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3.6.1 Post-baccalaureate Program Rigor PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 05 September 2009 10:40

3.6.1 Post-Baccalaureate Program Rigor

The institution’s post-baccalaureate professional degree programs, master’s and doctoral degree programs, are progressively more advanced in academic content than its undergraduate programs.”

Responsible Unit: Division of Academic Affairs

Compliance Judgment



The master’s and doctoral degree programs at North Carolina A & T State University are progressively more advanced in academic content than the University’s undergraduate programs. Through a series of internal and external review processes, the rigor, quality, learning objectives, consistency, relevance of the curriculum content and requirements are monitored to ensure compliance with established academic standards.

In addition, in order to ensure that the master’s and doctoral degree programs are progressively more advanced in academic content than its undergraduate programs, the University developed a standardized syllabus template that identifies and distinguishes learning objectives and learning outcomes appropriate to the level of the enrolled student [1]. The standardized template was submitted to the Faculty Senate and is awaiting approval.

Approval Process for Graduate Programs: The assurance that the graduate programs at North Carolina A & T State University are progressively more advanced than at the undergraduate level is initially established through the comprehensive review process required of all new degree programs. A proposal to establish a new graduate degree program is rigorously critiqued at several levels before it is approved as a graduate degree granting program at North Carolina A&T State University.

The first level of review begins in the academic department in which the process for determining the need for course changes and new courses, as well as for determining the level of a course, is presented. Curriculum committees, led by faculty within the academic department, submit course changes on the required standardized forms [2]. Once approved at the program and departmental levels, the curriculum proposal packets are reviewed and approved by each school/college dean and then are submitted to the Faculty Senate Committee on New Programs and Curricula.

To formalize the process further, the associate vice chancellor for institutional planning, assessment and research has requested the use of the standardized syllabus template to ensure that the required components not only of course descriptions, but also of course syllabi be included for all courses [3]. This is a work in process and is expected to be concluded by the end of the Fall 2009 semester.

The next series of reviews occurs at the Faculty Senate level. The proposed degree program goes to the Faculty Senate Committee on New Programs and Curricula. Upon approval by the Faculty Senate Committee, the new graduate degree proposal is submitted to the Faculty Senate for approval [4].

An additional review is implicit within the Graduate Council through its representation on the Faculty Senate’s Curriculum Committee [5] [6]. The Graduate Council elects a member to serve on the Faculty Senate as a liaison to the Council on issues of concern to graduate programs. The Graduate Council representative to the Faculty Senate reports to the Council on proposed new programs and/or program changes for review and comments [7]. The feedback from the Graduate Council is shared with the Faculty Senate.

The Graduate Council is the primary deliberative body for all policies and regulations affecting graduate students, graduate courses, and graduate curricula. The Graduate Council consists of:

  • Six (6) graduate faculty, one from each college/school with a graduate program
  • Six (6) graduate students, one from each college/school with a graduate program
  • Six (6) Coordinators of a Graduate Program, one from each college/school with a graduate program
  • All Department Chairpersons with a graduate program
  • One (1) college/school dean from one of the colleges/schools with a graduate program
  • One (1) representative from Financial Affairs
  • One (1) representative from Student Affairs
  • One (1) representative from the Library
  • One (1) representative from the Division of Research
  • Dean of the School of Graduate Studies
  • All deans serve in an ex-officio capacity except the one dean defined above

After the proposed program has been approved by the Faculty Senate, the new graduate degree proposal is sent to the university provost for review and final campus approval.

The proposal is presented to the Provost’s Deans’ Council at North Carolina A&T State University [8]. The Deans’ Council votes on each program proposal after presentation to the Deans’ Council. After this vote, the Provost submits approved new program requests to the University of North Carolina (UNC) General Administration [9].

At the University of North Carolina systems level, the proposal is generally presented to the University of North Carolina University-wide Graduate Council for presentation and approval [10]. The process is currently under revision within the University of North Carolina system in part because of the UNC-Tomorrow study that was initiated by the UNC Board of Governors [11]. UNC-Tomorrow, which is just winding down after over a one year of involvement by all sixteen state supported campuses, focuses on identifying the services to the state and inter-university coordination are major factors in the decision to approve new academic programs.

