During its Thursday meeting, Academic Council considered changes to its master's degree program approval process put forth by the Academic Programs Committee.

The proposed resolution outlined metrics by which master’s programs can be approved and reviewed. The suggested changes follow a 51 percent growth in the total size of Duke's master's degree programs since 2004, noted Emily Bernhardt, chair of the committee and a professor of biology. The council also discussed its rules regarding faculty governance in the wake of last month’s Duke Kunshan University vote, before going into a private executive session to be briefed on cyber security updates for the University.

“These are complicated issues, but I feel that we have made pretty good progress on them,” said Edward Balleisen, vice provost for interdisciplinary studies, on the proposal regarding master’s degrees.

The master's program resolution noted that the Academic Council has raised questions in the past about the framework through which new proposals are evaluated, the process for evaluating the “quality and impact” of programs following their initial pilot phase and the impact of new degree programs on existing ones.

The resolution also focused on the “hidden cost” of programs to University resources and related departments.

Some of the proposal's recommendations pushed for degree program proposals to include specific metrics by which to evaluate their success—such as increasing diversity among faculty and students, growth of faculty and research activities and the financial health of the program and its department.

“We want to see that there is a compelling vision at the beginning, and we want to see that people stay engaged and are enthusiastic about something as it proceeds,” Bernhardt said. “These are the sorts of things that suggest that it is worth peoples’ time to be engaged. These intangibles are a big part of our conversation when we review.”

Jane Richardson, James B. Duke professor of medicine and biochemistry, raised a question about the possibility of keeping up with students after they graduate in order to more fully evaluate the success of the program. Included in the resolution is a recommendation that the degree programs should include information about the employment rates of graduates on their websites for the benefit of prospective students.

Nan Jokerst, J. A. Jones distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering and chair of the Academic Council, informed faculty that discussions would continue in the Spring.

Members of the council also debated the future of faculty governance in light of the successful development and approval of an undergraduate degree program at Duke Kunshan University last month.

Joshua Sosin, an associate professor of classical studies and member of the executive committee of Academic Council, facilitated the discussion, which ranged from mentorship of less-experienced council members to the representation of non-tenure track faculty on committees and governance bodies.

“It is critically important that all of these venues of initiating communication, discussions and proposals remain active and engaged,” Jokerst said. “That is the point of our conversation today—how to be proactive as a council in identifying and pursuing our priorities, as well as partnering with the administration, all in the spirit of rowing in the same direction to move Duke forward.”