The institution’s post-baccalaureate professional degree programs, master's and doctoral degree programs are progressively more advanced in academic content than undergraduate programs.

Compliance Judgment:  In compliance


East Carolina University (hereafter, ECU or the institution) has developed and promulgated standards and procedures to ensure that post-baccalaureate academic programs are progressively more advanced in academic content than its undergraduate programs. This section summarizes the policies, procedures and processes in place at ECU to ensure that all post-baccalaureate programs’ demonstrate advanced rigor.  Evidence includes review of:

Organizational Approach

ECU’s Strong and Explicit Stance on Rigor of Graduate Programs

The University takes a strong and explicit stance on the rigor it expects of graduate education as indicated in the first sentence of admission procedures in the Graduate CatalogThe university seeks to admit graduate students who show evidence of being able to succeed in and benefit from academic programs of the rigor offered [emphasis added].”  This emphasis on rigor is also evident in the language used to describe master’s level programs.  For example, “the goal of the MA and MS degree programs is to provide the student with a well-rounded and in-depth understanding of the subject matter [emphasis added].” The ECU Academic Program Inventory lists five categories of post-baccalaureate programs:

Policies and Procedures for New Graduate Program Development

The academic rigor of ECU’s new and existing graduate programs is established and maintained through a multi-step approval process that includes faculty review, college review, Graduate School review, Faculty Senate review, Academic Council review (Provost, Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences, and Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies), chancellor approval, and off-campus approval by the UNC System.  ECU’s new program development process is managed by the Office of Academic Program Planning and Development as documented on the Academic Program Development website.  The rigorous expectations of ECU’s graduate programs are guided by policies contained in the Graduate Program Director’s Handbook, by unit academic program review which includes external reviewers (Procedures for Unit Program Review, Unit Program Review Schedule), and by Accreditation as appropriateAccording to the Overview of Graduate Curriculum Development, curriculum development is a faculty responsibility.  ECU’s rigorous expectations are communicated to students in the program requirements for each program as enumerated in the Graduate Catalog, on unit web pages, and in unit specific informational packets.  Specific review policies, procedures, and processes as related to new graduate program development are detailed in this narrative of compliance.

New Graduate Certificate Programs

ECU’s graduate certificate programs (also known as post-baccalaureate [PB] programs) are created by faculty in academic units within colleges and schools and submitted for review and approval within the structure of the Graduate School.  Students are awarded these certificates upon completion of a well-defined program of course work.  The graduate certificate is not defined as a degree by the Graduate School; it is a focused collection of courses that, when completed, affords the student a record of coherent academic accomplishment in a given discipline or set of related disciplines.  The didactic material encompassed within a graduate certificate program may represent a more practice-oriented subset of an existing graduate discipline.  The title of any graduate certificate program may or may not contain the word certificate, depending on the tradition in the discipline proposing the program.  The Graduate Catalog contains a list of graduate certificate programs.

As stated in the Policies and Procedures for Graduate Certificate Programs, the process for approval of new Graduate Certificate Programs includes the following:

The Criteria for Approval of Certificate Programs of the Policies and Procedures for Graduate Certificate Programs require that “The proposed sequence of course work must meet a clear and appropriate educational objective at the post-baccalaureate level.”

Through this defined process, the Graduate Curriculum Committee and Graduate Council provide oversight to ensure rigor.

New Master’s Degrees

ECU’s Graduate Catalog states, “The goal of the MA and MS degree programs is to provide the student with a well-rounded and in depth understanding of the subject matter.”  “A minimum of 30 semester hours (s.h.) is required for the Master of Arts and Master of Science degrees.”  “It is expected that the course work will be planned for the student to achieve career goals.” In some programs, students may take courses in a minor field or in several fields related to their major. The detailed course requirements for each program are left to the discretion of the relevant departments and schools; the decision on student’s plan of work is to be made by the student’s graduate committee in consultation with the student involved.

