Terms, Policies and Procedures

Listed below are terms, policies, and procedures that are commonly used in the conduct of Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) business.

Academic Program
Auditing Courses
Course Approval
Course Cancellation
Course Categorization
Course Evaluations
Course Sponsors and Primary Instructors
Course Syllabus

Academic program – Academic programs are offered by the school and correspond to the degrees listed for the Harvard Chan School in the statutes of the university:  Master of Public Health, Doctor of Public Health, Master of Occupational Health, Master or Doctor of Science in a public health discipline (generally, the name of the department; also Master of Science in Health Care Management); also, Doctor of Philosophy in Biological Sciences in Public Health, granted by GSAS. This term is synonymous with degree program.

Within an academic program, a department may offer two or more concentrations (see “concentration” below for information about CEP approval) to which a prospective student may apply; for example, the Department of Society, Human Development and Health offers one concentration, health communications. Within a department may be two or more areas of interest in which a student may specialize; for example, areas of interest within the Department of Health Policy and Management include:  Health policy, health management, or research.  Areas of interest are listed in the departmental section of the catalog but do not require CEP approval.  In most departments, applicants are not required to specify an area of interest.

Auditing Courses – Auditing courses policy. “Only Harvard Chan School degree students, students cross-registering from Harvard faculties and approved institutions, and Harvard Chan School-affiliated and approved postdoctoral fellows may audit Harvard Chan School courses. Student wishing to audit courses may do so only with the permission of the instructor. All students auditing courses must register for the course through the Registrar with the grade option of ‘audit’ indicated. Courses which exclude auditors are noted as such on the course descriptions. There is a limit of five credits per semester of audited course work while registered as a full- or part-time student fulfilling degree requirements. Students may not extend their time to degree in order to audit courses. If a student still has time to degree (graduation date) and is not registered for courses for credit, he/she may register for up to 5 credits of audited courses. Audited courses appear on the students transcripts as AU/Audit. Summer courses may not be taken for audit.” Each semester a memo of guidelines for auditing at the Harvard Chan School will be sent from Student Services to instructors.

Competencies – Competencies define what a successful learner should know and be able to do upon completion of a particular program or course of study. These statements describe in measurable terms the knowledge, skills, and abilities a successful student will demonstrate at the conclusion of the academic program. To meet CEPH requirements each Harvard Chan School degree program, concentration, and area of specialization is expected to have clearly stated competencies that guide the development of the educational program.  The description of the competencies must include the learning experiences by which the competencies are met and include the required curriculum for each program.  The competencies must be made available to the students.

Concentration – A coordinated program of study within an academic program. Departmental concentrations are usually located within a single department or within the MPH program, but can also encompass two Harvard Chan School departments.

Concentrations encompassing three or more departments are called interdisciplinary concentrations. A core set of required courses from the participating departments is established, along with elective courses. The CEP strongly recommends that the core course(s) be interdisciplinary rather than a collection of existing courses from the participating departments.  Concentration sponsors will be responsible for ensuring that interdisciplinary core courses are scheduled at a time that does not conflict with required courses for students in participating departments.

Students apply to one of the participating departments, and the degree will be issued from that department.  Currently there are four interdisciplinary concentrations with CEP and faculty approval — Women, Gender, and Health,  Epidemiology of Infectious Disease, Maternal and Child Health/Child, Youth and Family, and Obesity Epidemiology and Prevention.

In 1996, the CEP approved a policy for the creation of new concentrations that was revised in 2007 (either departmental or interdisciplinary.) All concentration proposals submitted to the CEP must include the following information:

  • proposed name
  • background and development of the concentration
  • purpose (need it addresses)
  • concentration competencies
  • syllabus for core courses designated how they meet concentration competencies
  • description (for use in the Harvard Chan School Catalog)
  • requirements (number of credits, lab work, other types of experiences, etc.)
  • proposed curriculum (required/core courses and electives) indicating the sequencing and progression of courses
  • detailed description of the culminating activity(s)
  • process for documenting completion of the concentration
  • degrees to be awarded
  • description of likely career paths for graduates
  • letter of endorsement from the department chair (or, in the case of interdisciplinary concentrations, a letter from the chair of each participating department)
  • list of faculty members affiliated with the concentration

In addition, concentrations encompassing two or more departments should include the following:

  • how concentration will be administered and reviewed
  • detailed financial support by each department
  • list of steering committee members
  • proposed admission review process

The sponsor of the concentration will attend a CEP meeting to present the proposal and to provide answers to questions that committee members may have. The CEP will review the concentration proposal and may make recommendations, or ask for additional information before granting final approval. If the proposed concentration is approved by the CEP, the proposal will be placed on the agenda of a faculty meeting for discussion and full faculty approval. Once final approval is granted by the faculty, the concentration will be forwarded to the Office of Student Services and to the catalog editor for inclusion in the catalog and application materials.

