Academic Policies

The following policies are intended to clarify students' rights and responsibilities and to serve as a reliable guide to the expectations of the faculty the institution on academic matters. The academic policies and procedures outlined below complement the "Rights and Responsibilities" listed on the University of St. Thomas Graduate Student Policies site.

For further information about your rights and responsibilities as a graduate student of the University of St. Thomas, please consult the Student Policies website.

The Saint Paul Seminary offers the following degrees: Master of Divinity (M.Div.); Master of Arts in Theology (M.A. in Theology); Master of Arts in Pastoral Leadership (M.A. in Pastoral Leadership). In addition, the seminary offers a Certificate in Catholic School Leadership(CSL). Students entering the school typically declare their intended program of study at the time of application. Acceptance into a degree program is based on fulfillment of the admission requirements and the successful completion of the admissions process. Those who are undecided about a program may apply to take graduate courses as non-degree seeking students.

Candidates for Ordination

Students preparing for priesthood are required to complete the Master of Divinity degree. Candidates proceed through the program as a cohort taking courses in a specified sequence.

Seminarians pursuing the M.Div. degree may also enroll in the M.A. Theology degree program during their four years of residency. Application to the M.A. degree program must be initiated in the first year of seminary study. Students must make formal application to the program and meet all admissions requirements.

Students benefit significantly from the regular counsel of their faculty advisor in reaching decisions regarding their program of study and the integration of their learning. Students are assigned an academic advisor upon entering the program. Students confer with their academic advisor prior to registration each term and are required to have their advisor’s approval for course registration and for all matters related to program requirements.

Students wishing to change academic advisors must obtain permission from the Academic Dean or program director, and inform the former and new academic advisors, as well as The Saint Paul Seminary Records and Registration Coordinator. 

While academic advisors are provided with all necessary information related to student progress, students have the primary responsibility for ensuring that they are meeting degree requirements.

Degree-seeking students are expected to be enrolled each semester. The normal course load for full-time Master of Divinity students is between 12 and 16 graduate credit hours per semester. Full-time M.Div. students are required to take a minimum of 12 credits each semester. M.Div. students may take more than 16 credits with the approval of their academic advisor, formation director and the Academic Dean.

In the Master of Arts in Theology and Master of Arts in Pastoral Leadership degree programs, full-time students typically take six to nine graduate credit hours per semester. Six graduate credit hours are considered full-time, making students eligible for student loan deferment.

Students enrolled either for academic credit or for audit are expected to attend all class sessions.

If a student must be absent from class due to illness, family emergency, or a school-sponsored event, the student must notify his or her instructor(s) in advance of the class meeting, if at all possible. The student must comply with any verification requests/requirements of the instructor. Students are expected to make up the missed coursework and, with the instructor’s approval, may do so without grade penalty for late submission. If a student must miss an examination, the student must contact the instructor in advance to discuss alternate arrangements. Instructors are not obliged to administer examinations for students who have absented themselves without prior notification and reasonable cause.

In the case of excessive absences, students must inform their instructor(s) of the reason for the absences and comply with verification requests/requirements of the instructor(s). Students must also notify the Academic Dean. Instructors will use their own discretion to determine whether the absence(s) warrant a grade penalty, an incomplete status, a recommendation of withdrawal from the course, or a specific arrangement for the completion of course requirements.

Transfer Credits

In order to transfer coursework from another institution for credit toward a degree program, students must submit a transfer petition at the time of admission. The academic dean and program director will then evaluate official transcripts of prior work and determine transfer of credit according to the following guidelines:

  • is designated as a graduate-level course;
  • is from a regionally accredited institution;
  • is graded B- or above (pass/fail courses are not accepted);
  • is earned within the time limitations established by the respective graduate program;
  • is deemed equivalent by the dean or designee as applicable to degree completion.

Students already enrolled in a degree program who wish to take a course or courses at another institution should verify the transferability of credit in advance and obtain approval of their academic advisor, program director, and the academic dean.