Proposals to establish new masters degrees are processed in three phases:

1)      Request for Authorization to Plan (RAP):  A unit/department prepares a preliminary degree program package that includes an “Assessment of Readiness to Offer New Degree Program,” a budget, letters of support from director/department chair and dean, and documentation of notification of the campus space planning office.  This package receives multi-leveled review by the following:

2)      Request to Establish A New Degree Program (RAE):  Unit/department prepares RAE documentation, updates Assessment of Readiness to Offer New Degree Program and budget; provides letters of support for unit/department chair and college dean, and documents notification to campus space planning office.  The unit/department submits a new degree program package for review as follows:

3)      Program Development:  Unit/department refines degree requirements and develops course proposals, secures approved Request for Authorization to Plan, and seeks approval from Unit Curriculum Committee, ECU’s Graduate Curriculum Committee and Graduate Council.  “If BOG authorization to establish is received before the curriculum approval process has been completed, a moratorium will be placed on degree implementation until a quality curriculum has been finalized” (Faculty Manual, Part VI, VII).

Following this multi-level review process, the new program is ready for implementation.

New Doctoral Degrees

Requests to establish new doctoral degree programs are developed in three phases and processed through a multi-leveled review process similar to that used for new master’s degree programs.  The three development phases are:

1)      Request for Authorization to Plan (RAP)

2)      Request to Establish A New Degree Program (RAE)

3)      Program Development

For doctoral programs, the RAP approval process adds an additional step of review and approval by the University of North Carolina Graduate Council before final approval by the UNC Board of Governors.

Policies and Procedures for New Graduate Courses and Existing Graduate Course Revision

Requests to create new courses or revise existing courses in established Graduate Degree programs are processed in the following way:

Policies and Procedures for University-Level Review of Existing Graduate Programs

All of ECU’s graduate programs are subject to ongoing and periodic program review, outlined in the Procedures for Academic Program Review.  A university-wide organizational framework for program review has been developed and is consistently implemented as demonstrated by the Unit Academic Program Review Schedule.  Program review is an integral part of each program and plays a major role in the university’s ongoing assessment of institutional effectiveness.

The primary goal of the academic program review is to enhance graduate education.  Academic program review consists of a self-study conducted by each program and a subsequent review by two external reviewers and one internal reviewer.  Graduate academic program review takes into account specialized, discipline-specific accreditation, as applicable.  The outcomes of the review process are the identification of program strengths and areas for improvement along with recommendations for the future.

Internal Compliance Audit of All Current ECU Graduate Programs

To obtain program-specific evidence of compliance with SACS 3.6.1, the Dean of the Graduate School initiated a process in November 2010 requiring all ECU Graduate Programs to collect and submit documentation using the SACS template to demonstrate the various programs’ progressive academic rigor (see library of completed 3.6.1 templates). The academic programs provided a variety of types of documents as evidence, such as course catalogs, policies and procedures, course syllabi, and differential learning outcomes for undergraduate and graduate students.  Unit faculty submitted program documentation to a designated SharePoint site.  As program documentation was submitted, it was reviewed by faculty members of the ECU Graduate Programs SACS Working Group who used an internally developed rubric to evaluate the submission for compliance.  A tracking system was developed to track this process of documentation submission, review, and revision.  A summary status report as of June 2012 is below:

Graduate Program Compliance Audit Status Report - July 2012

Evidence of Program-Specific Efforts to Maintain Progressive Academic Rigor

The graduate programs sustain rigor through their requirements; courses of study; learning outcomes; and specialized, discipline-specific accreditations, as applicable.  The following chart provides examples of individual program compliance.

Evidence of Progressive Academic Rigor – Recent Graduate Curriculum Committee Approval Actions

College or School


Course Name/


Approved by GCC/date

Approved course/GCC Agenda


Brody School of Medicine

Inter-disciplinary Program in Biological Science

BISC 9000

March 2, 2011


Interdisciplinary doctoral dissertation course

Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences


GEOL 7710-7711

January 19, 2011


Excellent use of Bloom’s taxonomy (rev) and alignment of learning objectives with course topic outline

Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences


PSYC 7502

March 2, 2011


Distinguishes course assignment/weights between participating Masters and Doctoral students

College of Allied Health Sciences

Health Services and Information Management

COHE 6460

March 23, 2011


Course added to meet disciplinary accreditation requirements

College of Business


MGMT 6682

March 16, 2011


Identical course content offered in 3 different delivery methods

College of Education

Educational Leadership


November 2, 2011


Introductory course in new program sequence produced in a program re-visioning effort

College of Fine Arts and Communications

School of Music

MUSC 6677

March 16, 2011


New course to promote interdisciplinary awareness and collaboration; bi-listed with MUSC 3677 with differentiated assignments

College of Health and Human Performance

Exercise and Sports Sciences

EXSS 8320

November 18, 2009


Uses recent literature to conduct seminar-style class; cross-listed with BIOC 8320

College of Human Ecology

Social Work

SOCW 6801 (formerly 6804)

September 21, 2011


Good alignment of course objectives with course topic outline and course assignment/grades

College of Nursing


NURS 7003

October 6, 2010


Distinguishes course assignment/weights between participating master's and doctoral students

College of Technology and Computer Sciences

Technology Systems

ITEC 6005

January 19, 2011


New course developed with extensive feedback from external constituents.

