Program length is appropriate for each of the institution’s educational programs.

Compliance Judgment:  In compliance


All degree programs at East Carolina University (hereafter, ECU or the institution) are approved through a process of shared governance, which assures that all campus-approved and University of North Carolina (UNC) approved degree regulations, including program length, are followed. The UNC Academic Program Development Procedures suggest program length requirements for certificates and for all undergraduate and graduate programs in the University of North Carolina system. ECU determines that the length of certificates, undergraduate, and graduate academic programs adhere to best practices in the various academic fields through several processes, including the degree approval process, unit academic program review (7 year cycle), review by accreditation organizations, ongoing program assessment, and the use of professional advisory boards, which advise departments about program content and program length.

At East Carolina University, the Undergraduate Catalog: Degree Requirements state that 120 semester hours (s.h.) is the minimum length for all baccalaureate degrees. The graduate catalog: Master of Arts and Master of Science section indicates that the master of arts and master of science degrees require a minimum of 30 s.h. The East Carolina University Office of Academic Program Planning and Development provides additional guidance and review assistance throughout the campus approval process for all types of academic programs, i.e., certificates, minors, concentrations, and degrees. In addition the ECU Faculty Manual, Part VI, Section VII defines faculty responsibility and review procedures in program and curriculum development. The length, in semester hours and specified years-of-study, of each of East Carolina University’s educational programs is consistent with practices at accredited peer institutions and is, therefore, appropriate for the degree type.  Currently there are 102 bachelor’s degrees, 77 master’s degrees, 2 intermediate (post-masters) certificates, and 16 doctoral degrees. 

The university also offers four first professional degrees:

1. The Doctor of Audiology (AUD) degree is a joint AUD/PhD (125 semester hours).  Students must complete the research PhD in Communication Sciences and Disorders (53 post-masters semester hours) in order to obtain the Doctor of Audiology. Information describing the joint degree can found in the graduate school catalog.

2. The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) requires completion of 106 semester hours.

3. The Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) admitted its first students in Fall 2011.  The 2011-2012 curriculum requires 220 hours over 11 terms; curriculum information about the School of Dental Medicine can be found on the School of Dental Medicine website.

4. The Doctor of Medicine (MD) requires 58 semester hours beyond the Bachelor of Science degree. The program length (4 years) for the MD program is found in the Online Catalog of the Brody School of Medicine.

Additionally, East Carolina University offers 75 departmental certificates, which range in length from 9 semester hours (which can be completed in one year) to 56 semester hours.  The nurse anesthesia graduate certificate (56 semester hours) can be completed in 4 years.

Distance Education (Off campus and Online) Programs

All ECU degree programs are approved by the UNC Board of Governors (BOG) followed by a subsequent request to provide instruction via distance education. Appendix C  University of North Carolina Request for Authorization to Establish a New Degree Program asks “Are there plans to offer all or a portion of this program to students off-campus or online? “   and includes the following “Note:  If a degree program has not been approved by the Board of Governors, its approval for alternative, online, or distance delivery must wait until BOG program approval is received. (400.1.1[R], page 3)”

Therefore, programs offered through distance or correspondence education mirror on-campus programs with respect to program length.  All distance education programs (including all degrees and certificates) meet the same requirements as degrees offered on the resident campus. There are no accelerated courses or programs.  In one instance, the program (not course) completion time is actually lengthened by one year to accommodate the students enrolled who are working full-time.  All graduate programs fall within the graduate school’s six-year completion requirement.

East Carolina University offers several graduate and undergraduate programs at off-campus sites.  One unique example is the Wells Fargo Partnership East program, an East Carolina University College of Education degree completion partnership with North Carolina community colleges. Students graduate from East Carolina University with a four-year degree in elementary education, special education, or middle grades education by completing the first two years of the program at any one of ECU's partnering community colleges. Students then take ECU courses online and/or through face-to-face instruction in the evenings at one of the four consortia hub sites. This degree completion partnership is designed specifically for students who transition from a North Carolina community college.

Examples at the graduate level include the degrees offered by the College of Nursing (BSN and MSN) and the School of Social Work (BSW, MSW). All degree programs offered at these off-campus sites are identical with the on-campus programs. The university does not offer a unique off-campus degree program that differs from its resident campus degrees.

ECU also offers a number of online degree programs. The requirements for these online degree programs are identical in curricula to programs delivered on campus. All ECU degree programs are approved by the UNC Board of Governors as face-to-face programs; a subsequent plan or request to provide instruction via distance or online methods represents a difference in delivery mode only.

