Guidelines for the Accurate Use of Academic Program Names
Rationale/Purpose of the Guidelines
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is authorized by the Board of Regents of the UW System and its accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission, to offer an approved set of academic programs.
The set of academic programs UW-Madison is authorized/approved to offer is generally referred to as the university’s academic program array. The array is comprised of:
- degree/major programs (i.e., academic plans),
- named options (i.e., academic subplans),
- certificate programs (also academic plans; established as undergraduate, graduate/professional, or capstone certificates), and
The university presents its official, governance-approved full program array via its academic structure.
In all materials, print and electronic, the name of an academic program must be stated and referred to as it was officially and formally approved by the university via the University Academic Planning Council. This accurate and consistent use of an academic program’s approved name helps ensure understanding and clarity regarding the official program of study.
- Diploma: Official document showing the successful completion of an academic program. The diploma displays the legal name of the individual, the degree earned, and the date the degree was awarded along with the seal of the university and signatures of presiding academic officers. Majors, named options, and certificates are not listed on the diploma. For example, a degree will be presented on the diploma as: “Bachelor of Science.”
- Named Option: A formally documented sub-major within an academic degree program.
- Plan: Academic offerings, including majors, minors, and certificates.
- Subplans: Curricular options within a plan, including named options and honors.
- Transcript: Official, certified record of UW-Madison academic history, including courses taken, grades received, and degrees earned. Majors, named options, and certificates are listed on the transcript. For example, the following will be printed on the transcript: “Bachelor of Science, Major: Biology, Option: Evolutionary Biology.”
These guidelines apply to all academic credentials at UW-Madison, at the undergraduate and graduate levels. This includes all plans (i.e., degree/majors, minors, and certificates) and subplans (i.e., named options). Nondegree offerings, such as the various certificates and badges offered through the Division of Continuing Studies, are excluded from these guidelines.
Academic programs of study at UW-Madison must be referred to by their official names as approved by the university via the University Academic Planning Council. This includes all plans (i.e., degree/majors, minors, and certificates) and subplans (i.e., named options) as referenced in all materials. Examples of applicable print and electronic materials include program handbooks, applications for admission, social media, websites, online forms, advertisements, the Guide, etc.
It is important that all stakeholders, including prospective students, current students, faculty, advisors, etc., have a clear understanding of the name of the program of study being referenced. By clearly and correctly stating the academic program’s official and approved name, the university and program are being transparent with accurate and precise naming. As a result, individuals will not be confused or mislead, the program of study can consistently and readily identified, and all parties will have the basis for informed decision-making.
For university guidelines on degree names and abbreviations, refer to the Editorial Style Guide.
General guidance to support adherence to these guidelines includes:
- The notion of first and subsequent citations can apply to these guidelines. For example, if in the header of a website or the first time the academic program is referenced in text, the full and official program title is used (e.g., MS in Sports Leadership), the subsequent reference can be less formal (e.g., master’s in sports leadership). Other examples of acceptable second references include:
- GIS Fundamentals certificate (for the Certificate in GIS Fundamentals)
- epidemiology option (for the MS-Population Health named option in Epidemiology)
- Do not add descriptors to a program’s name that are not officially approved, such as Accelerated, Research, Professional, Online, etc. These descriptors can be used upon second reference.
- When referring to a named option, ensure its relationship to the degree is clear. This is a very common point of confusion for students who think they are earning, for example, a “bachelor’s in natural resources and environmental engineering” when in fact they have earned a bachelor’s in biological systems engineering with the named option in natural resources and environmental engineering.
- It is particularly important that full and official academic program names are used on any documents that are signed or suggest a formal or informal contract with a student. This includes an application for admission, enrollment confirmation, degree warrant, etc.
Following are examples of acceptable references to academic program names:
- African Cultural Studies, B.A. or BA-African Cultural Studies or Bachelor of Arts in African Cultural Studies
- Bachelor of Science in Animal Sciences
- Certificate in Art Studio
- Certificate in Energy Analysis and Policy or Energy Analysis and Policy, Graduate/Professional Certificate
- Business: Accounting, BBA or Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting or BBA in Accounting
- MS-Engineering Mechanics, Opt: Aerospace Engineering or MS-Engineering Mechanics: Aerospace Engineering or Engineering Mechanics: Aerospace Engineering, MS