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Developing Graduate Program Proposals

All Graduate Program Proposals

Required Sections

All graduate program proposals must include a Graduate Council Program, Option, or Minor Proposal Form. Graduate program proposals must also include a cover page with contact information for the proposers and a table of contents, and must be paginated.

The following elements are required for proposals for new graduate programs, options, or stand-alone minors. For more details on what each section should contain, refer to the Graduate Program Proposal Procedures.

  • Justification for establishing the program
  • Objectives of the program
  • List of new courses to be established
  • A complete program statement, in a format suitable for inclusion in the Graduate Degree Programs Bulletin
  • Admission requirements
  • Justification for the degree title used
  • Accreditation
  • Consultation from departments affected
  • Consultation with the Office for Research Protections regarding SARI requirements

The following sections are required for program change proposals. For more details on what each section should contain, refer to the Graduate Program Proposal Procedures.

  • Justification for proposed changes
  • Comparison of the proposed changes to the existing program requirements (a table is recommended)
  • A complete copy of the existing Graduate Bulletin description, with all changes marked (using track changes, for example)
  • Consultation from departments affected
  • Consultation with the Office for Research Protections regarding SARI requirements, if necessary (depending on the changes proposed)

The following sections are required for program drop proposals. For more details on what each section should contain, refer to the Graduate Program Proposal Procedures.

  • Justification for the requested drop
  • A complete copy of the existing Graduate Bulletin description, with all changes marked (using track changes, for example), if needed. If the entire graduate program or minor is being dropped, it is not necessary to include a revised Bulletin description, but if an option is being dropped, the revised Bulletin description is required.
  • Consultation from departments affected

Program proposals for new extended or off-campus graduate degree programs, or program change proposals for extensions or off-campus delivery of existing graduate degree programs must include additional sections in the proposal, as outlined in the Extended and Off-Campus Graduate Degree Programs policy. Note that programs delivered via World Campus are considered off-campus.

New Courses

  • For new courses specified as part of the program, course proposals must be submitted via the Curricular Review and Consultation System (CRCS) and have been approved through level 7 in the CRCS so that they can be reviewed by the curricular committees in conjunction with the program proposal. Program proposals cannot receive final approval until all associated course proposals have been approved.

Admissions Requirements

  • Include the following statement: “Admission requirements listed here are in addition to requirements stated in the GENERAL INFORMATION section of the Graduate Bulletin.”
  • Add any additional program-level admission requirements, beyond those required by Graduate Council. Examples include minimum GPA and test scores (GRE, GMAT, etc.) requirements; specific undergraduate course work or major; letters of reference; statements of purpose; resume or CV; work experience.
  • Graduate programs may choose to require higher scores on the TOEFL/IELTS than the minimum scores required by Graduate Council. If the program requires higher TOEFL/IELTS scores, state the minimum scores the program will accept.
  • The term “provisional admission” has a specific meaning defined by Graduate Council policy. When referring to provisional admission, be certain to state the criteria the student must meet to change his or her provisional status. Program-designated criteria must be met by a student who is admitted provisionally within a certain period of time (the maximum is two semesters) in order for the provisional status to be changed.
    • If a student has deficiencies at the time of admission but is not admitted provisionally (i.e., with stated conditions for removing the provisional status), then there is no academic mechanism to require him or her to remediate these deficiencies, and only stated degree requirements can be enforced.
    • Do not refer to this type of admission as “conditional.”
    • Do not use the term “provisional admission” if “at the discretion of the program” is meant instead.
  • When including information regarding transfer credits, be certain to refer to the Graduate Council policy on Transfer Courses. It is important to keep in mind that credits earned to complete a degree at another institution are not permitted to be applied to a graduate degree program at Penn State.

