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Academic Policies

Academic Policies

Degree Programs

The academic work of Duke Divinity School presently embraces six degree programs:

  1. The master of arts (MA), an introductory theological degree that ordinarily takes two years (18.0 units);

  2. The master of theological studies (MTS), a general academic degree that ordinarily takes two years (16.0 units);

  3. The master of divinity degree (MDiv), a graduate professional degree (24.0 units) offered in two modalities:

    1. The residential MDiv, ordinarily takes three years (though a pathway exists for four years);

    2. The hybrid MDiv, ordinarily four years.

  4. The master of theology (ThM), a one-year graduate professional degree (8.0 units) beyond other master’s degrees offered, such as the MA, MTS, and MDiv;

  5. The doctor of ministry (DMin), a professional doctorate ordinarily taking three or four years (15.0 units);

  6. The doctor of theology (ThD), a research-oriented, theologically interdisciplinary doctorate that typically takes five to six years (12.0 units).

The freestanding certificate in theology and health care requires 6.0 units.

Admission to candidacy for any of the master’s degrees requires the completion of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. Admission to the DMin or ThD program presupposes an MA, MDiv, MTS, or comparable master’s degree. The MA, hybrid MDiv, and DMin operate on a hybrid of intensive residencies and online synchronous and asynchronous classrooms.

Students preparing for ordination into Christian ministry and requiring appropriate graduate-professional education will normally enroll for one of the three introductory degrees above (MA, MTS, MDiv), depending on denominational requirements. The MA degree is designed to introduce students to disciplined theological reflection as a means for enriching their Christian service in both the church and the world. The degree offers students the opportunity to reflect theologically upon practices of lay professional ministry or other Christian service. The degree is provided primarily for those seeking to enhance lay vocations while remaining in a full-time ministry context or other professional position. The MA coursework does count for some deacon ordination orders.

The MDiv degree is the traditional degree for those seeking ordained Christian ministry. Its curriculum is designed to provide exposure to many theological disciplines and to cultivate a number of skills pertinent to a vocation of learned Christian ministry.

Students whose acquired academic standing entitles them to further specialized study may advance their command of selected theological disciplines by applying for an additional year of studies leading to the master of theology degree, which may assist in ensuring a larger measure of professional preparation. Application for admission to the ThM program is open to graduates of other schools who have completed a basic theological degree.

The MTS provides an introduction to the theological disciplines as a foundation for a graduate degree (PhD, ThD); preparation for lay religious degrees other than Christian education; grounding for teaching, research, or practice in another field (e.g., history, psychology, music); enhancement of institutional roles; and personal enrichment.

The DMin degree is a professional doctorate that has been a mainstay of theological education for decades, providing the opportunity for post-MDiv education to pastors and other Christian leaders. Generally, the degree serves people who have earned the MDiv degree, are ordained, and are currently serving as associate or senior pastors, or as executives of Christian institutions.

The ThD program provides students with academically rigorous training, comparable to the demands of the PhD. The program allows for a focus on areas of study often neglected by traditional PhD programs, such as worship, preaching, evangelism, and the arts.

The specific requirements for each of these degrees are found in the succeeding pages. Completed coursework cannot be credited toward more than one degree. Reciprocal transfer of credit for coursework taken under the MDiv or MTS programs requires the permission of the academic dean.

Generally, courses in the Bulletin of Duke Divinity School are applicable to doctoral programs of study; however, ThD students must seek the permission of the director of the ThD program before registering for 700-level courses. Courses at the 900 level are open to qualified MDiv, ThM, or MTS students by permission of the instructor.

Those who desire to pursue studies leading to the degree of MA or PhD in religion, under the administration of The Graduate School, are advised to apply to the dean of that school. Inquiries concerning fellowships or specific requirements of the program of graduate studies in religion may be addressed to the director, 209 Gray Building.

Administration of the Curriculum

Students are required at the time of each registration period to plan their course of study with the consultation and approval of their assigned academic advisors. Such programs are subject to the review and approval of the Academic Policies Committee, the dean, and the academic dean. It is the responsibility of each student to see that all requirements for graduation (and for ecclesiastical ordination) are met, and that any special permission granted to deviate from the normal program is properly recorded in the student files in the Office of Academic Programs. Students can ensure they have completed all requirements using the degree progress and audit tool, Stellic (duke.stellic.com).