In most all cases, no more than half of the total number of required credits for any Saint Paul Seminary degree or certificate program may be accepted as transfer credits from other institutions. Under extenuating circumstances, a student may petition for an exception to this rule, however, the total number of credits transferred may not exceed any limits established by accrediting agencies that approve the academic programs offered at The Saint Paul Seminary.


Waivers of degree requirements are granted only in exceptional circumstances. Students seeking to waive degree requirements must complete the appropriate form from The Saint Paul Seminary Records and Registration Coordinator. The academic dean and program director will consider the student’s request and, if approved, will sign the waiver form. A waiver exempts the student from a specific program requirement and enables the student to use the credits for alternative graduate work.

The Saint Paul Seminary uses letter grades in its evaluation of students’ academic progress and accords grade points, which are used to calculate the student’s grade point average (G.P.A.) as follows:

A (4 points) excellent work of exceptional quality
A– (3.7 points)
B+ (3.3 points)
B (3 points) very good work
B– (2.7 points)
C+ (2.3 points)
C (2 points) satisfactory work
C– (1.7 points)
D+ (1.3 points)
D (1 point) less than satisfactory work
D- (0.7 points)
F (0 points) failing work
I (0 points) incomplete coursework
IP (0 points) incomplete with work in progress

Grade Point Average Requirements

Master of Divinity students must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of C+ (2.3 G.P.A.). They must satisfactorily meet all expectations for supervised ministry and be approved by the Spiritual Formation Department.

Students enrolled in the Master of Arts in Theology, Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry, and Master of Arts in Religious Education programs must maintain a cumulative grade point average of B (3.0 G.P.A.).

Withdrawal from Courses

A “W” (withdrawal) grade is given when a student has decided to forfeit the course after the deadline for formal withdrawal has passed. This deadline is posted on the University of St. Thomas' academic calendar. Students intending to withdraw from a course must notify the instructor and their academic advisor and complete the form available in The Saint Paul Seminary Office of Records and Registration.


In some degree programs, certain practica and independent study courses may be graded “S” for satisfactory (pass) and “R” for unsatisfactory (fail). An “S” grade counts for credit and may fulfill a program requirement, but it is not included in calculating the grade point average.

Required courses in which students receive a final grade lower than a C- for a graded course (or an "R" in a pass/fail course) must be repeated before the student can graduate. For priesthood candidates, such courses must be repeated before the student can be recommended for ordination.

Two notations of incomplete coursework, an “I” and “IP,” are used in different circumstances and governed by different rules.


If serious, unexpected factors warrant, students who are unable to complete course requirements within an academic term may request an Incomplete (“I”) from the instructor. The student is responsible for obtaining written approval from the instructor and academic advisor on the form available from The Saint Paul Seminary Records and Registration Coordinator. Approval must be obtained before the end of the term in which the student is taking the course. The form requires a description of the work to be completed and the date it will be submitted to the instructor for evaluation. The additional time allowed to complete coursework will not exceed the maximum periods established by University policy:

The deadline for completion of work for a course in which a mark of “I” has been assigned is the last day of the following full semester (fall or spring) or by an earlier date specified by the instructor.

Extensions beyond the dates specified above are granted only in grave and exceptional circumstances and require the written approval of the instructor, the academic advisor and the Academic Dean. If a student does not submit overdue coursework to the instructor by the specified deadline, the incomplete (“I”) automatically becomes a failure (“F”).

This policy applies to standard coursework. It does not apply to theses, projects, and internships.

In Progress

Faculty may give a notation of “IP” for work in progress at the end of the term of registration, when it is normal and acceptable for the work of the course to extend beyond one term (e.g., theses, projects). When giving an “IP,” the instructor must file with The Saint Paul Seminary Records and Registration Coordinator a written statement of the date by which all requirements will be completed. This statement, signed by the instructor and the student, must be submitted at the end of the term in which the student is registered for the course. Any extension of the deadline for completion of work must be approved by the Academic Dean. The grade and credit earned for the course will be assigned when requirements are completed and will be recorded in the term of original registration.

