HLC FAQ: 2. Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirements FAQ

HLC

a. Why shouldn’t our institution have a master’s degree credit minimum lower than 30?

b. What are the minimum degree credit requirements for master’s degrees, MFA degrees, specialist certificates, and doctoral degrees?
 
c. Are credits taken while a dissertator allowed to count towards the doctoral degree credit requirement? Do the minimum doctoral degree credits (51 credits) have to be taken before or after dissertator status?

d. Why was 51 credits selected as degree credit requirement for doctoral students?  For example, there could be cases where a student obtains the minimum 32 credits for the residence credit requirement (also needed for dissertator status) and then completes six semesters as a dissertator (with three credits each term) for a total of 18 dissertator credits.  Thirty-two credits plus the 18 dissertator credits is one credit shy of the 51 credits required for degree credit requirement.

e. Can we consider providing degree credit for other required activities?

f. Will the Graduate School impose a maximum number of degree credits allowed for research/independent study?

g. Can a degree be research-only, with no course work? Is there a minimum number of degree credits required for course work vs. research?

h. Can courses taken from a professional career (VMED, MED, LAW, PHARM) be used towards a graduate degree?  Are there any changes to dual graduate/professional degree programs?

i. Will the GFEC/Graduate School decide on a maximum degree credit requirement for graduate degrees?

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a. Why shouldn’t our institution have a master’s degree credit minimum lower than 30?

Our peer institutions overwhelmingly require a minimum of 30 credits for the master’s degree. The 16 credit minimum effective prior to Fall 2014 was an extreme outlier. Thus, we did not feel we had a good argument for having a minimum below 30. Furthermore, data (prior to the policy change) on student outcomes show that 92% of the practices of master’s programs across campus is consistent with a 30 degree credit minimum.


b. What are the minimum degree credit requirements for master’s degrees, MFA degrees, specialist certificates, and doctoral degrees? 

There are new minimum degree credit policy changes at all degree levels (master’s, specialist certificates, MFA, and doctoral degrees).  The policy in place prior to Fall 2014, required a minimum of 16 credits for a master’s degree, 24 credits for the MFA, and 32 credits for a doctoral degree.  The Graduate Faculty Executive Committee (GFEC) determined that requiring 30 credits for a master’s degree and keeping the minimum MFA/specialist certificate and doctoral degree credit requirements unchanged was not reasonable. The body of work expected for an MFA or doctoral degree is substantially different from other master’s degrees. Peer institutions have doctoral credit minimums that range from none to 96 credits at the doctoral level. Furthermore, data (prior to the policy change) on student outcomes shows that most practices of MFA and doctoral programs across campus is consistent with higher degree credit minimums.

The GFEC subcommittee has approved a new graduate degree credit minimum of 30 credits for a master’s degree, 42 credits for a MFA/specialist certificate and 51 credits for a doctoral degree, with graduate residency requirements at 16, 24, and 32 credits respectively. The credits used towards a master’s degree, a doctoral minor, or taken as a dissertator may count towards the related doctoral degree credit. 

 

c. Are credits taken while a dissertator allowed to count towards the doctoral degree credit requirement? Do the minimum doctoral degree credits (51 credits) have to be taken before or after dissertator status?

Credits take while a dissertator can count towards the minimum doctoral degree credit requirement of 51 credits.  The minimum doctoral degree credits (51 credits) can be earned before or after dissertator status.  However, requirements for dissertator status remain the same including satisfying the minimum graduate residence credit requirement of 32 credits.


d. Why was 51 credits selected as degree credit requirement for doctoral students?  For example, there could be cases where a student obtains the minimum 32 credits for the residence credit requirement (also needed for dissertator status) and then completes six semesters as a dissertator (with three credits each term) for a total of 18 dissertator credits.  Thirty-two credits plus the 18 dissertator credits is one credit shy of the 51 credits required for degree credit requirement.

