The Bulletin: College of Liberal Arts: BFA

The School of Arts and Sciences offers three baccalaureate degrees: the Bachelor of Arts, the  Bachelor of Science, and the Bachelor of Fine Arts. Undergraduate students admitted to the School of Arts and Sciences are admitted specifically into the Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree program or the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree program.  This section describes the degree requirements and academic policies for the BFA degree.

Degree Requirements

Students at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts earn their BFA degree after completing 8 full-time semesters in residence, 120 Semester Hour Units (SHUs) of coursework including 76 SHUs of Studio Art and 44 SHUs of non-studio requirements. No more than 2 Tufts online courses may be used to satisfy non-studio requirements. Tufts online courses taken starting Fall 2020 through Summer 2022 are excluded from this limit.

Non-Studio Distribution Requirements

33 credits/SHUs total

Art History 15 credits/SHUs (5 courses)
English I & II 6 credits/SHUs (2 courses)
Humanities 3 credits/SHUs (1 course)
Social Science 3 credits/SHUs (1 course)
Language/Culture 3 credits/SHUs (1 course)
Science/Technology 3 credits/SHUs (1 course)

Studio Requirements

 

Studio Art 76 credits/SHUs 

Electives

Credits/SHUs

Non-Studio Electives 9 credits/SHUs (3 courses)
Open Electives 2 credits/SHUs

The SMFA features a self-directed curriculum that allows individual artists to develop their own path. We encourage students to pursue a course of study appropriate to their experience and interests. Students work with their advisors and faculty to select those courses best suited to their needs and goals before registration for the fall and spring semesters.

Writing Requirement

Two semesters of college writing are normally required for graduation in liberal arts. In general, students should begin this requirement in the first year. Many students take English 1 (Expository Writing) in the first semester and, in the second semester, English 2 (College Writing Seminar) or Philosophy 2. Students for whom English is a second language may take English 3 with consent of the instructor. A Philosophy 2 class transferred from another college will not count for English 2 or 4. Students may not count Philosophy 2 as English 2 if taken before or at the same time as English 1.

Courses taken toward fulfillment of this requirement must be taken for letter grades, except English 3, which is pass/fail.

There are also other alternatives for satisfying the college writing requirement. In summary, the requirement may be satisfied in any of the following ways:

  • Exemption from the entire requirement by attaining a score of five on the Advanced Placement Test in English Language and Composition or English Literature and Composition; a score of seven on the Higher-Level International Baccalaureate Language A Language and Literature or Language A Literature or; or an A on the A-Level or AS-Level exams in Language, Language and Literature, or General Paper.
  • Exemption from the first half of the requirement by attaining one of the following: a score of four on the Advanced Placement Test in English Language and Composition or English Literature and Composition, a score of six on the Higher-Level International Baccalaureate Language A Language and Literature or Language A Literature or, or a B on the A-Level or AS-Level exams in Language, Language and Literature, or General Paper. Students so exempted from the first half of the requirement must complete English 2 or Philosophy 2.
  • Satisfactory completion of English 1 or 3 and of English 2, English 4, or Philosophy 2.
  • Completion of English 1 with a grade of A or A- (resulting in exemption from the second half of the requirement). This exemption does not apply to writing courses equivalent to English 1 that were taken at another college.

Non-Studio Distribution Requirements

Students must complete 33 credits of non-studio distribution requirements (excluding elective credits), normally totaling 14 or more courses. Distribution requirements must be taken for a letter grade and not pass-fail; elective credits may be taken pass-fail.

Art History

BFA students must complete 15 SHUs of art history coursework (5 courses). In their first semester, BFA students generally complete one (1) Art History course, most often Introduction to Visual and Material Studies. Students may satisfy the Art History requirement with any courses with the BFA Art History course attribute in the online Student Information System (SIS).

Language/Culture

Students may complete the Language/Culture requirement using one course of foreign language study or one course about a specific culture. Tufts language placement exams cannot waive this requirement. All courses that satisfy the Language/Culture requirement have the BFA Language/Culture attribute online in the Student Information System (SIS).

Social Science

Social science courses focus on the study of human behavior and societal institutions. They typically take an empirical approach. All courses that satisfy the Social Science requirement have the “BFA Social Science” attribute online in the Student Information System (SIS).

Humanities

Humanities courses focus on cultural, literary, historical, and philosophical questions. They rely on close reading, interpreting, and critical analyses of various expressions of human experience and thought. All courses that satisfy the Humanities requirement have the “BFA Humanities” attribute online in the Student Information System (SIS).