Graduate School

Coastal Resources Management

CRM 7005

Submitted January 26, 2010; Approved March 3, 2010


Required course ensures students are able to explain scope and role of human influence on coastal resources through analysis, application of management frameworks, and evaluate policies and laws


Specialized, Discipline-Specific Accreditation

To further ensure graduate program rigor, certain ECU graduate programs are accredited by their specialized, discipline-specific accrediting bodies.  These specialized, discipline-specific accrediting bodies emphasize and require advanced competencies (rigor) for graduate academic programs.  For example, all ECU teacher education programs are accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.  A complete list of accrediting bodies for ECU’s graduate programs is attached.

Roles and Responsibilities of the Graduate Faculty

The involvement of the Graduate Faculty in academic programming is direct and robust.  East Carolina University’s Graduate Faculty has three distinct oversight roles and responsibilities:  (1) Graduate Program Directors and Coordinators, (2) Graduate Council, and (3) Graduate Curriculum Committee members. Additionally, the Graduate Faculty has integral roles in other university-wide oversight and advisory bodies (see below).

1.       Graduate Program Directors and Coordinators

Each graduate program and graduate certificate has a designated Graduate Program Coordinator who is a graduate or associate graduate faculty member approved by the unit chair and college dean and who is academically qualified to lead development and review of the program’s curriculum.  Meetings of Graduate Program Coordinators are held at least twice per term to provide a forum where Graduate Program Coordinators may provide input to the Graduate School, the Graduate Council, and the Graduate Curriculum Committee on matters related to policies, practices, implementation, and administration of graduate education.

2.       Graduate Council

On October 24, 2011, a new graduate faculty governing body, the Graduate Council, was convened to replace the former Graduate School Administrative Board which was the previous administrative body of the Graduate School; archived records can be found on the Graduate School web site (GSAB).  The Graduate Council is responsible for consideration, debate, and voting on all graduate academic policies. Upon recommendation of the Graduate Curriculum Committee, the Graduate Council recommends approval of graduate curriculum and degree programs to the Academic Council and Chancellor.  The Graduate Council consists of elected graduate faculty (20 elected coordinators of graduate programs plus, 4 elected by the Faculty Senate), 3 at-large appointments by the Dean of the Graduate School, and 4 ex-officio members, all with vote, and the Dean of the Graduate School (without vote) yielding 31 voting members. The Graduate Council elects a chair and vice-chair from the elected members.  The results of Graduate Council decisions are made in the form of recommendations to the Dean of the Graduate School who may or may not concur.  All decisions made by the Graduate Council are then forwarded to ECU’s Academic Council and Chancellor for final consideration.

Specifically, the Graduate Council:

3.       Graduate Curriculum Committee

The Graduate Curriculum Committee consists of ten graduate faculty members nominated by college deans and approved by the Graduate Council.  The GCC:

Other Integral Roles

Graduate Faculty also have established and significant roles in other university-wide oversight and advisory bodies, such as Educational Policies and Planning Committee, the Faculty Senate, and the Academic Program Development Collaborative Team.  For additional information see the Graduate Faculty Charge and the 2011-2012 University Committee Appointments.

Other Policies and Procedures that Support Graduate Program Rigor


Prerequisites are determined by departmental curriculum committees, approved by the Graduate Curriculum Committee and the Graduate Council, and stated in the Graduate Catalog as integral parts of various programs, entrance requirements for degree programs, and sequential progression into subject matter. For graduate courses requiring prerequisites, this requirement is built into the university data system, Banner.  Students without necessary prerequisites cannot register for a course unless authorized by the offering department.

