Academic Affairs


1. Course Approval Process

a. Addition, revision, or elimination of regular courses

In many departments, the DUS chairs a committee that meets at regular intervals during the year to review various aspects of the department's undergraduate curriculum. While the functions of this committee vary widely, it typically considers such matters as requests for new courses, proposals for the revision of course content and the Undergraduate Bulletin description, and the elimination of courses from the departmental program.

Should the department recommend a deletion, revision, or addition to its courses open to undergraduates (courses numbered 1-699), the DUS must request appropriate action from the Committee on Courses of the Arts and Sciences Council, by visiting the Course Request website at Deadlines by which requests must be submitted to the committee are available on the website as well as on the work calendar provided at the end of this handbook (see Section Work Calendar). The approval of the DUS is required for all requests for courses numbered 1-699. Courses numbered 1-499 are undergraduate courses; courses numbered 500-699 are graduate courses open to advanced undergraduates, and courses numbered 700-999 are graduate courses not open to undergraduates. Requests for courses numbered 500-699 are normally initiated by the Director of Graduate Studies, but since they are open to advanced undergraduates, they also require the approval of the DUS. Requests for courses numbered 700-999 should be sent by the Director of Graduate Studies directly to the Graduate School via the online Course Request system. See the Course Request website for more detailed instructions on Course Request procedures.

The maximum number of curriculum codes a course may carry is two Area of Knowledge codes and three Modes of Inquiry codes. DUSs should review the forms to make sure that the limit has not been exceeded on the form.

b. Special Topics courses

Courses offered under the Special Topics course numbers (n90)  are courses that are offered on a one-time basis; they are not part of a department’s or program’s regularly taught curriculum (permanent courses). Special Topics are used by faculty who wish to teach a very specialized subject on a one-time basis, or to try out a new course that may eventually become a permanent course.  Special Topics may also be used for specialized courses taught by visiting faculty.

The generic Special Topics courses (numbered 190, 290, 390, 490, 590, etc.) carry a general title, beginning with “Special Topics in…”, and course description usually containing some indication that “topics vary by semester.” These are repeatable courses, that is, students may take a given Special Topics course multiple times provided that the topic is different each time. Departments and programs should avoid offering the same topic more than once. If a particular topic is offered twice with considerable student demand, the department or program should consider offering it as a regular course in its curriculum, and requesting it as a permanent course.

Please note that the generic Special Topics courses carry no permanent curricular codes. Because the particular topic will be different each time the course is taught, departments and programs should apply for the appropriate curricular codes and cross-listings using the Special Topics form on the Online Course Request website each time the course is offered. The topic title and course description should also be provided on this form. This is done in the same manner as regular course changes and additions via the online course request procedure. Please note also that even if a particular topic has been offered in a previous semester, the curriculum codes will not carry over on ACES unless the Special Topic Request form has been submitted for the current semester.

Permanent changes to the generic Special Topics courses should be made using the online Course Change form.

Coding requests must be made by the advertised deadline. Please note that the Courses Committee accepts course requests throughout the year, but for requests submitted after the stated deadlines, there is no guarantee that the requests will be approved in time for registration during the upcoming semester. The Committee does not accept requests for curricular codes once classes have begun for the semester in which the course is being taught.

Special Topics courses at the 700+ level are exclusive to the Graduate Bulletin (i.e. they do not appear in the Undergraduate Bulletin) and curriculum codes should not be requested for them.

c. Cross-listed courses

Care should be taken with cross-listed courses to avoid inconsistency between the listing departments. It is the responsibility of the primary department to ensure when submitting course requests that all cross-listing departments are notified and that the course information is consistent. Cross-listed courses must have the same title, codes, course level, and format (e.g. seminar vs. lecture). Courses should not be cross-listed within the same department. Regular courses cannot be cross-listed with the Special Topics course numbers. All cross-listings should adhere to these level range conventions:

  • 100-199 introductory undergraduate: all cross-lists should be at the 100 level
  • 200-399 undergraduate above introductory: can be cross-listed together but not with 100 or 400 level and up
  • 400-499 advanced undergraduate: all cross-lists should be at the 400 level
  • 500-699 advanced undergraduate/graduate: can be cross-listed together, but not with 400 level or below or 700 level or above
  • 700-999 graduate only: can be cross-listed together, but not with 600 level or below

Cross-listed courses must be entered in the DSV with the same scheduling information. The owning department determines the total enrollment cap for the course. Seminars that exceed the official seminar enrollment limit lose their status as seminars.

