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University Policies

V. University Policies

  1. Academic Policies

    1. Academic Standards

      MSU is committed to high academic standards and expects all graduate students to excel in their programs of study. A 3.0 cumulative grade point average must be maintained. The program of study cannot include more than three grades of less than a 3.0. Credits will not be awarded for courses in which a grade below a 2.0 is earned. If the student receives a grade below a 2.0 in any course during his/her program of study, he/she will be required to repeat the course. Additional information can be found in the Academic Program Catalog under Graduate Education (Policy on Academic Standards for Graduate Students).

      A grade point average is one measure of academic standing. However, academic standards also include consideration of the student's suitability for conducting research, competency in his/her major field and rate of progress toward completion of the degree. The NSP believes it is a disservice to permit a student to continue toward the degree without the necessary qualifications for retention. Judgment regarding retention is made by the student's graduate advisor and/or Guidance Committee members. If it is decided that a student lacks such qualifications, he/she may be asked to withdraw according to the procedures as defined in the publication Graduate Student Rights and Responsibilities. This is part of the COGS Graduate Student Handbook available from the Council of Graduate Students Office.

      Research credits are not considered in determining the grade-point average. Justification for retention must be furnished to TGS for any graduate students whose GPA is below a 3.0 for 14 or more credits. The College of Natural Science may also remove students from degree standing.

      If an NSP graduate student's grade point average is below a 3.0, exclusive of research, the graduate advisor and Guidance Committee must decide whether the student will be permitted to continue. The results of their decision will be filed in writing with the GPD and PD.

      The Guidance Committee and major professor are jointly responsible for evaluating the student's competence as indicated by grades in core and other courses, research performance and development of professional skills, and rate of progress as indicated by the number of courses for which grades have been assigned or deferred. Written evaluations will be communicated to the graduate student at least once a year as part of the Annual Student Progress Report and the Annual Meeting of the Guidance Committee report. A copy of these reports will be kept by the GPD and Academic Program Coordinator in the graduate student's file. A student whose performance does not meet the standards of quality, will not be permitted to continue to enroll in the degree program, and appropriate action will be taken by the PD. As mentioned above for annual progress evaluation, a student may file a written dissent that will be discussed by the GPD and or  PD, the graduate advisor, and the student's Guidance Committee for resolution.

    2. Time Limits

      The comprehensive examination must be passed within five years and all remaining requirements for the degree must be completed within eight years from the time of a student's first enrollment as a doctoral student (the date of the first course included for degree certification). Most graduate students complete their degree in five years, or less. Failure to meet program, college, and university deadlines or to complete the Ph.D. degree in a timely fashion will remove the student from "good standing" status and jeopardize funding. If this limit is exceeded, the GPD and or PD will consult with the student's Guidance Committee to determine the circumstances and follow-up actions. The committee may file a letter justifying the continuation of the student, and the extension must be approved by the College of Natural Science and TGS. If no letter is filed, or if a majority of the committee declines to sign the letter, the  PD shall inform the student by letter that he or she is no longer eligible to register in the program. If the degree requirements are not completed within this eight-year period, the comprehensive examinations must be passed again.

      DF-Deferred Grades: The required work must be completed, and a grade reported within 6 months. If the required work is not completed within the time limit, the DF will become U-Unfinished and will be changed to DF/U under the numerical and Pass-No Grade (P-N) grading systems, and to DF/NC under the Credit-No Credit (CR-NC) system. This rule does not apply to graduate thesis (NEU 899) or dissertation research credits (NEU 999).

    3. Research Involving Human Or Animal Subjects Or

      Federal and university regulations require that all research projects involving human subjects and materials of human origin be reviewed and approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) before initiation. The  Human Research and Protection Program (HRPP) is an Institutional Review Board. Under the regulations, a human subject of research is an individual (1) from whom an investigator obtains data by interaction or intervention or (2) about whom the research obtains confidential information.

