Coursework, Grading, Probation and Dismissal Policy
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- E. COURSEWORK, GRADING, PROBATION AND DISMISSAL
- E1. Coursework
- E1.1 Full-time Status
- E1.2 Minimum Course Loads: Other Considerations
- E1.3 Grades
- E1.4 600-Level Courses
- E1.5 Academic Standing
- E1.6 Program Review of Student Progress
- E1.7 Academic Probation
- E1.8 Dismissal
- E1.9 Graduate Student Appeal Procedure
E. COURSEWORK, GRADING, PROBATION AND DISMISSAL
In general, matters concerning graduate student coursework are monitored by the Degrees office of the Graduate Division. Authority to place students on probation or dismiss them is reserved for the Dean of the Graduate Division.
Students enroll in units to account for coursework, research, and teaching development. With the exception of selected degree programs specifically approved by the Graduate Council for part-time study, all students must be fully enrolled. Courses in the 100, 200, 300, or 400 series can be taken by students prior to advancement to candidacy. Units in the 600 series may be substituted for 200-level units when appropriate. Lower division units taken to prepare for specific program requirements (e.g., requirements in languages, mathematics, or statistics) may be substituted for 100-level units.
E1.1 Full-time Status
The minimum enrollment requirement is 12 units per semester for all graduate students prior to advancement to candidacy, unless they are subject to a specific categorical or individual exception.
A full program of study for International students on F-1 or J-1 visas is normally 12 units. The student’s academic program may advise fewer units in exceptional circumstances. International students with exceptional circumstances should consult with the Berkeley International Office (BIO) to ensure compliance with the regulations of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
Course Loads of More Than 12 Units
If the Graduate Adviser agrees, students may take more than 12 units. Graduate Advisers should feel free to deny, on behalf of the Dean, student requests for excessively heavy programs that would not be in the best interests of the student.
E1.2 Minimum Course Loads: Other Considerations
A modified schedule incorporating a lower course load may be arranged for women anticipating childbirth, as part of the university’s family friendly policies.
Students Receiving Veterans’ Benefits
Students who receive veterans’ benefits are required to be enrolled in a minimum of 8 units to receive educational benefits. This requirement is met by compliance with the 12-unit enrollment requirement per semester.
Students who receive financial assistance from the Financial Aid Office must be enrolled for a minimum of 6 units. This requirement is met by compliance with the general 12-unit minimum enrollment requirement per semester. If, due to exceptional circumstances, a student receiving financial aid will be enrolled in less than 6 units, he or she must notify the Financial Aid Office.
As required by the U.S. Department of Education, students who wish to defer repayment of Federal Direct Loans (formerly Stafford Loans) must register for at least a half-time program (6 units) to qualify for deferred repayment.
Minimum Grade Requirements
In order for students to be in good standing, they must maintain an overall grade-point average of at least 3.0 on the basis of all upper division and graduate courses (100- and 200-level) taken in graduate standing. Some programs may have higher performance standards than the minimum 3.0 average required by the Graduate Division. Grades earned in Berkeley courses numbered below 100 or 300 and above are not included in determining a student’s grade-point average for good standing or earning a degree. No more than one-third of a student’s total units may be graded S/U.
The Basis of Grade-Point Averages
Students’ grade-point averages are computed on letter-graded courses completed at UC Berkeley, not including courses taken through University Extension. The basic scale is as follows: A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1, F=zero. (Plus and minus grade designations provide three-tenths more or less than the base grade, except for A+, which carries 4.0 grade points only.) Satisfactory, Unsatisfactory, Incomplete, and In Progress grades carry no grade-points and are excluded from all grade-point computations.
Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory Grades (S/U)
A Satisfactory grade implies work of B minus quality or better. Courses graded S/U are not included in the grade-point average. Units from a course graded U may not be counted toward fulfillment of students’ degree programs. For these reasons, the Graduate Division encourages enrollment in courses for letter grades. Graduate students in good standing may take courses on a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) basis only with the consent of their faculty Graduate Adviser (before advancement to candidacy, the departmental faculty Graduate Adviser; after advancement to candidacy, the doctoral chair and committee).