New Doctoral programs require even further review. Planning a new doctoral degree program is a two step process with approval at each step. After campus approval, there is an authorization to plan from the University of North Carolina General Administration followed within two years with an authorization to establish [12][13]. The request is submitted by the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs after comprehensive internal strategic planning and a review by external consultants. The formal request to plan must indicate how the proposed program fits into the institution’s comprehensive strategic plan and addresses issues such as need, demand, potential duplication, readiness of the institution to offer the program, and potential costs. The proposals for new doctoral programs are reviewed by the University of North Carolina chief academic officers and graduate deans at their periodic Graduate Council meetings with a Senior Vice President of the University of North Carolina systems. After input from the deans at the Graduate Council meetings, the Senior Vice President presents the recommendation regarding authorization to plan a new doctoral program to the Committee on Educational Planning, Policies, and Programs for approval. As before, this process is under review within the UNC-GA, and a new process should soon emerge that may impact the new program submission procedures for all doctoral-granting institutions within the system. The listing of the UNC-Tomorrow final report on New Programs was submitted in January, 2009.

Approved program changes are referred to the University Registrar for inclusion into the electronic records database, class/course information system, and the graduate catalog. A listing of all degree programs currently authorized by the University of North Carolina General Administration are also listed on the University of North Carolina General Administration web site of approved academic programs [14]. Recently approved program proposals for the Master of Science in Computational Science [15] and Doctor of Philosophy in Leadership Studies [16], and the doctoral in Energy and Environmental Studies are included as supporting documents [17].

Periodic Graduate Program Reviews

The academic programs and curricula of instruction are subject to scheduled periodic reviews and evaluations directed by the Office of Institutional Planning, Assessment and Research [19]. Academic programs in the School of the Agriculture, School of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering that recently were internally reviewed are included as supporting documents [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23].

Annual Assessment of Programs

Annually, each academic program submits an annual report to the provost that provides an overview assessment of the program, including details regarding learning in relationship to innovation in pedagogy implemented including the use of information and instructional technology, accreditation review outcomes, if applicable, and initiative in building academic excellence [24]. Each school and college annual report follows a template in which a discussion of the results of the current year’s objectives is discussed and the objectives for the coming year are also included with a justification statement. The annual Report for the Doctor of Philosophy in Energy and Environmental Sciences [25] is included as a supporting document.

Course Content, Descriptions, and Numbering

At North Carolina A & T State University courses numbered 600 – 699 are open to seniors and to graduate students. Courses numbered 700 and above are open only to graduate students. At least 50% of the courses counted in the work towards a masters degree must be those open only to graduate students [26]. In preparation for the SACS 2010 Reaffirmation, we recognized that not all 600-level course syllabi differentiate between learning objectives for advanced undergraduates and graduate student according to Principle 3.6.1. While we are confident that our master’s and doctoral degree programs are progressively more advanced in academic content than the undergraduate programs, the course syllabi do not uniformly document these differences.

In order to align our current practices with Principle 3.6.1, the university engaged faculty in a series of meetings to discuss and develop a strategy that will provide clear and transparent distinction of the learning objectives of undergraduates as compared to graduate students. This initiative was led by the Office of Institutional Planning Assessment and Research (IPAR) and the School of Graduate Studies with the goal of immediate compliance implementation.

We began the process by identifying all courses at the 500 and above level [27].

We proposed creating dual sections of the course by numbering courses 5xxx and 6xxx. The proposed courses would be taught at the same time by the same instructor with dual learning objectives based on the student classification. The proposed plan was presented to the Graduate Council for feedback and approval. The next step in our process was to involve the school/college deans in taking responsibility to work with their faculty to create dual learning objectives for course within their areas. Each school/college dean was asked by the Dean of Graduate Studies to review the courses in their units and to revise the course syllabi to meet the dual learning objectives. The process for renumbering the courses and identifying dual learning objectives was grouped into three priority categories.

  • Priority 1 involved courses that were being taught in spring 2009 semester. Syllabi of all 600 level courses currently being taught within each school and college were required to be revised to meet the dual learning objectives model outlined above. The deans of each school and college were asked to review these syllabi and submit them to the SACS 2010 Reaffirmation Subcommittee on Graduate Education, (SGE), chaired by Ms. A. Ayanna Boyd-Williams, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , by April 15, 2009 as part of the SACS documentation supporting our upcoming reaffirmation. The SGE will submit selected sample syllabi from each school and college to the Office of Institutional Planning, Assessment and Research (IPAR) for review and comment.