Newly approved concentrations will be reviewed by the CEP after five years. A status report will be presented at a CEP meeting by one of the concentration’s sponsors. Any revisions to the original concentration proposal in terms of name, purpose, description, requirements, curriculum, etc. should be noted and discussed.

Information about a new concentration must be included in the edition of the catalog and application materials used by the prospective students who will be applying for the concentration. For example, if the first class of students is expected to enroll in September 2011, the proposal for the concentration must be reviewed and approved by the CEP and the full faculty during the 2009-10 academic year. To meet the catalog deadline, which in this example would be March 2010, it is recommended that the new concentration be proposed to the CEP at its October 2009 meeting. Please note that this is nearly two years before the first class matriculates.

Course approval – Conditional or formal approval of new courses. After discussion and vote by the CEP, a list of conditionally and formally approved courses is forwarded to the faculty for vote at a faculty meeting.

Conditional course approval is granted for one year to new courses. After one year conditionally approved courses are eligible for formal approval. Conditional approval may be extended for one year if a course is not evaluated, receives a student course evaluation rating of less than 3.6 of the enrolled students. The vote for approval is based on the description of the course that is submitted to the registrar by the course instructor.

Formal course approval is given to courses that were conditionally approved for the previous year and received a rating of 3.6 or higher on student course evaluations. The vote for approval may integrate the views of the department offering the course. Established courses that have received formal approval do not need to reapply for approval, but are subject to review if they receive consistently poor student course evaluation ratings.

New courses will be posted by the Registrar’s Office following CEP approval. Proposed courses, not yet approved, will be given “Pending” status and students will be wait-listed until CEP approval.

Deadlines for new course proposal delivery to the Registrar’s Office:

March 16         All courses to be posted (for returning students & advisors to meet prior to leaving for summer)
July 1              Fall, Fall 1 & Fall 2
November 1    Winter Session, Spring, Spring 1 & Spring 2

Classroom Hours and Credit Equivalents;

The school defines a credit as the unit of measure for a specific number of classroom hours, with 1.25 credits corresponding to 16 hours of classroom time; see Table 2.2.a, which also provides an estimate of the amount of time students are expected to devote to a course beyond classroom hours.

The academic year comprises two sixteen-week semesters (fall and spring), with each semester composed of two eight-week terms (known as Fall1, Fall2, Spring1, and Spring2). Some courses meet for a full semester, others for a single term. The school also offers courses during a three-week period in January, known as WinterSession, and during two intensive three-week terms in the summer (Summer1 and Summer2). Table 2.2.a illustrates weekly classroom-hour requirements for the fall and spring semesters; credit-bearing courses offered in the winter and summer sessions are subject to the same requirements with respect to the total number of classroom hours but are configured differently to accommodate the shorter term length.

CEP chart

Course cancellation – All canceled courses require that a Course Cancellation Form be completed and submitted to the Registrar’s Office. The form must identify the reason for the cancellation and whether it is only a one-year or a permanent cancellation. All cancellations submitted less than two weeks before registration begins for the semester are considered late cancellations, and must satisfy one of the requirements below in order for the cancellation to be approved:

  • low enrollment (fewer than five students enrolled by the end of the first week of class)
  • minimum enrollment not met by end of the first week of class
  • emergency circumstances – requires an explanation
  • other – requires a letter outlining the reasons for the cancellation and the signature of the dean for academic affairs

All cancellations are reviewed by the CEP.

Course Categorization – Each course has a specific department(s)/program designation based on the following categories:

  • Category 1:  a school-wide core requirement for masters or doctoral programs (i.e., identified courses in biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health, social and behavioral sciences, health services administration).
  • Category 2:  a required course for students in one or more degree programs and/or concentrations (both departmental and interdepartmental courses).
  • Category 3: an essential course to the mission of the department, but designated as one of several options for fulfilling required credits within a discipline or program area. Intended to be taught on a regular basis to ensure student access regardless of the availability of a specific faculty member.
  • Category 4:  an elective, not required course, that provides students with access to new knowledge or skills generated by faculty interest; provided only as long as the faculty member chooses to offer it.

