Academic Policies


Students who enroll in the MNSP receive instructions about registering for courses from the program staff before the opening of registration windows. Again, the MNSP uses a streamlined curriculum, where students take courses lock step with their cohort, with variance occurring with the selection of an elective towards the end of the program. A student must be registered to establish eligibility for university and other loans, and to access university services. Students will receive correspondence regarding registration and the staff of the MNSP will be always available for questions and advising. All tuition and fee payments and any indebtedness must be settled before registration can be completed. Students who fail to register and pay all tuition and fees before deadlines specified by the university will be assessed a penalty by the bursar.

Credit Hours

Candidates for the MNSP degree register for three consecutive semesters (Summer, Fall, Spring) if they choose the 12-month option and for five total semesters if they choose the 20-month option (Summer, Fall, Spring, and Fall, Spring in the second year). Both options culminate in 30 credits and a degree in a Master of National Security Policy. These credits are earned by accumulating academic hours through the summer immersion experiences, weekend experiences in the Fall and Spring terms, as well as class work which will be both asynchronous and synchronous in delivery and requirements. 

To be considered full-time, candidates for master’s degrees must register for a minimum of nine credits per semester. All students choosing the 12-month option will be considered full-time students as each semester will have a minimum of three courses (9 total credits), however, students who chose the 20-month option will have four of the five semesters under nine total credits, so they will be considered part-time students. The curriculum and plan of study have been created for students to work together with their cohort and to streamline the experience. Students will, however, be able to select an elective course in their third semester of the program. Due to the master schedule, and when courses will be offered and their sequenced delivery, students will not be able to change the order or number of courses they are taking in a semester beyond choosing the 12-month or 20-month option.

Immunization Requirements

North Carolina law requires students entering a college or university in the state to be immunized against measles, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria, and, in some cases, polio, in addition to a June 29, 2021 mandate from Duke that students have received the Covid vaccination. Each entering student is required to present proof of these immunizations in accordance with instructions posted on the Student Health Services website. While the MNSP is offered as an online/hybrid program, students will need to show proof of these vaccines as they will be on campus for summer, fall, and spring immersion experiences. All required immunization forms should be completed and returned to Student Health Services prior to the first day of classes. Duke University cannot permit a student to attend classes unless required immunizations have been obtained.


Grades in the MNSP Program are as follows: A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-, C, F, I, X, Z, and W.

I (incomplete) indicates some portion of the student’s work is lacking, for an acceptable reason, at the time the grades are reported. Sanford School graduate students have up to one year to resolve an incomplete (I), or it will become a permanent part of the student’s record. The student and instructor should coordinate a timeline for submission of the missing work. Program or continuation fees may be assessed for students who must register for an additional semester to resolve an incomplete.

The grade of X indicates that a student has missed the final examination for a course and must make it up by the end of the fifth week of the following semester to receive a grade for the course.

The grade of Z indicates satisfactory progress at the end of the first semester of a two-semester course. For graduate students enrolled in the summer session, a temporary I for a course may be assigned after the student has submitted a written request. If the request is approved by the instructor of the course, then the student must satisfactorily complete the work prior to the last day of classes of the subsequent summer term.

A grade of W indicates that the student officially withdrew from the course.

A grade of F in a core course will normally result in dismissal. Failure to maintain at least a 3.0 (B) cumulative grade point average or receiving a grade of F in any other course will result in academic probation. To remain in good academic standing, and to graduate

from the MNSP Program, students must maintain at least a 3.0 (B) cumulative grade point average. Students falling below this average jeopardize their financial support and are subject to dismissal.

If a student takes a course for credit at another Duke school, such as The Fuqua School of Business or Duke Law School, which does not assign grades used by Sanford, the instructors should review Sanford grades found at and assign the appropriate Sanford grade accordingly. Courses graded Credit/No Credit cannot count toward graduation requirements. Courses numbered below the 500 level (undergraduate courses) may not be applied toward the required credits needed for a post-baccalaureate degree.

