An explanation of DARS, Guide and the relationship between these two official sources of academic and curricular policy information
Since 2001, DARS has been the official audit of student progress toward, and completion of L&S undergraduate degree requirements.
Prior to the 2017, the Undergraduate Catalog—in printed and online forms—was the official source of academic information released to the public as well as to students, faculty and staff at UW–Madison. Beginning with the 2017–18 academic year, Guide became the official publication of L&S degree, major and certificate requirements.
How Guide informs DARS
Requirements published in Guide are formally approved by the College and University. Approved requirements are implemented in DARS for the purposes cited in the DARS KB article [link: https://kb.wisc.edu/ls/20667 ]. All requirements published in Guide and codified in DARS are reviewed by Academic Information Management (AIM), and are approved through faculty governance.
The official status of DARS and Guide means that these documents need to be congruent, and not in contradiction with one another. Anyone viewing Guide and DARS concurrently should see the same basic information about curriculum. (See the "Catalog Years" section of the L&S Lumen/Guide Policy & Style Guidelines for Undergraduate Programs for details regarding how DARS applies requirements from different Guide editions to individual students’ degree audits.) AIM verifies that the expression of program requirements in Guide are conducive to the purposes of DARS.
How Guide and DARS differ
Guide is a published on an annual cycle (with limited updates made mid-year) and Guide therefore has a series of editions (i.e., there is a 2019–2020 edition that will be followed by the 2020–2021 edition).
Guide is mainly static—once it is published it does not change until the next edition. The information in Guide is also general; Guide does not consider a student’s individual circumstance, status, or academic record to determine which information is relevant to each student. By contrast, DARS considers a student’s declared programs, AP credits, transfer courses, UW–Madison courses, credits, grades, academic actions, date of matriculation and dates of program declaration in order to produce a degree audit that is specifically accurate to that student. Because DARS is accurate for individual students, DARS is considered the Document of Record of student degree progress and graduation.