This document summarizes the body of Academic Rules and Regulations in place at American University for the conduct of graduate education in academic programs housed in Schools and Colleges other than the Washington College of Law. Graduate students in the Washington College of Law are governed by the academic rules and regulations specific to the Washington College of Law, except in those instances when they are enrolled in a joint program between another unit at American University and the Washington College of Law. When enrolled in a joint program, students must satisfy the Academic Rules and Regulations that relate to both units in which their degree is housed. Based on a compelling rationale, an appeal may be made with respect to a specific graduate academic regulation by a graduate student or faculty member. Students filing appeal requests should begin with a written request to their academic advisor.
Admission to Degree Programs
Individuals apply for admission to graduate study to the academic unit offering the degree program. Applicants are admitted to a particular program for a specific degree objective (M.A., M.S., M.F.A., Ph.D., etc.). Applicants are admitted to either full or provisional status.
Minimum Requirements for Full Admission
Applicants must hold an earned baccalaureate degree from an institution accredited by one of the six United States regional accreditation agencies or a degree equivalent to a four-year U.S. baccalaureate degree from an international institution with a similar level of accreditation or recognition by its home country. Assessment of a foreign degree will be based upon the characteristics of the national system of education, the type of institution attended, its accreditation, and the level of studies completed. Applicants must provide proof of an undergraduate degree with an original certified transcript. Responsibility for the verification and approval of documents supporting graduate applications and the minimal requirements for full admission rests with the admissions office in each academic unit.
Applicants may be admitted without reference to their baccalaureate record if they earned at least a 3.30 cumulative GPA in a master’s degree program completed at a regionally accredited institution or if they earned at least a 3.50 cumulative GPA for the last 12 credit hours of a master’s or doctoral degree program still in progress.
Applicants whose native or first language is not English must demonstrate proof of language proficiency by submitting satisfactory results from one of the following:
- English proficiency tests (specific scores that confer a passing grade on these exams can be obtained from AU’s International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS).
- Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL);
- International English Language Testing System (IELTS);
- the Pearson Test of English-Academic (PTE-Academic); or
- Successful evaluation on the Kansas Test administered by the ISSS office at AU.
- Successful completion of the highest level of course work in an approved intensive English-language program recognized by AU.
- An earned bachelor's degree from an accredited or approved institution where the medium of instruction is in English.
In addition to academic requirements for admission, international students, for purposes of obtaining a visa to study in the United States, must also provide proof of financial ability. To determine the required amount, they should consult the Cost Guides on the ISSS website.
Specific graduate degree programs may establish additional requirements.
Students, including international students, who do not meet the above GPA requirements may be admitted with provisional status. Students who are admitted provisionally must have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.00 after the completion of the first 9 credit hours of graduate study at AU, or they will be academically dismissed. Specific degree programs may establish additional requirements.
Admission to Joint Degree Program
Admissions procedures for joint degrees vary by individual program but each academic unit administering the joint degree must review applications and make admissions decisions. While all units review the application, the student’s home school is the one to which he/she applies.
Admission to a Combined Bachelor’s / Master’s Program
A combined bachelor’s/master’s program involves tentative admission to graduate standing so that both a bachelor’s and master’s degree may be earned as the result of a planned program of study. Highly qualified students in good academic standing may apply to a graduate program for a combined degree as soon as they have completed 75 earned credits. With rare exceptions, students will apply no later than the semester in which they have 90 completed credits toward their degree. Admission during the junior year or equivalent allows sufficient time and preparation for curricular sequences and other research experiences that distinguish this option from separate bachelor’s and master’s degrees. No more than one graduate degree can be earned as a combined degree.
Students will be admitted to the combined program at two levels, i.e., for both the undergraduate degree and the graduate degree.
Once admitted during the junior year, students must follow a prescribed program of work, and their record must show which courses will be applied toward the undergraduate degree and which courses will be applied toward the master’s degree. Once all undergraduate requirements have been satisfied, the student will be officially enrolled in the graduate program if they complete their bachelor’s program in good academic standing, and if they meet all University and academic unit or teaching unit requirements for admission to the master’s program for the combined degree. Each academic unit or teaching unit sets its own admission standards and procedures for graduate students. Once enrolled in the master’s program, students are then subject to the academic regulations governing graduate students.
For every 9 required graduate credits earned for the graduate degree while a student has graduate student status, the student may count up to 3 required graduate credits earned as an undergraduate towards the master’s degree. For example, a student can share 9 credits for a 30-hour master’s degree, 12 credits for a 36-hour master’s degree, or 15 credits for a 39-hour or more master’s degree for graduate level courses taken as an undergraduate. Individual programs may set lower limits.
Admission to an AU Dual Degree Program
For admission to an approved dual degree program, the student must meet the admission criteria for each of the degrees and must be admitted separately to each degree program. The student must be admitted to the second program before completing the first. Admission to one degree program does not guarantee automatic admission to a second. Each admission decision is separate, and conducted according to established procedures for the specific degree. The student must take all admission examinations required by each of the graduate programs.
Admission with Nondegree Status
Admission to attend classes with nondegree status is open to applicants who have a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent. Enrollment as a nondegree student does not guarantee acceptance into a degree program. Students must have approval of the instructor to enroll in a class with nondegree status.
Admission to Post-Baccalaureate for-Credit Certificate Programs
Admission to attend classes in post-baccalaureate for-credit certificate programs is open to applicants who have a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent. Enrollment as a post-baccalaureate student does not guarantee acceptance into a degree program.
Admission from Non-degree Status or a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program to a Graduate Degree Program
Students who have non-degree status or who are enrolled in a post-baccalaureate graduate certificate program at AU may be admitted to a graduate degree program following completion of the regular applications process. Graduate programs may approve specific credit hour limits and relevant coursework earned in nondegree status or in a post-baccalaureate certificate program for transfer to a degree program, but no more than 12 credit hours can be transferred for credit towards a degree. Academic unit policies regarding the approval of semester credit hours of coursework earned in non-degree status or in a post-baccalaureate certificate program must be posted and publically available on the departmental website.
Evaluation of Academic Performance
American University uses the Carnegie Classification definition of a semester credit hour. A semester credit hour is defined as at least 12.5 hours of direct faculty instruction per semester (in class, on-line, remote site) with at least 25 hours of student work outside of that direct instruction, typically conducted over a 15-week semester, or an equivalent amount of faculty instruction and work over a different time period.
