Academic Policies and Procedures

The Academic Policies and Procedures are guidelines to help students navigate academic tasks and understand policies concerning enrollment and attendance, examinations, student performance and grading, and more. All medical students are subject to the academic regulations of the university and are responsible for making certain they meet all requirements and deadlines.

Academic Grievance Policy

Scope

This policy applies to grievances, which include academic actions or decisions, based on student academic performance, that directly affect a student’s academic status or standing, such as, but not limited to, being required to repeat a course or year of study, being placed on probation or being suspended from the program or being dismissed from the Dell Medical School program. When a student is affected by an adverse academic action or decision made by the Medical Student Academic Standing Committee, the student may appeal the action or decision using the process described below.

This policy does not apply to grievances for a course or clerkship grade. See Appeal of Grade Policy.

Policy

A student may grieve an academic decision that a student believes was made in an arbitrary or capricious manner, made on the basis of a discriminatory purpose, or made in violation of a University policy. Any adverse action based on academic performance alone will be deferred until the grievance is resolved.

The steps by which a student may pursue an academic grievance are as follows:

  1. A student must file written notice of his or her grievance with the Chair of the Medical Student Academic Standing Committee (MSASC) within ten business days from the date the student was notified of the academic decision being disputed. In the written grievance, the student must describe in detail the rationale for his or her grievance and propose a resolution. The student has the right to meet with the Associate Dean for Student Affairs to review the processes and procedures related to filing an academic grievance, and to discuss the preparation of appropriate documentation for the MSASC to review and consider.
  2. The MSASC shall render its decision within thirty (30) business days of the written student grievance.
  3. In the event the student is dissatisfied with the MSASC’s decision, the student may file a written appeal to the UT Austin Dell Medical School Executive Vice Dean for Academics within ten (10) business days of the date of the MSASC’s written decision. The student's appeal to the Executive Vice Dean for Academics must include a justification statement for the appeal and copies of all documentation the student provided to the MSASC. Upon review of the student's record and appeal, the Executive Vice Dean for Academics may elect to:
    1. Affirm and adopt the MSASC’s decision; or
    2. Modify or change the MSASC decision

Within ten (10) business days from receipt of the student’s appeal, the UT Austin Dell Medical School Executive Vice Dean for Academics shall provide a written decision to the student, with copies sent to the Associate Dean for Student Affairs, the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education, and the Chair of the ASC.

The decision of the UT Austin Dell Medical School Executive Vice Dean for Academics is final. Any sanctions being deferred pending the resolution are immediately placed into effect.

Academic Standing Policy

Scope

To be promoted to the next curricular year, and ultimately to graduate, medical students must meet all requirements of the current year, and satisfactorily adhere to all stipulated academic, professionalism and conduct standards and to all University and UT System rules and regulations.

Policy

Students must successfully complete and pass all required curriculum, milestones, and exams to progress and graduate. Professionalism and conduct infractions can result in adverse academic actions up to and including dismissal, even if a student has passed all other aspects of the curriculum.

The Medical Student Academic Standing Committee (MSASC) will meet and review each student’s performance periodically to assure satisfactory performance and to determine whether a student’s progression to the next phase of the curriculum is appropriate. The MSASC will be responsible for defining possible adverse academic actions should a student not satisfactorily perform and progress through the curriculum.

Scientific Foundations: Preclinical Curriculum (MS1)

A student who fails in any single course in the first half of the MS1 academic year, will be given a grade of incomplete for that course and allowed to remediate the course during the first week of the second semester or during the holiday break preceding the first week of the second semester. Satisfactory remediation results in a “pass” as the final grade and no further academic action. If the student fails to remediate, the MSASC will determine academic action up to and including placing the student on an academic leave of absence and requiring the student to restart the first year curriculum.

A student who fails a second course in the first half of the MS1 academic year, will be referred to the MSASC for the MSASC’s determination of the appropriate academic action to take, up to and including placing the student on an academic leave of absence, requiring the student to restart the first year curriculum, and/or dismissal from the program.

