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Standard 2. Achieving Educational Objectives Through Core Functions

The institution achieves its purposes and attains its educational objectives at the institutional and program level through the core functions of teaching and learning, scholarship and creative activity, and support for student learning and success. The institution demonstrates that these core functions are performed effectively by evaluating valid and reliable evidence of learning and by supporting the success of every student.

2.1  The institution’s educational programs are appropriate in content, standards, and nomenclature for the degree level awarded, regardless of mode of delivery, and are staffed by sufficient numbers of faculty qualified for the type and level of curriculum offered.

Stanford degree programs are outlined in the Stanford Bulletin. The authority for awarding degrees is granted to departments and programs by the Senate of the Academic Council. The Senate has separate committees that review undergraduate and graduate degree programs. These committees are the Committee on Review of Undergraduate Majors (C-RUM), the Committee on Undergraduate Standards and Policy (C-USP) and the Committee on Graduate Studies (C-GS).

In 2013, our total count of faculty was 2,043. We have 6,980 undergraduates and 8,897 graduate students.

2.2  All degrees—undergraduate and graduate—awarded by the institution are clearly defined in terms of entry-level requirements and levels of student achievement necessary for graduation that represent more than simply an accumulation of courses or credits. The institution has both a coherent philosophy, expressive of its mission, which guides the meaning of its degrees and processes that ensure the quality and integrity of its degrees.

2.2a  Baccalaureate programs engage students in an integrated course of study of sufficient breadth and depth to prepare them for work, citizenship, and life-long learning. These programs ensure the development of core competencies including, but not limited to, written and oral communication, quantitative reasoning, information literacy, and critical thinking. In addition, baccalaureate programs actively foster creativity, innovation, an appreciation for diversity, ethical and civic responsibility, civic engagement, and the ability to work with others. Baccalaureate programs also ensure breadth for all students in cultural and aesthetic, social and political, and scientific and technical knowledge expected of educated persons. Undergraduate degrees include significant in-depth study in a given area of knowledge (typically described in terms of a program or major).

Stanford's general education requirements are aimed at core competencies including, but not limited to, college-level written and oral communication; college-level quantitative skills; information literacy; and the habit of critical analysis of data and argument. Our baccalaureate programs actively foster an understanding of diversity; civic responsibility; the ability to work with others; and the capability to engage in lifelong learning.

Baccalaureate programs comprise course requirements that are appropriate to the field of study. Almost all are hierarchical in character. Students begin with a set of introductory courses that give the overview of the field. Students then enroll in a set of more specialized courses that offer depth in particular fields and most majors then offer some capstone experience—either a project, a thesis or a specialized seminar, sometimes at the graduate level. As well, all students must complete a set of general educational requirements as part of their degree. These currently include foreign language, writing and oral presentation, and a number of breadth-oriented classes that ensure a well-rounded education. For more information please see the University General Education Requirements (GERs) as described in the Stanford Bulletin, as well as specific descriptions of the Program in Writing and RhetoricThinking MattersWriting in the Major and the Foreign Language requirement. In 2013-14, entering students will have a new set of General Education Requirements as outlined in the  SUES report.

2.2b  The institution’s graduate programs establish clearly stated objectives differentiated from and more advanced than undergraduate programs in terms of admissions, curricula, standards of performance, and student learning outcomes. Graduate programs foster students’ active engagement with the literature of the field and create a culture that promotes the importance of scholarship and/or professional practice. Ordinarily, a baccalaureate degree is required for admission to a graduate program.

Graduate admissions criteria are delineated by departments, programs and schools. These requirements can be found on websites and in admissions materials as well as in the Stanford Bulletin. Most departments maintain a graduate student handbook (e.g., Electrical Engineering Graduate Handbook), and there is also a handbook for all graduate students. Our Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education (VPGE) provides leadership for graduate education at Stanford. VPGE's mission is to help assure that Stanford remains at the forefront of graduate education, providing ever better educational experiences for students. The office was created at the recommendation of the Commission on Graduate Education.

Report of the Commission on Graduate Education (pdf)

2.3  The institution’s student learning outcomes and standards of performance are clearly stated at the course, program, and, as appropriate, institutional level. These outcomes and standards are reflected in academic programs, policies, and curricula, and are aligned with advisement, library, and information and technology resources, and the wider learning environment.

Policies governing admission to Stanford as an undergraduate or graduate student are available on our website. As described previously, degree requirements and the goals for all undergraduate programs are contained in the Stanford Bulletin. These are also repeated on departmental websites.

Undergraduate Advising is overseen by the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education. There are multiple vehicles for delivery of advice to undergraduates, including faculty advisors, advisors who are centrally located in the Undergraduate Advising and Research Office, and all freshman and sophomores have a residentially based Academic Director who is available to provide advice and guidance. In addition, community centers provide additional support and advice to students.