      MSU policy requires that use within the institution of living vertebrate animals (includes laboratory rats and mice, etc.) be reviewed for appropriateness by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) before use of these animals commences. This pertains to all university- owned animals, including client-owned animals used in research, and animals studied undisturbed in their natural habitat. For general reference, the publication that details the standards to which the university conforms is the NIH Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. Departure from this published guideline requires written scientific justification in the animal use form. Principal investigators and course directors must obtain approval from the IACUC before initiating any research, testing, or instructional project involving the use of vertebrate animals.

      TGS will not accept master’s theses or doctoral dissertations containing research on human subjects that has not been reviewed and approved previously by HRPP or research involving animal use without previous review and approval from IACUC. TGS will verify HRPP project numbers and AUF numbers before granting degrees.

      The University acts through its advisory committees and academic governance bodies to ensure that individual research and scholarly projects incorporate appropriate safeguards when dealing with radiation, biological and chemical hazards. All individuals performing work with hazardous substances must accept a shared responsibility for operating in a safe manner once they have been informed about the extent of risk and safe procedures for their activities. Individuals are responsible for safely performing activities associated with hazardous substances.

      All students working in laboratories are required to complete and maintain current training in Chemical Hygiene and Laboratory Safety, Gas Cylinder Safety and Biological Safety, among other required training, sponsored by the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS). Annual renewal training may be obtained by taking an online course. Information regarding these sessions and courses can be obtained by contacting the EHS office. If an NSP graduate student has a question regarding safety, he/she should consult the graduate advisor. If the question of safety is not resolved, the student should contact EHS for further information as well as the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the chemical substance.

    4. Residence

      A minimum of 6 credits in the degree program must be earned in residence on the East Lansing campus or at an approved MSU instructional site to obtain a degree from Michigan State University.

    5. Transfer creditss

      Graduate credits may be transferred from other accredited domestic or foreign institutions of similar quality to MSU if they are appropriate for an NSP graduate student's program of study. Transfer credits are reviewed by the GPD and GAC, and approved, if appropriate. Only 9 credits of graduate-level courses in which at least a 3.0 (B) grade was received will be considered for transfer.

    6. Graduate Assistant Illness/Injury/Pregnancy Leave Policy

      From the Graduate School Guide to Graduate Assistantships:

      A graduate assistant unable to fulfill the duties of his/her appointment because of illness or injury shall notify the administrator of his/her appointing unit as soon as circumstances permit. Similarly, a graduate assistant unable to fulfill the duties of her appointment because of pregnancy shall notify the administrator of her major unit as soon as circumstances permit. During the illness, injury, or pregnancy, the major unit shall adjust (reduce, waive, or reschedule) the graduate assistant's duties as those duties and the assistant's physical circumstances reasonably dictate. If total absence from duties becomes necessary and the graduate assistant is still enrolled, the appointing unit shall maintain the stipend of the appointment, provided for a period of two months or to the end of the appointment period or the semester, whichever occurs first. The graduate assistant shall have the right to return to the assistantship, within the original terms of the appointment, at such time as he/she is able to reassume his/her duties.

    7. Work in absentia

      Candidates for the doctoral degree may, with the approval of their graduate advisor and Guidance Committee, conduct some work in absentia. Arrangements for registration may be made by applying at the Office of the Dean, College of Natural Science.

    8. Language requirement)

      The NSP graduate program does not have a language requirement.