  • Priority 2 courses included 600-level courses that will be taught in the fall 2009 semester which were not taught during the spring 2009 semester. The dual learning objectives for these courses are expected to be completed before the fall 2009 semester begins. The deans of each school and college were asked to review these syllabi and submit these to the SACS 2010 Reaffirmation Subcommittee on Graduate Education (SGE) by August 1, 2009. The SGE will submit selected sample syllabi from each school and college to the Office of Institutional Planning, Assessment and Research (IPAR) for review and comment. Instructors will distribute their syllabi with these dual learning objectives to students on the first day each course meets.

  • Priority 3 courses consisted of the remaining 600-level courses for which dual learning objectives had not already been prepared. Responsibility for the preparation of dual objectives for these remaining courses will be assigned by each school and college dean. The deans were asked to review these syllabi and submit them to the SACS 2010 Reaffirmation Subcommittee on Graduate Education (SGE) by October 1, 2009. The SGE will submit selected sample syllabi from each school and college to the Office of Institutional Planning, Assessment and Research (IPAR) for review and comment.

Progression of Academic Content and Learning Objectives

In addition, the school/college deans were asked to give their faculty the following information to use as a guideline in developing the course content learning objectives.

General Comments about Student Learning Objectives/Outcomes:

Learning outcomes should be specific, measurable, and focus on the content knowledge the students are expected to master and not what the faculty will teach.

Differentiation between Undergraduate (UG) and Graduate (G) Student Learning Objectives/Outcomes:

If both undergraduate (UG) and graduate (G) students are enrolled in the course (e.g., 600-level courses), there must be differentiated learning outcomes for UG and G. Note that if advanced undergraduates (Seniors) may not enroll in a 600-level course, it should be listed at the 700 or higher level. The graduate learning outcomes should be “progressively more advanced in academic content than undergraduate programs” (SACS CR 3.6.1). In addition, the instruction and resources for graduate students should “foster independent learning, enabling the graduate to contribute to a profession or field of study” (SACS CR 3.6.2)

In order to assess the long-term actions needed to further differentiate between course levels, an Adhoc Committee on Course Renumbering was established by the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of Graduate Studies [28]. The Committee on Course Renumbering consisted of faculty and administrators in each of the schools/colleges as well as the Associate Vice Chancellor for Institutional Planning, Assessment and Research.

As part of their assessment process, a Current Practice Questionnaire on Student Enrollment in Graduate Level Courses was prepared earlier in spring 2009 and completed by the Committee on Course Renumbering members. All forms were reviewed and were discussed at length at the April 4, 2009 committee meeting. The primary information requested either by school/college or by academic program involved identifying which level of student is permitted in each of the listed course levels illustrated by the example from one school:

Course Level

Current Course Enrollment Practice*


S, M


S, M







The key is:

Freshman (F)

Sophomore (Sp)

Junior J)

Senior (Sr)

General Undergraduate (U)

Post Baccalaureate Student (PBS) this is a non-degree seeking student with an undergraduate degree

Masters Student (M)

Doctoral Student (D)

Other (O)

Each committee representative presented information on the practice in her/his academic area. In the discussions, the committee found that there was a significant variation in practices from academic unit to academic unit [29]. For instance, there are several cases where 500-level courses are open to juniors, seniors, and masters students and cases where juniors are allowed to take 600-level courses. There are also cases in which some 800-level courses are open to master’s level students. There were a few cases in which one 700-level course (CUIN 720) is taken by PBS students as a part of their certification requirements.

Proposed Policy on Course Level Designations

After extensive review, the committee recommended the implementation of a common structure for graduate programs to identify and designate course level restrictions. Graduate students could take 500 level courses but the courses could not be used for graduate credit. 600 level courses would be open to advanced seniors, masters and Post-baccalaureate students (PBS). At the 700 course level, courses would be open to masters and doctoral students. 700 level courses would also include masters courses in which a pass/fail or satisfactory/unsatisfactory grade was given. 800 level courses would only be open to doctoral students. 900 level courses would be open to only doctoral students and would also include 900 level pass/fail and satisfactory/unsatisfactory grade courses (Table 2).