A student who fails in any single course in the second half of the MS1 academic year, will be given a grade of incomplete for that course and allowed to remediate the course during the Milestone 0 week. Satisfactory remediation results in a “pass” as the final grade and no further academic action. If the student fails to remediate, the MSASC will determine academic action up to and including placing the student on an academic leave of absence and requiring the student to restart the first year curriculum, and/or dismissal from the program.

A student who fails a second course in the second half of the MS1 academic year, will be referred to the MSASC for the MSASC’s determination of the appropriate action to take, up to and including placing the student on an academic leave of absence or requiring the student to restart the first year curriculum, and/or dismissal from the program.

Failures in both MS1 semesters, even with successful remediation, may lead the MSASC to recommend a remediation plan for the student that impacts his or her clinical start date.

Healthcare Delivery and Exploration: Clinical Clerkships and Clinical Rotations (MS2 and MS4)

Failure of a clinical experience will result in a failure on the student’s transcript that must be remediated to a pass. The transcript will ultimately read Fail/Pass (F/P). No grade higher than a “pass” can result after an initial failure.

The MSASC will determine the appropriate academic action for failures in clinical experiences and may result in extended time to meet degree requirements, decreased vacation time and, up to and including, an academic leave of absence or dismissal from the program.

Innovation, Leadership and Discovery: Non-clinical Courses (MS3)

Failure to satisfactorily meet the expectations of the MS3 year will be handled on an individual basis. Failure to successfully complete the requirements of the MS3 year may require additional time to achieve the MD degree. Students who want to withdraw from a dual degree program after the start of the degree requirements must get permission from the MSASC to do so. Withdrawal from a dual degree program may result in the imposition of a remediation plan to help the student meet the educational goals of the MS3 year.

Professionalism and Conduct Infractions

Students with severe and/or repeated lapses of professionalism or conduct issues may also be referred to the MSASC by the Dell Medical School’s Student Affairs Committee with recommendation for dismissal. These referrals will include documentation of the conduct in question, findings in investigation, attempts at remediation, and recommended action from the Student Affairs Committee.

The student will be given access to the recommendation and shall have five (5) business days to submit a written response to the chair of the MSASC. The MSASC shall review the report from the Student Affairs Committee and the response of the student and may determine to investigate further, to task a sub-committee to investigate further, to refer the student to the University’s Office of the Dean of Students or other University office for further remediation efforts, require a leave of absence, and/or dismiss the student from the program.

Decisions of the MSASC may be appealed by the process described in the Dell Medical School’s Academic Grievance Policy.

Academic Workload and Duty-Hour Policy

Scope

Medical student workloads must support students’ learning while maintaining an appropriate level of engagement with the learning environment. The specific details of these expectations will vary somewhat depending on the phase of the educational program, clinical specialty or rotation, but must take into account the impact of fatigue on learning and patient safety, reinforce the fact that duty-hours restrictions, like other compliance requirements for physicians, are consistent with the necessity of meeting professional standards and ensure balance between educational priorities, service needs of the clinical setting and the students’ personal wellness. The duty-hour restrictions on students during clinical clerkships and courses are modeled after the American Council on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) guidelines for residents.

Policy

Course and Clerkship Directors are expected to plan and manage courses, including all scheduled activities and expected independent work, within the academic workload and duty-hour parameters approved by the Dell Medical School’s Undergraduate Medical Education Curriculum (UMEC) Committee. It is the responsibility, as a part of professionalism, for the student to abide by medical school requirements regarding duty-hour restrictions. Violations of the Academic Workload and Duty-Hour Policy should be reported to the Office of Medical Education.

Scientific Foundations: Preclinical Curriculum (MS1)

The preclinical courses are organized into module blocks of varying lengths, using various teaching and learning formats. The preclinical curriculum includes block and  longitudinal courses that have scheduled  activities and learning events.

Workload Limits:

  • Maximum of twenty hours of required scheduled activities per week
  • Approximately two hours of assigned preparation materials per each hour of required scheduled activities averaged over the course of a week.
  • Students in good standing may take student enrichment electives, which will not count towards required activities or duty-hour limits.

For all required content, no matter the venue (lecture, case discussions, small group discussions and exams), a scheduled hour is logged as a formal instruction hour.

