|George Mason University > University Catalog > Graduate Academic Policies|
The Graduate Council is the governing body for all graduate academic policies and procedures. The Graduate Council approves all new graduate programs; authorizes all graduate course work, policies, and degrees conferred by the university; and sets minimum standards for admission to and graduation from any graduate program. These are minimum standards that all programs must meet; individual programs may set and enforce higher standards. The Office of the Provost administers university graduate policies for the Graduate Council.
The graduate faculty consists of all tenure and tenure-track faculty members and other faculty members appointed to the graduate faculty by the provost.
The University offers certificates, master's and doctoral degrees at the graduate level. There are also a number of bachelor's/accelerated master's degree programs for academically strong undergraduates with a commitment to research. For more information, see bachelor's/accelerated master's degree under Registration and Attendance.
Students may access graduate classes and programs according to their status as extended studies, non-degree, or enrolled degree students. See the "Admission" chapter of this catalog.
Graduate students enrolled in nine or more credits per semester are always considered full time. Research and teaching assistants may be considered full-time students for some purposes when enrolled in six or more credits per semester. Please note: Different criteria for full-time status may apply for tuition, verification, and financial aid purposes. Contact Student Accounts, Registrar, and Student Financial Aid, respectively, for questions regarding student-specific status.
A student admitted for graduate study in non-degree status may request a change to degree status within the same program. To do so, the student must secure departmental and college/school/institute approval on the college/school/institute's Student Request Form. All admission requirements as normally defined by the student's program for degree status must be met (e.g., official transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc.). If the student intends to use credits earned in non-degree status toward a degree, the credits must be approved on the college/school/institute's Transfer of Credit form.
For policies concerning students admitted provisionally, see the Graduate Admission Policies section in the "Admission" chapter of this catalog.
Permission to re-enroll in a program must be obtained by all master's and doctoral students who have failed to enroll in at least one credit of course work for two or more consecutive semesters at George Mason University. A program may allow a student to petition to graduate under any catalog in effect while the student was enrolled. The final decision rests with the unit dean or director. Forms are available from the Office of the Registrar, (703) 993-2441.
At the time of admission to graduate study, the student is assigned a faculty advisor by the academic program responsible for the student's program of study. Registration for newly admitted graduate students, as well as continuing students, begins with a visit to the student's academic advisor. There the student can obtain information about specific courses and degree requirements and develop an individual program of study. Progress in an approved program of study is the shared responsibility of the student and the advisor. The graduate student is responsible for compliance with the policies and procedures of the college/school/institute and all applicable departmental requirements that govern the individual program of study. Students should consult with their advisors before registration each semester.
(Applying non-George Mason University credit to graduate academic programs)
Graduate credit earned prior to admission to a certificate, master's, or doctoral program may be eligible to be transferred into the program and applied to the certificate or degree. Transfer of credit requires the approval of the program director and the dean or director of the school/college/institute, who determine whether the credit is eligible for transfer and whether it is applicable to the specific certificate or degree program. Limits on the number of credits that can be transferred derive from the degree requirements given below.
Credit is usually considered for transfer at the request of the student at the time of initial registration as a degree-seeking student. Students must supply official transcripts (plus an official transcript evaluation for transcripts from outside the United States and an official translation for transcripts not in English, if these documents were not supplied in the admission process). Credit transfer requests from students who are admitted provisionally are not considered until they have fulfilled the conditions of their admission and had the provisional qualifier removed from their records.
To be eligible for transfer credit, the credit must be graduate credit earned at another accredited university, earned at another institution and recommended for graduate credit in the American Council on Education guidebook, or earned at George Mason while in a non-degree status or while enrolled through Extended Studies. The credit must have been earned within six years prior to first enrollment as an admitted student in the specific certificate or degree program, and a minimum grade of B (3.0) must have been earned. The course must be applicable toward a degree at the institution offering the course. Extension and in service courses that are not intended by the institution offering the courses to be applied to a degree program are not eligible for transfer credit to George Mason. The credits cannot have been previously applied toward a degree at another institution or at George Mason. Up to three credits previously applied to a degree program at another institution may, however, be transferred into a certificate program at George Mason.
The number of credits required by a doctoral program, M.F.A. program, or master's program of more than 39 credits may be reduced on the basis of a previously earned master's degree. Reduction of credit requires the approval of the program director and the dean or director of the school/college/institute, who determine whether the credits are eligible for reduction of credit, whether the credits are applicable to the degree program, and the number of credits to be reduced. Reduction of credit is limited to a maximum of 30 credits in a doctoral program, 20 in an M.F.A. program, 23 in the M.A. in psychology concentration in school psychology, and derive from the degree requirements given below.