Grade reports are issued to students and, in the case of priesthood candidates, to their bishops and/or vocation directors. A grade reflects the instructor’s evaluation of the student’s achievement in a course. Once a grade is recorded by the instructor with the University of St. Thomas registrar's office, it cannot be changed unless the instructor can demonstrate to the Academic Dean that he/she made an error in calculating the original grade. After the grade is issued, students may not do additional work to receive a higher grade.

Probation Related to the Pastoral Requirements for the Master of Divinity Degree

Successful completion of all supervised ministry placements are critical in the overall pastoral development of students in the Master of Divinity degree program. Failure to meet the objectives and standards of these pastoral requirements will place the student on probation. In consultation with the director of pastoral formation and the student’s academic advisor, the student will submit a proposal to the Academic Dean indicating the steps to be taken to resolve unsatisfactory performance. Failure to meet those requirements may be cause for dismissal from the program.

A student is placed on academic probation when the cumulative grade point average falls below the minimum required for the degree program or if a student receives two or more unsatisfactory evaluations (“R”) in any one term.

Upon receiving notification of academic probation, the student must meet with his or her academic advisor and draft a plan for improved performance. The Academic Dean and program director must approve the plan. Full-time students must demonstrate improved performance in the next semester, and part-time students are granted two semesters or nine credits of coursework to resolve their probationary status. Inability to maintain the minimum grade point average required for the program may be cause for dismissal.

Grade Changes

A student wishing to render a formal complaint or to challenge a final course grade has recourse to an appeal process. The petition will be reviewed and resolved as follows:

In most cases, the student consults with the instructor of the course to achieve a resolution. If the matter is determined to require further examination, the student brings it to the attention of the Academic Dean, who consults with both the student and the instructor in an attempt to reach a resolution. If these processes still do not result in a satisfactory outcome, the student may submit a written request to the Graduate Studies Committee to review the matter. Such a request must be submitted to the committee chairperson no later than mid-term following the term in which the problem arose. Ordinarily the appeal is received by the members of the Graduate Studies Committee and by the Academic Dean as an ex officio member. If the instructor involved in the dispute is a member of the committee, the Academic Dean will appoint an alternate for purposes of the appeal. If the Academic Dean is the course instructor, the Rector/Vice-President will appoint an alternate.

The Graduate Studies Committee will convene a panel of faculty to hear the testimony of both parties, review the course syllabus, and examine completed coursework. After this gathering, the panel will attempt to reach consensus on the proper disposition of the petition. If consensus cannot be achieved or if a decision is made in favor of the instructor, the panel will report its conclusion to the instructor and to the student. A copy of this report will be placed in the student’s academic file. If consensus is supportive of the student, the panel will report this to the student and to the instructor, with the recommendation that the instructor change the grade to one more consistent with the panel’s appraisal of the student’s performance. The instructor retains final authority for this decision. If the instructor decides to change the grade, the instructor and the Academic Dean complete the “Change of Semester Grade” form, which is retained by The Saint Paul Seminary Office of Records and Registration. If the instructor declines to change the grade after it being so recommended, a summary of the panel’s deliberations and opinion will be placed in the permanent record of the student and of the instructor. The instructor will submit a statement in defense of his or her decision, and this also will be included in the record of both student and instructor.

Exemption from Program Requirements

A student who requests exemption from an academic policy or program requirement consults with his or her academic advisor, any instructor(s) involved, and the Academic Dean. Such requests normally are decided by agreement among these parties or, in the absence of agreement, by the Academic Dean. If the student does not accept this decision, she or he may submit a written request for a hearing before the Graduate Studies Committee. The committee will deliberate on the merits of the request and will issue a written recommendation to the Academic Dean. A summary of the committee’s findings will be issued in written form and retained in the student’s permanent record. The Academic Dean has the final authority to allow or to decline requests for program variances or exemptions. If the Academic Dean's decision differs from the committee’s recommendation, the Academic Dean will submit a written rationale for the final decision.