Degree Requirements

  • Include the following statement: “Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements stated in the DEGREE REQUIREMENTS section of the Graduate Bulletin.
  • Provide a table that clearly delineates the program requirements and includes required core courses, elective courses, and any courses associated with the culminating experience.
  • Specify the total number of credits required (use “credits” rather than “hours”).
  • Specify whether each course is required (core) or is elective.
  • For each required course, specify the course abbreviation and number, the course title, and the number of credits. For approved courses, be certain that all of this information for each course is accurate according to the University’s master course list. For required courses that are offered by a unit other than the one proposing the program/change, ensure that the courses still are being offered and will continue to be offered in the immediate future.
  • If the proposal refers to 400-level courses, be certain to refer to these as advanced undergraduate courses, not as graduate courses. At Penn State, only 500-, 600-, and 800-level courses are graduate courses.
  • If the total minimum number of required credits includes 400-level courses, do not refer to the total number as graduate credits.
  • For any graduate degree, only grades of C or higher in any course may be used to fulfill degree requirements, including the minimum total credits required for the degree.

Bulletin Listing

  • A new program proposal must include a Bulletin description in the proper format.
  • A program change proposal must include the complete and current version of the graduate program’s Bulletin description, marked with the proposed changes (for example, using “Track Changes” in Word). These changes must remain tracked throughout the curricular review process. Review the current description thoroughly not only for changes needed as part of the program change proposal being developed, but also for other updates that may be timely. Academic policy changes by Graduate Council subsequent to the last version of the Bulletin description for the program must be reflected in the revised description.

List of Graduate Faculty

  • When listing faculty members in the graduate program for the Graduate Bulletin description, all individuals listed must be members of the Graduate Faculty. Adhere to the format in the online Bulletin and be certain all titles and ranks listed are current.
    • Do not include faculty with emeritus/a status in this list. Information about emeritus/a faculty members is maintained in the Graduate Faculty database, but these individuals are not listed in the Bulletin description.
    • Do not separate the list into “core” and “affiliated” faculty (or other categories).
    • Only active members of a graduate program’s Graduate Faculty should be listed. Contact the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School to update the Graduate Faculty database.

Consultation

  • Include in the proposal all written evidence of consultation with other units that may be interested in or affected by the proposed changes. All units offering courses specified as required or as electives for a program change or new program must be consulted, in order to document that these units can accommodate the projected enrollment increases.
  • Address within the proposal any concerns raised by other units. Left unaddressed, this feedback will be flagged by members of the Graduate Council Joint Curricular Committee and will likely delay approval of the proposal.
  • Consultation requests can be edited to improve clarity, but should include the original query and the full reply by the consultant. Consultations submitted as part of the proposal will be available to the public when the proposal is published, so private exchanges should be edited out and any references to current students should be removed.

Style

  • Refer to the University’s “Editorial Style Manual” for preferred and consistent word usage, phrases, spelling, etc. For example, “adviser” should be used rather than “advisor” and “course work” rather than “coursework”.

Master’s Degree Program Proposals

  • Refer to the Graduate Council policy regarding master’s degree requirements.
  • A significant culminating or “capstone” experience or other mechanism to demonstrate evidence of analytical ability and synthesis of material is required.
    • For research master’s degrees (the M.S. and M.A.), the culminating experience must be a thesis or a scholarly paper or essay. For program with both a thesis and a non-thesis track, distinguish clearly between the requirements for the thesis track and the non-thesis track, in terms of requirements for the culminating experience.
    • For professional master’s degrees, the culminating experience is not a thesis but may take other forms, including but not limited to a project, an internship, an exhibition, a production, a comprehensive examination, or a capstone course. The specific form of the culminating experience is determined by the graduate program and should be clearly and thoroughly described in the proposal. SUBJECT 600 credits are associated with a thesis option in an M.S. or M.A. degree program and cannot be included in a professional master’s degree program.
  • Graduate Council policy does not include a language competency requirement for master’s degrees. Therefore, if language competency is required by the graduate program for a master’s degree, it is necessary to clearly define in the proposal the nature of the requirement and how competency will be assessed.
  • Graduate Council policy does not define the composition of master’s committees. Therefore, if a master’s committee is required by the graduate program, it is necessary to define the composition of the committee clearly in the proposal, including the minimum number of required members and whether from they should come from within or outside the program.
  • Graduate Council policy does not define the defense of a master’s thesis. Therefore, if a thesis defense is required by the graduate program, it is necessary to specify the requirements clearly in the proposal.

