Guidelines for Courses

What's on this page?

Who is this for?

 FAS Curriculum Coordinators, Faculty

Introduction to Setting up Courses 

FAS Departments are responsible for organizing course data in the my.harvard administrative portal for publication in the my.harvard course search. Curriculum coordinators enter or edit data in two different administrative pages:

  • The Course Catalog - a complete collection of a departments' full course offerings across many years.
  • The Schedule of Classes - classes scheduled for a specific term for student enrollment.

What are the Guidelines for?

Follow these guidelines when organizing curriculum data and making revisions.  Course additions and changes must be approved must be approved by the Chair of the appropriate FAS Department or committee.

Guidelines describes common fields in the Course Catalog and Schedule of Classes and provides background information on curriculum settings and values.  Use the Curriculum Management workflows to ensure proper curriculum setup.

Features of the Course Catalog:

Academic Orgs, Subjects and Catalog Numbers

Academic Organizations and Subjects

Courses are organized in the Course Catalog according to organization (org) and subject. Select the proper org and subject to ensure that we publish the course correctly.

  • Your org and subject code is your department or committee. (ex: Government = GOVM org and GOV subject)
  • Your department may offer multiple subjects within the org (ex: Romance Language and Literature (org)—French (subject); Spanish (subject))

Catalog Numbers

Use a two-, three- or four-digit number to identify the course within its subject.

  • Catalog numbers may be numbers, upper case letters, or a combination.
  • Establish Catalog numbers that have not been used before.
  • Reusing Catalog numbers is strongly discouraged.

Warning about Reusing Catalog Numbers

There isn't a safe amount of time before reusing a number. Doing so has negative repercussions for the Advising report and student requirement fulfillment. This is because behind the scenes, historical data remains tied to the old course ID. If a catalog number absolutely must be re-used, please contact us to make sure at least 5 years have passed since the course was last offered, and that the original is un-scheduled and inactivated.

The Catalog Number System

  • 1–99, 910–999 Primarily for Undergraduates
  • 90 Supervised Reading
  • 91, 910 Undergraduate courses of reading and research must be numbered 91 (or 910) and must be titled Supervised Reading and Research. First year students are not permitted.
  • 96, 960 Special Seminar or Laboratory Course
  • 97, 970 Sophomore Tutorial
  • 98, 980 Junior Tutorial
  • 99, 990 Senior Tutorial are graded Sat/Unsat count as a letter graded course
  • 100–199, 1000–1999 For Undergraduates and Graduates
  • 200–299, 2000–2999 Primarily for Graduates
  • 300–399, 3000–3999 Graduate Courses of Reading and Research

Catalog Numbers as Letters

Use alpha letters, not numerals, to designate elementary language and composition courses. (Example: Arabic A- “Elementary Arabic”; English Crr- “Fiction Writing: Workshop”)

Suffix Letters

Indicate course sequences by adding the letter “A” to the first course, and the letter “B” to the second course, etc. The “A” course is not necessarily given in the fall term, nor a “B” course in the spring term, nor are any two courses necessarily offered in the same academic year.

Example: Applied Physics 50A - “Physics as a Foundation for Science and Engineering, Part I”; Applied Physics 50B - “Physics as a Foundation for Science and Engineering, Part II”.

Course Components

Course components are divided into two types:

  • Primary Components
  • Secondary Components

Primary Components

  • Colloquium: Restricted to students with training in a particular field; enrollment at the discretion of instructor.
  • Conference Course: Seminar-like courses that place more emphasis on discussion than research; generally open to juniors, seniors, and graduate students.
  • Dissertation / Thesis: GSAS doctoral candidates write a dissertation and masters candidates write a thesis; repeatable; students may register for the same course multiple times each term.
  • Field Trip: Courses with field trips or projects that take students away from the University must have the approval of a dean. Consult the Information for Faculty handbook.
  • Laboratory Research: Lab work done under the supervision of instructional staff.
  • Lecture: Presents the substance and theory associated with the subject matter; often requires an additional discussion section or lab.
  • Project Course: Students work in small groups on a focused project; often short weekly meetings instead of classroom meetings.
  • Reading and Research (Supervised): Undergraduates (except first-years) enroll in 91 or 910 level courses. Graduate students enroll in 300/3000 level courses.
  • Seminar: Focused on advanced research topics; typically do not have final examinations, have few, if any, lectures; limited enrollment; emphasis on student presentations, papers, and research
  • Studio: Focused on design or performance; used primarily by Arts and Humanities, Dramatic Arts, History of Art and Architecture, Music, and Visual Studies.
  • Tutorial: Opportunities for students to participate in small group or one-on-one instruction in their concentrations.

