Academic Year – The part of the year that includes the fall and spring semesters.
Add-On Graduate Certificate - Students can be enrolled in a graduate certificate program, and concurrently enrolled in another degree-seeking program.
Advisor / Major Professor / Committee Chair – Every graduate student must have an advisor from the department that offers the academic major. The terms advisor, major professor, and committee chair are used at different times and by different departments to denote faculty members who play a central role in guiding graduate students through their programs of study. Students should learn which terms are used in their home department and what types of roles these faculty members play at the different steps in a graduate program. Some programs assign a temporary advisor until the student identifies a major professor who will serve as the guidance committee chair. In other programs, students enter with a major professor who serves as the advisor and guidance committee chair throughout the duration of the program. In most cases the major professor serves as the guidance and examination committee chair.
In general terms:
- The advisor works with the graduate student while the student takes course work and explores the research and creative work of the program’s faculty members.
- The major professor is the faculty member who guides the student while they conduct research and complete the thesis or dissertation (and/or other culminating experiences such as comprehensive examinations). The major professor and the student together select faculty members to invite to serve on the student’s guidance committee. Students should familiarize themselves with their home department’s practices for assigning major professors.
Whether called the advisor or major professor, the faculty member advises and mentors students on a range of topics, including course selection and program requirements. Additionally, these faculty members will supervise the student’s research and facilitate communication with other faculty in the major, other departments, and the Graduate School. Continuous evaluation of the student is required and the advising faculty member must review and approve the student’s progress and program, including:
- An objective evaluation each semester after grades are posted to review academic standing (good standing, probation, or dismissal),
- A determination regarding continuation in the program each semester, particularly when the program has more rigorous standards than the minimums established by the Graduate School,
- An evaluation of performance on comprehensive examinations.
In some academic programs, the Director of Graduate Studies may perform the review of a student’s progress in consultation with the advisor / major professor.
The student should identify the advisor / major professor as soon as possible to facilitate progress towards degree completion. With most programs, the major professor chairs the guidance committee. Students may elect, in consultation with the major professor, a co-advisor, co-major professor, or guidance committee co-chair.
Audit – A registration status that allows a student (with the approval of the instructor) to enroll in a course without receiving credit.
Catalog – A resource of all academic policies and procedures, college and degree requirements, faculty, and course descriptions.
Campus Code - Each graduate student is assigned a campus code which indicates a students main campus location, the specific course sections a student can enroll, and the graduate fees that will be assessed.
Certificate - Graduate certificate programs are for-credit programs, based entirely on credit courses, and appear on the academic transcript. Graduate certificate programs are required to have student learning outcomes and an assessment plan reported annually through the University’s adopted process.
Cognate – A cognate is an area of study that is subordinate or secondary to a concentration. Cognates are closely related in a direct way. Cognates support a major and concentration.
Collateral – A collateral is an area of study that is subordinate or secondary to a concentration. Collaterals are related but not in a direct way. Collaterals support a major and concentration.
Concentration – Concentrations are the highest level of disciplinary content in the major. Concentrations are defined by the faculty and must be approved through the curriculum process. Students take course work, as defined by the faculty, to support the area of study. In many UT departments, concentrations are created for common sub-disciplines. Concentrations are identified on the official transcript.
Contact Hours – The number of hours the class meets per week.
Core Course Requirement – Core course requirements are taken by all students in the major, regardless of concentration, sub-discipline, subspecialty, collateral, or cognate.
Corequisite – Specific conditions, requirements, or courses that must be completed at the same time as another course.
Course Load – The maximum load for a graduate student is 15 credit hours during fall and spring semesters. While 9 credit hours are considered full-time for federal financial aid, the typical full academic load varies by discipline. For the summer semester, graduate students may register for a maximum of 12 credit hours in an entire summer semester or for a maximum of 6 credit hours in a five-week summer session. Students may enroll in only one course during a mini-term session.
Students holding a one-half (50 percent full-time equivalent, FTE) time assistantship normally should enroll in at least 6 credit hours during the semesters of the assistantship. A one-fourth (25 percent FTE) time graduate assistant normally should take at least 9 credit hours during the semesters of the assistantship. A student must be enrolled in at least 9 credit hours to be considered full-time for federal financial aid purposes, even if the student has an assistantship. The section entitled Policy for the Administration of Graduate Assistantships contains additional information about assistantships.
Registration for more than 15 credit hours during any semester, or for more than 12 credit hours in the summer semester, is not permissible without prior approval. The academic advisor may allow registration of up to 18 credit hours during a semester if the student has achieved a cumulative grade point average of 3.60 or better in at least 9 credit hours of graduate work with no outstanding incompletes. The Graduate Course Overload form can be found on the Graduate School website.
Courses audited do not count toward minimum credit hours required for financial aid purposes.
