- Policies and Procedures Affecting All Students
- Undergraduate Policies
- Graduate Policies
- Graduate Council
- Graduate Faculty
- Academic Programs
- Student Status
- Full-time Classification
- Change from Nondegree Status
- Removing Provisional Qualifier
- Permission to Re-enroll
- Academic Advising
- Transfer of Credit
- Reduction of Credit
- Credit by External Exam
- Credit from Other Institutions
- Graduate Academic Standards, Grades
- Requirements for Graduate Certificates
- Requirements for Master's Degrees
- Requirements for Doctoral Degrees
The Graduate Council is the governing body for all graduate academic policies and procedures. The 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.
At the graduate level, Mason offers certificates, and master's and doctoral degrees. There are also a number of combined bachelor's and accelerated master's degree programs for academically strong undergraduates with a commitment to research. For more information, see the "Registration and Attendance" section of this chapter.
Students may access graduate classes and programs according to their status as nondegree or enrolled degree students. For more information, see the Admission chapter of this catalog.
Graduate students are considered full time if they are enrolled in at least 9 credits per semester, or if they hold a full time assistantship (20 hours a week) and are enrolled in at least 6 credits per semester. Graduate students who are enrolled in dissertation credits (either 998 or 999) are considered full time if they are enrolled in at least 6 credits per semester, regardless of whether they hold an assistantship. Graduate students who have completed the minimum number of credits required by their degree program, including the minimum number of credits of 999 required by their degree program, are considered full time if they are registered for at least 1 credit of 999, and their advisors and department chairs certify each semester that they are working full time on the dissertation. Note that different criteria for full-time status may apply for tuition, verification, and financial aid. Contact Student Accounts, the Registrar's Office and Student Financial Aid, respectively, for more information.
Change from Nondegree Status
A student admitted for graduate study in nondegree status may request a change to degree status within the same program. To do so, the student must secure approval on the appropriate Student Request Form. All admission requirements as usually defined by the student's program for degree status must be met, including official transcripts and letters of recommendation. If the student intends to use credits earned in nondegree status toward a degree, the credits must be approved on the appropriate Transfer of Credit form. There is a limit on the number of credits that can be transferred when changing from nondegree to degree status; please see the applicable degree program for specific information.
Removing Provisional Qualifier
For policies concerning students admitted provisionally, see the "Graduate Admission Policies" section in the Admission chapter of this catalog.
Permission to Re-enroll
Permission to re-enroll in a program must be obtained by all master's and doctoral degree students who have failed to enroll in at least 1 credit of course work for two or more consecutive semesters at Mason. 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, or institute and all applicable departmental requirements that govern the individual program of study. Students should consult with their advisors before registration each semester.
Transfer of Credit
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 dean or director of the school, college, or institute. They will determine whether the credit is eligible for transfer and applicable to the specific certificate or degree program. Note that credits accepted for transfer do not compute into any Mason GPA. 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 Mason while in a nondegree status or 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 (3.00) 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 Mason. The credits cannot have been previously applied toward a degree at another institution or at Mason. However, up to 3 credits previously applied to a degree program at another institution may be transferred into a certificate program at Mason.
Reduction of Credit
The number of credits required by a doctoral, MFA, 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, or institute. They determine whether the credits are eligible for reduction of credit and 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 MFA program, and 23 in the MA 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.
Credit by External Exam
Degree credit for satisfactory completion of an external exam is limited to those exams and achievement levels specifically approved by the Graduate Council.
Credit from Other Institutions
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, or institute, and submitted to Mason's Office of the Registrar before registering at the other institution. Upon completion of the course, students must arrange for an official transcript to be submitted to Mason so that the credits may be transferred into their Mason degree program. These credits are subject to all the other conditions given above for transfer credit, including limits on numbers of credits that can be taken elsewhere. Note that credits accepted for transfer do not compute into any Mason GPA. 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 the "Enrolling in Consortium Courses" section. Credits earned through the consortium are considered resident (not transfer) credits, and are therefore not subject to transfer of credit conditions or limitations.
Graduate Academic Standards, Grades
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:
|Grade||Quality Points||Graduate Courses|
|A+||4.00||Satisfactory / Passing|
|A||4.00||Satisfactory / Passing|
|A-||3.67||Satisfactory / Passing|
|B+||3.33||Satisfactory / Passing|
|B||3.00||Satisfactory / Passing|
|B-||2.67||Satisfactory* / Passing|
|C||2.00||Unsatisfactory / Passing|
|F||0.00||Unsatisfactory / Failing|
*Although a B- is a satisfactory grade for a course, students must maintain a 3.00 average in their degree program and present a 3.00 GPA on the courses listed on the graduation application.
A notation of academic warning is entered on the transcript of a graduate student who receives a grade of C or F in a graduate course, or while a grade of IN is in effect.
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 grades of F in two courses, or 9 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, or 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 nondegree studies.
A graduate student is dismissed after accumulating grades of F in two courses, or 9 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 exams. 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 Mason.
Requirements for Graduate Certificates
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 earn a minimum of 15 graduate credits.
- Only graduate courses may apply toward the certificate.
- A maximum of 3 graduate credits taken at another institution can be transferred into a certificate program.
- Candidates must have a minimum GPA of 3.00 in course work presented on the certificate application, which may include no more than 6 credits of C. (Grades of C+, C-, and D do not apply to graduate courses.) The GPA calculation excludes all transfer courses and Mason nondegree credits not formally approved for the degree.
A maximum of two certificates may be conferred as part of a master's degree.
Requirements for Master's Degrees
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.
- Candidates must earn a minimum of 30 graduate credits.
