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Procedures for interdisciplinary graduate degree programs

Procedures for interdisciplinary graduate degree programs: SIS, degrees, internal counts, and reporting to CCHE, the federal government, and external agencies
Lou McClelland, CU-Boulder Office of Data Analytics (ODA)
July 2003


The procedures described here were agreed upon in April 2003 by

  • Adrian DelCaro, Associate Dean of the Graduate School
  • Linda Watkins, Neuroscience Program
  • Lou McClelland, Institutional Analysis

They are the same as those agreed upon in 2001 by

  • Rodney Taylor, then Associate Dean of the Graduate School
  • Walter Kintsch and Donna Caccamise, Cognitive Science Program
  • Lou McClelland, Institutional Analysis

This document

  • Drafted April 2003 by LMcC
  • Incorporates comments by Linda Watkins, director, Neuroscience Program
  • Reviewed and OK'd by, and comments incorporated from, Barb Todd, Registrar, April 25

The procedures are relevant to graduate-level degree students in approved interdisciplinary major combinations. Approval is by the Graduate School. A list of approved combinations will be posted. This list will include at least

  • PhD programs in combination with Neuroscience (with major codes)
    • EPO biology, EPOB
    • Kinesiology (and applied physiology), KINE
    • MCD biology, MCDB
    • sychology, PSYC
    • Speech, language, and hearing sciences, SLHS
  • PhD programs in combination with Cognitive Science
    • Computer science, CMSC
    • Linguistics, LING
    • Philosophy, PHIL
    • Psychology, PSYC
    • Speech, language, and hearing sciences, SLHS

NOMENCLATURE: Neuroscience and Cognitive science are known as "interdisciplinary programs" in this document. The programs or departments Neuroscience and Cognitive science are paired with (EPOB, KAPH, Education, Linguistics, MCDB, Philosophy, Psychology, and SLHS) are known as the "home," "core," or "disciplinary" program or department.

Principles of the procedures

  • Interdisciplinary work is different
    • It means that students demonstrate achievement in both a traditional "discipline," and in the interdisciplinary area.
  • Transcripts and diplomas should reflect all student work
  • Degrees granted and enrollment in interdisciplinary programs should be properly counted by CCHE.
  • Home departments should get full credit for their students, in both enrollments and degrees.
  • Administrative procedures should be streamlined, building on existing SIS facilities.

These procedures do not pertain to programs in which students receive two degrees of different types, such as MBA and JD, MA and MBA, or MA and MS. These are called "dual degrees."


Procedures for Neuroscience and Cognitive science PhD programs

  • Students apply to, are admitted to, confirm with, and enroll in the core or home department. They are college GR, class level GD, primary major EPOB, PHIL, MCDB, PYSC, KINE, etc.
    • Neither Neuroscience nor Cognitive Science may be indicated on the application for admission to CU-Boulder by students not already in CU-Boulder programs.
    • Admission decisions are the prerogative of the home department only -- that is, the department the student applied to when entering CU-Boulder at the graduate level. The interdisciplinary programs will neither influence nor decide admissions to the home-department programs.
  • At some point after confirmation with the home department, students apply to Neuroscience or Cognitive Science. Students must be in good academic standing in their home department to apply.
  • When a student is accepted to the interdisciplinary program, NRSC (for Neuroscience) or COGS (for Cognitive Science) is added on Screen 111 as the second major in the primary program. See screen print A, at the end of this document, for where the NRSC or COGS should go. Staff in the interdisciplinary program will add the second major.
    • NOTE: The "second major in the primary program" is not the same as the "primary major in the second program"! Screens 111 and 1R1 have one section for "primary program" and one for "secondary program." Students in interdisciplinary PhD programs should have no entry at all in the secondary program. The NRSC or COGS major code should be entered as "MAJ2" (major 2) under the primary program.
    • Note that SIS often carries multiple "active" terms for a student at one time. In May a continuing student may have spring, summer, and fall term records all active. The second major should be added to all active terms (not to any prior terms). Once this is done, both first and second majors will appear on future terms (terms not yet active).
    What happens then
  • Both majors will appear on Screen 111, the term records for future terms, unless and until one or both are changed.
  • Students will appear on home-department major lists and other SIS reports.
  • The "diploma card" from the Graduate School office should show both majors.
  • Screen 123, degrees, will show the PhD in one column, with both majors. See screen print B for an example.
  • The diploma will show both majors in alphabetical order. This is standard Registrar office procedure.
  • The transcript will show both majors as well, in SIS order.
  • Thus if the first major is PSYC, and the second is COGS (both in the primary program),
    • The diploma will read
    •           Cognitive Science
    • The transcript will read
    •           Phychology
                Cognitive Science
  • ODA (Office of Data Analytics) will, for internal use, always count all graduate-level first and second majors when counting majors and degrees. A student in, say, PSYC and NRSC will contribute to counts for both PSYC and NRSC. Similarly, an MBA student in ACCT and FINC will contribute to both those counts.
    • All ODA reports will be labeled to indicate that second majors are counted and that a given student may contribute to multiple counts.