Science/Technology

Science / Technology courses investigate the basic mechanisms and rules that deal with matter and energy. They may also use quantitative and symbolic reasoning to examine ideas derived from our perceptions of the natural world. All courses that satisfy the Science/Technology requirement have the “BFA Science/Technology” attribute online in the Student Information System (SIS).

Electives

Any 3-credit non-studio, non-physical education course may count as an elective. Students may complete elective courses “Pass/Fail.” BFA students may include up to one (1) additional Art History course toward this requirement. Students may need an additional 2 credit/SHU of any credit bearing coursework to reach the minimum 120 credit/SHU for the degree.

Undergraduate Minor Programs for BFA

The BFA is a unique and comprehensive degree program in fine arts, and as an interdisciplinary program, it is not limited by what would normally be considered a “concentration” or “major.” Although “Studio Art” appears as a “major” on Tufts BFA student records, BFA students may not select any other major, unless they have been officially admitted to the BA/BFA Combined Degree Program. BFA students are encouraged to create their own programs and explore themes in their coursework. To this end, a BFA student may complete any of the Liberal Arts minors or any one of the Engineering minors open to Liberal Arts students. A minor is a coherent group of 4 or more courses, carrying 15 or more SHUs. No more than two courses, regardless of SHUs, used toward the minor may be used toward the BFA History of Art requirement, Studio Art requirement, or Non-Studio Distribution requirement. BFA students may complete any minor that does not significantly overlap with the BFA core requirements. Because the BFA degree is in Studio Art, BFA students may not minor in “Studio Art” or any minor substantially similar to Studio Art, unless explicitly permitted by the SMFA in conjunction with the department or program. Such permissions will be published in advance, with course requirements described, to guide students and advisors on how to avoid prohibited overlaps. All courses used to fulfill a minor must be taken for a letter grade (not Pass/Fail grading option), with the exception applying to no more than two SMFA Studio Art courses taken for Credit/No Credit if that is how the course is normally graded for BFA students.

Additional Graduation Requirements

Graduation Petition

To complete their program and earn their degree, students submit the BFA Student Degree Audit with the Student Services Office by the published deadlines in fall. Students may graduate in May, August (for requirements completed over the summer), and February (for requirements completed during the fall semester). The Commencement Ceremony is held once in May; students who graduated in the preceding February are invited to participate in that years’ Commencement ceremony.

Participation Status

Students who have not completed all degree requirements may participate in commencement ceremonies as a participant only if they 10 SHU’s or fewer left to complete. Students who walk-only in the spring ceremonies will earn their degrees in August after they complete their degree requirements.

Academic Policies

Grading

Studio Courses

Studio courses at SMFA at Tufts use a Credit/No Credit grading system. Students will earn a grade of “CR” for credit if they complete the course requirements and or a grade of “NC” for No Credit if they do not complete the course requirements. CR and NC grades do not affect a students' GPA but NC grades may impact a students’ academic standing.

Non-Studio Courses

Students must complete courses that satisfy non-studio distribution requirements under the traditional letter grading system. Students will pass the course and meet distribution requirements with a grade of D- or above.

Pass/Fail Option

Students may elect to record their grades in certain courses as pass or fail. Students are graded as usual throughout the course. The registrar will transcribe final grades into pass (if D- or better) or fail. A pass has no impact on the grade point average, but a fail will be calculated into students’ grade point average. Students must make all decisions with respect to the pass-fail option within the first 10 weeks of any term. 

BFA students must take non-studio distribution requirements for a letter grade apart from electives and English 3. If a student passes a course graded on a pass/fail basis, they may not repeat the course for credit. If a student takes a course pass/fail and then learns they need the course for a distribution requirement, they may submit a petition to their academic dean to restore the originally assigned grade.

Repeating Studio Courses

Students may take introductory studio courses once for credit and may take intermediate and advanced studio courses twice for credit.

Studio Credit for Courses without the BFA Studio Art Attribute

Students may take up to 9 credits of coursework without the BFA Studio Art attribute. Students may also petition to the SMFA Curriculum Committee to have courses they have already completed count towards the 9 credits allowed under this policy. Courses counted towards the BFA Studio Art requirement may not be counted toward other foundation, distribution, major or minor requirements.

Dean’s List

BFA students are not eligible for Dean’s List because studio classes are completed on a credit/no credit basis.

