Effective Date: 7/25/2018
Updated: June 5, 2019

Overview / Summary

This policy provides the Nicholas School’s process and procedure for reviewing final course grade disputes from Master of Environmental Management (MEM), Master of Forestry (MF), and Duke Environmental Leadership MEM (DEL-MEM) students.  


The syllabus for each course should include specific details regarding how a student will be evaluated and the assignments, quizzes, tests, papers and/or exams upon which the final grade will be determined.  This information should be conveyed to students at least by the beginning of the semester.  It is preferable, however, that the instructor upload the syllabus for the course to DukeHub prior to the registration period so that students will know the expectations for the course prior to registration.

The instructor is obligated to evaluate the student's course work and submit a final grade at the conclusion of the academic semester.  Students should be evaluated fairly, that is, in the same way as all the other students are evaluated.

If a student has a concern about a final grade, the student should try to resolve the matter with the instructor.  If the concern is not resolved to the student's satisfaction by conferring with the instructor, the student may bring the matter to the attention of the Director of Professional Studies (DPS) in accordance with the procedure below, which details the formal grade review and appeal process to be followed by professional degree students.  Students may also confer with the Assistant Dean for Student Services about student rights and responsibilities.


  1. The student who questions a final grade received in a course should first discuss the matter with the instructor within thirty days of receiving the final grade.
  2. After meeting with the instructor, if the student still believes the instructor has assigned an inaccurate or unjustified grade, the student should discuss the matter with the DPS.
  3. If no satisfactory resolution is reached, the student may make a formal complaint in writing to the DPS and the MEM or MF Program Chair related to the course instructor’s program area, copied to the course instructor’s Division Chair.
  4. The DPS will present the case to the Program Chair. The DPS and the Program Chair will review the case with the course instructor. The review will focus on whether the grade assigned by the instructor was arrived at in accordance with the course grading policy as articulated in the syllabus and/or discussed with the students in class and calculated in the same way that the grades other students received in the course were calculated.
  5. Generally speaking, the review will not focus on how individual pieces of work in a course were graded, as it is the responsibility solely of the instructor to evaluate the quality of students' work within the context of his/her course.
  6.  If the DPS or Program Chair agrees with the instructor that there are no legitimate grounds for which to change the grade, the grade stands as recorded.
  7.  If the DPS and Program Chair believe there are grounds to consider a change and the instructor is unwilling to change the grade, the DPS will notify the student that he or she may request a review of the case by writing to the Senior Associate Dean for Academic Initiatives (SADAI). A written request must be submitted before the end of the drop-add period of the semester following that for which the instructor recorded the grade.
  8. The SADAI will review the case and decide whether there are grounds to convene an ad hoc Committee for Review of Grade. If the SADAI decides there are no grounds, then the grade is not changed. The SADAI’s decision is final and cannot be appealed.
  9. If the SADAI decides that there are grounds to proceed, the SADAI will charge and convene an ad hoc Committee for Review of Grade. The committee shall consist of the SADAI and two regular rank faculty members from a program area different from the instructor’s program area. The two faculty members of the committee are to be nominated by the Faculty Council or by the SADAI directly.
  10. This committee will then evaluate and review the case, and the SADAI may initiate a grade change if that is the recommendation of the committee. The SADAI’s decision is final and cannot be appealed


  • DPS is the faculty member who serves as the director of professional studies.
  • Program Chair is the faculty member who oversees the concentration study area of our MEM or MF degree programs.  
  • SADAI is the faculty member who serves as the Senior Associate Dean for Academic Initiatives.
  • Faculty Council is comprised of members according to the Nicholas School’s bylaws.  


Policy owner
Student Services