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1. Glossary of Terms

Academic Senate – The Academic Senate at Berkeley is engaged in the planning and allocation of faculty and capital expenditures. Some of the issues that concern the Senate include setting curricular policies and priorities, advocating for its membership on issues of compensation and academic freedom, setting admission standards, and defending rigorous standards of scholarship for its members and for the students at Berkeley.

Academic Standing – 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; and do not have an excessive number of incomplete grades on their records.

Advancement to Candidacy – Students in master’s degree programs apply for advancement to candidacy after they have completed half the unit requirements for their degrees. They indicate on the advancement form whether they plan to complete Plan I (20 units and a thesis) or Plan II (24 units and a comprehensive exam). They must submit their formal application no later than the end of the fifth week of classes of the semester in which they expect to receive the degree. Doctoral students are eligible for advancement to candidacy after they have completed the language requirements for their major and have passed the Qualifying Examination.

Appointments – Graduate Appointments on the Berkeley campus are assigned the following titles: Graduate Student Instructor (GSI), Graduate Student Researcher (GSR), Reader, and Tutor. Other academic titles traditionally held by graduate students, such as Nursery School Assistant and Community Teaching Fellow, are not currently in use at Berkeley.

Comprehensive Exam for the Master’s Degree – Programs decide the content and format of the comprehensive exam required for master’s students under Plan II. The examining committee should be composed of at least two (and preferably three) regular faculty members to conduct the exam, which should cover the knowledge and skills reasonably expected of a master’s degree recipient in the field. The exam may be written, oral, or a combination of the two. Academic Senate regulations require that a student be advanced to candidacy before taking the exam.

Concurrent Program – A concurrent program is the combination of two master’s degree programs, normally on the same campus, in which a limited number of units may be used in common to reduce the time needed to earn both degrees.

Department – A department is an administrative unit with space and resources. A department also includes budgeted faculty members who offer instruction in a titled, specialized discipline, normally affiliated with a school or college. At the graduate level, programs of study lead to the M.A., M.S., and professional master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees.

Designated Emphasis – A designated emphasis is a specialization, such as a new method of inquiry or an important field of application, which is relevant to two or more existing doctoral degree programs. Faculty members who wish to offer a designated emphasis must form a Graduate Group to administer the program. Approval by the Graduate Council is required.

Dissertation – Doctoral candidates are required to complete an extensive, original work based on independent research. The dissertation must be approved by a doctoral committee and be filed with the Graduate Division.

Doctoral Committee – The Doctoral Committee facilitates the student’s exams, guides the research and writing, and administers the doctoral defense (if required). The Doctoral Committee typically must be made up of three tenure-track faculty members from within the student’s department, and must include an Academic Senate member from outside the department.

Doctoral Degree – A doctoral degree is awarded in recognition of a student’s knowledge of a broad field of learning and for distinguished accomplishment in that field through an original contribution of significant knowledge and ideas. To be eligible to receive the doctoral degree, the student must complete a minimum of two years of academic residence, pass a Qualifying Examination administered by a committee approved by the Administrative Committee of the Graduate Council, and submit an approved dissertation completed under the guidance of Berkeley faculty members. The dissertation must reveal high critical ability and powers of imagination and synthesis.

Filing Fee – The Filing Fee is a reduced fee (one-half of the University Registration fee)  for doctoral students who have completed all requirements for the degree except for filing the dissertation (Plans A and B) and presenting the Final Defense (Plan A). It is also available to Master’s students with no requirements remaining except for filing the thesis (Plan I) or taking the final comprehensive examination (Plan II). The Filing Fee is not a form of registration nor equivalent to registration. If students wish to use University services that are supported by registration fees, they must pay those fees. Filing Fee is available for the fall and spring semesters only.

Graduate Adviser – Graduate Advisers are nominated by Program Chairs and appointed by the Dean of the Graduate Division, who acts on behalf of the Graduate Council. They provide guidance for entering and continuing students concerning the various steps necessary to complete in order to earn their degrees or certificates. Graduate Advisers may sign petitions to add or drop courses (See Head Graduate Adviser).

Graduate Council – The Graduate Council is a committee of the Academic Senate. Composed of 12 faculty members and three graduate students, the Council is responsible for all academic matters related to graduate education on campus. The Dean of the Graduate Division works closely with the Council in developing new policies and procedures related to graduate education. One of the major duties of the Council is to conduct periodic reviews of all graduate programs to make sure they are functioning at the highest possible level, and to plan for the future.

Graduate Division – The Graduate Division serves as the administrative arm of the Graduate Council by overseeing graduate students’ progress from admission to completion of their degree programs. The Graduate Division offers student services and outreach to guide students through the various steps required for the degree.

Graduate Group – A Graduate Group is an interdisciplinary academic unit, composed of a core faculty from two or more existing departments, that offers a degree in a new method of inquiry or field of study that has been approved by the Graduate Council, the Academic Senate, and systemwide counterparts. The Graduate Group is also the academic unit that administers an interdisciplinary designated emphasis approved by the Graduate Council. As a Graduate Group has no funding or administrative support of its own, an established department is designated to host the Graduate Group and the Group is under the direction of the Dean of the Graduate Division. Three Graduate Groups have a small number of designated faculty FTE and are therefore termed “augmented graduate groups”: ERG is an affiliate of the College of Natural Resources, Neuroscience is hosted by the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, which reports to the Vice Chancellor for Research, and Computational Biology is hosted by the Center for Computational Biology, which is affiliated with the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society.

Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) – The term Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) is synonymous with Teaching Assistant (TA). A GSI must have fulfilled the necessary academic, spoken English language proficiency, and registration and enrollment requirements for appointment. Chosen for excellent scholarship and promise as a teacher, a GSI serves as an apprentice under the active supervision of the instructor in charge of the course. An appointment as a GSI is for one academic year or less. GSI appointments may not exceed half time.

Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) – The term Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) is synonymous with Research Assistant (RA). A GSR is a graduate student at Berkeley who is engaged in research projects related to his or her dissertation under faculty supervision. There are no specific eligibility requirements regarding level of skills or previous experience, which permits departments and organized research units to make GSR appointments at levels appropriate to resources and recruitment needs.

Head Graduate Adviser – The Head Graduate Adviser of an academic unit has a more comprehensive role than graduate advisers. Only the Head Graduate Adviser can sign documents or make requests to the Graduate Division regarding graduate enrollment, degrees, academic progress, and financial aid.

Joint Degree – A joint degree is generally a doctoral degree program offered by two campuses (UC campuses or UC and another institution). A minimum of one-year academic residency (fee payment and enrollment in a minimum of 4 units) is required at each campus. Faculty, courses, and resources are shared in order to offer a broader-based program. Examination and dissertation committees must be composed of appropriate representatives from each campus.

Major Adviser – Also called Dissertation Adviser, a Major Adviser is usually chosen by the student in consultation with the Head Graduate Adviser. The Major Adviser guides a student’s thesis or dissertation research and writing.

Master of Arts – The Master of Arts (M.A.) degree is awarded to students who have satisfied requirements for their graduate program of study by either passing a final exam or submitting an approved thesis completed under the guidance of Berkeley faculty members. The M.A. ranks above a Bachelor of Arts degree but below a doctoral degree.

Normative Time – Normative time is the elapsed time, calculated to the nearest semester, in which students would need to complete all requirements for the doctorate, assuming that they are engaged in full-time study and making adequate progress toward their degrees. Normative times for doctoral programs have been recommended by department faculty and approved by the Graduate Council and the UC Coordinating Committee on Graduate Affairs. Normative time has two components: 1) time from the beginning of the student’s graduate work to advancement to doctoral candidacy (NTA); and 2) time in candidacy until the dissertation is filed (NTIC). Most departments at Berkeley have total normative times of five to six years (10 to 12 semesters).

Probation – Students who are not in good academic standing are considered to be on academic probation or subject to dismissal. Students may also be placed on probation for not meeting departmental requirements or expectations. Probation is intended to provide students whose performance is less than satisfactory with a period of time in which to correct the deficiencies and to raise their performance to a level consistent with the minimum standards set by the Graduate Division. Students on probationary status may register, but they may not hold academic appointments, receive graduate fellowships, or be awarded advanced degrees.

Professional School – A professional school is a separate unit offering professional graduate degrees. The curriculum for professional degrees focuses on preparing students for careers in the practice of the profession as opposed to academic degrees, which are awarded for completion of scholarly or theoretical research. However, some professional schools also offer academic degrees.

Program – A program is a sequence of course work and supervised study leading to a degree, normally within a department of instruction or administered by a Graduate Group. The term is used synonymously with field or subfield and also to refer to a subspecialty in which undergraduates or graduates may concentrate their study.

Qualifying Examination – The Qualifying Examination is an oral examination for doctoral candidates and is conducted by four or five faculty members (this varies by major). Students, in consultation with the Head Graduate Adviser, select the three subject areas for the exam as well as the committee members. The exam is usually between two and three hours in length. The purpose of the exam is to ascertain the breadth of a student’s knowledge and preparation. Faculty examiners will judge whether students have the ability to think incisively and critically about both the theoretical and the practical aspects of their major. Some programs expect students to present a topic for the dissertation as part of the Qualifying Exam (although the exam must not be limited to such a topic). Others do not. In those programs that do, students may be expected to have in mind one or two areas from which the dissertation might be developed and to answer questions on its potential significance and possible design. In either case, the examiners should satisfy themselves, by unanimous vote, that students have mastered their subject areas and can, in all likelihood, design and produce acceptable dissertations.

Reader – Readers primarily perform duties related to the grading of papers and exams. They may not perform teaching duties assigned to other academic titles.

Thesis – Students completing a Plan I master’s degree are expected to write a report, referred to as a thesis, on the results of an original investigation, in conjunction with the Thesis Committee. Length and style of the thesis vary by department. All theses are filed with the Graduate Division.

Thesis Committee – The Thesis Committee, selected by the student in conjunction with the Head Graduate Adviser, guides the research and writing of the master’s thesis. The committee is made up of three faculty members, at least two of whom must be from the student’s home department. Typically, the committee chair is the student’s research adviser.

Tutor – A tutor provides training to individuals or small groups of students who require additional teaching help. Tutors at Berkeley work under the direct supervision of a faculty member holding an appropriate instructional title.