daily californian logo


Apply to The Daily Californian!

UC Academic Senate closes loophole that allowed students to obtain online degrees

article image


UC Academic Senate moves to end fully online degree loophole.


We're an independent student-run newspaper, and need your support to maintain our coverage.

MARCH 07, 2023

The University of California Academic Senate passed restrictions last month closing a loophole that allowed students to obtain a degree entirely online.

The university now requires students to take 18 units of the 180 units required to graduate in person to get their degree, according to Melanie Cocco, chair of the University Committee on Educational Policy. These units can be taken at any UC campus regardless of the campus the student is pursuing a degree from.

Cocco said the Senate closed this loophole because potential online degrees, which she is not aware of any UC student completing, could be pieced together by the student, without oversight from the university. Mary Ann Smart, chair of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate, said none of the UCs are currently accredited to offer online degrees.

“A course that is completely remote and doesn’t have a certain number of hours of structured engagement with the students counts as a correspondence course,” Smart said. “UC is not actually allowed to give people degrees based on those kinds of courses.”

Smart added that, due to the residency requirements most colleges at UC Berkeley have, closing this loophole will not change much for campus students. She also said the university is not ruling out the potential for future online degree programs, though no such programs have been approved yet.

Cocco expressed concern with low completion rates for online courses and degrees.

“Online degrees are notorious for not helping students finish,” Cocco said. “We don’t want students to incur debt or not be moving their careers forward if they’re not going to complete their degree.”

Smart and Cocco both emphasized the importance of student engagement with faculty while pursuing their degree. Smart said students should be able to engage with their peers and get the assistance they need from professors and student instructors, opportunities that she said are now only available in person.

Cocco said some majors are suitable for offering an online option, and any major can apply for an exception to the Senate regulation requiring a certain number of online units. Proposals for online degrees will go to the Senate or the UC Office of the President and will be put through an intensive review process, Smart added.

UC Irvine submitted a proposal for an online undergraduate degree program, or OUDP, in Business Administration during the 2018-2019 academic year which was not approved but continues to be researched, according to an Academic Senate paper on OUDPs. Furthermore, an “academic unit” at UC Santa Cruz has proposed an online major in Creative Technologies.

UC Online has also expressed support for two new online minors in Education and Native American Studies, the paper reads.

“There’s a misconception that this regulation was passed to prevent online education — that’s not the goal,” Cocco said. “It’s just to make sure that if we have online education it’s planned and it’s thought through.”

Contact Ella Carter-Klauschie at 


MARCH 07, 2023