Secondary Component: Most Common Types

  • Discussion Section: Students meet weekly with a teaching fellow to discuss lectures and readings or to work on problem sets.
  • Field Trip: Courses with field trips or projects that take students away from the University must have the approval of a dean. Consult the Information for Faculty handbook.  
  • Film: Ordinarily affiliated with a lecture, seminar, or studio.
  • Lab: Laboratory work done under the supervision of a faculty member or departmental teaching staff. When affiliated with a lecture, may also be a secondary component.

Courses with Multiple Components

Classes that have more than one meeting type (example: lecture with lab) have two components in both the Course Catalog and Schedule of Classes. Each component typically has a meeting pattern and instructor. The lab or section meeting pattern and instructor are often determined after course registration.

Seminar Series

The Course Topic  ID field in the Schedule of Classes may be used to distinguish individual topics of seminar series such as Expository Writing or undergraduate seminars.

Course Grading and Exam Groups

Grading Options

Set the grading basis for each course in the Course Catalog. FAS grading bases align with course numbering and the courses’ “level” or intended audience (example: undergraduates, graduates, both). Consult the Information for Faculty handbook for details regarding grade options, grade point averages, petitions, etc.

Undergraduate Students

Letter grade or Pass/Fail:

  • 1–99
  • 900-999
  • Exception: Most Freshman Seminars and certain Tutorials numbered in the above ranges are graded SAT/UNSAT. Consult the list in the Information for Faculty handbook.

Letter grade only:

Students may petition to take the course pass/fail in these number ranges:

  • 100–199
  • 1000-1999
  • 200–299
  • 2000-2999

Undergrads not eligible to enroll

  • 300–399
  • 3000-3999 

Exception: Advanced Standing students in their fourth year of residence who are candidates for the master’s degree may enroll in such courses with the instructor’s permission.

Graduate Students

Graduate students are not allowed to take courses on a pass/fail basis.

Letter grade only:

  • 1–99
  • 900-999 
  • 100–199, 1000-1999 
  • 200–299, 2000-2999 
  • Exception: Department may request a 200/0 level course be graded Sat/Unsat from Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Student Affairs. The Registrar's Office must be informed of approved requests. 
  • Exception: Graduate students may petition for Sat/Unsat grading only in introductory language courses, with instructor permission.

Sat/Unsat Only:

  • 300–399, 3000-3999 

Exam and Student Deadline Groups

Set the Exam field in the Course Catalog to "Yes" for all graded, primary components of a course (e.g. Lecture, Seminar), and “No” for all components of a course that do not appear on the transcript (e.g. Discussion, Lab). The Registrar’s Office uses this field to assign exam groups for classes each term-- it does not mean that the course will necessarily offer a final exam as their final assessment option.

Course Attributes

Course Attributes impact student records, enrollments, and the Academic Advising Report (AAR).

Curriculum Coordinators should apply the following attributes:

Course Level “LEVL”

Designates the intended course audience. Apply to the Course Catalog and Schedule of Classes; use catalog number as a guide.

  • 99/999 - For undergraduates (PRIMUGRD).
  • 100/0 - For undergraduates and graduate students (UGRDGRAD).
  • 200/0 - Primarily for graduate students (PRIMGRAD).
  • 300/0 - For graduate students only (GRADCOURSE).

Cross Registration Availability “XREG”

Generally, all FAS courses should permit cross registration.

