Guidelines for Probation and Disqualification in the Graduate Program

(revised 11-10-24 to reflect replacement of University Policy F96-11 with University Policy S10-6)


These guidelines provide additional guidance for the implementation of University Policy S10-6. They are intended to serve two purposes. First, they will help programs develop criteria for probation and disqualification policies for their own degree programs. Second, they will provide continuity, fairness, grounds for oversight review, and an institutional memory for the Academic Disqualification and Reinstatement Review Committee (ADRRC). The ADRRC is charged with reviewing and approving departmental guidelines and hearing the appeals of students placed on probation or disqualified under those guidelines.

 Supporting Student Success

These guidelines protect the integrity of the university and of the discipline, which is imperative for those students remaining in the degree program, the employers who hire our graduates, and the faculty who provide oversight of the academic program. A high level of scholarship and of ethical and operational behavior is needed at the graduate level, and individual programs are given some leeway in developing standards for their programs that meet the needs of the community they are serving as well as the field of study in which the students will be claiming expertise.

As with undergraduates, probation in the graduate program alerts students that their performance is less than satisfactory. The limited duration and resource-intensive nature of graduate programs and the expectation for consistently high level academic performance from graduate students may require additional policies regarding satisfactory academic progress.

Basic Principles

University Policy S10-6 provides the framework and foundation for these guidelines.

Academic Probation in and Disqualification from the University 

The policies for university-level academic probation, disqualification, and reinstatement are well defined in S10-6. This document discusses programmatic processes, under the heading of administrative-academic probation and disqualification.       

Administrative-Academic Probation in and Disqualification from a Program

Despite maintaining a SJSU cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better, graduate students’ academic performance in the major may fall below the minimum standards established in that major. In these cases, while students remain in overall good standing with the university, they are subject to probation in and disqualification from the major. Each college, school, department, and program (hereafter referred to as "program") may employ a policy of probation in and disqualification from the major.

Programs may use program-specific criteria for determining probation in the major, disqualification from the major, and reinstatement into the major. Such criteria and procedures will be reviewed and approved by the ADRRC. Acceptable standards might include a requirement to achieve grades of “B” in every class with a stipulated number of “substandard” grades allowed for repetition or to receive a “CR” in field, student teaching, or internship courses with a stipulated number of “NC” grades allowed for repetition. In addition, graduate students are expected to make reasonable progress through their degree program and to successfully form a master's committee. A student cannot, for example, have been admitted to one program but take no courses in it while taking courses in a second program. Repeated failure to complete a project or thesis research proposal might constitute reasonable grounds to disqualify a student. While the program should make every attempt to aid a student in forming a master's committee, the inability to do so might also be grounds for dismissal from the program. In some programs, comprehensive exams must be passed, and policies governing exam procedure, for example, with regard to the number of times the exams may be tried, must be formulated and publicized by the programs. Programs have the obligation to inform students in writing of their probationary status and means to return to good standing before the final failure of any of these disqualifying acts.       

In most cases, a direct reassignment from good standing in the major to disqualification from the major is prohibited. In other words, at least one semester of probation in the major is required prior to disqualification from the major. The underlying philosophical premise is that students should be placed on notice prior to disqualification. For example, a substandard grade in one course could not result in disqualification; rather, the student would be put on probation and afforded the opportunity to repeat that class. Passage of the repeated course with the required grade would result in the return of the student to good standing. Programs can limit the number of semesters on probation in the student career to as few as one.

Exceptions to this general guideline include the following:

 •           In clinical courses (including internships), laboratory courses, student teaching assignments, or other types of programmatic requirements, there may be such serious concerns about the safety or well-being of the student or other students, clients, patients, pupils, and so forth, that repetition of the course is not reasonable. For such courses or programmatic experiences, departments may establish “no repeat” policies, i.e., a course may not be repeated if not passed on the first attempt. The course catalog description, greensheet, and programmatic information must all clearly provide this information. In clinical or lab settings in which safety or well-being are severely compromised, a student may be disenrolled from the course, which may lead to disqualification from the major. In such a case, an ADRRC-approved departmental procedure must be followed to review the disqualification decision before it takes effect. In general, the immediate move from good standing to disqualification (without a term of probation in between) should be associated with the inability to satisfy a specific course requirement on the first and only allowable attempt, not with a less specific programmatic requirement. These courses must be approved in advance by the ADRRC and adhere to guidelines for probation and disqualification in the major established by the ADRRC.

