Academics form the foundation of the Harvard Kennedy School experience.
To help you make the most of your academic experience, this section provides important information about degree requirements for each program, how to decide upon and register for courses, the School’s policies for grading, crediting and maintaining academic standards, and what you can expect exams to be like.
In addition, you’ll find information about the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which outlines how to access your educational records at Harvard Kennedy School.
Students are responsible for meeting all academic requirements of their degree program as described below. Additionally, they must:
- Be in residence for the required number of semesters for their program. Being “in residence” is defined as attending classes in the School’s designated learning modality and successfully completing at least 12 credits toward the degree each semester.
- Achieve a minimum grade point average of B
- Complete a degree application
- Have a zero-term bill balance. If students leave the University with an amount due on their student bill that is unpaid for 60 days or more, they may be subject to collection activities and may not be permitted to participate in the Commencement ceremonies or receive a diploma. The costs associated with collecting an unpaid account will be added to their outstanding debt and must be paid in full before a degree will be granted.
What are the specific requirements for each degree program?
A complete course listing for each degree program’s requirements is available in the program’s KNet section.
Master in Public Policy (MPP)
MPP candidates must successfully complete the core curriculum, the Policy Analysis Exercise (PAE), all requirements for their selected Policy Area of Concentration (PAC) or concentration, and other electives for a total of 72 credits. Students must take no fewer than 12 credits and no more than 24 credits each semester. Students are to complete the required 72 credits within four semesters of residency. Students must be approved to extend their time to degree completion beyond the allotted number of semesters.
- Concurrent degree candidates must complete a minimum of 48 credits, including the MPP core and PAE, and must be in residence at HKS for three semesters.
- Concurrent degree candidates with Harvard Medical School must complete a minimum of 48 credits, including the MPP core and PAE, and must be in residence at HKS for two semesters.
- Joint degree candidates with Harvard Business School must complete at least 52 HKS credits, including the MPP core and PAE, in addition to the Joint Degree Seminar in Years 1 and 2, and the Business-Government Integrative Course in Year 3.
- Joint degree candidates with Harvard Law School must complete at least 48 credits, including the MPP core during their first year at HKS and 12 additional credits after the first year. They must also complete a third-year seminar and, in the fourth year, an intensive writing module and an integrated writing project.
- If students are exempted from one or more MPP core courses, they do not earn course credit toward graduation for those exemptions; they are still required to earn the minimum number of credits needed to obtain the degree by enrolling in the appropriate number of elective courses.
Master in Public Administration (MPA)
All MPA candidates must complete a minimum of 4 credit units from each of the following areas:
- Economics and Quantitative Analysis
- Management, Leadership, and Decision Sciences
- Public Ethics and Political Institutions
Courses to fulfill these distribution requirements may not be taken pass/fail and must be counted as part of the credits required for graduation. A Reading and Research (RAR) course may not fulfill a distribution requirement.
Two-year MPA candidates must successfully complete at least 64 credits; earn a cumulative GPA of B or better; fulfill the Policy Area of Concentration (PAC) requirement; and satisfy the distribution requirements (with a B- or better in each). Two-year MPA students must take no fewer than 12 credits and no more than 24 each semester. Students are to complete the required 64 credits within four semesters of residency. Students must be approved to extend their time to degree completion beyond the allotted number of semesters.
Two-year MPA students must also successfully complete at least 8 credits from one of the Policy Areas of Concentration (PAC). Their PAC and distribution courses may not overlap. A Reading and Research (RAR) course may not be used to fulfill a PAC requirement.
Concurrent MPA candidates must successfully complete at least 48 credits; earn a cumulative GPA of B or better; satisfy the distribution requirements (with a B- or better in each); and be in residence at HKS for three semesters. Concurrent MPA students must take no fewer than 12 credits and no more than 24 credits each semester. Students are to complete the required 48 credits within three semesters of residency. Students must be approved to extend their time to degree completion beyond the allotted number of semesters.
Mid-Career MPA (MC/MPA) candidates must successfully complete at least 32 degree credits; earn a cumulative GPA of B or better; and satisfy the distribution requirements (with a B- or better in each). MC/MPA students must take no fewer than 12 degree credits and no more than 24 each semester. Full-time MC/MPA students are to complete the required 32 credits within two semesters of residency. Students must be approved to extend their time to degree completion beyond the allotted number of semesters. In addition, MC/MPA students must successfully complete the Mid-Career Summer Program (and for MC/MPA Mason Fellows, the Mason Fall Launch) to continue into the academic year. MC/MPA Mason Fellows must also participate in the Mason Seminars during the academic year.
Satisfactory completion of the MC/MPA Summer Program is a required component of the degree because it provides foundational preparatory experience for incoming MC/MPA students. Full attendance and participation is required and expected, and students are allowed to miss up to two days without an impact to their final evaluation. Full participation in the Summer Program is required and expected in order to satisfactorily complete this requirement. At its conclusion, students will receive an assessment of either SAT or UNSAT on their transcript. If a student does not achieve satisfactory completion of the Summer Program, they will receive an “UNSAT” on their enrollment record and will be withdrawn from the MC/MPA Program before the start of the fall semester. Students who are withdrawn from the MC/MPA Program for failure to receive a SAT grade for successful completion of the Summer Program will be required to reapply for admission to the MC/MPA Program if they wish to participate in the program during a future year.
Master in Public Administration in International Development (MPA/ID)
MPA/ID candidates must successfully complete the core curriculum, the Second Year Policy Analysis (SYPA), and six electives for a total of 76 credits. Students must take no fewer than 12 credits and no more than 24 credits each semester.
- Concurrent degree candidates must complete 52 credits, including the MPA/ID core and SYPA, and must be in residence at HKS for three semesters.
- Joint degree candidates with Harvard Business School must complete at least 60 HKS credits, including the MPA/ID core and SYPA, in addition to the Joint Degree Seminar in Years 1 and 2 and the Business-Government Integrative Course in Year 3.
- Joint degree candidates with Harvard Law School must complete at least 54 credits, including the MPA/ID core at HKS and 8 additional HKS elective credits after the first year. They must also complete a third-year seminar and, in the fourth year, an intensive writing module and an integrated writing project.
