Recently in Progress to degree Category

Graduate students currently follow Graduate School procedures to formalize their degree program, propose their committee members, track the completion of milestones like exams and theses, and apply for degree clearance.*

The current "big picture" for tracking degree progress is illustrated in the diagram below. (This diagram is not comprehensive; there are a few more degrees that have different forms or milestones. However, we welcome feedback regarding all graduate degree types, as each will be included in the overall project.)


What should this picture look like for graduate students at the University of Minnesota?

In two recent meetings, staff from Academic Support Resources (ASR) and the Graduate School invited stakeholders from colleges and departments to discuss this question, so that ASR can begin to define the parameters for an online, streamlined tool for tracking the components of graduate student degree progress. More conversations are planned with graduate students and additional stakeholders.

We invite you to review the notes from recent discussions on the project website (look under "discussion and analysis"). Leave your additional ideas in the comments below, or email them to project manager John Vollum. What would you like to see in a system that tracks graduate student degree progress for students, staff, and faculty?

*Remember: Current Graduate School procedures for tracking degree progress and applying for degree clearance will continue to be in effect at least through the 2011-2012 academic year. If you are a graduate student looking for forms and instructions, go to the Graduate School Student Services web page.

Graduate student files can now be accessed in ImageNow by authorized University staff at the program, department, and college level.

ImageNow, the University's enterprise document imaging system, is used to store digital images of University documents, including applications and degree milestone forms.

For links to data security request forms, training information, and resources, see

Degree progress: The approach to creating new processes

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An initial strategy has been determined for analyzing and then implementing new processes related to degree progress and degree clearance. The ultimate goal is to create an online system to track graduate student degree progress and perform degree clearance functions. The target implementation date is June 2013. The Graduate School will continue its current degree progress tracking and clearance activities until new solutions are in place.

Beginning at the end

The ultimate goal of degree progress is, of course, degree completion. In student records terms, degree completion is certified through the degree clearance process--the series of steps that verify the completion of all the required milestones for the student's degree.

So, in order to determine what degree progress milestones need to be tracked throughout a graduate student's career at the University, ASR and the Graduate School are beginning by mapping the degree clearance process and defining the required milestones.

ASR analysts are working with Graduate School staff to document the current steps and requirements for graduate student degree clearance. That set of items can vary depending on the degree, but may include:

  • Final oral examination scheduling and reporting 
  • Verifying the completion of a student's particular degree requirements from the degree program form
  • Application for Degree Form
  • Reviewers Report Form
  • Submission of a correctly formatted thesis/dissertation that meets the University's requirement 
  • Certifying students for degree clearance

In documenting the existing processes, analysts will pay particular attention to recording the reasons for certain tasks (e.g., University policy, systems constraints, and the student's best interest), as well as other interdependent processes that relate to degree clearance and degree completion.

This initial stage of documentation is currently in progress, with a target completion date of April 1.

Then, retracing the steps

Once we better understand what must be certified to allow a student to graduate, we can turn our attention to the steps that happen along the way. This phase of documentation and analysis will occur between now and the end of June 2011. It will include (but will not be limited to): 

  • Understanding general degree requirements, like a thesis or dissertation, preliminary exams, and final exams
  • Tracking the completion of degree requirements
  • Handling transfer credit evaluations
  • Managing visa extensions or changes
  • Advising students on degree progress and providing feedback
  • Issuing warnings to students when degree progress may be compromised
  • Monitoring satisfactory academic progress for purposes of financial aid
  • Managing the re-admission and/or change of status processes

How colleges and programs can expect to be involved

Degree clearance and degree progress responsibilities are currently shared among academic programs, the Graduate School, and the Office of the Registrar. Any changes to existing roles and responsibilities will be made only after communication and collaboration during the development of new processes.

During these first stages of documentation and discovery, ASR and Graduate School staff will post updates on what we learn and what is coming next on the project website and will hold discussions on related issues at the monthly Registrar's Advisory Committee meetings.

Beginning in April, broad discussions will take place with the colleges about what information must be tracked related to student degree progress, what information should be tracked, and what might be nice to know or have. Through these discussions, we can begin to collaboratively sketch out a new process that is in compliance with relevant policies and systems requirements, and is, to the greatest extent possible, both student- and staff-friendly.

As the graduate education student administrative processes project moves forward, ASR and the Graduate School will employ an incremental approach to review current Graduate School processes and create new processes that incorporate collegiate responsibility.

This means that, as a general rule, current procedures maintained by the Graduate School will remain in place until representatives from ASR and/or the Graduate School can document, analyze, and assist with implementing redesigned processes that better fit a decentralized model. New processes will be developed in collaboration with collegiate units and/or academic programs. Transitions of work or responsibility will be preceded by communication to and/or training for affected individuals.

From a student services perspective, this general principle is especially important when it comes to matters related to degree progress and degree clearance. We anticipate that existing Graduate School procedures for degree progress and degree clearance will remain in place at least through the 2011-2012 academic year.

For an overview of the work involved in the student administrative processes part of the transition, along with key transition dates, visit the Work in Progress page on the project website.

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