MSW Student Standards & Policies
The Graduate College of Social Work (GCSW) faculty and professional staff are responsible for determining whether students demonstrate the required level of classroom, field, professional, and ethical achievement appropriate for professional interactions with colleagues, faculty, field instructors, administrators, staff, and clients.
The College is committed to the treatment of students with fairness and equity throughout the program. The MSW Student Standards apply to students’ enrollment in the MSW program at any point in time, from admission to graduation. Each admitted student is required to read, comprehend and complete the Student Standards. Students are required to adhere to MSW program policies, GCSW and University of Houston (UH) policies.
Download or Print MSW Student Standards
Professional Readiness / Professional Commitment & Ethical Conduct / Professional Behavior
Policy on Academic Dishonesty and Plagiarism / GPA Requirement / Satisfactory Performance in Field Practicum Courses / No Credit / Automatic Academic Dismissal (Termination) / Low GPA at Time of Graduation / Incomplete Grades
Degree Plan Policies
Foundation Curriculum / Enrollment Status / Time Limitation on Completion of Degrees / Transfer Credit Policy / Enrollment Limit Policy / Continuous Enrollment & Leave of Absence / Attendance & Punctuality
Violations of Student Standards
Levels of Review / Direct Referral to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Notice of Intent to File a Grievance / Procedure for Filing a Formal Grievance / Grievance Process / Hearing Procedures / Grievance Outcomes / Appeal Process / Opportunities to Provide Feedback and Other Reporting Options
Section 1 - Student Standards
Due to the professional nature of social work practice, the GCSW has different expectations of students than do non-professional programs. In order to meet its responsibilities to provide quality professional social work education and to ensure that its graduates are able to function in a broad array of professional activities, GCSW faculty evaluates the academic performance of students in five general areas: professional readiness, professional commitment and ethical conduct, professional behavior, scholastic performance, and attendance and punctuality. Meeting the criteria for scholastic performance is necessary, but not sufficient to ensure continued enrollment in the program. Demonstration of professional and ethical behavior, commitment, and readiness are also required. Below are the fundamental requirements for successful completion of a degree from the GCSW.
Students are expected to demonstrate generally accepted standards of personal integrity, health and emotional stability, self-care, stress management, communication skills, interpersonal skills and self- awareness. This includes the following.
- Personal Integrity: Is open to learning and is honest with oneself and colleagues.
- Health & Emotional Stability: Uses thoughtful judgment in professional situations. Responsibly addresses one’s own health and emotional challenges that may interfere with scholastic and professional performance.
- Self-Care & Stress Management: Seeks and effectively practices self-care, uses help, and demonstrates ability to deal with current life stressors through the use of appropriate coping mechanisms.
- Communication Skills: Communicates responsibly, sensitively and with respect toward colleagues, faculty, field instructors, administrators, staff, and clients.
- Interpersonal Skills: Expresses ideas and feelings which can be heard and understood by others. Demonstrates willingness and an ability to listen to others.
- Self-Awareness: Exhibits knowledge of how one’s values, attitudes, beliefs, emotions and past experiences affect thinking, behavior and relationships. Accurately assesses one’s own strengths, limitations, and suitability for professional practice on an ongoing basis. Shows a beginning level of self-awareness and of how one is perceived by others. Reflects on one’s own limitations as relate to professional capacities. Is willing to examine and change behavior when it interferes in working with clients and other professionals.
- Exhibits a strong commitment to the essential values of social work and the pursuit of promoting social, economic and political justice.
- Adheres to the NASW Code of Ethics and the Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners Code of Conduct.
- Appreciates the value of diversity. Works with and relates to others who are different from oneself, regardless of the student’s own personal, religious, and/or cultural values. Provides service to all persons in need of assistance, regardless of the person’s age, class, race, religious beliefs, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and/or value system.
- Comprehends other individuals’ ways of life and differing values. Uses empathic communication and support of the client as a basis for a productive professional relationship.
- Shows respect for the rights of others. Commits to the clients’ and human rights to freedom of choice and self-determination.