Courses are typically 3 semester credits hours each, meaning that students meet in an instructional venue (in class, on-line, remote site) for 2.5 hours each week and complete academic work outside the instructional venue at least 5 hours each week for a 15-week semester or an equivalent amount of work spread out over a different period of time. Courses that carry 4 or 5 semester credit hours require proportionately more work each week both inside and outside the instructional venue. Courses that carry 1 or 2 semester credit hours require proportionately less work, both inside and outside the instructional venue. Courses that meet fewer than 2.5 hours a week that are assigned 3 semester credit hours must require students to do additional work outside of the instructional venue to achieve the expected learning objectives of a 2.5 hour a week course. At the academic unit level, the Educational Policy Committee in each academic or teaching unit is charged with approving such courses and certifying that the expected student learning objectives for the course meet the 3 semester credit hour standard. At the University level, the Committee on Graduate Curriculum of the Faculty Senate and the Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Research must also review and approve such courses.
Grade Point Average
Included in the calculation of the cumulative GPA for graduate students are all graduate-level courses taken at AU and courses taken from the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area as required by the Program of Study. Credits accepted as transfer credit from other institutions or earned during a permit to study at another domestic or foreign institution are included in the total number of credit hours applicable to degree requirements, but grades earned in such courses are not recorded on the transcript at American University and are not used in the calculation of the GPA needed for graduation. Determination of the cumulative GPA for graduate students, and the notification of graduate students regarding any deficiencies in GPA is the responsibility of the Office of the Registrar.
The grading scale and the grade calculations used in the graduate GPA are equivalent to those used for undergraduate students.
Grades for Thesis / Dissertation
Thesis (797) and dissertation (899) course credits are graded as Satisfactory Progress (SP) or Unsatisfactory Progress (UP). With grades of either SP or UP, students receive credit for these courses but the grades earned are not used in computing the GPA. These grades do not change upon the completion of the thesis or dissertation, and neither thesis nor dissertation credits may be retaken to change a previously assigned UP to an SP.
Graduate students may not choose the pass/fail option over the letter-grade option in courses that are part of their Program of Study. However, in some instances, courses that can only be taken Pass/Fail may be included as part of a student’s Program of Study. A grade of Pass for a graduate student indicates performance of no less than a B which indicates at numeric equivalent of 3.0. Neither Pass nor Fail grades are used to compute the GPA.
Graduate students may register for courses with an audit grade option that are not part of their Program of Study. Faculty will establish standards for class participation and/or attendance for auditing students. When auditing students fail to meet those standards, the instructor will assign the grade of ZL (administrative withdrawal from audit). Tuition for courses registered for an audit grade option will be billed at the same rate as courses registered for academic credit. Other University requirements for auditing courses will be applicable.
The instructor of record may assign an Incomplete status for a grade when extenuating circumstances prevent a student, who has otherwise completed the majority of the work in the course, from completing all work during the stated instructional period. Students on probation may not receive an Incomplete. To receive Incomplete status in a course, students must receive the permission of the instructor in advance of the assessment of final course assignments and agree on an incomplete contract before grades are posted. Multiple outstanding incomplete grades may affect the ability of a student to maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress.
The instructor must provide, in writing, the conditions for satisfying the incomplete to the student and must enter those same conditions when posting the grades for the course. Instructors must identify what work needs to be completed, when the work must be completed, and what the course grade will be if the student fails to complete that work. Remaining work must be completed before the end of the following semester. Students who do not meet the stated conditions will receive the default grade automatically. The Associate Dean of the academic unit, with the concurrence of the instructor, may grant extensions beyond the agreed deadline, but only in extraordinary circumstances. The Associate Dean must inform the Office of the Registrar of the extension. Students may not drop a course once an Incomplete is granted. An Incomplete may not stand as a permanent grade and must be resolved before a graduate degree or post-baccalaureate certificate can be awarded.
With the approval of their Graduate Program Director, students making Satisfactory Academic Progress may register for an independent study. The independent study must be identified as a course in the Program of Study. Before registration, the student and the supervising faculty member must agree upon and document the title, objective, scope, credit value (1 to 6 credit hours), and the method of evaluation for the independent study. The instructor must notify the Graduate Program Director of the agreement for the independent study. Students will not have more than 9 Independent Study credit hours in any graduate program. Individual programs may set lower limits.
Graduate students may enroll in credit-bearing, paid, or unpaid work assignments (internships) with a significant academic component under the guidance of a faculty member. The work for the internship may be no more than 15% administrative in nature, and instructors must weigh the academic component as at least half of the course grade. The internship must be identified as a course on the Program of Study. Internships may be taken for variable credit. With the approval of the Director of the Graduate Program, students may enroll for 1 to 6 credits. The table below illustrates the average hours worked weekly per internship credit that graduate students are expected to earn over 14 weeks of a traditional semester or the equivalent for summer or special term classes. Customarily, students will not have more than 6 Internship Study credit hours in any graduate program. Individual programs may set lower limits.
|Average Weekly Work Hours per Number of Internship Credits Earned|
|Average number of hours worked weekly||7||10||14||18||22||26|
|Number of internship credits earned||1||2||3||4||5||6|
Repetition of Courses
Graduate students may repeat only once a course they have previously completed and failed or from which they have withdrawn. They may repeat only two courses in this fashion during a graduate program of study. Grades for each attempt are shown on the transcript and are used to compute the overall GPA, but credits for only one passed course are included in the credits required for the graduate degree.
Good Academic Standing
Graduate students are in good academic standing when they are maintaining at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA and are either enrolled in semester classes or are eligible to enroll in subsequent semester classes.
Satisfactory Academic Progress
Students are making Satisfactory Academic Progress when, in addition to being in Good Academic Standing and meeting any higher standards for the GPA that individual programs might set, they are: meeting on time the defined milestones in their Program of Study and they have received credit in at least two-thirds of the courses which they have attempted. For master’s students, such milestones include, but are not limited to, completing the required coursework and completing the capstone experience satisfactorily. For doctoral students, milestones include, but are not limited to, completing the required coursework, passing the comprehensive examination(s) or equivalent, defending the dissertation proposal, completing the dissertation, and defending the completed dissertation.