Undergraduate Eligibility to Take Graduate Coursework

Advanced undergraduates’ eligibility to engage in graduate-level coursework is controlled as a means of reinforcing the rigor of graduate study.  Advanced undergraduates are eligible to apply and enroll in graduate coursework only under two sets of circumstances:  (1) Senior undergraduate students who are within 6 s.h. or less of completion of all undergraduate degree requirements. If admitted, they may enroll in 5000- or 6000-level courses applicable to the graduate degree requirements.  Successful undergraduate applicants must complete all remaining undergraduate degree requirements. Failure to fulfill the undergraduate degree requirements results in cancellation of the admission to the graduate degree and invalidates the enrollment in any 6000-level courses (Graduate Catalog: Early Admission). (2) Senior undergraduate students who possess at least a 3.5 GPA in their last 30 semester hours of completed ECU course work are eligible to enroll in the Graduate School as non-degree students and to complete up to 9 semester hours of graduate-level course work.  Prior to admission into the Graduate School, permission must be obtained from the student’s undergraduate advisor, the chair of the department offering the courses, and the Graduate School (Graduate Catalog: Dual Enrollment).

Numbering Procedures

The university’s numbering system identifies graduate-level courses as 5000, 6000, 7000, 8000, and 9000.  Courses at the 5000-level may be taken by both undergraduate and graduate students. Based on recommendations from the Graduate Curriculum Committee (December 15, 2010 minutes) and the Graduate School Administrative Board (January 24, 2011 minutes), the Graduate Dean developed in September 2011 the following approved guidelines for 5000 level courses:

5000 level best practice (GSAB guidelines):

(1)    Use of 5000 level courses is appropriate for advanced undergraduates and graduate students in as much as graduate program rigor (as required in SACS 3.6.1) is assessed at the program level, not at the individual course level;

(2)    Must include differentiated learning outcomes for undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in 5000 level courses; programs have the option of developing two separate syllabi or detailing differential expectations in a single syllabus.

(3)    5000 level courses may be used as electives for advanced undergraduate (or graduate majors), but should not be used as a required course in an undergraduate major; and

(4)    In 5000 level courses where the enrollment is predominately undergraduates, the unit offering the course is advised to split it into separate 4000 and 6000 level courses.

Graduate-School-Wide Requirements for Content and Comprehensive Assessments of Students’ Learning

Rigor is demonstrated by the graduate school-wide requirements for content and assessment.  Programs require completion of a research skills component.  Distance education has the same level of rigor as face-to-face, on-campus courses.  Online graduate-level courses are taught by the same faculty who teach on-campus courses, and the coursework, required readings, and examinations are the same for online courses as they are for face-to-face course delivery.  Finally, all graduate programs require students to complete a comprehensive assessment which may include a comprehensive examination (written and/or oral), a research project, thesis, capstone course, portfolio, and/or equivalent.  To ensure integrated and ongoing assessment of graduate programs, faculty submit proposed assessment measures as a component of a requested new course addition or a change to an existing course and reviewed by submitting unit, college/school, university Graduate Curriculum Committee (GCC), and Graduate Council in compliance with the university campus curriculum approval process.

Graduation Requirements

To meet the requirements for graduation and to remain in good academic standing, a post-baccalaureate student must demonstrate acceptable performance in course work after being admitted to a graduate program. Good scholastic standing is defined as maintaining a cumulative 3.00 GPA in all course work and satisfactory progress in the overall graduate program. For students involved in research-oriented programs, the student’s department and individual advisory committee are responsible for evaluating the student’s skills with respect to performing quality research.  As previously stated, all graduate programs require students to successfully complete a comprehensive assessment, including a comprehensive examination (written and/or oral), a research project, thesis, capstone course, portfolio, and/or equivalent.  For students involved in research-oriented programs, the student’s department and individual advisory committee are responsible for evaluating the student’s skills with respect to performing quality research. Finally, only courses numbered 5000 or higher can be counted toward completion of graduate degrees. At least one-half of the credit for a master’s degree must be earned in courses for graduates only, numbering 6000 or above.

As stated in the narratives for Core Requirement 2.7.1, Program Length and for Federal Requirement 4.4, Program Length, a minimum of 30 hours is required for all master’s degrees, specialist degrees, first professional degrees, and doctoral degrees.

Outcomes Assessment

The purpose of outcomes assessment is to improve students’ learning by continuously improving the quality of academic programs.  The ECU Institutional Effectiveness Council establishes guidelines for comprehensive assessment for academic and support units and provides guidance for student outcomes assessment throughout the institution.

