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Changes in Academic Policies and Practices Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic

This page is being continuously updated as additional information is received. Effective dates noted in the following reflect the date upon which a decision was taken. However, many of these decisions have been retroactively applied.

Most recent update September 3, 2020.

Stanford University responded to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis by addressing a broad array of policy and procedure issues in order to maintain academic continuity, to ensure the continuing success of Stanford students, to support faculty in teaching and research, and to assist academic staff in fulfilling their duties to students and faculty.

These pages represent a compendium of the academic continuity changes made. Relevant sections of this bulletin have been updated to reflect these changes, and such changes are notated as pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

Additional notations concerning academic continuity changes have been noted on any degree program requirements page where such changes impact students.

As this page is published, Registrar Office staff continue to update this bulletin to reflect all academic continuity changes. Any member of the Stanford community may contact the bulletin with additional information; please provide complete and detailed information in your request.

Additional Information

Students and faculty with COVID-19 questions or concerns should contact the Student Services Center. Faculty and staff with policy questions are advised to consult their Dean's Office; they may also contact the Stanford Bulletin and Registrar's Office staff will forward their questions to appropriate authorities

During the pandemic, the University is publishing extensive information for the Stanford Community on its HealthAlerts and TeachAnywhere sites.

On July 30, 2020, the Academic Senate adopted the following policies regarding grading:

  • All University courses offered for a letter grade must also offer students the option of taking the course for a “credit” or “no credit” grade, with the exception of courses offered by the Graduate School of Business, the School of Law, and the School of Medicine M.D. Program, unless opted in by those schools.
  • Units of credit taken for a “credit” or “satisfactory” grade will not count toward the 36-unit maximum of credits (27 credits for transfer students) not taken for a letter grade that may be applied toward the 180 units required for the bachelor’s degree.
  •  The senate urges deans, departments, and programs to consider adopting local policies to count courses taken for a “credit” or “satisfactory” grade toward the fulfillment of degree program requirements and/or alter program requirements as appropriate.
  • Courses taken as “credit” or “no credit” may be eligible to fulfill general education requirements pending review by the Breadth Governance Board (for Ways of Thinking/Ways of Doing); the Thinking Matters Governance Board (for Thinking Matters); the Program in Writing and Rhetoric (for PRW1 and PRW2 classes); and the Writing and Rhetoric Review Board for Writing in the Major.

Final Examinations

The Faculty Senate has decided that there will be no three-hour final examination for undergraduates or graduate students in academic year 2020-21.

Coursework Deadline, Academic Year 2020-21

The academic year 2020-21 calendar is based upon 10-week academic quarters that do not include a dedicated end of quarter period. There will also be no final exam week.

All coursework is due by the last day of the last week of instruction in each quarter. No coursework deadlines or assessments should be assigned or scheduled after the last day of a quarter. Traditional 3-hour final exams are not allowable; however final assessments may be scheduled during the last class period.

Per standard practice and allowable by policy, instructors may grant individual and class-wide extensions of time on assignments. When an extended deadline falls after the grading deadline for a quarter and a student has completed satisfactorily a substantial part of the coursework, the student should request an Incomplete and arrange an alternative submission deadline with the instructor.

For students: if an instructor is not following this guidance, first raise the concern with the instructor. If the concern is not resolved, it should be escalated to the department chair or program director. The student should go to the relevant Dean’s Office only if they are unable to resolve the issue within the department or program offering the course.

Rationale: The AY 2020-21 academic calendar includes different lengths of time between quarters to accommodate on-campus students who must pack and move out of their residences before the start of the next quarter. Making coursework due by the last day of the classes in a quarter is equitable for all students.

Questions may be directed to

Flex Term

Stanford will operate four full, 10-week academic terms in academic year 2020-21, Autumn Winter, Spring, and Summer. Undergraduates are expected to enroll in three of the four quarters during the 2020-21 academic year. The term in which an undergraduate is not required to enroll is called the Flex Term; students, however, may enroll in 5 free units during their Flex Term. Students declare their Flex Term via the Quarter Check-in in Axess. International undergraduates, however, are expected to enroll in three consecutive quarters during the 2020-21 academic year.