- Maintains the professional standard of confidentiality as it relates to: human service, classroom and research activities, and field placement.
- Demonstrates consistent honesty and integrity by being truthful about one’s own background, experiences, and qualifications.
- Demonstrates clear, appropriate, and culturally sensitive boundaries. Refrains from sexually harassing others, making verbal or physical threats, being involved in sexual relationships with clients, abusing others in physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual ways, or participating in dual relationships where conflicts of interest may exist.
- Evaluates clients and their situations in a systematic, factual way. Refrains from imposing personal biases during interactions with others.
Uses technology ethically and appropriately.
- Exhibits behaviors that are in compliance with program policies, institutional policies, and professional ethical standards in classroom, field, and community settings.
- Shows appearance and demeanor that are appropriate to the roles and settings encountered during the educational experiences.
- Shows potential for responsible and accountable behavior by knowing and practicing within the scope of social work ethics, respecting others, being punctual and dependable, prioritizing responsibilities, observing deadlines, completing tasks on time, and keeping appointments or making alternate arrangements.
- Works effectively with others, regardless of
levelof authority or academic position.
- Advocates for one’s self in a constructive manner and first uses established channels for conflict resolution.
- Shows a willingness to acknowledge constructive feedback or supervision, as well as uses such feedback to enhance professional development.
- Takes responsibility in following through with referrals to campus resources to enhance the probability of academic success, professional development and self-care.
- Uses oral, written, and electronic communication professionally.
For the full explanation of the UH Academic Honesty Policy and Procedure, see: http://www.uh.edu/provost/policies/honesty/. “Academic dishonesty” means employing a method or technique or engaging in conduct in an academic endeavor that contravenes the standards of ethical integrity expected at the University of Houston or by a course instructor to fulfill any and all academic requirements. Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to, the following:
a) Plagiarism: Representing as one’s own work the work of another without acknowledging the source (plagiarism). Plagiarism includes copying verbatim text from the literature, whether printed or electronic, in all assignments including field.
b) Cheating and Unauthorized Group Work
- Openly cheating in an examination, as copying from another’s paper;
- Being able to view during an examination, quiz or any in-class assignment an electronic device
- that allows communication with another person, access to unauthorized material, access to the
- internet, or the ability to capture an image, unless expressly permitted by the instructor;
- Using and/or possessing “crib notes,” as unauthorized use of notes or the like to aid in
- answering questions during an examination;
- Giving or receiving unauthorized aid during an examination, such as trading examinations,
- whispering answers, and passing notes, and using electronic devices to transmit or receive
- Securing another to take a test in the student’s place. Both the student taking the test for
- another and the student registered in the course are at fault.
c) Fabrication, Falsification, and Misrepresentation
- Changing answers or grades on a test that has been returned to a student in an attempt to claim instructor error
- Using another’s laboratory results as one’s own, whether with or without the permission of the owner
- Falsifying results in laboratory experiments;
- Misrepresenting academic records or achievements as they pertain to course prerequisites or corequisites for the purpose of enrolling or remaining in a course for which one is not eligible;
- Representing oneself as a person who has earned a degree without having earned that particular degree.
d) Stealing and Abuse of Academic Materials
- Stealing, as theft of tests or grade books, from faculty offices or elsewhere, or knowingly using stolen tests or materials in satisfaction of exams, papers, or other assignments; this includes the removal of items posted for use by the students;
- Mutilating or stealing library materials; misshelving materials with the intent to reduce accessibility to other students.
e) Complicity in Academic Dishonesty: Failing to report to the instructor or departmental hearing officer an incident which the student believes to be a violation of the academic honesty policy.
f) Academic Misconduct: Any other conduct which a reasonable person in the same or similar circumstances would recognize as dishonest or improper in an academic setting.