 •           Conditional acceptance to a program is, in effect, acceptance under probation in the major. Typically, a specified set of courses or requirements must be passed prior to attaining good standing in the program. There may be time limits or unit limits established to satisfy the conditions, which, if not met, may lead to disqualification from the major degree program without an intervening term on explicit probation. Cohort programs must provide in their policies a reasonable accommodation for students who must stop out for legitimate reasons.

•           Teaching credential students do not receive a degree from SJSU and are subject to the regulations of the state legislature and licensing agency. Credential courses that exceed the seven-year limit cannot be revalidated. As with graduate master’s degree programs in the CSU, the overall GPA and candidacy GPA must be at 3.0 or above for completion. In the case of credentials, a recommendation from the university to the state credentialing agency would be withheld without the requisite GPA. Students who fail to achieve this level of scholastic success can be precluded by the program from repeating courses or taking other courses to raise the GPA and so are effectively permanently terminated from the university without the credential recommendation.

Multiple attempts to pass a course: With the exceptions given above, students should be given the opportunity to repeat any course at least once. However, major programs may restrict a student to two attempts of any course offered by the department. The course catalog description, greensheet, and programmatic information should all clearly provide this information. The basic guideline is that the university rules for repeating courses should be followed unless the major chooses to be more lenient than the university. Special situations include the following:

 •           Approved course or semester withdrawals (W or WB grades on the unofficial transcript) are considered to be without prejudice and should not be counted as an attempt at a course if the major program restricts the number of attempts for a course (see University Policy S09-7).

 •           For graduate students, the university will use grade averaging in computing the SJSU GPA (per F08-2).

 Programs employing a policy for disqualification from the major must ensure that all students within the concerned majors are advised of this policy.

 Reinstatement to the Major

Following academic disqualification from the university, individual programs may decline to allow Programs of Study for reinstatement to the university.

Without compelling reasons, administratively academically disqualified students may not be reinstated to the major from which they were dismissed. Should a student find a new program willing to reinstate, transfer into that program will require program approval via a Graduate Change-of-Major application process without reapplication to the university, if permitted by the new department. However, should two semesters pass without reinstatement, reapplication would be necessary as a result of the continuous enrollment policy. The student may not take courses in matriculated status before approval is secured. Courses taken through Open University during the intervening period would be subject to the transfer rules of the graduate school.

In cases of error or extenuating circumstances, students, upon receiving notice of probation or disqualification, may petition to an appropriate faculty committee at the program level to appeal such action. In the case of a negative decision in response to the petition, students may appeal to the ADRRC. After review of the petition, the ADRRC will make a recommendation to the Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies to confirm or rescind the action.

 Additional Guidelines

As noted above, University Policy S10-6 provides an excellent framework, but there are many other Title 5 rules and regulations, CSU executive orders and coded memoranda, and university policies that must be adhered to as well. This list of guidelines is not meant to be exclusionary; a department may propose others that the ADRRC will consider based on compliance with university policies and practice and student fairness considerations. These guidelines may be thought of as a set of tools to improve student success and establish good educational practice.

Maximum Course Grade or GPA Requirements

Programs may not require individual course grades to be higher than “B” for graduate students. At the most, a department may require that each course required for the degree program be passed at this standard. The corollary is that the maximum GPA that can be required for any set of courses cannot be higher than 3.0 for graduate students. Notes related to these general guidelines include the following:

Admission requirements and degree requirements are different. Admission to a graduate degree program may include supplemental criteria such as a GPA greater than the 3.0 threshold. However, once a student is admitted to a major, the degree requirements must be limited to “B or better” for graduate students (Title 5).

 Restrictions on Course or Unit Load Per Semester

These sorts of criteria may be set as a minimum or maximum. For example, cohort programs may require that a minimum number of courses/units be taken each semester in order to best utilize resources or to ensure that the program is completed while student knowledge is still current. Alternatively, setting a maximum number of units may make sense for students on probation.

A department may consider university probation or disqualification as a factor in determining probation or disqualification in the major.

Student Notification

Conditions for return to good standing from probation or to reinstatement from academic disqualification should be clearly communicated to students at the time they are placed on probation or are academically disqualified from a major. There should be a mechanism to permit return to good standing from probation.

Graduate Studies or ADRRC Notification

Students on probation or disqualification from the major shall be reported to the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies or the ADRRC when the action is taken.


Approved by the Academic Disqualification & Reinstatement Review Committee: October 24, 2011


Present: Elna Green, Elaine Collins, Mary McVey, Jan English-Lueck, Alice Hines, Deanna Peck, Cindy Kato, Marian Sofish, David Bruck


Absent: Emily Allen, Stephen Branz, Mary Nino, Malu Roldan, Steve Zlotolow