Finance & Administration

Canceled Visiting Faculty Courses Policy


The policy outlines how departments/units and Trinity College of Arts & Sciences will assign financial responsibility when a visiting faculty member’s undergraduate course is cancelled because of lack of enrollment. The goal of this policy is to help ensure the success of visiting faculty member courses and to address departmental/unit teaching responsibilities.


Departments and programs that wish to bring a visiting faculty member to campus and teach a course during his or her residency must request authorization during the budget meeting process. The authorization request should include a description of what the faculty member will do while at Duke, including specific courses to be taught.

If the visiting faculty member will teach a course(s) while at Duke, the authorization request should include a rationale for the course assignment and when it will be taught.

Departments should obtain and review information about the visitor’s reputation as a teacher, preferred teaching style, and (where relevant) ease and effectiveness of communication in English. Such information should guide the unit when considering appropriate teaching assignments such as whether graduate courses, undergraduate courses, or some mixture best fit the visitor’s expertise and experience. This should be done well in advance of making a visiting faculty appointment offer.

We recommended that visiting faculty not teach a new undergraduate or special topics class during their first semester at Duke. Such courses have a high probability of low enrollment and cancellation because undergraduate students prefer to take established courses from faculty with known teaching track records. Delaying a new course offering until the second semester of an appointment or allowing the visitor to team teach a course will give departments time to introduce students to the visitor and market his or her course prior to enrollment in the coming semester.

Consider how familiar the visitor is with expectations of and for students at Duke and (in the case of foreign visitors) American higher education and best practices. If there are issues in these areas, plan as early as possible for appropriate mentoring.

If the visitor must teach in his or her first semester at Duke because of the length of time for the visiting appointment, we strongly suggest that the visitor be assigned a required departmental undergraduate course or a graduate course. This will ensure adequate course enrollment and reduce the risk of a cancelled course.

Departments/units must aggressively and intensively recruit undergraduate students to new/special topics courses. Efforts could include advising prospective students, hosting student interactions with the visiting faculty member prior to course enrollment, and developing a course promotional video to be marketed directly to students and on the website, etc. Such activities should be included in the visiting faculty authorization request.

Once the appointment has been made, if it becomes necessary to cancel a visiting faculty member’s undergraduate course because of insufficient enrollment, the department should be prepared to assign the visitor other responsibilities that are equivalent to the unmet teaching obligation. Such responsibilities could include mentoring, serving on thesis committees, or informal seminars or public lectures to make the visitor’s presence at Duke more evident and valuable.

The department should then submit an amended visiting faculty member plan to the appropriate Divisional Dean for review and approval. If for some reason such activities are not sufficient to make up for the unmet teaching obligation, the department will repay the current course replacement cost.