The total workload for an average student in the MS1 preclinical year must be kept to a maximum of sixty hours per week. This should provide time for the student’s personal wellness and social engagement.

The Office of Medical Education will continuously monitor violations to the Academic Workload and Duty-Hour Policy and will alert the course director, or other departmental leadership, and the Undergraduate Medical Education Curriculum Scientific Foundations Subcommittee of any violations during a student’s MS1 year.

Healthcare Delivery and Exploration: Clinical Clerkships and Clinical Rotations (MS2 and MS4)

Clinical clerkships and rotations vary in length. Students are assigned to various clinical sites and work under the supervision of designated faculty and residents. During clinical clerkships and courses, medical students are expected to participate in all required clinical and didactic activities. Examples of such activities include: direct patient care, patient rounds, patient documentation, case conferences and interactive lectures. Students are expected to assume increasing levels of responsibility and accountability for healthcare delivery, as appropriate under the supervision of faculty and residents. The amount of time needed for a student to adequately meet his or her responsibilities varies depending on rotation, and can include overnight call.

Duty-hour expectations include all required activities in the clinical years; therefore, if a student has clerkship duties and additional expectations from a longitudinal course, the hours are added cumulatively and in total must remain within the duty-hour limits.

MS2 and MS4 students are expected to abide by the following duty-hour limits (modeled after ACGME guidelines for residents):

  • Must be limited to eighty duty hours per week, averaged over a four-week period, inclusive of all in-house call activities.
  • Must be scheduled for in-house call no more frequently than every third night, when averaged over a four-week period.
  • Must be limited to a maximum of twenty-four hours of continuous duty in the clinical setting.
  • Must not be assigned additional clinical responsibilities following twenty-four hours of continuous in-house clinical duty.
  • Should have ten hours free of clinical duty. They must have at least fourteen hours free of clinical duty after twenty-four hours of in-house clinical duty.

Students will be required to report duty hours on One45 weekly. Students should report duty-hour violations to the Office of Medical Education via One45, or in person, if concerns may warrant immediate action.

The Office of Medical Education will continuously monitor violations to the Academic Workload and Duty-Hour Policy and will alert the clerkship director, or other departmental leadership, and the Undergraduate Medical Education Curriculum Healthcare Delivery Subcommittee of any violation during a student’s MS2 and MS4 years.

Innovation, Leadership and Discovery: Non-clinical Courses (MS3)

The courses scheduled in the Innovation, Leadership and Discovery phase of the curriculum are highly individualized and variable based on a student’s customized plan of study. On average, a student should not be expected to have a total workload of greater than sixty duty hours per week.

The Office of Medical Education will continuously monitor violations to the Academic Workload and Duty-Hour Policy and will alert the course director, or other departmental leadership, and the Undergraduate Medical Education Curriculum Innovation, Discovery and Leadership Subcommittee of any violation during a student’s MS3 year.

Appeal of a Grade Policy

Scope

Grades are generated by the course/clerkship director. Should there be a disagreement about a grade assignment in a course or clerkship, the student may appeal the assigned grade.

Policy

The University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School students have the ability to timely appeal all grades and evaluations and to have that appeal resolved in a timely manner.

The procedures for a grade appeal are:

  1. A student must file a written appeal with the course or clerkship director within five (5) business days from the date the grade was posted. In the written appeal, the student must describe in detail the basis for the appeal and propose a resolution.
  2. The course or clerkship director will review the written appeal. The course or clerkship director will provide the student a written decision within five business days of receipt of the student’s written appeal.
  3. Should the student be unsatisfied with that decision, the student may file a written secondary appeal to UT Austin Dell Medical School Associate Dean of Undergraduate Medical Education within five business days from receipt of the course or clerkship director’s written decision. The student's secondary appeal must include a justification statement articulating why the appeal is warranted, along with all documentation provided to the course or clerkship director in conjunction with the initial appeal. Upon review of the student's record and appeal portfolio, and within five business days from receipt of the student’s secondary appeal, the UT Austin Dell Medical School Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education will provide a written decision to the student and course or clerkship director. The UT Austin Dell Medical School Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education may:
    1. Allow the course or clerkship director decision to stand;
    2. Modify the course or clerkship director’s decision; or
    3. Make an alternate decision.

