MEMO: Update of Guidelines on the Relationship Between Contact Hours and Unit Credit

Memorandum to USC Academic Deans, Directors, and Department Chairs
February 1, 2018

The Provost’s Task Force on the Credit Hour was charged with reviewing and updating USC’s existing policy on contact hours and unit credit, ensuring the policy is followed as part of the review of new curricular submissions, and establishing a monitoring process to ensure current offerings comply with that policy.

The Task Force met during the Fall 2017 term and updated the Guidelines on the Relationship Between Contact Hours and Unit Credit. Members of the University Committee on Curriculum (UCOC), the Committee on Academic Policies and Procedures (CAPP), the Provost’s Council, and other relevant offices (i.e., Curriculum, Registrar, and Financial Aid) reviewed the recommendations, which the Provost approved. The updated policy is described in the attached Guidelines.

The Guidelines apply to all course proposals submitted to the UCOC. They should be shared with faculty preparing course submissions. Chairs, directors, and school curriculum liaisons should assume responsibility for checking submissions to ensure the number of contact hours corresponds to the unit value of the course (i.e., 1, 2, 3, or 4 units). If the number of contact hours is less than the number of units, an academic rationale must be supplied. The Guidelines provide direction on academic rationales consistent with customary educational practices.

The Office of the Registrar reviews current course offerings to ensure they conform to the Guidelines. In addition, schools, departments, and programs should monitor for compliance. If you oversee courses for which the number of units and contact hours do not match (e.g., a four-unit course that meets for three 50-minute contact hours a week over a standard 15-week semester), please discuss this with the instructor of record. An academic rationale (e.g., extensive reading assignments or more than average out-of-class writing assignments) must be provided in order to justify the discrepancy. Please check existing courses with unit values of 3, 2, or 1 to ensure the number of contact hours equals the number of units. If the number of contact hours for any of your courses exceeds the number of units, make sure requirements are not excessive.


C. L. Max Nikias
Michael Quick
Academic Senate President
President’s Cabinet
Provost’s Cabinet

For further information, please see Contact Hours Reference or Guidelines on the Relationship Between Contact Hours and Unit Credit.

Last updated April 2020