- If students are exempted from one or more MPA/ID core courses, they do not earn course credit toward graduation for those exemptions; they are still required to earn the minimum number of credits needed to obtain the degree by enrolling in the appropriate number of elective courses.
Doctoral Degree Programs
Read about the PhD in Public Policy (PPOL) and PhD in Political Economy and Government (PEG) programs and their degree requirements. PPOL and PEG candidates officially register with and use the services of the Harvard Kenneth C. Griffin Graduate School of Arts (Harvard Griffin GSAS) registrar after enrolling in the program.
General information and guidelines are available from the director of the Doctoral Programs.
Joint and Concurrent Students
Requirements for joint and concurrent students vary by school and program. Students may pursue a joint or concurrent degree with HKS and only one other approved graduate program. They may not receive credit for a cross-registered course at a professional school in the same field as their concurrent degree.
Refer to the Combined Degree Guide for more information.
How many courses should students take each term?
The normal course load is 16 credits per semester or 32 credits per year, except for first-year MPP or MPA/ID students. To enroll in fewer than 12 credits or more than 20 credits, students must get permission from their program director before the add/drop deadline; additional tuition usually will be charged for more than 24 credits. All January courses count as spring credits only, and students are limited to enrolling in a maximum of 4 credits within the January session, including cross-registered courses.
Can courses be repeated?
Failed required courses must be retaken or replaced with an equivalent course to fulfill the requirement. Failed elective courses may be retaken. Courses passed successfully may not be retaken.
Are there courses that will not allow students to earn credit?
Yes, there are limitations to courses that can be taken for credit. No credit is granted for:
- Any undergraduate course other than languages.
- Any course taken prior to registration in an HKS degree program unless special permission is given at the time of admission. In cases where special permission is granted, courses may be used as a substitute for or exemption from a requirement; however, they will not reduce the total number of credits needed to earn a degree.
- Transfer credits.
Check the HKS Registrar’s Office on KNet for additional information regarding cross-registration and related restrictions.
Can students earn HKS credit by taking a language course?
Language courses may fulfill credits for graduation, depending on the degree program.
|Program||Maximum number of credits toward graduation|
|MPP (IGA concentration)||12|
|MPP (non-IGA concentration)||8|
All language courses for credit toward HKS graduation must be taken at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (Harvard College) and approved by the appropriate program director at HKS. Language courses cannot be taken pass/fail unless the instructor indicates that all grades awarded in the class will be either pass or fail. Language petitions are due on or before the last ADD day of the semester.
Students also may take language courses for zero credit; however, grades for these courses will be recorded on academic transcripts regardless of whether credit will be awarded toward graduation. Regular add/drop deadlines apply.
Joint degree candidates with Harvard Business School or Harvard Law School cannot earn language credits toward their degree.
Are there opportunities to complete reading and research (RAR) courses (i.e., independent study)?
RAR courses are opportunities for students to work independently on a topic of interest. Independent research courses are offered at the discretion of faculty members who may accept or decline students’ requests to have them supervise an RAR. Students may not be compensated for RAR research. The usual outcome of an RAR is a major research paper that is 25-35 pages in length or an equally substantial alternative product that represents a full semester’s learning and work effort. Faculty members are expected to meet regularly with students to discuss the work in progress and are responsible for overseeing the completion of the RAR contract.
RARs may only be supervised by HKS faculty members who are either at the assistant or associate level, or are full professors or lecturers. If students wish to work with Harvard faculty members outside of HKS and earn credit for the course, they must cross-register for the independent study offering at the other school as well as submit a petition for HKS degree credit to the HKS Registrar’s Office. Students are not permitted to complete HKS RARs with non-HKS or non-Harvard faculty.
RAR courses are graded SAT/UNSAT (satisfactory/unsatisfactory) only, and are taken for a full term for four credits. If a student earns an incomplete for an RAR, a faculty member must oversee its completion. Students may enroll in only one RAR course per term and must complete an RAR contract, which is a formal agreement between the student and the faculty member that outlines the work that must be accomplished to receive credit. All RAR contracts must be submitted to the HKS Registrar’s Office by the ADD deadline.
HKS courses are graded A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D, and E; a B average is required for graduation. Courses with grades of E, UNS, INC, PI, ABS, AWD, WD, or DRP will not count toward graduation. A D is the lowest elective course grade for which students may receive credit toward graduation. Instructors teaching reading and research courses will award either SAT (satisfactory) or UNSAT (unsatisfactory) grades; letter grades will not be awarded for these courses and a SAT grade will not be included in GPA calculation. MPP Spring Exercise and PAE grades of D (Distinction), HP (High Pass), P (Pass), and LP (Low Pass) count toward graduation and will be recorded on academic transcripts; however, the grade will not be included in GPA calculation. The Dean’s recommended grading distribution may be found on KNet.
An HKS grade below B- is a failing grade for any required course or distribution requirement. Individual grades will not be released by the HKS Registrar’s Office to students. Unofficial transcripts may be viewed and printed through my.harvard.edu.
If students do not complete the required written assignments for a course and have instructor approval in writing by the end of the semester’s reading period, they will be awarded an incomplete (INC) in lieu of a letter grade. Normally, an INC is regarded as a temporary grade with a deadline to complete the coursework no later than the last day of the reading period of the next semester. Students may petition one time to extend beyond the normal date. Students must file a Petition to Extend an Incomplete with the HKS Registrar’s Office; the petition must be approved and signed by the instructor. The instructor is under no obligation to grant either an INC or any further extension. Once the work is complete and a letter grade assigned, the instructor will submit a Grade Change Report form to the HKS Registrar’s Office; the grade will be changed on the student’s transcript. Grades or grade changes that are submitted after established deadlines are subject to approval by the Registrar. If the work has not been completed by the deadline or an extension has not been granted, the INC becomes a Permanent Incomplete (PI) and the course may not be counted toward graduation. Students who receive an INC for a cross-registered course should check with the host school’s Office of the Registrar for its policy on INC grades.