Graduate programs are not organized centrally. Most provide support and advice through faculty in departments. Again, all degree programs are outlined in the Stanford Bulletin.

The Stanford University Libraries comprise more than 20 distinct libraries and a broad array of online information resources to support teaching and research across the campus.

2.4  The institution’s student learning outcomes and standards of performance are developed by faculty and widely shared among faculty, students, staff, and (where appropriate) external stakeholders. The institution’s faculty take collective responsibility for establishing appropriate standards of performance and demonstrating through assessment the achievement of these standards.

As described in previous sections (CFRs 1.2 and 2.1) authority to grant degrees and the review and approval of degree programs is in the province of the Senate of the Academic Council. Furthermore, from time to time, University-wide committees spend a year or more deliberating on the state of education at Stanford. The most recent of these reports comes from the Commission on Graduate Education (pdf). In 1994, there was a similar report from the  Commission on Undergraduate Education. In January 2010 the provost and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education charged a committee to review the University-level undergraduate requirements as well as the goals for an undergraduate education. The charge can be seen here.  The committee's findings can be read in this report released January 2012.

2.5  The institution’s academic programs actively involve students in learning, take into account students’ prior knowledge of the subject matter, challenge students to meet high standards of performance, offer opportunities for them to practice, generalize, and apply what they have learned, and provide them with appropriate and ongoing feedback about their performance and how it can be improved.

From the day freshmen arrive on campus they are given information about services to help them plan their academic programs and meet their educational goals. These resources include the advising resources named above.

Before students even arrive on campus they are provided with information about planning their academic programs.

2.6  The institution demonstrates that its graduates consistently achieve its stated learning outcomes and established standards of performance. The institution ensures that its expectations for student learning are embedded in the standards that faculty use to evaluate student work.

In order to graduate, students must meet minimum GPA requirements and complete specific sequences of courses that reflect core competencies, breadth and depth for their subject area. Most undergraduate programs offer an Honors option with separate requirements. PhD programs have qualifying exams, oral exams and a written thesis.

2.7  All programs offered by the institution are subject to systematic program review. The program review process includes, but is not limited to, analyses of student achievement of the program’s learning outcomes; retention and graduation rates; and, where appropriate, results of licensing examination and placement, and evidence from external constituencies such as employers and professional organizations.

As described in an earlier section, the Senate of the Academic Council is responsible for reviewing all undergraduate majors. New graduate programs are reviewed by the Senate’s Committee on Graduate Studies. In addition, several of our schools are accredited by external accrediting organizations. Preparation for these accreditation reviews is extensive, including solicitation of feedback from alumni, employers and professional societies where appropriate. Our professional school reviews do provide information on student employment and licensing exams. Review committees at all levels and academic deans pay attention to collected assessment information which is available to them on a protected web site maintained by the Office of Institutional Research and Decision Support.

2.8  The institution clearly defines expectations for research, scholarship, and creative activity for its students and all categories of faculty. The institution actively values and promotes scholarship, creative activity, and curricular and instructional innovation, and their dissemination appropriate to the institution’s purposes and character.


2.9  The institution recognizes and promotes appropriate linkages among scholarship, teaching, assessment, student learning, and service.


Stanford University outlines its criteria for tenure and promotion among the faculty in its Faculty Handbook. The first criterion for tenure is true distinction in scholarship placing the faculty member as one of the best in his/her field. Factors considered in assessing research performance include scholarly activity and productivity, impact, innovation and creativity, institutional compliance and ethics, among others. The Handbook is explicit in stating that appropriate criteria be applied when the candidate’s work involves creative writing, dramatic or musical composition or performance works of art and the equivalent.

The second criterion for tenure is outstanding achievement in teaching at all levels. In addition to careful scrutiny of teaching during the appointment and promotion process, the University recognizes outstanding teachers through a series of  teaching awards made by schools or by the university as a whole. These awards are meant to honor those faculty and graduate student TAs whose teaching has made a difference in the lives of undergraduates. Many of these awards involve monetary recognition: Dinkelspiel AwardsGores AwardsCox MedalHoagland Award Fund for Innovations in Undergraduate Teaching.

Funding for innovation in teaching is available though several programs, but the most well-known are a variety of programs to support innovations in undergraduate teaching and also for curriculum development.

Finally, the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University connects academic study with community and public service to strengthen communities and develop effective public leaders. In addition to providing a wide variety of service opportunities for students, the Center assists faculty in developing service learning opportunities through courses. See currently available courses.