Doctoral Degree Program Proposals

  • Refer to the Graduate Council policy regarding doctoral degree requirements.
  • Use “doctoral dissertation” instead of “doctoral thesis.”
  • Use “doctoral committee” instead of “advisory committee,” “dissertation committee,” or “academic advisory committee.”
  • Specify the composition of the doctoral committee, and ensure that the composition of the committee complies with Graduate Council policy.
  • Specify how all doctoral students will be assessed for English Competence, as required by Graduate Council.
  • A doctoral student must register for at least 1 credit in the semesters (including summer) in which he/she takes the candidacy examination, the comprehensive examination, and the final oral examination. Post-comprehensive doctoral students may satisfy this requirement by registering for SUBJECT 601 or 611.
  • Graduate Council does not require a specific minimum number of credits for the Ph.D. degree.

Integrated Undergraduate-Graduate (IUG) Degree Programs

  • When developing an IUG degree program, refer to the Graduate Council policy on Integrated Undergraduate-Graduate (IUG) Degree Programs.
  • Include in the proposal a strong academic justification for creating the program.
  • Students in IUG programs must apply to and meet the admission requirements of the Graduate School, as well as the graduate program in which they intend to receive their master's degree.
  • When stating a recommended time of admission to the IUG degree program, follow the requirements stated in the Graduate Council policy (see: “Students shall be admitted to an IUG program no earlier than the beginning of the third semester of undergraduate study at Penn State [regardless of transfer or AP credits accumulated prior to enrollment] and no later than the end of the second week of the semester preceding the semester of expected conferral of the undergraduate degree, as specified in the proposed IUG plan of study.”).
  • Note that students must develop and submit a Plan of Study prior to admission to an IUG program, and that semester reports must be submitted at the end of each semester.
  • The courses that will double-count for both degrees must be specified by course abbreviation and number. A maximum of 12 credits may be counted toward both the undergraduate and master’s degrees, and a minimum of 50% of the courses proposed to count for both degrees must be at the graduate (500 or 800) level but may not include courses or work products associated with the culminating experience.
    • If no courses are to be double-counted, specify this clearly, and provide in the proposal a rationale for the program’s decision not to allow double-counting, as this is one of the hallmarks of an IUG degree program.
  • The master’s thesis or other graduate culminating/capstone experience (including any associated credits and/or deliverables) may not be counted toward any other degree. If the thesis or culminating/capstone experience is recognized as meeting requirements for the undergraduate degree, it will not be recognized and cannot be used to meet requirements for the master’s degree.
  • It is advisable to include a table in the proposal describing the recommended course of study and associated timeline.
  • Include a statement on whether or not a student will be permitted to receive his or her undergraduate degree if the graduate degree is not awarded. For example: "If students accepted into the IUG program are unable to complete the M.S. degree, they are still eligible to receive their undergraduate degree if all the undergraduate degree requirements have been satisfied."