Limits on S/U Course Work
Academic Senate regulations limit credit for courses taken on an S/U basis to one-third of a student’s total units (excluding courses numbered 299 and those in the 300, 400, or 600 series). Units completed in an Education Abroad Program, a UC intercampus exchange program, or course work undertaken at the institutional partner of a Berkeley joint doctoral program are included in this one-third calculation.
For master’s degrees, two-thirds of all course work must be letter-graded. Courses in the 100 and 200 series graded Satisfactory may be accepted for academic residence as long as two-thirds of all course work is letter-graded. This includes all courses undertaken, not just the required core courses included on the master’s advancement to candidacy form.
In Progress Grades
Courses that extend over more than one semester are graded at the end of each intervening term with the provisional grade of In Progress (“IP”). At the end of the final term, the instructor reports a letter grade for both semesters to the Office of the Registrar. The IP grade is not included in the grade-point average. Students who do not complete a course sequence may petition to drop the course retroactively without academic penalty.
Instructors can give an Incomplete grade (“I”) when a student’s work is of passing quality but is incomplete because of circumstances beyond the student’s control, such as sudden illness. The Registrar will automatically change an IP grade to an Incomplete grade if the student has a break in a course sequence.
There is no Graduate Council mandated time limit for graduate students to make up Incompletes. Programs may set their own more restrictive policies requiring completion of Incomplete grades within a set time limit.
While there is no Graduate Council time limit for completing Incompletes, the following academic penalties apply to graduate students with Incompletes:
- students who have three or more Incompletes are academically ineligible to hold a student academic appointment (e.g. GSI, GSR)
- master’s students must remove all Incompletes (and In Progress grades) in required courses in order to receive their degrees; a student can have no more than one Incomplete in a non-required course per year of the degree program (e.g., for a two-year Master’s program, two Incompletes in courses not required are allowed) for award of the Master’s degree to be approved
- doctoral students are not eligible to apply for the Qualifying Examination or advancement to candidacy if they have more than two Incompletes
- programs may implement regulations stating that a student with more than two Incompletes is not considered in good academic standing and may face probation and dismissal
Repetition of Courses
Graduate students may repeat courses in which they received a D+, D, D-, F, or U for up to a total of 12 units. They must repeat courses for which they received a grade below C- if a passing grade in the course is required as part of the degree program.
If a student repeats a course in which he or she received a grade of D+, D, D-, or F, the units are counted only once, and only the most recently earned grade and grade points are counted for the total of 12 units of repeated work.
Students may substitute a different course for one in which they received a D+, D, D-, F, or U if the following conditions exist:
- circumstances beyond their control prevent them from retaking the course before the date they expect their degree to be conferred (e.g., the course was not offered or was renumbered, or scheduling conflicts existed between the original course and other courses required for the degree).
- the Head Graduate Adviser certifies that the content of the course to be substituted is equivalent to that covered in the original course.
Any substitution of courses in a student’s master’s degree program requires the approval of the Head Graduate Adviser and the Graduate Division.
Students who elect to repeat a course, or wish to substitute another course for one in which they received a letter grade of D+ or lower must get written approval from the Head Graduate Adviser and endorsement by the Graduate Division, to prevent the Registrar from counting the units and grades more than once.
Credit by Examination
Students may petition for a limited amount of course credit toward their degrees by passing examinations on material covered in certain courses in lieu of taking those courses. To have a Petition for Credit by Examination approved by the Registrar’s Office and the Graduate Division, the following conditions must be met:
- the student must be registered for at least 12 units of upper division or graduate work when he or she takes the examination.
- the student’s grade-point average must be at least 3.0.
- the courses must be ones that can be tested by examination. Graduate seminars and research courses cannot be taken for credit by examination.
- the course must be listed in the General Catalog and be offered during the semester in which the exam is to be taken.
The instructor of the course, Associate Dean of the Graduate Division, and Registrar must all approve the proposal. According to Academic Senate regulations governing the assignment of grades, the final result of an exam taken for credit can be reported to the Registrar only as Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory.
Changes in Grading Option
Students may petition to change from a letter grade option to Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory or from S/U to a letter grade with the approval of the Head Graduate Adviser. Changes made after the last day of instruction must be approved by the Graduate Division. The Graduate Division will not approve a retroactive petition to change grading option simply because the student anticipates a low grade or wants to convert a letter grade to S/U if the student did not earn at least a B minus in the course.
