Policy Change Updates

Engagement and Enrollment in Doctoral Programs -- New, 17 Dec. 2020

The Executive Council of Graduate Faculty proposed retiring the Doctoral Program Time Constraints policy and replacing it with a new policy, Engagement and Enrollment in Doctoral Programs, which Provost Bichelmeyer approved on 17 December 2020. These changes have been published and are effective immediately.

Rationale

This new policy responds to the needs of several professional schools to develop doctoral programs that intentionally serve part-time students and/or students for whom a physical, on-campus residence period impedes progress toward the degree. The intent behind the new policy is to be more inclusive and welcoming to students from non-traditional backgrounds and to smooth the path for them to pursue graduate work at KU while maintaining our high standards for academic rigor in doctoral programs.

Changes

In summary, the new policy eliminates the full-time, on-campus residency requirement and, instead, emphasizes a minimum period of pre-comprehensive enrollment and rigorous engagement in the degree program. It allows doctoral students to meet these engagement requirements by enrolling either part-time or full-time in any combination of on-ground, hybrid, and online courses at KU, as deemed appropriate by the degree-granting program or department. Students must abide by any additional or corollary requirements or limitations set by the degree program, department, or school. Specific elements of the new policy include:

  • New policy name: the old policy was fully retired and this new policy has been published as a replacement
  • Eliminate the requirement for two full-time semesters physically resident on campus and replace the residency requirement with a choice between:
    • Two fall and/or spring semesters of full-time enrollment in KU coursework as defined by university policy OR
    • At least 18 hours of enrollment in KU coursework spread out over several part-time semesters
    • Either of these options must be completed prior to the semester in which the student takes the comprehensive exam.
  • Shift emphasis from full-time enrollment and physical residency toward sustained intellectual engagement and academic rigor
  • Eliminate the option to count master's degrees earned at other institutions toward the KU residency requirement (Note: Master's degrees earned at KU still count.)
  • Explicitly permit counting online, remote, or distance courses (taken at KU) toward the engagement and enrollment requirement
  • Explicitly require that students meet all applicable program, department, or school requirements
  • Remove the discussion of academic Leave of Absence from this policy, since it is addressed in its own, standalone policy

Review Procedure

The new policy was developed through collaboration with the Executive Council of Graduate Faculty and with the Schools of Social Welfare, Pharmacy, and Education. The Executive Council conducted four formal reviews of proposed policy language and circulated two drafts for campus-wide stakeholder review and comment between their discussions. The following campus stakeholders received the drafts for comment.

  • Deans
  • Associate Deans
  • Department Chairs
  • Directors of Graduate Study
  • Graduate Coordinators
  • Graduate Liaisons in all professional schools and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • The Office of the University Registrar
  • Student Information Systems
  • Financial Aid and Scholarships
  • Graduate Enrollment Management
  • Graduate Military Programs
  • International Scholar Services
  • The Policy Office

Feedback Received

The Executive Council enjoyed substantial feedback and lengthy, sustained discussions with stakeholders throughout the several rounds of review. The Council deliberated over all of the feedback and used it to determine the best overall approach. In particular, they addressed the following considerations.

  • Many faculty stakeholders feel strongly that intense immersion in a discipline or field of study is a cornerstone of doctoral education, so to remove that requirement would compromise the value of a KU doctoral degree as well as our ranking among our national peers. The Council addressed this concern by retaining two full-time semesters as the preferred option for demonstrating engagement while also providing an alternative enrollment format for those programs who find it beneficial.
  • Some stakeholders argued that permitting part-time pursuit of Ph.D. degrees may have unintended consequences for the sustainability and marketability of professional doctorates historically marketed to full-time working professionals. Council recognized this concern but upheld the traditional KU policy expectation that departments and schools may always set more stringent requirements than those outlined in university policy. Since an existing remote Ph.D. program currently operating at KU provided data demonstrating that they would be better served by the option to allow part-time enrollments as well, the Council opted to set the minimum bar for all doctorates at the same level and grant maximum flexibility to programs, departments, and schools to set more appropriately stringent standards where necessary.
  • The Council concurred with feedback that the option to pursue a given doctoral program remotely or on a part-time basis should be determined at the program level by the faculty, not on an individual, case-by-case basis by the student.
  • A number of thorough discussions concerning the procedural mechanics of administering this policy also yielded significant improvements over the course of several drafts.

The Office of Graduate Studies is very grateful for the sustained and thoughtful participation of all stakeholders in developing and improving this new policy.

Graduate Credit -- Updated, 17 Dec. 2020

The Executive Council of Graduate Faculty proposed the following changes to the Graduate Credit policy, which Provost Bichelmeyer approved on 17 December 2020. These changes have been published and are effective immediately.

Rationale

This revision made two primary changes to the policy governing transfer credit into master's programs. Both changes aim to reduce or remove administrative barriers to recruitment of new students. One is prompted by a recognition that, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, future students may wish to transfer courses in which they did not earn a letter grade for reasons outside their control.

The other change creates an opportunity for KU programs to establish formalized partnerships with other institutions, through which students may be able to transfer more than nine credit hours earned elsewhere toward a master's degree granted by KU. The expectation remains that the additional hours will still meet all of KU's established standards for master's-level transfer credit.

The Council also took the opportunity to clarify that an existing restriction on earning graduate credit for courses graded C- and below applies to both degree- and certificate-seeking students.

Changes

Specific updates to the policy include:

  • Establishment of a Memorandum of Understanding with a partner institution may allow programs to accept more than nine hours of transfer credit toward a KU master's degree.
  • In cases of natural or other disaster, KU master's programs may accept courses for transfer credit which carry non-letter grades as long as a transcript note or other documentation demonstrates a wide-scale shift to a non-letter grading scale.
  • Technical edit: courses earning a C- and below do not count toward a graduate degree or certificate.

Review Procedure

This policy change was developed in collaboration with the Executive Council of Graduate Faculty and through circulation for campus-wide stakeholder review and comment, which included the following campus stakeholders:

  • Deans
  • Associate Deans
  • Graduate Military Programs
  • Lt. Gen. William K. Jones Military-Affiliated Student Center
  • The Office of the University Registrar
  • Graduate Enrollment Management
  • Department Chairs
  • Directors of Graduate Study
  • Graduate Coordinators
  • The Policy Office


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