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Undergraduate Programs

At Brown University, education for the undergraduate has as its purpose the fostering of the intellectual and personal growth of the individual student. The student, ultimately responsible for his or her own development in both of these areas, must be an active participant in framing his or her education. A central aspect of this development is the relationship of the student with professors and fellow students and with the material they approach together. Structures, rules, and regulations of the University should facilitate these relationships and should provide the student with the maximum opportunity to formulate and achieve his or her educational objectives. Accordingly, the following curricular structure reflects these purposes.

Two baccalaureate degrees are awarded--the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Science. Which of the two degrees is awarded is determined by the nature of the concentration program. In addition, the five-year combined AB-ScB program is actually one degree with each listed on the transcript and diploma as one distinct degree. In short, students cannot receive more than one distinct degree/diploma at commencement.

Baccalaureate degrees may be awarded magna cum laude to the upper 20 percent (approximately) of the graduating class. The Registrar will provide an opportunity at the beginning of the senior year for students to indicate that they do not wish to be considered for a degree with distinction and will convey this information to the Committee on Academic Standing. The Committee on Academic Standing will draw up a list of those graduating seniors who are eligible to receive the bachelor's degree magna cum laude and it will be presented for Faculty Vote just prior to Commencement. This vote is final and binding as magna cum laude is not awarded retroactively for any late grades or grade changes that may come in after the fact.

Many students often wonder how magna cum laude is calculated since Brown does not compute a GPA (grade point average). What follows is the logic employed to determine magna cum laude honors at Brown University:

   -Each student is assigned a normal load based on the number of tuition/enrollment units a student has in residence at Brown. For most students this normal load is 32.0 (4 courses x 8 semesters) if they are enrolled for 8 semesters in residence at Brown and do not take summer courses or study elsewhere, etc.

   -Likewise, if a student did enroll in Brown summer courses these are added on a 1:1 basis to his/her normal load. So in the case of a student who enrolled for 8 semesters and also enrolled in two Brown summer courses the normal load would be 34.0 ((4.0 X 8) + 2). For students who came in as transfer students and/or took a semester abroad their normal load would be decreased by the number of semesters that were credited as a result of transfer credits (ex. 6 semesters in residence fulltime the normal load would be 24.0 (4 courses x 6)).

   -The second part of the calculation is to take all graduating students who are actually completing their requirements for commencement in May and take their total number of magna-eligible grades (grades of A or S with distinction [Note: S* on transcript means mandatory S/NC grade option not S with distinction. Distinction marks are not released outside the University as they are used strictly for magna calculation purposes]) and divide based on specific student's normal load to come up with a magna percentage.

   *Note: Courses numbered over 3000 taken by PLME students, regardless of grade received, do not count towards total magna-eligible grades. In addition, for Brown-RISD Dual Degree candidates only courses taken within Brown in fall & spring semester will count towards magna calculation.

   -The third and final step is for the Committee on Academic Standing to vote just prior to commencement on what magna percentage comes closest to the overall top 20% of the graduating class. It is important to note that this magna percentage changes every academic year based on total number of graduates actually receiving a degree and that the total number of magna eligible grades needed also varies. For this reason and for the fact that senior grades still come in until just prior to the Faculty Vote for commencement, when Latin honors ultimately gets finalized, release of magna cum laude recipients cannot be released until the actual day of commencement where they are listed in the Commencement Bulletin.

In summary, Latin Honors (magna cum laude) at Brown is based strictly on the parameters listed above. Grades other than A or S with distinction are not held against students for the purposes of the calculation nor are students who come in as transfers or study abroad/away once matriculated are given any distinct advantage. Once the Faculty Vote just prior to Commencement occurs the awarding of magna cum laude is final and any subsequent grades that may come in after the vote are not considered as magna cum laude is not awarded retroactively to said vote. For students who receive magna cum laude, that distinction is made not only in the Commencement Bulletin, but the designation is also noted on the Official academic transcript and on the diploma.