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Course Substitutions

Course substitutions should be finalized early in the student’s graduate career to provide clear expectations and help prevent graduation delays. Included are the deadlines by when students must complete the process to substitute courses into their Plan of Study.

Certificate students may not substitute courses into a certificate Plan of Study. The only time that a course substitution can be made is when a student is enrolled in two graduate certificate programs where the courses overlap and a substitution must be made for one of the certificate programs in order for the total hours to be earned.

Master's and Specialist students should finalize any course substitutions by the end of the second major term of enrollment – no later than the term prior to graduation. This should precede or coincide with submission of the finalized Plan of Study.

Doctoral students must finalize transfer credit by the end of the third major term of enrollment – no later than the change to candidacy status. Again, this should precede or coincide with submission of the finalized Plan of Study.

Course substitutions for elective courses are approved at the discretion of the program adviser for students in master’s, specialist, and doctoral degree-seeking programs, and do not require a petition. Simply place them on the Plan of Study for the student.

However, course substitutions for required courses are generally discouraged. There are some instances in which it is appropriate to substitute for a required course, and if this is done, this needs to be noted in the comment section of GPS. Those instances in which it would make sense to substitute for a required course are:

  • The student is on an earlier catalog that required a course that is no longer taught and a substitution must be made of a comparable course that is currently taught.
  • The course was offered as a special topics course before the course action request was approved and a common course number was determined by the state.
  • The course is not offered in term of graduation; this ordinarily would not be a good reason to approve a substitution, because required courses should be offered as needed for students to graduate, but there are rare instances where faculty have left the university suddenly, or other circumstances are such that the course could not be offered. This should be rarely ever used as a reason for a course substitution of a required course.
  • The course number was recently changed to a new number from what is listed in the Graduate Catalog and the students took the course listed under the new number.
  • The student took the same course elsewhere and has either had the course waived or transferred to UCF as part of the Plan of Study. In this instance, the student needs to make up the hours of the required course with an appropriate course determined by the program.

There are circumstances under which a course substitution of a required course is strongly discouraged. These situations are:

  • Substitution of a research course for a required course (this includes directed research, doctoral research, thesis research, and dissertation research).
  • Substitution of a formal course that is outside of the discipline for a required course in the discipline.

Frequently, requests are received for substituting thesis for directed research or vice versa. These requests should be submitted to the Graduate Council Appeals Committee for review because even though they appear to be like courses, the lack of formal assessment outcomes for these particular courses often makes it difficult to determine if the substitution is warranted. The rationale as part of the request for substitution should include what was actually delivered as part of this coursework, so the Graduate Council Appeals Committee can determine if the substitution is appropriate.

Substituting thesis or dissertation hours for formal coursework is not allowed. Thesis hours cannot be used in the 24 hours of core and elective coursework required for master’s programs. Dissertation hours cannot be used in the 27 hours of formal coursework requirement in doctoral programs, but can be used in the remaining discretionary hours of the Plan of Study, should the program wish.

In master’s programs the 24 hours of core and elective courses can consist of both formal coursework and independent study. However, for doctoral programs requests to substitute independent study for the requirement of 27 hours of formal coursework will not be allowed.


The University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award degrees at the associate, baccalaureate, master’s, specialist, and doctoral levels. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call (404) 679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of the University of Central Florida.

Please note the commission's expectation that contact occur only if there is evidence to support significant non-compliance with a requirement or standard. For other information about UCF’s SACSCOC accreditation, please contact the university's SACSCOC liaison in UCF's Office of Academic Affairs.

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