Absent/Failure to Drop (ABS)
Absence from a final exam
To receive credit for an HKS course with a final examination, students must attend the exam unless they are excused prior to the time of the exam by the HKS Registrar’s Office for serious illness or family emergency; in this case, they also must inform their program director or the assistant dean for student services and programs of their expected absence. If students are not excused and fail to sit for the exam, they will receive an ABS (Absent) grade. This may be converted to a letter grade only if they provide medical documentation that they were suddenly seriously ill at the time of the exam. In that circumstance, or in the case of an excused absence, they will be required to take a make-up exam scheduled by the instructor.
Failure to drop a course
Students who fail to submit a drop petition when dropping a course will receive an ABS grade. Students who receive an ABS or an E grade in two classes ordinarily will be required to withdraw without the possibility of readmission to the School.
Drop or Withdrawal Drop (DRP): Indicates a withdrawal from the course during the drop period. Withdrawal (WD): Indicates withdrawal from course after drop deadline. Students also receive a WD grade if they withdraw (e.g., take a leave of absence) from the School after the add deadline.
Students may not take courses on a pass/fail basis unless the instructor indicates that all grades in the course will be awarded as either pass or fail. Students who cross-register with other schools and are given the option of being graded on a pass/fail or letter grade system must select the letter grade option.
Audits for HKS courses do not appear on student records and are at the discretion of faculty members. Audits at other schools will not appear on students’ academic records.
Students must meet the grade requirements of the school in which the course is offered. See the HKS Registrar’s Office KNet page for details on cross-registration.
Students may not ask faculty members to review a final grade once it has been submitted to the HKS Registrar’s Office unless there has been a mathematical miscalculation of the grade.
In addition to a grade, how are credits awarded?
Courses are awarded four credits for a term-length course and two credits for a module. There are also several courses labeled “Y;” typically, these courses are equivalent to four credits. They normally span the full academic year; meeting times vary. Students must complete both terms of the course to earn course credit.
Other schools at Harvard use different systems to award credit. Students must understand how many HKS credits they will earn in a cross-registered course. Refer to HKS Registrar’s Office KNet page for the table of credit equivalencies.
For the purpose of general academic progress, HKS evaluates students at the conclusion of each semester to determine whether satisfactory academic progress (SAP) is being maintained. Satisfactory maintenance of grades and pace is required to be considered making satisfactory academic progress.
Cumulative grade point averages will be calculated each semester. Refer to Grades and Credits for additional information regarding grades.
Failed required course grades, a C+ or below, will be included as part of the assessment of overall grades and grade point average for SAP until the course is repeated or replaced with an equivalent course, and successfully completed.
An incomplete grade does not factor into GPA.
MASTER IN PUBLIC POLICY (MPP) STUDENTS MUST:
- Earn a B- or better in all required core courses, including Policy Area of Concentration (PAC)/Concentration requirements. Any grade below a B- in these courses is a failing grade.
- Earn a passing grade for the Policy Analysis Exercise (PAE) and seminar.
- Maintain a cumulative B average.
Students who fail two full-semester core courses (or the equivalent in modules) or who fail the same course (or module) a second time will be withdrawn from the School without the possibility of readmission. Students can petition for a different outcome.
MASTER IN PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION in INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT (MPA/ID) STUDENTS MUST:
- Earn a B- or better in all required courses, including the Second Year Policy Analysis (SYPA). Any grade below a B- in a required course is a failing grade.
- Maintain a cumulative B average.
Students who fail two different core courses or who fail the same core course a second time will be withdrawn from the School without the possibility of readmission. Students can petition for a different outcome.
ONE- OR TWO-YEAR MASTER IN PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION (MPA) STUDENTS MUST:
- Earn a B- or better in distribution requirements; those courses must be included in the 32 or 64 credits required for the degree. Any grade below a B- in a required course is a failing grade.
- Maintain a cumulative B average.
Students who fail to successfully complete the Mid-Career MPA Summer Program and/or Mason Fall Launch, who fail two different distribution requirement courses, or who fail the same distribution requirement course a second time will be withdrawn from the School without the possibility of readmission. Students can petition for a different outcome.
In order to achieve the minimum satisfactory academic progress standards regarding pace, students must:
- Successfully complete at least 65 percent of attempted credits. For example, an MPP student who completes 28 credits within 40 credits attempted at the end of the first year is considered to have maintained a successful pace of completion. Courses are not considered to have been completed satisfactorily if students: withdraw after the add deadline; receive an incomplete grade; earn a C+ or below in the case of a required course; or receive a failing grade (i.e., C+ or below in a required course; E for an elective course).
- Complete all degree requirements within a maximum of 200 percent of the required credits for the program of study. For example, the MPP Program requires 72 credits. Students must complete those 72 credits satisfactorily by the time they have taken a maximum of 144 credits (72 x 200% = 144).
Not Meeting Satisfactory Academic Progress Standards
Students who fail to maintain satisfactory academic progress will be placed on academic probation at the end of any semester during which they receive:
- Less than a B average cumulative in the requisite number of courses for their degree program.
- C+ or below in any core course or distribution requirement course.
- Incomplete course grades with granted extensions of time past the normal due date in two or more courses.
Students typically will have until the end of the next semester exam period to remedy this situation. Failure to remedy will result in required withdrawal from the program. Students can petition for a different outcome.
Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) and Financial Assistance
Federal regulations require that all courses taken—including courses that are taken more than once—be considered when evaluating a student’s pace of completion and GPA when determining whether a student is maintaining satisfactory academic progress for financial aid purposes. Therefore, it is possible that a student may be considered to be maintaining SAP by the Registrar for general academic purposes but not for the purpose of determining continued eligibility for financial assistance (including loans).
SAP is evaluated at the end of each enrollment period. If students are receiving financial assistance and are determined to have failed to maintain SAP, they will receive a financial assistance warning letter to formally notify them of their status. In order to remain eligible for financial assistance beyond the next enrollment period, they must make the necessary academic improvements to regain satisfactory progress status.
If students fail to regain SAP, they will become ineligible to receive assistance; they have the right to appeal. An appeal must detail the extenuating circumstances that resulted in the failure to maintain SAP and explain, in concrete terms, why those circumstances will not prevent them from maintaining satisfactory progress going forward. Appeals will be evaluated by a committee comprised of faculty members and Degree Programs and Student Affairs administrators.
