UNC Charlotte Academic Policy: DNP Degree Requirements

I. Executive Summary

This policy outlines Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree requirements including residency requirements and grade point average for graduate students. To graduate from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, students must be in good academic standing, and must have earned a minimum grade point average of at least 3.0 in the major.

II. Policy Statement

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is conferred by the University after the student has successfully completed all requirements in an approved doctoral program of study in the School of Nursing.  Specific program degree requirements are described in the College of Health and Human Services section of the Graduate Catalog.

Program of Study

No more than 6 credit hours will be accepted for transfer into the DNP program.  This rule applies whether the courses were taken at UNC Charlotte or elsewhere.  Eligibility of courses for transfer is determined jointly by the School of Nursing and the Graduate School.

Students are expected to satisfactorily complete all required coursework with a GPA of 3.0 or above in courses on the degree plan of study.  Grades in all courses attempted, whether or not on the plan of study, remain on the transcript and will be included in the calculation of the student's cumulative GPA as it is reported on the transcript.  Courses graded as C on the degree plan of study must be offset by an equal number of graduate-level credits graded as A.  Some programs may have stricter requirements regarding the applicability of grades of C towards degree completion.  Please reference the program-specific entries of the Graduate Catalog.  Students and faculty should refer to the Academic Suspension and Termination policies in the Graduate Catalog regarding the accumulation of marginal grades of C.

Time Limit

All requirements for a professional doctoral degree (DNP) must be completed within nine (9) calendar years, beginning with the student’s first term in the program.  The time limit cannot be paused, even if the student takes an approved leave of absence.  No course older than seven years may be applied towards a professional doctoral degree (including transfer credit). Any course that exceeds this limit must be retaken.  Failure to adhere to the time limit may result in the termination of a student’s enrollment.

The Graduate School may consider requests for a single extension of one (1) year in cases with rare, extenuating circumstances.  In such cases, the student and graduate program must provide a signed timeline for program completion that does not exceed one year.  Failure to adhere to the approved timeline for completion will result in automatic termination of the student’s enrollment for a lack of satisfactory academic progress.  Multiple extensions will not be approved.

Qualifying Assessment

Upon approval of the DNP Scholarly Project topic, the student begins to develop the project.  Once the project development is complete, the student presents to the committee the final proposal for the project.  The student’s DNP Scholarly Project proposal serves as the primary component of the qualifying assessment for the DNP program.  Students who fail a qualifying assessment are subject to termination and should discuss options with their graduate program director.  With program approval, a qualifying assessment may be retaken one time.  If the student fails the assessment a second time, the program may, in rare circumstance and with compelling evidence, allow a student to, within four months, retake the exam (or portion of the exam). In such cases, the program must document the circumstances under which the student is allowed to retake portions of the exam and demonstrate that the student’s committee unanimously supports the decision.  Documentation must be submitted to the Graduate School for review prior to the exam date.  In no instance will the student be allowed to take the exam (or portion of the exam) a fourth time.  Students may only appeal a termination to the Graduate School if their appeal to retake the exam is based on a procedural error or discrimination (please see the Category 2 appeal description under Appeal for Academic Termination) and their initial appeal to the program was denied.

Admission to Candidacy Requirements

Students are recommended for admission to candidacy after successfully completing the DNP Scholarly Project defense.  A student may not achieve candidacy and graduate in the same term.  Candidacy must be achieved at least one term prior to the term of graduation.

Scholarly Project

Students complete a DNP Scholarly Project in conjunction with their clinical residency courses.  The DNP Scholarly Project is a project that brings together the practice and scholarship aspects of the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. It is designed to address complex practice issues that affect groups of patients, healthcare organizations, or healthcare systems while utilizing informatics, technology, and in-depth knowledge of the clinical and behavioral sciences.  The clinical scholarship required in the DNP Scholarly Project reflects mastery and competency in the student’s area of expertise.  The DNP Scholarly Project begins in the first semester of study and continues throughout the program, culminating in a scholarly public defense. Defense of the Scholarly Project is conducted in a final oral examination that is open to members of the University community.  The announcement of the final defense can be uploaded by the advisor to the Graduate School website at least 10 days prior to the date and disseminated through the Academic Affairs listserv.  The announcement of the Scholarly Project defense should include identification of the student’s full name, the date of the defense, the location of the defense, the time of the defense, the title of the Scholarly Project, the name of the Chair of the Scholarly Project committee, and a brief Abstract of the dissertation.  The defense constitutes the final exam for a doctoral student.  The decision of the faculty advisory committee is final.  In the rare event of a split decision, typically the faculty come to an agreement as to whether the student defense is acceptable.  No student is permitted to take the final examination more than twice.

The DNP Scholarly Project is guided by the DNP Scholarly Project Committee.  The composition of the DNP Scholarly Project committee includes: 1) a chair who is a doctoral prepared faculty member with regular graduate faculty status at UNC Charlotte; 2) an expert clinical mentor (Ph.D., DNP, M.D. or other doctoral prepared individual; 3) one additional faculty member; and 4) a graduate faculty representative appointed by the Graduate School at UNC Charlotte. It is the responsibility of the DNP Scholarly Project Committee to guide the student through project planning, implementation, and evaluation process.  The committee for doctoral students is indicated on the Appointment of Doctoral Dissertation Committee form (available online at the Graduate School’s website).  At the time that the Appointment of Doctoral Dissertation Committee form is approved, the Graduate School appoints the Graduate Faculty Representative to serve on the doctoral committee.

It is expected that all Scholarly Project committee members be present for the Scholarly Project proposal defense and for the final defense.  If there is an exceptional case in which a committee member needs to participate in the proposal or final defense from a remote location, the student and all committee members must assure that all the conditions listed on the Approval of Remote Committee Participation Form are met.  This form is available online on the Graduate School website under Current Students and must be completed and returned to the Graduate School at least two weeks prior to the scheduled proposal or final defense.

