Course Level Policy

A policy describing course levels and related criteria may assist members of the University community in making recommendations and decisions about appropriate course levels. It may also clarify issues regarding transfer of credit.

1. Course Numbering

  A. Non-Credit Courses

  • 0001–0999: Continuing Education not-for-credit courses, remedial, or basic-skills courses, not applicable to degree requirements. 

  B. Undergraduate Courses

  • 1000–2999: Lower level
  • 3000–4999: Upper level

  C. Graduate Courses

  • 5000–7999:Master's level

  • 8000–9999: Doctoral level 

   D. The following course numbers are reserved for the special use identified in the title and may only be used by programs that have received approval to offer the course.

  • X999: Special Topics

2. Explanation of Course Levels

  1. Lower Division-Level Courses
    Lower division level courses are numbered 1000 and 2000. Typically, they require no or limited prerequisite background in the discipline. They are introductory courses or part of a series of basic courses in a discipline.

    Lower division-level courses increase the knowledge students have of subjects with which they are already familiar, introduce them to new subjects, and/or establish a foundation for study of a major subject in depth. They are courses that may be counted in majors, minors, electives, and/or the General Education curriculum. They are used at the basic level in baccalaureate programs and are used in the associate level degrees.

    Lower division-level courses usually are tightly structured with the expectation that students receive guidance in the learning process. Learning at this level normally is informational and emphasizes learning skills and basic information; it usually entails the use of text materials or resources designed into the course or acquired through library or other resources. The intellectual skills emphasized in lower division-level courses include acquiring knowledge, comprehension, and application of knowledge. These competencies are stressed to a different degree in upper division-level courses. Evaluation of student performance at the lower level typically tests information, concepts, and skills, but may include aspects identified for upper- division-level courses as well.

  2. Upper Division-Level Courses

    Upper division-level courses are numbered 3000 and 4000. Typically, they build on the knowledge and skills of the lower division-level courses. They may have one or both of the following characteristics:

    1. They require analysis, synthesis, and/or integration of knowledge and skills from several specific areas in a discipline or from related disciplines.

    2. They are built on a foundation of prerequisite lower division level courses in liberal studies, a specific discipline, or a related field of study.

    Upper division-level courses enable students to study a major field in depth by building upon and integrating the knowledge gained in lower division level courses. Upper division-level courses may also serve as an introduction to sub-fields within a discipline. Upper division-level courses are characterized by a more flexible structure that allows for a variety of approaches to the subject matter, a wide range of course material, an emphasis on independent study and/or research in the laboratory, library, studio, or community. Students are expected to accept increasing responsibility for their own learning. Upper division-level courses typically emphasize analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. They may also call attention to the application of knowledge and other lower division-levels of learning. Evaluation of student performance at this level stresses such outcomes as comprehension and understanding of concepts, the ability to solve problems, and the ability to integrate knowledge.


    Upper division-level courses may be counted in majors, minors, electives, and/or the General Education curriculum. They are used at the upper level in baccalaureate degree programs.

  3. Graduate Courses

    Graduate courses are numbered 5000, 6000, 7000 (masters), 8000 and 9000 (doctoral). Typically, graduate courses are restricted to students who have successfully completed a baccalaureate degree. They also may have one or more of the following characteristics:

    1. They typically build upon a foundation of undergraduate courses in a single or related discipline.

    2. They require intellectual maturity of students and stress independent study.

    3. They emphasize the use of information resources, studio, laboratory, community, and field-based facilities in ways commensurate with the level of learning.

The primary function of graduate courses is to broaden the perspective and deepen the knowledge students have of a particular discipline or professional field of study, or to provide students preparation in an advanced professional field that requires foundational knowledge and experience in a related discipline or field of study.

Graduate courses are structured in a manner that allows for a variety of approaches to the subject matter, a wide range of source material, considerable student interaction, and a significant emphasis on independent study and/or research in the library, laboratory, studio, or community. They are designed to extend the knowledge and intellectual maturity of students beyond the baccalaureate level. They are intended for students who are capable of analyzing, exploring, questioning, evaluating, and synthesizing knowledge. Evaluation of student performance in graduate courses entails a variety of means and is commensurate with the level of complexity of these courses.