Overview

Per Federal Regulations, students must maintain satisfactory progress in order to continue to be eligible for Federal Student Loans. Students will not be eligible for Financial Aid funds, including Federal Student Loans should the APC recommend the student withdraw from the MBA Program.

Each student's progress toward meeting the standards for the award of the MBA degree is evaluated at intervals throughout the course of the Program. The Academic Performance Committee (APC) performs this function on behalf of the School. The APC is comprised of faculty and MBA Program administrators appointed to ensure appropriate equitable application of program standards.

To support the educational goals of the MBA Program, the APC places emphasis on various performance dimensions at different points in the Program. Evaluation of the Required Curriculum (RC) focuses primarily (but not exclusively) on students' basic abilities and mastery of core concepts presented in RC courses. This mastery is required as a foundation for satisfactory completion of the elective course year and for performance as a business leader. Evaluation of the Elective Curriculum (EC) places greater emphasis on students' demonstrated mastery of these skills, full commitment to HBS coursework, as well as adherence to the social contract within the HBS community, as defined by the HBS Community Values, and to the MBA Program Honor Code.

Based on its review of student performance, the APC may require a student to withdraw from the School. During this time, students may undertake work to remedy any issues. Students may petition the APC to return to the School and complete MBA degree studies for up to five years from date of withdrawal.

Grading Guidelines / A brief guide to category grade designations

At the conclusion of each course, instructors give students one of four grades designated as Category I, II, III, and IV. These grades are reported to the Registrar.

  • Category I: Given to the top 15%–20% of students in an RC section or the top 15%–25% of students in an EC course section.
  • Category II: Given to the next 70%–75% of students in an RC section or the next 65%–75% in an EC course section. The actual number of Category II grades is subject to the number of Category I grades assigned.
  • Category III: Given to the lowest-performing 10% of students in a RC section or an EC course section.
  • Category IV: Seldom assigned; designates failure of achievement and/or commitment and, therefore, failure to meet minimum standards of the course. If Category IV is used in a course, the combined number of students who receive Categories III and IV must equal the lowest 10% of the section.

While grading varies considerably among courses, grades are typically calculated from:

  • Class participation: 30%–50%.
  • Written mid-term exams: approximately 5%–15%.
  • Written final exams: approximately 30%–60%.

Designations of Incomplete and No Academic Credit are not considered grades. However, their effect on a student's academic status can be significant. Grades reported to the registrar for an individual student are not averaged. No determination of rank or academic standing is made, except for the purpose of awarding academic honors.

Academic Performance Committee / Evaluates students' progress toward the MBA degree

Academic Difficulty - Thresholds for Classifications of Academic Difficulty.pdfAcademic Difficulty - Thresholds for Classifications of Academic Difficulty.pdf

In the academic performance review process, the MBA Program addresses three classifications of academic difficulty:

  • Academic Concern
  • Academic Alert
  • Academic Review by the APC

In addition to this process, an instructor may speak privately with a student whose academic performance needs improvement. The instructor may also recommend that the student seek assistance from one or more MBA Program resources. The APC and the MBA Program administration are committed to providing reasonable support to any MBA student who encounters academic difficulty at HBS. We encourage any student who feels that s/he might benefit from assistance or guidance, whether academic or personal, to consult any of the support services at HBS. Seeking assistance at HBS is regarded as a demonstration of maturity, not an admission of personal deficit or failure.

The three types of academic performance consideration are described briefly below. Please see the Categories of Academic Difficulties for the criteria for each.

Note that these categories are designed to support the student and provide resources so they can be successful in the MBA Program. Students who fall in the category of Academic Alert or Concern are considered to be making Satisfactory Academic Progress and are not under Academic Review. Academic Review requires a student to petition the Academic Performance Committee in order to continue in the program. The decision of the Academic Performance Committee is final and appeals are not accepted.

Academic Concern

When indicated, the MBA Program Administration sends a student a Letter of Concern immediately after grades are released at the end of the term. The letter expresses concern about the student's academic performance, conveys the School's desire to fully support the student's progress, and cites available resources to help the student devise strategies for improvement.

Academic Alert

Students placed on Academic Alert are notified of their status with a Letter of Alert as grades are released at the end of a term. The letter expresses concern about the student's academic performance, conveys the School's desire to fully support the student's progress, and cites available resources to help the student devise strategies for improvement. 

Academic Review / Conducted by the APC when students cross a threshold of academic difficulty

Academic Reviews are conducted by the APC after Terms 2, 3, and 4, and are completed before the beginning of the subsequent term or graduation ceremonies. If a student becomes subject to Academic Review, the student will be notified of his/her status and informed of the next steps in the process, including petitioning the APC for permission to graduate or continue in the MBA Program. Coming under Academic Review does not automatically indicate that the student has failed to make Satisfactory Academic Progress. This assessment will be made during the Academic Review.

For students subject to Academic Review, Instructor Evaluation Forms are obtained from all of the student's instructors to provide information about the student's overall performance. In addition to Instructor Evaluation Forms and the written petition prepared and submitted by the student, the APC may gather additional information about a student, as appropriate. After careful deliberation, the APC may require a student to withdraw from the MBA Program or may allow a student to continue in the Program, with or without specified conditions. These conditions are assigned solely at the discretion of the APC (e.g., specific courses to be taken and specific grade requirements for satisfactory performance).

To reach a decision that would allow a student under review to continue without interruption in the MBA Program, the APC must be satisfied that the student will meet the Standards for Award of the MBA Degree. The APC must be able to conclude that there is reasonable probability, in the judgment of the Committee, that the student can successfully complete the specified academic standards of the Program in the following academic periods. Based on all applicable evidence, the APC will consider whether it is satisfied that:

  • The student's inability to meet academic standards resulted from circumstances that are no longer present and are not expected to recur.
  • Evidence exists that the student's academic ability and intellectual capacity are greater than his/her performance in the Program to date.
  • The student demonstrates sufficient professional promise, motivation, and maturity to merit his or her continued participation in the Program, allowing more time to determine the student's capacity to qualify for the MBA degree.

In the absence of a specific finding as described above, the APC may require a student to withdraw from the MBA Program. Students who have not made satisfactory academic progress will be required to withdraw. When withdrawn, students are ineligible to be considered for financial aid. Students who are permitted to continue in the program without interruption are considered to be making satisfactory academic progress and are eligible to be considered for financial aid.

Students who are subject to Academic Review at the end of the EC might not be recommended for the award of the MBA degree. The APC may, at its discretion, offer a student the opportunity to correct deficiencies in his/her record and, in such an event, will determine how this requirement must be fulfilled. If the APC allows a student to make up deficiencies in his/her academic record, the student must fulfill all such requirements within two years following his/her final term at HBS.

Application for Readmission after Required Withdrawal

The APC must approve the readmission to the MBA Program of a student with previous academic difficulty. This process occurs annually each spring. If the APC decides against readmission, it will notify the applicant directly. If the APC decides in favor of readmission, it will notify the student and the Registrar of any special course work or performance conditions under which the APC has approved the student's readmission.

A student has the right to petition for readmission within five years after his or her withdrawal from the MBA Program. If a student is readmitted to the School, the APC will determine in each case the specific program of instruction and minimum performance criteria for the student. This may include the type and number of courses taken as well as the duration of work required.

Immediate Dismissal

In certain circumstances, acting for the faculty, the APC may require a student to withdraw from the Program at any time during the year, if it determines that:

  • The record of unsatisfactory academic performance to date would make it impossible for the student to satisfy the requirements for the MBA degree.
  • The student's continued presence in the classroom is detrimental to the educational process.