We have a number of opportunities for students to obtain funds to support their own scholarship and research. Among these programs are grants from the VPUE and from the Haas Center for Public Service. Student scholarship is recognized by several different kinds of awards. At the University level, students are nominated for membership in honor societies such as Phi Beta Kappa and Tau Beta Pi. Students are also recognized with  national, university and departmental awards such as the Gores and Dinkelspiel awards, as well as the Deans’ Award for Academic Achievement and the Golden Medal.

There are several programs that support community service. Many of these operate out of the Haas Center for Public Service. There are programs that are academic in nature (e.g., the Public Service Scholars Program) as well as those that link students with community service opportunities

2.10  The institution demonstrates that students make timely progress toward the completion of their degrees and that an acceptable proportion of students complete their degrees in a timely fashion, given the institution’s mission, the nature of the students it serves, and the kinds of programs it offers. The institution collects and analyzes student data, disaggregated by appropriate demographic categories and areas of study. It tracks achievement, satisfaction, and the extent to which the campus climate supports student success. The institution regularly identifies the characteristics of its students; assesses their preparation, needs, and experiences; and uses these data to improve student achievement.

Stanford regularly surveys its students. There are annual surveys such as those given to freshman, seniors and all enrolled students, as well as those to graduate students exiting the University. These surveys provide deans and administrative staff information about student needs and experiences. Our membership in the Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE) provides us with access to comparative data on groups of students and alumni and affords us the opportunity to assess our position on a variety of indicators to be sure that we are meeting student needs in an appropriate way.

All reviews of undergraduate majors include surveys of current and former students, and this information is considered as part of the program review process. Finally, data on student success is found here.

2.11  Consistent with its purposes, the institution offers co-curricular programs that are aligned with its academic goals, integrated with academic programs, and designed to support all students’ personal and professional development. The institution assesses the effectiveness of its co-curricular programs and uses the results for improvement.

The Office of the Vice Provost for Student Affairs is deeply engaged with assessment and program review. A list of assessment activities can be found here. Each year a set of units within Student Affairs is selected for review by a committee appointed by the Vice Provost. The results of these reviews are not always shared publicly, but the information is used to guide the Vice Provost and other decision makers about the need for change, leadership within the unit, additional resources, and improvement. An example of such a report is the Student Mental Health and Well Being Initiative at Stanford.

Stanford has an extraordinarily large number of student groups and an organization designed to support their development and support. Please see our Office of Student Activities and Leadership.

The Student Initiated Course Program(SIC) gives students the opportunity to design and participate in courses in areas they feel are currently under-explored at Stanford. For each course, a faculty sponsor serves as mentor and advisor for the course leader, and the course itself can be taught by the student, a faculty member, or guest lecturers or professors.

Stanford Community Centers provide a gateway to intellectual, cultural and leadership opportunities for all Stanford students. Each center has its own mission. Students seeking academic enrichment, connection to a broader community and/or individual services and support will find excellent resources in the Community Centers.

The Residential Education program provides undergraduates a small community experience within a large research university. The essential conviction of Residential Education is that living and learning should be integrated, not separate; that formal teaching, informal learning, and personal support in residences is integral to a Stanford education.

Finally, the Stanford Career Development Center is a University-wide resource to help students find jobs. In addition, the professional schools each have their own career offices support their particular needs.

2.12  The institution ensures that all students understand the requirements of their academic programs and receive timely, useful, and complete information and advising about relevant academic requirements.

As described above, degree programs are described in multiple locations (undergraduate handbooks, e.g. School of Engineering Undergraduate Handbook, the Stanford Bulletin and departmental websites). There is extensive pre-major advising available to students through faculty pre-major advisors or professional staff.

Graduate students receive advice through their schools and departments.

2.13  The institution provides academic and other student support services such as tutoring, services for students with disabilities, financial aid counseling, career counseling and placement, residential life, athletics, and other services and programs as appropriate, which meet the needs of the specific types of students that the institution serves and the programs it offers.

We have multiple support services in all of these areas. The Financial Aid office provides advice to both graduate and undergraduate students. In addition the University’s library system (described in CFR 2.3) provides academic resources as well as academic computing support. The offices of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and the Vice Provost for Graduate Education provide a variety of academic services to students.

Counseling and health services are available through the Vaden Health Center. Career counseling is available through the Stanford Career Development Center and specialized offices within the professional schools.

2.14  Institutions that serve transfer students provide clear, accurate, and timely information, ensure equitable treatment under academic policies, provide such students access to student services, and ensure that they are not unduly disadvantaged by the transfer process.

Stanford accepts a small number of transfer students each year. Requirements for admission are described as part of the application process and are listed on the Registrar’s website. We have a separate advisor who coordinates support for transfer students.