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Developing Graduate Program Proposals

All Graduate Program Proposals

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.

For more details on the sections required for each type of program proposal, refer to GCAC-206 Graduate Curricular Proposal Requirements - Procedure and Guidelines.

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 GCAC-206 Graduate Curricular Proposal Requirements - Procedure and Guidelines. 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

  • Add any additional program-level admission requirements, beyond those required by Graduate Council. Examples include minimum GPA and test score requirements (GRE, GMAT, etc.); 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 GCAC-309 Transfer Credit. 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

  • 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”).
  • 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.
  • For elective courses, a list of approved courses may be maintained by the program office. The total number of elective credits required should be stated, but the individual elective courses do not need to be listed.
  • 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.

Graduate Bulletin Listing

  • A new program proposal must include a Graduate Bulletin listing 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

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”.

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Master’s Degree Program Proposals

  • Refer to the Graduate Council policies regarding master’s degree requirements, under GCAC-600 Research Degree Requirements for research master's degrees (M.A. and M.S.) and GCAC-700 Professional Degree Requirements for professional master's degrees, and the relevant sections of GCAC-206 Graduate Curricular Proposal Requirements - Procedure and Guidelines.
  • 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 based upon original research in the field; a scholarly paper or essay that is research-oriented; or a capstone course that includes a work product which demonstrates evidence of analytical thinking and synthesis of knowledge in the field of study. If the program offers more than one culminating experience, the requirements for each must be clearly described in the proposal. No matter which culminating experiences are offered, the proposal should emphasize the Features of Research Education as defined in GCAC-204 Graduate Course Definitions.
    • 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 require a 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.

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Doctoral Degree Program Proposals

  • Refer to Graduate Council policies for the doctoral degrees, under GCAC-600 Research Degree Requirements for the research doctorate (Ph.D.) and GCAC-700 Professional Degree Requirements for professional doctorates.
  • For the Ph.D., use “dissertation” instead of “thesis.”
  • Use “Ph.D. committee” instead of “doctoral committee,” “dissertation committee,” “advisory committee” or “academic advisory committee.”
  • Ensure that the composition of the Ph.D. committee complies with Graduate Council policy (see GCAC-602 Ph.D. Committee Formation, Composition, and Review - Research Doctorate).
  • A doctoral student must register for at least 1 credit in the semesters (including summer) in which they take the qualifying examination, the comprehensive examination, and the final oral examination. Post-comprehensive Ph.D. 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.

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Integrated Undergraduate-Graduate (IUG) Degree Programs

  • When developing an IUG degree program, refer to GCAC-210 Integrated Undergraduate-Graduate (IUG) Degree Programs.
  • Proposals to create IUG degree programs should include a draft version of a student handbook that will provide guidance for prospective students.
  • Proposals to create new IUG programs must include evidence of an appropriate level of student interest. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, including (but not limited to):
    • Survey of existing undergraduate students meeting the recommended admission criteria.
    • Evidence from Schreyer Honors College custom IUGs.
  • Proposals to create new IUG programs must provide clear evidence (supported by the appropriate academic administrators) that:
    • Course sequencing in the IUG supports student success (e.g., progress through the IUG cannot depend on a series of independent study courses).
    • A specific faculty member is identified who is responsible for providing both general advice to ensure IUG students follow all relevant University Faculty Senate and Graduate Council policies, as well as providing academic advice to ensure IUG students meet their personal educational goals (in addition to any research adviser(s) for students in graduate research degree programs).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Students must sequence their courses so all undergraduate degree requirements are fulfilled before taking courses to count solely towards the graduate degree. Students must complete the undergraduate degree requirements within the typical time to degree for the undergraduate major. Exceptions to the expectation that the undergraduate degree be completed and conferred within the typical time to degree for that undergraduate major may be evaluated and approved through the Graduate Council curricular review process only when there are valid pedagogical reasons. If you are requesting an exception, be certain to include an appropriate justification for the request.
  • 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 graduate culminating experience and may not include independent study courses (596/896 Individual Studies or other independent study course).
    • 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.”
  • Integrated Undergraduate-Graduate Programs must be approved both by the Graduate Council for the graduate side and the Faculty Senate for the undergraduate side. After submitting the graduate proposal, submit a P-1 prospectus to the  Administrative Council on Undergraduate Education. After the graduate proposal is approved, a proposal from the undergraduate major can be submitted to the Faculty Senate.

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Dual-Title Graduate Degree Programs

  • When developing an dual-title degree program, refer to GCAC-208 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 should enroll in a dual-title graduate degree program early in their training, and no later than the end of the fourth semester (not counting summer semesters) of entry into the graduate major program.
  • 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. Keep in mind that these students will already have been admitted to their primary graduate program and the Graduate School.
  • 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.
  • The means of establishing proficiency in the dual-title area for the Qualifying Examination must be defined in the major program proposal adopting the dual-title degree. Refer to GCAC-604 Qualifying Examination - Research Doctorate, Policy Statement 3.b.
  • Specify the composition of the Ph.D. committee, and ensure that the composition of the committee complies with Graduate Council policy regarding the composition of dual-title doctoral committees (see GCAC-602 Ph.D. Committee Formation, Composition, and Review - Research Doctorate).
  • The Ph.D. 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 Ph.D. 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 Ph.D. 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.

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Joint Degree Programs

  • When developing a joint degree program, refer to GCAC-211 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 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."

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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 GCAC-207 Degree Program 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.

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Extended and Off-Campus Graduate Degree Programs

  • When developing a new extended or off-campus graduate degree program, or a program change proposal to offer an existing graduate degree program as extended or off-campus, refer to GCAC-213 Residency and Related Policies for Off-Campus Degree Programs. As noted above, these program proposals require additional sections in the program proposal. Note that programs delivered via World Campus are considered off-campus.

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

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