Grading System

The Divinity School employs the grading scale with the letters and quality points A+ (4.0), A (4.0), A- (3.7), B+ (3.3), B (3.0), B- (2.7), C+ (2.3), C (2.0), C- (1.7), D+ (1.3), D (1.0), D- (1.0), F (0.0), W (Withdrew, 0.0), I (Incomplete, 0.0), P (Pass, 0.0), NC (noncredit, 0.0), and Z (year course, 0.0). For the MA, MDiv, MTS, and DMin degrees and the Certificate in Theology and Health Care, individuals or classes may in certain instances and at the discretion of the instructor be graded simply as pass or fail.

MA

MTS

HYBRID MDIV

RESIDENTIAL MDIV

DMIN

D-CTHC

Christian Practice 701 courses are P/F

Students may request up to 4 courses as P/F

Christian Practice 702/3 courses are P/F

Students may request up to 6 courses as P/F

Doctor of Ministry 900 courses are P/F

Christian Studies 707 and 708 is P/F

Students may request up to three more courses as P/F

 -

Students may request up to six more courses as P/F

 -

Students may request up to 3 more courses as P/F

Students may request up to 1 more course as P/F

Such P/F grades are not included in the computation of the grade point average. The Pass/Fail grading basis must be elected before the end of Drop/Add for any enrollment period; students cannot make changes to grading basis after Drop/Add. Students in the ThM and ThD degree programs are not eligible to take courses on the Pass/Fail grading basis. Some limited electives within the MDiv program can be graded on Pass/Fail basis with instructor approval. Pass/Fail is not a grading option for Black Church Studies limited electives. Field Education and some Spiritual Formation courses do not count toward the pass/fail limit.

In the core courses for the MDiv (hybrid and residential), MA, and MTS degrees, the grading is as follows: A, B, C, and F. The grade of D does not exist in core courses. Core courses may not be taken on the Pass/Fail grading basis. Students are required to obtain a grade of C- or better in order to pass a core course. Students earning a grade lower than a C- in a core course shall be obliged to retake the course for credit and pass the course with a grade of C- or better.

Advanced Placement

MA, MDiv (hybrid and residential), and MTS students may, on the basis of undergraduate courses, a religion major, or other substantial preparation, be given advanced placement in one or more of the eight required subjects. Such placement normally presumes at least two college courses in a given area (e.g., Old Testament) with a satisfactory grade average and permits the student to fulfill the requirement by electing an advanced course in the same area (e.g., an advanced Old Testament course in place of OLDTEST 752). Advanced placement must be granted by the division chair (or that individual’s designee) and cannot occur until after a student matriculates in a Duke Divinity School degree program. Certificate in theology and health care (C-THC) students applying to a degree program may request the XTIANSTU 705 and 706 (Cultivating Christian Imagination I and II) courses for advanced standing to the appropriate division chair of either church history or theology/ethics. Courses taken for advanced placement must be taken on a graded basis and cannot simultaneously count as a limited elective. 

Limited Program

MA, MDiv (hybrid and residential), and MTS students whose academic work after admission is not satisfactory may be placed on a limited program by the Academic Policies Committee and are required to reduce their course load or to make other academic adjustments. The Academic Policies Committee may also place students on limited programs due to circumstances stemming from medical conditions or bereavement. MDiv and MTS students who during the first year of Divinity School maintain less than a C (2.0) average, including failures, ordinarily will be required to withdraw from the school or be placed on an involuntary leave of absence, depending on the circumstances.

Incompletes

A student may petition the academic dean to receive a grade of incomplete in a course. This petition must be filed in writing on the prescribed form with the Office of Academic Programs on or before the close of business on the last day of the final reading period of the term in question. Such permission may be granted when a student, through some circumstances beyond control, such as illness, has been hindered from meeting the course requirements. Adjudication of the petition will rest with the academic dean and the instructor concerned. The academic dean will communicate in writing to the student regarding the joint decision and any conditions attached thereto or ask the instructor to do so. Typically, an incomplete becomes either an F or a permanent incomplete unless it is removed through completion of assigned work by the following dates: for incompletes incurred in fall semester courses, February 1; for incompletes incurred in spring semester courses, September 1; and for incompletes incurred in summer term courses, October 1. Grades should be posted within two weeks of the student submitting the work to the instructor or no later than the end of the first Reading Week of the term. No incomplete may extend beyond one year from the end of the term in which the incomplete was granted. The grade of permanent incomplete is reserved for instances in which the student’s work in the course was substantial and of passing quality. 

Change of Courses or Withdrawal

Students are permitted to change their course registrations, without incurring a penalty, during the prescribed Drop/Add period at the beginning of each term. These dates vary by hybrid or residential session. Any refund of tuition related to withdrawals will be according to the relevant session's published schedule. The Drop/Add period is assigned by student session–hybrid or residential.

