Joint Programs Policy

Policy Number: EP-06.03

Effective Date: Fall 2011

Policy Title:  Joint Programs Policy Statement (view the full SCEP proposal)

Contact: Office of Programs and Academic Assessment

Policy Statement: Joint programs consist of officially approved degree programs whereby the student receives two separate degrees but is allowed to apply a certain percentage of shared course hours to both degrees so that the resulting total hours for the joint program are less than if the student obtained the degrees separately. In addition, there may be other incentives beneficial to the student. The degrees awarded in the joint program must be approved, established degree programs. The number and percentage of shared course hours are detailed in each program proposal.

The following policies apply to joint programs:

1. Joint programs which combine bachelor's and master's degrees require a minimum total of 143 earned semester hours. A maximum of nine semester hours of coursework may be shared (applied toward both the undergraduate and graduate degrees). Other joint programs should have no more than 25% of the total hours for both degrees as shared coursework. More than 25% indicates that there may be inherent overlap in the content of the two degrees, thus making the establishment of a joint degree inappropriate.

2. There should be a specific timeframe in which joint program students be allowed to matriculate into a joint program. Students should not be allowed or encouraged to apply to a joint program toward the end of their program of study.

3. Except in rare circumstances, receipt of both degrees should occur during the same term. This is keeping with the spirit of admission and completion of a joint program. Should one degree be awarded before completion of the joint program and the student decides to withdraw from the joint program, the student will have completed a program that is different in content (and, perhaps, hours) from the parent degree.

4. Each proposed joint degree program proposal must include a Joint Degree Articulation Agreement regarding the administrative procedures for operating the joint program. The agreement should be updated whenever any terms of the original memorandum of understanding require revision.

Reason for Policy: Various units have proposed joint BA/MA (or similar) degrees whereby the two degrees are awarded concurrently upon satisfactory completion of the requirement for both degrees. Typically, such program proposals include the sharing of credits between the undergraduate and graduate components of the joint program. Currently, there is no policy to guide semester hour requirements, a crucial component for such programs. The present proposal provides such a policy.

The UIC Graduate College allows a maximum of 25% of graduate program credits to originate from the undergraduate program, insofar as the courses/credits are not used to satisfy requirements of the undergraduate degree. For the minimum requirements for a master’s degree, this would be an allowance of eight semester credit hours (25% of 32 semester hours). Thus, the proposed policy is similar to the Graduate College policy, albeit extending an advantage to joint degrees by allowing shared credit hours. Some programs offer 400-level courses which are three semester hours each. Allowing up to nine hours of coursework to be shared rather than eight will enable colleges to allow up to three three-semester hour courses to be shared.

The minimum requirement for an undergraduate degree is 120 semester hours. Without credit sharing, the minimum number of credits to earn the bachelor’s and the master’s degrees consecutively is 152 semester hours. In comparison, a second bachelor’s degree requires a minimum of 30 semester hours beyond the first degree, or 150 semester hours. The proposed policy maintains the integrity of the undergraduate program and ensures a broad-based, liberal educational experience with less emphasis on a specialized discipline as is characteristic of the graduate program. Greater sharing of credits beyond what is proposed would place greater emphasis on the specialized field of the two degrees. Under this proposal, undergraduate students continue to have a wide range of course selection opportunities beyond the major field and the option of pursuing second majors or minors. The opportunity for electives at both the undergraduate and graduate levels is maintained.

Under the proposed policy of nine shared semester hours, the fifth year of study would require a minimum total of 23 semester hours in order to complete both degrees in the typical joint BA/MA program to enable the awarding of the two degrees, thus reducing the time for the two degrees by one year (which may depend on the specific requirements of the joint program). The total educational cost to the student, therefore, is reduced.

Minority Impact Statement: The only anticipated impact is positive in reducing cost and time to complete two degrees.

Who Should Read the Policy:  Faculty and staff at UIC who are involved in the creation, revision, or elimination of joint programs.

Policy History: 

  • Original policy approved in January 2006 (EP-06.03).
  • Updated policy approved by the Senate Committee on Educational Policy (SCEP) on March 3, 2011.
  • Policy approved by the UIC Faculty Senate on March 17, 2011.

Guidelines and procedures for joint programs

Procedures: View the procedures for creating, revising, and eliminating joint programs (coming soon).

The Format for Academic Program Changes document should be used to create proposals for joint programs. The description of the joint degree program should address the specific admission requirements and degree requirements (with shared courses clearly identified, usually in narrative form and in table format). The justification should articulate the usefulness of the joint degree as well as sufficient rationale for the specific shared coursework.

Approval of the joint program involves several levels of governance, with the departments and colleges working through the Office of Programs and Academic Assessment (OPAA), and review and approval obtained from the Graduate College (when necessary), the Senate Committee on Educational Policy, and the Senate. Joint programs are reported to the Board of Trustees and the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

Sample joint program proposals are available from the Office of Programs and Academic Assessment.