Part 3 - Comprehensive Standards

3.6.1  The institution’s post-baccalaureate professional degree programs, master’s and doctoral degree programs, are progressively more advanced in academic content than undergraduate programs. (Post-baccalaureate program rigor)

Partial Compliance
Not Applicable


UNO’s graduate degree programs are progressively more advanced and demanding than undergraduate programs.  UNO offers 34 master’s and 11 Ph.D. degrees. The University has no professional schools.  The Graduate School is responsible for oversight of all graduate programs with the advice of the Graduate Council. The Graduate Council develops graduate policies and procedures and articulates the expectations and values of graduate education to the campus.

Expectations for Graduate Education

The mission of graduate education at UNO is to prepare highly educated leaders for education, business, industry, and government. To fulfill that mission requires a highly qualified faculty, rigorous curricula, and students dedicated to research and scholarship as well as to development of one’s professional  career.

To clarify the expectations of graduate preparation, the Graduate Council approved in Fall 2013 a document titled Characteristics of a Graduate Education, which sets out the criteria for a high quality graduate program. The introduction sets the stage for understanding the difference between graduate and undergraduate education:

Graduate education is the beginning point for mastery of an academic discipline. While an undergraduate education provides a general overview of the components and cognitive areas of a discipline, graduate education is characterized by specialized training in the discipline's literature, theory, research methodology, application, and critical analysis. Graduate education is characterized by study of the discipline in depth as well as breadth.

The document further lists and defines seven essential characteristics of a quality graduate program:  1) Clarity of Purpose; 2) Core Knowledge; 3) Rigorous Curriculum; 4) Immersion in the discipline; 5) Critical Engagement; 6) Application of Knowledge; and 7) Culminating Experience(s).

The Characteristics of a Graduate Education is a “working” document in that it is used to evaluate and recommend the establishment of new graduate degree programs. Once the University of  Louisiana System Board of Supervisors gives the University permission to plan a new degree program, the dean of that college receives a copy​ of the Characteristics document with the reminder that the proposal includes all of the characteristics.

When the Graduate Council reviews a new degree program proposal, a check sheet with the characteristics and expectations is part of the evaluation process.

Learning Outcomes

Each graduate program has an assessment plan in place (see Standard that includes learning outcomes that are more advanced than those for the complementary undergraduate program. Learning outcomes include research competence and/or professional or creative practice. The accompanying chart places learning outcomes for all graduate and undergraduate degree programs side-by-side so the reader can readily see there is a significant difference in the graduate outcomes.

For example, the B.S. in Chemistry is geared toward proficiency in general chemistry and ability to conduct basic chemistry research in a supervised lab setting. The M.S. in Chemistry expects students to have a broad understanding of physical chemistry and two additional sub-disciplines. It also expects students to achieve some level of proficiency in written and oral communication relative to chemistry. 

The  B.A. in Political Science expects its graduates to have a basic understanding of political processes and be able to analyze and interpret information about political science (news, magazine articles, journals, etc.). Whereas, the M.A. student is expected to have a deeper understanding of the journal literature, research methodologies, and scholarly writing.

Course Approval Process

All proposals for new graduate courses and curricula changes must be approved by the Graduate Council, which is composed of Graduate Credentialed faculty from each college (See Standard 3.4.1 for a detailed description of the approval process). At each level, beginning at the department and ending at the Provost’s office, new courses and curriculum changes are reviewed to ensure that they are rigorous in both content and student expectations.

Co-Listed Graduate/Undergraduate Courses

UNO offers graduate credit at three levels:

  • 5000-level: Beginning graduate courses that are dual-listed with 4000-level advanced undergraduate courses
  • 6000-level: Master’s and Doctoral
  • 7000-level: Doctoral and Doctoral research

Currently, the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors Bylaws and Rules Graduate Policy requires master’s students to satisfactorily complete at least 50% of the hours in courses open only to graduate students—ie., 6000- and 7000-level.  The remaining hours can be in courses that are co-listed/co-seated with an advanced undergraduate course.

The UNO Graduate Council has recommended and the Vice President for Academic Affairs has approved 5000-level policy that is more stringent in that it  permits only 25% of required courses to be at the 5000-level. That policy will be effective with students entering Fall 2015 as it will require some programs to make changes in their curricula.  

The syllabus for each 5000-level course is reviewed by the Graduate Council as part of the course approval process and will be recommended only if it contains a description of the additional work  required for graduate credit beyond that required of undergraduates, and that additional work is rigorous as befits a graduate course. Syllabi lacking such differentiation and rigor are returned to the academic unit for revision.

Typically, graduate students in a 5000-level course are required to complete an additional research paper, readings with critical essays, case studies, projects, etc. Graduate students are also evaluated on a more rigorous basis than the undergraduates on common exams, homework assignments, and class participation. Below is a chart providing examples picked at random of how various 5000-level courses meet the requirement that post-baccalaureate work is more advanced.