Dual-Title Graduate Degree Programs

  • When developing an dual-title degree program, refer to the Graduate Council policy on Dual-Title Graduate Degree Programs.
  • Students must apply and be admitted to the graduate program in their home department and The Graduate School before they can apply for admission to the dual-title degree program.
  • Doctoral students must apply and be admitted to the dual-title graduate program prior to taking the candidacy exam.
  • The admissions process must be specified. Clearly explain how a student enrolled in the home program would apply for admission to the dual-title program.
  • Clearly present (a table is recommended) degree requirements to show the major program requirements alone, versus degree requirements for students in the major with the dual-title field. A statement should be made regarding the minimum number of 500- or 800-level (or maximum number, in the case of 400-level) credits that must be taken in the dual-title area of study. Indicate any courses that may be double-counted toward the requirements of both the student’s major and the dual-title degree program; if no courses are to be double-counted, specify this clearly, and provide in the proposal a rationale for the program’s decision not to allow double-counting.
  • Because students must first be admitted to a graduate major program of study before they may apply to and be considered for admission into a dual-title graduate degree program, dual-title graduate degree students may require an additional semester to fulfill requirements for both areas of study and, therefore, the candidacy examination may be delayed one semester beyond the normal period allowable.
  • A single candidacy examination will assess candidacy for both primary program and the dual-title program. The candidacy examination must incorporate both the major and the dual-title fields of study.
  • The candidacy committee must contain at least one member from the dual-title program’s graduate faculty. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ graduate faculty may serve in a combined role.
  • Specify the composition of the doctoral committee, and ensure that the composition of the committee complies with Graduate Council policy regarding the composition of dual-title doctoral committees.
  • The doctoral committee must contain at least one member from the dual-title program’s graduate faculty. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ graduate faculty may serve in a combined role.
  • If the chair of the doctoral committee is not also a member of the graduate faculty in the dual-title field, the member of the committee that is representing the dual-title field must be appointed as co-chair.
  • The dual-title representative on the doctoral committee will participate in constructing and grading comprehensive examination questions that cover the dual-title area of study, as part of a unified comprehensive examination with the major program administered to the student. The comprehensive examination must incorporate both the major and the dual-title fields of study.
  • Students enrolled in the dual-title program are required to write and orally defend a dissertation on a topic that reflects their original research and education in both their home program and the dual-title program.

Joint Degree Programs

  • When developing a joint degree program, refer to the Graduate Council policy on Joint Degree Programs.
  • The admissions process must be specified. Clearly explain whether the student can apply to both programs simultaneously, or which program a student must apply to first, and how he or she would subsequently apply for admission to the second program.
  • Students must apply to and meet the admissions criteria for both programs.
  • Students must meet the minimum core degree requirements for the graduate degree.
  • No less than 20%, and no more than 40% of the total credits required for the graduate program can be met by substitution of courses from the professional program (i.e., double-counted).
  • Include a statement on whether or not a student will be permitted to receive his or her graduate degree if the professional degree is not awarded. For example: "If students accepted into the joint degree program are unable to complete the J.D. degree, they are still eligible to receive the M.S. or Ph.D. degree if all the M.S. or Ph.D. degree requirements have been satisfied."

Programs with Options

  • An option is an area of curricular emphasis or specialization that will appear on the student's diploma and transcript. When developing a graduate program proposal with options, refer to the Graduate Council policy on Options.
  • Proposals for graduate programs with at least one option must specify the requirements for a “base” program, which is the program of study for students not selecting any option and that represents the fundamental areas of knowledge expected of all students in the field.
  • Graduate programs with options must specify the core courses required of all students in the program, including both those in the base program and those pursuing options. The core courses must constitute at least one fourth of the total course credits required for the program (excluding any course credits associated with the culminating experience).
  • Graduate programs with options must also specify the option-specific courses, which must constitute at least one third of the total course credits required for the program (excluding any course credits associated with the culminating experience), and which must be unique to the respective option (i.e., they cannot be specified for other options in the program).
  • Graduate programs with options may specify courses common to two or more options, beyond the required minimum number of option-specific courses, as long as the minimum number is satisfied.
  • Requirements for a specific, approved graduate option are identical for all graduate degrees and graduate majors approved to offer that option. An option cannot be taken more than once by a graduate student. In other words, if a graduate student completes a particular approved option as part of an M.S. degree in a given graduate major, he/she cannot repeat the option as part of a Ph.D. in that major, or as part of the same or a different graduate degree in another graduate major.
  • Graduate programs may propose specific sets of courses that constitute informal areas of emphasis or “tracks” within the major program. Establishing or changing the requirements for these tracks does not require Graduate Council review and approval (assuming all courses are approved); however, these informal tracks are not reflected on the student's diploma or transcript.

Extended and Off-Campus Graduate Degree Programs

For additional information or to request consultation on a proposal, contact the Director of Graduate Education Administration.

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