Students requesting a reduction of credit must supply official transcripts (plus an official transcript evaluation for transcripts from outside the United States and an official translation for transcripts not in English, if these documents were not supplied in the admissions process). Reduction of credit requests from students who are admitted provisionally are not considered until they have fulfilled the conditions of their admission and had the provisional qualifier removed from their records.
There are no time limits on credits used in reduction of credit, and the credits must have been applied to a previous degree. All the other conditions given above for eligibility of transfer of credit apply also to reduction of credits.
Degree credit for satisfactory completion of an external exam is limited to those examinations and achievement levels specifically approved by the Graduate Council.
Students enrolled in a degree program may take graduate courses at another accredited institution and apply these credits to a master's or doctoral degree with prior approval. Approval must be secured in writing from the director of the graduate program and the dean or director of the school/college/institute and submitted to the Office of the Registrar at George Mason before registering at the other institution. Upon completion of the course, students must arrange for an official transcript to be submitted to the school/college/institute so that the credits may be transferred into their George Mason degree program. These credits are subject to all the other conditions given above for transfer credit, including limits on numbers of credit that can be taken elsewhere. Permission to take a course elsewhere does not exempt a graduate student from satisfying the degree requirements given below.
Enrolled, degree-seeking graduate students may be eligible to take courses through the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area. See "Enrolling in Consortium Courses." Credits earned through the Consortium are considered resident (not transfer) credits and are therefore not subject to transfer of credit conditions or limitations.
University course work is measured in terms of quantity and quality. A credit normally represents one hour per week of lecture or recitation or not fewer than two hours per week of laboratory work throughout a semester. The number of credits is a measure of quantity. The grade is a measure of quality. The University-wide system for grading graduate courses is as follows:
* Note: Students are advised that, although a B- is a satisfactory grade for a course, they must maintain a 3.0 average in their degree program and present a 3.0 GPA on the courses listed on the graduation application.
See other sections under Grading System, including Grade Point Average, Additional Grade Notations, Grade Reports, Change of Grade, Appeal of Grade and Pending Grade Appeal.
A notation of academic warning is entered on the transcript of a graduate student who receives a grade of C, F, or IN in a graduate course.
Graduate students who are admitted provisionally may be terminated from their academic programs if they fail to meet conditions of their admission in the time limits set at admission. Students admitted provisionally may be terminated upon accumulating either grades of F in two courses or nine credits of unsatisfactory grades in graduate courses. Provisionally admitted students who accumulate 12 credits of unsatisfactory grades in undergraduate courses will also be terminated. (For students admitted provisionally, graduate and undergraduate grades are not combined in the calculation of unsatisfactory credits leading toward termination.) Students may be terminated if they fail to achieve satisfactory progress toward their degree. A letter of termination is sent by the dean or director of the school/college/institute, and notification of academic termination is affixed to the graduate student's official record. Students who are terminated are no longer eligible to take courses in the program, but may apply to another degree program or take courses (in other programs) through Extended Studies.
A graduate student is dismissed upon accumulating either grades of F in two courses or nine credits of unsatisfactory grades in graduate courses. These are minimum standards of academic performance; some programs have higher standards. A student may also be dismissed for failure to meet other program requirements such as doctoral competence examinations. The notation of academic dismissal is affixed to the graduate student's official record. A student who is dismissed may not take additional course work at the university.
Candidates must satisfy all university certificate requirements and all requirements established by the certificate program faculty. Individual departmental certificate requirements are listed under the respective certificate programs in this catalog.
Candidates must satisfy all university degree requirements and all requirements established by the master's program faculty. Individual departmental degree requirements are listed under the respective master's programs in this catalog.
Requirements regarding a thesis vary with the degree program. A number of master's programs offer both a thesis and non-thesis option. The same quality of work is expected of students regardless of their chosen option. For further information, consult the section on degree requirements under each degree program.
Master's degree students have six years from the time of first enrollment as a degree-seeking student to complete their degrees. Individual master's programs may have stricter time limits, which are published in the catalog. Students who are given permission to re-enroll following an absence from the university may not count the six-year time limit as beginning on the date of re-enrollment. Students who will not meet published time limits due to circumstances beyond their control may petition their school, college, or institute for an extension. Failure to meet the time limits, or to secure approval of an extension request, may result in termination from the program.
When a thesis proposal has been approved by the appropriate department, the department chair sends the collegiate dean or director a copy of the thesis proposal, including the approval signatures of the master's thesis committee members. The student may enroll in thesis research (799) at the beginning of the next semester. Students must register for three credits per semester until they reach the last three required credits. Once they have only three credits remaining, students may enroll for one credit per semester until graduation. To be considered a full-time student, the advisor and department chair must certify each semester that the student is working full time on his or her thesis. Please note: Graduate students must maintain continuous enrollment while writing and submitting a thesis.