If an appeal is granted, a student is placed on financial assistance probation and is eligible to receive financial assistance for one additional semester. Students will be removed from probation if they have made SAP at the end of that additional semester. As a condition of the appeal, the SAP Committee may create an academic progress plan, which students must agree to and follow in order to continue to receive assistance.
If an appeal is not granted, a student will not be eligible to receive financial assistance. To regain eligibility, the student must regain SAP. If a student is required to withdraw, dismissed, or expelled from the School for either academic or disciplinary misconduct, all assistance is forfeited immediately and financial assistance will not be renewed or provided for subsequent periods of enrollment even if the student is permitted to re-enroll.
Students must complete all of the requirements for their degree program in order to have their degree awarded and receive the diploma.
Students are expected to apply to graduate with the corresponding degree date of the term in which they complete their degree requirements (i.e. Spring term for the May degree date, Fall term for the March degree date). Students who do not qualify for the May degree date may be eligible to graduate at the November degree date. HKS, however, reserves the right to confer a degree on a student who has completed all of the requirements for a degree even though the student has not applied to graduate. A student would then be subject to the School’s usual rules and restrictions regarding future enrollment or registration.
Federal student loan borrowers are required to complete mandatory student loan exit counseling. HKS expects all charges noted on a student's account, including future summer rent, to be paid in full in order to complete your financial requirements for graduation. For students with outstanding term student bill balances at the time of graduation, the following rules will apply:
- For students who owe $1,000 or more, the University will withhold the diploma until the balance is paid in full. Upon clearance of the balance, the University will confirm reinstatement and release the diploma.
- Students who owe more than $100 but less than $1,000 will not receive a diploma until the balance in paid in full.
- Students who owe $100 or less will be awarded a diploma.
HKS will act in accordance with the University policy on the awarding of posthumous degrees.
How do new students decide what to study?
Note: These guidelines do not apply to first-year MPP or MPA/ID students except for those exempted from one or more core curriculum courses.
During orientation week, students should take advantage of the many online resources for course information. Courses for all Harvard schools are listed in my.harvard.edu. In addition, descriptions of all HKS courses and requirements are available online. Course evaluations are available on KNet.
During the first week of classes, students meet with their assigned advisor. Some advisors meet their students as a group; some meet individually. The counsel provided by their advisor will be one resource among many that students should consider in selecting courses.
What about international students?
International students must be in compliance with visa requirements and registered with the Harvard International Office (HIO) prior to registering for classes. Failure to observe these regulations may result in withdrawal from the School. Check with the HIO periodically as immigration regulations and requirements may change.
Once students pick a course, how do they officially sign up?
Students officially register for courses at my.harvard.edu. Online registration allows up to 20 credits, including cross-registered classes, and is available only during a designated time each enrollment period. Students should review their course schedule online periodically to ensure that their registration is accurate.
At what time do classes begin?
Class start and end times are printed in the schedule produced by the Academic Dean’s Office. Fifteen minutes are provided for students to move between classes. The times listed are the exact times classes are to begin and end. Students are expected to be seated in their classroom at the start time. Faculty members are expected to begin teaching at the start time; they are expected to cease teaching, and students are expected to vacate the virtual or physical classroom, precisely at the end time.
How do students add or drop a course?
Are there registration restrictions?
Students may not register for more than 20 credits of classes in any one semester without the approval of their program director. Students may not register for two or more courses that meet at the same time, overlap in time, or have conflicting exam schedules.
It is the student’s responsibility not to register for courses with conflicting exam times. Although few HKS courses will have a specific final exam time scheduled, it is important to check exam schedules for cross-registered courses as well in case other schools are planning for specific exam times.
Enrollment restrictions are noted in the course descriptions in the course catalog. It is always advisable for students to have a back-up class choice. For details on the registration process, including bidding for over-subscribed courses, visit the HKS Registrar’s Office KNet page.
Human Subjects Research Requirements
Students who are involved in a research project that involves human participants at any time during their degree program, including PAEs and SYPAs, are required to obtain approval from the Committee on the Use of Human Subjects in Research (CUHS), which serves as the Institutional Review Board (IRB) for Harvard Kennedy School. This includes at least two requirements: completion of a training course; and submission of an application and any necessary accompanying documents. No research involving human subjects may proceed without prior approval from CUHS.
Is there a possibility that students will be refused admission to a course?
- They fail to meet prerequisite requirements.
- They have prior preparation in the same area.
- The course is oversubscribed or there are limitations on class size.
What is a “module,” and when do students register for one?
Modules are two-credit courses that are six to seven weeks in length and may be taken at any approved Harvard school. HKS modules are offered during four periods in the academic calendar (Fall 1, Fall 2, Spring 1, and Spring 2); dates at other schools will vary. Students should consult other schools’ websites for information about their module periods.
When they register online, students should register for all modules they plan to take during the term. After online registration, if seats remain open in the second module period of each semester, students may submit an ADD petition prior to the module period ADD deadline. Modules normally are not added after the second class meeting.
Module add/drop dates differ from full semester courses, so students should pay attention to deadlines.
Cross-Registration Policies and Procedures
What are the general rules about cross-registering?
HKS students may cross-register up to a set limit of credits without specific approval for any Harvard graduate level course that earns at least two HKS credits. Enrollment in Harvard courses beyond the allotted limits will require approval from the program’s faculty chair. Students also may enroll in courses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, but must obtain approval if the course is not already pre-approved to count toward the degree. See KNet for complete information on cross-registration policies and processes.
Is there an overall limit to how many cross-registered classes students can take?
All students—except for joint HKS/HBS and HKS/HLS degree candidates—may cross-register for the equivalent of four credits per semester in residence for credit toward graduation, although cross-registered courses may be taken any semester. In other words, more than one cross-registered course can be taken at a time, but the total number cannot exceed the equivalent of one per semester of residency. Students may cross-register for additional courses, but they will not count for credit toward graduation.
When courses are listed jointly with other Harvard schools, they count as Harvard Kennedy School courses for all purposes as long as the HKS course number is used when registering.
If students are taking a class at another school, whose rules do they follow?
Students are bound by the rules of that school, including registration; the only exception is that you must abide by the HKS drop deadline, unless the other school’s deadline is earlier. Cross-registration deadlines are listed on Harvard’s course catalog.