Any unsatisfactory grade will be will be forwarded to the Medical Student Academic Standing Committee for administrative action, if needed.

Attendance and Absence Policy

Scope

Attendance contributes to a student’s education and professional identity formation. Healthcare professionals have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure they cover their clinical responsibilities. Practicing this duty with peers and teaching faculty fosters professional identity formation and is therefore a part of the professionalism competency at the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School.

Policy

Attendance is required for many educational activities and strongly encouraged for all others. Course/Clerkship syllabi will clearly outline the attendance expectations for educational activities. Attendance expectations are in accordance with duty hour guidelines.  Absence at certain clinical, laboratory, and other experiences may require a medical student to repeat an entire course and/or academic year.

Attendance expectations: absences may be excused under certain circumstances as listed below.

University Holidays

Students are not expected to be in attendance on official University Holidays.

Religious Holy Days

A student who misses classes or other required activities, including examinations, for the observance of a religious holy day must inform the instructor as far in advance of the absence as possible, so that arrangements can be made to complete an assignment within a reasonable time after the absence.

Tardiness

In addition to any course policy in the syllabus, excessive tardiness may be considered a conduct matter, subject to review and sanction by the Office of Student Affairs.

Jury Duty

Medical students may frequently be exempted from jury duty, due to clinical expectations. If not, the school will make every effort to provide make-up opportunities for missed experiences.

Absence for military service

In accordance with Section 51.9111 of the Texas Education Code, a student is excused from attending classes or engaging in other required activities, including exams, if he or she is called to active military service of a reasonably brief duration. The maximum time for which the student may be excused has been defined by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board as “no more than 25 percent of the total number of class meetings or the contact hour equivalent (not including the final examination period) for the specific course or courses in which the student is currently enrolled at the beginning of the period of active military service.” The student will be allowed a reasonable time after the absence to complete assignments and take exams. Policies affecting students who withdraw from the University for military service are set forth in the Withdrawal section of the Academic Policies and Procedures portion of the General Information Catalog. Medical students excused for military service will be placed on a leave of absence and will be withdrawn from the course only if the course will be repeated in its entirety.

Unforeseeable Events

Students who miss educational activities for unforeseeable events such as illness, family or other emergency, must notify the course director and the Associate Dean for Student Affairs as soon as practicable. Either of these may require documentation. Documentation of illness will not require a specific diagnosis.

All absences for required educational events will be recorded and monitored. The Course/Clerkship Director will consult with students to discuss absences and any work that needs to be completed due to the student’s absence(s). The Associate Dean for Student Affairs will be notified of students’ absences to provide support when appropriate and to monitor for repeated patterns.

Elective, Selective, and Away Clinical Rotation Policy

Scope

Selective and elective opportunities are intended to allow students the to opportunity to explore their particular career interests.

Policy

The University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School curriculum encompasses four weeks of required selectives during the MS2 year; these four weeks of selectives must be taken in-house at the Dell Medical School.

The Dell Medical School curriculum also encompasses sixteen weeks of required electives that must be taken during the MS3 or MS4 years. At least eight of these elective weeks must be completed at the Dell Medical School. No more than eight weeks of required electives may be taken elsewhere. Students are strongly encouraged to consult with faculty and their academic advisors and use electives to both explore potential career choices and to broaden their medical expertise. The student’s academic advisor, or his or her designee, must approve a student’s electives prior to beginning the experience.

Additionally, all off-campus elective rotations must be approved by the Office of Student Affairs at least one month before the off-campus elective rotation or course begins. Credit will not be given for any off-campus elective rotation or course that has not been approved in advance.

The Office of Student Affairs has a centralized system to review the proposed off-campus elective prior to approval, to ensure the return of a performance assessment of the student while on the off-campus elective, and to retain an evaluation of the off-campus elective by the student. The decision to approve an off-campus elective will take into account the following information and any other information deemed appropriate by the dean’s office:

  • Potential risks to the health and safety of patients, students, and the community
  • The availability of emergency care
  • The possibility of natural disasters, political instability, and exposure to disease
  • The need for additional preparation prior to, support during, and follow-up after the elective
  • The level and quality of supervision
  • Any potential challenges to the code of medical ethics adopted by the home school

Paperwork that must be submitted to the Office of Student Affairs prior to approval of an off-campus elective rotation includes: the "Course Approval" form, a written letter or email of acceptance from the physician preceptor with the start and end dates of the course/rotation, and a course description of learning objectives and responsibilities during the rotation. Forms must include a complete address and telephone number for the off- campus location and residence address for the student while at the off-campus site. Forms will not be approved after the rotation has already begun.

