George Mason University 1997-98 Catalog Catalog Index
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Graduate 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 standards for admission to and graduation from the graduate programs.


Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
Vice Provost for Research

Final Examinations Policy for Graduate Courses

Written examinations are held at the end of each semester. No changes may be made in the announced examination schedule unless approved in writing by the chair of the department offering the course.

After consulting the department chair, the individual faculty member may exercise judgment regarding the use of a formal examination at the end of the course.

Absence from examination is not excused except for sickness on the day of the examination, or for other cause approved by the appropriate dean/director. If an absence is unexcused, the grade for the course is entered as F. A student whose absence from an examination is excused may take a rescheduled examination within a 10-day period on a date to be arranged between the student and the instructor in charge of the examination. If the examination is not taken within 10 days, the grade for the course is entered as F.

Grading System

The grading system for graduate credit is A, B (satisfactory), C, F (unsatisfactory). Some courses may be assigned a letter grade of S (satisfactory), NC (no credit), or IP (in progress). The mark of IN (incomplete) may be given when all course requirements have been completed except for assigned papers or reports which the student has been compelled to postpone for reasons beyond the student's control. Regulations concerning incomplete marks may be found under the section Change of Grade.

Grade points for each semester hour are assigned on a scale of 4 for A, 3 for B, 2 for C, and 0 for F. A grade point score is computed by multiplying the value of the letter grade by the number of credits for the course. As an example, a student receiving an A in a three-semester-hour course earns 12 grade points. Dividing the number of grade points earned by the number of semester hours attempted gives the GPA. (Note: The marks of S, NC, and IP have no grade points associated with them and hours with such marks are not included in GPA computations. NC and IP have no negative impact on a student's record.)

Each faculty member is responsible for preparing course examinations and determining grades.

Policies concerning the weight given to examinations in computing final grades and the kinds of examinations used may differ according to the preferences of individual instructors.

Future Grading System

Beginning in fall semester 1998, the university-wide graduate grading system for all students enrolled at that time will be:

Letter Grade
Grade Points

Note: Grade points have been rounded to two decimal points for convenience; the actual grade point increment is thirds.

Plus and minus grades are used inside the range of satisfactory performance. Grades below B are unsatisfactory and consist of two categories: C (unsatisfactory, passing) and F (unsatisfactory, failing). Grade point averages (GPAs) will continue to be calculated in the standard fashion using the grade point values appropriate for the period in which the course is taken.

The faculty of the School of Law maintain a separate grading system, which the school had when it became affiliated with George Mason. That grading system will not be affected by this modification.

Change of Grade

Final grades in courses for graduate credit may be changed only under the following two circumstances and procedures.

Change from Incomplete and In Progress to Letter Grade. For causes beyond reasonable control, a student may be unable to complete a course on schedule. In such cases, the instructor may assign a temporary grade of Incomplete (IN). Graduate students have only nine weeks to complete work in a course in which they received a grade of IN. If the student fails to complete all requirements in time for the instructor to assign a regular grade by the end of the ninth week of classes of the next semester (excluding Summer Term), the mark of IN is changed by the Office of the Registrar to F. The student is responsible for submitting work to the instructor with sufficient time allowed for its evaluation. As long as the mark of IN remains on the transcript, it is treated as an unsatisfactory grade and may contribute to dismissal. A mark of In Progress (IP) is used for courses numbered 999, 998, 799, 798, internship courses, and some other courses until such time as all course work is completed. IP is not treated as an unsatisfactory grade, nor is it subject to the time limit prescribed for IN.

Change of Final Grade. Once a final grade in a course has been recorded by the Office of the Registrar, it can be changed only in cases of computational error or other justifiable cause approved by the college/school/institute dean or director. (Refer to Appeal of Grade.) All changes of final grades must be initiated, approved, and recorded prior to the last day of classes of the next regular semester (excluding Summer Term).

Appeal of Grade

Although generally the individual faculty member must be the best judge of student performance, there may be instances in which a graduate student believes a grade has been assigned unfairly. In such cases the student should ask the professor to reconsider the grade. If the student is not satisfied, an appeal may be made to the department chair/unit dean/institute director, who initiates procedures established by the department. All grade appeals must be submitted prior to the end of the drop period of the next regular session (excluding Summer Term).

Academic Dismissal

A graduate student is dismissed upon accumulating either an F in two courses or nine hours of unsatisfactory grades in graduate level courses. These are minimum standards of academic performance; some programs have higher standards. See the program requirements section. 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.

Academic Termination

A provisional graduate student who fails to achieve at least a 3.0 GPA after completing 12 hours of course work as a provisional student is terminated from provisional status. The notation of academic termination is affixed to the graduate student's official record. Provisional students are also terminated after accumulating 12 hours of unsatisfactory undergraduate course work grades. Graduate and undergraduate grades are not combined in the calculation of hours toward termination or dismissal for provisional students. However, nondegree students are terminated after the accumulation of 12 hours of unsatisfactory grades in graduate or undergraduate courses combined.

Change from Provisional to Degree Status

For a change from provisional status to be considered, a graduate student must have completed 12 semester hours of graduate course work in provisional status with at least a 3.0 GPA, supplied all admission credentials, and removed all deficiencies as established in the student's letter of admission. Written confirmation from the college/school/institute dean or director indicating the change of status is sent to the student.

