Certificates - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)*
Answers to frequently asked questions regarding certificate programs.
Academic Planning and Institutional Research (APIR) has created a new Certificate KB Topic Library on its new APIR KnowledgeBase site. The content formerly housed on this KB has transitioned to the updated document(s). Please refer to this library for documents that provide an overview of certificate guidelines and policy, answers to frequently asked questions, and details on certificate declaring, tracking, and completion.
This new APIR KB site is replacing the former Courses and Academic Programs (aka, Vesta) site in a staged transition. (Note: The Lumen KB remains separate and active and is available from the Quick Link in the left navigation of the APIR KB site.) This new APIR KB will include documents related to academic program planning (degrees/majors, named options, certificates), courses, program review, and academic policy.
What does low-award producing mean for a certificate program? Low-award producing certificate programs are those that award fewer than 10 certificates in a five-year period. Dean’s offices will be asked to conduct a review of certificate programs that are low-award producing, even if a review has been completed recently. Certificates that have not been awarded in a five-year period will be automatically discontinued. You may view the Academic Planning and Institutional Research (APIR) interactive Tableau visualization of trends in degrees and certificates for current data. How many credits are in undergraduate certificates? Per the Guidelines for For-Credit Certificates (section 6), an undergraduate certificate consists of 12-21 credits and should not require more than half of the credits required for a major in a related field. Most undergraduate certificates are 12-18 credits. Credit requirements in excess of 21 credits must be explicitly acknowledged and approved by the school/college academic planning council and the University Academic Planning Council (UAPC). What are the limits on undergraduate certificate program requirement overlap with other majors or certificates? Students may not earn a certificate and a major or another certificate with the same name/subject area. For example, a math major cannot earn the math certificate. Similarly, undergraduate certificates may not require more than half of the credits required for a major or certificate in a related field. Certificate programs wishing to limit combinations of certificates and majors must enforce those limits at the time of declaration in the Student Information System (SIS). Can a student delay graduation to complete a certificate? Once a student completes degree/major requirements for graduation, they will be graduated even if there are remaining requirements toward a certificate program. The certificate requirements cannot hinder a student's timely graduation. A student may graduate with their degree and then return to the university as a University Special (i.e., non-degree candidate) student to complete the remaining certificate requirement. This is only an option if the desired certificate is authorized to serve University Special students. How does an undergraduate certificate seek approval to serve University Special students? If an existing undergraduate certificate program wishes to enroll University Special students (i.e., non-degree candidates), the first step is to consult with the school/college academic dean. This step is important because some schools/colleges have policy limiting certificate availability to only degree-seeking students. If a certificate program desires to serve University Special students, and the program has consulted the relevant school/college academic dean, the next step is to submit a proposal for approval through Lumen Programs. With department, school/college, and University Academic Planning Council (UAPC) approval, the infrastructure to serve University Special students is created and the Student Information System is updated, which ultimately enables University Special student enrollment. A proposal of this nature must be explicit that this opportunity is intended by the faculty, and must explain how the certificate is designed and resourced to accommodate the extra University Special students. Programs are encouraged to keep in mind that University Special students enroll in courses as space allows, and that the program is making the commitment to an increased academic administration and advising responsibility. For more detailed information regarding what will be required in a proposal requesting the ability to serve University Special students in a certificate, consult section 12 of the Guidelines for For-Credit Certificates. Note: Both the Guide and Lumen include information on whether or not an existing certificate is available to University Special students. What is the minimum GPA requirement for undergraduate certificate programs? Students who participate in certificate programs should be in good academic standing according to the standards set by their school/college degree or major requirements. In the absence of other specifications, a minimum average 2.000 grade point average (GPA) must be earned on all course work attempted to meet the requirements of the certificate program. Completed courses listed within the certificate curriculum, whether or not they meet a specific requirement, are included in the calculation of the GPA. Who is eligible to earn an undergraduate certificate? Undergraduate certificates are available to degree-seeking UW-Madison undergraduates. They are offered at an undergraduate level of content and intensity and are designed to complement undergraduate degree/majors. Undergraduate certificates may be open to University Special (i.e., non-degree candidate) students who hold a bachelor's degree if provisions for these students are planned and approved by program faculty, school/college academic planning council, and the University Academic Planning Council (UAPC). Note: Both the Guide and Lumen include information on whether or not an existing certificate is available to University Special students. What is the residence requirement for an undergraduate certificate? At least half (50 percent) of certificate credits must be taken in residence at UW-Madison as a degree-seeking undergraduate. Credits earned by participation in a UW-Madison study abroad program are counted as residence credits unless the program faculty specifically exclude such credits. Credits earned in distance-delivered UW-Madison courses also count as credits earned in residence. Exceptions to the minimum residency requirement are not permitted. Can graduate students earn undergraduate certificates? Graduate and professional students are not eligible to earn undergraduate certificates. For more information, refer to the Guidelines for For-Credit Certificates. How many learning outcomes should an undergraduate certificate have? As stated in the campus Institutional Plan for Assessing Student Learning, course and program learning outcomes are required for all courses and programs. This includes certificate programs. An undergraduate certificate program must have at least one learning outcome; most certificate programs have 1-5 learning outcomes. What types of courses may be used to satisfy undergraduate certificate requirements? Courses eligible to satisfy undergraduate certificate requirements must be numbered 699 or lower. Special topics courses will only be included if all offerings of the given special topics course will satisfy the requirement. Courses in which a student elects the pass/fail option will not meet certificate requirements. Can certificates be rewarded retroactively? Certificates may not be retroactively awarded to graduated students who completed all of the certificate requirements before the certificate program was formally approved. Similarly, certificates will not be awarded to students who completed certificate requirements but did not officially declare the certificate before graduating. What is the approval process for creating a new undergraduate certificate? The following diagram depicts the process to propose a new undergraduate certificate. New certificates are proposed by schools/colleges using the Lumen Program proposal form.