  • Apply “XREG” attribute as YES, to both the Course Catalog and Schedule of Classes.
  • Exceptions: Expository Writing, Freshman Seminars, tutorials, and by instructor’s choice. 

Course Evaluation “EVAL”

Applied to a select few classes in Schedule of Classes ONLY; controls evaluation process in Q.

Apply EVAL as “Exempt” to request a course be exempt from course evaluations. The Office of Undergraduate Education will approve the requests and communicate with the FAS Evals team.

Apply EVAL as “Always” to include a small class in the evaluation process. Courses with less than five students are automatically exempt from evaluation.

Attributes applied only in the Course Catalog (CAFs)

Catalog Coordinators have access to all CAF attributes:

  • Course Keyword: Unlimited text field for additional search terms; enter individual words separated by spaces.
  • Course Note: Record additional information related to the course, not the class scheduled in a particular term. Record class-specific note in the Class Notes field on the Schedule of Classes.
  • Course Next Offered and Instructor (For bracketed courses only): You must enter the term code for the next term a bracketed course will be offered. Adding instructor is optional.
  • Recommended Preparation: Use when students are encouraged to have certain preparation, but it is not mandatory.

Course Prerequisites and Special Types of Courses


There are two ways to indicate prerequisites in my.harvard: Enrollment Requirement Groups and the Recommended Preparation attribute.

  • Request Enrollment Requirement Groups for system-enforced prerequisites. Requisites prevent students from enrolling if they have not met a defined requirement or have taken another similar course for credit.
  • Or, enter the Recommended Preparation attribute in the Course Catalog when certain preparation is encouraged, but not required. The Recommended Preparation attribute will not prevent students from enrolling.

Special Types of Courses

Full Year Indivisible Courses

The FAS prefers to move away from full year indivisible courses. Request permission to create indivisible courses from the Courses team.

  • Indivisibles are created and maintained as two separate courses in the catalog, one scheduled to meet in the fall term and the other scheduled to meet in the spring term.
  • Students in the A portion will be automatically enrolled in the B spring course by the Registrar’s Office.
  • The fall grade appears on the transcript with a designation such as “A*” (explanation on transcript) and not factor into the GPA; faculty may also choose “IP” for “in progress”. Fall grades are replaced by spring grades at the end of spring term. That grade will appear on the transcript and be used to calculate GPA with all academic credits.

300/3000 Level Courses for Graduate Students

For graduate students only. Undergraduate candidates for the master’s degree may enroll with the permission of the instructor.

Bracketed Courses

Bracketed courses appear in Course Search as potential future offerings. To view bracketed courses, uncheck “Show only offered courses” in the Advanced search in my.harvard.

  • A course may be bracketed for three consecutive years. After that, it must be offered or inactivated.
  • All bracketed courses must list Next Term Offered information.

Courses Offered Between FAS Departments

Departments should work closely with the Registrar’s Office to understand the implications of establishing the same course in different departments.

Consider creating a multiple offering course, where a single course is offered in two or more FAS departments or committees under the same course ID. Multiple offering courses are automatically equivalent in the Academic Advising Report.

Courses Offered Between FAS and Other Harvard Schools

Courses that are jointly offered by another Harvard school should create a combined section in the Schedule of Classes. A combined section ensures enrollment into the correct class for FAS students.

Features of the Schedule of Classes:

Terms and Meeting Times


Most FAS courses are one full term, 4 credits:

  • Fall Term – course offered in the fall
  • Spring Term – course offered in the spring

Schedule full-year courses in two parts - one class in fall (part A), one class in spring (part B). See Special Types of Courses under Features of the Course Catalog.


You can schedule shorter duration courses during six sessions throughout the academic year:

  • Fall 1 / Fall 2 / Spring 1 / Spring 2: courses are worth 2 credits each, except for intensive courses worth 4 credits.
  • January (JAN) session: only GSAS students may enroll.
  • Summer session: only matriculated GSAS students may enroll. Consult the Courses team if you need to add this type.
  • Dynamic (DYN) session: GSAS courses used as placeholders for variable amounts of credit earned for research or teaching (typically 4--16 credits); ungraded. Consult the Courses team if you need to add this type.