When cross-listing with a certificate program, courses may have two types of cross-listings with certificate programs. In the first type, all the cross-listing units use course numbers, and thus the cross-listing functions as normal; these are informally called "hard cross-listings." In the second type the cross-listing does not use a separate course number. This "program cross-listing" is listed in the Bulletin (without a separate course number for the certificate program), but does not appear on the schedule. Such a cross-listing serves to allow departmental courses to count toward fulfillment of the requirements of the certificate.

d. Request for W code for Research Independent Study

A Research Independent Study is a course that has been officially approved by the Committee on Courses to carry an R (Research) code; it is NOT the same as a course whose title is just Independent Study, which carries no curriculum codes. A student enrolling in a Research Independent Study may apply to count (a maximum of) one Research Independent Study toward the W requirement. The form for doing so is available online at (and also on the Academic Requirements page at The form must be submitted through the DUS office and be signed by the student, the instructor of record, the research advisor (if different), and the DUS. Note that the only two codes a Research Independent Study may carry are R (which adheres to it by default) and, for an individual student who applies, W.

e. Request for Service Learning designation

The Service Learning designation is requested using the online course request forms. If you are requesting the Service Learning designation, check the appropriate box, and contact the Service Learning Office for endorsement at The designation will be added once the endorsement is communicated to the Courses Committee from the Service Learning Office. For further information on the Service Learning program, see Special Programs and Services.

f. Dropping of courses not recently taught

Courses that have not been taught in the last three years and are not scheduled for the upcoming semester should be dropped. Dropping them will free up course numbers for re-use by the department. A course number is not to be reused for 4 years, or at least 4 years from the time the course was last taught (to avoid having the number appear more than once on a student's transcript).

2. Course Scheduling

The DUS has a major responsibility for integrating the various teaching interests of the faculty members with the needs of the department, the students, and Trinity College. In most departments the DUS negotiates with faculty colleagues, and in some cases with the chair, to formulate the department's Schedule of Courses for each semester. Early each semester (see Work Calendar, below) the DUS provides the University Registrar with the departmental scheduling information for the next semester (see University Registrar, below). In early August the Summer Session Office communicates with department chairs about appropriate course offerings for the following summer. A list of projected course offerings is desired by the end of September. The DUS should work closely with both the chair and the Summer Session staff in establishing a summer schedule based on the records of previous summers, the needs of the department, the availability and interests of faculty, and the projected student demand. Plans for any innovative course offerings in the Summer Session should be developed at this time, and information shared about teacher evaluations from the previous summer. It is expected that departments will have an integral voice and stake in the Duke Summer Session; no faculty are hired for summer teaching without departmental approval, for example, and the Summer Session staff will communicate with the department throughout the year on issues of mutual interest and concern.

Scheduling of Field Trips

Faculty may not schedule required field trips on days that other classes are in session. The dates and times of any field trips, whether required or optional, should be published in the course syllabus and made known to students on the first day of class.

Funding Field Trips

Faculty must receive approval from the Dean of Academic Affairs for any fee associated with a trip. If approved, the dean will help coordinate with the bursar’s office and the financial aid office to charge and allocate funds back to the program. 

Scheduling of Examinations, Papers, and Other Exercises

Examination schedules and deadlines for term papers will be established early in the semester and kept. Ideally, these should be published in the course syllabus.

3. Course Synopsis

The Course Synopsis provides detailed information, including expanded course descriptions, syllabi, reading lists and textbook information. Faculty should be encouraged to enter this information via the Synopsis tab in the Department Center in STORM. In some departments the faculty enter the descriptions of their own courses; in others, the faculty submit them to departmental personnel to be entered. The DUS must approve the course descriptions, and the course information should be entered in time for registration. In anticipation of this, it is advisable for DUS offices to ask departmental faculty to prepare their course synopses in early September and early February, to be ready for entry as soon as the schedule is available in STORM.

4. Inter-Institutional Courses

Students who are regularly enrolled as full-time students at Duke (paying full fees) may take one approved course each semester at UNC-Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, or North Carolina Central University under a plan of cooperation termed the inter-institutional arrangement or reciprocal agreement. Specific courses taken under the inter-institutional agreement must be approved by the DUS in the Duke department most closely allied with the course and then by the student's academic dean. The DUS indicates approval by signing an inter-institutional approval form that the student obtains from the University Registrar's Office, or online. The student then takes the form to the academic dean. (Except in extraordinary circumstances approved by the student's academic dean, approval is not to be given for a student to take an inter-institutional course when a similar course is offered that year at Duke.) Credit so earned is not defined as transfer credit since grades in courses taken under the inter-institutional agreement are entered on the official Duke record and used in determining the quality point ratio. Inter-institutional courses may be approved for Area of Knowledge codes (ALP, CZ, NS, QS, SS) and Modes of Inquiry Curriculum codes. If a DUS wishes to recommend an Area of Knowledge code for the course, that can be written on the Inter-institutional form. Students wishing to apply for a Mode of Inquiry for the course must complete a request form, which does not require DUS signature. Questions regarding inter-institutional credit or a student's academic intentions should be referred to the student's academic dean.

