down arrowMenu

College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

MSW Retention Policy

MSW Retention Review Policy

The Master of Social Work (MSW) program has developed the following student retention procedures. The faculty considers not only academic abilities and skill performance when making retention decisions about students, but also such aspects that call into question a student’s ability to practice as a professional social worker.

The following procedures apply in instances where there are concerns about retaining students in the MSW program. The retention review process is initiated when the faculty and instructors have questions about a student’s progress, performance, or behavior in the program and is not the same as a student grievance, which is initiated by a student who feels aggrieved because of something that an instructor has or has not done. Copies of the grievance procedure guidelines and grievance forms are available in the Office of the Graduate College.

Students admitted to the M.S.W. Program are expected to abide by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics, the Iowa Administrative Code (645 IAC 282), and the UNI Student Conduct Code (Section 3.02).

The MSW Evaluation and Retention Committee is charged with the responsibility of reviewing faculty concerns regarding student achievement or behavior, approving student remedial plans, and making the ultimate decision regarding the student’s future in the program.

The Retention Review Process

Every effort is made to handle faculty concerns about student performance and progress in the program on an informal basis and to work together to resolve these concerns. To initiate the review process, a report (either oral or written) is made to the MSW Program Director. There are two levels to the process: informal and formal review.

All correspondence with students regarding faculty concerns will be documented and placed in the student’s file.

I.       The Informal Review Process

At least two days prior to the meeting, the student is informed, in writing, of the concern. A social work faculty member, along with the program director, meets with the student and expresses his/her concerns about performance and status in the program. During this meeting, the student is given time to respond to the concerns, and together the faculty member, program director, and the student establish a plan to remedy the situation. At this time, the student is informed that the concern and plan of action will be discussed with the MSW Evaluation and Retention Committee. Following the committee meeting, the faculty member who initiated the discussion with the student and the program director will again meet with the student to share any additional pertinent information or additions to the action plan. Following the student-faculty discussion, the plan is finalized and the program director sends a written copy to the student and all members of the MSW Evaluation and Retention Committee. The plan should include specific steps to enhance performance and will include a timeline, which the program director will monitor.

The intent is to develop a specific plan of action to remediate a concern at an informal level. Suggestions for remediation may include individual or group counseling, supervised reading and follow up in a particular area, repeating a course (students are only allowed a one time repeat of a class and cannot repeat more than one course in the curriculum), receiving more specific feedback and assistance from a particular faculty member, or utilizing the Academic Learning Center.

At the end of the agreed upon timeline, the program director and the initiating faculty meet with the student to discuss goal attainment. Following this meeting, the program director and faculty member meet with the MSW Evaluation and Retention Committee to discuss attainment of the specific goals. If the Committee members agree that satisfactory progress has been made, this information is shared in writing with the student by the program director, a copy is sent to the committee members, and a copy is placed in the student’s file. If the Committee thinks that satisfactory progress has not been made, the formal retention review process is initiated.

II.                The Formal Review Process

If it is determined that the plan of action outlined in the informal review process has not been satisfactorily achieved, the student is invited to meet with the MSW Evaluation and Retention Committee. During this retention review meeting, the student is first given the opportunity to share pertinent information about the plan of action. The committee members also share perceptions at this time with the student.

After the student has had adequate time to be heard, she/he is excused from the meeting and the committee engages in further discussion and review as necessary in order to make a decision between three options:

  1. The student will be allowed to continue in the program without restrictions because the concerns do not warrant further action, as determined by the information and evidence provided to the retention review committee by the student and parties relevant to the problem or situation.
  2. The student may be placed on “professional probation” with specific outcomes and criteria specified for remediation. These procedures will be placed in writing, with copies to the student, faculty, MSW Program Director, and Graduate Dean. A copy will be placed in the student’s file, as well. The probationary plan will be monitored by the program director. At the end of the time period specified for remediation, the MSW Evaluation and Retention Committee will meet to discuss whether to remove the student from probation, continue probation with a new set of recommendations and timeframe, or be suspended from the program.
  3. The student may be suspended from the program. If the student is suspended from the program, he/she may not enroll in further coursework in social work. After this decision is made, it will be communicated in person to the student by the program director and in writing to the student, faculty, and Graduate Dean. A copy will be placed in the student’s file, as well.


The student may appeal within 10 calendar days after being notified of the decision. Extenuating circumstances on the agreed upon timeline may be extended as necessary by the MSW Program Director. Appeals are made through the Graduate College.


The Department of Social Work believes that the stated procedures are in accord with accepted educational practices at the University of Northern Iowa.

III.               Student Rights

  1. A student who is accused of violating a department regulation may admit his/her alleged misconduct, or he/she has the right to have his/her alleged misconduct determined by the established hearing procedure, with the subsequent right of appeal.
  2. Students have the right to question the legality or fairness of rules and regulations of the department through established committees and other appropriate channels.
  3. Information from disciplinary or counseling files may not be available to unauthorized persons on campus or to any person off-campus without the express consent of the student involved.