- Only graduate courses may apply toward the degree.
- The majority of the credits applied to the degree must be earned at Mason or, in the case of programs offered through joint, cooperative, or consortial arrangements, at the participating institutions.
- A minimum of 18 credits must be taken in degree status, after admission to the degree program.
- A maximum of 6 credits of master's thesis research (799) or master's project may be applied to the degree.
Candidates must have a minimum GPA of 3.00 in course work presented on the degree application, which may include no more than 6 credits of C. Grades of C or D do not apply to graduate courses. The GPA calculation excludes all transfer courses and Mason extended or nondegree studies credits not formally approved for the degree.
Requirements regarding a thesis vary with the degree program. A number of master's programs offer both thesis and nonthesis options. The same quality of work is expected of students regardless of their chosen option. For more 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 this catalog. Students who are given permission to re-enroll following an absence from Mason 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 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 3 credits per semester until they reach the last three required credits. Once they have only 3 credits remaining, students may enroll for 1 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 the 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 consulting with the candidate and advisor, and consists of at least three people. Two must be members of the graduate faculty from the candidate's department, while 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 Mason's Thesis, Dissertation or Project Guide, which is available in the course materials store in the Johnson Center or at 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 Mason who is preparing a thesis under the active supervision of a member of the faculty, or who wishes to take an exam, must maintain continuous registration for at least 1 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, or institute dean or director for signature prior to being transferred to the University Libraries.
For degree conferral, two copies with signed cover sheets must be submitted to the library by 5 p.m. the on last Friday of classes. (For specific deadlines, go to registrar.gmu.edu.) This is also the deadline for participation in the May commencement.
Requirements for Doctoral Degrees
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.
- Candidates must earn a minimum of 72 graduate credits, without master's degree; or 42 credits, with master's degree.
- The 42 minimum credits for students with a master's degree may apply only to the doctoral degree and not to a second master's degree.
- Only graduate courses may apply toward the degree.
- The majority of credits applied to the degree must be earned at Mason, or in the case of programs offered through joint, cooperative, or consortial arrangements, at the participating institutions.
- More than half of all credits must be taken in degree status, after admission to the degree program.
- Candidates must pass a written or oral doctoral candidacy (qualifying) exam, or both.
- Candidates must complete a minimum of 12 credits of doctoral proposal (998) and doctoral dissertation research (999). A maximum of 24 credits of 998 and 999 may be applied to the degree.
- Candidates must pass a final, public defense of the doctoral dissertation.
Candidates must have a minimum GPA of 3.00 in course work presented on the degree application, which may include no more than 6 credits of C. (Grades of C+, C- or D do not apply to graduate courses. The GPA calculation excludes all transfer courses and Mason extended studies or nondegree credits not formally approved for the degree.)
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 Mason 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 for an extension. Failure to meet the time limits, or to secure approval of an extension request, may result in termination from the program.
Doctoral Research Skill Requirements
Some doctoral degree programs require demonstration of proficiency in a research skill, including knowledge of the research literature in a foreign language, computer language, statistical methods, or 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.
Program of Study
Usually before the end of the second year of graduate study, but no later than consideration for advancement to candidacy, doctoral students must submit a program of study for approval by the dean or director of the 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 exam, and a proposed date for the candidacy exam. 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
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 exam 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 exam may be repeated and any time limits for repeating, and any time limits for attempting the candidacy exam.
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, been certified in all doctoral research skills required, passed the candidacy exam, and been recommended by the doctoral supervisory committee or program coordinator.
By the time a doctoral student is advanced to candidacy, the dean or director of the school, college, or institute appoints a dissertation committee upon recommendation of the program director. The committee consists of a graduate faculty member (see the "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 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 written resignation.
Dissertation Registration (998, 999)
Students working on dissertation research (999) must register for a minimum of 3 credits of 999 per semester (excluding summers) until they have completed the minimum number of credits of 999 required by their degree program. Then, they may register for 1 credit of 999 until the dissertation is complete. See the "Full Time Status of Graduate Students" section for more information.
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, or 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 1 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 field 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 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 doctoral dissertations are in the Thesis, Dissertation, or Project Guide, which is available at www.gmu.edu/library/specialcollections/dtwebguide.htm. Consult a doctoral coordinator to determine which additional reference manuals are suitable.
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; department or program chair; and relevant dean or director of the school, college, or 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 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, submitting the original and required copies, and obtaining signatures. Final approval for the dissertation is given by the doctoral dissertation committee; department or program chair; and the relevant dean or director of the school, college, or 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 do so, the student or any member of the committee may petition the unit dean or director for a review and ruling. The dean or director 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.
Dissertation Submission and Fee
Two original copies on 100 percent cotton bond, and one photocopied copy of the dissertation, must be deposited with the college, school, or institute's dean or director for signature prior to being transferred to the University Libraries.
For degree conferral, two copies with cover sheets signed by the committee and dean or director must be submitted to the library by 5 p.m. on the last Friday of classes. (For more information, go to registrar.gmu.edu.) This is also the deadline for participation in the May commencement. To be included in Mason's published commencement program, students must submit copies 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
University Dissertation and Thesis Services (UDTS) facilitates completion and submission of dissertations, theses, and graduate-level projects. The program assists Mason students in all stages of production. UDTS' web site, www.gmu.edu/library/specialcollections/dtwebguide.htm, provides students with useful tools, including down-loadable templates of necessary elements, forms required for the submission process, and links to related web sites. UDTS is located in Fenwick Library, Wing 2C (Special Collections and Archives). For more information, contact the university dissertation and thesis coordinator at 703-993-2222.