For students writing a thesis or dissertation, it is the collective responsibility of the student and the student’s Thesis Advisor or Dissertation Committee Chair to ensure that Satisfactory Academic Progress is being maintained. This process is coordinated by the student’s Thesis Advisor or Dissertation Committee Chair, and oversight authority rests with the Graduate Program Director. Thesis Advisors and Dissertation Committee Chairs are required to review annually all students conducting theses or dissertations to determine that they are making Satisfactory Academic Progress, and to (1) inform the student, and (2) inform the Graduate Program Director, who will communicate the finding to the Associate Dean of the Academic Unit. Students may request of the Graduate Program Director, at least once each semester, that their Thesis Director or Dissertation Committee Chair meet with them to discuss progress on the thesis or dissertation.
Academic Warning, Academic Probation and Academic Dismissal
The Registrar will place students on Academic Probation when, after attempting at least 9 credit hours of coursework, their cumulative GPA falls below 3.00 or when students fail to receive credit in at least two-thirds of the courses they attempt. Full-time students will be placed on Academic Probation for one semester. Part-time students will be placed on Academic Probation for the time it takes them to attempt 9 more credits, or three semesters, whichever is shorter. The Registrar will inform the students of their probationary status in writing. This notification should also inform the students that they cannot receive an incomplete grade while they are on Academic Probation status. After the Academic Probation period is completed, students who fail to bring their cumulative GPA up to 3.00 or fail to raise their course completion rate will be permanently dismissed from the University by the Registrar.
If the Program Director or Associate Dean of an academic unit determines that a student is not making Satisfactory Academic Progress for reasons other than failure to maintain GPA and course completion requirements, the Dean may decide to either issue an Academic Warning, place the student on Academic Probation, or academically dismiss the student. The Dean must notify the Registrar of the decision to apply a sanction. The Registrar will notify each student of the decision and the reason for the decision. In the case of either an Academic Warning or Academic Probation notice, the Registrar must also inform the student in writing of the period for the warning or probation and of the conditions that must be met for the student to regain Satisfactory Academic Progress status. Customarily, students who are on an Academic Warning status for one semester are subject to Academic Probation in subsequent semesters, and students who remain on Academic Probation in a subsequent semester are subject to Academic Dismissal.
Academic Dismissals are permanently recorded on the transcript. Academic Warnings and Academic Probation are not.
Academic Integrity Code
Students are bound by the University’s Academic Integrity Code, which ensures that all work done in pursuit of a degree whether graded or ungraded, formal or informal, meets the highest standards of academic honesty. The baseline sanction for a first-time offense for graduate students violating the code is suspension from the university, although academic dismissal is also a common sanction. Suspension and academic dismissal are permanently recorded on the transcript as a violation of the Academic Integrity Code.
Teaching Assistantships (TA)
A teaching assistant (TA) is customarily a graduate student who assists an instructor with instructional activities. TA responsibilities vary greatly and may include the following: tutoring; holding office hours; assisting with grading homework or exams; administering tests or exams; assisting an instructor with a large lecture class by teaching students in recitation, laboratory, or discussion sessions. Students who assist with grading may not grade assignments or exams for students at their own or higher degree level; e.g., a doctoral student may assist with grading master’s and undergraduate work; a master’s student may assist with grading undergraduate work. Advanced doctoral students who are awarded teaching assistantships may also be the instructor of record for an undergraduate course.
The work assignments for TAs must be significantly more academically substantive than administrative. Requirements for TA awards are typically fulfilled with 600 hours of work per academic year, often with a 20 hour assignment per week over two traditional semesters, but may be fewer hours per week for a longer period, with proportional reductions in the amount of the associated monthly stipend. The Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Research can, in cases where a compelling rationale exists, authorize a graduate student with a TA award to work more than 20 hours per week.
Research Assistantships (RA)
A research assistant (RA) is a graduate student who assists a faculty member with academic research. Research assistants are not independent researchers and are not directly responsible for the outcome of the research. They are responsible to a research supervisor or principal investigator.
The work assignments for RAs must be significantly more academically substantive than administrative. Requirements for RA awards are typically fulfilled with 600 hours of work per academic year, often with a 20 hour assignment per week over two traditional semesters, but may be fewer hours per week for a longer period, with proportional reductions in the amount of the associated monthly stipend. The Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Research can, in cases where a compelling rationale exists, authorize a graduate student with an RA award to work more than 20 hours per week.
Program of Study
The Program of Study is an individualized, formal plan describing the program requirements a student must meet to complete a specific degree, including the dates by which each requirement is expected to be completed. Students must meet with a designated advisor to outline their Program of Study by the end of their first semester in the program, and earlier as appropriate. Thereafter, students are expected to meet as needed with their designated advisor or Program Director to monitor their status related to Good Academic Standing and Satisfactory Academic Progress and to update the Program of Study as needed.
Graduate Courses that are not core graduate courses, but courses of general importance in the discipline. These courses are open to qualified undergraduate students.
Graduate Courses that are core content courses for the master’s degree in the field of study. Undergraduate students are not allowed in these courses except under specific circumstances where the courses are cross-listed with undergraduate courses, or as part of a combined BA/MA program, or by special permission of the associate dean of the academic unit.
Doctoral Courses are courses limited to Ph.D. students.
Once doctoral students advance to candidacy, they will only need to register for Dissertation Credits (course #899) for up to nine (9) credits per semester, or a total of 18 credits per academic year. They will continue to register as full-time students until they defend their dissertations. For each semester, up to 9 dissertation credits in Course #899 will be priced at the equivalent of one graduate credit hour. All doctoral students who have been admitted to doctoral candidacy must register and pay for dissertation credits and related university services during the fall and spring semesters of the academic year, unless they have an approved temporary leave from the University. This will provide visibility to all who are monitoring doctoral student progress, and faculty workload associated with the supervision and mentoring of doctoral students will be reported with a greater degree of accuracy.
Undergraduate Courses that Count Towards a Graduate Degree:
Graduate students will not receive credit for courses below the 500 level unless the course is: (1) an AU language course that is necessary for language proficiency levels for the graduate degree and is a graduate program requirement, or (2) the course is cross-listed as a 400/600 level course. In both cases, the courses must be included in the graduate student’s program of study. In the second case, graduate courses at the 600 level may be cross-listed with 400 level undergraduate courses, but only when a significant portion of the course content is appropriate for both levels of study. Graduate students taking a cross-listed course will register under the 600 course number and are expected to complete work in addition to the material covered in common with the undergraduate students in the class. Customarily, the additional graduate student work will occur outside the common class time. Expectations for both sets of students will be clearly defined in the course syllabus. Graduate courses above the 600 level cannot be cross-listed for undergraduate enrollment. No graduate course may be cross-listed at the 100, 200, or 300 level.
Designation of Full-Time, Half-Time and Part-Time Status
Full-time student status is defined as registration for nine semester credit hours during both the fall and spring semesters, or by enrollment for four semester credit hours during the summer semester. Enrollments in all summer sessions during a calendar year will be added to determine the total summer enrollment. Half-time student status is defined as registration for five semester credit hours during both the fall and spring semesters, or by enrollment for two semester credit hours during the summer semester. Students who are registered for more than a half-time credit load in any semester, but less than a full-time credit load for that semester, will be considered half-time students.
Graduate students must remain registered for a full-time course load under specific conditions that include: holding a halftime Graduate Teaching Assistant or Research Assistant award; holding a University Graduate Fellowship; having particular types of student loans; and, having international student status. Associate Deans of academic units will contact the Office of the Registrar each semester following the end of the drop/add period to obtain enrollment information to check the full-time status of graduate students who are required to be enrolled full-time. It is the responsibility of individual graduate students to understand how changes in course load or full-time status may have an impact on payment schedules or other conditions of their obligations to entities providing them with educational loans.
Once enrolled in a degree program, graduate students must maintain continuous enrollment at American University by registering for at least one semester hour of credit each fall and spring semester until the degree objective is reached. Students who fail to register and who have not requested and received a Temporary Leave will be dismissed from the University at the end of the academic term for which they failed to register.
Submission and Publication of Thesis / Dissertation
Dissertations and theses must be submitted to the University Library in electronic format after final approval of the dissertation or thesis by the Examining Committee. See the American University Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) website for the details of the publication process. Dissertations and theses submitted to the University through the ETD process will also be deposited in the AU Library's online electronic archive, the American University Research Commons (AURC), as well as ProQuest's Digital Dissertations. The submission of the thesis or dissertation to the University in fulfillment of degree requirements grants the University the one-time, non-exclusive right to publish the document in the American University Research Commons. Distribution is subject to a release date stipulated by the student and approved by the University. As the owner of the copyright of the thesis or dissertation, students have the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, make derivative works based on, publicly perform and display their work, and to authorize others to exercise some or all of those rights.
Research Assurances and Research Ethics Training
Graduate students at American University who are conducting independent research are responsible for obtaining the appropriate research assurances for research that involves: human participants, animal subjects, recombinant DNA, infectious materials, select or toxic agents, or human materials. For application forms and guidelines, please see AU’s Research website. Copies of research assurances must be presented to the Doctoral Program Director with the completed dissertation proposal at the time of the defense of the dissertation proposal.
Appropriate protocol review and oversight of faculty and student research is an essential component of Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training on campus. All graduate students who are conducting research in partial fulfillment of a master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation are required to participate in RCR training. Documentation of RCR training must be presented to the Doctoral Program Director with the completed dissertation proposal at the time of the defense of the dissertation proposal.
Data resulting from research projects, including thesis and dissertation research projects, that do not receive a protocol review when appropriate from the Institutional Review Board (IRB), Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) or Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) cannot be used to fulfill degree requirements, cannot be published and must be destroyed. A research protocol cannot be reviewed and approved retrospectively by an IRB, IACUC, or IBC.
Time Limits to Degree
Students are expected to complete their degree within the time frame specified below. Programs may set lower limits for all students or for individual students in their program. Time limits must be included in the Program of Study. The time to degree may be extended by the Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Research for a compelling reason. See Time Extension. Approved separations and temporary leaves do not count toward the time limits, but cannot be used for the sole purpose of extending the time to degree.
Master’s students are expected to complete all degree requirements in no more than six years after the date of first enrollment in the degree program. Doctoral students are expected to complete all degree requirements in no more than nine years after the date of first enrollment in the degree program. Each semester, the Registrar will identify students who will exceed time limits to degree at the end of the current academic year and inform the students of the potential status change.
Under compelling circumstance, Doctoral students may apply for one-year extensions beyond the expected time to degree, for a maximum of three extensions. Students must petition the Graduate Program Director for each one-year extension. Petitions must include a timetable listing specific goals from the Program of Study to be accomplished during the extension. Each extension must be approved by the Associate Dean of the academic unit and the Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Research. Additional extensions will not be approved.
Criteria for Courses to be Accepted for Graduate Academic Credit
Course numbers 600-800 are reserved for graduate courses. Required core courses that have key content in the discipline for graduate degrees at both the master’s and doctoral degree are customarily at the 600 level. Courses at the 700 level are customarily advanced courses for master’s programs, while courses at the 800 level are reserved for Ph.D. students. Graduate students will not receive credit for courses below the 500 level unless the course is an AU language course that is necessary for language proficiency levels for the graduate degree and is a graduate program requirement. Classes at the 600-800 level courses may not meet jointly with 100-, 200-, or 300-level courses. A 500-level course may be used for fulfillment of general master’s degree requirements for courses of general importance to the discipline (e.g., elective courses), but, ordinarily, not for required core courses for master’s or doctoral degrees. No undergraduate students may take 600-level courses except when (a) they are seeking a combined master’s/bachelor’s degree, (b) when the courses are cross-listed with undergraduate courses under an undergraduate number at the 400 level, or (c) by special permission of the Associate Dean of the academic unit. Grades of C- or lower will not be accepted as fulfilling the requirements of the Program of Study but will be calculated in the cumulative GPA. Individual programs may set higher standards.
Students may request to transfer credit for courses taken at an institution outside of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area, prior to their admission to a graduate program at AU. They must receive prior approval from their Graduate Program Director within the first semester of their program and the courses must be included in their Program of Study. Students must give the Graduate Program Director an official transcript of the course and a course syllabus for each course requested for transfer. Courses must be completed with a grade of B (3.0) or better and must be completed no later than five years prior to the beginning of the semester in which the student is admitted to a graduate program. Graduate programs may require that courses requested to be transferred be completed more recently than this and may limit the number of credits that may be transferred beyond the university limit.
Customarily the number of total credits transferred for a single degree program would be no greater than six credits, but in all cases the number of allowable transfer credits is limited by residency requirements. In no case may graduate credit be given for coursework designated as solely undergraduate by the institution where the coursework was completed. Courses proposed for transfer cannot have been used as credits toward a completed degree in the same field at another institution. Decisions by Graduate Program Directors with regard to allowable transfer credits may be appealed to the Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Research.
In Residence Credit and Residency Requirements
Courses are considered in residence when they are taken at American University, through an AU-coordinated off-site or on-line program, or through any member of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area. Courses considered not in residence include those transferred from another institution into AU. Courses that are not taken in residence are not included in the computation of the GPA.
Both master’s and doctoral degrees require a minimum of 18 semester credit hours of in residence graduate course work, while enrolled in a degree program, exclusive of 797 or 899. Students in the Dual Degree option must complete a minimum of 36 semester credit hours of in residence coursework at American University, with at least 50 percent of the credits unique to each degree. Individual program requirements may require more than 18 credit hours for either or both degrees. Courses used to satisfy residence credit requirements for an undergraduate degree may not also be used to satisfy parallel requirements for a dual master’s degree.
Permit to Study at Another U.S. Institution
Students in good academic standing who wish to take courses at another U.S. institution that would not be considered in residence courses, must receive prior approval by their Program Director and Associate Dean. Students who want to apply a course to their graduate program of study must receive teaching unit or equivalent approval. Students must secure approval from the academic unit prior to registering for the course and such approval is granted only for specific courses. Customarily, students may transfer up to a maximum of 6 credits during the span of approved study at another U.S. institution. Grades for courses taken during a Permit to Study at another institution are not recorded on the AU transcript and are not computed in the GPA, although they will count toward the total number of credits needed for graduation. However, students must meet the GPA requirements of American University for individual courses taken at other institutions as required for their graduate Program of Study. Students must satisfy any additional requirements provided on the Permit to Study form.
Permit to Study Abroad
Students in good academic standing who wish to study at any foreign university not partnered with AU must receive prior approval of their Graduate Program Director and the Associate Dean. Permission for such study is granted only when the student can demonstrate that the academic opportunity offered by the foreign university cannot be met through study at any one of AU’s existing partner universities. Grades for courses taken during a Permit to Study Abroad are not recorded on the AU transcript and are not computed in the GPA, though they will count in the total number of credits needed for graduation. However, students must meet GPA requirements of American University for individual courses taken at other institutions as required for their graduate Program of Study. Students must satisfy any additional requirements provided on the Permit to Study Abroad form.
Requirements for a Master’s Degree
Approved Program of Study
An approved Program of Study includes, but is not limited to, coursework and a capstone experience.
A master’s degree requires the completion of at least 30 semester credit hours of graduate work. The requirement for residence credit must be met. A detailed description of the degree requirements can be obtained from each graduate program and must be posted on the website of the teaching unit.
One capstone experience (e.g., thesis, research project, practicum, internship or other experience as determined by the graduate program) is required. The nature and scope of the capstone experience is determined by the graduate program and is included in the Program of Study. If the capstone is a comprehensive examination, the structure, content, and grading of the examination, as well as any policy on retaking the examination will be determined by the teaching unit.
Students who are writing a thesis as their capstone experience are expected to demonstrate their capacity to do original, independent research. Students must take no fewer than three semester credit hours of master’s thesis research (797). Students continue to register for thesis credits each semester until the completion of the thesis. A thesis advisory committee shall consist of no fewer than two members of the AU faculty. In consultation with the Thesis Chair, the student solicits faculty for the committee and submits their names for approval by the Graduate Program Director.
Jointly Administered Degree Programs
A Jointly Administered Degree Program is a specified combination of courses, typically from more than one academic or teaching unit, that combines elements of the various courses of study in those units for the purpose of providing a combined program of study towards a specific degree. Both units have responsibilities to monitor student progress and provide academic advising. Upon completion of the Jointly Administered Degree Program, the student receives one graduate degree.
Dual Degree Programs
A Dual Degree Program is a combination of two separate approved degree programs. Upon completion of a Dual Degree Program, a student will be conferred the two degrees included in the Dual Degree Program. Credits that apply from one program to another must be approved by their respective Graduate Program Directors and under the following conditions:
- Students must meet all of the course, capstone, and other requirements for each degree program,
- The details for dual master’s degrees must be approved by the Graduate Program Director and the Associate Dean of the academic unit for each of the two degrees. Candidates for dual master’s degrees must submit a formal petition to the Graduate Program Director of each master’s program before the conferral date of the first degree.
- The student applies for and receives each degree upon completion of all the requirements for that degree. The degrees may or may not be completed simultaneously.
- At least 50% of the courses taken in each program in the Dual Degree Program must be taken in residence, and students must satisfy residency requirements as specified in these graduate regulations.
Combined Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees
A combined bachelor’s/master’s program involves tentative admission to graduate standing while a student is still an undergraduate so that both a bachelor’s and master’s degree may be earned. Although graduate standing is not officially granted until all bachelor’s degree requirements have been fulfilled, students who are admitted to a combined bachelor’s and master’s program are granted conditional graduate admission so that they may take courses based on their planned Program of Study to fulfill both the bachelor’s and master’s degree requirements while still officially enrolled in undergraduate status. See Admission to a Combined Bachelor’s /Master’s Program and Residency.
Undergraduate students in good academic standing may apply for a combined degree after they have completed 75 credit hours towards their undergraduate degree, and, except in rare cases, by the end of the semester in which they have completed 90 credit hours. No more than one graduate degree can be earned as a combined degree. Once admitted, students will be enrolled in the combined program at two levels, once for the undergraduate degree and once for the graduate degree.
Once admitted to a combined program, students must follow their Program of Study, and the Program of Study must show which courses will be applied toward the bachelor’s degree and which courses will be applied toward the master’s degree. Once all undergraduate requirements have been satisfied, students will be officially enrolled in the graduate program if they complete their bachelor’s program in good academic standing, and if they meet all University, academic unit, or teaching unit requirements for admission to the master’s program for the combined degree. Each academic unit or teaching unit sets its own admission standards for graduate students. Once enrolled in the master’s program, students are subject to the academic regulations governing graduate students.
Students may count graduate credits earned at the 600 level during an undergraduate degree, towards a master’s degree if the credits are listed as part of an approved graduate program of study. Specifically, a student can share up to 9 credits for 30-hour master’s degree (with or without thesis), 12 credits for a 36-hour master’s degree, and 15 credits for a master’s degree requiring 39 or more semester hour credits. Programs can set lower limits than those specified here.
Graduate Certificate Programs
Graduate Certificate Programs for Credit
Academic units and the School of Professional and Extended Studies, at their discretion, may develop and administer graduate certificate programs for which there is academic credit. All graduate certificate programs for credit must include a minimum of 12 semester credit hours. All course work must meet the same requirements as those used for graduate academic programs See Criteria for Courses to be Accepted for Academic Credit. Some certificate programs for graduate credit may have additional requirements. If approved by the academic or teaching unit that administers the certificate program, equivalent credits earned at an accredited college or university may be transferred toward a certificate at the following rates: 3 credit hours for certificates from 12 to 18 credit hours in length, and 6 credit hours for certificates over 18 credit hours in length.
Graduate students who are enrolled in masters and/or doctoral programs may pursue graduate certificates at the same time. Any sharing of the required semester hour credits between the graduate certificate and the graduate degree program will be determined by the Graduate Program Director. Students who are not enrolled in graduate degree programs but who are enrolled in graduate certificate programs are not permitted to enroll in courses in the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area.
All students enrolled in graduate certificate programs must maintain a 3.0 grade point average to be considered as making satisfactory progress and to be awarded a certificate. Grades of C- or below in certificate program courses will not be accepted toward the fulfillment of certificate requirements although these grades will be included in the calculation of the cumulative GPA. Individual certificate programs may have higher standards. Students who do not achieve a 3.0 grade point average at any point after completing six credit hours are subject to an academic warning, probation, or dismissal from the certificate program. Students who do not achieve a 3.0 grade point average upon completion of 12 credit hours will be dismissed from the certificate program. The Office of the Registrar will identify students with deficiencies in their grade point average and notify both the student and the certificate program. Certificate students who are dismissed may seek readmission at the discretion of the Graduate Program Directors and will be subject to any new admissions and program requirements instituted since their last enrollment.
Students in certificate programs must complete a minimum of 6 credit hours during each 12-month period after the start of their first semester of enrollment. All graduate certificate programs must be completed within four years. Students who do not meet these minimum requirements will be dismissed from the certificate program. If a student is readmitted to the program, the acceptance of previously completed credits will be determined by the academic or teaching unit upon readmission. The completion of the certificate will be noted on the student’s official transcript for the semester it was completed.
Graduate Certificate Programs not for Credit
Academic units, centers/institutes, and the School of Professional and Extended Studies, at their discretion, may develop and administer graduate certificate programs for which there is no academic credit.
Requirements for a Ph.D. Degree
Approved Program of Study
All doctoral students must have an approved Program of Study. The ability to do independent research is an important part of the Program of Study and must be demonstrated by an original dissertation on a topic approved by the Director of the Doctoral Program in which the student is earning the degree. A dissertation is required of all candidates for a Ph.D. degree.
An approved Program of Study includes:
- A complete list of coursework, and
- a schedule with anticipated dates for:
- planned courses in required and elective subjects,
- the comprehensive examination(s) or equivalent,
- an approved dissertation proposal, and
- successful defense and completion of the dissertation.
The Ph.D. degree requires a minimum of 18 semester hour credits of coursework completed in residence, exclusive of dissertation credits. Individual Ph.D. programs at AU require additional semester credit hours, following the curriculum proposed by academic unit faculty and approved by the Faculty Senate Committee on Graduate Curriculum.
Comprehensive Examination(s) or Equivalent
The nature and scope of the comprehensive examination(s) or equivalent are determined by the Ph.D. degree programs housed within specific academic units. Options other than a written exam may be used by a doctoral degree program to assess integration and synthesis of the body of knowledge accessed via the program curriculum, and related research, practicum, or internship experiences. The completed comprehensive examination(s) is typically read by two faculty readers from the academic unit and is rated “with distinction,” “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” by each. In order to pass the examination, the student must obtain at least “satisfactory” on the examination from both readers. The faculty affiliated with a doctoral program may, however, elect to design a different system for grading comprehensive examinations in the academic unit.
A student who fails a comprehensive examination may apply to the Graduate Program Director for one additional attempt. If the Graduate Program Director approves the application, the retake of the exam should occur within six months of the date of the first attempt. Students who fail a retake attempt will be dismissed from the doctoral program. The Graduate Program Director will notify the Office of the Registrar of the outcome of all comprehensive exam attempts.
Ph.D. Dissertation Committee
The appointment of the Dissertation Committee should be made well in advance of the defense of the dissertation proposal. All core Dissertation Committee members must hold the appropriate terminal degree. In consultation with the proposed Dissertation Committee Chair, the doctoral student solicits faculty for the committee and submits the names of the Chair and other committee members for approval by the Graduate Program Director. Once approved by the Graduate Program Director, the proposed membership of a Dissertation Committee is then approved by the Doctoral Council. If the status of any member of an approved Dissertation Committee changes, the doctoral student and the Graduate Program Director will recommend a replacement for approval by the Doctoral Council.
Customarily, the Dissertation Committee will have four or more core committee members, including the chair of the committee. The minimum number of core committee members, including the chair of the committee, is three. At least two of the core members must be full-time, tenure-line faculty members at American University and preferably from the program in which the student is enrolled. Qualified individuals, either outside the department or outside the University, may be invited to sit on a committee as external members once the minimum requirement of two internal full-time, tenure-line faculty from American University has been met. Together, the internal and external members form the core of the Dissertation Committee. Core members are charged with guiding the student and providing detailed feedback during the dissertation process.
The chair of the Dissertation Committee must be an AU faculty member who holds a tenured position. Untenured, tenure-line faculty may be appointed as co-chairs of Dissertation Committees, but must serve with a tenured faculty member. Adjunct faculty, term faculty, and faculty from other universities and emeritus faculty may not chair a Dissertation Committee but may serve on it. A Dissertation Committee chair who retires or leaves the University before the dissertation is complete may petition the Doctoral Council to remain on the committee as chair, as a co-chair, or as a member.
At the time of the final examination of the dissertation, at least one additional member will join the core of the dissertation committee as an outside reader for the final examination. The purpose of the outside reader(s) is to provide a review of the dissertation by a colleague with the appropriate terminal degree who is an expert in the subject matter of the dissertation. The outside reader should have no direct association with the student. An outside reader serves an advisory role, and the charge to the outside reader is to determine if the dissertation meets general standards in the field, not necessarily to critique the work in detail. Once the dissertation has been defended successfully, all committee members sign the dissertation approval form.
Advancement to Candidacy
Students advance to doctoral candidacy when they have completed all of the courses on their Program of Study, passed their comprehensive examination or equivalent, and defended successfully their dissertation proposal. Advancement to candidacy normally occurs by the end of the third year of study but may vary among doctoral programs. At the time of advancement to candidacy, students who have not petitioned for or received en passant degrees (e.g., M.A., M.S.) will automatically be considered for such degrees. If a student advances to candidacy after the deadline to submit a petition for the degree in that term, the student will be considered for a degree in the following term. Students who do not advance to candidacy may receive a master’s degree according to the established guidelines in their graduate program.
Examination of Dissertation
Each doctoral candidate is required to defend orally his or her doctoral dissertation as a requirement in partial fulfillment of the doctoral degree. The requirement for a dissertation examination is separate from, and is not fulfilled by, a comprehensive examination(s). The dissertation examination will consist of a public presentation by the candidate on the research reported in the dissertation, followed by a formal, public examination of the candidate by the Dissertation Committee. The Doctoral Program Director is responsible for posting publically the announcement of the oral defense of the dissertation seven days prior to the date of the oral defense.
The Dissertation Committee has the following options:
- To accept the dissertation without any recommendations for changes. The departmental designee signs the appropriate form.
- To accept the dissertation with recommendations for minor changes. The chair then oversees and approves all required changes to the dissertation. Upon the chair’s approval, the departmental designee signs the appropriate form.
- To recommend major revisions to the dissertation. The candidate makes the required changes and submits the revised dissertation to the Dissertation Committee for additional review and approval. Upon their approval, the departmental designee signs the appropriate form for the revised dissertation.
- To recommend revisions and convene a second meeting of the Dissertation Committee to review the dissertation and complete the candidate's examination.
- To evaluate the dissertation, including its examination, as unsatisfactory. If the candidate fails, the candidate can petition the Dissertation Committee chair and the Dissertation Committee for one retake.
Following the examination, the chair must inform the candidate in writing of the outcome of the examination. A copy of this statement is to be included in the student's file at the doctoral program office of the academic unit, and a copy is given to the student. The Doctoral Program Director will provide a copy of notice of the outcome of the examination to the Office of the Registrar.
Initial Course Registration
Students must initially register for the courses in which they wish to enroll prior to the beginning of each semester or they will incur a late registration fee. Before registration, students should consult a graduate advisor or their Graduate Program Director regarding their Program of Study.
International students in F-1 or J-1 status must obtain approval from ISSS when registering for the first time or for a new program, when registering below a full course load or equivalent (e.g., Reduced Course Load), when registering for an internship, when taking an approved temporary leave, or when separating from the University. This approval is in addition to those normally required by an academic unit and may not be waived.
Changes in Course Registration Once a Semester Begins
The add/drop period is the first ten business days of the semester or the equivalent for summer and other non-standard sessions. During the add/drop period, students may add or drop courses or change course sections, except when the academic unit or the teaching unit explicitly prohibits it, without penalty or notice on their transcript. After the add/drop period, students must receive instructor, as well as Graduate Program Director approval in order to add a course. They must receive the new instructor’s approval to change sections. Grade type can be changed until the end of the eighth week of the semester.
Students may drop a course up until the end of the eighth week of the semester or the equivalent for summer and other non-standard sessions unless they have been charged with a violation of the Academic Integrity Code. After the end of the eighth week of the semester, students may drop a course only by permission of the Associate Dean of the Academic Unit, and only in cases of well-documented emergencies beyond the student's control. A low or failing grade in a course is not grounds for withdrawal from the course. No course may be dropped after the last class meeting. International students must receive approval from ISSS before withdrawing from a course. Students who wish to drop all courses simultaneously must work with their academic unit to determine their official status at the University. Discontinuation of attendance at a class or notification to the instructor is not sufficient to constitute an official withdrawal from a course.
Interruptions of Studies
A student who takes a temporary leave or separates from the University is no longer taking courses at AU.
- Temporary Leave: A temporary leave is a temporary interruption in studies when the student is not actively taking classes at the University nor receiving support for thesis or dissertation work. The leave is for a specified period of time after which the student is expected to return to active status. A temporary leave is initiated by the student in consultation with the student's academic unit.
- Separation: A separation from the University results in the loss of active student status with no expected date of return to active status. Students who have separated from the University must reapply to regain active student status. A separation can be initiated by the student or a representative of the University. If students are considering separating from the University, they should consult with their academic unit as soon as possible to determine whether there are other, more viable alternatives.
Graduate students who take temporary leaves or separate from the University during a semester for which they are enrolled must withdraw from classes for which they are registered, and must apply to the Office of the Registrar, who will inform them about how the time limits to degree will be affected. Students must apply to the Associate Dean of the academic unit for readmission to the program if they are out for more than one semester. New degree requirements may apply.
Graduate student financial aid, merit awards, and graduate assistantship awards will be affected by any temporary leave or separation from the University. Students should consult with their Graduate Program Director or the University Office of Financial Aid for help in determining the effects of the proposed temporary leave or separation on their graduate career.
There are three kinds of temporary leaves: General, medical, and military. Medical covers only personal health reasons. Family health reasons are covered under a general temporary leave.
General Conditions for All Temporary Leaves
- An approved temporary leave period is not counted as part of the time allowed for completion of degree requirements, and thus does not count toward the time limits, but temporary leaves cannot be used for the sole purpose of extending the time to degree.
