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Handbook of Operating Procedures

Semester Credit Hour Determination

Policy Number: 136


Definition and calculation of credit hours


Faculty and students

Date Reviewed:
March 2016
Responsible Office:
Office of the Registrar
Responsible Executive:
Executive Vice President & Chief Academic Officer


A credit hour is a unit of measure that gives value to the level of instruction, academic rigor, and time requirements for a course taken at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (“University”).

On occasion, the University will offer courses in a shortened format. A course offered in a shortened format is any course for which academic credit is given and for which the elapsed time from the first class meeting until the last class meeting or examination period is less than a normal semester or summer session term.  Courses offered in a shortened format must be of the same quality and rigor as courses offered during a normal semester or summer session.


A.  General Determination of Credit Hours

In accordance with 34 CFR 600.2, the Department of Education defines a credit hour for federal programs as follows:

  • One hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out of class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester or trimester hour of credit, or ten to twelve weeks for one quarter hour of credit, or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time; or
  • At least an equivalent amount of work for other academic activities as established by the institution including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work, and other academic work leading to the award of credit hours.

According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (“THECB”), a semester is defined as 15 weeks of instruction (45 contact hours) and a week for final examinations.  See Title 19 Texas Administrative Code §4.6.  To ensure quality of student learning, every course is assumed to involve a significant amount of non-contact hour time for out-of-class student learning and reflection. Semester credit hours, therefore, are based on contact hours. Assuming a lecture format, the traditional 3-hour semester credit-hour course, for example, contains 45 to 48 contact hours.

McGovern Medical School determines the amount of credit awarded for courses in accordance with the accreditation standards of the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (“LCME”), the accrediting body for medical education programs in the United States and Canada.

B.  Courses Delivered in Shortened Format or Online

Distance education and hybrid courses will use the same credit hour requirements as face-to- face courses.

Courses delivered in shortened semesters are expected to have the same number of contact hours and the same requirement for out-of-class learning as courses taught in a normal semester.  For example, if, during a normal semester, a three credit hour course meets for one hour three times per week for 15 weeks (45 contact hours), in a shortened format of five weeks, that course must meet for nine hours per week (45 contact hours) to receive equivalent credit.  This does not apply to rotational classes offered at McGovern Medical School or The University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston.

The Deans are responsible for designating an individual or individuals at each school who will monitor academic expectations and scheduling of all such courses. The designated individual(s) shall maintain records of compliance with institutional standards for all approved course requests.