I.F. Organization and Responsibilities of Graduate Groups

(Source: Office of the Provost, Almanac, September 29, 1981; revised, Almanac, March 19, 1996; revised, Office of the Provost, November 21, 2022)

I.F.1. Introduction

In the University of Pennsylvania, graduate programs leading to the Ph.D. and related master’s degrees are carried out by associations of faculty members called “graduate groups.” Many of these groups are based in individual departments. In such groups, all members of the Standing Faculty in that department are ipso facto members of the graduate group, but the group also may include faculty who come from other departments or schools. There are, in addition, a significant number of graduate groups that are not based in any one department and are composed of faculty from several departments or schools.

The graduate group structure provides the adaptability necessary to mount graduate programs in newly developing areas of intellectual endeavor or to phase out programs in areas of declining vigor, without disrupting the underlying structure of the traditional departments and schools. The price paid for this adaptability is continuing vigilance over the academic quality and vigor of each graduate program, particularly those that are not based in a single disciplinary department or school. The purpose of the sections that follow is to outline the organization and responsibilities of the faculty who are members of graduate groups, and of the group chairpersons.

I.F.2. Graduate Group Faculty

Only members of the Standing Faculty, the Associated Faculty and Emeritus Faculty are eligible for membership in graduate groups. Members of the Academic Support Staff—for example, Instructors, Lecturers and Research Associates—are not eligible, nor are Visiting Faculty unless they have an appointment in the Associated Faculty. It should be noted that while members of the Research Faculty may serve on a graduate group, according to a Provostial memorandum dated August 5, 1983, they may not take responsibility for courses or seminars nor may they supervise theses or dissertations unless the prior approval of the Provost is obtained for each such activity.

The fundamental responsibility for the academic quality and effectiveness of a graduate program rests with the faculty of the appropriate graduate group. The essential duties of this faculty include:

  • Design of an academic program that meets the requirements of the student and of the University for depth, breadth and academic quality of the highest order. Equally important is the continuous adaptation of this program in response to the challenges by and opportunities for new developments in its scholarly field.
  • Establishment of well defined academic standards and requirements that are rigorous yet flexible and that ensure quality and encourage the free development of the scholarly abilities of each student. students. These standards and requirements must be consistent with the intellectual style and spirit of the field and also with the minimum requirements of the University, as established by the Graduate Council of the Faculties.
  • Establishment and operation of graduate admissions programs that will attract and admit students of the highest quality. Admissions standards and procedures must be consistent with those established by the Graduate Council of the Faculties, the Council of Graduate Deans or the Associate Provost for Education.
  • Wise and intensive counseling of graduate students in matters both academic and nonacademic, to encourage their rapid progress toward their academic goals.
  • Active participation in the quest for financial resources for support of graduate students and in the allocation of available resources so as to optimize the quality of the program and its students.
  • Active assistance in the placement of the program’s graduates in positions where their abilities and training are utilized to the fullest degree possible.

At least half of the members of Ph.D. examination and dissertation committees must be members of the graduate group at the time of appointment to the committees. Faculty who are not members of the graduate group may serve only with the written approval of the graduate group. The authority to approve membership on committees may be delegated to the graduate chair. The chairs of dissertation committees and of all examination committees must be members of the Standing Faculty in the graduate group.

If the chair of a dissertation committee leaves the Standing Faculty before the dissertation is completed, then a new chair from the Standing Faculty must be appointed as chair. The dissertation committee chair is responsible for convening committee meetings, advising the student on graduate group and university expectations, and assuring the graduate group chair that the group’s requirements have been met. The committee chair does not have to be the primary dissertation adviser.

Instructors in courses that satisfy the requirements for the Ph.D. must hold the Ph.D. degree or be members of the Standing Faculty or the Associated Faculty. No one may teach a required core course for more than one semester without becoming a member of the Standing Faculty or the Associated Faculty.

The selection and appointment of faculty to membership in a graduate group are the responsibility of the appropriate dean, in consultation with members of the graduate group and such other faculty groups or individuals and academic administrators as may be appropriate. The standards and criteria to be used in selection and appointment of members of the Standing Faculty or the Associated Faculty to graduate groups are established by the dean in consultation with the dean's faculty and include academic excellence and commitment to the academic goals of the program.

In cases where a graduate group is based in an academic department or school, appointment to membership in the graduate group accompanies and is implicit in a primary appointment to the Standing Faculty in the department or school and is for the same term. In all other cases, appointment to membership in a graduate group is for a term specified at the time of appointment.

All appointments to membership in a graduate group carry full voting rights in the deliberations of the group unless otherwise specified at the time of appointment.

All appointments to membership in a graduate group must be reported to the Office of the Provost at the time of appointment by making a record in the Faculty Information System.

The procedure for appointment of a faculty member to membership in a graduate group not based in the faculty member's department or school differs from and is independent of two other types of intra-university “linking” appointments:

Interlocking faculty appointments, made by the Provost to facilitate interaction between the faculties of the several schools.

Secondary faculty appointments, made by the Trustees following the normal academic appointment process.

These two types of appointments, as well as all appointments to other than Standing Faculty positions, do not automatically carry with them appointment to a graduate group.