Frequently Asked Questions about the Structure for Supporting Graduate and Professional Education

What does this structure mean? What has changed?

This is first and foremost an alignment of the administrative structure that supports graduate and professional education, both of which are core to our mission and tied to the University's reputation. The administrative structure is not intended to dictate the sense of identity for faculty, staff, and students who teach, work, and study in graduate and professional programs.

The alignment provides a foundation for conversations about what is needed to support the distinctive needs of each community. This includes:

What problem was this structure intended to solve?

Provost Hanson had been hearing about the need to address issues left unresolved from the 2010 Graduate Restructuring as early as her interview for the Provost position in 2011. That feedback, together with other faculty analyses, such as that done by the recent Special Committee on Graduate Education, made clear that there was substantial dissatisfaction with alignments of responsibilities and expectations.

While the 2015 realignment does not solve all issues from the start, it provides the foundation to begin to address those issues. Some of these issues include:

What principles informed the Provost’s thinking?

The guiding principles for the alignment are that the structure:

Which programs are aligned with which side of the structure? Who decides and how is that division informed? To what extent can departments and colleges participate in that decision?

Although we acknowledge that most programs have research and professional aspects, programs are aligned with one (and only one) side of the structure. Also, each degree program aligns wholly with one side of the structure or the other—i.e., programs cannot assign sub-plans or other parts of degree programs to different sides of the administrative structure.

College and program leaders have participated in the process to determine which programs are graduate and which are professional. Most of these decisions are easy and obvious, but in hard cases, college and program leaders offer their counsel to the Provost, who makes the final decisions.

General guidelines are used to sort programs. For example, a distinction can be drawn between programs that have external quality assurance processes and those that rely exclusively on internal processes; between programs that typically lead to licensure exams and those that do not; and so on. Thus, we generally expect research-based graduate education degree programs to have these sorts of characteristics:

Professionally focused postsecondary education programs are characterized, though not absolutely, by these sorts of attributes:

An additional point: the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education has been charged to articulate the objective(s) of the Master of Arts, Master of Science, and Master of Fine Arts degrees. Program leaders should consider changing master's-level degree objectives to designated "M. of XXX" if an existing M.A./M.S. degree objective is out of line with these articulated characteristics or with the general division resulting from the new administrative structure.

Under the model, an M.S. Plan C falls under the research side. The degree, however, only involves coursework, and thus does not seem to be described in the diagram/accompanying text.

This is a general model, but not absolute or perfect. We don’t subdivide degree options or degree subplans (even though there may be some inconsistency). Some departments have multiple degrees, but unclear differentiation. Faculty should have conversations about how degrees differ.

Does this cause professional programs with strong research components and relationships to lose that important emphasis? Or graduate programs with strong professional aspects to lose those?

No. Professional programs need not lose their research aspects. Graduate programs need not lose their professional aspects.

How do University policies apply to graduate and professional programs? Are there two separate sets of policies?

No. The thirteen University Graduate and Professional Education policies currently apply to all graduate and professional programs and their students. The current exemptions of the J.D., L.L.M., M.D., Pharm.D., D.D.S., D.V.M., and M.B.A. (Twin Cities campus) degree programs have been maintained.

The Special Assistant to the Provost will convene Directors of Professional Studies to discuss where policies might benefit from adjustments to better fit professional programs. In addition, the Special Assistant to the Provost will convene leaders from the seven currently exempt programs to consider whether their programs would benefit from being included under University policies (with or without specified exceptions), or if these programs require other policy considerations.

Are graduate and professional communities able to continue to collaborate? For example, can professional students participate in the Graduate School’s orientation or do we need to set up separate programs like this?

Program leaders should continue to be collegial and collaborative and they need not create dual processes or administration for graduate and professional programs.

Graduate and professional students benefit from interaction with one another, and departmental and campus leaders should foster and support that interaction. As they administer and facilitate student programming and other activities, departments can use their discretion to group together students who are in similar programs, even if some of those programs are classified as graduate and some are classified as professional.

For example, if a department currently includes all students in one orientation, that need not change. If a professional program's leaders think their students would benefit by attending events sponsored by the Graduate School (e.g., orientation), leaders should collaborate to include those students as space and other constraints allow. Additionally, some coursework may serve both categories of students.

Students can continue to pursue graduate minors regardless of the community with which their program is aligned (although students in programs previously thought of as “first professional”—M.D., Phar.D., D.D.S., D.V.M., L.L.M, and J.D.—will continue to be ineligible to pursue graduate minors, as these structures are incompatible within the academic system).

Our students see themselves as graduate students, regardless of their degree objective.  Can our department just call all post-baccalaureate students “graduate” students?

Post-baccalaureate is not a term units, faculty, or students need to use, nor does this structure need to dictate the identity of students. Departments and students should continue to use whatever language makes sense locally, including calling students in professional programs “grad students” if they so wish.

How are roles such as the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) affected by the model? What new relationships with central administration can be anticipated?

The Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) model has been maintained, with the DGSs overseeing graduate education. They will continue to have a close relationship with the Graduate School.

Professional programs will need to identify a Director of Professional Studies (DPS) to work with a Special Assistant to the Provost for Professional Education and with central support units, although units may have just one person serve both roles (DGS and DPS), if they so desire.

In general, shared resources, processes, and services to support the units and programs are not only allowed but encouraged.

Collegiate units will continue to be the academic, degree-granting homes of academic programs, with exceptions to this rule made on the same basis as now—e.g., for some shared degree programs.

What is the role and scope of the Graduate School?

The Graduate School serves those programs that have as their primary purpose engaging students in the creation of new knowledge and scholarship. One comparatively small but important role is providing leadership for interdisciplinary degrees, i.e., post-baccalaureate programs delivered jointly by two or more colleges (including the professional schools). The Graduate School is listed as the degree home on the academic transcripts for all students enrolled in jointly-owned post-baccalaureate degree programs.

The Graduate School’s refined focus may also be of value in future efforts to raise external support for graduate education and research.

What is the role of the Special Assistant to the Provost for Professional Education? Why not a Vice Provost for Professional Education to parallel the graduate education structure?

Programs no longer associated with the Graduate School do require coordination and University-level leadership, which will is provided by a half-time Special Assistant to the Provost for Professional Education, filled by an experienced and respected faculty member from a professional program. The position has been funded through reallocation of existing resources and does not introduce new costs. The Special Assistant to the Provost works closely with and receives support from existing Provost’s Office staff.

The model does not replicate an administrative structure at the scale or scope of the Graduate School for a few reasons. First, professional programs are typically responsive to distinctive and external expectations and guidelines, so it is appropriate that there is less central coordination and more flexibility at the program level. Furthermore, quality assurance is guided, in part, by standards enforced by professional associations, accreditation bodies, or codes of ethics established by the relevant industry or profession. Finally, the Special Assistant to the Provost for Professional Education will work closely with and leverage the existing administrative support for professional programs that resides within the colleges and the Academic Health Center.

Specifically, the Special Assistant to the Provost is charged with:

How are diversity priorities supported across both communities?

The Graduate School’s Office for Diversity in Graduate Education, which has primary responsibility for post-baccalaureate diversity support and initiatives, moved to the Office of Equity and Diversity in 2009. That unit’s programs, such as the DOVE fellows, have in the past supported traditional, graduate education. The scope of that unit’s charge will likely include professional education and a name change to the “Office for Diversity in Graduate and Professional Education” will be considered.

How are Post-baccalaureate Education costs distributed? What are the effects on funding, for example the Quality Metrics program?

Administrative costs (such as those for degree progress and clearance and program review and approval) for Post-baccalaureate Education will be distributed through the existing Student Support cost pool. Funds for graduate student support and fellowships will be distributed across a cost pool aligned with graduate academic programs. Some funding pieces, including the Quality Metrics program, will need to be worked out. Effects (and costs) will be kept neutral. For example, if a professional program currently counts on Quality Metrics funds, we’ll make sure those funds (or an average) continues even if not through the Quality Metrics model.

Adjustments will be made in collegiate budgets to make the transition budget-neutral. Budget-neutral implementation ensures that no school will either gain or lose resources in order to effect the transition to a new model.