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Graduate instruction at the university began in 1876 with courses at Rutgers College, which conferred its first doctor of philosophy degree in 1884. The college issued detailed regulations governing graduate degrees in 1912 and set up a separate graduate faculty in 1932. The Graduate School–New Brunswick (GSNB) was established in 1952. The expansion of graduate programs on the Newark and Camden campuses led to the formation of the Graduate School–Newark in 1974 and the Graduate School–Camden in 1981.
Eighteen units grant graduate degrees at the university. In addition to the three graduate schools mentioned above, there are schools offering graduate professional degrees in the arts, business, criminal justice, education, law, communication and information, management and labor relations, nursing, planning and public policy, applied and professional psychology, public administration, and social work. The Graduate School–New Brunswick has faculties in the academic arts and sciences, as well as several professional fields. Together with the Graduate School–Newark and the Graduate School–Camden, it is responsible for most philosophical degrees awarded by the university at the doctoral level. The school's enrollment of about 4,000 students is distributed among 69 graduate programs, and its faculty comes from most of the university's academic divisions.
The traditional goal of undergraduate instruction is a liberal education in the arts and sciences, while the traditional goal of graduate instruction is an education that fosters creative research, criticism, and scholarship in a particular discipline. The two goals are complementary. Most members of the graduate faculty at the university teach both graduate and undergraduate courses and are as concerned with general education as with specialization. They know that a university is supposed to be an organization of men and women dedicated to bringing about advances in human knowledge. The measure of a university's success is the degree to which its faculty and students are able to enrich the life of human societies.
The school provides small classes and seminars in its degree programs, enabling students to work closely with faculty members to create programs flexible enough to meet mutual interests and that encourage independent study. Students and faculty members are engaged in common pursuits of understanding without imposing rigid requirements.
Graduate students who earn their degrees at the university leave with a rigorous grounding in their disciplines and possess markedly broader intellectual experience and agility than they had when they began their studies. They will go into careers in the professions, industry, business, museums, research institutions, or into college or university teaching or other work with enhanced leadership abilities. They will carry with them the potential to contribute value to their own lives and to the lives of others.
The Graduate School–New Brunswick has faculties in the academic arts and sciences, as well as several professional fields, and is responsible for all philosophical degrees on the New Brunswick Campus at the doctoral level. The school's graduate students are distributed among 61 doctoral programs and 74 master's programs. The faculty is drawn from virtually all the academic divisions of the New Brunswick campus.
The size of the graduate community is a result of the large number of programs; the actual enrollment of each is limited.