Recommendations Regarding Changes to Title 5, Section 40510,
The Master's Degree

AS-3171-14/AA (Rev)


RESOLVED: That the Academic Senate of the California State University (ASCSU) endorse the proposed changes to Title 5, section 40510, subsections b.2.A and B, that establish a requirement that at least 70% of total units required by a master’s degree program must be completed in residence; and that specify courses in master’s degree programs must be “designed primarily for graduate study”; and be it further

RESOLVED: That the ASCSU recommend that the percentage of courses “designed primarily for graduate study” be increased from 50% to 60% of the units required for the degree; and be it further

RESOLVED: That the ASCSU recommend that campuses consider adopting policies governing the determination of whether a course is “designed primarily for graduate study,” and be it further

RESOLVED: That the ASCSU distribute this resolution to the CSU Board of Trustees, Chancellor, campus Presidents, Provosts/Vice Presidents of Academic Affairs, campus Senate Chairs, campus Graduate Deans, and campus Graduate Coordinators.

RATIONALE: Three proposed changes to Title 5 language respecting master’s degrees have been reviewed by the Academic Affairs committee. The ASCSU believes these three changes are prudent and fortify the rigor of master’s degrees. 

The first change relates to residency requirements, and converts reference to a specific number of semester/quarter units (21 and 32, respectively) into a percentage of total units required by a degree program (70%). This change seems appropriate given the variability in total unit counts among degree programs. Thus, no matter the actual number of units required to complete a master’s degree, 70% of those units must be completed in residence. As an example, for a typical 30 semester unit master’s degree, 70% is 21 units, so this revision to Title 5 language merely clarifies a ratio which has governed most programs historically. Since some degree programs exceed this typical unit limit, shifting to a percentage of the total number of units seems appropriate.

The second change similarly seems reasonable. Instead of describing courses as “organized primarily for graduate students,” the proposed language seems to promote more rigor because it specifies a certain percentage of courses shall be “designed primarily for graduate study.” In the case of the existing language, it could be argued that pre-requisite courses or other preparatory
work is “organized primarily for graduate students,” and yet such work might not rise to the level of a course “designed primarily for graduate study.” The ASCSU presumes courses designed for graduate study to include assignments and content that are graduate-appropriate.

Relatedly, a third recommendation made by the ASCSU, with the assent of the graduate deans, is that the requirement for the number of units designed for graduate study be elevated from 50% to 60% of the units required for the degree. If one-half of the units for a master’s degree are required to be in courses designed for graduate study, then axiomatically one-half of the units can be in non-graduate-appropriate courses, which calls into question whether the degree conferred can truly be deemed a graduate degree. At the barest of minima, the ASCSU maintains that a simple majority of the degree should be in graduate-appropriate courses. Moving beyond that standard to promote academic quality, the ASCSU contends that 60% is a reasonable requirement for course work designed for graduate study.

Approved Unanimously– May 16, 2014


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