Leave of Absence, Withdrawal, and Dismissal Policy

Scope

Students are expected to proceed through the Dell Medical School curriculum to graduation, in a continuous, uninterrupted fashion. However, a student may temporarily separate from the curriculum via an approved leave of absence or permanently separate from the curriculum via a withdrawal or dismissal, for academic, personal, or other reasons.

Policy

Leave of Absence

Students seeking a temporary separation from the medical school must obtain approval from the Medical Student Academic Standing Committee. A student may request a leave of absence for: medical reasons, academic opportunities or personal reasons. Students are strongly encouraged to discuss the options and consequences of obtaining a Leave of Absence with the Associate Dean for Student Affairs prior to requesting the leave. The Medical Student Academic Standing Committee may also recommend a leave of absence for a student as part of a remediation plan.

  1. A leave of absence will require:
    1. A document signed by the student and the Associate Dean for Student Affairs that includes:
      1. A designated specific date for return to the curriculum. This date may be extended upon approval by the Associate Dean for Student Affairs;
      2. Details of any conditions of return;
      3. Verification that student has been made aware of implications on Financial Aid, including possible return of Title IV funds;
      4. Proof of approval by the Medical Student Academic Standing Committee, for any leave of absence greater than one year; and
      5. Proof of approval by the Medical Student Academic Standing Committee, for any student that is not in good academic standing at the time the leave of absence is requested.
  2. Return from a leave of absence will require:
    1. Contact with the Associate Dean for Student Affairs at least thirty (30) days in advance, to ensure scheduling and enrollment clearance; and
    2. Documentation that all conditions of return have been satisfied.
  3. A leave of absence does not obviate the requirements for timely completion of curriculum milestones, including USMLE examinations or graduation.
  4. Any student who fails to return from a leave of absence by the designated date shall be considered to have resigned from the Dell Medical School.
  5. Any leave of absence will be noted on the transcript as “Leave of Absence” regardless of the reason for the leave. It will also be noted on the MSPE.

Withdrawal

A student may withdraw from medical school by submitting a written letter of resignation to the Executive Vice Dean for Academics. This is a permanent action and a withdrawn student is not eligible for re-admission. Students are strongly encouraged to meet and discuss with the Associate Dean for Student Affairs, before submitting a withdrawal request.

Dismissal

Dismissal is an action that may be taken by the Medical Student Academic Standing Committee to permanently separate a student from the medical school. A dismissed student is not eligible for re-admission to the same degree program. The dismissal decision can be based on unacceptable academic or professional performance.

Students will be notified of dismissal in writing and, where possible, verbally by the Associate Dean for Student Affairs or his or her proxy. The verbal notification is a courtesy. The written notification is the official notification of the adverse action.

Students may appeal a dismissal decision through procedures outlined in the Appeal of Dismissal Policy.

Student Academic Performance and Grading Policy

Scope

Students at the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School will be evaluated in multiple ways, each to be outlined in individual course syllabi and as described in other policies. Faculty and staff are responsible for disseminating student evaluation methods in writing to students in the course syllabus prior to the start of each course. Methods of assessment may include: narrative feedback, exams, written/computer based reviews, participation, Objective Structured Clinical Exams (“OSCEs”), peer review, oral presentations, etc.

The Dell Medical School protects the privacy and integrity of student records, including grade records, while also providing students a process to appeal final course grade decisions. The student’s official transcript reflects actual grades from the time they were assigned; these grades will not be modified without official approval to do so.