    9. Student Travel Policy

      Graduate students must complete travel pre-authorization well before a trip is made. This is done in Concur; a travel and expense system that is designed to streamline the travel process for Michigan State University employees, including graduate students. Graduate students will need to set up an individual account in the system. Information about this can be found at the website Travelers and travel arrangers will find their travel profiles, pre-trip requests, travel booking, receipt management, and travel expense reporting in Concur

    10. Foreign travel

      NSP graduate students who plan to travel to a foreign country on Michigan State University business should complete the following tasks. First, contact the Olin Health Center Travel Clinic at least three months in advance of your date of departure. Travel to certain countries may require one or more vaccinations or boosters. In addition, potential health hazards, travel problems and restrictions for each country will be reviewed by the travel clinic nurse. Second, if one intends to pursue a research project in another country, permission is needed from the appropriate governmental agency in that country. For some countries, it may take up to one year to obtain approval. Third, if one intends to bring plant or animal tissue samples or DNA/RNA back into the United States, one needs approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture or from the Center for Disease Control. Be sure to obtain proper letters of authorization to bring biological samples back to the United States. Fourth, complete all pre-travel authorization in Concur and get approval from the Academic Program Coordinator. Fifth, obtain any needed medications to take with you in case of an emergency. These might include, for example, small packets of dehydration salts if you have experienced excessive fluid loss, appropriate antibiotics in case of food-poisoning or an infected wound, and anti-malarial/preventative medication. Be aware that in some countries possession of illegal drugs is a death sentence. Sixth, register with the  MSU Global Travel Registry.  All faculty, staff, and students traveling on MSU-sponsored international business (non-education abroad) must, before their departure, register their travel in the MSU Global Travel Registry. Registration is an essential tool in supporting the health and safety of MSU travelers abroad. Seventh, request from MSU, through the NSP office, free medical emergency evacuation insurance at the time one completes the pre-travel authorization. This insurance will cover the cost of evacuation to an appropriate medical facility in the event of illness or an accident. It is also helpful to talk with other people who have spent time in the country being visited  to get a sense of the customs, food-related problems, medical care, travel arrangements,  and safe and unsafe personal activities. One can apply to TGS ( assistance with travel funding. If TGS provides funding, they will also provide a MEDEX emergency card. Check the International Studies and Programs website for issues related to safety around the world.

      Students should visit TGS’s  Travel Site before their trip. When students appointed as GTAs or GRAs travel outside the U.S. to conduct required thesis or dissertation research or to collaborate with investigators conducting research abroad, the program, department or research grant supporting the work will be required to pay for all needed vaccinations and /or medications (e.g., anti-malarials), as determined by the MSU Travel Clinic. Students may include those costs in applications for travel funds from TGS.
  2. Special information for foreign students

    Office for International Students and Scholars

    MSU is authorized under immigration regulations to enroll non-immigrant alien students. The NSP welcomes applications from foreign students. When a foreign student receives the formal application packet, he/she should complete all forms and return them electronically and or via air mail to the Neuroscience Program Office, 108 Giltner Hall, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824 by the December 5th of each year, which is the graduate application deadline. International applicants should consult this website at TGS for additional information about admission requirements,

    1. Minimum Requirements for Admission

      There are three basic requirements for admission to the NSP at Michigan State University: (1) a strong and above average educational history as applicants must have successfully completed at least the equivalent of an American undergraduate degree (4 years) with a minimum grade-point-average (GPA) of a 3.0, (2) adequate financial resources (a graduate assistantship or fellowship meets this requirement), and (3) adequate English language proficiency, as discussed below.

    2. English Language Proficiency

      All foreign applicants are required to be proficient in English as a condition for regular admission to MSU. Applicants whose first language is not English will be required to demonstrate their proficiency by meeting certain minimum standards on one of the following tests. Additional information can be found at the following TGS website,  English Language Proficiency .