Credits earned in the provisional status may be used subsequently in meeting minimum hour and program degree requirements. However, a maximum of 12 graduate credits earned in nondegree status may be applied toward a graduate degree. Students admitted in these categories are therefore strongly urged to obtain faculty guidance before beginning course work. Credits cannot be applied toward a graduate degree unless they are specifically approved for that purpose.

Change from Nondegree to Degree 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 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 nondegree status toward a degree, the credits must be approved on the college/school/institute's Transfer of Credit form. However, a maximum of 12 graduate credits earned in nondegree status may be applied toward a graduate degree.

Transfer of Credit for Work Taken Prior to Admission

With the recommendation of the appropriate program faculty and approval of the appropriate dean or director, a master's student may transfer up to six semester hours of graduate credit earned at other accredited institutions before the student enrolled in the George Mason graduate program. Up to 12 hours of credit may be transferred within the Commonwealth Graduate Engineering program, the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program, and the Master of Arts in Telecommunications program. Undergraduate courses taken at other institutions are not transferable for credit to graduate programs within the university. All graduate work offered as transfer credit must be applicable to the degree program the student is pursuing at George Mason University.

Credit is normally considered for transfer, upon the request of the student, at the time of initial registration as a degree student. Transfer of credit requests from provisional students are not considered until such students are advanced to degree status. The collegiate dean/director sends students written confirmation of all credits approved for transfer.

A maximum of three semester hours of transfer credit from other universities may be applied toward a graduate certificate program with the approval of the certificate coordinator and the appropriate dean or director. All other general policies applicable to transfer credit to degree programs apply to transfer credit for certificate programs.

Criteria for Transferable Credit

To be accepted for transfer, previous credits must have been earned within six years prior to admission. Credits previously applied toward a degree at another institution or at George Mason are not allowed as transfer credit for degree programs. Up to three credits previously earned in a master's program may be transferred into a certificate program.

In all cases of courses accepted for transfer of credit, a minimum grade of B must have been earned and the courses must be applicable toward a degree at the institution offering the course. Extension and inservice courses that are not intended by the institution offering the courses to be part of a degree program are not acceptable for transfer to the university. The student is responsible for furnishing such evidence. The college/school/institute dean or director decides whether work taken elsewhere and presented for transfer credit to a graduate program at the university is acceptable. Departmental recommendation alone is insufficient.

Courses at Other Institutions

A student 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 the prior approval of the department and the college/school/institute. Students may earn up to 6 hours of such transfer credit toward a master's degree or 12 hours toward a doctoral degree. Permission to take a course elsewhere must be secured in writing from the college/school/institute dean or director prior to registering at the other institution. Permission forms to take course work elsewhere are available in the graduate office of the college, school, or institute. The student is responsible for having an official transcript submitted to the college/school/institute's office for evaluation.

Permission does not exempt a graduate student from satisfying the 18-hour minimum for a master's degree or the 36-hour minimum for a doctoral degree of course work taken at the university.

Student Requests and Appeals

A graduate student who wishes to request an exception to published academic regulations or to appeal decisions involving the application of academic regulations to a program of study may do so by submitting a petition to their college/school/institute dean or director. Local academic units provide a mechanism for grade appeal. Thus all grade appeals should be submitted to the department responsible for the course.

Students who are terminated or dismissed from their programs may appeal this action. The student is responsible for presenting relevant information or documents in support of an appeal. The appeal is heard by the Appeals Committee. The student is notified of the time and place of the meeting and decides whether or not to attend to present written or verbal information. Such meetings are academic and not legal hearings. The committee makes a recommendation to the dean or director. The dean or director's decision is final and cannot be appealed.

Catalog in Effect for Graduation

Graduate students may choose to graduate under the catalog in effect when they were admitted or the catalog in effect when they graduate or any catalog that was in effect during the time of their enrollment. However, students who have been inactive more than one year must graduate under a catalog in effect after they have been granted permission to re-enroll.

Degree Application

Master's students who expect to complete all degree requirements in a given semester will be mailed an Intent to Graduate form along with the degree application from the Graduation Office. Students are expected to return the form with appropriate department signatures from their school, college, or institute by the date designated by the Graduation Office.

Foreign Language Requirement

Several degree programs require that a student demonstrate a proficiency in one or more foreign languages as part of the degree requirements established by the program faculty. Such a requirement is listed under the degree requirements for a specific degree in the academic program section of this catalog. Certification of the successful completion of the foreign language requirement should be sent by the academic adviser to the collegiate dean.


Effective with the Spring 1992 Commencement, the titles of master's theses will no longer be listed in the Commencement program. Master's candidates who file an Intent to Graduate form for August but who have not yet completed all degree requirements may participate in the commencement ceremony in anticipation of the completion of the degree. Their names will be marked with an asterisk identifying them as master's candidates pending completion of all requirements. Effective with the Spring 1995 Commencement, doctoral students may participate only if they have successfully completed all degree requirements including defending and submitting a signed final copy of their dissertation prior to the commencement date.

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