Course Number – The three-digit number that identifies a specific course; such as 502, in Registration for Use of Facilities 502.
Course Title – The name of a specific course that indicates subject and content.
Credit Hour – The unit of credit is the semester credit hour, or “credit” for the sake of brevity. The number of credits assigned to a course is determined by the faculty in the unit offering the course and is documented through the course approval process governed by the Undergraduate and/or Graduate Councils of the Faculty Senate. The awarding of credit indicates that through assessment of student learning, an instructor has determined that a student has demonstrated achievement of the learning objectives associated with a course.
For classes that are taught in-person in a traditional lecture-based format over the course of a semester with 14 weeks of instruction, one credit represents 50 minutes per week of direct faculty instruction in a face-to-face classroom setting and a minimum of 100 minutes per week, outside the classroom setting, during which a student engages actively with the course content. (This represents a minimum of 2.5 hours of student work per week, or 35 hours per semester.) This engagement may include reading course-related material, completing writing-based assignments, reviewing material presented in the classroom setting, completing projects and homework assignments, solving problems that support the learning objectives of the course, performing group work with other students enrolled in the course, reviewing and responding to instructor feedback, and/or similar activities.
For online, hybrid, and “flipped” classes, as well as other classes taught in modalities differing from traditional in-person lecture-based formats (whether synchronous, asynchronous, or a mix of the two), a credit represents a minimum of approximately 35 hours during which a student engages actively with the course instructor and the course content (which may include direct instruction, readings, assignments, projects, assessments, discussions, collaborative work with other students, and reviewing, responding to, and providing feedback). When a course is offered both in a traditional in-person lecture-based format and in another format or modality, the fundamental learning objectives for the course remain the same, independent of format or modality, and the different modalities represent substantially equivalent workloads and learning outcomes for students.
For in-person classes that include or consist of laboratory, studio, fieldwork, or similar components, two to three hours per week of these components, over the course of a semester with 14 weeks of instruction, typically equates to one credit. For courses that are primarily based on internships, practicum experiences, research, directed readings, independent study, or thesis or dissertation writing, the credits associated with the course are based on outcome expectations established by the faculty in the department, school, or college offering the course.
This definition of the credit hour provides the university with the flexibility to accommodate a variety of instructional formats and modalities.
Curriculum – A program of courses that meets the requirements for a degree in a particular field of study.
Degree Program – The degree program is an area of study approved as such by the institution and the Board of Trustees and listed on the official inventory of degree programs. The degree, which is an award signifying rank or level of educational attainment and which is conferred on students who have successfully completed a degree program, is represented by an official degree designation, e.g., MA, Master of Arts.
Director of Graduate Studies – Each academic department has designated one or more tenured or tenure-track faculty member as director(s) of graduate studies. Directors of graduate studies work with the assistance of other graduate faculty members to administer the graduate program(s) in the department. Directors also serve as their department’s primary contact with the Graduate School and as the initial point of contact for students interested in the department and its programs. Some departments may name coordinators for the specific concentrations within a degree program.
Dismissal – When a student’s academic performance is consistently poor over time and his/her GPA is below 3.0, he/she will no longer be allowed to enroll. See section on Academic Standing .
Doctoral Faculty – Those faculty who have been approved to direct the scholarship, creative work, and other projects of doctoral students.
Drop/Add – Changing a student’s course schedule by adding and/or dropping a course or courses.
Elective Courses – Elective courses are chosen by the student in consultation with the major professor/advisor. These courses may be linked by discipline. The elective courses will count toward the total number of hours needed for the degree program.
Emphasis Area – An emphasis area is a specific subject area within an approved degree program and major and typically runs between 6 and 12 credit hours.
Final Exams – Tests or exercises given at the end of a semester. A schedule for Final Exams is listed in the Timetable each semester.
Full-Time Enrollment – For federal financial aid purposes, the student must enroll in a minimum of 9 credit hours for full-time enrollment.
Grade Point Average (GPA) – A measure of scholastic performance. The GPA is obtained by dividing the number of grade points by the hours of work attempted in graded courses.
Graduate Committees – During the course of a graduate program, a student will work with faculty in many ways. The faculty affiliated with each major has developed specific committees that work with the student. It is incumbent upon the student to become familiar with the organization of their specific graduate program. The different types of graduate committees students may encounter include
- Guidance Committee - selection of appropriate courses, review of research proposal/prospectus, and defense of thesis/dissertation or review of non-thesis projects. For master’s programs see information under Master’s Committee; for the Specialist in Education degree, see information under EdS Committee; for doctoral programs see information under Doctoral Committee.
- Qualifying and/or Comprehensive Examination Committee - creation and review of qualifying examinations for admission to candidacy for doctoral degrees, sometimes referred to as the comprehensive examination or comps, or a final comprehensive examination for non-thesis programs at the master’s level. See more information about these under Doctoral Examination.