      1. Test of English as a Foreign Language (T.O.E.F.L) (Educational Testing Service, Box 899, Princeton, New Jersey 08549, USA. The official report must be sent directly to MSU from the Educational Testing Service.
      2. Michigan English Assessment Battery (MELAB), (The English Language Institute, Testing and Certification Division, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1057, USA). An average score of 83 or higher is required with no subscores below 80. The official report must be received by the English Language Center from the University of Michigan. (Not available in P.R. China)
      3. English Language Center (ELC, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48825-1035, USA). The ELC provides programs to teach English or improve skills. An average score of 80-85, with no subscores below 80, or an average score above 85, with no subscores below 78 is required for admission. This exam is given at Michigan State University and is generally used only by international students already residing in the United States. More information can be found on the English Language Center web page
      4. MSU English Language Test (MSUELT),(English Language Center, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1035.
      5. International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
    3. Visa Information

      Please visit the Michigan State University Office for International Students and Scholars website for current information
    4. Teaching Assignments for International Students

      All international students admitted to the NSP whose first language is not English will be interviewed by the English Language Center (ELC) faculty upon arrival on campus or after completing their first year of graduate studies. The English Language Center is in Room 1, International Center, MSU. Each student will receive an interview by the ELC staff. A student’s ability to understand and speak English will be reported to the NSP and whether the student is approved for a teaching assignment. Students who fail to pass the minimum Michigan State University standard will not be assigned to classroom teaching until their language skills have improved. They may be required to participate in ELC classes. More information regarding the English classes can be found on the English Language Center website.

      All international NSP graduate students are required to take the SPEAK test (minimum score of 50 or waiver by interview) and attend a three-day international teaching assistant orientation at the beginning of their second year. The orientation will provide the international teaching assistant with instruction and practice in classroom teaching. For additional information, see the Teaching Assistant Program website. Although MSU still accepts TSE scores as an alternative to the SPEAK test, the score report cannot have been issued more than two years prior to the student's appointment as a TA. Also, note that the spoken section of TOEFL does not substitute for the SPEAK test. 

    5. Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS)

      The Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS) serves international students and foreign faculty. OISS is a resource center for information and consultation on matters related to the international student and faculty/scholars. The staff is prepared to help in any of the various areas of concern, including academic problems, immigration questions, social health, employment or financial matters. The office also organizes seminars and workshops on topics of interest to the broad university community. These have included immigration regulations, cross-cultural communication, pre-departure programs for graduating students and various training programs. The OISS is in 103 Center for International Programs, MSU, East Lansing, MI, 48824-1035, (517) 353-1720. It is critical that international students familiarize themselves with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) policies.

    6. Health Insurance

      From MSU Human Resources Student Health Insurance pages

      For the graduate assistant, one will automatically be enrolled in the MSU-sponsored student health insurance plan and the insurance premium will be paid by MSU. If a student would like to waive coverage, he/she must demonstrate insurance of comparable coverage. If a student wants to waive out of this coverage, one can apply to do so at

      Find more information about student health insurance on the Student Benefits  page of the MSU Human Resources website.

      For questions regarding coverage under this plan, enrollment, or premium payment, contact Blue Cross Blue Shield directly.

      For questions concerning waiver processing or general information, contact the MSU Benefits office at 517.353.4434 or 1.800.353.4434. The Benefits Office is located at 1407 S. Harrison Road, Suite 140A (Nisbet Building), East Lansing, MI 48823.

    7. Orientation

      An orientation program provided by the Office of International Education Exchange at MSU is required for all new international students. Some of the issues discussed are the U.S. education system, legal issues, campus and community resources, extracurricular, social, and educational opportunities, and registration procedures. The orientation is usually one week long and is held prior to the beginning of the student's first semester. In addition, all new NSP graduate students will participate in a program-led orientation session in August a few days prior to the start of the fall semester.

    8. Support Services

      The Office for International Students and Scholars has organized a group of nationality clubs, which the international student may join. A list of the names and phone numbers of the officers of each club is available from the OISS

Program Director
Jim Galligan, PhD

Graduate Program Director
Greg Swain

Academic Program Coordinator
Eleri Thomas

Student Aide
Allison Hartwick

Giltner Hall
293 Farm Lane Room 108
East Lansing, MI

Phone: (517) 353-8947
Fax: (517) 432-2744

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