In the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea and lifelong learning, UW–Madison provides Senior Guest auditors (Wisconsin residents aged 60 and older) and regular Guest auditors (those under age 60) access to audit courses on either a cost-free or reduced-fee basis. This opportunity is based on guidance provided from the UW System Board of Regents, Class Audit Policy (Regent Policy Document 4-10). Per this policy, “Class auditing provides participants with the opportunity to attend UW System classes in order to access the information and materials shared in those courses, often for professional development or lifelong learning goals.” To utilize the audit privilege at UW–Madison, auditors apply through Adult Career and Special Student Services (ACSSS), the admitting office for University Special and Guest students. In Spring 2022, there were over 800 guest auditors admitted and enrolled in courses.
Guidance for auditing:
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What is auditing?
Auditing is defined as sitting in on and not actively participating in a lecture course. Auditors are not expected to recite, perform, take examinations, or purchase books, although regular attendance is expected. Courses that by their nature require active participation or performance are not typically available on a Guest auditor basis.
Courses NOT typically available for auditing:
- conversational languages
- studio and performing arts
- participatory writing, math, computer, and other science lab courses
- independent study and directed study courses
- seminar, research, and colloquial courses
It is always the instructor and/or the department decision to allow auditors into department classes. It is also up to instructors, at the point of granting permission to audit, to make clear what type of class participation will be allowed as an auditor. Instructors determine what level of participation, if any, they prefer from auditors. The intent of the System policy is there be no additional classroom/laboratory space requirements or increased instructional costs as a result of allowing auditors into classes. Thus, as a general rule classes which are highly participatory should not be open to auditors. Additional key factors include actual physical space for auditors in the class after credit students have enrolled, and the in-class dynamics created for credit students should auditors be granted permission to audit. Auditors benefit immensely from the opportunity to engage in lifelong learning, and in many cases they contribute to creating a much more vibrant and inclusive classroom for credit students.
Do I have to allow guest auditors into my course?
No. If the course is not conducive to auditing based on our “What is Auditing?” guidelines, the instructor can choose to either deny permission to audit or allow any level of participation with which they are comfortable, with the understanding that per Regent Policy Document 4-10, 2.a. “There be no additional classroom/laboratory space requirements or increased instructional costs resulting through implementation of this policy.” We defer to the instructor/department to make the final decision regarding permission to audit or participation level. An auditor who is interested in having full access to the course, earning credit and a grade for it, can be directed to apply as a credit-seeking University Special student in one of our tuition-paying classifications. Our office respects all permission decisions made by departments and instructors and asks auditors to respect those decisions as well. We do not regulate or monitor instructor/departmental decisions and will work with faculty/staff and our auditors to support those decisions as needed.
What process should a guest auditor follow to audit a class?
Auditors must complete a University Special student application and be admitted before the start of the term in which they would like to audit a course. Senior guest auditors (those 60+) must fill out an online “Permission-to-Enroll” form for the course they would like to audit. The form is typically available in the two-week period before the start of each term. Once the form is completed by the auditor, the instructor of the course will receive an email with specific instructions for the request. In many cases audit permission can only be granted on or after the first day of classes as we are aware instructors may not know of availability in courses until that time.
Auditors (those age 59+ or younger) can be referred to the guest auditor webpage for more information on how to request to permission to audit.
Or if you are unsure what category of guest auditor they are, refer them to our office and we will assist them. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-263-6960.
What should I do if an auditor reaches out to me directly to request permission to audit a course?
Please refer the Senior guest or guest auditor to the appropriate website which has instructions on how to request permission to audit a course. Senior guests (age 60+) should visit the Senior Guest Auditor webpage, and guest auditors should visit the guest auditor webpage. Or if you are unsure what category of guest auditor they are, refer them to our office and we will assist them. We can be contacted by email, email@example.com or phone, 608-263-6960.
What if an auditor wants to participate in class, take tests, or do homework?
Guest auditors should only expect to sit in on courses, and not actively participate, recite, perform, or take examinations. If the course is not conducive to auditing based on our “What is Auditing?” guidelines, the instructor can choose to either deny permission to audit or allow any level of participation with which they are comfortable, with the understanding that per Regent Policy Document 4-10, 2.a. “There be no additional classroom/laboratory space requirements or increased instructional costs resulting through implementation of this policy.” We defer to the instructor/department to make the final decision regarding permission to audit and participation level. Auditors who are interested in having full access to the course, earning credit and a grade, can be directed to apply as credit-seeking University Special students in one of our tuition-paying classifications.
What type of grade do guest auditors receive?
Auditors do not receive a traditional letter grade, and should instead receive a final grade of either S (Satisfactory) or NR (No Report). These grades are based on whatever audit criteria the instructor conveys to the auditor prior to granting permission to audit (e.g., you must regularly attend my lecture class and not participate) and whether or not the auditor meets these requirements at the end of the course. For example, a grade of NR might be given to an auditor who indicated they would attend the class but then never or rarely attended. Audit courses do not satisfy any credit, coursework, or degree requirements.
What if an auditor is being disruptive and/or inappropriate during class?
As an officially enrolled UW–Madison student, auditors are required to adhere to all university regulations and must refrain from engaging in any nonacademic misconduct.
If an auditor becomes disruptive, instructors can first remind them of these official policies and any of the initially agreed-upon conditions of the audit (e.g., we agreed you were welcome to sit in on my lectures but we also discussed how you would not be allowed to participate in class discussions). If there continue to be issues, please reach out to our dean and/or Special student advisors in Adult Career and Special Students Services (608-263-6960 or firstname.lastname@example.org). In more serious situations instructors can work directly with the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards and/or with the UW–Madison Police Department.