L&S Policy Guidance: Course or Class Section Cancellation

In the College of Letters & Science (L&S), departments and programs occasionally need to cancel courses or course sections after the enrollment period begins and prior to the beginning of the term of instruction. As a general rule, decisions about cancellation are easier to make earlier in the enrollment period vs. as the semester approaches, and when there are no students enrolled, vs. when the course has enrollment.

Potential reasons for course cancellations

Course cancellation may happen for various reasons:

Low Enrollment. In Fall/Spring terms, the “Low enrollment” thresholds are governed by existing L&S Policy on low-enrollment courses, L&S guidance on "low enrollment" course sections .  In the Summer term, because the financial viability of offerings is also factored into departmental decisions to cancel courses, the threshold for “low enrollment” varies by course, department, and instructor.

Staffing problems, such as
  • Inability to identify a qualified instructor to teach the course
  • Sudden changes in instructor’s plans (visa/immigration issues, research buy-out, illness, unanticipated departure from UW-Madison)
  • Reassignment of instruction to manage and optimize departmental instructional resources (addressing enrollment demands by moving instructors from a lower enrollment course to a larger enrollment course)

Effects of course cancellation on students and employees

Canceling courses directly affects individual students, and while many students may easily find alternative courses to take or may be able to proceed with a reduced course load, an unexpected reduction in credits will cause problems for some students. For example;
  • International students must be enrolled full-time enrollment to maintain F-1 visa status.
  • Students with scholarships or loans need to maintain full time enrollment to retain their scholarships or defer their loans.
  • Students on academic probation may have made specific plans with their advisor to remediate performance problems or to make progress relative to identified performance milestones
  • Athletes must meet credit limits to remain eligible to compete.
  • Students may be taking required courses that are offered in a particular pattern, and which can only be taken in a particular sequence.
  • Summer term students may be are completing degree requirements prior to entering graduate school or a post-baccalaureate professional program.
Canceling courses also affects employees, who may need to be reassigned to maintain contracted workload obligations and expectations.

Because canceling courses can have these serious effects on others, departments carefully consider when it is appropriate to cancel a course.  Department faculty responsible for administering the academic programs and courses should be consulted about the best action and whether cancellation is necessary. The negative effect on students and staff should be minimized, if at all possible.  Departmental practices vary, but this usually means the Department Chair/Program Director, unit-level Curriculum Committee, and/or Undergraduate or Graduate Program administrators and program advisors are consulted as decisions are made.  In cases where cancellation affects the faculty or staff instructor’s workload, L&S Human Resources, the Divisional Associate Dean, and the Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning Administration may also be involved in the decision. 

More information

For more information or guidance on the L&S course cancellation policy, contact Shirin Malekpour, Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning Administration (shirin.malekpour@wisc.edu). Please also see:





Keywords:course, cancel, low enrollment, staffing, cancelling   Doc ID:95126
Owner:Kimbrin C.Group:L&S Administrative Gateway
Created:2019-10-21 08:56 CSTUpdated:2019-11-20 11:03 CST
Sites:L&S Administrative Gateway
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