Baccalaureate Degrees

ECU requires that all baccalaureate degree programs comprise a minimum of 120 s.h. of study; most typically require 124 s.h. to 126 s.h. The The UNC Policy Manual 400.1.5 requires that baccalaureate degree programs be limited to no more than 128 semester hours of study. Any semester hour requirement beyond 128 must be approved by the UNC Board of Governors. Any program authorized by the Board of Governors to require 135 semester hours or more is officially designated as a five-year baccalaureate program. When this regulation went into effect in 1995, two ECU programs exceeded 128 semester hours and were approved to remain at that level: the BFA in art education (134 s.h.) and the BS in clinical laboratory science (131 s.h.).  The Program Length for ECU Academic Programs chart lists all degree programs and their requisite semester hours.

To improve graduation rates, the North Carolina General Assembly mandated that the UNC system “Board of Governors shall require constituent institutions to set a goal of increasing to 15 the average number of credit hours per term taken by full-time undergraduates" as stated in "Fifteen Hour Average Course Load Requirement for Full-Time Undergraduates" in the UNC Policy Manual: 400.1.5.2[R].

Students who satisfactorily complete an average of 15-16 credit hours per semester at ECU should be able to obtain their degrees in four years or eight semesters. There are some factors that may extend this timeframe: repeating courses, failing to meet course prerequisites, changing majors, taking unnecessary or inappropriate courses, failing to enroll in required courses when they are offered, withdrawing from school, dropping out of courses that the student is failing, adding minors or double majors, and becoming academically ineligible to continue enrollment. Participation in internships, practica, cooperative education, and study abroad programs may or may not extend the number of semesters for graduation.

These program length policies, along with a listing of all ECU undergraduate degrees and post-baccalaureate degrees and requirements, are accessible online in the East Carolina University undergraduate catalog.  Information about certificates, interdisciplinary minors, and pre-professional and two-year curricula also can be accessed in the undergraduate catalog.

Master’s and Doctoral Degrees

ECU requires a minimum of 30 s.h. for the 76 master of arts and master of science degrees. The master of arts in education (MAEd) requires a minimum of 36 to 39 s.h. credit, depending on the teaching area. The detailed course requirement (including length of degree) for each program is left to the discretion of faculty in the departments and schools/colleges. The master of arts in teaching (MAT) is a 39 s.h. degree, of which 9 s.h. are internship. The time limit for completing all credit, including transfer credit, in a non-doctoral program is six years (except for the master of social work, which is limited to four years for full- and part-time students). The Graduate School will consider petitions for time extensions and, if an extension is granted, will specify the conditions governing the time extension.

The College of Education and Harriot College of Arts and Sciences house the two specialist programs.  The Educational Administration and Supervision degree (EdS) in the College of Education requires 38 s.h. of work beyond the master’s degree.  The Master of Arts and Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS) is housed in the Department of Psychology, Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, and requires 63 s.h. of work beyond the master’s degree.

Requirements for doctoral programs at ECU vary according to the discipline’s accrediting body requirements. At the present time, the semester-hour requirements for doctoral degrees range from 65 to 106 post-baccalaureate and 30 to 65 post-master’s semester hours.

These policies, along with a listing of all ECU graduate degrees and requirements, are accessible online in the East Carolina University Graduate Catalog

Departmental Certificates

As shown in the table Program Length of ECU Certificates, East Carolina University offers a total of 75 undergraduate certificate programs and graduate certificate programs which range in length from 9 semester hours (which can be completed in one year) to 56 semester hours.  The nurse anesthesia graduate certificate, which requires 56 semester hours, can be completed in 4 years. 

Program length information about undergraduate certificates can be accessed in the undergraduate catalog listing of Degrees, Minors, and CertificatesExamples of Undergraduate Certificate Programs includes descriptions and program length as published for several undergraduate certificate programs.  Program length information about graduate certificates can be accessed in the Graduate Degrees, Minors, and Certificates page of the graduate catalog.  Examples of Graduate Certificate Programs includes descriptions and program length as published for several graduate certificate programs.

ECU employs a strategic review process by which faculty program planners are able to determine and verify the appropriate length for proposed degrees and certificates.  The program review processes are briefly summarized below: they include the academic program approval process, the unit academic program review process, the ongoing outcome assessment process, and other determinants of program length (professional accreditation, state licensure exams, and consultation from program advisory councils).

New Program Approval Process 

New degree programs and new certificate programs must be approved by the originating department or program faculty, the relevant school or college curriculum committee, the University Curriculum Committee (undergraduate) or the Graduate Curriculum Committee (graduate) and the Graduate Council.  All new degree and certificate proposals must be approved by the ECU Faculty Senate’s Educational Policies and Planning Committee and subsequently by the Faculty Senate.  Review by ECU's Academic Council and approval by the chancellor complete the campus process.  Final approval for academic degrees must come from the UNC Board of Governors.  As part of the UNC Academic Program Development Procedures, department faculty must provide comparative information about similar programs in the discipline at other institutions, especially information about program length.