Currently, the Faculty has not specified a minimum or maximum number of classroom hours for a class to be considered a 2 credit, 4 credit, or full year 8 credit course.

Meeting Days and Times

All FAS classes, sections and labs must start and end at designated times.

Instructors and Grading Access

Instructional Staff Assignments

Properly listing instructors is critical because it: permits access to my Courses in my.harvard under Teaching/Advising; enables ability to grant instructor permission; allows Canvas website access; enables grading access; determines who is evaluated by students. Add and edit instructor names in the Schedule of Classes under the Meetings tab.

  • Manually add a Head Instructor(s) to all FAS courses. Head instructors:
    • Are the official “head” of the course
    • Display in Course Search by default
    • Are required to post grades (‘Access’ set to ‘Post’ in the Schedule of Classes)
    • May approve enrollment requests
    • Must be added by the department to the Schedule of Classes
  • Manually assign Instructors. Instructors:
    • Are typically additional teaching faculty
    • Display in Course Search by default
    • May instruct the course, or certain individual class meetings or sections
    • May enter and approve grades, but not post them (‘Access’ set to ‘Approve’ in the Schedule of Classes)
    • May approve enrollment requests
    • Must be added by the department to the Schedule of Classes
  • Review Teaching Fellows. Teaching Fellows:
    • Are Harvard-affiliated graduate and/or PHD students
    • Do not display in Course Search
    • Automatically feed to the Schedule of Classes after they are appointed in Aurora, (system of record for instructional support staff)
    • May instruct the course, class meetings or sections
    • May not approve or post grades but with the Head Instructor approval may have Grade Access in the Schedule of Classes
    • May approve enrollment requests
  • Review Teaching Assistants. Teaching Assistants:
    • Are typically graduate students from another institution, or a post-doc, researcher or administrator from another Harvard school
    • Do not display in Course Search
    • Automatically feed to the Schedule of Classes after they are appointed in Aurora, (system of record for instructional support staff)
    • May instruct the course, class meetings or sections
    • May not approve or post grades but with the Head Instructor approval may have Grade Access in the Schedule of Classes
    • May approve enrollment requests
  • Additional instructional support staff. Add to classes using FAS allowable roles and grade access.

Can’t find an instructor in my.harvard?

Give the instructor permission to teach in your department in the Instructor/Advisor table.

  • See the Workflow for Update Inst/Adv Table to edit the instructor's list of approved departments.
  • Faculty from other Harvard schools must be added by the Registrar’s Office.

Assigning instructors for 300- or 3000-level courses

Courses at the 300- and 3000-level often have multiple instructors each term who work with individual students on Reading and Research.

  • Each instructor must have their own class section in the Schedule of Classes
  • Each instructor assigned to a section must have access to post grades.

Enrollment Caps and Instructor Permission

Enrollment Capacity

Most FAS courses should be open to most students. Courses with limited enrollment must also require instructor approval to prevent “first-come, first-served" enrollment. Set the enrollment capacity in the Schedule of Classes. Set instructor approval in the Course Catalog and the Schedule of Classes.

  • Tutorials and 300/3000 courses must require permission of the instructor
  • Limited enrollment courses must require permission of the instructor

Instructor Permission

Any course may require instructor permission for enrollment. Courses that limit enrollment must also require instruction permission.

  • Primary (graded) Component: Select Instructor Consent in both the Catalog (Catalog Data tab) and Schedule of Classes (Enrollment Control tab). Consent must agree in both locations.
  • Secondary (non-graded) Component: Keep the default section size to 999. Do not select Instructor Consent or input a cap.

Any instructional staff assigned to a class in the Meetings tab can approve petitions, except for undergraduate Course Assistants (CAs).

! Approving Petitions: If a class is set with instructor permission it must also have at least one instructional or administrative staff member assigned in the Meetings tab to approve petitions during course registration.

Need Assistance?

Course Support

Email: FAS Registrar's Office – Courses team
Call: Leave a voicemail at 617-496-5212

  • for questions related to creating and maintaining courses