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The Graduate College Handbook

for students, faculty and staff – August 2019

Chapter 3: Policy for Graduate Concentrations

The purpose of this policy is to establish guidelines under which units offering graduate degrees may seek Senate approval of graduate concentrations to be acknowledged on the student's official University transcript.

A. Background:

The University of Illinois graduate transcript lists degrees, majors, and minors at the graduate level, and all have defined requirements and approval routes. This document defines the requirements for formal graduate concentrations, and the approval route in order for it to be noted on a student's official transcript. A formal concentration may be defined as an elaboration or an extension of a graduate major: either content specialization within a particular discipline (for example, a taxation concentration in accountancy, or an interdisciplinary program (for example, an interdisciplinary concentration in cultural studies and interpretive research). A concentration is a coherent set of courses, some or all of which may count toward the major. In order to be approved and noted on the student's transcript, a graduate concentration requires approval by the disciplinary college, the Graduate College, the Senate and the Board of Trustees.

This proposal seeks to define only those concentrations at the graduate level that would be listed in the Academic Catalog and recorded on the student's official transcript. Although most graduate programs require students to specialize in one form or another, not all of these specializations need to be formal concentrations (i.e., represented on the student's transcript). Graduate education nearly always involves some form of specialization or interdisciplinary work, yet the need for transcript recognition varies in importance across the disciplines. Indeed, transcript recognition should be sought only when there is a clear benefit to the student and/or to the department—for example, when transcript notation is required by specialized accrediting bodies, or in response to job market demands.

B. Guidelines:

A graduate concentration must consist of a minimum of 12 graduate hours of coursework at the 400- and 500-level, which gives a student more breadth or depth in their major area of study. Because a concentration is intended to be within the major area of study, the hours required to fulfill the concentration should likewise apply toward completion of the degree.  However that is not to say that completion of a concentration within a degree couldn’t require more hours than the degree itself, in that the student is earning an additional credential.

  1. Any academic department or unit with the approval of the disciplinary college(s) may initiate a proposal for a graduate concentration.
  2. An academic department or unit (or a combination of departments or units, in the case of interdisciplinary programs) intending to propose a concentration should prepare a proposal in accordance with these instructions, including a rationale that indicates why transcript recognition of the concentration is important, and obtain approval(s) from the disciplinary college(s) before sending to the Graduate College. Proposals should be prepared using the standard Senate format for proposals at . Proposals should be sent to the Graduate College for review and approval by the Program Subcommittee and the Executive Committee. The Graduate College will send approved proposals to the Office of the Provost for forwarding to the Senate and Board of Trustees.
  3. The department or unit sponsoring the concentration may set additional prerequisites for eligibility for the concentration (e.g., minimum GPA). Additionally, the sponsoring department or unit may set other requirements for completion, such as a qualifying examination, practicum, etc.
  4. Students must contact the sponsoring department or unit offering the concentration for information about the concentration, and the sponsoring department or unit must make available information and consultation to inform students about requirements for the concentration.
  5. A student's intent to pursue a graduate concentration must be approved by the student's adviser and graduate program director, as well as the unit offering the concentration.  If any credit hours taken toward a concentration will not also count toward the major, that condition must be documented when the student adds the concentration to their academic record so that it can be taken into account at the time of certification of the degree.
  6. A student who completes a graduate concentration should have at least one faculty member in the area of concentration serve on the student's thesis committee. In the case of interdepartmental concentrations, the thesis committee should comprise faculty members from more than one department or area of knowledge.
  7. It is up to the sponsoring department or unit to establish criteria and timelines for completion of the concentration, and to certify its successful completion. When a student indicates an intention to graduate with a concentration, the department(s) will confirm whether the requisite course of study has been completed.

Approved by the Urbana-Champaign Senate April 25, 2005; administratively updated August 2009.  Revised April 2013.