's program.
    8. There should be evidence of a potential clientele of qualified students for the master's program.
    9. There should be evidence that the proposing unit has the resources, available or committed, to mount a master's program without diluting existing programs. The resources should be sufficient to support the necessary facilities, e.g., library, computer, laboratory, and so forth.
    10. A proposal for a new or substantially revised program should compare the proposed requirements with those of similar programs at peer institutions.
    11. The proposed master's program must meet the minimum requirements for master's programs for admission, credit, residence, and so forth, as stated in the Graduate College Handbook for Students, Faculty and Staff.
       
  2. Requirements for Master’s Programs
    1. A master's degree program must require at least 32 hours. Usually, a professional master's program requires more than 32 hours of credit. The proportion of course work to thesis research credit is determined by the department.
    2. Every master's program must include at least 12 hours of 500-level courses, and at least 8 of these 12 hours must be in the major field. A department may determine the number of hours of thesis (599) that may count toward the 500-level requirement.
       
  3. Criteria for Professional Graduate Programs
    1. A proposal for a professional graduate program should clearly explain whether, and under what circumstances, required courses can be waived for equivalent course work that a student has completed prior to enrollment in the program.
    2. If a professional program admits students who have not received a bachelor's degree in the discipline, then the program should have sufficient graduate-level content to warrant a graduate degree.
       
  4. Requirements for Professional Graduate Programs
    1. If courses can be waived, then the proposal must specify the maximum number of hours that may be waived and the circumstances in which such action would be justified.
    2. Regardless of the number of hours waived, the student must still earn at least 32 hours of credit, including transfer credit, for a master's degree.

C. Doctoral Degree Programs

  1. Criteria for New Doctoral Programs
    1. A doctoral program should contribute to the broad mission of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
    2. There should be a defined and complementary relation of the proposed doctoral program to other graduate programs on the campus, and in the case of a new degree, to other degrees in the unit.
    3. A doctoral program should derive from a body of knowledge established over a sufficient period to develop a substantial scholarly discipline of well-defined content, in a field of reasonable depth.
    4. A core faculty of demonstrated experience and achievement in graduate teaching and research should be available and committed to conducting the doctoral program.
      1. Normally, all of the core faculty should be members of the Graduate Faculty and a substantial proportion should have tenure. Evidence of scholarly productivity through publication or creative achievement through performances or exhibits should be presented.
      2. The core faculty should be sufficient in number to teach the graduate courses and conduct and supervise the research.
    5. The need for a doctoral program in the discipline should be demonstrated in terms of the potential contribution of its graduates to education, research, public service, or private enterprise.
    6. The demand for graduates of the program should be addressed in the proposal, but demand should not be the primary criterion for measuring the need for a doctoral program.
    7. There should be evidence of a potential clientele of qualified students for the doctoral program.
    8. There should be evidence that the proposing unit has the resources, available or committed, to mount a doctoral program, without diluting ongoing programs. The resources should be sufficient to support the necessary facilities, e.g., library, computer, laboratory, and so forth.
    9. A proposal for a new program should compare the proposed requirements with those of similar programs at peer institutions.
    10. The proposed doctoral program must meet the minimum requirements of the Graduate College for admission, credit, doctoral examinations, dissertation, and so forth, as stated in the Graduate College Handbook for Students, Faculty and Staff.
       
  2. Requirements for Ph.D. Programs
    1. The Ph.D. is a research degree. The unit proposing a Ph.D. should have in place or under development a strong program of research and scholarship. A rigorous research component should be required in the graduate program.
    2. A Ph.D. program requires at least 96 hours of credit, divided into three stages. A doctoral student is considered to be in Stage I from initial enrollment in the Graduate College to completion of the master's degree or its equivalent, namely at least 32 hours of graduate work here or at another university. Stage I ends with an evaluation of the student's progress toward the doctoral degree, by examination or other formal review procedure. A doctoral student is considered to be in Stage II from completion of the master’s degree or equivalent to completion of all departmental requirements (except the defense and deposit of the dissertation), including passing the preliminary examination. Stage III is the time from the completion of Stage II to passing of the final defense and deposit of an approved dissertation, and consists of research and other activities.
       