Procedure to Change Grade Option:
Students change from a letter grade option to Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory or from S/U to a letter grade by filing a Petition to Change Class Schedule, available from the Degrees or on the Registrar’s website. The Head Graduate Adviser endorses the petition by signature. In the case of a retroactive petition, the Head Graduate Adviser must also provide a memo of support, including a detailed explanation for the request. An additional memo of support from the instructor of record for the course is also required.
Procedure to Replace Incomplete Grades:
Instructors are expected to grade the work a student submits in a timely fashion and to replace the Incomplete grade. To replace an Incomplete grade on their records, students file a Petition to Remove an Incomplete Grade, available in program offices and through the Registar’s Office website. After the program records the grade replacing the Incomplete, the petition is submitted to the Registrar’s Office. When the earned grade is recorded by the Registrar, the student receives full unit credit and the grade points are added to the student’s grade-point average.
Procedure for Documenting Course Grades for Master’s Students to Receive the Degree:
Final grades for required courses for master’s degrees must be submitted by faculty and recorded by the Registrar before the Graduate Division submits the degree list to the Academic Senate for approval (about two months after final examinations).
Graduate Services Degrees Office staff check the records of master’s students programs indicate will be receiving the degree each term. Courses listed on the advancement to candidacy form are assumed to be required for the degree. If any course is listed as as Incomplete (I) or In Progress (IP) the Head Graduate Adviser must submit a memo stating which outstanding I or IP grades are not required for the degree. If an explanation was submitted for the same courses when the student applied for advancement to candidacy, the Head Graduate Adviser does not need to resubmit the information.
Procedure to Petition for Credit by Examination:
The Petition for Credit by Examination is available through the Registrar’s Office website. The student should have the petition approved by the instructor of the course, and then submit it to the Graduate Division Degrees office for approval by the Associate Dean for Degrees. Once the Graduate Division has endorsed the petition, the student submits the petition to the Registrar’s Office for approval and pays a processing fee. The Registrar’s Office will either forward the petition to the instructor for the exam to proceed, or notify the student that the petition has been denied. The instructor records the grade of Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory on the petition and returns it to the Office of the Registrar.
E1.4 600-Level Courses
Individual Study Courses 601 and 602
Individual study courses give students credit for preparing for master’s comprehensive and language exams (601) and for doctoral qualifying and language exams (602). Both 601 and 602 courses must be taken on a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) basis. Units of 601 or 602 do not count toward academic residence requirements for a graduate degree or the unit requirements for a master’s degree.
With some limitations, these courses count toward a full course load. Students may earn 1–8 units of 601 or 602 per semester or 1–4 units per summer session.
Students may not enroll in 601 or 602 courses once they have passed the master’s comprehensive (for 601) or the doctoral Qualifying Examination (for 602).
E1.5 Academic Standing
Graduate students are either a) in good academic standing, b) on probation, or c) subject to dismissal.
Students are normally in good academic standing if they:
- are making adequate progress toward the completion of degree requirements;
- have a cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.0 (or higher if the program has a higher minimum GPA requirement);
- do not have more than 2 Incomplete grades on their records; and
- have not received warning letters from the program or been placed on formal probation for academic or, in certain professional programs, clinical deficiencies.
E1.6 Program Review of Student Progress
Programs are responsible for monitoring their students’ overall progress toward graduate degrees. Programs should let students know—by published program descriptions, by written evaluations, or both—what the faculty considers to be satisfactory progress.
Programs should evaluate graduate students at the middle and end of their first year of graduate study and annually thereafter. The yearly evaluation gives faculty an opportunity to review the performance of each student and, more importantly, to provide students with timely information about the faculty’s evaluation of their progress and performance. The Graduate Division advises that the results of all evaluations be sent to students in writing. A negative evaluation may be considered a letter of warning if it includes the information required by the Graduate Council (see “Warning Letters,” below). A copy should be sent to the Graduate Division Degrees Office.