Departments/programs propose and justify the designation and CEP reviews and approves the list of courses that qualify for each category. Changes in faculty for Category 1, 2 or 3 courses are subject to CEP approval, in consultation with the sponsoring department/program.  Consistent poor course performance (as evidenced by student evaluations, peer review, and/or other means of course review) is subject to CEP oversight.

Compensation for Courses – Compensation for categorized courses is under the authority of the Office for Finance and Administration.

Changing a Course Category – A request for a change in a course’s category must be submitted to the CEP for approval one year in advance of the change. The request should include the proposed change, a letter from department(s)/program chair/director describing the reasons for the change, and describe how students will be accommodated for the competencies and learning requirements of the course in the future.

Cancellation of Courses in Category 1, 2, or 3 – All Category 1, 2 and 3 courses are expected to be offered on a periodic basis that maintains adequate student access. Departments/programs are obligated to provide course instructors for these courses regardless of faculty changes or sabbaticals. Courses would not be cancelled, for one year or permanently, unless CEP has received and approved the request signed by the department(s)/program chair/director of any programs affected by the course cancellation, at least one year in advance of the proposed cancellation. Cancellation requests include:

  • Signed course change/cancellation form
  • The reason for the cancellation
  • A plan for how the competencies and other learning requirements of the course will be met (e.g., other courses that provide the same competencies)
  • A communication plan for informing faculty, students, administrative offices, and other departments of the cancellation and the proposed method for students to otherwise meet the competencies and learning objectives of the cancelled course.

Cancellation of courses in Category 4 requires the signed course cancellation form and completion of any other requests from the Registrar or CEP.

Course Evaluations – Online evaluation forms completed by students at the end of each course.  The results are compiled into reports that are distributed to the instructor, department chair, Office of Student Services, MPH office, and students.

High rating is an overall rating of 4.3 or higher (on a five-point scale.) Instructors of courses that receive a high rating are sent a letter of congratulations from the chair of the CEP, and department chairs are notified of the course’s high rating.

Low rating is an overall rating of 3.6 or lower (on a five-point scale.) Instructors of courses that receive a low rating are sent a letter from the chair of the CEP asking them to comment on the reasons for the low rating and to inform CEP of any plans to change the course. If no response is received by the deadline noted in the letter, a follow up letter will be sent to the instructor and the department chair(s).

Course Sponsors and Primary Instructors – All courses (including formal courses, tutorials, independent studies, and research credits) will have a sponsor. At the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, faculty members eligible to sponsor a course are individuals whose academic appointments have been approved by SCARP and the Board of Overseers, i.e., those holding the titles professor, associate professor, assistant professor, senior lecturer, or lecturer (as primary, secondary, adjunct, or visiting appointees); in unusual cases, a dean who holds the title “member of the faculty” may be a sponsor of a course. Individuals with an equivalent appointment in another faculty of Harvard University or at MIT may also sponsor a course at the Harvard Chan School.

The responsibilities of a course sponsor include oversight of the following:

  1. submission of the course proposal
  2. course syllabus including course objectives and outcome measures
  3. course instruction;
  4. course structure and content;
  5. continuity of course supervision;
  6. quality of instruction;
  7. evaluation of student performance (grading); and
  8. submission of grades.

This sponsor, in most cases, is also the primary instructor.

A “primary instructor” is defined as an individual who does the majority of the teaching in the course. This may be someone with a nonfaculty academic appointment. While the most appropriate title for such individuals is instructor, appointees with the following titles may also occasionally be the primary instructor of a course: research associate, research scientist, visiting scientist, or annual lecturer (as distinct from faculty lecturer). Please note that students may participate in instruction only in the role of teaching assistant.

If the primary instructor is different from the sponsor, this information must be indicated on the course proposal or revision form submitted by the course sponsor to the Registrar’s Office.

In those cases where the sponsor is different from the primary instructor, the letters (S) and (P) will appear, accordingly, after the instructors’ names in the official course listings produced by the Registrar’s Office.

(The policy stated above was approved by the CEP in 1996, and revised 2001.)

Course syllabus – All Harvard Chan School courses must have a syllabus that outlines, at a minimum, course objectives, grading criteria, activities, and assignments. Also included must be the measures by which students will be evaluated to determine their achievement of the course objectives.