Students shall have the responsibility of reporting incidents of alleged academic dishonesty to the instructor of record involved or to the appropriate authority if the alleged act is not associated with a specific class within 5 class days of the incident. Faculty or instructor of record shall have the responsibility of reporting incidents of alleged academic dishonesty through their college hearing officer within 5 class days of the incident. The faculty should include the recommended sanction in the report. The college hearing officer will notify the student of the report and recommended sanction. The student can accept the sanction and waive a hearing or request a college responsibility of reporting incidents of alleged academic dishonesty through their college hearing officer within 5 class days of the incident. A hearing shall be set within 10 days and would be consist of two faculty and three students chosen by the hearing officer.
On the day exams are given, cell phones or “smart” phones of any kind are not allowed during the time an exam is given. If a student is observed using an electronic device during an exam, the student will be asked to leave the exam and will receive a score of zero.
- Students must maintain a 3.0 grade point average (GPA) and satisfactory performance in all courses, including field practicum. A student whose grade point average (GPA) falls below 3.0 (B) will be placed on academic probation.
- Removal from academic probation is granted when the student’s GPA is raised to B (3.0) or above. The student has 12 semester credit hours to raise the G.P.A. to a 3.0. The 12 semester credit hours include pass/fail courses.
- Students admitted conditionally must earn a minimum GPA of 3.0 in their first semester of graduate work at the GCSW. Failure to achieve a 3.0 GPA will result in termination from the M.S.W. program.
- If a student is unable to competently perform within a field agency and/or there are documented concerns about the student’s professional behavior, the student can be suspended from field education and required to meet with the field education staff to assess and address the documented concerns.
- A student may be removed from the field agency, at any time, by the field instructor and/or the field agency for documented unprofessional conduct or for documented demonstrable lack of progress in achieving field practicum learning objectives. A written statement attesting to this action will be prepared by the field instructor in consultation with the field liaison, if applicable, to be sent to the Office of Field Education.
- If a student is terminated from a field agency, based on the student’s actions, a U will automatically be assigned for the field course in which the student is enrolled at the time of termination. The student will be required to meet with the field education staff member to assess the student’s readiness for participating in future field education courses.
- A student may not voluntarily terminate with an agency, without prior consultation and approval from the field liaison and/or the field office staff.
- A student who receives more than one unsatisfactory (U) in a field practicum course will be dismissed from the MSW program.
Although grades of D+ and lower are included in the computed grade point average, the university awards no credit toward the degree for courses in which the student receives a grade below C-. Students will also not receive credit for courses completed with a U. If such courses are required for the degree, the student will be required to take the courses again.
Automatic Academic Dismissal (Termination)
Whether or not in repeated courses, a student is automatically dismissed from the program for the reasons listed below. A student who is dismissed is ineligible for an MSW degree at this College and will not be permitted to re-enroll in the MSW Program.
- Three “C” Rule: Receives low grades (C+ or lower including U’s) in 3 graduate courses attempted at this university, whether or not in repeated courses;
- Receives 2 U’s in field practicum courses;
- If a student who is on academic probation does not raise their GPA to 3.0 within 12 semester credit hours, they will be dismissed from the MSW program. This includes pass/fail courses and any course attempted at the University of Houston whether inside or outside of the GCSW.
- Students who are admitted conditionally must earn a minimum GPA of 3.0 in their first semester of graduate work at the GCSW. Failure to achieve a 3.0 GPA will result in termination from the M.S.W. program.
University of Houston will not award or honor a degree with a cumulative GPA below 3.0, despite successful completion of coursework.
The grade of "I" (Incomplete) is a conditional and temporary grade given when students are either (a) passing a course or (b) still have a reasonable chance of passing in the judgment of the instructor but, for non-academic reasons beyond their control have not completed a relatively small part of all requirements. Students are responsible for informing the instructor immediately of the reasons for not submitting an assignment on time or not taking an examination. Students must contact the instructor of the course in which they receive an “I” grade to make arrangements to complete the course requirements. Students should be instructed not to re-register for the same course in a following semester in order to complete the incomplete requirements. The grade of "I" must be changed by fulfillment of course requirements within one year of the date awarded or it will be changed automatically to an "F" (or to a "U" [Unsatisfactory] in S/U graded courses). The instructor may require a time period of less than one year to fulfill course requirements, and the grade may be changed by the instructor at any time to reflect work completed in the course. The grade of "I" may not be changed to a grade of W.
