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Overview of the Structure and Organization of Graduate Education Policies

The Graduate School’s policies are formally approved guiding and governing principles that assist in the conduct of graduate education. The Graduate School’s policy schema is divided into academic policies and administrative policies. Academic policies are directly concerned with the pedagogical mission of the Graduate School. Administrative policies set operational and financial standards, behavior expectations, and communicate policy roles and responsibilities to ensure that all policies are operationalized, enacted, and enforced.

Academic policies are enacted by Graduate Council as the representative body of Graduate Faculty with delegated authority “for the creation and maintenance of all graduate programs in the University and for all matters pertaining to graduate education and graduate research.” (GC-100 Articles of Authority). Graduate Council ACademic policies are given the abbreviation GCAC. New academic policies must be approved by Graduate Council. The Statement of Policy and Process sections in all approved GCAC academic policies are directly under the control and authority of Graduate Council. Any changes, other than minor editorial corrections (e.g., spelling or grammar), made to these sections must be approved by Graduate Council.

Administrative policies are enacted by the Dean of the Graduate School, as the person who has “the responsibility for implementing the policies and actions of the Council and the Graduate Faculty and for administering the Graduate School so that it is effective in implementing and responding to those policies.” (GC-100 Articles of Authority). Graduate School ADministrative policies are given the abbreviation GSAD. New administrative policies must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate School. The Statement of Policy section in all approved GSAD administrative policies is directly under the control and authority of the Dean of the Graduate School. Any changes made to this section must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate School.

View Graduate Education Policies

Guidelines for Writing Policy

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a policy as: “A principle or course of action adopted or proposed as desirable, advantageous, or expedient.” Graduate education policies are used to guide decision making and achieve rational outcomes. A policy is a statement of intent, and it is implemented according to a process and a procedure.

  • A policy establishes the philosophy, mission, and general objective on handling an issue. It states how the organization intends to operate.
    • A policy answers the questions: why do we need to do this and what is required?
    • Policy statements should be written in clear, comprehensible language and be as specific as possible. Well-crafted policy provisions are a balance between specificity (to avoid ambiguity) and the need to be general enough to be applied to unanticipated circumstances (to avoid excessive exceptions). Policy cannot be written that will take precise account of all possible situations, so it is important to keep in mind that exceptions can be granted to all graduate education policies.
    • Policies should change relatively infrequently.
    • Policies do not specify how they are implemented or enforced.
  • A process is a high-level outline of how the policy should be implemented. It should briefly state what needs to happen in the procedure and if any specific approvals are necessary.
  • A procedure provides the detailed, specific way in which the principles set out in policies will be implemented. Procedures state the “who,” “what,” “when,” and “how”: the step-by-step instructions of what people must do and the sequence in which to perform them. The procedure section can also point out consequences of failure to comply.

In contrast, a guideline is an advisory and explanatory statement offering recommendations for good practice. Guidelines are recommended but not mandatory; policies, processes, and procedures are all mandatory.

Specific Sections of the Policy Template

  • Policy Title: states the content of the policy in as few words as possible
  • Purpose: outlines why the Graduate Council or Graduate School is issuing the policy.
  • Academic goal: states what the desired effect or outcome of the policy should be.
  • Scope: describes to whom or what the policy applies.
  • Background: describes any reasons, history, and intent that led to the creation of the policy. This information is often valuable when policies must be evaluated or used in ambiguous situations.
  • Definitions: provides clear, unambiguous, and standardized definitions for terms and concepts found in the policy document.
  • Policy statement: establishes the philosophy, mission, and general objective on handling an issue. It states how the organization intends to operate.
  • Process: a high-level outline of how the policy should be implemented. It should briefly state what needs to happen in the procedure and if any specific approvals are necessary.
  • Procedure: provides the detailed, specific way in which the principles set out in policies will be implemented. Procedures state the “who,” “what,” “when,” and “how”: the step-by-step instructions of what people must do and the sequence in which to perform them. The procedure section can also point out consequences of failure to comply.
  • Forms: listed by title, with links.
  • Further Information: any additional useful information.
  • Cross-References: lists related policies, procedures, or guidelines, with links.
  • Revision History: states the effective date indicating when the policy came to be in force. For policy changes, retain the list of prior dates when the policy was revised.

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