Catalog Policies

Institute Degree and Certificate Requirements: Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)

CalArts has developed the following minimum standards for receiving a degree or certificate from the Institute. Schools may develop additional requirements on approval of the President and Provost.

I. Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree (BFA) Residency Requirement 

The CalArts Bachelor of Fine Arts degree is a minimum 120 unit, 8 full–time semesters program.* A minimum of one year in residence must be completed and of this minimum at least the final semester before graduation must be in residence. Schools may establish slightly different criteria for the residency requirements under exceptional circumstances and on approval of the Provost or his/her designee.

Curriculum Requirements 

1. Each student must complete the curriculum set forth by the school in which the student is enrolled. 
2. BFA candidates must complete 46 semester units in Critical Studies course work. First year BFA candidates will generally take two Critical Studies courses each semester, for a total of five semester units per semester. In subsequent years students take two to three courses or six units each semester until the requirement is completed. For the required distribution of these courses consult the Critical Studies section of this Course Catalog. Critical Studies courses may not be repeated for purposes of satisfying this requirement unless otherwise stated in the course description.

Transfer Credit 

Transfer credit is accepted only from other regionally accredited postsecondary institutions. Transfer credit is granted only for courses that are relevant to study at CalArts and for which an equivalent grade of “A”, “B”, “C”, or “P” was received. The final semester of any CalArts degree or certificate program must be completed in residence i.e., as a registered student. Under specific circumstances a student who has fulfilled all residence requirements, and has passed a faculty graduation review but who falls short on units or course requirements by no more than one course, not to exceed three units, may take advantage of the following policy.

The student may petition through:

  • The School Dean in the case of a Metier requirement or, 
  • The Dean of the School of Critical Studies in the case of a BFA Critical Studies requirement to: 
    1. Complete coursework, as approved in writing, at another regionally accredited college to serve as transfer credit in fulfilling the outstanding course. This coursework must be completed with a “C” or better or “P”. Students tentatively scheduled to graduate in May can make up the course during the summer after graduation or during the following fall semester only. Students tentatively scheduled to graduate in December can make up the course during the following spring semester or summer following graduation only. Approval of the appropriate Dean must be obtained prior to enrollment for the coursework. Upon completion of the coursework an official transcript must be sent to the CalArts Registrar for transfer toward the CalArts degree. 
    2. Return to CalArts during the following fall semester for tentative May graduates or the following spring semester for December tentative graduates. Tuition will be charged on a per–unit basis, calculated at the current annual tuition divided by 40 (the annual number of allowable units). Approval for return to complete the course must be presented to the CalArts Registrar no later than the last day of late registration of the semester of intended enrollment. Forms for approval of either of these options may be obtained in the Registrar’s Office.

Post–Residence Transfer Credit

This policy defines the number and conditions under which students may transfer external credits to CalArts as pending graduates. All proposed transfer credits must be approved in advance and in writing by the dean (metier or Critical Studies) in consultation with the student's mentor, and by the Registrar. Please note that prior to receiving pre-approval from the Dean and Registrar, the following conditions must be met:

  • The student must have fulfilled all metier and Critical Studies residency requirements. (Please see the policy titled "Institute Degree and Certificate Requirements: Residency Requirement.) 
  • The student must have advanced to the final semester of residence for his/her program (e.g., BFA4-2). 
  • The student has successfully passed his/her graduation review or recital. If s/he has not done so, formal, written arrangements for completing this requirement, approved by the mentor, Program Director and Dean, must have been made (as articulated in the Special Conditions section of the Transfer Credit Approval Form). 

The student must receive the Dean's and Registrar's permission prior to enrolling in any coursework at another regionally accredited institution. If the above conditions are met and the student has received pre-approval from both the appropriate dean and the Registrar, then the student may transfer to CalArts a maximum of five (5) units of credit from another regionally accredited institution. As stated in the policy titled "Institute Degree and Certificate Requirements: Transfer Credit,"coursework must be completed with a grade of "C" or better or a grade of "Pass."

These additional units will be accepted without incurring additional fees, if they are completed within two (2) years after the final semester of residency. If more than two years have elapsed since the end of the final semester of residency, then the student must apply for readmission in order to complete the required units at CalArts.

A student can also complete his/her remaining units at CalArts, either during the academic year at a per-unit cost or during Summer Session. Students who need six or more units to graduate must enroll in the Institute (half-time or more, based on the remaining requirements).

Transfer Credit (BFA), For Purposes of Admission

Students with previous bachelors degrees who are entering the BFA program will be required to complete at least 8 semester units of CalArts Critical Studies credit in order to obtain a BFA degree from CalArts. All other students will be required to complete at least 8 of the required 46 semester units of Critical Studies credit at CalArts. When transfer students seek credit toward the Critical Studies requirement, this credit will be measured against the CalArts component–46 semester units in approved Critical Studies course work to a maximum of 38 semester units. (See School of Critical Studies section for specific requirements.) All transfer credit will be evaluated by the Registrar’s Office in accord with guidelines developed by the School of Critical Studies and consistent with the Institute’s standards.

* Residency Requirement Exception for Academic Year 2020-2021: Given the COVID-19 pandemic is an exceptional circumstance, the Provost has approved a residency exception for Fall 2020.  For students who opt to enroll part-time for Fall 2020, their degree length will not be extended solely for the purposes of fulfilling residency. Students will still need to complete all other requirements of the degree.

Policy Category:
Revised Date:
May 2014
Revision History: