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General Requirements for Graduate Study

[1] Minimum Semester Hours

The candidate must earn a minimum of 30 semester hours in courses for which graduate credit is given. Graduate credit will be given for 5000-, 6000-, 7000- and 8000-numbered courses. A minimum of 15 semester hours of 6000-level courses are required for the master’s degree. No course below the 5000-level may apply toward a graduate degree.

Undergraduate courses may not be repeated at the graduate level with the expectation of credit. Any student taking a graduate course which is double listed with an undergraduate course must do work of graduate caliber to receive graduate credit. No credit may apply toward a graduate degree unless it is included in the student’s approved program of study.

Definition of the Credit Hour

The unit of credit at the university is the semester hour. A semester hour is defined as the credit earned for the successful completion of one hour per week in class for one semester, or a minimum of two hours per week of laboratory work for one semester. Each lecture hour suggests a minimum of two hours preparation on the part of the student.

The university determines the clock hour-credit hour relationship in other settings—for example internships, clinical rotations, practica, studio work, or asynchronous online courses—with several sources of guidance in mind: minima established by Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board policy, institutional and professional accreditation/licensure requirements, U.S. Department of Education definitions, and commonly accepted practices in other similar educational programs at UCA and in higher education generally. For convenient reference to the language of selected guidance, see Credit Hour Definition.

[2] Residence Credit

The candidate must take a minimum of 24 credit hours at UCA. Acceptance of transfer credit does not reduce the minimum residence requirement of 24 hours.

[3] Grades and Quality Points

Grades are expressed as letters, with equivalents as follows:

LetterGradeQP*
AExcellent4
BGood3
CAverage2
DFailing1
FFailing0
WWithdrawnN/A**
XDeferred Credit/IncompleteN/A**
PRProgress - CreditN/A**
CRCreditN/A**
NCNo CreditN/A**
AUAuditN/A**
NRNo Grade ReportedN/A**

*QP: Quality Points (sometimes referred to as “Grade Value” or “Grade Points”). Used in computing the grade point average.
**N/A: Hours attempted where W, X, PR, CR, NC, AU, or NR is involved are not used in computing the grade point average.

Note: Beginning with the fall 2017 term, the grades of WP and WF are no longer used. Consult an earlier issue of the Graduate Bulletin for their use and meaning.

Grades of A, B, and C will allow students to receive graduate credit representing 4, 3, and 2 quality points, respectively. Grades below C are recorded and are considered in determining the quality-point ratio but are not accepted toward completion of the graduate program.

All grades, once reported, remain a matter of permanent record and are used in calculating the cumulative GPA. Any appeal or question concerning an assigned grade must be made within one calendar year from the time the grade was awarded.

Calculation of the graduate grade point average includes all residence course work attempted. No transfer credit grades are used to calculate the cumulative GPA.

GPA and Probation Policy. A graduate student is expected to maintain a cumulative graduate GPA and a program GPA of 3.00 or above. A student whose cumulative or program GPA is less than 3.00 is on academic probation. Probation serves to alert the student of potential academic problems.

A graduate student is limited as to the number of hours of coursework that can be completed while on probation. Students enrolled in a cohort program [Note 1] taking nine or more hours per semester have one additional semester of required hours to improve their GPA. All other graduate students are limited to taking nine additional hours of courses, all of which must be within the degree program.

After the completion of the maximum number of hours allowed with probationary status, one of two actions will occur.

  1. If the graduate student’s cumulative GPA and program GPA are 3.00 or greater, the student will automatically return to good standing and no longer be on probation.
  2. If the graduate student’s cumulative or program GPA is less than 3.00, the student will automatically be suspended from graduate study at UCA. The student may appeal the suspension by submitting a letter of appeal to the department chair affiliated with the program. The department chair will determine whether extending the probationary period is warranted. This decision will be based upon an improved GPA during the probationary period and the possibility of achieving the required 3.00 GPA during the extended probationary period. If the appeal is granted, the student will continue on probation for an additional semester (cohort students) or an additional six hours (all other graduate students). At the end of the extended probation period, either the student will have the GPA needed to return to good standing or the student will be suspended from graduate study at UCA.

The student’s suspension following the initial or extended probationary period represents the student’s first suspension. Following a student’s first suspension, a student may be eligible to be readmitted for an additional probationary period.

Eligibility for a student whose suspension was based on their program’s guidelines is determined by those same program guidelines. Therefore, program guidelines will determine the eligibility for a cohort student to return to their graduate program following their first suspension.

In other cases where the suspension was based on the Graduate School’s guidelines, eligibility is based on the student’s ability to raise their graduate GPA to a minimum of 3.0 during an additional probationary period of nine credit hours. If this is the case, the student may apply for readmission to the Graduate School 12 calendar months after receiving notice of their first suspension. The student must complete the Graduate School’s Readmission After Probation form and obtain approval signatures from the Graduate Program Coordinator and the Department Chair prior to submission to the Graduate School for consideration. If approved, the student is expected to participate in academic success seminars offered by the Graduate School. In addition, the student must maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 in graduate courses taken after readmission as well as meet the GPA expectations necessary to graduate by the end of the probationary period. Failure to do so will result in dismissal from the Graduate School.

Note 1

A cohort program is one in which all students move through the same semester-by-semester plan of courses for completing the degree.

Continuous Enrollment. The grade of PR is used for certain kinds of courses (typically thesis, dissertation, or other multi-term courses) where continuous enrollment across two or more terms is required. A PR grade indicates that a student has made satisfactory progress in the course/project; a CR grade is used in this context to indicate that the course/project has been successfully completed. Both PR and CR result in earned credit hours but do not carry “quality points” (and thus are not included in GPA calculations); an NC grade indicates “no credit,” and signifies in this context unsatisfactory progress or failure to complete the course/project. Note that this grade mode is not intended to be used as a substitute for “deferred credit” (an incomplete grade) in a course not requiring continuous enrollment for more than one term.

Deferred Credit (Incomplete Grade). The grade of X (incomplete) is given only if satisfactory completion of the remaining course requirements can result in a passing grade for that semester’s work. An X grade is not computed in the GPA. One calendar year is the maximum time limit for removal of an X grade. If one year passes and the X has not been removed, the grade is changed automatically to an F. An individual instructor may specify a shorter time period for removal of an X. The instructor is required to state, in writing, the requirements for removing the grade of X at the time it is assigned. A copy of the requirement is provided to each of the following: the registrar, the Graduate School, the student, and the department chair; a copy is, of course, retained by the instructor. Failure of the student to meet these requirements may result in the X becoming an F. A student may not re-enroll in a course for which an X is in effect.

A student receiving a grade of X (incomplete) will be placed on Academic Alert. This status serves as an alert to the student regarding the need to clear the incomplete grade as soon as possible. Students on Academic Alert will receive correspondence from the Graduate School that addresses policies related to incomplete grades as well as ramifications of failing to compete the work. Once an incomplete grade is cleared, the student will return to good standing.

No student may be cleared for conferral of a graduate degree until all incomplete (X) grades have been removed and all unreported grades (NR) have been reported. In order to be awarded a degree as expected, a student who finishes the semester in which she/he intends to graduate with an X grade must have submitted the required work to the instructor no later than one calendar week after the last day of final exams for that semester, and the instructor must have submitted a change of grade form to remove the X grade no later than two weeks after the last day of final exams for that semester. If these deadlines are not met, award of the degree will be delayed.

Grade Point Average. To obtain the qualitative index of a student’s scholarship, the total number of quality points (QP) accumulated is divided by the total number of semester credit hours (SCH) attempted to give the ratio known as the grade point average (GPA):

QP ÷ SCH = GPA

For example, if a student has earned 96 quality points on 30 semester hours attempted, the GPA is 3.20 (96 ÷ 30 = 3.20). The following list shows quality points earned for each letter grade:

A = 4 quality points per credit hour (12 for a 3-hour course)
B = 3 quality points per credit hour (9 for a 3-hour course)
C = 2 quality points per credit hour (6 for a 3-hour course)
D = 1 quality points per credit hour (3 for a 3-hour course)
F = 0 quality points per credit hour (0 for a 3-hour course)

[4] Attendance

Attendance and tardiness are primarily a student-teacher-class issue, but the university has an interest in the proper fulfillment of such obligations by the student. Absences that indicate negligence about class attendance may lead to cancellation of registration and a withdrawal grade (W) in the course. In flagrant cases, the student may be suspended from the university. Individual instructors may assign a withdrawal grade (W) for non-attendance to any student but must do so by the deadline date for a student to officially withdraw specified in the academic calendar for the semester.

[5] Full-Time and Maximum Course Loads

A student who carries 9 or more graduate hours in any semester is considered a full-time graduate student. A student who is enrolled in 3 or more semester hours in a 10-week summer session is considered a full-time graduate student. The maximum course load for a student shall be 15 hours for each semester and 6 semester hours for each summer term. Permission to take more than a maximum credit load requires written approval of the student’s advisor, the department chair, and the graduate dean.

[6] Enrollment Requirements for International Students

International students on F-1 or J-1 visas pursuing a graduate degree must enroll in 9 credit hours each semester. At least 6 of the 9 credit hours must be traditional and/or hybrid courses. For example, a student may enroll in 3 credits traditional, 3 credits hybrid, and 3 credits online to meet this requirement.

Students beginning their program in Summer session must take 6 credits of traditional and/or hybrid courses.

Students may enroll in fewer credits in their final semester with proper authorization.

International students may enroll in completely online degree programs but must remain outside of the United States during their course of study.

[7] Advisement

At the time of admission to graduate study, the student is assigned to an advisor who is a regular faculty member in a department offering graduate work in the student’s field of specialization. The graduate advisor will be responsible for

  1. Helping the student plan a unified and balanced program of study adapted to the student’s particular interests, needs, and abilities and directed toward the student’s field of specialization;
  2. Recommending the student for degree candidacy; and
  3. Assisting the student’s progress toward satisfactory completion of the program of study.

Graduate students are encouraged to make appointments with their advisors each semester of enrollment.

[8] Thesis/Dissertation

Departments determine whether they require, or provide an option for, master’s students to submit a thesis. All PhD candidates will complete a dissertation. The Thesis and Dissertation Preparation Guide outlines the general timeline, policies, and procedures for producing a thesis or dissertation at the University of Central Arkansas. It is important to read and understand fully the contents of the manual, which is available from the Graduate School web site at https://uca.edu/graduateschool/thesis-and-dissertation/. The student must allow sufficient time for conducting the research and writing the thesis or dissertation.

Students and faculty will comply with all university policies regarding research and the use of human subjects and animals in research.

Continuous Enrollment: Students submitting a master’s thesis must register for at least one hour of graduate thesis credit each semester (Fall, Spring and Summer) after enrolling in their first thesis course. Doctoral students must register for at least one hour of dissertation credit each semester (Fall, Spring, and Summer) following approval of dissertation proposal until the work is completed, whether the student is in residence or away from the campus.

[9] Appeal Procedures

Appeal procedures for graduate students related to grades, student educational records, academic policy/requirements, and professional program selection are outlined in the Student Handbook.

[10] Academic Integrity

Integrity in scholarship and research is an essential characteristic of our academic life and structure in the university. Any activity that compromises the pursuit of truth and the advancement of knowledge besmirches the intellectual effort and may undermine confidence in the academic enterprise. The Graduate School expects students to conduct their academic endeavors with honesty and integrity. The definition of academic misconduct and appeal procedures for graduate students who are accused of academic misconduct are specified in the Student Handbook. UCA’s Policy for responding to allegations of research misconduct is linked from this page: https://uca.edu/sponsoredprograms/policies/.

[11] Policy on Research with Human Subjects

Graduate or undergraduate student research projects may involve the use of human subjects. “Human subject” is defined as an individual about whom an investigator conducting research obtains (1) data through intervention or interaction with the individual or (2) identifiable, confidential information about the individual. Both federal and university regulations require that all proposed research projects involving human subjects be reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board prior to the initiation of such studies.

Specific information regarding procedures for obtaining appropriate review of proposed research projects involving human subjects is available from the office of the dean of the student’s college, the Graduate School, the Office of Sponsored Programs, or Sponsored Program’s web site at https://uca.edu/researchcompliance/.

[12] Policy on Intellectual Property

University policy on intellectual property applies to all graduate students. An invention or discovery resulting from projects supported in whole or in part by funds, personnel, or facilities provided by or administered by the Board of Trustees of the University of Central Arkansas is the property of the university. The university has a policy of sharing with the inventor any income derived from such discoveries. Information on UCA’s Intellectual Property Policy is available on the web at https://uca.edu/researchcompliance/intellectual-property-and-technology-transfer/.

[13] Deadlines for Graduate Program Completion

All requirements for a master’s degree, specialist’s degree, graduate certificate, or post-master’s certificate must be satisfied within six years from the initial semester of matriculation. All requirements for a doctoral degree must be completed within ten years from the initial semester of matriculation.

[14] Leave of Absence

The purpose of a leave of absence is to provide graduate students with the opportunity to pause their time clock for program completion for up to one year without the need to reapply for admission. A leave of absence addresses exigent circumstances created by particularly pressing personal or family-related life issues, and applies equally to master’s, educational specialist, and doctoral students. A leave of absence will not be granted to students desirous of pausing their studies as a· matter of simple convenience br due to financial concerns, such as cost of tuition, the latter of which is a separate concern with different possible solutions.

The policy may only be invoked once during a student’s time in their program of study. Furthermore, the general rule is for such a leave to be proactively petitioned in advance of the absence, thus allowing both the program and the student to plan effectively for the future. In rare cases, a leave of absence may be granted retroactively. This decision, as with applications made in advance, is subject to the approval of the Graduate Dean on a case-by-case basis.

The petition for a leave of absence is initiated by the student, who completes the form designated for this purpose and submits it to their Graduate Program Director. The program director, in turn, following a consultation with the student whenever possible, makes a recommendation in favor or against the petition, signs the form, and submits it to the Graduate Dean for a final decision.

In addition to the matters stipulated above, all successful petitions for a leave of absence will, at a minimum, satisfy the following criteria:

  • The student must have successfully completed at least one semester of program study.
  • Regardless of when the leave is sought, the student must meet the minimum Graduate School GPA requirement of 3.0 to invoke the policy.
  • In no case will the leave exceed one year [Note 2], as a further prolonged absence constitutes a program withdrawal, causing the student’s completion clock to recommence and necessitating readmission, a situation that may also involve altered program requirements under a new Graduate Bulletin.

Note 2

One year is defined as a calendar year, which may commence at the beginning of the next consecutive term (fall, spring, or summer). If the challenges that cause the student to invoke this policy lead them to withdraw from the term currently in progress, said term will not count toward the one-year period, which will begin with the following full term.

[15] Application of Coursework from Previous Graduate Degrees

Subject to review by the department and Graduate School, students holding valid master’s degrees or graduate certificates from accredited graduate institutions, including UCA, may apply no more than six hours of approved coursework completed as a part of the previous degree/certificate toward a second master’s degree or educational specialist degree. A maximum of three hours from a previous degree/certificate may be applied toward a graduate certificate. Transferring these hours for specific courses in the program for the second master’s degree, educational specialist degree, or certificate will be indicated in writing, approved by the program coordinator, and submitted to the Graduate School. All remaining courses applied to satisfy the requirements for the second master’s degree, educational specialist degree, or certificate must be taken in residence at the University of Central Arkansas. If graduate credit earned for a prior graduate degree is equivalent to and constitutes a logical part of the student’s program, application of previously earned credit above the established policy may be allowed when recommended by the student’s program coordinator and department chair, and when approved by the dean of the Graduate School. Acceptance of transfer credit does not reduce the minimum residence requirement of 24 hours.

The second master’s degree, educational specialist degree, or certificate will be subject to the general regulations governing master’s degrees, educational specialist degrees, or certificates except as stated above.

[16] Maintenance of Standards

The university reserves the right to deny further attendance to a student who lacks the personal qualities, professional characteristics, or scholastic attainments essential for success. Such a student desiring to re-enroll will supply the university with evidence that the difficulties have been corrected.

[17] Withdrawal Policy

A student may officially withdraw from a course or the university so long as the withdrawal is within the dates specified in the academic calendar for the semester. If a student withdraws from a course or the university during the change-of-course period, no grade will be recorded.

After the change-of-course period, a withdrawal grade (W) will be recorded according to the deadlines specified in the academic calendar for the semester.

If a student discontinues attendance without officially withdrawing, an instructor may drop the student for non-attendance and report a withdrawal grade (W), but must do so by the deadline date for a student to officially withdraw specified in the academic calendar for the semester.

[18] Grade Appeal Process

Students may initiate an appeal only after having officially received the final grade in the course.

All formal appeals must be initiated no later than the second Monday of October (when appealing a final grade received in a spring or summer course) or the second Monday of March (when appealing a final grade received in a fall semester course.) Appeals must take place in the semester immediately following the semester during which the alleged grievance occurred, whether or not the student is enrolled that semester.

The syllabus is an agreement between the student and instructor. By staying enrolled in the class, the student accepts the policies and terms outlined in the syllabus. Therefore, all matters having to do with department policy or with curriculum and program requirements are not appealable, nor are any of the instructor’s stated classroom policies such as attendance and behavior policies.

The procedures described in the Grade Appeal Policy are available only for appeal of a semester or term grade based on one or more of the reasons listed in Table A.

Table A

  1. A mathematical error in calculation of the grade or clerical error in recording of the grade that remains uncorrected.

In order for a grade appeal to be successful for reasons other than mathematical or clerical errors, the student must prove that the instructor has issued a grade in an arbitrary, capricious, or discriminatory * manner, such as

  1. The assignment of a grade to a particular student by application of more exacting requirements than were applied to other students in the course;
  2. The assignment of a grade to a particular student on some basis other than performance in the course;
  3. The assignment of a grade by a substantial departure from the faculty member’s previously announced standards.