Other Issues

The Saint Paul Seminary Seminarian Handbook outlines grievance procedures for issues other than those noted above.

An “independent study” is a course of study for credit requested by the student to be taught under the direction of a faculty member for study in an area not addressed by current course offerings. A “directed study” refers to a regular course offered to an individual student or a small group of students under the direction of a faculty member. A directed study may be offered if the course is not available during a particular term because of schedule constraints or low enrollment, etc. but which follows an approved syllabus.

Independent or Directed Studies are permitted only in the case of exceptional circumstances. They are offered at the discretion of the instructor and must be approved by the Academic Dean. In an independent or directed study, the instructor serves as a director for the student and not as a tutor. Once the instructor and student agree on a plan for the study, it is the student’s primary responsibility to see that the plan is fulfilled. Regular consultation with the instructor during the term of study is expected. 

Requests for independent or directed studies should be submitted to The Saint Paul Seminary Records and Registration Coordinator prior to the start of the term in which the study will occur. Requests must include a completed application form and additional documentation as stipulated below. Once approved by the Academic Dean, the Records and Registration Coordinator will register the student for the course. The study may not commence without the written approval of the Academic Dean.

The Saint Paul Seminary, through the University of St. Thomas, offers services to qualified students with disabilities and provides reasonable and appropriate accommodations necessary for physical, academic, and social accessibility. Support services are provided to enrolled students and based on assessed needs. These services may include counseling, identification and referral services, accommodation and academic assistance, integrity coordination and advocacy services.

For more information, students with learning disabilities may contact

The Saint Paul Seminary complies with all the requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 as amended. The text of the Privacy Act is available from The Saint Paul Seminary Office of Records and Registration. At the beginning of each academic year, students receive notification of their rights under the act. More information on FERPA can be found on the University of St. Thomas website.

Directory Information

The University of St. Thomas may disclose directory information without student consent at the university's discretion unless a student has directed to the university, in writing, that directory information not be disclosed under the provision of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA).  The student must submit the "Order for Non-Disclosure of Directory Information" form to the Office of Student Data & Registrar and The Saint Paul Seminary Office of Records and Registration.

Student Records

Students and alumni/ae have the right to review their educational records (with certain limitations). To do so, they must submit a "Student Consent to Release Education Records" form with the University of St. Thomas Office of Student Data & Registrar and The Saint Paul Seminary Office of Records and Registration. As required by the Privacy Act, this review will be scheduled within a maximum of 45 days of the request. Students seeking to challenge the accuracy of their records are entitled to a hearing upon written request to the Academic Dean.

Information from records is released only with written permission of the student.

Students may request an official transcript from the University of St. Thomas Registrar in Murray-Herrick, Room 126. Information on requesting transcripts can also be found on the University of St. Thomas website.

Students are expected to complete all degree requirements within the normal time frame specified for their academic program. The maximum time allowed for completion of any graduate degree is eight years from the time of formal admission to the program. Students who for serious reasons must exceed that time limit must either request a formal leave of absence from the program or submit a written request to their academic advisor, the program director, and the Academic Dean for an extension of the deadline. Students must receive written permission from the Academic Dean to exceed the eight-year maximum for completion of degree requirements. Please see also the policy on Continuous Enrollment and Leave of Absence.

Seminarians must consult The Saint Paul Seminary Student Handbook for procedures relating to their leave of absence from the formation program.

All degree-seeking students at The Saint Paul Seminary are required to be enrolled continuously each semester from initial matriculation until all degree requirements are completed and graduation has occurred.  Any student who is not registered for at least one course in any semester (excluding summers), will be automatically registered with a continuous enrollment designation and assessed a fee of $100 by the University of St. Thomas. For students in the Master of Arts in Theology degree program, the continuous enrollment fee will not be assessed for semesters in which the student is registered for thesis direction or research portfolio submission. Continuous enrollment registration maintains a student’s active status and allows access to university resources.  The fee covers administration costs, library usage, and other expenses associated with maintaining an individual’s status as a degree-seeking student.  Students should be aware that the continuous enrollment status has 0 credits attached and, therefore, does not qualify a student for loan deferment.

