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Student Initiated Courses


The Faculty Senate approved Student Initiated Courses (SIC’s) as an opportunity for undergraduate students to participate more actively in the creation of curriculum at Stanford. Only undergraduate students may submit SIC proposals. Graduate students wishing to propose or teach a course should contact the relevant program.

Policy Statement

  1. Student-initiated courses should be reviewed and approved according to established procedures for authorizing new student-initiated courses within departments and IDPs. We therefore strongly recommend that, during the academic year 2003-04, departments and IDPs willing to sponsor SICs put in place a mechanism for the expeditious review of SIC proposals. We recommend also that decisions about SIC proposals be made within three months (i.e., an academic quarter) from the time the proposals are submitted.

  2. Student initiated courses are not compatible with the accepted definition of a Directed Reading. As of the beginning of the academic year 2004-2005, SICs should no longer be offered under the rubric of Directed Reading.

  3. All proposals for SICs must include a designated faculty sponsor who accepts overall responsibility for the academic quality of the course, including instruction and evaluation. Faculty should be advised that if they plan to use undergraduates in any way in presenting material or in evaluating other students that they (the faculty) are assuming a major supervisory responsibility. Proposals for SICs should include a statement by the faculty sponsor about how she or he plans to fulfill that responsibility.

  4. Students who have an instructional role in a SIC should be in good academic standing, and should be required to undergo training in the Center for Teaching and Learning.

  5. SICs should be offered for a maximum of 2 units, enrollment should be limited to a maximum of 20 students, S/NC should be the only grading option, and SICs should only count as “activity courses” in calculating the units required for the bachelor’s degree.

  6. The format for listing SIC courses in the Time Schedule will be SUBJ + (number from 1 to 99) + the suffix SI. Example: FRENGEN 22SI.

Implementation Information

Applying for a Student Initiated Course

Prior to proposing a course, an undergraduate student should first meet with the relevant department to learn about their proposal requirements, faculty sponsorship expectations, and the department’s submission process.  Not every department sponsors SICs, nor are they obligated to do so. 

The proposal should at minimum include:

  • A summary and rationale for the proposed course

  • A sample syllabus, this may be developed with the faculty sponsor

  • A letter from the sponsoring faculty, including their agreement to be the instructor of record, and describing how they will fulfill their responsibility as the sponsor. 

Applications should be submitted to departments no later than three months prior to the start of the quarter in which the course is intended to be offered.

Faculty and Department Responsibilities

Departments are not required to sponsor Student Initiated Courses. If they choose to do so, they should have a policy available to students including the department’s process for submission and review of proposals, student eligibility, required student training, and expectations for the identified faculty sponsor. 

While undergraduates may play a substantial role in the design of these courses and have an instructional role, the sponsoring faculty and department retain overall responsibility for all aspects of the course, including ensuring that:

  • The course has academic quality 

  • The course is structured and set-up appropriately

  • University policies pertaining to course materials are followed

  • Disability-related accommodations are provided, as required 

  • The course is evaluated appropriately, and final grades are assigned and entered in a timely manner

  • Student concerns and issues are resolved 

  • An undergraduate teaching apprenticeship course is available to students involved in proposing, teaching, and assessing in the SIC, if this is in alignment with departmental practices 

In order to sponsor a course, an instructor must have an active teaching appointment in the sponsoring department. The course must be approved by the department through its identified process. 

Important:  If an undergraduate will present material or evaluate other students, the sponsoring faculty should be aware that they (the faculty member) are assuming a major supervisory responsibility. 

Student Responsibilities

An undergraduate student is responsible for submitting the Student Initiated Course proposal and all required documents. 

An undergraduate may not enroll in an SIC that they proposed if they played a substantive role in designing the course assignments, or if they have instructional or assessment responsibilities.  The student may be eligible to receive units in a prior quarter for preparatory work associated with the course (e.g., creation of instructional materials) or during the quarter when the SIC is offered if they have an active role in instruction and/or assessment. Enrollment should be in the department’s undergraduate teaching apprenticeship course; this arrangement, though, is at the discretion of the faculty sponsor.

If an undergraduate will participate in the instructional activities of the course, they should receive training from the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), the faculty sponsor, and/or the department to ensure that they have the necessary skills to fulfill their responsibilities. 

Course Configuration Requirements

Student Initiated Courses:

  • Are classified as activity (ACT) courses 

  • May be offered only for 1 or 2 units

  • Have an enrollment cap of 20 students, and may not be audited

  • May be offered only on an S/NC grade basis

  • Use the following numbering format: SUBJECT + (number from 1 to 99) + SI (Example: FRENCH 22SI)

  • The faculty sponsor or eligible designee (e.g., graduate student teaching affiliate, other persons eligible for a university teaching appointment ) is the instructor of record; undergraduates are not eligible to be set-up as instructors or co-instructors

Contact Information

Curriculum Management and Scheduling, Office of the University Registrar