Policies and Guidlelines for Concentrations

Policies for Degree Program Concentrations

Policy Number: EP-04.02

Effective Date: Fall 2004

Policy Title: Establishment of Guidelines and Definitions for Degree Program Concentrations (view the full SCEP proposal).

Contact: Office of Academic Program Development

Policy Statement: 

  • The term “concentration” will be the official designation for course groups that define a specific area or sub-area of study.
  • Establishment of a formal concentration is required (i.e., proposed to campus and University review bodies) where focused study in a substantial subcomponent of an academic discipline is required in the degree program, where those areas are clearly defined in terms of requirements, and only when the sponsoring units want these areas or sub-areas to be formally recognized by the campus.
  • Sponsoring units will determine the number, type and level of courses that constitute a concentration within their disciplines.  Typically, a concentration is defined as a minimum of three (3) related courses (a minimum of nine or more hours) that a student may take as part of a degree program.
  • An approved concentration will be the only formal designation entered on the transcript besides the title of the degree earned.
  • The descriptions of concentrations will be published in campus catalogues.

Reason for Policy: Over a period of ten years or more, the campus has attempted to formalize policies and guidelines for degree specializations/concentrations. Working with the Senate Committee on Educational Policy (SCEP) and the Graduate College at different times going back to the early 1990’s, policy statements were drafted containing definitions and guidelines for the Office of Academic Affairs, the Graduate College, SCEP and academic units to follow in the development of specializations/concentrations. The campus had no set of rules or regulations to guide the various units and committees on how to handle specializations/concentrations at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels. Practice on the campus was inconsistent. Some units were diligent in seeking campus approval whenever they established specializations/concentrations, while other units created them without review and action by SCEP, the Graduate College Executive Committee and the Senate. This situation made it difficult for the Office of Academic Affairs to advise colleges and departments in the development of specializations/concentrations because of the lack of definitions and guidelines to regulate formal approval. The campus has been working under uncertain and confusing circumstances with regard to this issue.

There is evidence in both the undergraduate and graduate catalogues that many specializations/concentrations are offered as part of degree programs.  Many specializations/concentrations have received approval by the campus; a few have not. Historically, the Graduate College has maintained a list of approved specializations at the graduate level. Those that have been formally approved may appear on students’ transcripts if the colleges have requested them to be posted.  If specializations/concentrations have not been approved, it has been the practice not to permit them to be listed on the transcript.

Current specializations/concentrations vary widely in course or credit hour requirements. Some specializations/concentrations are defined and specific; others are not. Again, because there is no set of rules or policies governing specializations/concentrations, there is no consistency in requirements and, consequently, we have difficulty in providing advice or responding to questions when colleges and departments want to establish them.

On October 9, 2003, the Office of Academic Affairs sponsored a meeting with representatives from several campus units, including the Graduate College, the Senate Committee on Educational Policy,  the Office of Registration and Records, the Office of Data Resources and Institutional Analysis, the DARS Project Office, the College of Business Administration, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the College of Nursing. Working with a draft policy statement and other information supplied by the Office of Academic Affairs – Academic Programs, the group discussed several issues regarding programmatic concentrations (guidelines, policies, approval process). At the conclusion of the meeting, there was consensus on a number of points which are presented here as a proposal for program concentrations. These proposed guidelines and definitions will apply to all undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs.

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

Procedures: To create, revise, or eliminate a concentration, refer to the concentrations section on the Office of Programs and Academic Assessment website.

Policy History: Approved by the UIC Senate on April 29, 2004.

Procedures and Guidelines for Degree Program Concentrations


  • Sponsoring units whose degree programs are accredited by specialized or professional accrediting agencies should take special care to develop concentrations within the scope of their programmatic offerings and, if necessary or required, develop official concentrations according to the criteria and standards of their accrediting organizations.
  • Concentrations submitted for campus approval must be developed within the sponsoring units’ degree programs. However, consideration will be given to interdisciplinary/multidisciplinary concentrations that may be associated with several degree programs in different departments or colleges (e.g., Gender and Women’s Studies).

Approval process. Establishment of formal concentrations will require review and approval by the line college (where required), the Graduate College Executive Committee (where Graduate College programs are involved), the Senate Committee on Educational Policy, and the Senate.  New concentrations are required to be reported to the University Board of Trustees and the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

Procedure for initial implementation of policy. All currently approved concentrations will be submitted for quick review by campus bodies. A list of approved concentrations will be submitted to the Graduate College Executive Committee, the Senate Committee on Educational Policy, and the Senate for review. Existing concentrations that have never received formal approval by the campus will also be placed on the list for approval.