Students are responsible for knowing each school’s guidelines. Different schools—even within Harvard—may have different calendars, different grading procedures and different credit systems. While the credit will appear on their transcript reflecting the HKS equivalency (i.e., four- or two-credit course), grades will appear exactly as reported by each school’s Office of the Registrar.
More about cross-registration policies and procedures (must have Harvard Key to view).
All students must be available throughout the final assessment period.
Massachusetts law states:
“Any student in an educational or vocational training institution, other than a religious or denominational educational or vocational training institution, who is unable, because of his religious beliefs, to attend classes or to participate in any examination, study or work requirement on a particular day shall be excused from any such examination or study or work requirement, and shall be provided with an opportunity to make up such examination, study or work requirement which he may have missed because of such absence on any particular day, provided, however, that such makeup examination or work shall not create an unreasonable burden upon such school. No fees of any kind shall be charged by the institution for making available to the said student such opportunity. No adverse or prejudicial effects shall result to any student because of his availing himself of the provisions of this section.” Mass. General Laws Chapter 151C, Section 2B.
Consistent with the law, if conflicts are unavoidable and students must miss an hourly or mid-term examination for religious reasons, they will be offered an opportunity to make up the work. It is their responsibility, however, to inform instructors in ample time to make other arrangements. It is their responsibility, however, to inform instructors in ample time to make other arrangements.
Absence from Classes and Exams
Students who must be absent for more than a few days or for an exam should inform their program director or the assistant dean for student services and programs who will notify the appropriate faculty members. Absences are excused in the event of personal illness or family emergency. In those instances, absences from class will not count against a course’s participation policy and students will be given an opportunity to make up any missed work. Travel for recruiting, interviews or research trips will not be excused and students may be penalized in accordance with class rules as articulated in the course syllabus.
Extended absences may preclude receiving course credit at the discretion of the faculty member or program director. Students should refer to Grades and Credits for details on being absent from a final exam.
Normally, any students absent from class for more than two weeks without approval from their program director will not receive credit for that course(s). Under these circumstances a grade of withdrawn (WD) will be given for each class from which the student has been absent.
Leave of Absence and Residency Requirements
After admission to Harvard Kennedy School and until receipt of the degree, all master’s degree candidates must be enrolled continuously in one of the enrollment categories described below. Students who do not enroll in one of the categories by the ADD deadline in either semester will be withdrawn for the semester.
Enrollment categories include:
- Student in residence: All master’s degree candidates are expected to be in residence for the duration of their programs (i.e., two-year students must be enrolled, registered in courses, and paying tuition for four semesters; one-year students for two semesters). All non-degree students are expected to be in residence for one full year and must pay full tuition. Full-time residency requires attending classes in the school’s designated learning modality and successfully completing at least 12 credits toward the degree each semester. Students may not be matriculated in another school or institution while enrolled in HKS unless engaged in an approved combined degree. Exceptions to this policy must be approved by both their program director and the HKS Registrar’s Office. In rare cases when students receive permission to attend HKS part time, residency requires registration in, and successful completion of, eight credits per semester. Normally part-time students may not register in more than 10 credits per semester.
- Voluntary leaves of absence: Students who wish to interrupt their studies at any time before graduation may request a leave of absence for either one semester or an entire academic year. Requests for a leave of absence may be granted by their program director in consultation with other officers of the university, as appropriate. With respect to a voluntary leave of absence for medical reasons, the assistant dean for student services and programs or the senior associate director of student support services ordinarily will consult with Harvard University Health Services (which may consider information from students’ current and/or former health care providers, if made available by the student). Extensions of leaves for up to one year at a time must be requested in writing to the HKS Registrar’s Office. Failure to request an extension of leave time or to obtain approval for an extension of leave time will result in a withdrawal, and it will be necessary for the student to request readmission in writing from the HKS Registrar’s Office, providing the student’s reasons for wishing to return and plans for completing the degree. Readmission is not guaranteed. Students on leave are not considered to be working toward their degree. Students receiving financial assistance must contact their financial aid counselor to discuss the impact of a leave of absence on their financial aid.
- Involuntary leave of absence: Under certain circumstances, students may be placed on an involuntary leave of absence. An involuntary leave of absence is not a disciplinary sanction. However, an incident that gives rise to a leave of absence, whether voluntary or involuntary, may subsequently be the basis for disciplinary action. A student who prefers to take a voluntary leave of absence for medical reasons rather than to be placed on an involuntary leave of absence for medical reasons is ordinarily allowed to do so. Transcripts do not distinguish between voluntary and involuntary leaves of absence.
An involuntary leave of absence may be required for the following reasons:
- Medical circumstances:
(a) (i) The student’s behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of any person, or has seriously disrupted others in their residential community or academic environment; and (ii) (either the student’s threatening, self-destructive or disruptive behavior is determined to be the result of a medical condition or the student has refused to cooperate with efforts by Harvard University Health Services or other clinicians to determine the cause of the behavior.
(b) The student is not cleared to return to enrollment and/or residence at the Harvard Kennedy School following either: (i) a hospitalization or emergency room visit; or (ii) other circumstances that reasonably call into question their ability to function as a student in the Harvard Kennedy School environment.
The decision to place a student on an involuntary leave of absence for health-related reasons is made in consultation with Harvard University Health Services (which may consider information from the student’s current and/or former health care providers, if made available by the student) after an individualized assessment of all pertinent factors, such as: the nature of the student’s conduct; the nature, duration and severity of the risk; the likelihood of potential injury; and whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices or procedures will mitigate the risk, such as a reduced course load or course modifications. However, reasonable modifications do not include changes that would fundamentally alter the academic program or unduly burden the School’s resources or staffing capabilities or, with respect to the required level of care or monitoring, that would exceed the standard of care that a university health service can be expected to provide.
Failure to adhere to the terms of an agreement to engage in treatment: The student’s continued enrollment and/or residence is conditioned on the student’s agreement to meet the expectations set forth in an agreement to engage in treatment, such as following the recommendations of the student’s treatment team, and the student has failed to adhere to the terms of that agreement.