Outcomes assessment for quality enhancement is an ongoing, standard operating procedure.  Assessment activities must, at each stage, yield results that can be documented.  All graduate academic programs participate in outcomes assessment as documented in

In summary, through the policies, procedures, and practices described in this narrative, East Carolina University provides ongoing evidence of post-baccalaureate program rigor.



Reference Title


2011-2012 Faculty Committee Appointments

3.6.1 Faculty Committee Apts

Academic Program Development website

3.6.1 Program Development

Academic Unit Codes of  Operation

Approved University Academic Unit Codes of Operation


3.6.1 IPAR - Accreditation

Accrediting Bodies: Complete List

SACS 3.6.1 and 3.6.4_Accreditation Chart

ECU Academic Program Inventory


Faculty Manual, Part VI, VII

Part V - Curriculum Development

GCC Agenda:

November 18, 2009

11-18-09 GCC

GCC Agenda:

January 26, 2010


GCC Agenda:

October 6, 2010

10-06-10 GCC agenda

GCC Agenda:

January 19, 2011

01-19-11 GCC agenda

GCC Agenda:

February 16, 2011

02-16-11 GCC agenda

GCC Agenda:

March 2, 2011

03-02-11 GCC Agenda

GCC Agenda:

March 16, 2011

03-16-11 GCC agenda

GCC Agenda:

March 23, 2011

03-23-11 GCC agenda

GCC Agenda:

September 21, 2011

09-21-11 GCC agenda

GCC Agenda:

November 2,2011

11-02-11 GCC agenda

GCC Minutes, August 20, 2008

3.6.1 08-20-08-GCC-Meeting-Minutes

GCC Minutes, December 15, 2010


Graduate Catalog: Academic Rigor


Graduate Catalog: Academic Standing


Graduate Catalog: Certificate Programs


Graduate Catalog: Comprehensive Assessment


Graduate Catalog: Dual Enrollment


Graduate Catalog: Early Admission


Graduate Catalog: Graduate Faculty


Graduate Program Directors and Coordinators Roster


Graduate Catalog: Master’s Level Program


Graduate Catalog: New Masters Degrees


Graduate Catalog: Online Courses


Graduate Catalog: Prerequisites


Graduate Catalog: Research-Oriented Programs


Graduate Catalog: Research Skills Component


Graduate Certificate Programs

3.6.1 Certificate policy

Graduate Council

3.6.1 Faculty Manual Appendix F II

Graduate Curriculum and Program Development Manual: Numbering Procedures

3.6.1 Graduate Curriculum and Program Development Manual


Graduate Curriculum Committee


Graduate Curriculum Committee Charge

3.6.2 GCC-charge

Graduate Curriculum Committee Meeting Minutes

3.6.3 GCC

Graduate Faculty

3.6.1 Faculty Manual Appendix F

Graduate Faculty Charge

3.6.1 Faculty Manual Appendix F

Graduate Program Compliance Audit Status Report – July 2012

Graduate Program Compliance Audit Status Report.July 2012

Graduate Program Directors Handbook



Graduate School Admissions Board Minutes: Academic Policy

3.6.1 Minutes_GSAB_2011_06_06

Graduate School Admissions Board Minutes: Policy Issues

3.6.1 Minutes_GSAB_2011_06_06

GSAB Minutes, January 24, 2011


Institutional Effectiveness Council

Institutional Effectiveness Council

Office of Academic Programs

3.6.1 Office of Academic Programs

Overview of Graduate Curriculum Development

3.6.1 Graduate Curriculum and Program Development Manual

Periodic Program Review

Academic Program Review Guidelines

Policies and Procedures for Graduate Certificate Programs

3.6.1 Policies_for_Development_of_Certificates1106

Request for Authorization to Plan (RAP)

Request for Authorization to Plan 400.1.1.3G

Request to Establish A New Degree Program (RAE)

3.6.1 Request-Authorization-to-Establish_092809

Requests to Establish New Master’s Degree Programs

3.6.1 Master-s-Checksheet-09-10

Procedure for Unit Academic Program Review

Academic Program Review Guidelines

Unit Academic Program Review Schedule

3.6.1 Program Review schedule

University Assessment Committee

IPAR - Assessment - University Assessment Committee