Unit Academic Program Review

The primary goal of unit academic program reviews is to improve both undergraduate and graduate education at East Carolina University.  Unit academic program reviews, which are conducted on a seven-year cycle, offer a way of achieving that goal by providing guidance to improve individual programs.

Unit academic program review consists of a self-study completed by each program, followed by a review by a committee comprised of academicians from both within and outside the university.  The outcomes for program reviews have been the identification of program strengths and weaknesses with a determination of overall program quality and specific recommendations for improvement. Peer review has been an effective way to maintain and improve program quality as ECU has sought to respond to the recommendations for improvement as suggested by the Review Committee.  In addition, periodic review is used as a basis for effective allocation of resources by using the faculty developed program benchmarks as indicators of change.  Biennial updates of the Final Action Plan are required from faculty as part of the program review process. Thirty departments/schools have been reviewed since spring 2009; documentation related to their unit academic review processes is located on the Academic Program Review SharePoint Site.

All unit programs are subject to the review process, although it is recognized that some programs and/or academic units at East Carolina University hold accreditation reviews that include a review of both undergraduate and graduate programs. In these instances, the accreditation self-study substitutes for the required self-study of the Unit Academic Program Review.

Ongoing Outcomes Assessment

Outcomes assessment is conducted annually.  Collection and analysis of data related to outcomes, as well as resulting program changes, are reported by program units each October.  Unit academic program review and ongoing outcomes assessment are interrelated in two ways: (1) a description of the outcomes assessment plan and a summary of findings from previous assessments are included in the self-study for the on-site unit academic program review and (2) in each report, faculty in the program are asked to record progress in implementing the action plan from the most recent on-site program review. 

Other Determinants of Program Length

A majority of the institution’s professional academic programs are accredited by national or international professional organizations. The current (7/24/12) List of Accredited Programs is attached. The periodic self-study for accreditation requires that faculty members compare their existing programs with standards established for the discipline. Those reports require that the programs demonstrate appropriate program length. Several examples of completed accreditation processes (Social Work, Business, Engineering, Nursing, Construction Management [undergraduate], Physical Therapy, Physician Assistant) can be found on the Academic Program Review SharePoint Site: External Accreditation Review.

State licensure requirements for some professions (nursing, education, social work, engineering, business, marriage and family therapy, restorative therapies, etc.) have established curriculum mandates, which provide both content and length guidelines in the respective degree areas.  ECU students from these discipline areas have a successful pass rate (more than 80%) annually on licensure examinations in these areas.  Most recently, College of Nursing graduates earned an average passing rate of more than 95% on the NC Nursing Licensure Examination.

Advisory Boards
Most of ECU’s schools and departments utilize community advisory boards (alumni, employers, etc.) to ensure relevance of programs’ curriculum content and curriculum length.

Unit academic program review, ongoing outcomes assessment, and state licensure examinations are important gauges of a program because they demonstrate the performance of the program’s students and graduates.  These assessment and evaluation methods provide data that faculty use to evaluate the effectiveness and the efficiency of their curricula for student learning and to make curricular changes to program length to ensure that students achieve mastery of the course content.

In summary, through these policies, procedures, and practices, East Carolina University ensures that program length is appropriate for each academic program.




Reference Title


Academic Program Review SharePoint Site

Academic Program Review Sharepoint Site

Academic Program Review SharePoint Site: External Accreditation Review

External Accreditation Review

Appendix C: University of North Carolina Request for Authorization to Establish a New Degree Program


Degrees, Minors, and Certificates

Ex. of Undergraduate Certificate Programs

Departmental Certificates

ECU Certificates whrs

Doctor of Audiology (AUD)


Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD)

Doctor of Dental Medicine

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)


Doctor of Medicine (MD)

Brody Curriculum

East Carolina University Office of Academic Program Planning and Development

ECU Office of Academic Program Development

East Carolina University Undergraduate Catalog

Ugrad - Academic Programs

ECU Faculty Manual, Part VI, Section VII

Examples of Graduate Certificate Programs

Ex. of Graduate Certificate Programs

Examples of Undergraduate Certificate Programs

Ex. of Undergraduate Certificate Programs

Graduate Degrees, Minors, and Certificates of the Graduate Catalog

Degrees, Minors and Certificates-GR

Graduate Catalog: Master of Arts and Master of Science

4.4 grad

List of Accredited Programs

Accreditation Cycle 7-24-12

Program Length for ECU Academic Programs

ECU API whrs

UNC Academic Program Development Procedures


UNC Policy Manual, 400.1.5

The UNC Policy Manual 400.1.5

UNC Policy Manual, 400.1.5.2[R]

UNC Policy Manual 400.1.5.2[R]

Undergraduate Catalog

Pre-Professional and Two-Year Curricula

Undergraduate Catalog: Degree Requirements

4.4 Ugrad

Unit Academic Program Reviews

Proceddures for UNITACAPROGRAM-REVIEW-6-10-3