For inter-institutional courses (unlike transfer courses), the course number, title, and grade of the course as it is at its home institution appear on the student's Duke record. (If the course has been approved by the Duke department to count toward the student's major/minor/certificate, both the student and the department should monitor that since the course will not have a Duke course number.)

5. Robertson Scholars/UNC CH Courses

With the institution of the Robertson Scholars Program at Duke (and at Chapel Hill) in 2001, 15 merit scholarships are awarded to members of the incoming class each year. Robertson Scholars may apply to take one or more courses at UNC-Chapel Hill each semester. This is especially the case in the spring semester of the sophomore year, when Robertson Scholars are required to reside on campus at UNC-CH and may take all or most of their courses there. Because there are special rules governing the awarding of credit at Duke for courses taken at UNC-CH by Robertson Scholars, a separate approval form has been developed for use by Robertson Scholars. The form requires preapproval of each course to be taken at UNC-CH by the appropriate DUS and by the student's academic dean. Questions regarding UNC/CH credit for a Robertson Scholar or a student's academic intentions should be referred to the student's academic dean. Under guidelines approved by the Arts and Sciences Committee on Curriculum, Robertson Scholars are also eligible to complete a second major or minor at UNC-CH (excluding those available at Duke). Inquiries concerning this option may be addressed to Valerie Konczal in Trinity College, 011 Allen Bldg, Box 90053.

6. Independent Study and Research Independent Study

There are two types of independent study courses although both are not available in all departments. Courses that carry the course number and title Research Independent Study, approved by the Courses Committee, focus on individual research, under faculty supervision, resulting in a substantive paper or report. They thus carry the R (Research) curriculum code. A student may apply through the department to have one Research Independent Study course count toward the W (Writing) requirement (see Request for W code for Research Independent Study, above). Research Independent Study courses carry no other curriculum codes. In some departments Research Independent Study courses are the only type of independent study available. In plain Independent Study courses, the course of guided reading and substantive paper or written reports involved, under faculty supervision, does not focus on research. Not all departments offer these courses. They carry no curriculum codes.

Students need the approval of the DUS, as well as the supervising instructor, to register for independent study. To register for an independent study course, a student must obtain an ACES permission number from the DUS (or in some departments, the sponsoring professor). The DUS assists in assigning course and section numbers. Since most departments have established criteria for these projects, the DUS assumes a monitoring role to ensure that the criteria are followed. Departments are asked to require students to submit a written proposal that has been endorsed by the faculty member who will supervise the independent study. For this purpose, departments should use the Trinity College Independent Study Request Form, located on the Academic Policies& Procedures Website, which they may revise to include more specific information. Although some departments limit the number of independent study courses that may count for the major and the number that an individual faculty member may supervise, there is no limit on the number of independent projects a student may take, nor is there a restriction relating to the student's class standing. Faculty regulations state that instructors of independent study courses are expected to meet with the students enrolled at least once every two weeks during the fall or spring and at least once each week during a summer term. Each semester the department should keep a list of students in independent study, their instructors, and supervising professors (if the instructor is outside the department), as well as the assigned section numbers. If in accord with department policies, each independent study should have a brief title appropriate for the student's record. The Registrar's office must also be informed. The information is often needed to obtain final grades for graduating seniors, if the grades have not been submitted on time.

It is important that faculty members be reminded that independent study numbers should not be used to give students credit for attending a regular course, e.g., to bypass the maximum enrollment limit on a seminar. It may penalize the student in unexpected ways (e.g., by depriving the student of the curriculum codes carried by the regular course) and create a false impression on the student's transcript that independent work has been done. If the number so misused is a Research Independent Study number, the Research requirement of the general studies curriculum would be undermined, and the situation would call into question whether the R code should continue to be automatically awarded to courses that departments have identified as Research Independent Study. It would also undermine the seminar experience for students by unofficially inflating the number of students enrolled in the seminar.

7. Academic Internships

Academic internships need the approval of the DUS as well as that of the sponsoring faculty member in the department/program. In Trinity College course credit can be earned for internships only when they include as a component an academic course of instruction leading to submission of a substantive research paper for evaluation. They do not carry curriculum codes. Departments that regularly give credit for academic internships should establish a course number devoted to them, e.g., POLSCI 189. A student may count only one academic internship toward the 34 courses needed for graduation.