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Graduate Program Size Guidelines

For units whose degree programs differ significantly, it might be of benefit to consider them separately. In thinking about the optimal program size, the following parameters might be useful:

Program integrity:

  • How many students are necessary for creating a good cohort (diversity)/intellectual community?
  • What is a manageable advising load per faculty member (considering distribution of advisees among departmental faculty and maximum numbers of advisees per faculty member)?
  • What is a manageable service load of faculty on graduate student examination committees (e.g., M.S./M.A. committees; preliminary exam committees, etc.)?
  • How many students can the existing staff support?
  • What is the ideal amount of lab/office space per student? And how many students would that allotment allow the unit to have?
  • What are the job prospects for graduates? How many graduates per year are ideal?
  • Are students able to register for all required courses? Are courses offered in a consistent manner so as to be available to students as needed? Are courses capped at particular enrollments for best classroom interactions and if so, how does this impact admissions?
  • How does your unit size compare to your peers?

Program Funding:

  • What is the appropriate length and amount of funding per graduate student? (Consider that guaranteed funding for the length of the program attracts students, but limited funding encourages students to finish faster.)
  • What is the best type of appointment for different students, and do the percentages or job descriptions need to change as the students progress through their programs?
  • Can the unit make better use of funds to enrich the experiences of fewer students instead of enrolling more students?
  •  How do unit/campus teaching needs figure in graduate student professional development? Can some undergraduate teaching now covered by graduate students productively be handled by faculty or vice versa?
  • Are units recouping all the tuition they can from various sources, i.e. external grants and benefactors?