PSYC 5320 - Physiological Psychology Graduate students write a 12 to 15 page research paper on a topic approved by the instructor.
PSYC 5530 - Introduction to Abnormal Psychology Graduate Students: Each week answer one question/prompt from the instructor using short-answer essay.  Also write a 15-page paper on 1 disorder.  Include symptoms, etiology, treatment and any personal experience you may have had with someone with the disorder.   Both must be acceptable before final grade is calculated.

SOC 5080--Perspectives

Graduate students 1) have 8 additional reading assignments and additional questions on exams over those readings; 2) Graduate students must read an additional book written by a feminist author or dealing with issues relevant to gender studies and write a 5-page book critique. 
ACCT 5154 - Estate and Gift Taxation Graduate students are given an Estate and Gift Tax Comprehensive Case in which to analyze the fact pattern and answer 10 questions. Questions are comprised of calculations, theory and advice that would be given "clients."
GEOG 5530 - Biogeography Graduate students complete a term paper of 10 or more pages on a subject of their choosing.   Graduate students will be expected to demonstrate more detailed and sophisticated understanding of course concepts on tests and exercises than undergraduates.
ENME 5734 - Reliability, Availability, and Maint.  of Engineering  Systems Graduate students write an 8-12 page research paper that synthesizes critical literature associated with one topic addressed in the course


The accompanying spreadsheet of 5000-level courses includes 19 examples that come from a larger sample of 25 (5 from each of the 5 colleges). The 6 not included in the spreadsheet either are no longer co-listed with an undergraduate course and in the process of being renumbered to 6000-level, or have not had graduate students enrolled for the past 4 semesters. 

Research and Professional Practice

As explained in Standard 3.6.2, all master’s and doctoral programs at UNO emphasize either research and writing or professional practice—or both. As a doctoral granting institution with a strong emphasis on external funding to support its Ph.D. programs, UNO expects graduate students to engage in research and, where appropriate, to participate in laboratory research.  In addition, most of our master’s programs require the completion of a thesis, and all of our doctoral programs require the completion and defense of a dissertation, which is an original piece of research. All of our professional and creative arts programs (e.g., MBA, Master of Arts Administration, Film), require a professional experience, creative portfolio or creative production. A list of research, scholarship and professional practice requirements is provided.


Between admission to a master’s program and graduation, students must pass several “milestones” that mark advancement.  The first milestone for a master’s student is admission to candidacy. To be admitted to candidacy, most master’s students must pass a qualifying examination typically after completion of 12-15 graduate hours. The purpose is to assess the student’s ability to continue on with more advanced graduate work and independent research.  After completion of all coursework, students then take a comprehensive exam, which may take the form of an exam, a capstone course, submission of a portfolio, or other evaluation appropriate to the discipline. For students completing a thesis, a final exam or thesis defense is required. 

For doctoral students, the first milestone is a qualifying exam taken after completion of 15-18  graduate hours. After the student passes the qualifying exam, he or she becomes an “applicant for the doctorate.” Once the student has completed most of the required coursework, a general examination is administered. The general exam can be oral or written or both and must be comprehensive enough to demonstrate a level of expertise over a broad segment of the student’s field as well as the specialized subject knowledge and research methodology necessary to complete the dissertation.  Students who satisfactorily pass the general exam are admitted to candidacy and allowed to register for dissertation hours. The last milestone for the doctoral student is the final exam over the dissertation—also called the dissertation defense.

These milestones are unique to graduate programs and serve to ensure that the student has a sufficient grasp of the canon, understands and is able to apply theories, is competent in independent research, is able to deal with uncertainty and paradoxes in the discipline, and can communicate well.

Program Reviews

All academic programs, including graduate programs, are being reviewed in Fall 2014 as part of a comprehensive self study to identify programs to be discontinued and programs in need of resources to ensure viability. Following the initial review,Program Reviews, will be inaugurated in Academic Year 2015-16 to provide a check on the quality of graduate programs. These reviews occur every 6 years and consist of a departmental “self-study” and an “external” review prepared by a reviewer from another university.  The external review includes recommendations to the college and University administration. Completing the six-year review is a written response by the department to the recommendations and plans for moving forward.

Supporting Documents

Document Description
Document IconChar_Grad_EdGraduate Council Document "Characteristics of a Graduate Education"
Document IconExamples_Grad_RequireExamples of Graduate Requirements
Document IconGrad_Checklist_CharChecklist Aligned with Characteristics of a Graduate Education
Document IconGrad_Email_DeanEmail to Dean Regarding Graduate Program Requirements
Document IconGrad_SLO_ChartChart Comparing Undergraduate and Graduate Student Learning Outcomes
Document IconSample_Syllabi_5000_CoursesSample Syllabi of 5000 Level Courses
Document IconUL_System_Rule_11_11_13University of Louisiana System Rule on Graduate Policy
Document IconUNO_Policy_5000_CoursesUniversity of New Orleans Policy on 5000 Level Courses
Document IconUNO_Policy_Grad_Program_ReviewUniversity of New Orleans Program Review Policy