Residency Guidelines

For degrees that do not meet the one-year residency requirement


Formal approval

All new degrees and substantial changes to existing degrees must be approved by the Corporation. Residence at the University has long been an important component of a Harvard education and is expected to remain the norm for most degree programs. The Harvard University Statutes currently state that “Ordinarily, a residence at the University of at least one year spent in full-time study at the full tuition rate is required for each degree, except in the case of candidates for the degree of Associate of Arts or Bachelor of Arts in Extension Studies.”

Proposed degree programs that do not comply with the one-year residency requirement should be reviewed by the Provost’s Office prior to consideration by the Corporation. In most cases, an ad hoc faculty committee will review the proposal and advise the Provost. Committee membership will be drawn from the several faculties.


  • Residential programs remain the gold standard in higher education when one considers the total student experience. While all academic programs have critical academic goals that require and measure tangible progress toward a degree (e.g. demonstrable domain knowledge, analytical ability, reasoning, various forms of expression and critical thinking), many argue that the impact of their programs is better described in terms of personal growth, professional transformation, and intellectual socialization. Fulfilling credit requirements with acceptable grades alone does not adequately capture these other essential dimensions. These “soft” goals are largely a by-product of the residential experience; many of the most valuable student experiences are unplanned and are a function of being in a select peer group in an intellectual community.
  • The benefits of being in-residence do not accrue uniformly to all types of academic programs or to all phases of one’s educational experience. For example, while all might argue that residence is essential today for what all desire and expect of Harvard College, it may not be essential--in fact it may be undesirable--for a mid-career program in clinical effectiveness where most of the students are junior faculty at other academic medical centers. Therefore one can vigorously defend a 100% residency mandate in certain academic programs while being quite open to hybrid delivery models for others.


Types of degree programs are defined as follows:

  • Traditional residential degree programs are programs that meet the one-year residency requirement.
  • Alternative residential degree programs are 100% residential, but are based on alternative residential experiences (e.g. evenings, weekends, summer or winter session).
  • Hybrid degree programs involve residential, off-site, and online learning components where the non-residential activities are officially credited toward degree requirements (e.g. applied research projects at a host institution, field study, online student sections, video-on-demand of lectures and related problems sets, class sessions based on video conferencing).
  • Online programs are conducted entirely online or do not require residential participation to meet degree requirements.

Guidelines for review and approval process

Academic review of new degree programs or change of criteria in existing degree programs within each school should occur in the same manner as traditional academic programs (i.e. no separate review and approval process). These programs require final approval by the President and Fellows of Harvard College (i.e. the Corporation).

Proposed alternative residential and hybrid programs that do not follow the one-year residency requirement should be reviewed and approved on a case-by-case basis by an ad hoc review process under the leadership of the Provost following academic review within each school. Final approval is required by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Should online programs be addressed in the future, a similar review and approval process would apply.

New degree programs should be reviewed on a 3- and 5-year basis for continuation. Applied field projects (and the like) should be conducted under the direct supervision of Harvard faculty.

Programmatic guidelines for degree programs

No change in the residency requirement will be allowed for undergraduate (College) or advanced research degrees (e.g. Ph.D., DBA, D.Ed., D.Sc., D. Ed.).

No fully online degrees are being considered at this time.

New alternative residential masters degree programs will be allowed provided “the residential experience provides for at least as much time in structured learning activities (e.g. in-class, in-lab, in-study section) and a similar (equivalent) opportunity for face-to-face faculty-student interaction and student-student contact as full-time residential programs.” (In essence, this would open the door to programs that were 100% residential, but composed of non-traditional terms (e.g. two summers and a fall semester, two winters and a spring, a term here and a term away, etc)).

Proposed programs that are not 100% residential will be considered, but should be reviewed and approved on a case-by-case basis by an ad hoc review process following academic review within each school. Non-residential components should not ordinarily exceed 25% of the program of study and innovations should first be proven, in concept, in traditional residential programs where possible.

All degree programs should be led by the appropriate full-time faculty and have a similar mix of teaching faculty as current degree programs (i.e. no separate class of faculty for new programs).

Alternative residential degree programs and hybrid degree programs should typically be designed for mid-career or 2nd professional degree students.

Proposed programs must present a plan for financial stability including how administrative processes will accommodate shifting faculty and student schedules.