Policy

The Dell Medical School has established committees to oversee the educational program and to monitor academic performance of its medical students. The Undergraduate Medical Education Curriculum Committee (UMEC Committee) is the body that provides central oversight and makes recommendations to the Dell Medical School’s Dean and Executive Vice Dean for Academics regarding the overall design, management and evaluation of a coherent and coordinated curriculum. The Medical Student Academic Standing Committee (“MSASC”) is charged with reviewing the academic progress and professional development of each student during all components of the four-year medical education program and making recommendations to the Dean and Executive Vice Dean for Academics accordingly. The primary responsibility of the MSAC is to recommend for graduation only those candidates who have satisfactorily completed all graduation requirements and demonstrated consistent professional conduct appropriate for a physician.

The “clinical years” of the Dell Medical School’s medical education program include all core clerkships and clinical courses, including clinical selectives and electives. The academic standards for successful completion of the pre-clinical modules, clerkships, and clinical courses are determined by the module directors, clerkship directors and course directors, respectively, each adhering to a grading rubric approved by the UMEC Committee. The process by which a student may appeal a grade or evaluation received is set forth in the medical school’s Appeal of Grade Policy.

Grades are Pass/Fail for non-clinical modules, courses and electives, including Developing Outstanding Clinical Skills (DOCS) and Interprofessional Education (IPE) courses. MS2 – MS4 grades are based on a Pass/Fail/Honors system for the clinical clerkships, selectives, and electives.

Incomplete Grades

A student who does not complete all of the required coursework will receive an incomplete or failing grade. Students can be assigned an incomplete in situations, as determined by the Office of Medical Education, that warrant the provision of additional time to allow the student to complete his or her work (e.g., illness, family emergencies, or other extenuating circumstances deemed appropriate by the Dean or his/her delegate). The incomplete will change to a “Pass” or “Fail” once the student has completed the required coursework. If a student fails to complete the required course work within a designated time period, the Incomplete will be changed to a Fail. A student who successfully remediates a failing grade will receive a failing grade of F on his or her academic record followed by a second grade of P; the failing grade will be notated as having been remediated.

Each course director will submit a grade roster at the end of each course within 10 days of course completion. Clinical experience grades will be submitted no later than four weeks after the rotation is completed. Narrative feedback will be provided as appropriate. All grades are processed through the Office of Medical Education and will be submitted to the Office of the Registrar.

A student who fails any course(s) in Year 1 must remediate the course(s) before starting Year 2. To receive a “Pass,” the student must obtain a minimum overall module grade of greater than 70%.

Process of Distribution of Grades

In the pre-clinical curriculum, final grades will be calculated by the module co-directors, approved by the Office of Medical Education and then released to the students.

United States Medical Examination (USMLE) Policy

Scope

The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) is jointly sponsored by the National Board of Medical Examiners and the Federation of State Medical Boards. A passing score on each portion of the USMLE is accepted by medical boards in every state as evidence of core competency to practice medicine.

The University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School has established policies pertaining to the timing and passage of the USMLEs in order to optimize career outcomes for students and to ensure that graduates meet all related licensing requirements.

Policy

In order to graduate from the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School, students must take and pass the USMLE Step 1, the USMLE Step 2 CK (Clinical Knowledge) and the USMLE Step 2 CS (Clinical Skills) following the established rules below. A student who fails any USMLE exam will work with his or her academic advisor to develop a remediation plan.

USMLE Step 1

  • Students must take the USMLE Step 1 prior to September 1 of the start of the third year of the medical curriculum.
  • A student who does not achieve a passing score on the USMLE Step 1 within three attempts meets criteria for dismissal from the Dell Medical School.

USMLE Step 2 CK

  • Students must take the USMLE Step 2 CK by September 1 of the chronological fourth year of the medical curriculum. It is strongly recommended that students take the USMLE Step 2 CK early in their third year, shortly after the USMLE Step 1.
  • A student who does not achieve a passing score on USMLE Step2 CK within three attempts meets criteria for dismissal from the Dell Medical School.

USMLE Step 2 CS

  • Students must take the USMLE Step 2 CS by September 1 of the chronological fourth year of the medical curriculum. It is strongly recommended that students take the USMLE Step 2 CS early in their third year shortly, after the USMLE step 1.
  • A student who does not achieve a passing score on the USMLE Step 2 CS within three attempts meets criteria for dismissal from the Dell Medical School.