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Student Handbook

Student Handbook: Master of Education (Ed.M.) Program Policies

This handbook reflects the policies and regulations that govern the Ed.M. Degree Program. However, please see the individual Program Canvas pages for more information about additional requirements for specific Ed.M. programs. In addition, this section details policies and procedures that apply specifically to master’s students.

Coursework and Grade Options 

In order to meet basic HGSE degree requirements, Master of Education (Ed.M.) candidates must complete courses carrying a minimum of 42 credits. Ed.M. students must complete all required Foundations courses (described below). Ed.M. students must take at least 16 of their total credits for a letter grade. Ed.M. students are permitted to enroll in up to eight credits of independent study or field experience, or combination thereof (not to exceed one per semester). See other sections of this Handbook for information about prior coursework and other academic requirements for all students.


Satisfactory completion of Foundations courses is required in order to earn the Ed.M. degree. Foundations courses are: How People Learn (HPL101, 4 credits), Leading Change (LCH101, 2 credits), Evidence (EVI101, 4 credits), and Equity & Opportunity (4 credits). Equity & Opportunity foundational learning consists of two components: a 2-credit “Identity in Context” module (EQO11) and 2 or more credits chosen from a list of fall, winter, or spring elective courses designated to fulfill the Equity & Opportunity Foundations requirement. Residential Ed.M. students are expected to be on campus for the beginning of August Term on August 3.  

For Leading Change, Evidence, and Equity and Opportunity: Identity in Context, full attendance and participation in class sessions is required. (How People Learn is a primarily asynchronous course and synchronous class meetings are optional.) In the event of illness or an unanticipated emergency, students must notify their instructor(s) in advance that they will miss class. Any other excused absences from these courses must be approved in advance by the Degree Programs Office and typically will be approved only in the case of significant life events that require missing no more than a single day of the relevant course. Students with more than one unexcused absence from one of these Foundations courses will receive a grade of DRP for that course and be subject to withdrawal from HGSE. 

Each Foundations course is graded on a SAT/NCR basis. If a student does not receive a SAT for any Foundations course they will be required to retake the course at the next opportunity — a later semester or the following year — and earn a SAT to earn the Ed.M. degree. Exceptions may be granted on rare occasions for those who are approved to take a semester-long leave of absence or face other extenuating circumstances such as a medically documented severe illness, childbirth, adoption, or other family-related disruption. Students in these situations should consult with the Degree Programs Office. 

Residential Part-Time Ed.M. Students in Foundations

Residential part-time Ed.M. students admitted in 2022 are expected to complete all Foundations courses in order to graduate. Residential part-time Ed.M. students will take the Foundations courses during the summer and may take them in the sequence that is best suited to them. For online Ed.M. students, the timing and sequence of Foundations courses will be determined at the program level and will be the same for all students. 

HGSE recommends that residential part-time students take at least two Foundations courses in their first June and August term at HGSE. For students taking two Foundations courses in their first year, the Degree Programs Office recommends taking How People Learn (HPL101) in June-July and Equity & Opportunity (EQO11) in August of the first year if feasible and taking Leading Change (LCH101) and Evidence (EVI101) in August of their second year. Part-time students may fulfill their remaining Foundations component (2 or more credits in a course designated to count as an Equity & Opportunity elective) any time during their two years.

Equity & Opportunity Electives

Equity & Opportunity elective offerings represent courses that are aligned with the goals for Foundations in Equity & Opportunity at HGSE. While other courses at HGSE and other Harvard schools address issues of equity and opportunity, only courses designated as fulfilling the Equity & Opportunity Foundational requirement count toward Ed.M. students’ required Foundations credits. 

Policies for fulfilling incomplete coursework (a grade of “INC”) apply to Equity & Opportunity elective courses. If a student receives a grade of F or INP (permanent incomplete), they must satisfactorily complete another Equity & Opportunity elective course to fulfill their graduation requirement.

Academic Progress Review 

Ed.M. and C.A.S. candidates must maintain at least a B- average. More than one Incomplete and/or a grade average below B- will initiate an academic review at the end of the semester. Ed.M. and C.A.S. candidates who fall below a B- average and/or are carrying multiple Incomplete grades are considered to be in poor academic standing. Students may not register for a new semester with more than one Incomplete. A student’s degree candidacy may be terminated on the basis of poor academic standing. 

Petitions to Change Program or Concentration

Occasionally, Ed.M. students may wish to petition to change their Ed.M. program or concentration from the one to which they were accepted. Students wishing to do so must complete the Petition for Change of Program or Petition for Change of Concentration, which are available on the HGSE Office the Registrar website and include more details about the process. Such petitions must include a clear justification for wanting to make such a change. In order to be granted a change, approval must be secured from the current program/concentration Faculty Co-Chairs, the new program/concentration Faculty Co-Chairs, and the Director for Master’s Studies. Note that not all petitions will be granted due to admissions and program needs; thus, students should consider carefully in which program to enroll without assuming the possibility of transferring to another program or concentration.