The generalist coursework includes a 16 semester credit hour foundation curriculum which serves as the prerequisite for all other GCSW courses except Assessment and Field Practicum II. Students must successfully complete foundation (with grades of C- or better or grades of S) before they can progress within the MSW program.
Foundation courses include:
- Foundation of Social Work Profession (2 SCH)
- Social Work Policy in the Social Work Environment (3 SCH)
- Human Diversity/Human Development (3 SCH)
- Research and Knowledge Building for SW Practice (3 SCH)
- Social Work Practice Skills (3 SCH)
- Field Practicum I (2 SCH)
Students must register for courses in the specific enrollment model (face to face, hybrid, or online) to which they were admitted. Students who wish to change their enrollment status must submit a Request for Change in Enrollment Model form to the Office of Admissions and Student Affairs. Any student who enrolls in a course outside their enrollment model prior to receiving approval will be dropped from the course/s.
Time Limitation on Completion of Degrees
Students who are enrolled as graduate students at the University of Houston must complete the MSW program within five years of the date of enrollment.
Students admitted to the GCSW who have previous graduate course work or wish to take classes outside the college may discuss transfer of credit with their academic advisor. No more than nine hours of graduate course work may be applied to the MSW degree. Course reviews for previously taken graduate classes will not be initiated until the student has successfully completed foundation. Students who wish to take classes outside the college must have the syllabus preapproved before enrolling in the class. Approval is subject to successful completion of foundation. A grade of B or better is required for any credits to be transferred. The course must be within 5 years at the time of the awarding of the MSW. Work taken while in pursuit of an earned degree cannot be transferred.
The maximum graduate student MSW course load in the Fall or Spring semester is 16 semester credit hours (SCHs) and 6 SCH in the Summer semester with the exception of pre-approved degree plans that allow for 9 SCH in the Summer semester.
- The Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Assistant Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs can approve a course overload for any one semester under necessary circumstances. A student must submit a written proposal to the Assistant Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs explaining the explicit reason the course overload is requested.
- The Assistant Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs can limit
a MSWstudent’s course load based on the individual student’s academic program and/or academic performance.
- There is no minimum SCH requirement for course enrollment in a given semester. However, if no courses are taken in a semester, the student must complete and submit a Request for Leave of Absence (LOA) Form to the Office of Admissions and Student Affairs.
Continuous Enrollment & Leave of Absence
Students are expected to maintain continuous enrollment throughout their course of study. A
temporary, time limited leave of absence generally up to 12 months may be granted for compelling
reasons. To take a leave of absence, students should complete a Request for Leave of Absence (LOA)
form. Students who fail to maintain continuous enrollment without initiating an official leave of absence
will be considered as having withdrawn from the MSW program. Students may be required to reapply
for admission without continuous enrollment or an approved LOA request.
It is expected that students attend all courses, including field practicum, and that students be punctual.
- This expectation is a reflection of the student’s responsibility to the social work profession and to the clients whom social workers will serve.
- All students, regardless of class format (face to face, hybrid, or online), must adhere to the attendance/make-up and participation policies stated in each course syllabus.
Section 2 - Violation of Student Standards
Three levels of review can occur in reviewing
When a faculty member or field instructor has a concern in the field or classroom regarding a MSW student’s professional readiness, professional commitment and ethical conduct, professional behavior, scholastic performance and/or attendance and punctuality, a discussion should be held with the student and the faculty member or field instructor expressing the concern. The faculty member or field instructor will:
- Communicate concerns directly with the student and seek to work with the student to resolve the concerns.
- Inform the field liaison or advisor of the concerns in order to identify potential patterns and issues related to the student.
- Document date/s and content of meeting with the student.
When a faculty member, field liaison/instructor, advisor or administrator has a concern in field or the classroom regarding
- Discuss concerns directly with the student and seek to work with the student to resolve the concerns.
- Initiate a student action plan (see
descriptionof actionplan below), in consultation with one another, if applicable.