The Graduate Council requires that all students advanced to candidacy meet a minimum of once a year with their dissertation committeee members and complete the Report on Progress in Candidacy annually. Graduate Council policy states that at least two members of the committee, including the chair, must meet with the student. The Graduate Division provides the online Academic Progress Report for committees to fulfill this Graduate Council requirement, through the GLOW system. The online Academic Progress Report is initiated by the student. The committee chair (in the case of co-chairs, the chair inside the department) completes the online Academic Progress Report based on consultation with at least one other member of the dissertation committee and discussion with the student. The online Academic Progress Report is accessible to Graduate Division and via the GSAO to the program Faculty Graduate Advisors.
Criteria for Evaluating Student Progress
Because different programs assess progress in different ways, the definition of adequate progress is intentionally flexible. With the approval of the Graduate Council, programs may establish progress requirements beyond those set by uniform policy. Examples include:
- a specified grade-point average above a 3.0;
- no Incompletes or a fixed number of Incompletes;
- specific courses completed in a timely fashion and at a given level of performance;
- a master’s degree completed en route to a doctorate;
- program preliminary exams passed before admission to the Qualifying Exam;
- an acceptable thesis or dissertation prospectus submitted before advancement to candidacy;
- formation of an appropriate QE committee by a specified time;
- acceptance by a regular faculty member who agrees to supervise the student’s research and to serve as chair of the dissertation committee; and
- completion within a program specified period of general Graduate Council requirements, such as passing the Qualifying Exam or fulfilling the language requirement.
Procedure in cases of insufficient progress:
Placement of a student on formal probation is required before the student can be dismissed from the program, except in instances when a student fails a comprehensive, preliminary, or Qualifying Examination.
If a program assesses a student’s performance as below program expectations, it should inform the Graduate Division and proceed either to a warning letter or request that the student be placed on probation.
The Graduate Council requires that the program supply the following information in writing for the student’s information:
- the nature of the problem or deficiency;
- the steps to be taken to correct the deficiency;
- a reasonable period in which to correct the problem or to show acceptable improvement; and
- an approximate date on which the student’s record will next be reviewed.
Such warning letters should be copied to the Graduate Division Degrees Office.
E1.7 Academic Probation
Probation is intended to provide a student whose performance is less than satisfactory with a period in which to correct identified deficiencies and to raise his or her performance to a level consistent with the minimum standards set by the Graduate Division in consultation with the program. Students on probationary status may register and enroll, but they may not hold academic appointments, receive graduate fellowships, or be awarded advanced degrees.
Students may be placed on probation by the Graduate Division for failing to meet uniform requirements. Programs may recommend probation and dismissal on the basis of a written evaluation of the student’s progress, including program specific requirements. Programs may choose to issue warning letters to apprise students that they are not making satisfactory progress rather than request formal probation. Only the Dean of the Graduate Division has the authority to place a student on probation, to remove probationary status, and, if necessary, to dismiss a student from graduate standing.
Probation for GPA Below Graduate Division Requirements
At the end of each semester, the Graduate Division reviews the records of all registered graduate students. Following this review, students whose grade-point average is below 3.0 will receive a letter from the Graduate Division informing them that they have been placed on probation and are subject to dismissal if their GPA at the end of the following semester remains below the minimum 3.0 requirement, or below the program’s requirement, which may be higher. A copy of the letter will be sent to the program.
In most instances, if a student begins a program in a new field of study, or is readmitted to a new major, only the grades in the current program will be included in the computation of GPA by the Graduate Division. However, courses taken in an “old” major that are directly relevant to the new major (e.g., English courses for a graduate student in Comparative Literature) will be included in the overall grade-point average.
Probation for Incompletes
If a program wishes to put a student on probation for not complying with its own Incompletes policy, it can recommend to the Dean that the student be placed on probation until the deficiencies are rectified.
The Graduate Division does not place students on probation for having more than two Incompletes, but such students will not be approved to hold a GSI or GSR appointments.
The probationary period is normally for one semester, during which the student is expected to remove academic deficiencies. Probation may be extended based on departmental recommendation. Students may not remain on probation indefinitely. Graduate Advisers should inform students that, while on probation, they cannot take courses on an S/U basis unless the course is required for the degree and is offered only on an S/U basis.