The master's thesis committee is named by the candidate's department chair, who designates a member of the graduate faculty from that department as the thesis committee chair. The committee is appointed after consultation with the candidate and the advisor, and consists of at least three persons: two must be members of the graduate faculty from the candidate's department; one may come from outside the department.
The thesis committee chair is primarily responsible for directing and guiding the candidate's research and writing activities. The student is responsible for keeping all committee members informed of the scope, plan, and progress of both the research and the thesis.
Students selecting the thesis option should obtain a copy of GMU's Thesis, Dissertation or Project Guide, which is available in the course materials store in the Johnson Center or on the University Dissertation and Thesis Services web site, www.gmu.edu/library/specialcollections/dtwebguide.htm. Students may register in Thesis (799) only after their thesis proposal has been submitted and approved as prescribed in the guide. Any student not in attendance at the university who is preparing a thesis under the active supervision of a member of the faculty, or who wishes to take an examination, must maintain continuous registration for at least one credit per semester.
The original and one copy of the master's thesis with two original signed cover sheets must be deposited with the college/school/institute dean or director for dean/director's signature prior to being transferred to the University Libraries.
For degree conferral, two copies with cover sheets signed by committee and dean/director of college/school/institute must be submitted to the library by 5 p.m. the on last Friday of classes (select the timelines link at http://registar.gmu.edu/gradcheck for specific deadline date). This is also the deadline for participation in the May commencement.
Candidates must satisfy all university degree requirements and all requirements established by the doctoral program faculty. Departmental degree requirements are listed under the respective doctoral programs in this catalog. Programs may impose more stringent requirements.
Doctoral students have six years from the time of first enrollment as a degree-seeking student to become advanced to candidacy. Students have five years from the time of advancement to candidacy to graduation. Individual doctoral programs may have stricter time limits, which are published in the catalog. Students who are given permission to re-enroll following an absence from the university may not count the time limits as beginning on the date of re-enrollment. Students who will not meet published time limits due to circumstances beyond their control, may petition their school, college, or institute for an extension. Failure to meet the time limits, or to secure approval of an extension request, may result in termination from the program.
Some doctoral degree programs require demonstration of proficiency in a research skill: a reading knowledge of the research literature in a foreign language, knowledge of a computer language, knowledge of statistical methods, or knowledge of a research tool specific to the discipline. Research skill requirements are included with the degree requirements for the specific doctoral degree.
Where demonstration of research skills is required, certification that this requirement has been met must be completed for advancement to candidacy.
Normally before the end of the second year of graduate study, but no later than consideration for advancement to candidacy, a doctoral student must submit a program of study for approval by the dean or director of his/her college, school, or institute. The program of study must include major courses and supporting courses to be completed, research skills required, subject areas to be covered by the candidacy examination, and a proposed date for the candidacy examination. Program of Study forms are available from each program's doctoral coordinator. Any changes in the programs of study must be documented with an amended Program of Study form.
Advancement to candidacy implies that a doctoral student has demonstrated both a breadth and depth of knowledge in the field of study and is capable of exploring problems on the boundaries of knowledge.
The candidacy examination includes a written part and may include an oral part, depending on the particular doctoral program. Doctoral students should consult the degree requirements for each doctoral program to determine whether an oral portion is required, whether it is judged separately or with the written portion, the number of times a failed candidacy examination may be repeated and any time limits for repeating, and any time limits for attempting the candidacy examination.
Before doctoral students may be advanced to candidacy by the unit dean or director, they should have completed all course work required by the program faculty, have been certified in all doctoral research skills required, have passed the candidacy examination, and have been recommended by the doctoral supervisory committee or the program coordinator.
By the time that a doctoral student is advanced to candidacy, the dean or director of the school/college/institute appoints a dissertation committee upon recommendation of the program director. The committee consists of a graduate faculty member (see Graduate Faculty section in this chapter) from the department of the student's field of study and at least two other members of the graduate faculty, one of whom must be from outside the student's department or degree program (for programs not in departments). Additional members may be appointed who are not members of the graduate faculty or who are from outside the university.
Student initiated changes in the composition of the dissertation committee may occur only with the approval of the dean or director of the school/college/institute in consultation with the committee. Such changes may be made for extenuating circumstances only. Faculty may resign from a dissertation committee with appropriate notice by submitting a resignation in writing to the dean or director of the school/college/institute.
