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Committee on Curricula (CoC) Guidelines

Academic Year 2016-2017


11  Curricula: Minors

CoC reviews proposals to create, revise, or terminate minor programs.

A form for proposing a new undergraduate minor for faculty governance review is available at https://catalog-dev.mit.edu/programadmin/.  


11.1  General information about Minor Programs

[See also: http://web.mit.edu/registrar/reg/majors-minors/minor_guidelines.html]

A number of fields in science, engineering, architecture, and the humanities, arts, and social sciences offer minor programs. The minors are cohesive programs providing significant experience in their disciplines. The general guidelines for a minor program are as follows:

  1. Minor programs consist of five to seven subjects, generally six, and a minimum of 57 units. These subjects may count toward General Institute Requirements and departmental program requirements.

    In counting subjects, 6-unit subjects are counted as half subjects; subjects of 9-15 units count as 1 subject; 18-unit subjects count as 1½ subjects; and subjects of 21-24 units count as 2 subjects.

  2. Subjects taken under the junior-senior P/D/F grading option cannot be used for a minor program.

  3. At the discretion of the minor advisor, transfer credit may be used to fulfill a portion of the minor program. MIT subjects, including those taken through cross-registration, must comprise at least half of the minor program.

  4. A student may not take a minor in the area of his or her major: the minor degree is intended to be independent from the major degree, and not tangentially related. In addition, minors are not allowed in either field of composite degrees combining two different fields, for example, the SB in Mathematics with Computer Science, SB in Humanities and Science, or the SB in Humanities and Engineering.

  5. A student may earn no more than two minors, which are awarded only when the student receives a specific SB degree. This two-minor maximum applies even if the student receives more than one SB degree. The student should designate the minor program by the end of the sophomore year, but no later than Add Date one full term preceding the one in which the SB degree is awarded.

  6. The student must complete an application form for a minor in consultation with the appropriate minor advisor. Note that the application and completion forms for Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) minors are different from those used in other fields.

Departments may not include graduate subjects in the Bulletin description of a minor. This is consistent with the established view that students must be able to fulfill the requirements of any minor program by taking undergraduate subjects. In addition, because the CoC does not have jurisdiction over graduate subjects, this restriction preserves the Committee’s ability to exercise its oversight responsibilities for minors. However, departments retain the authority to approve appropriate substitutions for specific requirements in their programs.

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11.2  Additional Guidelines for HASS Minors

[source: https://catalog.mit.edu/mit/undergraduate-education/academic-programs/minors/]

HASS minors are approved by the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences and have slightly different criteria than other minors.

  1. Most HASS minors are arranged into at least three levels, or tiers, expressing different degrees of sophistication in the articulation and resolution of intellectual problems. Subjects included in the Regional Studies Minors are divided into four areas; students are required to distribute subjects across those four areas.

  2. Of the six subjects required for a HASS minor, at most five will count toward satisfaction of the eight-subject Institute HASS Requirement. Of these five, at most one will count toward satisfaction of the HASS Distribution Requirement.1
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11.3  Interaction between fields of minors and degree programs

The Minor normally must be in a field in which a degree is offered, but some minors exist that are further subdivisions of the field (e.g., HASS and Institute-wide minors).

11.4  Interdisciplinary Minors and other Special Situations

CoC also reviews proposals for interdisciplinary minors and other minor degree programs that are not proposed by an undergraduate degree-granting department. Entities proposing such minors must provide the following materials to the CoC:

  1. Proposals for interdisciplinary minor degree programs should include the information described in the "Checklist of Required Information" below.

  2. A review procedure must be approved by CoC for each interdisciplinary minor before it is instituted, as described in the CoC Checklist. At a minimum, the review must be conducted every five years, and must cover the interdisciplinary issues described in CoC Review Guidelines for Interdisciplinary Minor Degree Program.2

  3. The core content of an interdisciplinary minor must be sufficiently broad: it must be demonstrated that the curriculum cannot be reasonably addressed by a minor within a single department. The selection of subjects that constitute a minor should not be simply a concentration of subjects in an interdisciplinary area, but must form a cohesive program.

