University Policies

V. University Policies

  1. Academic Policies

    1. Academic Standards

      Michigan State University is committed to high academic standards and expects all doctoral students to excel in their programs of study. A 3.00 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. The College of Natural Science 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 Neuroscience Program faculty feels that 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 major professor and/or Guidance Committee members. If it is decided that a student lacks such standards, he/she may be asked to withdraw according to the procedures as defined in the publication Graduate Student Rights and Responsibilities, which is part of the COGS Graduate Student Handbook available annually 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 the Graduate School Office 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 a Neuroscience Program graduate student's grade point average is below a 3.0, exclusive of research, the major professor and Guidance Committee must decide whether or not the student will be permitted to continue. The results of their decision will be filed in writing with the Neuroscience Program Director.

      The Guidance Committee and academic unit 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 (Appendix J) will be communicated to the graduate student at least once a year and a copy of such evaluations must be given to the Neuroscience Program Office to be placed 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 Neuroscience Program Director. As mentioned above for annual progress evaluation, a student may file a written dissent that will be discussed with the Program Director and 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). The majority of students in the Neuroscience Program complete their Ph.D. in 5 years. Failure to meet program, college and university deadlines or to complete the PhD degree in a timely fashion will remove the student from "in good standing" status and jeopardize funding. If this limit is exceeded, the Neuroscience Program Director will consult with the student's Guidance Committee members to determine the circumstances. 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 the Graduate School. If no letter is filed, or if a majority of the committee decline to sign the letter, the Neuroscience Program Director shall inform the student by letter that he or she is no longer eligible to register in the Neuroscience 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 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 or dissertation work.

    3. Research Involving Human Or Animal Subjects Or Hazardous Substances

      Human Research Protection Program and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)

      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. University Committee on Research Involving Human Subjects (UCRIHS) 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.

      Michigan State University 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.

      The Graduate School will not accept doctoral dissertations containing research on human subjects that have not been reviewed and approved previously by UCRIHS or research involving animal use without previous review and approval from IACUC. The Graduate School will verify UCRIHS Log numbers and AUF numbers before granting degrees.

      The University acts through its advisory committees and academic governance bodies to insure 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 persons who handle hazardous substances are required to participate in yearly training sessions 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 a Neuroscience Program graduate student has a question regarding safety, he/she should ask the major professor. If the question of safety is not resolved, the student should contact the ORCBS for further information and a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).

    4. Residence

      Two consecutive semesters of enrollment with at least six credits of graduate work each semester is required to obtain a degree from Michigan State University.

    5. Transfer Credits

      Graduate credits may be transferred from other accredited institutions or foreign institutions of similar quality if they are appropriate to a Neuroscience Program graduate student's program, approved by the Neuroscience Director, and provided they were completed within the time limits approved for the earning of the degree desired at Michigan State University. Only 9 credits of graduate-level courses in which at least a 3.0 (B) grade 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 the major professor and Guidance Committee members, 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 Neuroscience Graduate Program does not have a language requirement.

    9. Student Travel Policy

      The university requires that students complete travel authorization forms (Appendix H and Appendix I) prior to travel for insurance purpose. Students are responsible for informing the Program office of any travel plans before the departure date so that a travel authorization can be issued.

      Please see Student Travel Policy in the Neuroscience Program Policies for complete information.

    10. Foreign Travel

      Neuroscience Program students who plan to travel to a foreign country on Michigan State University activities should consider the following issues: (1) contact the Olin Health Center Travel Clinic at least three months in advance of your date of departure. Travel to particular 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. If you are traveling for pleasure, you are welcome to use the Olin Travel Clinic. (2) If you intend to pursue a research project in another country, you should have permission from the appropriate governmental agency in that country. For some countries it may take up to one year to obtain approval. (3) If you intend to bring plant or animal tissue samples or DNA/RNA back to the United States you are likely to need approval from the Agriculture Department or from the Center for Disease Control. Be sure to obtain proper letters of authorization to bring biological samples back to the United States. (4) Obtain Michigan State University Travel Authorization from the Neuroscience Program, (5) Obtain the proper pharmaceuticals 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. (6) Request from Michigan State University through the Neuroscience Program office the free medical emergency evacuation insurance at the time you apply for Michigan State University travel authorization. This insurance will cover the cost of your evacuation to an appropriate medical facility if you are ill or have had an accident. It is also helpful to talk with other people who have spent time in the country you intend to visit to get a sense of the customs, of food related problems, of the medical care, of travel arrangements and of safe and unsafe personal activities. You can apply for assistance with travel funding via the Graduate School. If the Graduate School 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 the Graduate School's Travel Site before their trip. When students appointed as TAs or RAs travel outside the U.S. to conduct required thesis or dissertation research or to collaborate with investigators conducting research abroad, the 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 funds from the Research Enhancement or Travel Grant programs administered by the Graduate School.

  2. Special Information For Foreign Students

    Office for International Students and Scholars

    Michigan State University is authorized under immigration regulations to enroll nonimmigrant alien students. The Neuroscience Program welcomes applications from foreign students. When a foreign student receives the formal application packet, he/she should complete all forms and return them via air mail, if possible, to the Neuroscience Program Office, 108 Giltner Hall, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824 by the December 5 application deadline.

    1. Minimum Requirements For Admission

      There are three basic requirements for admission to the Neuroscience Program at Michigan State University: (1) a strong and above average educational history. 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 meets this requirement) and (3) sufficient 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 Michigan State University. Applicants whose first language is not English will be required to demonstrate their proficiency by meeting certain minimum standards on any one of the following tests.

      1. Test of English as a Foreign Language (T.O.E.F.L) (Educational Testing Service, Box 899, Princeton, New Jersey 08549, USA). Please see the Additional Information for International Students PDF for requirements. The official report must be sent directly 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 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.
    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 Neuroscience Program 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 located in Room 1, International Center, MSU. Each student will receive an interview by the ELC staff. A students' ability to understand and speak English will be reported to the Neuroscience Program and whether or not 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 Neuroscience Program 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 aso 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 located 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

      If you are a graduate assistant, you will automatically be enrolled in the MSU sponsored student health insurance plan and the insurance premium will be paid by MSU. If you would like to waive coverage, you must demonstrate you have comparable coverage. If you want to waive out of this coverage, you can apply to do so at”

      Find more information about student health insurance on the Student Plan page.

      For questions regarding coverage under this plan, enrollment or premium payment, contact Aetna Student Health 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: 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 Neuroscience Program graduate students will participate in an orientation session for the Neuroscience Program.

    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.