Alleged criminal behavior: The student has been arrested on allegations of serious criminal behavior or has been charged with such behavior by law enforcement authorities.
Risk to the community: The student allegedly violated a disciplinary rule of the School, and their presence on campus poses a significant risk to the safety of others or to the educational environment of the community.
Indebtedness: The student’s term bill is unpaid and the student has not made arrangements acceptable to the School to address the issue.
Failure to provide medical documentation of required immunization
Unfulfilled School requirements: The student has not met an academic or other School requirement including without limitation, attending class or participating in required activities and has not taken steps acceptable to the School to meet the requirement.
Failure to register: The student has not registered as required at the beginning of each term.
The decision to place a student on involuntary leave is made by either the senior associate dean for Degree Programs and Student Affairs, the assistant dean for student services and programs, or the senior associate director of student support services in consultation with other officers of the university, as appropriate. As noted above, in the case of an involuntary leave of absence for medical reasons, the School will consult with an appropriate person at Harvard University Health Services.
Students are notified in writing that they have been placed on involuntary leave. A student may petition the senior associate dean for Degree Programs and Student Affairs for reconsideration, generally within five calendar days and may appeal a final decision to the Dean of the School.
Clearance for Return
After a hospitalization or emergency room visit by one of its students, or in other circumstances that raise serious questions about the student’s health or well-being and reasonably call into question their ability to function as a student in the HKS environment, HKS ordinarily will not permit that student to return to residence and enrollment or participation in any Harvard-related programs or activities before making its own assessment of the suitability of the student’s return. (See “Procedure for Notice and Consultation”). To better inform that assessment, students are expected to notify both HKS and HUHS of any hospitalization or emergency department visit. HUHS can be notified by phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 617-495-5711.
Reason for Policy
An important consideration in HKS’ decision as to whether a student may continue in or return to residence and enrollment is the impact of the student’s presence on the community. A student who is injured, ill, or exhibiting disturbing or disruptive behavior may require ongoing care. Serious alcohol- or drug-related problems, in particular, have the potential to disrupt residential life and/or life in the academic community significantly and impair a student’s ability to function academically and socially. HKS regards as unreasonable the expectation that roommates, suitemates, friends, or HKS staff will take on health care responsibilities for other students.
Any student may, of course, refuse to allow consultation between the student’s clinician(s) and HKS but such a refusal will not prevent HKS from making a decision regarding a student’s return to residence or continued enrollment.
Procedure for Notice and Consultation
HKS will consult with clinicians at HUHS and/or, if the student has been treated elsewhere, clinicians at other facilities or in private practice, ordinarily with the student’s permission. Depending on all of the relevant circumstances, such consultation may be initiated either by HKS or by clinicians at HUHS. Notice that a student has been hospitalized or treated in an emergency department of an area hospital may prompt HKS to begin a process of consultation through which it will decide whether and under what circumstances the student may continue in or return to residence or enrollment.
HKS also may independently decide that, based on its observations or other information it has about a student, it should initiate the process of consultation with HUHS clinicians, which may include ascertaining whether that student has been hospitalized or treated by an emergency department.
Consultation will be focused on the concerns raised by the student’s condition or behavior and requirements for continued care, in order to facilitate HKS’ decision about the student’s capacity to continue in or return to residence and enrollment.
While on Leave of Absence
Students who go on a leave of absence during the academic year are charged tuition and any applicable fees, including rent, to the end of the period in which they leave. Students who receive scholarship or other financial aid should consult the HKS Admissions and Financial Aid office concerning the financial implications of going on leave. Foreign students should consult the Harvard International Office about their status.
The date a student goes on leave will affect the student’s health insurance through Harvard. For details, review the Leave of Absence policy on the Harvard University Student Health Program website, or contact the Student Health Insurance Office, Member Services at 617-495-2008 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Libraries and other facilities normally may be used only by students who are currently registered. Students on leave may not participate in extracurricular activities. Exceptions to this rule must be specifically approved in advance by the School. If so instructed by the senior associate dean for Degree Programs and Student Affairs, the assistant dean for student services and programs, or the senior associate director of student support services, a student on leave must remain away from the University campus.
Students going on leave must remember that all degree candidates, whether currently registered or not, are expected to maintain a satisfactory standard of conduct.
Following an individualized assessment, the School may require students who are on leave for medical reasons to comply with a treatment plan during their time away.
Returning to School
Students in good standing who are on a voluntary leave of absence ordinarily may return by notifying the HKS Registrar’s Office 12 weeks in advance of the start of any term, although it remains the student’s responsibility to ensure that they have adequate time to complete the degree within the time limits established by the School. Students must confirm that they intend to return to the Kennedy School no later than June 15 for the fall term and October 1 for the spring term.
Students who were not in good standing at the time a voluntary leave of absence was granted and students who were placed on an involuntary leave of absence must petition either the senior associate dean for Degree Programs and Student Affairs, the assistant dean for student services and programs, or the senior associate director for student services and programs for permission to return to the School and must demonstrate that the circumstances that led to their leave have been satisfactorily addressed and that they are ready to resume their studies. The decision whether to allow a student to return is made by the senior associate dean for Degree Programs and Student Affairs or such other person as the Dean designates in consultation with others at the University as appropriate.
If the leave, voluntary or involuntary, was for medical reasons, then the student must petition either the senior associate dean for Degree Programs and Student Affairs, the assistant dean for student services and programs, or the senior associate director for student services and programs for permission to return to the School and must demonstrate that the circumstances that led to their leave have been satisfactorily addressed and they are ready to resume their studies.
In addition, so that the school may conduct an individualized assessment of their circumstances, students on medical leave ordinarily will be required to consult with Harvard University Health Services (and to grant permission to Harvard University Health Services to obtain their relevant treatment records and communicate with their treatment providers) so that a professional assessment about the student’s productivity during their time away and readiness to return can be shared with the School.