  4. It is acceptable for students in majors unrelated to the disciplines in the minor to be required to take more than the customary 5-7 minor subjects, but for majors who most commonly take a particular interdisciplinary minor, the number of subjects required should be the same as those required for a departmental minor.3

  5. An interdisciplinary minor must be formally supported, financially and academically, by the department heads of all departments that offer any subjects required for the minor. It should lead to the eventual modification of existing subjects and/or the creation of cross-disciplinary subjects that join the concepts of the various disciplines contained in the minor.

    Important Note:  The CUP also reviews proposals for interdisciplinary minors, focusing its attention primarily on policy, governance, and oversight issues. Normally, proposals for minor programs are routed to the CoC for review prior to CUP consideration, although the review processes of the two committees may overlap.  All proposals for interdisciplinary minors are submitted via an electronic form available at MIT Program Management (https://catalog-dev.mit.edu/programadmin/) and are then routed to the appropriate committee.

Checklist of Required Information

The information and material described below must be provided to the Committee on Curricula (CoC) in proposals for interdisciplinary minor degree programs (or in proposals for minor degree programs that are not proposed by an undergraduate degree-granting department). After approval by CoC, the Committee forwards a copy of the proposal to the Provost.

  1. Degree Name of Interdisciplinary Minor

  2. Names and departments of faculty who are proposing minor and who will take primary responsibility for development and supervision of the minor

  3. Degree Requirements and Plan of Study

    1. Total number of subjects required in program (including prerequisites);

    2. List of all required subjects, prerequisite subjects, and restricted electives;

    3. At least two4 subject "roadmaps" that demonstrate how students from a range of different major programs and at different entry points can complete the minor program.
  4. Acknowledgment and Approval letters must be obtained from relevant departments and provided to CoC as part of the proposal:

    1. For subjects required in the degree program, approval of the relevant department heads, including a commitment to staffing and/or development of suitable subjects.

    2. For subjects used as restricted electives, acknowledgment from the relevant department heads that their subject(s) appear on the list.

    3. Letter of support from the School Dean who will assume administrative responsibility for the minor degree program.
  5. Organization and oversight of the interdisciplinary minor degree program should be described, particularly with respect to the advising of undergraduates prior to and during their matriculation in the minor program and the role of the degree program Oversight Committee. CoC must be provided with the name(s) of the faculty member(s) who will have primary oversight responsibility for the minor (including the intellectual content, curriculum development, advising system, and degree recommendations) and the names of members of the Oversight Committee.

    The Oversight Committee will be asked to provide a brief report to CoC after the first year of operation of the minor. This report must include the following:

    1. Identification of any academic or administrative problems.
    2. Statistics: number of participating students, faculty, and subjects taught.
    3. Identification of faculty/instructors relative to subjects taught and home departments.
    4. Description of any initiatives for new subjects specifically designed for the new minor.
    5. Description and evaluation of the student advising system.
    6. Feedback, where possible, from students (both those who completed the minor and those who did not). The focus should be on satisfaction with the design of the minor; feasibility, especially from those in highly unrelated majors; and activity after graduation with respect to use of the minor.
    7. Description and evaluation of the role of the Oversight Committee.
    8. Description and evaluation by relevant departments of their academic, administrative and financial contributions.
    9. Current cost/benefit analysis and degree of enthusiasm and commitment for continuance by the participating departments and centers.
    10. Recommendations for changes at any level.

1Source: MIT SHASS: Undergraduate Studies – Minors (http://shass.mit.edu/undergraduate/minors)
2The CoC received reports on the minors in Astronomy and Biomedical Engineering in 2012-13, the minor in Energy Studies in 2013-14, and a progress report on the minor in Atmospheric Chemistry in 2014-15. During 2016-17, the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences will submit a report on the status of its interdisciplinary minors as a follow-up to its 2010-11 report.
3The CoC normally recommends that interdisciplinary minors be constructed to require that a minimum of 48 units (four subjects) may not also be used to satisfy the requirements of a major or another minor.
4The CoC reserves the right to request additional roadmaps.

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