  3. Requirements for Other Doctoral Programs
    Other doctoral degree programs must be judged by the above criteria, where appropriate, as well as the special criteria of the profession and the discipline.

D. Revised Graduate Programs

The Graduate College Executive Committee should review and approve proposals for all major revisions of graduate degree programs. Minor revisions to programs may not require approval beyond the Graduate College. Substantial revisions will require approval beyond the Graduate College. To determine the degree of changes you are proposing and the approvals that will be needed, review the guidelines below, and consult the Levels of Governance (LOG), maintained by the Office of the Provost. The Review and Approval Process is explained below. At the request of the department, Graduate College staff can give advice on such matters. The following may serve as guidelines:
  1. Major Revisions
    1. A change in the credit required for a degree is the one absolute criterion that marks a revision as substantial and requires approval by the Graduate College and report to the Board of Trustees.
    2. The department has considerable discretion in establishing the curriculum in a particular discipline. The content of graduate courses and graduate programs naturally evolves in response to new directions or emphases in a discipline. A major change in course requirements that substantially changes the content of the degree should be interpreted as a revised program or a new option under an existing degree and requires approval by the Graduate College and subsequent levels of governance. A proposal for a substantially revised program should compare the proposed requirements with those of similar programs at peer institutions.
       
  2. Minor Revisions
    1. Credit changed by adding or deleting a requirement for research hours and adding or deleting a requirement for an equal number of hours of course work would be a minor revision.
    2. The department has discretion to revise the course requirements, the sequencing of courses, the requirements and format for master's and doctoral examinations, and the requirements for master's and doctoral theses. Changes in such requirements are generally regarded as minor. If the changes are deemed substantial, the unit will be notified that a proposal for revision of a program is required.
    3. Editorial revisions to the Programs of Study description of a program
    4. Addition or deletion of a comprehensive examination or a qualifying examination

E. Joint Degree Programs

  1. Definition
    1. A joint degree program enables a student to earn two degrees with fewer total units of credit than pursuing each degree program separately. The two disciplines being combined should enjoy intellectual synergies, so that the joint degree student acquires knowledge and skills substantially equivalent to a student who takes the programs separately. If such synergies are not present, then reductions in total requirements could reduce the quality of one or both degrees, and therefore the joint degree proposal would be unlikely to be approved.
    2. The program requirements below make joint degrees different from a dual degree program, in which a student independently chooses to pursue two individual degrees simultaneously.
       
  2. Proposal Requirements
    Two academic units that wish to offer a joint degree program must submit a formal proposal for review by the Graduate College. The proposal must include the same elements as a proposal for a new degree program, such as the justification for the program, and budgetary and staff implications. The proposal must address the division of tuition revenues and handling of tuition waivers between colleges in which the separate programs are offered. The proposal should explain how students will be advised and evaluated.
     
  3. Program Requirements
    1. A student who wishes to enter a joint degree program must be admitted separately to each program as a joint degree candidate.
    2. Both degrees are awarded simultaneously upon completion of all requirements.
    3. Usually, each degree program counts some courses in the other program - typically up to 12 hours of credit - as electives in meeting its own requirements; however the hours required for the joint program cannot be less than the sum of the minimum hours required for each degree independently (eg. 120 for a bachelor's, 32 for a master's, etc.).
       
  4. Approval
    1. A joint degree program that combines existing degrees does not require approval beyond the Graduate College and the Provost's Office.
    2. However, joint degree programs must be reported to the Board of Trustees and submitted as part of the University's annual listing to the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

F. Extramural/Online Programs

  1. If a new degree will be created to be offered extramurally or online, the unit should follow the instructions for new degree programs, and the additional reviews needed for extramural/online program review will be included in the approval process.
     
