Academic FAQs


  • Can I apply my transfer credits from another school to this degree?   You can be given transfer credit, but it does not count towards the thirty-credit Duke GLS requirement.

  • What is a typical course load, and how long does it take to finish the degree?   Our course load is flexible.  A typical full-time student takes three or four courses per semester, and finishes in two years or less.  (Nine courses per year is considered a maximum course load.)  A part-time student might take just one or two courses each Fall and Spring, along with an occasional Study Away course during the summer -- to finish in about four years.  According to the regulations of the Duke Graduate School, if you are studying part time (5 or fewer courses per year), the degree must be completed within six years; if you are studying full time (6-9 courses per year), the degree must be completed within four years.
  • Do I have to take Liberal Studies (LS) seminars for all nine of my required courses?  No: students are required to take just three LS seminars (including the core course); the other six required courses are electives.  Many students find our interdisciplinary courses so engaging that they register only for LS seminars.  Other students use some or all of their six electives to take graduate-level courses in a wide range of programs and departments across the Duke campus.
  • This program gives me a lot of options.  What kind of planning does it require?   While we encourage students to explore a variety of ideas in their early courses, you should also be aware that a self-designed degree such as ours offers great possibilities if you plan wisely.  In particular, by the second half of the program, you should be planning your courses in such a way as to acquire the knowledge, methods, skills and relationships you will need when you propose the Master's Project.  The program's academic advisors are always available to help you make these plans.
  • How important is class attendance?    Very.  Students are expected to attend all seminar sessions.  All absences (beyond unexpected illness or emergency) must have advance permission from the course instructor.  As a rule, any student who misses more than three class sessions during the Fall or Spring semesters, or more than two during the Summer semester, may fail to receive credit for the course.
  • What is the minimum grade point average I need to maintain?   The Graduate School requires that a student must maintain at least a B (3.0) average in order to be considered a student in good standing.  If a student's grade falls below a B average, or the student earns two Cs or a C- during a semester, the Graduate School places that student on academic probation.  Two consecutive semesters on academic probation will normally result in the student's academic withdrawal from the university. An F grade in any major course will result in dismissal from a student's degree program, with some exceptions made for extenuating circumstances.
  • Can I withdraw from a course?  The best time to drop a class is during the semester's Drop/Add season.  After that, a student may withdraw from a course, but will still have to pay some amount of tuition.  Withdrawal should be done only rarely and after serious discussions between teacher and student.  Graduate School regulations specify that, in order for a master's student to avoid academic probation, at least 2/3 of the credits attempted in any given semester must be completed with a satisfactory grade (a grade higher than F, or a grade of CR for a credit/noncredit course). Two consecutive semesters on academic probation will normally result in the student's academic withdrawal from the university. 
  • Can I take an Incomplete grade?  A student must complete all coursework within a given semester to receive credit for the course.  Under extraordinary circumstances, a student may make prior arrangements with the professor to submit some coursework by a specific due date after the end of the course semester. Such an arrangement needs to be in place by the last class session; in such cases, the student typically signs a contract confirming the new due date for the coursework.  The professor then assigns a temporary Incomplete grade that resolves into a regular grade once the coursework is completed and graded.  However, if the Incomplete (I) is not changed to another letter grade within a calendar year, it becomes permanent on the transcript.