Exceptions for unusual cases

  • In some unusual cases a student may wish to have only the home discipline (e.g., psychology) appear on the diploma. In this case the home department should remain major 1, with no major 2 at all. If the interdisciplinary program is Neuroscience, the "major option" WNR should be added on SIS on screen 111/1R1 on the major1 line, indicating "with neuroscience emphasis." The transcript will show the home discipline and the words "with neuroscience emphasis." The diploma will show only the home discipline. See Screen print C for an example. No neuroscience enrollments or degrees will be reported internally or externally in such cases.
  • In even more extraordinary cases the student may wish to have only the interdisciplinary discipline listed on the diploma. This should be done only with approval of the home department. The SIS procedure would set Screen 111/1R1 to NRSC or COGS as major 1, with no major 2. If major 1 is Neuroscience, a "major options" code should be added to major 1; e.g., WPE for "with psychology emphasis." When this is done, the diploma will show only the interdisciplinary area. No home-department enrollments or degrees will be reported internally or externally in such cases.


To CCHE, IPEDS, Council of Graduate Schools, NRC graduate - school guides, and others

Note: This section is for reference only. Departments don't need to do anything - ODA handles all reporting. However, in doing so ODA will assume that the procedures outlined above have been followed.

  • Degree reporting to CCHE is via a degree file submitted once a year under ODA direction. This file is part of SURDS, the Student Unit Record Data System.
    • In these annual files, students with two majors appear as two rows. E.g.
      • ID 2345, PhD, Psychology
      • ID 2345, PhD, Neuroscience
      • ID 5111, PhD, Physics
      • ID 9622, BA, History
      • Etc.
      • Note: In all rows, both the degree type and the content area are communicated with numeric codes, not words. The content area uses CIP codes (CIP = the federal Classification of Instructional Programs). Click here for codes used for our programs. For example, Psychology is 42.0101, and Neuroscience has been 26.0608. The U.S. Department of Education updated the CIP scheme in 2000, and new codes will be used for FY04 and later reporting. These should appear on SIS in summer/fall 2003. Departments do not enter CIP codes - they come from an SIS look-up table.
    • CCHE requires that PhD programs grant at least 3 degrees in the most recent 3 fiscal years, or 1 in the most recent FY. Newly-approved programs may have different requirements depending on projections made in the proposal.
    • CCHE treats each row independently in its checks. Thus student 2345 in the above example would contribute to PhD counts for both Psychology and Neuroscience.
    • CCHE can tell that one student contributes to multiple programs, because each row includes the student ID.
  • Degree reporting to the US Department of Education is via IPEDS, the Integrated PostSecondary Data System. Our IPEDS submission is actually produced by CCHE from the SURDS file we submit to CCHE.
    • Only counts, not individual records, are submitted to IPEDS.
    • Right now, student 2345 would contribute one count to both Neuroscience and Psychology PhD's. IPEDS has no way of telling whether these two counts came from one student or two.
    • CCHE could change this, and report student 2345 as 1 Psychology in "first majors," and 1 Neuroscience in "second majors." IPEDS reporting allows and requests this, but CCHE reporting to IPEDS has to date not conformed. Even if CCHE reporting were changed, the Neuroscience degree would still be reported, in the "second majors" counts. Neuroscience would be second because it's the second row for student 2345 in the file. It's the second row in the file because it's the second major on SIS.
    • IPEDS reports of degrees ("completions") are commonly used for peer analyses.
  • Enrollment reporting to CCHE is via an enrollment file submitted once a term under ODA direction. This file is also part of SURDS, the Student Unit Record Data System.
    • In the enrollment file, each enrolled student is one and only one row. E.g.,
      • ID 2345, PhD, major1 = Psychology, major2 = Neuroscience [ "PhD," "Psychology," and "Neuroscience" are communicated with numeric codes, not words]
      • ID 5111, PhD, major1 = Physics, no major2
      • ID 9622, BA, major1 = History, no major2
    • All CCHE rules about program demand and discontinuance are stated in terms of degrees. However, CCHE does examine enrollment as well, especially for new programs.
    • From the enrollment file, CCHE can see that student 2345 has both Psychology and Neuroscience majors. CCHE's computer programs to count majors may see and count only the first major, Psychology. If this is the case, and the uncounted majors (in Neuroscience in this case) are a problem, ODA will request that CCHE count both majors.
  • Enrollment reporting to the U.S. Department of Education Is by broad discipline area only (e.g., engineering, education, natural sciences) so is not an issue.
  • Council of Graduate School, graduate level "college guides," and other graduate-level reporting. Includes Peterson's, Wintergreen, GRE, NSF/NIH.
    • ODA will deal with requests for department or program information from these guides on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes the format allows us to report second majors the same as first majors. Some formats request data only on departments, not degree programs. Neuroscience and Cognitive Science do not fit well in these formats. We will report separately for Neuroscience and Cognitive science where possible, but it may not always be possible.