Please also note that if the School learns of serious concerns about the health or well- being of a student who is away from School but not on a medical leave of absence, then the School similarly may require the student to consult with Harvard University Health Services (and to grant permission to Harvard University Health Services to obtain their treatment records and communicate with their treatment providers) so that a professional assessment about the student’s stability and readiness to return can be shared with the School. In addition, if the School learns of serious concerns about the health or well-being of a student who either has been hospitalized or visited the emergency room or whose behavior reasonably calls into question their ability to function as a student in the HKS environment, then HKS similarly may require the student to consult with Harvard University Health Services (and to grant permission to Harvard University Health Services to obtain their relevant treatment records and communicate with their treatment providers). For more about the process of clearance to return to enrollment and/or residence after a hospitalization or emergency room visit, see “Clearance for Return.” The purpose of such consultation is so that a professional assessment can be shared with the School about the student’s readiness to return and function in the student environment, with or without reasonable accommodation. Note that while the input of a student’s treatment provider is an important consideration in the petition process, Harvard University Health Services clinicians may have special knowledge of the University context to which students will be returning. In all such cases, the decision whether to allow a student to return is made by the senior associate dean for Degree Programs and Student Affairs or such other person as the Dean designates. Any student whose petition to return from a medical leave of absence is denied will receive a written explanation of the decision and may submit a written appeal of the decision to the Registrar or their designee within five (5) calendar days, based on the following grounds: (a) new materially relevant information has become available; and/or (b) there is reasonable evidence of a procedural error in the decision-making process.
Any disciplinary matter must be resolved before a student on a leave of absence will be allowed to return and, if the student has been required to withdraw while on a leave of absence, then any conditions for return after a required withdrawal also must be satisfied.
Students returning from a leave who wish to apply for financial aid must notify the HKS Admissions and Financial Aid office and file the necessary application forms by mid-April for the following fall term, and by October 1 for the following spring term. Students who apply late cannot be assured that their aid will be available in time for registration payment deadlines.
Students who have been granted a leave and who have borrowed money through Harvard must submit an annual loan deferment form to the Student Loan Office upon their return to Harvard. Deferment forms may be obtained through either the Student Loan Office or the Financial Aid Office and must be completed and certified by the Registrar immediately following Registration. Failure to file a deferment form upon return will cause payments to be due on loans and could affect future borrowing eligibility.
A student will not be allowed to register in the University again until all previous term-bill charges have been paid and no loan is in default.
Agreements to Engage in Treatment
The School may condition a student’s enrollment and/or residence on certain terms or conditions, as set forth in a written contract between the School and the student, when the student’s conduct or circumstances have caused heightened concerns about the student’s safety and/or well-being and:
(a) the appropriateness of the student’s continued enrollment and/or residence; or
(b) the student’s readiness to return to the Harvard community.
The agreement to engage in treatment may include, among other things, compliance with a medical treatment plan; regular consultations with health care professionals; communication with administrators; and limited disclosure of relevant medical information, on a need-to-know basis, such as compliance with treatment and restrictions on certain activities. The decision to require such an agreement is arrived at in consultation with Harvard University Health Services after an individualized assessment of the nature of the student’s conduct and circumstances and any other pertinent factors.
Students must apply for readmission if they do not complete their degree within the designated time after matriculation (five years for two-year students, four years for mid-career students). Readmission is not guaranteed.
Former HKS students who withdrew, were withdrawn, or exceeded the time for degree completion may apply for readmission. Students who were required to withdraw may petition for readmission under terms stipulated by the HKS Administrative Board. Readmission cannot be completed until all fees, overdue loan payments, and other indebtedness to the University has been paid. Former students may submit up to two applications for readmission during the course of their academic career.
Readmission is not automatic and requires approval. Readmission may be conditional, requiring that the student meets specific outlined requirements. Consideration is given to the record of each applicant, which may include the length of absence and the activities undertaken during the absence.
Applicants must submit a statement noting the reason(s) they did not complete the degree originally and activities done since that time and how conditions have changed to support academic success, and a proposal including timeline for successful completion of the degree. The statement and any supporting materials should be submitted to the Office of the Registrar by email or mail no later than March 15 of any given year to be considered for readmission for the following fall term, and by September 15 for the spring term.
Readmission Policy for Military Students
In compliance with federal regulation, 34 C.F.R. § 668.18 and the Department of Defense (DoD) Voluntary Education Partnership Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), Harvard Kennedy School will promptly readmit service members with the same academic status as they had when they last attended or were accepted for admission. This requirement applies to any student who cannot attend School due to military service. Eligible students must notify their HKS program director or Registrar’s Office of their military service and intention to return to School as follows:
Notification of military service. The student (or an appropriate officer of the armed forces or official of the Department of Defense) must give oral or written notice of such service as far in advance as is reasonable under the circumstances. This notice does not have to indicate whether the student intends to return to School and may not be subject to any rule of timeliness. Alternatively, at the time of readmission, the student may submit an attestation of military service that necessitated the absence from School. No notice is required if precluded by military necessity, such as service in operations that are classified or would be compromised by such notice.
Notification of intent to return to School. The student must also give oral or written notice of the intent to return to the School within three years after the completion of the period of service. A student who is hospitalized or convalescing due to an illness or injury incurred or aggravated during the performance of service must provide notification within two years after the end of the period needed for recovery from the illness or injury. A student who fails to apply for readmission within these periods does not automatically forfeit eligibility for readmission but is subject to established leave of absence policy and general practices.
HKS will promptly readmit the student into the next class or classes in the program beginning after notice of intent to reenroll is provided unless a later date is requested or unusual circumstances require HKS to admit the student at a later date. This requirement supersedes state law—for example, a qualifying service member will be admitted to the next class even if that class is at the maximum enrollment level set by the state. HKS will admit the student with the same academic status, which means:
To the same program to which the student was last admitted or, if that exact program is no longer offered, the program that is most similar to that program unless the student requests or agrees to admission to a different program;
At the same enrollment status, unless the student wants to enroll at a different enrollment status;
With the same number of credit hours previously completed, unless the student is readmitted to a different program to which the completed credit hours are not transferable, and
With the same academic standing (e.g., with the same satisfactory academic progress status) the student previously had.
If the student is readmitted to the same program, HKS will assess the tuition and fee charges that would have been assessed for the academic year during which the student left (first academic year only). However, if veteran’s education benefits or other service member education benefits will pay the higher tuition and fee charges that other students in the program are paying for the year, HKS will assess those charges to the student.
