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Categories of Courses

There are three categories of courses offered at the University: Departmental Courses, University Courses, and Independent Study Plans.

Departmental Courses

Departmental courses are offered by academic departments and centers.

University Courses

In an intellectually creative atmosphere, ideas for new academic approaches and new kinds of courses may and should arise. Among them are offerings that address themselves to major themes and problems requiring a different perspective than generally governs departmental offerings. They provide students with the opportunity to integrate their understanding of major areas of learning and explore relationships among diverse forms of human experience, or to relate one or more disciplines toa broader context, or to focus on large and fundamental problems that need to be approached through several disciplines or by ways not found in existing disciplines. University courses originate with individual instructors and are retained in the curriculum only so long as those instructors wish to teach them.

Course Credit

The academic year at Brown University consists of two semesters, each of which is approximately fifteen weeks in length. The semester course is the unit of credit. This is defined as a course taken for the duration of one semester and, for purposes of evaluation, may be considered the approximate equivalent of four semester hours.

Maximum Course Load and Audits

A degree candidate who is paying full tuition and is enrolled for credit in less than five courses may be permitted to audit additional courses in any semester without charge. The total number of course registrations plus audits may not exceed five courses per semester, or two courses in the summer. With the concurrence of the instructor, the fact that the course has been audited shall be entered on the permanent record of any student electing this privilege. The status of a course may not be changed from audit to credit after the fourth week of classes, or from credit to audit after midsemester.

Repeated Courses

Unless specifically mentioned as an exception in this announcement, any course already completed for credit (either at Brown or through transfer credit) may not be repeated.


A "vagabond" is a student enrolled at Brown who, with the permission of the instructor involved, visits a given course occasionally or regularly without payment of fee. It is understood that such a student shall be entitled to participation in classes and activities, including discussions, conferences and papers, only at the pleasure of the instructor.

Limited Enrollment Courses

The following principles, recommended by the College Curriculum Council, govern registration in limited enrollment courses numbered 1-1999.

In order to ensure quality teaching and create an environment conducive to learning, many courses have enrollment limits and/or other registration parameters (e.g. concentrators only; freshmen only). Students attempting to enroll in a limited course will be allowed to register online only if they meet all of the parameters and space is available in the course. Once classes have begun, priority will be given to students who have pre-registered for the course, who meet the posted admission criteria, and who attend the first class meeting. Students who have permission for a limited enrollment course must attend the first three class meetings (or the first two meetings of once-weekly seminars); otherwise, they forfeit any claim to a place in that course. Students who decide against taking the course are asked to drop it immediately to open a space for others who wish to add the course.

If the enrollment limit in a course has been reached and the course is therefore closed to registration, the instructor may grant a registration override which will allow the student to register. Instructors can also override other registration restriction at their discretion.

To override a registration restriction, the instructor must enter the Student’s Banner ID into the override function online before a student can register for the course.

PLEASE NOTE: the instructor’s application of an override does not, by itself, register the student for the course. Once the override is applied, the student must still register for the course online by the registration deadlines.

Change of Courses

Until the end of the second week of classes, all course changes (adds, drops, grade option selections) are done online. Beginning with the third week, adding a course can be done online after securing an instructor override, and a $15 per course late add fee will be automatically charged. (Please refer to the section on Change of Course Fee). Students may continue to add courses and change grade options online until the end of the fourth week after which no grade option changes or additional adds are allowed. Students may continue to drop courses online until the last day of classes, i.e. until the day before the beginning of the exam period.

Students adding a course after the beginning of classes should check carefully with the instructor to determine whether or not work missed will be able to be made up.

Freshmen dropping or adding courses or changing a course grade option should confer with their advisor. Since final responsibility for the selection of courses rests with the student, it is important that advisors be consulted in order to avoid later problems resulting from an inappropriate choice of courses.

It is essential that students establish correct course registration. It is extremely difficult to obtain the necessary approval to change a course registration after midsemester. A student seeking to add a course after mid-term must also obtain permission of the Registrar or the Committee on Academic Standing (graduate representative for graduate students). Approval will be granted only if:

1. in the opinion of the Registrar, the change is not the result of the student's negligence in complying with established registration procedures, or
2. in the opinion of the committee (graduate representative), the circumstances are exceptional and there is sound educational reason for the change.

Courses may be dropped at any time before the last day of classes. Although dropped courses are not recorded on the permanent record (transcript), courses dropped after the second week of the semester will be recorded on the Internal Academic Record for use within the University (e.g., counseling, Committee on Academic Standing considerations, and enrollment analyses). Accordingly, students should promptly drop any courses they do not intend to complete.

Change of Course Fee

Courses may be added online prior to the end of the second week of the semester without fee. Starting the third week of classes and continuing through the Grade Option deadline, courses may be added online after securing an instructor override and a course change fee of $15 will be automatically charged for each course added unless the lateness of the add is attributable directly to University action. The fee will be charged uniformly and circumstances justifying waiver of the fee are expected to be quite unusual. The change of course fee will be added to student accounts and will be subject to University rules governing the payment of these accounts. There is no fee for dropping courses.

Change of Grade Option

Students may change grade options online at any time prior to the end of the fourth week of the semester. Changes in grade options are not permitted after the fourth week of the semester. Students adding courses after the fourth week with permission of the Committee on Academic Standing do not have a choice of grade option. They must take the course on an ABC/NC basis unless the grading is mandatory S/NC or unless they were previously registered for the course with an S/NC grade option

Summer Courses

The University sponsors a formal program of summer study for Brown students. Among the many advantages offered by summer courses at Brown are: the luxury of small classes with some of Brown's best faculty and expert visiting faculty; a curriculum that includes innovative courses presently available only in the Summer Session; the opportunity to devote concentrated attention to one subject; and the availability of small sections of courses that are typically over-enrolled during the academic year.

In addition, Brown undergraduates can find summer courses helpful to either maintain progress towards their degree or to accelerate their degrees (i.e. graduate in seven semesters) by earning four summer credits at Brown, thus saving approximately half of one semester's tuition charges. (Note that summer courses taken elsewhere cannot be used to accelerate.)

Summer courses are equivalent to courses offered at Brown during the fall and spring semesters. They are intensive, meeting a minimum of seven hours per week. Courses carry full credit for undergraduates enrolled at Brown, and as many as four of these courses may count toward the baccalaureate degree. Students are advised to read carefully the Guidelines and Regulations Concerning Summer Study to understand a number of special policies that apply to the Summer Session. The Guidelines and the Summer Programs catalog are available online. The Continuing Education staff is available for information and advice; students are urged to consult the staff with any questions concerning summer courses or policies.