- Graduate Program Committee - the faculty committee that manages the graduate program including curriculum, assessment of student learning outcomes, and graduate student semester-by-semester progress
Depending upon the size of the graduate program and practices of the discipline, the major professor may serve as the chair of the guidance committee at the master’s and doctoral levels, the qualifying examination committee, the master’s and doctoral comprehensive examination committee, and evaluate semester-by-semester progress of their own graduate students. In larger programs, the graduate faculty members may appoint a subset of faculty to guidance committees or the other aforementioned committees.
The student is responsible to maintain close consultation with the major professor and other members of the guidance committee to ensure to progress in the program.
See Programs and Program Requirements for additional information, including qualifications and composition of committee members, for the master’s, EdS, and doctoral committees. Also, consult with the Director of Graduate Studies for the specific program to learn more how students work with faculty throughout their studies at UT.
Graduate Faculty – Graduate faculty are members of a department, school, or college who have been identified by the unit as capable of teaching graduate-level courses and mentoring and directing graduate student work.
Half-Time Status - Students must be enrolled in a minimum of five (5) credit hours each semester to be considered as having “graduate half-time” status. There are two likely instances in which half-time status will impact graduate students. For students to be eligible to receive federal financial aid, they must be considered half-time. For students to begin or continue in loan deferment, they must be reported to their student loan provider as having half-time enrollment status.
Incomplete – Under extraordinary circumstances and only at the discretion of the instructor, a grade of I (Incomplete) may be assigned to a student whose work is satisfactory but who has not completed a portion of the course. Students are not allowed to graduate with an I on their record.
Independent Study – Academic work completed in consultation with a faculty member outside of the regular course offerings.
Interdisciplinary – Course or program of study involving two or more major areas/departments.
Lab (laboratory) – In labs, students apply lecture material in small-group situations that include experiments, assignments, and projects.
Lecture – Teaching method in which the professor presents information to the students who take notes, ask questions, and have dialogue with the professor.
Major – The academic major, or simply major, is the principal field of study for which the program is named and has its own curriculum. The major is identified on the official transcript. Majors may have concentrations or other designations for the organization of the discipline content. Of the different designations, only concentration is given on the official transcript. At the graduate level, at least one-third of the credit hours required for a graduate or post-baccalaureate professional degree are earned through instruction offered by the institution awarding the degree.
Minor – An area of interest secondary to the major that is represented by a specified set of hours and/or courses. Differs from a concentration in that a minor is not a subdivision of the major.
Non-Course Requirement – These are requirements that are not accomplished in courses such as completing laboratory rotations, attending departmental seminars, making presentations at a regional, national or international conference, or publishing research prior to graduation.
Professional Doctorate - a doctoral degree other than the Ph.D.
Prerequisite – Specific conditions, requirements, or classes that must be completed before enrolling in another course.
Registration Restriction(s) – Conditions for enrollment enforced by the Registration System. These restrictions may include one or more of the following – minimum GPA, student level, college, major, concentrations, degree, or a qualification such as teacher licensure.
Section – One of several classes of the same course. In the Timetable, a five-digit code is used to identify each section of each course offered.
Seminar – A form of small group instruction, combining independent research and class discussions, under the guidance of a professor.
Specialization – A sub-collection of courses within a concentration that focuses on specific subject matter. The term “specialization” describes the nature of the set of courses.
Stand-Alone Graduate Certificate - Students can only be enrolled in a graduate certificate program, and cannot be concurrently enrolled in another degree-seeking program.
Sub-Discipline – A sub-discipline is a commonly accepted field of study or work that is related to one aspect, but not the whole, of a broader field of study or work. Sub-disciplines are not identified on the official transcript. For example, physical anthropology and cultural anthropology are sub-disciplines of anthropology. A department may identify sub-disciplines by concentrations or they may not. In the case of Anthropology, the department identifies the sub-discipline as concentrations. In the example of physical and cultural geography, the geography major does not have concentrations so may identify these sub-disciplines within the major by specific course requirements.
Subspecialty – A subspecialty is a narrow field within a major. Academic majors that do not define concentrations may offer course listings that identify subspecialties. Subspecialties are not identified on the official transcript. For example, BCMB (Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology) does not list concentrations. However, the faculty may identify subspecialties of biochemistry, cellular biology, molecular biology, computational biology, and ask students to select courses within these subspecialty areas to ensure minimal baseline knowledge.
Timetable of Classes – The official schedule of classes produced each semester by the Office of the University Registrar. The most up-to-date information can be found online at https://mytk.utk.edu/.
Track – A separate route leading to the same degree but with different requirements.
Transcript – The official record of a student’s coursework maintained by the Office of the University Registrar.
Withdrawal – Officially dropping all courses for a given semester.