No student will be permitted to withdraw from a course after one-half of the term without incurring failure, except for causes judged by the academic dean to be beyond the student’s control. Conditions of genuine emergency and not considerations of convenience will be determinative in considering requests, which must be submitted via academic petition forms.

Attendance

Attendance and participation in residential courses are determined by the instructor and should be named in the course syllabus. Courses offered in the hybrid program follow program expectations: students may not miss more than one class session in immersion week or one online session without penalty.

Leave of Absence

A student wishing to take a leave of absence for one or two terms, and intending to return to a degree program at Duke Divinity School, should so notify the academic dean in advance via digital form. Students may take a leave of absence for personal or medical reasons. Students who wish to take a medical leave of absence may be requested to provide the Office of Academic Formation and Programs with medical documentation. A student who wishes to take a leave of absence beyond one full academic year must petition for an exception from the academic dean.

Withdrawals from School

Students deciding to withdraw from Duke Divinity School, for whatever reason, should consult with their academic advisors and the academic dean, and must file a written statement of withdrawal prior to departure via a digital form. All students who have officially withdrawn or whose leave of absence extends beyond one academic year but who wish later to return to Duke Divinity School will be required to reapply for admission and provide whatever documentation is required by the director of admissions.

Administrative Action Policy

The academic dean or designee in consultation with the dean of the Divinity School, the Student Behavioral Assessment Team, and other university officials as needed, may take administrative action(s) against a Divinity School student and/or a Divinity School student group to protect the health, safety, or welfare of the university community or any member of it. Administrative action includes, but is not limited to, a “no contact” directive, removal of privileges, removal from or relocation within the residential community, suspension of activity, and/or suspension from the university. If administrative action is issued while a Conduct Covenant action is pending, such action may remain in effect until the Conduct Covenant process is resolved.

Prior to investigation and resolution, interim restrictions may be placed on a student to protect the health and safety of students or the community. These restrictions may include a “no contact” directive, removal of campus privileges, suspension of activity, and/ or suspension from the university. An interim suspension from the university may be imposed by the academic dean and shall become effective immediately without prior notice whenever there is evidence that the continued presence of the student poses a substantial and immediate threat to themselves, to others, or to the university community. Should an interim suspension be issued and resolution of the matter that prompted it not be resolved within two weeks, the interim suspension may convert to an administrative leave of absence.

Complaints regarding student or group behavior may be filed with Duke Divinity School or, in cases of harassment, with the Office of Student Conduct and/or the Office for Institutional Equity. In any situation where a party is unsure of whom to contact, the student may contact the academic dean.

If the issue of concern is of a sexual nature as described in the University’s Harassment, Discrimination, and Sexual Misconduct Policy, the Office of Institutional Equity takes the lead on procedures in consultation with the academic dean.

Administrative Action Procedure

Any member of the Duke Divinity School community who has reason to believe that a student or student group may pose a threat to the health, safety, or welfare of the Divinity community or any member of it should contact the academic dean. The academic dean, in consultation with the Student Behavioral Assessment Team and/or other appropriate individuals/agencies, will conduct a review of available information and, where necessary and appropriate, gather additional information. Based on the available information, the academic dean shall determine whether administrative action is warranted based on the nature of the risk posed by the student, the probability of harm to Duke Divinity and the wider university community, and whether reasonable alternatives would significantly mitigate the risk. The academic dean will prepare a written statement identifying and explaining the administrative action(s).

A student who is subject to administrative action has three business days from receipt of the written statement to request a meeting with the academic dean to contest the administrative action. Based on the information shared by the student in the meeting, the academic dean shall consider whether any modification to the administrative action is warranted and communicate the decision to the student in writing no later than three days after the meeting. The administrative action may be, at the discretion of the academic dean and subject to the risk determinations as noted above, in force throughout the period of requested reconsideration of the administrative decision.

Graduate-Level Courses

Only graduate-level courses, those numbered 500 and higher, and counting as equivalent to Duke Divinity School courses (3.0 credit hours), will be applied to a student’s degree. Courses below the 500 level may not be applied toward the required credits needed for a post-baccalaureate degree. With the approval of the academic dean, graduate students may enroll in lower-level courses, but these courses will not count toward any graduation requirement and will not be included in a student’s GPA calculation. To take an undergraduate course for credit, a graduate-level version (numbered 500-999) must exist on the schedule as either a permanent course or special topics offering paired with the undergraduate version.