Pre-Matriculation Credits

Pre-matriculation credits are defined as credits earned from certain scores on Advanced Placement and SAT Subject examinations, scores on examinations, from the IB and A-levels as well as credits earned from college courses taken prior to matriculation at Tufts from any four-year accredited college or university.  BFA students may apply toward their degree pre-matriculation credit amounting to at most five courses, regardless of the number of semester hours. BFA students may apply no more than 2 non-studio courses and 1 studio course (of no more than 4 SHUs) of pre-matriculation test credit towards the overall pre-matriculation credit limit. 

Academic Standing

Satisfactory Academic Progress Requirements

  • BFA students must receive a minimum of 75% of SHUs attempted each semester and maintain a cumulative grade point average of C- (1.67) or better.
  • Grades of Incomplete (INC) will be considered “SHU’s not earned.” Two or more grades of INC within a given semester constitutes unsatisfactory progress.
  • Grades of W will also be considered “credit not earned” for the purposes of satisfactory academic progress. Grades of W do not factor into a student’s GPA.

Failure to Make Satisfactory Academic Progress

  • Academic Warning: Students in good standing who do not make satisfactory academic progress as defined above during any semester will receive an Academic Warning. Students who make satisfactory academic progress for the semester in which they are on Academic Warning will return to good standing.
  • Academic Probation: Students who fail to make satisfactory academic progress as defined above for a semester in which they are on an Academic Warning will be placed on Probation. Students on Probation may still enroll at SMFA at Tufts but they cannot receive federal financial aid. Students on Probation may appeal to retain financial aid one time during their academic career. Students must submit appeals and supporting documentation to the Financial Aid Office for review and approval. Students who make satisfactory academic progress for the semester in which they are on Academic Probation will return to good standing. Students on Probation must meet with the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Advising for the SMFA at Tufts before registering for classes to develop an academic plan that will allow students to return to good academic standing and complete the program.
  • Required to Withdraw (1 semester): Students who fail to make satisfactory academic progress for a semester in which they are on Probation will be required to withdraw for 1 semester. A student who returns after a required withdraw will return on a probationary status. Students who petition for reentry should consider their readiness to resume academic studies.
  • Permanent Academic Withdrawal: If a student returns to Tufts after a required withdrawal, they must remain in good standing from that point forward. If the student meets the criteria for academic probation in any ensuing semester, they may be permanently withdrawn from the university as determined by the SMFA Committee on Academic Standing.

Cross-Registration

Cross-registration allows SMFA students to take courses at other institutions during the academic year. Students do not pay additional tuition or fees for cross-registered courses. Tufts records both SHUs and grades. Students may not cross-register during Summer Session.

ProArts Consortium

The ProArts Consortium is a group of seven visual and performing arts schools in the Boston area: Berklee College of Music, Boston Architectural College, The Boston Conservatory at Berklee, Emerson College, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, New England Conservatory, and The SMFA at Tufts. 

After the first semester of their program, full-time undergraduate SMFA students may cross-register for studio art courses through the ProArts Consortium. Students may cross-register for a maximum of two studio courses worth up to 4 SHU’s total in a given semester. ProArts studio art courses count toward a student’s review board eligibility. Students may take only studio art courses through ProArts. Find more information about the ProArts Consortium at: www.proarts.org.

Boston University, Brandeis University, and Boston College

Up to twenty undergraduate Tufts students may cross-register for in-person courses at Boston College, Brandeis University, and Boston University. Students must be in good academic standing and enrolled full time. Students must take the course for credit and cannot take it pass-fail. Students may take up to one cross-registered course at the above institutions per semester. Tufts students may take up to two courses in departments for which Tufts has not equivalent (e.g., business). Tufts students are subject to the requirements of the course taken at the host institution, including attendance. If students cross-register for a studio art course, the credits will count toward the student’s review board eligibility.

Review Boards

The SMFA’s pedagogy is based on the idea that the development of an artistic practice is an organic and fluid process, one that requires self-direction and intense mentorship. The Review Board is at the center of this unique pedagogical philosophy.

During Review Boards, students talk about their work from the semester with faculty and peers, which highlights the explicit and implicit relationships between the individual works presented. The Review Board helps students explore and articulate their artistic direction, evaluates their needs and achievements, and helps students plan their development as an artist. We urge you to use the critical feedback you will receive on your work. If you have questions about the review board experience and preparation, please do not hesitate to speak with your faculty, peers or members of the SMFA Advising team.

Review Board Participation

Students must have a Review Board at the end of each semester in which they attempted 7 or more SHU’s of studio coursework. Each student signs up for a time slot where two instructors and two peer reviewers evaluate the student’s work. The student participates fully in the review board and is encouraged to bring an artist’s statement. After the Review Board, each reviewer provides a written evaluation, which is kept in a student’s review board file.