COVID-19 Policies on Undergraduate Leaves of Absence for Academic Year 2020-21

For academic year 2020-21, new leaves of absence taken during Autumn, Winter, Spring, or Summer quarters do not count towards the eight quarters maximum.

Undergraduates and coterms in the undergraduate tuition group are expected to enroll in three of four quarters during the 2020-21 academic year, with one quarter considered the student's Flex Term. If students are unable to or elect not to enroll in three quarters, they must apply for a leave of absence for those quarter(s). Leaves of absence information for International undergraduates can be found below in this bulletin section. 

Undergraduates may take one quarter away from Stanford without having to file for a leave of absence (LOA), this term being considered the student's Flex Term. If a student takes more than one quarter away from Stanford, a Leave of Absence form is required. A student would be discontinued for no enrollment in any term in which they do not enroll after use of the Flex Term. See the Discontinuation and Reinstatement section below for further information. 

COVID-19 Policy on Leaves of Absence for International Undergraduates

International undergraduates are expected to enroll in three consecutive quarters during the 2020-21 academic year. If undergraduates are unable to or elect to not enroll in three consecutive quarters, they must apply for a Leave of Absence for those quarter(s). International undergraduates are required to consult with a Bechtel International Center immigration advisor well before  requesting a Leave of Absence. The Leave of Absence may complicate an international student's legal status and ability to remain and work in the U.S.

COVID-19 Policies on Discontinuation and Reinstatement for Academic Year 2020-21

In academic year 2020-21, a student's active status in their academic degree program may be discontinued if the student:

  • fails to be enrolled by the study list deadline of their second term away from Stanford; or
  • fails to be approved for a leave of absence by the start of the term of their second term away from Stanford; or
  • fails to enroll by the study list deadline, or fails to file and be approved for a leave of absence in a subsequent quarter, after use of the Flex Term; or
  • voluntarily terminates undergraduate studies; or
  • is dismissed for academic reasons; or
  • is expelled from the University.

Students who fail to be either enrolled by the final study list deadline of their second term away from Stanford, or who fail to submit a Leave of Absence petition by the published deadline in their second term away from Stanford, must apply for reinstatement through the Request to Return and Register in Undergraduate Study.

This policy is applicable to the four quarters in academic year 2020-21 only; additional policy will be published prior to academic year 2021-22.

For complete policies, see the "Transfer Work" section of this bulletin.

COVID-19 Policies on Undergraduate Transfer Work for Academic Year 2020-21

  • The 15-quarter unit cap on online work has been eliminated, students may apply for transfer credit for work that was or will be completed via an online/hybrid/correspondence instruction mode.The coursework must still meet all other conditions for transfer credit.
  • Students may reach out to their departments for review/approval of transfer credit without having to first secure a review/approval from the Registrar's Office. Please note: students will want to confirm with departments what their transfer credit process is, if seeking a review of transfer credit for application towards major/minor requirements.
  • Credit earned in U.S. military training and service may be eligible for transfer to Stanford if the work was completed at an accredited U.S. college or University or if the work appears on an official Joint Services Transcript (JST) and meets all other conditions for transfer credit. Joint Services Transcripts can be requested via the JST website

COVID-19 Policies on Graduate Transfer Work for Academic Year 2020-21

Students may apply for graduate residency transfer credit from work completed via an online/hybrid/correspondence instruction mode. The coursework must still meet all other conditions for graduate residency transfer credit.

For complete policies, see the "Undergraduate Special Registration Statuses" section of this bulletin

COVID-19 Policies on Undergraduate Special Registration Statuses for Academic Year 2020-21

  • Permit to Attend for Services Only (PSO): Students approved for the PSO status will be assessed a $150 fee instead of the standard PSO fee.
  • 13th Quarter: this status will be available in the Summer Quarter, as Summer will not necessarily be the standard optional quarter for the Academic Year 2020-21.