Outlined below is an overview of academic program and degree polices along with guidelines, required materials and timing for department chairs, faculty and administrators when developing or terminating degree programs, fields of study and concentrations.
Academic Programs & Degree Requirements
Academic programs are offered by the school and correspond to the degrees listed for Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the statutes of the university: Master of Public Health, Doctor of Public Health; Master or Doctor of Science in a public health discipline (generally, the name of the department); Master of Health Care Management); also, Doctor of Philosophy, granted by GSAS. This term is synonymous with degree program.
Fields of Study
A field of study is a coordinated program of study within an academic program. Departmental fields of study are usually located within a single department or within the MPH program, but can also encompass two Harvard Chan departments.
The MPH degree programs are organized around fields of study and the newly established CEPH program-wide foundational knowledge and MPH foundational competencies. A field of study provides students with a focus during an intense period of study. Each field of study offers electives that allow students to explore in depth areas relevant to their personal career goals. All MPH foundational knowledge courses and additional required courses must be taken to fulfill the requirements of the field of study for the MPH.
PhD in Population Health Sciences programs and the Master of Science academic degrees are also organized around fields of study. The students in these programs must complete a course of study that addresses the foundational public health knowledge objectives along with field of study requirements as established by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH).
Competency Guidelines for Degrees and Programs
Competencies for each degree program and fields of study are developed in accordance with the guidelines established by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) and the respective degree program steering and curriculum committees.
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 degree program, field of study, interdisciplinary program, 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 assessment activities by which the competencies are met and include the required curriculum for each program. The competencies must be made available to the students.
Overview of Concentrations and Requirements
Overview of Concentrations
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 Social and Behavioral Sciences offers two concentrations. Within a department there 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 on department websites but do not require CEP approval. In most departments, applicants are not required to specify an area of interest.
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 seven interdisciplinary concentrations with CEP and faculty approval — Women, Gender, and Health; Health Communication; Epidemiology of Infectious Disease; Maternal and Child Health; Public Health Leadership; Humanitarian Studies, Ethics and Human Rights; and Nutrition and Global Health; Population Mental Health
Below are the required submission materials and an outline of the process for proposing a new concentration or field of study at Harvard Chan.
Proposing a New Concentration
Required Submission Materials
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 Harvard Chan marketing)
- Requirements (number of credits, lab work, other types of experiences, etc.)
- Proposed curriculum (required foundational knowledge 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
Process and Timeline for Proposing a New Concentration
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 granted final approval by the faculty, the concentration will be forwarded to the Office of Student Services for inclusion in promotional 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 promotional 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 2024, the proposal for the concentration must be reviewed and approved by the CEP and the full faculty during 2022-23. To meet the deadline, which in this example would be March 2023, it is recommended that the new concentration be proposed to the CEP at its November 2022 meeting. Please note that this is nearly two years before the first class matriculates.
Developing New Degree Programs, Certificates, and Other Education Programs
Ideas for new education programs are welcomed and necessary for the growth and development of fields and of the school. These ideas may arise in response to the emergence of new disciplines or changes in existing disciplines, to help realize the potential for new interdisciplinary and interschool programs, or new learner markets.
New programs, though, need to fit into the complex landscape of existing educational programs at Harvard Chan. Each one represents not just opportunities, but opportunity costs (if we do this new thing, it may foreclose the ability to do another new thing), and there can be many direct and indirect implications for staffing, faculty teaching, advising, classroom space, etc. such that a new program can impact existing programs in unintended ways such as “cannibalizing” applicants, or making it more difficult for students to get into courses that already have waitlists.
This document outlines how the School evaluates and approves new major educational programs (e.g., new degrees, certificates, and non-degree programs that are large and/or resource intensive). This process is not designed to be obstructive and overly bureaucratic, but to ensure that new programs are set up for success, individually and for Harvard Chan as a whole. Whether an idea for a new program originates from a single individual or a group within the Harvard Chan community, is to be offered within a department or spans departments, it must meet several benchmarks before approval. This process is designed to ensure it will fit the mission of the School; meet academic, enrollment and financial goals; has strong leadership and adequate resources; and that the implications for changes across all of the School’s educational offerings have been fully thought through.
To initiate discussions about a new education program, please be in touch with the Dean for Education, Erin Driver-Linn, email@example.com.
To review the principles for assessing proposals for new educational programs and the phases for the approval process, please see the Education Program Approval Process guidelines.