Waiving Required Courses

The program is designed to foster experiential exchanges between the cohort as a whole and among the members of smaller work teams; therefore, it is unlikely that courses will be waived. Instead, students having advanced understanding of certain topics may find opportunities to share their experiences with teammates and will likewise benefit from the contributions of teammates holding expertise in other areas. In the rare instance a student may waive a required course if it is determined beneficial or needed. To have a course waived, the student should consult with the faculty member who teaches the course. If the faculty member consents to waive the student out of the course, the student should fill out a course exemption form available in the “Forms” section of the MNSP student handbook or accessible through the student’s MNSP Sakai organization site and have the faculty member sign it. The student should then return the form to the MNSP staff for final approval. All courses waived must be replaced with other policy-related courses of equal credit value.

Course Listings

A list of courses offered at the Sanford School is updated and posted each semester. Students may consult with MNSP staff to discuss course options and graduation requirements.

Interinstitutional Registration

With MNSP Program approval, students may take their elective course at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, or North Carolina Central University. All interinstitutional registrations involving extra-fee courses or special fees required of all students will be made at the expense of the student and will not be considered part of Duke’s tuition coverage. Information on the interinstitutional registration process is available at

Taking Classes in Other Duke Schools

Students will have the opportunity to take their elective course at other Schools here at Duke. The MNSP Program will seek to create an approved course list for students to take with no additional requirements, however, for some courses students might have to obtain approval from the School or course instructor prior to be registered for the class. 

Independent Study

On rare occasions, a student may wish or need to create a class of their own to study a particular policy issue in depth. The MNSP Program provides the opportunity to create such a course for a fixed credit of 3.0. This course would constitute the sole elective in the program. The work in these independent study classes must be equal to a regular Duke class of the same credit value, and a faculty member must supervise the class. For additional information and to secure the appropriate paperwork, please contact the MNSP staff.

Auditing a Course

Auditing a course gives a student the opportunity to explore an area related to their policy interests or review an area of personal expertise. If a student audits a course, which would need to be paid for as the MNSP is a fee per course program, they will attend classes but may not be required to turn in all assignments or take exams. No grade or credits will be issued for the course; however, it will appear on the student’s transcript with the notation “AD.” If the student withdraws from the audited course after the Drop/Add period, a “WA” (withdraw audit) will appear on the transcript. In order to register as an auditor for a course, the student completes the course audit form available on the MNSP Sakai organization site and either delivers it in person to the Office of the University Registrar, 1121 West Main Street, Suite 1200—Bevan Building, or scans and emails it to registrar@ prior to the end of the Drop/Add period.

Transfer of Credits

With the MNSP set-up as an accelerated, executive program, students must complete all ten course, 30 credits, to obtain the Master of National Security Policy. If there is course duplication, or students take their elective outside of Duke, the MNSP Program will work with students to transfer credits upon request for transfer of credits and approval.

Leave of Absence

Unforeseen circumstances (e.g., family crisis, medical issue) may require a student to take a leave of absence (LOA) from the program for a period of one or two semesters. Students who think they may need to pursue this option should contact the MNSP staff to discuss paperwork required and terms of the LOA. Typically, a student can request an LOA only after completion of at least one full semester of the program.

Withdrawal from a Course

If a course must be dropped after the official Drop/Add period ends for a given semester, the student must formally withdraw from the course. The student completes a Course Withdrawal Form and has it signed by the course instructor before delivering it to the MNSP staff for approval. All withdrawals will be noted on the permanent record as Withdrew (W).

Withdrawal from Program

A student who wishes to withdraw for any reason from the Sanford School during the academic year must notify in writing both the MNSP staff and dean of the Sanford School prior to the date of the expected withdrawal and no later than the last day of classes for that semester. Upon receipt of approval, the MNSP staff will initiate the formal withdrawal process through the Sanford School registrar. Consult the financial aid and student accounts pages of the MNSP student handbook for information on eligibility for tuition refund upon withdrawal.

Master’s Thesis

The MNSP does not require a Master’s Thesis for graduation. All students must complete the ten-course sequence, 30 credits, for the Master of National Security Policy. Included in the curriculum, however, are two project-based courses: a Team-Based Learning for National Security Professionals course as well as a Professional Practice for National Security class. These classes will blend real-world problem solving with student’s professional practice under the direction of a faculty supervisor.