External reporting not handled by ODA -- the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED)

  • Doctoral degrees are also reported on the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED), an annual survey run by NORC of the University of Chicago for NSF and other federal agencies. I believe
    • UCB provides NORC with a list of PhD recipients
    • NORC then contacts those students and asks them (among other things) for their primary and secondary "detailed discipline." These come from a coded list. Most CU-Boulder degree programs (especially in science and engineering) are represented by several detailed disciplines on the list (e.g., nuclear physics, optics, acoustics) . The list includes "cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics," and "neuroscience." It does not include "cognitive science."
    • I believe we have little or no control over what our graduates select, or over whether they select one or two detailed disciplines.
    • SED data are used by federal agencies to characterize the pool of earned doctorates in various fields.


  • The National Research Council studies the quality of "research doctoral programs at U.S. academic institutions" about every 10 years. Results were last released in 1995.
  • Next NRC data collection will be in fall 2004, using data from summer/fall/spring 2003-04. ODA will play a role in the data collection.
  • NRC has not yet determined all data to be considered in its upcoming study. However, it has posted lists of possible measures, a draft taxonomy, and pilot instruments
  • All work on the upcoming study indicates that NRC is well aware of the existence and importance of interdisciplinary fields, and is taking steps to ensure full consideration of such fields.
  • The procedures described here can in no way hurt, and may help, the standing in NRC studies of CU-Boulder programs in both home departments and interdisciplinary programs.

This document describes procedures for students entering interdisciplinary programs fall 2003 and later. Certain initial actions by Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, and the Graduate School are required to place continuing Neuroscience and Cognitive Science students in conformance with these procedures. The start-up actions are described in a separate document.

Screen print A, Screen 111 (1R1 is similar)

Psychology home department, Neuroscience as second major.
Adding Neuroscience requires entry of the yellow-shaded fields.
    Interdisciplinary major codes: NRSC Neuroscience, COGS Cognitive Science
    The "027" after NRSC is the "catalog term" - starting term in NRSC

111 STUDENT TERM ATTRIBUTES                  Hxxxxxxxx

 SCREEN:      INST: BD  AU: B1  SID: 024xxxxxx  CRS:              TERM: 031
                                                               ROLL SW:
   ---------------             ------------------         -----------------
         CAREER: GS                DEAN'S LIST: N                  DORM:
          MINOR:                  GI CERT TYPE:             REBATE CODE:
    CERTIFICATE:                PRED CUM HOURS:          TUIT CALC FLAG: N
                                CIP CODE/SEQ #: 420101
  -----------------              WITHDRAW DATE: 00/00/00  -----------------
         DEGREE:           PLANNED RETURN TERM: 977     F/P TIME STATUS: P
   MAJ1/OPT/CAT:               CANCELLED REASN:          FIN CLR ENROLL:
   MAJ2/OPT/CAT:               ADVISOR1 NUMBER:

Screen print B, Screen 123

How the same student will appear at graduation.

123 DEGREES AWARDED                           Hxxxxxxx

SCREEN:      INST: BD  AU: B1  SID: 024xxxxxx  CRS:              TERM:

    DEGREE: PHD                   :                       :
 RCVD DATE: 08/10/07              :                       :
COMPL DATE:                       :                       :
        AU: B1     DEG SITE:      :        DEG SITE:      :        DEG SITE:
   COLLEGE: GR   DISPL COLL: AS   :      DISPL COLL:      :      DISPL COLL:
MAJ 1/OPTN: PSYC /      HON:      :      /      HON:      :      /      HON:
MAJ 2/OPTN: NRSC /      HON:      :      /      HON:      :      /      HON:
MAJ 3/OPTN:      /      HON:      :      /      HON:      :      /      HON:
     MINOR:                       :                       :

Screen print C, Screen 111 for extraordinary cases desiring only one major code.

The "WNR" after PSYC is an option (or track) meaning "with neuroscience emphasis."
These words will appear on the transcript, not on the diploma.


  PRIMARY PROGRAM            
        CAREER: GS           
   COLLEGE/CAT: GR  997    
        DEGREE: DOC        
  MAJ2/OPT/CAT: ....		(dots would not be entered!  Field would be blank) 


Last revision 05/02/16

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