- Since a temporary leave is not a registration, a student on leave is not registered and may only use university facilities as a member of the general public. This includes the library, fitness center, and similar facilities. Occupied university housing must be vacated promptly by students on leave.
- Students on temporary leave are not eligible for financial aid.
- Students are responsible for understanding the implications of a temporary leave for housing, financial aid, health insurance, and progress toward the degree.
- This policy will not be used in lieu of disciplinary actions to address violations of American University’s rules, regulations or policies. A student who has engaged in behavior that may violate rules, regulations, or policies of the university community may be subject to the Student Conduct Code. A student may be required to participate in the disciplinary process concurrently with the request for a voluntary temporary leave. A student permitted to take a temporary leave while on academic or disciplinary status will return on that same status.
- International students are advised that taking a reduction in load or a voluntary temporary leave may affect their student visa status and should consult with ISSS.
- Students who do not return to the University at the end of the temporary leave will be automatically separated. Separated students must apply for readmission and must meet the then-current admission criteria and program requirements.
General Temporary Leave
Students desiring a temporary leave to study at another education institution are directed to permit to study section. Students desiring a temporary leave for reasons other than study at another educational institution must obtain approval from the Associate Dean of their academic unit. Based on whether or not it seems desirable to guarantee automatic readmission, the Associate Dean of the academic unit will issue a permit for a temporary leave. This permit will specify the duration of the temporary leave. Students must request the leave no later than within the first two weeks in the semester in which the temporary leave will begin. To extend the temporary leave, students must apply directly to the Associate Dean of their academic unit. The academic unit can extend the temporary leave only once. The permit becomes void if the student attends any domestic or foreign educational institution during the period of temporary leave, unless the student obtains a permit to study at another institution from the Associate Dean of the academic unit.
Medical Temporary Leave and Reduction in Load
A full-time graduate student may petition for a permit to take a reduced course load to address a medical issue; full and part-time graduate students may request a permit to take a medical leave of absence for up to one year for personal health reasons. Petitions for all of these requests must include supporting documentation and are submitted to the Graduate Program Director and approved by the Associate Dean of the academic unit. The permit becomes void if the student attends any domestic or foreign educational institution during the period of leave, unless the student obtains a permit to study at another institution from the Associate Dean of the academic unit.
Students requesting to return from a temporary medical leave must petition the Associate Dean of the academic unit. Students must provide sufficient documentation that the medical condition has been alleviated and that the student is ready to return to full-time academic life at the University.
Military Temporary Leave
Students may be required to leave the University to fulfill short-term or long-term national service or military obligations that are unrelated to war or ongoing hostilities. In the instance of shorter-term absences (e.g., fulfilling periodic training obligations to serve in the U.S. National Guard), students must inform their Graduate Program Director and their instructors in advance of the temporary leave during a semester and a written plan to complete course requirements must be devised by the instructor and the student. The written plan must be filed with the Graduate Program Director. Students who require short-term leaves for military reasons must provide a copy of their military orders to their instructor.
In the event of a longer-term leave (e.g., an international student being required to leave the U.S. to serve in their home country to fulfill national service or military service obligations for a period of time during their graduate studies) the student may apply to the Associate Dean of the academic unit for a general temporary leave for national service or military reasons. Students applying for leave for this reason must provide documentation to support the request for the leave.
Separation and Suspension from the University
Students whose grades would have led to academic dismissal had they not separated, voluntarily or involuntarily, from the University are treated, for purposes of readmission, as if they had been academically dismissed.
Voluntary Separation from the University
Students in good academic standing wishing to separate from the University must notify the Office of the Registrar and may do so at any time, up to and inclusive of the last day of classes. Separations requested after the last day of instruction or by students on probation must be approved by the Associate Dean of the academic unit. Students may separate from the University only once for any reason.
When students are enrolled in classes when they separate from the University, a grade of "W" is entered for each course. Students who have withdrawn from classes to separate from the University may be eligible for partial tuition reimbursement. The date of separation is based on the notification date and cannot be changed retroactively.
Students in good academic standing can apply to the Associate Dean of their academic unit for readmission in the following semester. Students on probation may apply for readmission after two full semesters (fall, spring, or summer).
Administrative Separation from the University
Graduate students who fail to file for a separation with the Office of the Registrar and leave during a semester in which they have registered will receive failing grades in classes. Graduate students who leave the University during a semester for which they are registered or who fail to register for classes as expected without notifying the Office of the Registrar will be considered as separated, and will only be considered for readmission under exceptional circumstances.
Involuntary Suspension from the University
The Academic Dean may suspend a student from the University for an interim period pending disciplinary or criminal proceedings or medical evaluation regarding behavior relevant to such proceedings. The interim suspension will be effective immediately without prior notice whenever there is evidence that the continued presence of the student at the University poses a substantial and immediate threat to him or herself, to others, or to the stability and continuance of normal university functions. Interim suspension excludes students from university premises and other privileges or activities. See Student Handbook.
Interruption of Studies Caused by Emergencies, Hostilities, or War
Students whose work toward a degree is disrupted as a direct result of pandemic, hostilities, war, or some similar emergency shall be given every possible consideration. Included in the categories of students affected are those who cannot travel, are called to active duty, enlist in the armed forces, or are assigned to nonmilitary duties. Students called to active military duty while enrolled at the University must provide their academic unit with a copy of their military orders. The orders should confirm the begin date and the end date of service. This policy is in addition to that described in the Military Temporary Leave policy elsewhere for events unrelated to hostilities or war. Students will be advised by their academic unit and instructors on how best to complete their studies through alternative methods such as online learning and, in some cases, may be eligible for a refund of tuition.
Students may resume their studies at the University if arrangements are made for their return within the six months following the end of their forced absence and if their degree program is still offered by the University. They may continue to work for the same degrees in which they were enrolled at the interruption of their studies in accordance with the regulations in effect at the time they left. Students should communicate with their Graduate Program Director and the Associate Dean of the academic unit as soon as they know the date of their return.
Trauma and Bereavement Policy
In the event of a personal tragedy or trauma, students may need to coordinate alternative arrangements to complete coursework. Students or their authorized representative may contact the Office of the Associate Dean of the academic unit.
If students believe it is not in their best interest to complete the semester or to return to campus the next semester, the options exist to take a temporary leave or to separate from the University.