Selected graduate-level courses are offered concurrently with their undergraduate-level counterparts. Graduate students enrolled in these courses are required to complete the requirements and meet the rigor delineated on the graduate-level syllabi, which must be distinct from—and more rigorous than—the requirements for the undergraduate course. For more information visit registrar.duke.edu/policies/graduate-pairings-undergraduate-courses and/or contact the academic dean or the senior director of academic programs and registrar. To request a graduate-level version of a non-Duke Divinity School course, the student should speak with the instructor of the course immediately at registration due to possible long approval times outside of the school.

Directed Study

Students may, with permission of their academic advisors and the instructors involved, take one or two units of Directed Study, preferably not in the same term. These independent study courses under individual faculty supervision are ordinarily in subjects at an advanced level that cover material not available in the regular curriculum. Students wishing to take more than two courses by directed study must have permission from the academic dean in consultation with the student’s academic advisor and the instructor who agrees to direct that study. Certificate in Theology and Health Care students do not normally have access to directed studies, while DMin student do only in specific ways outlined in DMin policies. 

Non-Divinity Courses/Interinstitutional Agreements

Students may, in consultation with their academic advisors, take up to two graduate level courses equivalent to Duke Divinity School courses (3.0 credit hours) in other departments of Duke University, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, or any other institution that is part of the interinstitutional enrollment agreement. Permission for more than two such cognate courses must be secured from the academic dean. Courses in Duke’s Department of Religion do not count within this limit. DMin and Certificate in Theology and Health Care students normally take only Duke Divinity School courses. 

Graduation with Distinction

Students who achieve a grade point average of 3.85 for overall academic records in the MA, MDiv (hybrid and residential), and MTS programs are granted the degree summa cum laude. Students with a grade point average of 3.65 or above are awarded the degree magna cum laude. Such distinction is calculated on the basis of letter grades only, totaling at least three-quarters of all courses taken at Duke, and will be indicated on the student’s diploma.

Part-Time Students

Students taking less than three courses/units in any given term are considered part-time students and should consult with the Office of Financial Aid regarding eligibility.

Auditors

Full-time students paying for at least three courses/units are permitted to audit additional courses at no extra cost, if space permits, with the approval of the instructor of the class, and if it does not conflict with the student’s existing course schedule. Special students, part-time students, or persons not candidates for degrees in the university are charged an audit fee for each such course.

Transfer Credits

Students in the MA, MDiv (residential and hybrid), MTS, and ThD programs are eligible to transfer ATS-accredited courses (these being three or four credit hours) into their degree program with approval by the academic dean. (ThM and DMin students may not transfer courses.) 

Transfer of graduate credit to Duke Divinity School leading to candidacy for the degree of Master of Divinity will normally be limited to eight courses. For the MTS program, four courses may be considered for transfer; three courses may be considered for the ThD (with additional approval by the ThD director) and MA programs. Grades from approved transferred courses do not appear on Duke Divinity transcripts, nor do they factor into the cumulative GPA of a Duke Divinity program. For master’s programs, transfer credit may not take the place of Duke Divinity curricular requirements (including core courses); courses may be transferred for elective credit only. Candidates seeking advanced placement for core courses should consult with the corresponding division chair (or that individual’s designee), who will determine equivalencies. Should advanced placement be granted, students would still need to take an advanced elective at DDS in the area in question for a letter grade.

Courses in which the student received a grade lower than B- will not be considered for transfer credit. Duke Divinity will only accept courses completed at an ATS-accredited school or APCE-accredited CPE program, unless an exception is granted by the academic dean. Courses completed more than five years prior to the intended date of enrollment will not be considered for transfer credit. Courses taken and counted toward a conferred degree cannot be transferred.

Study leave for up to one year (eight course credits) may be granted to students desiring to enroll at an accredited theological institution within their denominational tradition (e.g., Lutheran, Anglican/Episcopal, or Presbyterian). Such leave is normally granted by the academic dean for students to complete ordination requirements. Study leave for up to a year may also be granted to recognized student exchanges. If students wish for courses taken during a leave to count for their Duke Divinity degree, the above policies apply.

Normally, students cannot use transfer credit to complete their program early. Petitions for consideration of additional transfer credit can be made to the academic dean. Study leave for up to one year (eight course credits) may be granted to students desiring to enroll at an accredited theological institution within their denominational tradition (e.g., Lutheran, Anglican/Episcopal, Presbyterian). Such leave is normally granted by the academic dean for students to complete ordination requirements. Study leave for up to a year may also be granted to recognized student exchanges.