The recognition of graduate study at the University of Pittsburgh began with the awarding of Master of Arts degrees--two in 1836, one in 1845, three in 1848, and two in 1849. The record does not distinguish between earned and honorary degrees, but apparently 33 MA degrees had been awarded by 1870. These degrees were conferred for study beyond the Bachelor of Arts degree and before specific programs or minimum requirements for advanced degrees had been established.

This system continued until 1884 when Chancellor Goff set up a two-year professional study program leading to a Master of Philosophy or a Master of Arts degree and a three-year program leading to a Doctor of Philosophy degree. Before admission to these graduate programs, each student was required to show proficiency in three areas of study as tested by written and oral examinations. For admission to the Master of Arts program, each student was required to have completed the four-year Bachelor of Philosophy degree in the Scientific course. The Master of Philosophy degree was, in fact, the predecessor of the Master of Science degree. Students were permitted to study in absentia under the direction of the faculty, but were required to submit annually to a rigorous examination in all prescribed courses. In addition, both master's and doctoral candidates were required to prepare and defend theses.

Between 1885 and 1903, there were 25 Master of Philosophy, 34 Master of Arts, and ten honorary Master of Arts degrees awarded. Apparently, no Master of Philosophy degrees have been awarded since 1903. Three Doctor of Philosophy degrees were awarded in 1886 and a total of 31 had been conferred by 1915. Between 1888 and 1900 ten honorary Doctor of Philosophy degrees were awarded, but apparently none have been awarded since then.

In 1906, new rules were formulated for graduate study, requiring students to be in attendance and requiring the completion of one year of study or 30 credits for the master's degree and three years or 90 credits for the doctoral degree.

The catalogues of 1908 and 1909 announced the establishment of the Graduate School with five departments (Psychology and Education, English Literature, Chemistry, History and Political Science, Economics and Sociology) offering courses for the Doctor of Philosophy degree, and these plus five additional departments (Biblical Literature and Comparative Religion, Greek, Semitic Languages and Literatures, Biology, and Astronomy) offered courses for the Master of Arts degree. The program of studies for the MA degree required one major and a minor subject and the program for the PhD degree required one major and one or two minor subjects, one of which must be from outside the department of the major. A good reading knowledge of at least one modern foreign language was required to receive a graduate degree.
Three Master of Science degrees were awarded in 1907 although the first description of the Master of Science degree appeared in the 1910 catalogue: "The Master of Arts degree will be granted only upon completion of a course mainly literary in character; the degree of Master of Science after one mainly scientific." That catalogue lists 16 departments offering courses for master's degrees and ten offering courses for the Doctor of Philosophy degree. The language requirement became more specific: "A good reading knowledge of both French and German and of other modern languages necessary to carry on graduate work is required of each candidate for the PhD" and "of French or German, or both, for Master's degrees."

In 1910, a faculty committee drafted proposals, adopted by the Board of Trustees in 1913, making the Graduate School an independent administrative unit of the University and authorizing the selection of a Graduate Council. This Council was first appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School and later elected by the Graduate Faculty from the departments offering graduate work. It consisted of representatives from the nine departments offering graduate work at the time: education, economics, ancient languages, romance languages, chemistry, botany, mathematics and physics, geology, and physiology. In 1924, a change in procedure for the selection of the Council was instituted so that 13 faculty representatives were drawn from the following groups of departments: English, fine arts, foreign languages, physical sciences, natural sciences, social sciences, psychology, engineering, business administration, medicine, dentistry, and education.

In 1947 the Board of Trustees adopted resolutions recommended by the University Senate and the Graduate Council (1) grouping the schools and departments in the Graduate School into three divisions: the Humanities, the Social Sciences, and the Natural Sciences; (2) establishing criteria for membership in the faculty of the Graduate School; and (3) defining the Graduate Council and its functions as follows: "The Graduate Council shall consist of 12 full members of the faculty of the Graduate School, four from each of the three divisions of the Graduate School, and the Dean of the Graduate School as chairman, ex officio; the faculty members of the Council shall be elected by the full members of the faculty of the Graduate School of their respective divisions for a term of four years; and the Graduate Council representing the faculty of the divisions, shall be the policy-making body of the Graduate School."

Until 1956, the administration of graduate study was the responsibility of the Dean of the Graduate School and the Graduate Council. At that time, the individual schools and the three Divisions of the Academic Disciplines were given direct administrative responsibility for their graduate programs in accord with the regulations established by the University Council on Graduate Study--formerly the Graduate Council.

In 1968, the Dean of the Graduate School retired from his administrative role and the position he had held was discontinued. General responsibility for the University's graduate programs was assigned to the Provost pending reorganization of the University's graduate structure. The University Council on Graduate Study, the University Administration, and members of the Graduate Faculty cooperated in drafting a proposed reorganization of Graduate Study which was approved by written ballot by the entire Graduate Faculty, and in turn, accepted by Chancellor Posvar. This organizational structure became effective July 1, 1971 and is still the official structure. The procedures for nomination and appointment to the Graduate Faculty were approved in 1972 and revised slightly in 1977.

Thus, since the University’s founding in 1787, graduate education has grown to encompass the School of Arts and Sciences and all 13 of the professional schools, which share a commitment to meet the nation's need for well educated researchers, scholars, and leaders of professions and the tri-state region's need for trained professionals


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