* Refer to the following definitions of arbitrary, capricious, and discriminatory:

Arbitrary
Arbitrary refers to a grading decision for which there is no sound academic reason, or a decision based solely on preference or whim.
Capricious
Capricious refers to a grading decision not resulting from a reasonable and announced grading policy and procedure.
Discriminatory
Discriminatory refers to a grading decision reflecting differential treatment based on race, religion, color, age, sex, sexual orientation, disability, or national origin.

According to university policy, unless there is a mathematical or clerical error, or arbitrary, capricious, or discriminatory behavior, the professional judgment of the instructor is not a matter that can be challenged or appealed in this process. It is the student’s responsibility to prove that the grade that was issued reflects a mathematical error, or was assigned in an arbitrary, capricious, or discriminatory manner.

If a student believes the instructor has issued a course grade reflecting a mathematical or clerical error, or in an arbitrary, capricious, or discriminatory manner, the student must follow these steps to appeal the grade:

INFORMAL APPEAL

Step 1

Talk to the instructor about the situation. If the concern is resolved, no further action is necessary.

If the faculty member is no longer employed by the university, the student may proceed to the Formal Appeal Process.

If the faculty member is employed by the university and declines to discuss the grade with the student, the student may proceed to the Formal Appeal Process.

FORMAL APPEAL PROCESS

The formal appeal process must be initiated no later than the second Monday of October (when appealing a final grade received in a spring or summer course) or the second Monday of March (when appealing a final grade received in a fall semester course.) Appeals must take place in the semester immediately following the semester during which the alleged grievance occurred, whether or not the student is enrolled that semester.

Step 2: Review by the Department Head *

* In case of unavailability of the department head, in order to ensure timeliness of the appeal process, the review may be conducted by the assistant or associate department chair or assistant/associate dean of the college.

  • The student completes the Grade Appeal Form, electronically submitting the form, along with supporting materials, to the head of the department in which the course was offered. List of Department Heads and contact information
  • If the faculty member and the department head are the same person, the student should move directly to step three of the process.
  • Supporting materials should include evidence of informal attempts to resolve the issue, which of the criteria (listed in Table A) the student is claiming and why, and any documentation (e.g. syllabus, communications, assignments, or tests.)
  • If the student chooses to include witnesses, current contact information must be included.
  • The department head will have two weeks (10 business days) after receipt of the Grade Appeal Form and supporting materials to consider the appeal and make a determination regarding the appeal.
  • The department head’s consideration of the appeal must include communication with the instructor and the student for fact-finding, clarification, and an attempt to resolve the grievance. Witnesses may also be contacted.
  • If either individual (instructor or student) does not respond to the department head, the department head must document attempts to initiate communication.
  • If a resolution cannot be reached between the student and the faculty member, the department head will issue a decision.
  • The department head’s decision must be communicated via university email to the student and the instructor no later than the 10th business day following receipt of the appeal.

If the student is satisfied with the outcome, the appeal process ends here. If the student is not satisfied with the outcome, the student may move to step 3.

Step Three: Review by the Academic Dean *

* Grade appeals may be reviewed by an associate dean as the official designee of the dean.

  • Within five (5) business days of receiving the determination of the department head, the student must submit the Grade Appeal Form and supporting materials to the dean of the college in which the course was offered. The student should include a copy of the department head’s decision communication. List of Academic Deans and contact information.
  • The dean will have two weeks (ten business days) after receipt of the Grade Appeal Form and supporting materials to consider the appeal and make a determination regarding the appeal. The consideration of the appeal may include communication with the student, instructor, and department head for fact-finding and clarification purposes. Witnesses may also be contacted.
  • The dean’s decision must be communicated to the student and the instructor no later than the fifth business day following receipt of the appeal.

The student may proceed to step four only if they believe the process or policy was not followed.

Step Four: Official Policy and/or Process Review by the Office of the Provost

  • Within five (5) business days of receiving the determination of the dean, if the student believes the official Grade Appeal policy and/or process have not been followed, the student may appeal to the Office of the Provost for a review. This review is not of the Grade Appeal itself, but of the processes surrounding the appeal. All grade appeal reviews are normally performed by the Associate Provost for Academic Success.
  • The student must submit all materials from prior levels of review, plus an explanation of why they believe the official policy and/or process were not followed.
  • The Office of the Provost will have one week (five business days) after receipt of the Grade Appeal Form and supporting materials to consider the appeal and make a determination regarding the appeal.
  • The Provost’s ruling must be communicated to the student and the college dean no later than the fifth business day following receipt of the appeal.

If it is found the official policy and/or process were not followed, the student has the right to start the formal appeal process again. In such cases, the Provost may assign different individuals to review the grade appeal. The student must submit the Grade Appeal Form and supporting materials to the department head within five (5) business days of receiving the Provost’s ruling.