Procedure for removing a student from academic probationary status:
Students may be placed on, or removed from, probation only by the Dean of the Graduate Division. They are removed from probationary status imposed for failing to maintain the minimum grade-point average when the Graduate Division determines they have raised their grade-point averages to at least 3.0 (or higher if required by the program). If a student was placed on probation because the program and the Graduate Division determined that he or she was not making adequate progress, the Head Graduate Adviser must inform the Associate Dean for Degrees in writing that the student has met the conditions for removing probation, requesting that probation be cleared.
Procedure for students who do not correct deficiencies while on probation:
If at the end of the probationary period the student has failed to correct identified deficiencies, the Graduate Division will contact the program to request a recommendation from the Head Graduate Adviser on whether an extension of the academic probationary period is warranted. If the probationary period is not extended, the program should formally request that the Graduate Dean dismiss the student. A registration block would then be placed on the student’s future registration.
There are generally two reasons a graduate student may be dismissed: for disciplinary reasons due to violations of the Code of Student Conduct, or for academic deficiencies. Violations of the Code of Student Conduct are determined by the Vice Chancellor, Division of Student Affairs at the recommendation of the Office of Student Conduct and with the concurrence of the Graduate Dean.
Dismissal for academic reasons is the purview of the Graduate Dean under the auspices of the Graduate Council.
A student is subject to academic dismissal if:
- the student’s academic deficiencies as determined by the program and the Graduate Division were not corrected after a reasonable, established period of probation; or
- the student failed the comprehensive, preliminary, or qualifying exam (except as noted below); or
- a program assesses that a student’s academic progress, although sufficient for the award of a master’s degree, was insufficient to merit the student’s proceeding to the doctoral level; or
- the student failed to meet the necessary clinical standards in a professional program (e.g., Optometry).
Dismissal for Failed Examinations (Comprehensive, Preliminary, and Qualifying Examinations)
The Graduate Council requires that students who fail a program-required examination on the first attempt be given an opportunity for reexamination following a reasonable delay for additional preparation. A student permitted to undertake a second examination is not placed on probation while preparing to retake the exam.
In the case of a comprehensive or preliminary examination, the examining committee, with the concurrence of the Head Graduate Adviser, can recommend that no second examination be given and that the student’s status in that program be terminated. Programs must appropriately inform students before the examination that the program’s policy includes the possibility to not recommend a second examination, and that a student may be subject to dismissal if the committee does not recommend a second attempt.
How A Student is Dismissed
After the student’s record and the program’s recommendations, if applicable, are reviewed by the Graduate Division, the Graduate Dean sends a letter of dismissal to the student and so informs the program, and the Office of the Registrar. The Graduate Degrees Office requests the Registrar’s Office to block the student from further registration and the Registrar’s Office notates his or her transcript with the following: “Further registration subject to the approval of the Dean of the Graduate Division.”
A student dismissed for academic deficiencies is ineligible to apply for re-enrollment to the program from which he or she has been academically dismissed. However, he or she is not excluded from applying to another graduate program. In this case the alternative program has the right to review the student’s academic records in his or her earlier program to inform its decision on whether or not to admit the student.
When a student is dismissed for reasons of misconduct, he or she is not allowed to apply for any program in the UC system, unless with the express permission of the Chancellor of the UC campus to which the former student wishes to apply.
Procedure to recommend that a student be dismissed:
The decision to dismiss a student is reserved to the Graduate Dean. The Graduate Division reviews the records of all students on probation to determine if they should be dismissed.
If the Head Graduate Adviser of a program provides no justification for extending probation of a student who has been placed on probation at the request of the program, the Associate Dean for Degrees may recommend to the Dean of the Graduate Division that the student be formally dismissed.
Programs can recommend dismissal only after a student has been informed in writing of his or her deficiencies and given adequate time to correct them and to meet acceptable criteria (unless consultation with the Graduate Division identifies exceptional circumstances). If the Head Graduate Adviser believes that it is unlikely that a student on probation can improve his or her record, or that the student is unable to meet requirements for the degree, the Head Graduate Adviser should write a memo concerning the specific student, addressed to the Graduate Dean, in care of the Degrees Office, to recommend dismissal.