  2. For existing degrees and courses to be offered off-campus or online, additional approvals are required. See the Policy for the Off-Campus/Online Delivery of Graduate Degree or Certificate Programs.

G. Majors, Concentrations, and Minors

  1. Major refers to the student’s primary program of study. Students in a graduate major leading to the award of a master's degree are required to complete at least 32 hours, and those in graduate majors leading to the award of a doctoral degree must complete at least 96 hours. See above for more information on these requirements. The successful completion of a major is noted on the student's transcript. Only students in joint or dual degree programs may complete more than one major.
     
  2. Concentration refers either to a specialized program of study within a major, or an interdisciplinary program. A graduate concentration consists of at least 12 graduate hours of relevant course work. A formal concentration may be defined as an elaboration or an extension of a graduate major: either content specialization within a particular discipline (for example, a taxation concentration in accountancy, or an interdisciplinary program (for example, an interdisciplinary concentration in cultural studies and interpretive research). A concentration is a coherent set of courses some or all of which count toward the major.  For more informtion, see the Policy for Graduate Concentrations.
     
  3. A minor is a coherent set of at least 12 graduate hours of courses defined by one or more units outside the student's enrolling program. A minor encourages and recognizes expertise gained in a particular area. This expertise could be completely outside the usual degree requirements or it could significantly extend knowledge in an area closely related to a particular degree program. For more information, see Policy for Graduate Minors.

H. Options, Tracks, Cognate Field, and Specializations

The terms "track," "cognate field," and "specialization" may have different meanings or may be used interchangeably. While these may be defined within certain units, they may also be created by individual students based upon their own particular interests. Because their successful completion is not noted on the student's transcript, they are less formal than concentrations, and may vary in terms of the hours required. Students may complete more than one option, track, cognate field, or specialization.

I. Interdisciplinary Programs

The Graduate College encourages the development of innovative graduate programs, especially interdisciplinary programs. New programs that do not involve new degrees can be developed as options or specializations under existing degree programs. New options do not require review beyond the Graduate College. Interdisciplinary program proposals must have the approval of all cooperating departments, schools, and colleges.

 

J. Guidelines for Multi-Institutional Graduate Degrees in Collaboration with a Foreign Institution

 

K. Review and Approval Process

The Levels of Governance (LOG) outlines the levels of approval required, by program proposal type. Depending upon the proposal type, the approval at each level could require review and a vote, or could be as a listing or consent item. However, the number of approvals required is commensurate with the significance and extent of the changes proposed. View the LOG to determine which approvals are required for your proposal.
  1. Approvals Before Arrival at the Graduate College
    All proposals should have been reviewed and approved by the following units before arriving at the Graduate College:
    1. Departmental Courses and Curricula Committee or other committee
    2. Executive Officer
    3. School (if applicable) Courses and Curricula Committee or other committee
    4. Director of School (if applicable)
    5. Disciplinary College Courses and Curricula Committee or other committee
    6. Dean or designee
       
  2. Committee Review at the Graduate College
    1. "Minor revisions"  to a graduate degree programs, as defined above in Sec. D, are considered for administrative approval by the Graduate College and do not require further committee review, and are reported to the Provost’s Office and the Academic Senate in case any further consideration is needed.
    2. A proposal for a new graduate degree program, or “Major Revisions” to an existing graduate degree program as defined above in Sec. D, require approval by the Graduate College Executive Committee and the Dean of the Graduate College.
  3. Proposals that Require Approval or Report Beyond the Graduate College
    See the LOG to determine additional levels of review and approval for your particular proposal. The full list of approvals is as follows:
    1. Provost or designee
    2. Senate Educational Policy Committee
    3. Urbana-Champaign Senate Faculty Senate
    4. Senates Conference
    5. Board of Trustees
    6. Illinois Board of Higher Education
       

August 2006, Administratively revised August 2009, August 2016