If the student is admitted to a different program, and for subsequent academic years for a student admitted to the same program, HKS will assess no more than the tuition and fee charges that other students in the program are assessed for that academic year.
The cumulative length of the absence and of all previous absences from the School for military service may not exceed five years. Only the time the student spends actually performing service is counted.
If HKS determines that the student is not prepared to resume the program with the same academic status at the point where they left off or will not be able to complete the program, HKS will make reasonable efforts at no extra cost to help the student become prepared or to enable the student to complete the program.
Finally, a student’s readmission rights under this policy terminate in the case of a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge, general court-martial, federal or state prison sentence, or other reasons as described in 34 CFR 668.18(h). However, service members whose rights under this policy terminate may remain eligible for readmission even though they will not be entitled to the benefits outlined in this policy.
Exams are a means to assess students’ knowledge and understanding.
Except as set forth below, students taking exams must rely on their own knowledge and must not consult any other person or resource. Questions of clarification must be addressed only to the professor or teaching assistants. All students must be available throughout the final assessment period.
For jointly offered courses hosted by another Harvard school, students must adhere to the academic and attendance policies of that school.
Unless an instructor provides alternative rules for a particular exam in writing, students must adhere to the following Harvard Kennedy School rules.
Please refer to the absence from a final exam policy outline under Grades and Credits.
- Closed-book exams: Students may not use any materials during their exam other than the exam itself, exam booklets and scratch paper, unless given explicit permission by the instructor that other resources, for example calculators, may be used.
- Open-book exams: Students may use any approved materials for their exams including textbooks, notes and other printed material. Professors may limit the materials acceptable for an open-book exam.
Students may consult approved written or electronic resources for reference, but may not consult with any other person except the instructors and teaching assistants for that course.
Exam Time Limits
Students are expected to respect exam time limits. If an exam is scheduled for three hours, they must spend only three hours on the test. When the allotted time has expired, students must stop working on the exam immediately or risk being penalized for working on the exam beyond the allotted amount of time. Students seeking additional time for taking exams due to a documented disability must follow the process outlined on the disability resources webpage.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended (“FERPA”), is a federal law that gives students certain rights with respect to their education records.
Harvard Kennedy School routinely maintains records for its students that describe and document their work and progress. These education records generally include records such as permanent and local addresses, admissions records, enrollment status, course grades, reports and evaluations, completion of requirements and progress toward the degree, records of disciplinary actions, letters of recommendation, and other correspondence with or concerning the student.
To be useful, a student’s records must be accurate and complete. The officials who maintain them are those in charge of the functions reflected in the records and offices where the records are kept. These ordinarily include the HKS Registrar’s Office and may include other institutional officials.
Students have access to their education records and may contribute to them if they feel there is need for clarification. Students wishing to access their education records should contact the HKS Registrar’s Office and submit a written request that identifies the specific record or records they wish to inspect. Access will be given within 45 days from receipt of the request. When a record contains information about more than one student, the student requesting access may inspect and review only the portion of the record relating to him or her. Students also are not permitted to view letters and statements of recommendation to which they waived their right of access or that were placed in their file before January 1, 1975.
Students should direct any questions they have about the accuracy of records to the person in charge of the office where the records are kept. If questions still remain, the matter may be referred to the HKS Registrar’s Office. Should it be necessary, a hearing may be held to resolve challenges concerning the accuracy of records in those cases where informal discussions have not satisfactorily settled the questions raised.
Ordinarily, students must consent to the disclosure of information from their educational records, though FERPA includes a number of exceptions. One exception relates to “directory information,” a set of elements from a student’s record that, under FERPA, may be made available to the general public. HKS regards the following information as “directory information:” name, program, date degree received or date anticipated, and date of attendance at HKS.
Harvard University’s definition of “directory information” may include elements in addition to those used by HKS, thus, requests for directory information received at the University level rather than at individual Harvard school level may result in disclosure of additional elements.
Students may direct HKS not to disclose their directory information, usually known as putting a “FERPA Block” in place. To do so, they must inform the HKS Registrar’s Office, in writing, of that decision. Students should be aware of the possible consequences of putting in place a FERPA Block, such as missed mailings, messages, and announcements, non-verification of enrollment or degree status and non-inclusion in the Harvard Commencement booklet. Students who have previously chosen to put a “FERPA Block” in place and decide to reverse this decision must inform the HKS Registrar’s Office in writing.
Other Disclosures Permitted Under FERPA
In addition to permitting the disclosure of directory information, as set forth above, FERPA permits disclosure of educational records without a student’s knowledge or consent under certain circumstances.
For example, disclosure is permitted to Harvard officials with a legitimate educational interest in the records, meaning that the person needs the information in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibilities, including instructional, supervisory, advisory, administrative, academic or research, staff support or other duties. “Harvard officials” include: faculty; administrators; clerical employees; professional employees; Harvard University Health Services staff members; Harvard University Police Department officers; agents of the University, such as independent contractors or vendors performing functions on behalf of a Harvard school or the University; members of Harvard’s governing boards; and students serving on an official HKS or University committee, or assisting another Harvard official in performing his or her tasks.
A student’s education records also may be shared with parties outside the University under certain conditions, including, for example, in situations involving a health and safety emergency. In addition, HKS will forward a student’s education records to other agencies or institutions that have requested the records and in which the student seeks or intends to enroll or is already enrolled so long as the disclosure is for purposes related to the student’s enrollment or transfer.
If HKS finds that a student has committed a disciplinary violation involving a crime of violence or a non-forcible sex offense, then it also may, if legally permitted and in HKS’s judgment appropriate, disclose certain information about the disciplinary case. The disclosure may include the student’s name, the violation committed, and sanction imposed.
Student Rights Under FERPA
As set forth above, under both Harvard policy and FERPA, students and former students may inspect and review certain of their education records that are maintained by Harvard. They also have the right to: exercise limited control over other people’s access to their education records; seek to correct their education records if they believe them to be inaccurate, misleading or otherwise in violation of their FERPA rights; file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education if they believe Harvard has not complied with the requirements of FERPA; and be fully informed of their rights under FERPA.
Complaints regarding alleged violation of rights of students under FERPA may be submitted in writing within 180 days to the Family Policy Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, DC 20202-5920.