A single grading system is used in all courses at the GSD.
|Distinction & High Pass||work of exceptional merit|
|Low Pass||performance deficient in some respects but meets minimal course standards|
|Satisfactory||indicate that the doctoral thesis is in progress|
|Withdrawal||assigned for courses dropped after the add/drop deadline|
|Fail||work that is unsatisfactory and a student receives no credit for that course|
|Incomplete||incomplete course work|
Receipt of an excessive number of incompletes, low passes, or failures may result in action under the policy on Satisfactory Progress and Termination (see below). The GSD does not use a grade-point average or rank-in-class system. Non-GSD students who cross-register into a GSD course are evaluated on the same grading system as are GSD students, with the exception of PhD students who may submit a Request to the Office of the Registrar, and Harvard College Student Services.
Grade Changes and Appeals
Evaluation of a student’s performance in each course is the responsibility of the instructor of record for that course. Normally, the instructor’s decision is final. For grades other than ‘Incomplete’ grade changes can be made by the instructor of record and with the approval of the department chair only for the purpose of correcting an error made in calculating the grade. Very exceptionally, grade changes can be made for compelling reasons over which the student has no control, such as a medical emergency. Whether or not a student decides to invoke the formal appeal process, a student always has the right to request in writing, informally, an explanation of an assigned grade by the instructor. A copy must be sent to the Dean of Students. Instructors are required to respond.
However, a student who feels that a grade is unfair due to negligence or discrimination on the part of the instructor has the right to appeal formally. This appeal must be filed within the first 30 days of the academic term immediately following the term for which the grade was given or within 30 days of the date grades are distributed by the registrar, whichever is later. If, after receiving the instructor’s response, the student still believes that a grade has been assigned unfairly, the student should discuss the matter with the Dean of Students. If the student decides to pursue the appeal, he or she must submit a written petition to the dean of the Faculty of Design, stating the reasons for appeal of the grade. This petition must be filed within the first 60 days of the academic term immediately following the term for which the grade was given or within 60 days of the date grades are distributed by the registrar, whichever is later. If the dean believes the petition demonstrates evidence of negligence or discriminatory behavior, an advisory committee will be formed to review the appeal and make recommendations to the dean. The dean’s decision concerning the appeal of a grade is final. If a student appeals a grade assigned in his or her last term at the school, the appeal process may take place after his or her graduation. No grade may be changed after graduation for any reason other than as the result of a formal appeal as described above. Additional information on procedures related to grade appeals is available from the Dean of Students.
Petition for Incomplete
The option of receiving an incomplete grade (INC) is not automatic. The student must request permission from the instructor, meet with the Dean of Students and file with the Office of Student Services a Petition for Incomplete Grade. The petition must be submitted prior to the last class meeting for that course. Students missing a final examination or submission of a final project cannot receive an INC unless the absence was owing to illness, as verified by University Health Services or a physician, or for another major justifiable excuse. Permission for an INC in studio courses will normally be granted only for medical reasons and by the program director. The normal deadline for removal of an INC is the last day of the examination period of the corresponding term of the next academic year, unless an earlier deadline is specified by the instructor. Occasional extensions to this deadline are granted upon petition to the program director. This deadline is not automatically extended for students who withdraw from the GSD after receiving an INC, but is extended for those who take an approved leave of absence. Such an extension will be for the length of the leave of absence. Incompletes in studios must be removed prior to a student’s registration in any future semester. An INC that has not been completed by the deadline will count toward deficiency units. No grade may be changed on a record after a student has graduated, unless as the result of a formal appeal, and an INC on the record at the time of graduation becomes a part of the student’s permanent record.
Non-GSD students who cross-register into a GSD course are evaluated on the same grading system as are GSD students. Cross-registered courses will have a different grading system so check out information about Cross-Registration or the Harvard Cross-Registration site. Information on grade changes, appeals and incompletes can be directed to the Instructor and if necessary, the Registrar.
Incomplete or Unsatisfactory Thesis
A student whose thesis is not accepted must extend work by registering for additional terms. A maximum of one additional term will be granted for completion of a master’s thesis. A student who has to repeat the thesis because of failure may also be required to repeat the thesis preparation period, in which case it would be necessary to register for two additional terms. Doctor of Design students will be allowed to register for additional terms for thesis completion only with advisor and ASP committee approval.
Satisfactory Progress and Termination
The following conditions must be met in order for students to be considered as making satisfactory progress:
- Continuous full-time enrollment (except for approved part-time status and leaves of absence)
- Completion of the degree requirements of their program within two terms beyond the prescribed number of terms for that program (plus extensions due to approved part-time status and leaves of absence)
- Achievement of a satisfactory grade record. A grade record is considered to be satisfactory until deficiency units are accumulated to the extent that the student has reached the dismissal threshold.
Deficiency units are calculated as follows:
- One unit failure = one deficiency unit
- One unit incomplete (past deadline) = one deficiency unit
- One unit low pass = one-half deficiency unit (for example, deficiency units for a grade of low pass in an 8-unit course are calculated as follows: 8 units x 0.5 = 4 deficiency units). For courses taken outside the GSD, passing grades below “B” or “satisfactory” will be considered equivalent to a low pass.
The following are numbers of deficiency units in each degree program that, upon accumulation, will put a student at the warning or dismissal threshold:
|Semester Completed||Warning Threshold (Deficiency Units)||Dismissal Threshold (Deficiency Units)|
|5 or more||8||16|
*Semesters are counted as completed in accordance with the specific requirements for award of degree for each program.
Doctor of Design
Doctor of Design students must satisfactorily complete 32 units of course work and pass a general examination based on an approved thesis proposal before the beginning of the third semester of study. Failure to do so will initiate termination procedures.
In the case of a student who has not maintained satisfactory progress, the department or ASP faculty will review the situation at the beginning of the semester following that in which the dismissal threshold was reached. The student is given an opportunity to provide any pertinent information. Unless the department or ASP faculty votes by a majority to halt the dismissal process, the case will automatically be referred to the full Faculty of Design. The possession of deficiency units at the dismissal threshold will normally result in a faculty action to dismiss the student. No student shall be dismissed except by a vote of at least two-thirds of the voting members of the faculty present and voting thereon. A student may withdraw voluntarily at any time prior to the vote of the full faculty. The decision of the faculty will be final. The transcript will note the dismissal or withdrawal. While a student dismissed for academic reasons is eligible to reapply for admission to the GSD at a later date, the application is unlikely to be approved.
Instructors send midterm warning letters approximately eight weeks into the term to those students who are experiencing academic difficulty. Due to the short duration of module courses, faculty are not expected to send warning letters midway through the module. The purpose of these letters is to inform students that if their academic performance does not improve, they may receive a grade of low pass or fail. Students experiencing academic difficulty after the middle of the term may also receive a written warning. Failure on the part of the instructor to submit a warning letter to the student does not preclude the instructor from assigning a low pass or fail. A copy of the letter is forwarded to the student’s academic advisor and to the registrar for permanent inclusion in the student’s file, regardless of the student’s final grade.