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Graduate Studies at UMass Dartmouth

Guidelines for Graduate Progression and Dismissal

These guidelines do not make new policy but systematize and clarify existing policy. The overall goal is to enforce the policies consistently, firmly, and fairly. The guidelines encourage:

  • Monitoring students' registration and progression every semester and when approving such actions as independent study, assistantships, overloads, or program continuation. Nothing substitutes for early discussion and planning with the student.
  • Enforcing quality and progress requirements firmly and structuring them so as to give students timely warning while improvement can still be made.
  • Promptly notifying students who are academically at risk and working with them on appropriate interventions, and dismissing students who have failed to meet the requirements.
  • Monitoring firmly students' use of Program/Thesis Continuation, especially full-time program continuation status.
  • Monitoring international students, who must comply with enrollment and progression requirements for their visas.

1) Monitoring Students' Progress and Achievement

Graduate advisors and program directors should monitor students' registration and progression by checking COIN frequently. Please check COIN when approving a student for such actions as an independent study, an assistantship, an overload, or a semester of program continuation. Please regularly check for progression and meeting of GPA expectations; nothing substitutes for early discussion and planning with the student.

2) The Dismissal Process

Graduate advisors and program directors should review students for possible Dismissal at the end of every semester, especially in graduate programs that can be completed in two, three, or four semesters.

2a) The Office of the University Registrar will distribute lists of students who should be reviewed, starting at the end of Spring 2003.

2b) The formal dismissal process occurs by written memorandum. A sequence of forwarded e-mails may be used, with each level indicating agreement; paper memos and campus mail may be too slow. The graduate program recommends dismissal of the student through its Graduate Program Director to the Department Chairperson, College Dean, and the Associate Provost for Graduate Studies. The memorandum should state the reasons for the dismissal and be clear that the action is recommended, not final; a copy should go to the student. Each level will approve and forward the memorandum to the next level if in agreement. The Associate Provost for Graduate Studies will forward approved dismissals to the Registrar for action and send a formal notification of dismissal to the student. Although final approval rests with the Associate Provost, s/he will ask for reconsideration only in exceptional circumstances.

2c) Formal notice of dismissal must occur seven calendar days before the next semester starts.

2d) Students may appeal dismissal decisions to the College Dean, who will recommend a final action to the Associate Provost for Graduate Studies.

3) Quality Expectations

Graduate dismissal decisions are based, in part, on quality. Criteria stated in the graduate catalogue (p. 26) indicate that a student will be subject to dismissal if the student's GPA falls below 3.0 after completion of 15 credits of coursework or 50% of the program, whichever is greater. Also, a student who receives three grades below B- will be subject to dismissal.

3a) Program administrators who decide not to invoke the option to dismiss a student falling below these cut-offs should still alert the student, issue warnings, and give advising. Not to respond in any way may give students the idea that the rules are not in force.

3b) Programs may establish more stringent quality standards, which should be stated in the program section of the catalogue and enforced for all students.

4) Progress Expectations

Graduate dismissal decisions are based, in part, on progression. Criteria stated in the graduate catalogue (p. 26) indicate that graduate students are expected to make satisfactory progress toward completion of their degrees. The rule is stated in the catalogue in only general terms to allow flexibility for the nature of different programs. Programs wishing to use specific progression standards should state them in the their sections of the catalogue and enforce them consistently for all students. Programs that allow part-time study should distinguish progression expectations for their full-time and part-time populations.

4a) The policies permit programs to enforce progression steps that include passing core courses, satisfying intermediate reviews, passing mid-point or comprehensive examinations, etc., which should be stated in the program's catalogue section. The Office of the University Registrar is working to create a means of posting completion of such steps to COIN and the transcript record, beginning with those for the PhD. The graduate regulations allow dismissal of students who do not make progress. As with other dismissal considerations, programs should be consistent and give warning and advisement. In advising students who are having difficulties in progressing, please consider as options a leave of absence (see item 4c below and catalogue, p. 20); withdrawal, perhaps with later re-admission (see catalogue, p. 20); or changing to part-time status. (Please note the severe restrictions on these choices for F-1 visa students.)

4b) The graduate regulations allow dismissal of students who do not make progress. As with other dismissal considerations, programs should be consistent and give warning and advisement. In advising students who are having difficulties in progressing, please consider as options a leave of absence (see item 4c below and catalogue, p. 20); withdrawal, perhaps with later re-admission (see catalogue, p. 20); or changing to part-time status. (Please note the severe restrictions on these choices for F-1 visa students.)

4c) Approval for leave of absence includes a statement of a time of return; a normal limit is one year and two can be given in unusual circumstances. This status is first approved at the department level, is approved by the dean if that college so requires, and is then sent to the Graduate Office for approval and forwarding to the Registrar.

4d) Program Continuation status permits a student to remain active while not taking courses (catalogue, pp. 19-20). We are currently developing a process for students who cannot progress because they have not satisfied a qualification step (e.g., who need to complete their comps and dissertation proposal before they can register for Dissertation credits). Such students will need to remain in active status and pay the Program Continuation Fee during each semester. Clear conditions and limits must be established for the student to be considered full-time during such a "continuation" period (full-time status is of special concern to F-1 visa students).

5) Progression and the Completion of the Project, Thesis, or Dissertation

These require special consideration. As stated in the catalogue (pp. 19-20; 27), graduate students may extend their registration beyond the completion of coursework through Program Continuation registration, paying the required fee.

5a) Part-time students may remain on Program Continuation for a relatively long time, subject to the limits of credit longevity (catalogue, p. 19).

5b) Those who must be (or wish to be) deemed full-time must demonstrate that they are in fact engaged full-time on their project, thesis, or dissertation. These considerations are of special concern to F-1 visa students. We have adopted the following guidelines for such demonstration:

(1) The department must verify each semester to the Registrar that such a student is engaged full-time on the project, thesis, or dissertation. The Registrar has a general form for this purpose; for international students, the semester enrollment verification form is used.

(2) It is assumed that one semester in full-time continuation status should suffice. If full-time continuation status is to extend beyond one semester, therefore, the department's verification must be based on a formal petition from the student that explains the circumstances and demonstrates in detail that engagement will in fact be full-time. This documentation should be forwarded for the student's file in the Registrar's Office.

5c) Some programs require six, nine, or more credits of registration in courses such as thesis, internship, project, or dissertation. Programs may enforce the spreading out of such registrations by limiting the number of such credits that the student can register for in one semester or term, as stated in the catalogue course description of the courses.

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Graduate Studies Office
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Phone: 508.999.8604 • Fax: 508-999-8183

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