If an examination committee does not recommend a reexamination after a failed exam, a written explanation from the committee chair, addressed to the Associate Dean for Degrees, must be sent to the Degrees Office, along with the Report on the Qualifying Examination. The examination committee’s opinion should be that the student’s performance on the exam was so poor that it is unlikely the student will pass in a second attempt taken within an acceptable period of time.
E1.9 Graduate Student Appeal Procedure
The Graduate Student Appeal procedure is to be used by continuing and returning graduate students in the Graduate Division on the Berkeley campus. It may not be used by applicants for admission, Juris Doctor students in the School of Law who are appealing disqualification or the terms of probation, or students registered in graduate courses through the University Extension, the Graduate Theological Union, or other cross-registration agreements, for complaints about dismissal from graduate standing, placement on probationary status, denial of re-enrollment, and other administrative or academic decisions that terminate or otherwise impede progress toward academic or professional degree goals. For graduate students, this procedure may also be used to resolve disputes over joint authorship of research in accordance with joint authorship policies of campus programs or units. A student may bring a complaint individually or may file a complaint jointly with other students when each claims injury as a result of the same alleged action(s).
Through the Graduate Appeal Procedure, graduate students have the right to appeal academic or administrative decisions that have resulted in termination or have interfered with their progress toward a degree if the decision is alleged to have been based on the following criteria:
- Procedural error or violation of official policy by academic or administrative personnel.
- Judgments improperly based upon nonacademic criteria including, but not limited to, discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including sexual harassment), gender identity, pregnancy/childbirth and medical conditions related thereto, disability, age, medical condition (cancer related), ancestry, marital status, citizenship, sexual orientation, or status as a Vietnam-era veteran or special disabled veteran.
- Special mitigating circumstances beyond the student’s control not properly taken into account in a decision affecting the student’s academic progress.
Please note that the Graduate Appeal Procedure is distinct from the Berkeley Campus Student Grievance Procedure. The Grievance Procedure also addresses discrimination complaints but not in relation to alleged interference with a student’s academic progress. For information concerning the Berkeley Campus Student Grievance Procedure, please see Division of Student Affairs webpage.
To pursue an appeal, students must follow the Graduate Appeal Procedure (PDF), which is available from the Graduate Degrees Office, Graduate Deans’ office, and on the Graduate Division website.
Overview of the Appeal Process
Students must initiate an appeal at the unit level (e.g., school, department, graduate group) at which the disputed action took place within 30 days from the time at which the student knew or could reasonably be expected to have known of the action being appealed. The Graduate Council requires each academic unit to maintain copies of its current internal appeal procedure for information and use by its graduate students. After the student has submitted a unit-level appeal, the unit must make all reasonable efforts at informal and formal resolution, as stated in the Graduate Appeal Procedure, before the student may take the matter to the next level, which is the Graduate Division. Students seeking unit-level resolution are also strongly encouraged to seek the advice of the Ombuds for Students and may also consult with the Graduate Dean’s Office.
How Students Request the Intervention Of the Graduate Division
If the student’s unit-level appeal has been denied, within 15 days of receiving that notification, the student must submit a Graduate Appeal Form accompanied by all supporting documentation the student wishes to be considered in substantiation of his or her appeal to the Graduate Division Dean’s Office. The Graduate Division is not obliged to accept any documentation submitted after the 15-day deadline. The Graduate Appeal Procedure Form (PDF) is available from the Graduate Division’s Degrees Office, the Graduate Deans’ Office and on the Graduate Division website.
If the action being appealed originated with the Graduate Division or the Administrative Committee of the Graduate Council, the written appeal must be received in the Office of the Dean of the Graduate Division within thirty days from the time the student knew or could reasonably be expected to have known of the action being appealed, or within fifteen days of the notification of the result of the informal resolution process if the student attempted informal resolution through the Graduate Division.
The Graduate Division will notify the student regarding which individual or committee will be in charge of processing the Formal Appeal within 15 days of the receipt of the written statement initiating the Formal Appeal. For details on the procedures involved, including how they relate to other appeal procedures on the campus, students are referred to the full Graduate Appeal Procedure (PDF) posted on the Graduate Division website. The Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs can answer questions about the policy and process.