Course Prerequisites

Policy Memorandum No. 52

Recommended by the Commission on Undergraduate Studies
Approved by University Council: May 7, 1984
Effective: Fall Quarter, 1985

In order to clarify the University's policy on course prerequisites and to achieve greater consistency in enforcing prerequisites, the University Council has approved a Resolution spelling out the policy on prerequisites. The Resolution was recommended by the Commission on Undergraduate Studies, following a study by a CUS Subcommittee on Prerequisites. The Resolution, which is a straightforward clarification, follows:

WHEREAS, prerequisites listed for a course are to inform students of the knowledge, skills, and/or level of competence expected by the instructors of specified courses, and

WHEREAS, the need exists to control enrollment in certain courses to assure optimum learning conditions, and

WHEREAS, prerequisites take a variety of forms in the different departments of this University, and

WHEREAS, there is evidence that departments in this University are not consistent in enforcing prerequisites

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that, effective Fall, 1985,

  1. The following statement shall appear in the University undergraduate catalog:

    "Students are permitted to take courses without having the specified prerequisites only upon obtaining the consent of the instructor. Students who enroll in a course for which they have not clearly satisfied the prerequisites or equivalent or obtained the appropriate permission, may be dropped from the course. Deliberately false statements testifying to the satisfaction of prerequisites constitute a violation of the honor code. Students have the right to appeal a decision about prerequisites to the head of the department offering a course. Students should recognize that 3000 and 4000 level courses assume a certain level of maturity and general background regardless of the stated prerequisites. The course instructor can be consulted regarding the implications of this expectation for a specific course. Students must consult the instructor if they wish to use the Pass/Fail option in a course for which they do not have the prerequisites."

  2. The following statement shall appear in the Faculty Handbook:

    "Instructors must include in their course syllabus or assignment sheet an explicit statement concerning the prerequisites for the course and are to call attention to these during the first week of classes. Prior to the official add day deadline, the instructor may require specific students not having the prerequisites to drop the course. The student granted permission to enroll without prerequisites should be informed that course expectations and grading practices will be the same for all students regardless of whether prerequisites were satisfied or waived."

  3. Instructors may waive prerequisites at their discretion. Therefore, "consent" should not be listed in the catalog except in cases where it is a separate and distinct prerequisite.

  4. As described on page 66 of the 1983-84 Virginia Tech Catalog, hyphenated course sequences must be taken in numerical order, since each course is a prerequisite to the next in the sequence. A series or sequence of courses not hyphenated need not be taken in sequence. The catalog description for such course should describe the content and prerequisites for each course in the series.

  5. The catalog will no longer list "or equivalent" with prerequisites since it is understood that this is always the case. Equivalency is determined by the instructor, or the head/chairman of the department offering the course, but not by the student.

President's Policy Memorandum