Basic Degree Requirements
The following are minimal requirements for a candidate to obtain a master’s degree at UMass Dartmouth. Specific departments and colleges may establish more stringent requirements. In addition to these, all department requirements as outlined in the program section must be met.
At UMass Dartmouth, for the MA, MAE, MAT, MBA, MPP, and MS degrees, a program must contain at least 30 semester hours of course credit, exclusive of credits taken to make up deficiencies, with levels and types of courses as stipulated. These degrees also require a capstone experience, in the form of a thesis or formally submitted original work, a project, or a comprehensive examination. Many programs require more credits than this minimum.
The UMass Dartmouth MFA degree requires 60 credits, with levels and types of courses as stipulated below. This degree culminates in a visual thesis, exhibited or presented, and an accompanying written thesis.
Individual students’ substitution of courses, credit for courses taken at other institutions or programs, or other modifications to the course requirements stated must be formally approved by the department and college dean, with major departures also approved by the Office of Graduate Studies. Credits that have been applied toward any other earned degree, either at UMass Dartmouth or elsewhere, may not be used.
No more than 12 credits of individual study, including independent study, graduate research, and graduate project or thesis, may apply as credit toward a master’s or MFA degree.
No credit is valid after six years for application toward a master’s or MFA degree. In extenuating circumstances, a student may appeal to the college dean for relaxation of this requirement.
A master’s or MFA thesis must be supervised by a thesis committee, composed of at least three members, one of whom is the thesis advisor. A well-qualified outside person (that is, from outside UMass Dartmouth) may sit on a thesis committee with approval of the dean of the college, but at least two committee members must be UMass Dartmouth faculty members, one of whom undertakes principal responsibility as the thesis advisor.
Three distinct phases occur in the preparation of a thesis: the preliminary investigations that lead to a formal thesis proposal; research and writing, with the appropriate involvement of the thesis advisor and committee members; and an oral thesis defense or other capstone experience associated with the thesis, leading to final preparation and approval.
The thesis committee is to be assigned by the time the thesis proposal is approved. The final date for presentation of the thesis in acceptable form for an oral defense is May first (for a proposed May graduation posting) and November 30 (for a proposed January graduation posting). The same deadlines apply for programs that have a comprehensive oral or written examination without a thesis or project. The dean of the college must be notified two weeks in advance of all oral or comprehensive examinations.
Master’s programs with a formal project in lieu of a thesis will use a committee process similar to that for the thesis. At the department’s discretion, however, the process may be somewhat simplified.
Programs that do not require a thesis or a formally-presented project require a comprehensive written or oral examination or some formal capstone experience. An option that allows on-going practice in the professional field may satisfy this condition.
A student must be currently enrolled in the university in order to defend the thesis and present it for acceptance in final form. Graduate students who continue to work on a thesis or project after completing their formal course requirements must remain in “program continuation” enrollment status for every semester in which they work on it, until the thesis/project is completed, including the semester in which final approvals are given for library submission and graduation. Those who must interrupt progress toward their degrees should seek formal leave of absence. If a student neither requests a leave of absence nor registers for “program continuation,” we presume that the student has abandoned pursuit of the degree; such a student must apply for re-admission to resume work for the degree.
As explained, in the section on Course Load (Academic Regulations chapter), students may request verification of being in half-time, 3/4-time or full-time status while they are registered for “continuation” and pursuing their thesis work.
A Requirements for Theses and Dissertations manual prepared by the Graduate Studies Office gives full instructions on the process and requirements for a thesis. It is posted on the graduate web page and printed copies are available at nominal cost in the bookstore.
After the thesis committee gives approval to begin the final preparation stage, the candidate will prepare one signatory page that shows the signatures of at least the following: the thesis committee members, the department chairperson—or, in the instance of college-wide programs, the college representative for graduate programs (as determined by the dean)—the Dean of the College, and the Associate Provost for Graduate Studies. Two copies of the final, approved thesis will be housed in the UMass Dartmouth library collection, bound for the permanent collection at the student’s expense. (The library does not house copies of Project reports.) MFA theses have a shortened approval process.
The thesis will receive grades of IP (in progress) until its completion and final approval by the major department. If the thesis or project is never completed, IP remains the grade of record. Upon approval, a permanent grade will be given (according to the approved grading system for that program) and the title of the thesis clearly stated on the student’s transcript. If desired by the major department and approved by the dean of the college, the thesis may be designated as “distinguished” and so noted on the student’s transcript. The posting of graduation and awarding of the degree occur after completion and approval of the thesis or project.