- Document date and content of meeting with
- Student Action Plan
An Action Plan establishes formal conditions that must be met by the student and can include, but is not limited to: reduced course load; resource or support referrals; delayed enrollment in a field practicum course; or leave of absence. An action plan can be initiated by faculty or staff.
Should the student fail to meet the specified outcomes identified and agreed to in the Action Plan or there are serious concerns, the faculty member and the Assistant Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs or Director of Field Education will make a recommendation to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs to establish formal conditions for the students’ continuance or to dismiss the student. The Associate Dean will notify the student, the faculty member, the Dean, and other necessary persons, of the decision in writing.
Direct Referral to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
- For circumstances that present immediate danger to person/s or property, 911 and/or the campus police will be called.
- When the situation does not present an immediate danger or after a dangerous situation has subsided, a direct referral to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs will be made. Situations that are reported include but are not limited to racial or sexual harassment, use of firearms or other weapons on University property or in a field placement, damage or destruction of University property, and behavior that threatens health, safety, or wellbeing of any University student or employee or field agency staff or client. Additionally, a UH CART report should be filed.
- If a referral is made to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, the student will be notified.
- The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs may establish formal conditions for the student’s continuance or to dismiss the student.
Section 3 - Academic Grievances
Students have the right to seek redress of any grievances related to their academic affairs. A grievance is an actual incident, or issue, which can be substantiated, and is regarded by a student as a just cause for protest. Persons against whom a grievance may be submitted include a classroom instructor, academic advisor, administrator, or other staff or faculty member of the Graduate College of Social Work. Students pursue a grievance with a desired outcome within the grievance. For other opportunities to provide feedback or offer input regarding academic and student affairs, see section " Opportunities to Provide Feedback and Other Reporting Options."
Notice of Intent to File a GrievanceNotice of Intent to File a Grievance Form
- A Notice of Intent to file a grievance can be submitted to the Office of Admissions and Student Affairs within thirty (30) business days after the date of the incident giving rise to the grievance, or within thirty (30) business days of the time when the student became aware, or should have become aware, that a grievable incident has occurred, whichever occurs first.
- When the Notice of Intent is submitted, the student will receive a copy of this policy, together with a Formal Grievance Cover Sheet from the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.
Acknowledgementof receipt of these items is required.
- The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs will send the Notice of Intent to the respondent.
- After a Notice of Intent has been submitted, the student must attempt to resolve the issue informally before they may file a formal grievance. At a minimum, the student must attempt to discuss the matter in a good faith effort on both parts and to attempt a resolution.
- If the dispute has not been resolved after a discussion between the student and the respondent, the student may request a meeting with the respondent and their academic advisor and/or the Assistant Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs. If the issue is resolved informally, the Notice of Intent will be void.
- If the issue is not resolved informally, the student may decide to terminate the process altogether OR proceed to file a formal grievance. If the student decides to terminate the process, this will be considered a final action that cannot be reversed via filing a grievance at a later date. If the time of 60 business days to file
a grievance lapses, the Notice of Intent will be void.
Procedure for Filing a Formal Grievance
If the decision is to proceed with a Formal Grievance, a written statement, accompanied by a Grievance Cover Sheet, must be submitted to the Office of Academic Affairs within sixty (60) business days from the date of submitting the Intent to File. The statement should include:
A onepage (maximum) description identifying the grievable issue or incident, including date and place (if applicable).
- The name of the respondent (i.e., against whom is the grievance being filed).
- The names of any witnesses to the incident (if applicable).
- Evidence to support the grievance.
- The outcome desired by the student.
- Upon receipt of the formal grievance statement and cover sheet, the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, or their designee, will – within 10 business days – appoint an ad hoc Student Grievance Committee (“the Committee”).
- The Committee will consist of three (3) full-time GCSW faculty and two (2) GCSW students. Faculty who hold administrative appointments of Associate or Assistant Dean are not eligible to serve.
- The Committee will convene within 10 business days from the time of its composition in order to select a chair and the chair must be a faculty member.