This approval process applies to all education programs that have school-wide implications, which is virtually all programs. New degree programs refers to new degrees and also new tracks or fields of study within degrees. Certificates can be for degree or non-degree learners and may certify participation or mastery; all represent the school and have implications for the school. Almost all new education programs have implications for classrooms, OSS staff time, etc. So, although there will be small, department-based new programs that do not have school-wide implications, we recommend opening a dialogue with the Office of Education about any new program.
Timing Considerations and Requirements
The above processes may take many months, if not years, and we encourage proposal development teams to build a timeline and have it reviewed by the Senior Associate Dean for Educational Programs and the Associate Dean for Student Services regularly throughout the Concept, Pre-Proposal, and Full Proposal phases.
Any proposal to develop a degree program or field of study must be submitted at least 18 months in advance of the date on which it is proposing that the program would accept new applications. Because the school finalizes its program listing in SOPHAS by August 1 each year, this means that any proposal must be submitted no later than August 1 of the preceding year.
For example: a program proposes to start taking applications for new students for the incoming class of AY 2026-2027. These students would have applied in the fall of 2025 admissions cycle. The proposal to develop the program/field of study would need to be submitted by March 2024.
For the purposes of the Admissions application, school catalog, and website, all program approvals, curricula, and materials for new programs need to be in place no later than March of the year prior to the year of entry.
Terminating Degree Program/Field of Study Requirements
The department or program making a recommendation to discontinue a degree program or field of study (referred to hereafter as “program”) must submit a proposal to the following committees for review, in the order listed:
- the educational steering committee for that program, if any (e.g., MPH Steering Committee)
- the Committee on Educational Policy (CEP)
- the Academic Council
Depending on the review of these bodies, the Dean of the Faculty or the Dean for Education may require that the proposal be submitted to the Faculty Council and, at the Faculty Council’s discretion, to the full Harvard Chan faculty.
Any proposal to discontinue a degree program or field of study must be submitted at least 12 months in advance of the date on which it is proposing that the program would no longer be open for new applications. Because the school finalizes its program listing in SOPHAS by August 1 each year, so this means that any proposal must be submitted no later than by August 1 of the preceeding year.
For example: a program proposes to stop taking applications for new students for the incoming class of AY 2025-2026. These students would have applied in the fall of 2024 admissions cycle. The proposal to discontinue the program would need to be submitted by August 2023.)
Required Submission Materials
All proposals to discontinue a degree must include a letter of support from the relevant department chair or program director specifying the following information:
Summary information on the degree program or degree, including:
- an overview of the role of the program in the school’s educational offerings
- the educational goals of the program
- the number of enrolled students in each of the 3 most recent academic years
- the number of applications to the program in the 3 most recent admissions cycles
The rationale for the proposed elimination of the program or field of study
- What specific goals would be achieved by discontinuing the program or field of study?
The implications of the proposal for the school’s educational mission
- How does the program currently contribute to the school’s educational mission?
- How will the school fulfill this part of its educational mission without the program?
- What group of current applicants would now not be eligible for admission to the school?
- What proportion of applicants to the school does this represent?
A description of the process that was undertaken to develop the recommendation to discontinue the program, including:
- Any analysis of data or other information that was conducted or reviewed as part of the review process. A summary of any such data or analysis should be included in the proposal.
- Were current students in the program consulted as part of this process? If so, what were their views?
- Were alumni of the program consulted as part of this process? If so, what were their views?
Alternatives to discontinuing the degree or field of study
- What alternative to discontinuing the degree program were considered? What criteria were used to decide among the possible alternatives?
Implications of the proposal for other degree programs
- Does the school offer other degree programs that might be appropriate alternatives or substitutes for interested applicants?
- If so, do these programs have capacity to accept additional students?
- Have these programs been consulted about the proposal? If so, what were their views?
- What are the enrollment implications of discontinuing the degree?
- How will the department/program/school make up for any decline in enrollment from discontinuing the program?
- Has the Admissions Office been consulted about the proposal? If so, what was its view?
- Would the department/program/school realize any cost savings from discontinuing the program (e.g., elimination of courses, reduction in administrative expenses, etc.)?
- Has the school’s office of financial services been consulted as part of the process of developing the recommendation to discontinue the program? If so, what was its views?
Impact on current students, incoming students and alumni
- How will the proposal affect current students? What actions would be taken to mitigate any potential negative impact on current students?
- How will the proposal affect incoming students? What actions would be taken to mitigate any potential negative impact on incoming students?
- How will the proposal affect alumni of the program? What actions would be taken to mitigate any potential negative impact on alumni of the program?
- If approved, what explanation will be given to these groups to explain the decision to discontinue the degree?
- When and how would each group be informed about the decision?