Students working on dissertation research (999) must register for a minimum of 3 credits of 999 per semester (excluding summers), until only three credits of dissertation remain (as specified on the program of study). Once students have 3 or fewer credits remaining, they may register for 1 credit of 999. Students enrolled in 1 credit of 998 or 999 may be considered full-time as long as their advisors and department chairs certify each semester that they are working full time on the proposal or dissertation.
All registration for doctoral dissertation research (999) must be planned with the dissertation director and approved by the dean or director of the school/college/institute. Dissertation research (999) is open only to doctoral students who have advanced to candidacy. Once enrolled in 999, students must maintain continuous registration each semester until graduation, excluding summers. Students who defend in the summer must be registered for at least one credit of 999 in the summer. Individual doctoral programs may require continuous registration beginning with 998.
Registration for dissertation proposal (998) or research (999) must be completed by the end of the schedule adjustment period as published in the Schedule of Classes. If this date is missed, students must register for these courses the following semester. Failing to register on time in a particular semester does not alter the requirement for continuous registration for 999.
A dissertation is required for the doctor of philosophy degree and most professional doctoral degrees. The dissertation is a written piece of original thinking that demonstrates doctoral candidates' mastery of the subject matter, methodologies, and conceptual foundations in their chosen fields of study. This is generally achieved through consideration of a problem on the boundaries of knowledge in the discipline.
The director of the dissertation committee is primarily responsible for directing the doctoral candidate's research and guiding the preparation of the written dissertation. After the dissertation committee is appointed, the student should begin discussions with the director to define a suitable problem for the dissertation. Before the student may enroll in doctoral dissertation research (999), the dissertation proposal must be approved by the dissertation committee and evidence of its approval sent to the unit dean or director for approval. Before that time, the student may enroll in proposal research (998).
Guidelines for the content and general format of the doctoral dissertation may be found in GMU's Guide for Preparing Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Projects, which is available on the University Dissertation and Thesis Services web site, www.gmu.edu/library/specialcollections/dtwebguide.htm. The guide includes information on the number of copies required and procedures for submission of the dissertation for approval by the dissertation committee and the unit dean or director. Consult your doctoral coordinator to determine which additional reference manuals are appropriate to your discipline.
As soon as all degree requirements have been satisfied, including the completion of the doctoral dissertation, the doctoral candidate may request a doctoral defense. Approval for the defense is given by the doctoral dissertation committee, the department or program chair, and the relevant dean or director of the school/college/institute. Notice of a defense must be circulated to the university community two weeks before the defense date.
The public defense should demonstrate the candidate's maturity of judgment and intellectual command of the chosen branches of the candidate's field of study.
At the close of the final defense, the dissertation committee makes final judgments for approving the dissertation. The doctoral candidate is responsible for making all required changes promptly, for submitting the original and required copies, and obtaining signatures. Final approval for the dissertation is given by the doctoral dissertation committee, the department or program chair, and the relevant dean or director of the school/college/institute, all of whom must sign the final copy.
For a dissertation to be approved, all members of the committee must sign. If a committee member refuses to sign the dissertation, the student or any member of the committee may petition the unit dean or director for a review and ruling to resolve the stalemate. The dean or director of the school/college/institute may seek the advice of outside reviewers to provide assessment of the work. The final decision is that of the dean or director and is not subject to appeal.
Two original copies on 100 percent cotton bond and one photocopied copy of the dissertation must be deposited with the college/school/institute dean or director for dean/director's signature prior to being transferred to the University Libraries.
For degree conferral, two copies with cover sheets signed by committee and dean/director of college/school/institute must be submitted to the library by 5 p.m. on the last Friday of classes (select timelines link at http://registar.gmu.edu/gradcheck for specific deadline date). This is also the deadline for participation in the May commencement. To be included in the published program for university commencement program, students must submit copies as described above to the library by April 15.
In addition, submission of the dissertation to University Microfilms International is required; a fee of $55 is paid by the student for this process. All copies of the dissertation must be submitted and all fees paid before the doctoral degree is awarded.
University Dissertation and Thesis Services (UDTS) facilitates completion and submission of dissertations, theses, and graduate-level projects for students by helping students meet university requirements and deadlines for submission of their works. The program assists George Mason students in all stages of dissertation, thesis, or project production. UDTS' web site, www.gmu.edu/library/specialcollections/dtwebguide.htm , provides students with useful tools, such as GMU's Dissertation, Thesis, or Project Guide, downloadable templates of necessary dissertation/thesis/project elements, forms required for the submission process, and links to related Web sites. UDTS is located in Fenwick Library, Wing 2C (Special Collections & Archives). For more information please contact the University Dissertation/ Thesis Coordinator, Robert Vay at (703) 993-2222 or rvay@GMU.edu.