The Scholarly Project must be submitted for final review by the student's committee at least two weeks before the date of the final examination in which the Scholarly Project is defended.  Following the successful completion of this defense, the doctoral candidate must submit one electronic copy of the approved error-free manuscript to the Graduate School (via ProQuest) no later than the filing date indicated in the University calendar. Guidelines for the preparation of the scholarly project are online on the Graduate School website under Current Students. Each student must submit the Defense Report for Doctoral Dissertation and/or Master's thesis form and the original dissertation title page to the Graduate School (with original signatures).

The Graduate School requires publication of the Scholarly Project through ProQuest, an online database of dissertations.  The student is responsible for paying the optional copyrighting fees.  Any other arrangements for publications of the dissertation must not interfere with publication through ProQuest.  It may be appropriate for some students to restrict access to their dissertation temporarily (such as when a patent application is pending).  In these cases, the student and their committee must submit an embargo request to the Graduate School explaining why restricted access is needed.

As a research university, UNC Charlotte contributes to the scholarly community through the work of faculty and graduate students. Students are required to submit their dissertation or thesis to ProQuest, an online repository for scholarly work.  Although the author of the work retains the copyright, open access may impact the likelihood of publication in some journals. More information is available at www.ProQuest.com.

Under certain circumstances, research may need to be temporarily withheld from publications or “embargoed.” Such restrictions may be requested when a:

a) patent application is expected;
b) publication has been submitted and the publisher’s copyright excludes publication of the work in Proquest. In this case, a screen shot of the journal policy must be included.
c) contract with an outside entity, such as a government agency, requires that the research be embargoed temporarily.

To request an embargo of a dissertation or thesis, the student and the advisor must submit a request to the Graduate School, which will include supporting documentation. Embargoes may be requested for up to one year, after which time the document will be made available through ProQuest.  In extraordinary circumstances, an extension to the embargo may be requested.

Graduate Faculty Representative

 
The graduate faculty representative is a member of the doctoral student's advisory committee appointed by the Graduate School. Advisors may recommend to the Graduate School a faculty member who meets the relevant criteria (below). Recommendations should accompany the initial Committee form.  The graduate faculty representative must assure that the doctoral student is treated fairly and impartially by their advisory committee, and assure that University standards and policies are upheld.  For these reasons, faculty serving in this role should hold tenure and a Regular Graduate Faculty membership, have served on a scholarly committee prior to this appointment and come from a department different than the student and chair.  This faculty member’s role is primarily but not totally procedural.  The faculty member may also participate in the development and evaluation of the student’s research to the extent appropriate for the faculty member’s background.  The Graduate Faculty Representative is a full voting member of the committee. This representative is appointed prior to the student's Scholarly Project proposal defense and must participate in the formation of the student’s topic and in the final Scholarly Project examination. 

Application for Degree

 
Students who are co-enrolled in a master’s and doctoral program should be enrolled in both programs for two academic terms prior to graduation from either degree.  Students should submit the Online Graduation Application at the beginning of the term in which they anticipate defending their dissertation.  Adherence to Graduate School deadlines is expected.  Degree requirements are completed when students successfully defend their dissertation and file the final copy of the dissertation in the Graduate School.  Students are encouraged to review their individual DegreeWorks audit to ensure they have met all graduation requirements. 

III. Definitions

  • Admission to Candidacy - The period in a doctoral student's studies when they are deemed ready to undertake research resulting in a dissertation or scholarly project.
  • Catalog – A resource of all academic policies and procedures, college and degree requirements, faculty, and course descriptions.  UNC Charlotte has both an Undergraduate Catalog and Graduate Catalog.
  • DNP - The Doctor of Nursing Practice is a terminal degree designed to prepare graduates to analyze systems of care and provide transformational leadership to improve patient safety, quality of care, and implement evidence-based culturally competent care practices.
  • Dissertation Chair - A graduate faculty member responsible for directing a doctoral student’s dissertation research.  This may or may not be the student’s academic advisor.
  • Embargo - In academia, an "embargo" is a restriction placed on research, typically a thesis or dissertation, to be temporarily withheld from publication.
  • Graduate Faculty Representative - A member of the doctoral student’s advisory committee appointed by the Graduate School that assures that the doctoral student is treated fairly and impartially by his or her advisory committee, and assure that University standards and policies are upheld.
  • Residence - For degree-seeking students, a residency requirement indicates the number of credits you must complete through the University in order to graduate.
  • Scholarly Project – A project that brings together the practice and the scholarship aspects of the degree program that reflects mastery and competency in the student’s area of expertise.

IV. Policy Contact(s)

V. History

  • Established: TBD
  • Revised: TBD

VI. Related Policies, Procedures, and Resources

VII. Frequently Asked Questions

  • Where is this policy referenced?
    The policy is published on the Academic Policies & Procedures webpage of the Provost website and in the Degree Requirements & Academic Policies section of the Graduate Catalog.
     
  • What is an Assistantship and where do I look for one?
    Graduate assistants receive financial support for their contributions to the teaching, research, and service missions of the University.  The great majority of Graduate Assistants on campus are hired by the student's department.  Check with your Program Director to seek out those opportunities.  Additionally, other campus offices and initiatives seek graduate assistants from time to time.  Visit the University’s Hire-A-Niner portal for current openings.
     
  • Is Financial Aid available to graduate students?
    The Office of Student Financial Aid administers several federal, state, and institutional financial aid programs available to graduate students who complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  Visit the Graduate School’s website for details of current programs open to graduate students.