Course Level

Proposed Course Level Designation


Not open to any graduate student for graduate credit


Sr, M, and PBS


M, D, and M level courses graded either P/F or S/U


D only


D only and P/F or S/U grades only

While the committee discussed several approaches to managing PBS enrollment, the consensus was that their enrollment should be limited to 600-level courses and below. The justification is that the PBS classification was created for non-degree seeking students,. By limiting PBS students to 600-level courses it would force the student to apply formally for admission before he/she enrolled in higher level required courses that would lead to a degree. The Graduate School would like to implement the post baccalaureate students (PBS) portion of the policy right away and to propose that future course proposals adhere to the policy identified in the above table.

The majority of graduate courses already fit the above model, but under a sunset plan to be developed, those courses that do not conform will be renumbered to fit this model. The plan to bring all courses in compliance is expected to be initiated during the summer of 2009 and completed by the end of the fall 2009 semester.

Graduation Requirements

The procedures and requirements for completing graduate degrees at the masters and doctoral level are specified in the Graduate Catalog [30] [31]. The academic advisor in consultation with the student develops a Plan of Graduate Work that includes the required courses and recommended sequencing of core and elective courses required for degree completion. The curriculum structure becomes progressively more advanced as students proceed from foundational, core materials to advanced required courses and specialized elective options. Prerequisite requirements for courses identify background knowledge and understanding needed to progress at a specific course level. Prerequisites in some courses are often satisfied by undergraduate coursework.

The graduate catalog course descriptions evidence progressively complex and rigorous curriculum, both in the form of foundation courses taken prior to more advanced courses and elective courses. The expected progression of academic content and knowledge is evident in the degree plans. For example, the masters program in instructional technology degree requirements are 39 semester hours. The requirements include a sequence of 18 hours taken at the 700 level in the area of specialization, a sequence of 18 hours at the 700 level of required content and pedagogy courses, and three credit hours of elective courses [32]. The Curriculum Guide in the department outlines the sequence of required courses and the benchmarks for the degree.

Degree plans that include thesis and dissertation completion requirements reflect the addition of research and thesis or dissertation courses. The degree plan for the M.S. and Ph.D. in industrial and systems engineering demonstrates the rigorous advancement of content from the master’s degree to the Ph.D. degree, culminating in a dissertation [33]. In this case, the master’s degree includes research and thesis hours. Fundamental courses are taken in the first year, followed progressively by 900-level and research courses. Program progression is assured by the sequencing of courses in consultation with the student’s advisor as specified for each degree plan.

Supporting Documents

[1] Syllabus, Proposed Standardized Course

[2] Faculty Senate, Procedures for Course Changes

[3]    Chancellor's Cabinet Meeting, February 9, 2009

[4] Faculty Senate, Sample Proposal

[5] Graduate Council, By-laws

[6] Graduate Council, Representative to Faculty Senate

[7] Graduate Council, Minutes

[8] Provost, Dean’s Council Members

[9] UNC-GA, Guidelines for Establishing New Masters Programs

[10] UNC-GA, Members of the Graduate Council

[11] UNC Tomorrow Summary

[12] UNC-GA, Guidelines for Planning New Doctoral Programs

[13] UNC-GA, Guidelines for Establishing New Doctoral Programs

[14] UNC-GA, Approved Programs

[15] Proposal, Establish M.S., Computational Science

[16] Proposal, Establish Ph.D, Leadership Studies

[17] Proposal, Establish Ph.D, Energy and Environmental Sciences

[18] IPAR, Biology 5-year Review

[19] IPAR, Graphics and Communications 5-year Review

[20] IPAR, Plant and Soil Sciences 5-year Review

[21] IPAR, Human Development and Services 5-year Review

[22] IPAR, Human Development and Services Forms for 5-year Review

[23] IPAR, Industrial Engineering 5-year Review

[24] Annual Report, Format

[25] Annual Report, Energy and Environmental Sciences

[26] Graduate Catalog, Course Limits, p. 37

[27] Inventory of 500 and above Courses

[28] Adhoc Committee, Course Renumbering Members

[29] Questionnaire, Results Student Enrollment

[30] Graduate Catalog. Requirements to Complete MS and PhD

[31] Graduate Catalog - Elementary Education Graduate Program Requirements

[32] Curriculum Guide, Elementary Education

[33] Degree Plan, M.S., Ph.D. Industrial and Systems Engineering

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 10 February 2010 15:05 )

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