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Policies and Guidelines for Certificates

Policy Numbers: EP-05.03 and CP-11.03

Effective Date: EP-05.03 was approved by the UIC Senate on January 27, 2005 and CP-11.03 was approved by the UIC Senate on January 27, 2011.

Policy Title: Establishment of Guidelines and Definitions for Certificate Programs (view the full SCEP proposal).

Contact: Academic Programs

Policy Statement: 

  • Non-credit certificates are not considered a part of these guidelines for certificate programs. The campus may issue separate guidelines for noncredit certificates at a later date.
  • Non-credit certificate programs will not be noted on the transcript.
  • Certificate programs are defined as independent (stand alone), self-contained, structured and systematic groups of courses that focus upon a specific area of knowledge and are generally less than and shorter in duration than degree programs. Certificate programs meet the need for higher education to provide flexible, efficient methods of meeting the needs of individuals for career advancement, career change, continuing education requirements, or personal educational enhancement, as well as to respond to requests from external constituencies to offer certificate programs for their employees. They are typically based in a previously approved degree program (i.e., a post-baccalaureate certificate from a previously approved master’s program; a post-master’s certificate from a previously approved doctoral program).
  • A certificate may also be a credit-based, organized program of study in a field or at a level in which there is not a previously approved degree program.
  • Certificate programs that follow the guidelines here and receive approvals appropriate to the type of certificate will be noted on the students’ transcripts. (See Tables I and II in the 2005 guidelines document for a detailed description of types of certificate programs, campus admission requirements and program requirements. Note that in January 2011, SCEP approved CP-11.03, which updated the admission requirement criteria for post-baccalaureate campus certificate programs.)
  • Graduate certificate program (IBHE-approved) students will be held to the academic standards that are developed by the Graduate College and, if specified, by the offering units. Students enrolled in the undergraduate, graduate, or professional campus certificates will be held to the academic standards developed by the offering units.
  • For all certificate programs, the student must apply separately to the certificate program.
  • Units may only offer credit certificate programs that are approved by the campus.
  • To be officially recognized on a student’s transcript, a certificate program must consist of a minimum of 9 (for graduate) or 15 (for undergraduate) semester hours. There will be no maximum number of hours required for a certificate program (note, however, that a certificate should not replicate the requirements for a standard degree program).
  • Undergraduate students must be matriculated in an undergraduate degree program in order to pursue an undergraduate certificate program. If an undergraduate student does not complete the degree, he/she does not receive the certificate even if all the requirements for the certificate are complete.
  • Credit earned through an undergraduate certificate may, upon approval of the sponsoring department and/or college, count toward an undergraduate degree.
  • Credit earned through a post-baccalaureate certificate in which there is an approved master’s degree may, upon approval of the program and the Graduate College, count toward a master’s degree.
  • Credit earned through a post-master’s certificate in which there is an approved doctoral degree may, upon approval of the program and the Graduate College, count toward a doctoral degree.
  • Credit earned through a certificate program in which there is no previously approved higher degree (master’s or doctorate) may be granted toward a master’s or doctoral degree upon approval of the program awarding the degree and the Graduate College.
  • A student matriculated in a degree program, in which there is an embedded certificate program, may be eligible to receive the certificate only if the student has made separate application and has been admitted to the certificate program.

Reason for Policy: Although many campus units currently offer local, informal “certificate” programs, the campus currently has no centralized, defined set of rules or regulations to guide units and committees on how to develop certificate programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels.  Practice on the campus is currently inconsistent.  Very few units are diligent in seeking campus (SCEP, the Graduate College Executive Committee, if necessary, and the Senate) approval whenever they establish certificate programs. This is largely because there are no guidelines for units to follow as they create these certificate programs.  This situation has made it difficult for the Office of Academic Affairs to advise colleges and departments in the development of certificates.

There are several good reasons to create guidelines for certificate programs at this time:

  • As stated above, it would be useful to have a structure for certificate programs to assist the campus community with decisions about their creation;
  • To insure that the quality of certificate programs is at an acceptable level if they are being awarded by our campus;
  • There is a desire to post the awarding of such certificate programs on the transcript, which will require a level of formalization that has not existed in the past. The Campus will be held accountable for these certificate programs if they are listed on the transcript, thus making review and approval necessary.
  • The Illinois Board of Higher Education has established a set of standards for undergraduate and graduate certificates which can be used as a starting point to develop campus standards for both IBHE-approved certificate programs and “campus certificates.”

The Office of Academic Affairs has been sponsoring a series of meetings within the office and with the Graduate College staff to discuss the creation of certificates.  In addition, meetings are being scheduled to discuss the operational issues involved with this new initiative, which are considerable.  Representatives from several campus units attend, including the Graduate College, the Office of Admissions, Budgeting and Program Analysis, the Office of Registration and Records, the Office of Data Resources and Institutional Analysis, and the Office of External Education.

In addition, the policies outlined in this proposal have been routed to the Committee of Associate and Assistant Deans for information and input.  At this time, the Office of Academic Affairs requests that SCEP and the Senate review and act on the proposed guidelines and definitions for certificate programs.

Under the proposed guidelines, IBHE- approved certificates will appear in the graduate catalog. All approved undergraduate certificates will appear in the undergraduate catalog.

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


  • View the guidelines and definitions document developed by Academic Programs.
  • To create, revise, or eliminate a certificate, refer to the certificates section on the Academic Programs website.

Policy History: 

  • Original policy approved by the UIC Senate on January 27, 2005.
  • Policy updated by Academic Programs in August 2006.
  • At their January 2011 meeting, SCEP approved CP-11.03, which updated the admission requirement criteria for post-baccalaureate campus certiifcate programs. The updated policy was approved by the UIC Senate on January 27, 2011.