Review Boards take place during the exam period at the end of the semester and run through the entire exam schedule, so students should not plan travel until after the review board schedule is finalized and they have received their review board assignments.

Peer Reviewing

In addition to attending their own Review Board, all students scheduled for a Review Board must review two other students’ Review Boards. By reviewing their peers, students hone their conceptual and evaluative skills as an artist. Peer reviewers must:

  • Participate in two (2) Peer Review sessions
  • Arrive at least 15 minutes before their assigned student reviewing time to receive specific board assignments
  • Remain at their assigned board for the entirety of the session;
  • Submit constructive, considerate, and thoughtful peer reviews within 24 hours of your peer review time;
  • Obtain faculty signatures and turn in their completed student reviewing verification form when finished to the Student Services Office.

Students are only assured a peer review assignment at their assigned time. If students arrive more than 15 minutes late for their assigned peer reviewing time, they are marked as absent and may not review the board. If students miss their assigned peer review time, they may “stand by” for another assignment at another time. Students must be present 15 minutes before a scheduled review board to remain eligible for a stand-by assignment. We will assign student reviewers to a board up to 15 minutes past the board start time and each board may have up to three (3) peer reviewers.

Missed Review Boards

If students fail to complete any of the above requirements, they may be penalized with:

  • Academic Warning
  • Academic Probation, which may result in the loss of financial aid (applies if student is already on academic warning)
  • Requirement to withdraw from the university for one semester (applies if student is already on academic 26 probation)
  • Permanent academic withdrawal from the program (i.e. removed from the school; applies if student was required to withdraw from the university in the previous semester)

If a student who misses a review board (as a reviewer or reviewee) has a medical excuse or a documented emergency, by the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs at the SMFA or the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Advising at the SMFA may excuse them from their review board obligations. The student must make up the board no later than early in the next term the student is enrolled in the case of their own review board, and peer reviewing by the end of the next term.

Invited Guests

Guests may be welcome at the discretion of the faculty reviewers of a given Review Board. To preserve the integrity of the critique, faculty have the right to ask any guests to leave the Review Board and invited guests are observers only. Guests must be cleared with faculty reviewers two business days before a scheduled board.

Studio Internships

Full-time and part-time students may earn studio credit for hands-on, professional visual arts work experience outside 24 the SMFA at Tufts. This encourages advanced students to become familiar with the professional arts community in a variety of traditional, new visual media, and community-engaged practices.

Students may receive credit for internships after they have been a student at SMFA at Tufts for at least two semesters. To receive studio credit for an internship, students must register for their internship as a course through the Career Center. Students may register for 2 or 4 SHU’s during the fall and spring semesters and 2, 4 or 6 SHU’s during the summer semester, depending on the number of hours committed to the internship. Internship credits count toward a student’s review board eligibility in the fall and spring semesters.

Transfer Credits

BFA students may transfer up to 38 SHUs of studio art credits and 21 SHUs of non-studio coursework from other approved institutions. A matriculated student may take courses at other accredited colleges and universities and receive credit for them toward a Tufts degree by obtaining approval in advance from the relevant department through SIS. Students may earn transfer credit for courses in which they earn a C or better.

Studio Transfer

Students may transfer undergraduate visual art coursework for studio art credit. Students who have completed college-level coursework in music and or theater/performance may earn up to 24 SHUs of studio art transfer credit on a case-by-case basis. These courses appear on the student’s transcript as transfer credit.

Non-Studio Transfer

Transfer courses must fulfill the distribution requirements of the BFA program and must include a total of 42 contact hours of instruction or more. Transfer courses are not graded and have no impact on GPA. Students should provide final transcripts and course descriptions from previous institutions. In some cases, students may need to provide additional back-up material such as course syllabi or accreditation. Online coursework cannot be transferred into the BFA or the Combined Degree programs.

Summer Transfer Credit

BFA students can take courses at other accredited colleges or universities during summer sessions. Students may transfer a maximum of 15 SHUs of non-studio coursework and 12 SHUs studio coursework from summer coursework.

Students may take a maximum of 9 SHUs of non-studio coursework and 6 SHUs of studio coursework per summer session. Students who wish to take courses elsewhere during the summer and have them transfer in toward their degree requirements must complete the Transfer of Credit process in SIS to seek course content approval from the appropriate department.

Study Abroad

Students may spend up to two semesters of full-time study at other approved four-year institutions or on approved foreign study programs.