For extenuating circumstances (e.g., active military service, significant personal health concerns, family crisis, etc.), a student may request a leave of absence; however, such leaves are normally granted for no more than two consecutive semesters. Requests for a leave of absence must be made in writing prior to the first day of class for the semester(s) in which the student wishes to take a leave.  Leaves of absence are granted solely at the discretion of the Academic Dean in consultation with the Program Director.  Unless a leave of absence is granted, the only way to avoid the billing of the continuous enrollment fee is to formally withdraw from the degree program in writing, which will preclude the awarding of any degree.

To request a leave of absence, please contact the records and registration coordinator.

Students are expected to be competent in the English language and effective in their oral and written communications for course assignments and research requirements for all degree programs. Expectations include:

  1. clarity of organization, accuracy in grammar, punctuation, and spelling;
  2. ability to gather, analyze, interpret, and synthesize data and to engage in critical reflection;
  3. ability to organize and present material coherently and to follow the rules for proper documentation of the work of others;
  4. ability to establish a thesis, to provide supportive evidence, to derive conclusions based on a thorough analysis of the issue; and
  5. ability to assess the relative merits of sources for theological research and to develop a bibliography relevant to the topic of study.

Assistance with theological research is offered by the staff of the Archbishop Ireland Library upon request. Students enrolled at The Saint Paul Seminary are required to use the approved Style Manual for all formal writings, assignments, theses, etc.  This style manual can be located at the seminary's Student Resources Canvas site.

Research involving human subjects, including surveys and interviews, requires prior review and approval by the University of St. Thomas Institutional Review Board. Students are required to complete and submit forms for review before conducting their research. The review board website has forms and additional information.

The Saint Paul Seminary and the University of St. Thomas is committed to high standards of academic integrity. Acts of academic dishonesty undermine the values the learning community holds in common and directly violate the goals of Christian education.

Any act of academic dishonesty is a serious offense. Such acts include, but are not limited to, plagiarism, cheating, intentionally damaging the work of others, and assisting others in acts of dishonesty. Students who commit acts of academic dishonesty are subject to suspension or dismissal.


Plagiarism occurs when a student uses the ideas or words of another without crediting the source. This includes information obtained from print, oral, and electronic sources. Plagiarism is defined as follows: “Plagiarism is the dishonest act of presenting the words or thoughts of another writer (or person) as if they were your own . . . . If you quote from anything at all . . . you must put quotation marks around it, or set if off from your text. If you summarize or paraphrase another’s words, you must clearly indicate where the summary or paraphrase begins and ends. In every instance you must formally acknowledge the written source from which you took the material.” [From James A. W. Hefferman and John E. Lincoln, Writing: A College Handbook (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982), p. 457.]

The act of plagiarism is a form of theft and is morally wrong. Ignorance of the standards for appropriately crediting the work of others is not an excuse for an occurrence of plagiarism. Students are expected to know what plagiarism is and what is required for the full and proper citation of sources

If an incident of plagiarism is reported, the Academic Dean and faculty member(s) involved will investigate and determine appropriate disciplinary action. The Academic Dean is charged with the enforcement of this policy.

The Saint Paul Seminary provides students the opportunity for regular, formal evaluation of all academic courses. Course evaluations are completed online within the last two weeks of the course. Results are collated and reviewed by the faculty member and the Academic Dean. Course evaluations are used to enhance the quality of teaching and to provide information helpful in faculty promotion and tenure review.

Students have the responsibility to monitor their completion of degree requirements and to follow the administrative policies and procedures for graduation.

Students must apply for graduation during the first month of their final semester. They must complete all degree requirements in order to participate in commencement. Exceptions to this policy are rare and may be granted only with the written permission of the Academic Dean. Students who register for graduation but are unable to complete all degree requirements in time for commencement must repeat the application process to graduate at a later date.

Students are encouraged to attend the St. Thomas commencement exercise at which their degree is conferred. More information on graduation can be found here.

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