The graduate residence credit requirement and the graduate degree credit requirement are both minimum standards.  Based on historical data, most doctoral students surpass these minimums.  The Graduate Faculty Executive (GFEC) subcommittee considered various factors when determining the 51 credit requirement:  appropriate time-to-degree, appropriate length of time as a dissertator, and credit requirements at peer institutions.   The GFEC subcommittee was not necessarily calculating a formula that would allow students to graduate with the least amount of credits possible, but rather reflecting on the above factors.  For example, a student could complete a doctoral degree in five years in a scenario such as 3-4 terms of 12 credits (total of 36-48 credits) to attain dissertator status and then 3-5 terms of 3 credits (total of 9-15 credits) as a dissertator.  Some terms would include the summer term.


e. Can we consider providing degree credit for other required activities?

Yes, we advise programs to examine the expectations they have of their students and work to formalize any informal or non-credited work as credits within the standards of UW-Madison curriculum policies. Examples include providing credit for practicum experiences such as internships and field work, required research currently not bearing credit, and required seminar attendance. Additionally, if master’s credits are part of the total required for the associated doctoral degree, a program may consider moving some of the doctoral credits into the master’s requirement.  For further details on course policy and the course approval process, please refer to the following website:  http://apir.wisc.edu/courses.htm


f. Will the Graduate School impose a maximum number of degree credits allowed for research/independent study?

A new maximum on research/independent study credits is not part of these policy changes. Currently, there are no limitations on the number of research or independent study credits that a student can use towards a graduate degree (except in the case of the doctoral minor; see below), although programs may choose to have limitations. Current Graduate School policies and procedures detail minimum credit requirements , but do not distinguish between classroom course credits and thesis/research credits.

Credit policy for doctoral minors:  Doctoral minors require a minimum of nine credits. A maximum of three credits can be independent study credits, and research and thesis credits may not be used to satisfy the minor.  (Graduate School Academic Policies and Procedures, Graduate School,  University of Wisconsin – Madison, http://grad.wisc.edu/education/acadpolicy/index.html)


g. Can a degree be research-only, with no course work? Is there a minimum number of degree credits required for course work vs. research?

The balance between course work and research is not dictated as a general principle. At a broad research university like University of Wisconsin – Madison, it is important to have the flexibility to construct degree programs in ways that achieve the learning outcomes established by the program.  At the master’s level, this may range from a course-work-only master’s program to a research-based master’s program with minimal course work requirements. In some cases, programs may choose to adjust the number of required courses based on an individual student’s prior preparation.


h. Can courses taken from a professional career (VMED, MED, LAW, PHARM) be used towards a graduate degree?  Are there any changes to dual graduate/professional degree programs?
Please note that dual degrees are two degrees that are each earned in a separate “career” as defined in ISIS.  For example, a graduate/professional dual degree is where one degree is granted in a graduate program/career and the other in a professional program/career (e.g., M.D/MED, J.D./LAW, MPAS/MED, DVM/VET, D.Pharm./PHARM, MPH/MED).  For students in a dual career programs, the program continues to have the latitude to determine which courses can be used toward the graduate degree.
Please see FAQs in the “Effective Dates and Affected Students” section for further details on impacts to dual degree students.


i. Will the GFEC/Graduate School decide on a maximum degree credit requirement for graduate degrees?

Some peer institutions do provide a maximum in addition to a minimum (e.g. University of Michigan:  master’s degrees must be between 24 and 72 credits; Minnesota: master’s degrees must be between 30 and 48 credits).  Although a maximum has not been set, it should be noted that a master’s degree is a body of work that is substantially different from a doctoral degree and the credit requirements of a program should reflect this difference.

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Keywords:HLC   Doc ID:41514
Owner:Michelle H.Group:VCRGE and Graduate School
Created:2014-06-30 14:31 CDTUpdated:2014-09-10 08:57 CDT
Sites:VCRGE and Graduate School
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