2007 Reaffirmation Teams
4.4 - 2007 Reaffirmation Teams
The institution demonstrates that program length is appropriate for each of its educational programs.
The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) demonstrates in its catalogs and in practice that the degree programs have the proper length. The undergraduate catalog and the graduate catalog detail the curricular requirements for each degree program offered by the university. As stated in the response to Principle 2.7.1 , all baccalaureate degree programs require a minimum of 120 semester credit hours, and all master’s degree programs require a minimum of 30 semester credit hours. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) and The University of Texas System (UT System) received and approved the justification for all program requirements at the time that UT Dallas requested approval of each program .
The time to degree or program length of the educational programs at UT Dallas is determined by the number of credit hours required for the programs and by the course load a student completes each term. The average baccalaureate degree at UT Dallas requires approximately four to five years for the typical full-time undergraduate student. This figure is in line with the assumption that the typical American baccalaureate degree requires between 130 and 180 credit hours, according to the publication “If You Want to Study in the United States .” According to the UT System Office of Academic Affairs, the average number of credit hours completed by students at UT Dallas for a baccalaureate degree was 141 for fiscal year 2005 graduates, and the average number of semesters required was 10 . Of all the students graduating with a baccalaureate degree in fiscal year 2005, nearly 40% had transferred to UT Dallas with over 60 credit hours.
At UT Dallas, all baccalaureate degree programs require a minimum of 120 semester credit hours; of those programs, fourteen require more than the 120 hour minimum. Within the School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), the six baccalaureate programs requiring more than 120 hours include the extra hours to ensure compliance with the requirements of The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)  and the mandatory 51 upper-division credit hours required by UT Dallas for degree completion. One new ECS program recently added also requires above the minimum, again to ensure compliance with ABET standards. Within the School of Natural Science and Mathematics (NSM), eight of the 13 baccalaureate programs require beyond the 120-hour minimum. These additional hours provide students a firm foundation in the major core, allow some flexibility in a choice of major-related electives, and provide the opportunity to ensure compliance with the 51-upper-division-hour rule for graduation. The complete degree matrix with the minimum credit hours for every degree program is included in the supporting documents .
All baccalaureate degree programs are included in the undergraduate catalog , which is available in hardcopy or online for students and the public. An example of the degree plan and course requirements for the baccalaureate degree in electrical engineering shows the manner in which course requirements are displayed to students, thus indicating how the various courses relate to the basic requirements for graduation . Similarly, all graduate degree programs are included in the graduate catalog , which is also available online and in hardcopy. An example of the degree and course requirements for the M.A. degree program in interdisciplinary studies includes a description of the primary requirements, including the 12-hour concentration and the six-hour capstone experience . This 36-hour program provides students a firm foundation in their chosen area of study and allows them some flexibility in studying outside the core as well. Each master’s degree program at UT Dallas requires 30 hours at a minimum but may require as many as 54 hours for the master of fine arts in arts and technology  or 51-68 hours in the master of science in electrical engineering program wherein a student chooses a specialization area such as microelectronics or telecommunications .
As outlined in the response to Principle 3.4.1 , each degree program requires its courses or options based upon the recommendations of the program faculty. As the faculty members develop or modify academic programs, the process requires review and approval as described in the response to Principle 2.7.1 . New programs and programs being modified require the review by the Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) , a standing committee of the Academic Senate. New programs also require administrative approval before being reviewed by both UT System and THECB personnel; additional details can be found in the response to Principle 126.96.36.199 . Within the review process, the program description addresses the need for the program and, in so doing, provides a rationale for the breadth of the program and its curricular requirements . To take the example from the response to Principle 4.3  further in order to show how UT Dallas jointly evaluates both content and length, the recent program proposal for the master of science in materials science and engineering provides insight into the scope of the program: “The interdisciplinary Materials Science and Engineering program at UT Dallas will emphasize teaching and research in the following areas: 1) nanostructured materials, 2) electronic, optical and magnetic materials, 3) biomimetic materials, 4) polymeric materials, 5) MEMS materials and systems, 6) organic electronics, and 7) advanced processing and characterization of modern materials. The program will provide an opportunity for interdisciplinary research and education that builds on current strengths in materials research and education in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science and the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Graduates of the program will go into the workforce to create new jobs, promote economic development, and use science and technology to improve society .”
Programs already operational at UT Dallas undergo an annual assessment  by program faculty and, approximately every five years, an academic review that facilitates a direct comparison of program requirements with national norms for similar programs . The policy outlining the academic program review process  requires that a final report be written which includes consideration of “the undergraduate and graduate curricula and programs of instruction (including student learning outcomes), the student demand for these programs, the scholarly activity of the unit’s faculty, the unit’s facilities, the national stature and impact of the unit’s programs, the quality of its students, the market for its graduates, the level of support for the unit, the effectiveness of the unit’s leadership, and the effectiveness of the unit in furthering the university’s Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity goals.”
Program length has become a concern of the Texas Legislature. In the 79th Legislative Session, Section 61.0515 was added to Subtitle B, Chapter 61, Subchapter A of the Texas Education Code (TEC); this requires that institutions provide a “compelling academic reason” for baccalaureate degree programs requiring “more than the minimum number of semester credit hours required for the degree by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools… ” The UT Dallas community continues to discuss this recent change under the leadership of the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, which has collected justifications from the various departments whose degrees exceed 120 hours; sample justifications are included in the supporting documents  . Moreover, at the request of the Legislature, the THECB has introduced what is referred to as the “99 Hour Rule,” which requires Ph.D. students to pay out of state tuition for any credit hours taken over 99 hours . Time limits have, therefore, been set on Ph.D. enrollment  , and graduate advisors are working diligently to ensure that students graduate with the required 90 hours for a doctorate at UT Dallas .
Each academic program at UT Dallas undergoes annual and other periodic reviews, during which program objectives and outcomes drive discussion about program requirements, courses, and faculty needs. Academic programs also provide input to the development of the strategic plan and university compacts . Program review results are included in UT System reports . Through the review and reporting cycles, UT Dallas documents to its governing board and to the THECB that its academic programs provide a high-quality educational experience that is of appropriate length and breadth.