- The Committee chair will identify potential hearing dates with the Committee and the student filing the grievance. Reasonable attempts to schedule the hearing will be made by all parties. However, the hearing must be held within 20 business days from the date the formal grievance was filed.
- The chair will inform all parties (including the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs) of the date, time and location of the hearing.
- The student has the right to withdraw his/her grievance up to 72 hours prior to the scheduled hearing, but must do so in writing, to the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. In this case, the Associate Dean will notify the Committee and the respondent, and no further action will be taken at the college level.
The hearing will be called to order by the chair who will explain the hearing procedures to the student, the Committee, and the respondent.
The hearing is closed; only the Committee, the student, and the respondent are present unless witnesses have been identified and are called in advance by the chair of the Student Grievance Committee to provide additional information. When the grievance involves the field practicum, the field practicum instructor and/or preceptor will be called by the chair as a witness for the hearing. The student may bring a support person (an attorney or other representative) to the hearing, but this person is not permitted to advocate for or otherwise participate in any part of the discussions. The student must inform the chair of the Student Grievance Committee at least 48 hours prior to the hearing if an attorney will be present. No persons under age 18 are permitted to be present at a grievance hearing. The University’s Office of General Counsel will be present at the hearing if an attorney is present for the student and further will likewise not permitted to advocate for or otherwise participate in any part of the discussions.
- The student will be given ten (10) minutes in which to make an opening statement and then may present his/her evidence.
- The respondent is given ten (10) minutes to open and then may provide evidence refuting the allegation(s).
- The Committee is given the opportunity to question the parties or to request further evidence/testimony.
- Both the student and the respondent are given an opportunity to make brief closing statements.
- All parties, except Committee members, are dismissed.
- The Committee deliberates, with the Chair presiding.
- No tape or video recording of the hearing will be made without written permission from all parties, and only when the Committee feels it is necessary to do so.
- The findings and directives of the Committee are final.
- Within 5 business days of the close of the hearing, the Committee chair will transmit a written report to the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. The report must include a summary of the grievance, the respondent’s rebuttal, and the Committee’s findings and directives.
- The Committee may find in favor of the student and direct the respondent to take appropriate corrective action.
- The Committee may find in favor of the respondent and recommend no corrective action.
- Within 5 business days of receipt of the Committee’s report, the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs transmits the report to the student and the respondent.
- Grievance Reports will be held in the Office of Academic Affairs for a period corresponding to the UH Document Retention Policy, after which time they will be destroyed.
- If the student is dissatisfied with the decision of the Committee, he or she may appeal in writing to the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs within 30 calendar days of when the decision is mailed. The Associate Dean has the authority to reverse the Committee’s decision only if there were serious errors in process or procedure that may have altered the final outcome.
- If the student is dissatisfied with the outcome of the appeal to the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, they may petition for a university level review by the UH Graduate School Grievance Committee (GSGC) which is under the purview of the Dean of the UH Graduate School. This petition for appeal must be made in writing and filed with the GCSW Office of Academic Affairs within 30 calendar days of the final disposition in the GCSW.
Opportunities to Provide Feedback and Other Reporting Options
- Students have the right to provide feedback and offer input regarding academic and student affairs. Additional opportunities for doing so include:
- To file a complaint about a faculty member, advisor, field personnel and/or administrator – contact the GCSW Dean’s Office.
- To provide general feedback about a course – complete a confidential end of course evaluations (students will receive an email towards the end of the semester).
- To provide general feedback about the program – complete the MSW exit survey (students will receive an email in their last semester of the program).
- To report sexual misconduct - http://www.uh.edu/equal-opportunity/titleIX-sexual- misconduct/.
- If a student feels they have been discriminated against on the basis of race or color, national origin, religion, age over 40, sex or gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, genetic information, or veteran’s status - contact EOS at http://www.uh.edu/equal-opportunity/file-a-complaint/.
- To report a crime in progress or if a student is the victim of a crime - immediately call 911 or the UH Police at 713/743-3333.
The GCSW also hosts multiple focus groups each year to get feedback about various components of the program. Students will receive email invitations to participate.