A remarkable point of this community is that it makes people realize that academia varies more than you think it does.

One of these variations is the structure of the different education levels. While the PhD level has a somehow clearly distinguishable character everywhere, the structural difference between the Bachelor's level, which counts as undergraduate education, and the Master's level, which counts as graduate education, might be more fuzzy.

In many European countries, before the Bologna process, there was not really such a thing as an undergraduate education: you would have studied for 4-5 years straight and got a Master's, without getting any Bachelor's.

After the Bologna process, many things have changed, but in several cases the way in which education is organized at the Bachelor's and Master's levels is exactly the same. Master's courses are just more advanced, and you don't get an advisor until the very end, when, once exams are almost completed, you start working on your Master's thesis.

Thus, from my point of view, most of the undergraduate questions are automatically generalizable to graduate education at the Master's level. If a student asks about something that happens in a course, there's no difference whether this course is at the Bachelor's or at the Master's level.

What kind of undergraduate questions are not really generalizable to graduate education then? How can we draw a universal line?

  • We may want to treat this as a big list with each answer having a single type of question so people can vote.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Apr 22, 2016 at 20:47
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    @StrongBad Yes, that is a possibility, but I fear it might be a bit limitative at the beginning of the discussion. Commented Apr 22, 2016 at 20:54
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    I am sad to say that so far our "line" seemed to be "does the question claim that this is about a graduate course?".
    – xLeitix
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 12:35
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    Why is this question on meta? Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 17:20
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    @silvascientist Because it's about the on-topicness of undergraduate questions on Academia.SE. Thus, it's a meta question. Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 17:35
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    Possible duplicate of Why does AC.SE exclude undergraduate students?
    – jakebeal
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 14:53
  • I've voted to close this as "possible duplicate" because I believe my answer to the linked question applies in general: this isn't so much about classes as about excluding the vast amount of non-academic aspects of going away to college and college life, which don't have much to do with academia and a lot with the transition from childhood to adulthood.
    – jakebeal
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 14:56
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    @jakebeal I somehow agree with the answer to your other question (though, again because academia -- and the world -- varies, in many countries undergrad life does not comprise sports, underage drinking, and living in dorms). However, as xLeitix rightly points out, the discriminant for closure thus far seemed to be mostly that of whether the questioner declares being a graduate or undergraduate student. Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 19:21

3 Answers 3


Going by this answer, questions specific to undergraduate life (“sports, underage drinking, living in dorms, being able to make your own choices for the first time, etc.”) should be off-topic.

Admittedly there isn’t such a thing as a specific undergraduate life in many countries (including mine), but that’s not really a problem, as this also means that there are no questions to ask about it – not that we get many questions about undergraduate life at all.


I think questions on undergraduate admission exams (e.g., SAT and ACT) and application process (e.g., US common application and UK UCAS) are not generalizable.

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    In case of a list, it is probably better to have upvote=generalizable and downvote=non-generalizable. Commented Apr 22, 2016 at 22:22

I agree with Massimo Ortolano about the similarity between Masters and undergrad courses, but I disagree with what's off-topic. I think a more important question isn't so much the difference between undergraduate and graduate, but what constitutes academia.

This site is for academics of all levels—from aspiring graduate and professional students to senior researchers—as well as anyone in or interested in research-related or research-adjacent fields. (What topics can I ask about)

It looks like academia is primarily defined by research, not taking classes. I personally think any course-related questions that don't have to do with research or admissions to a research position are off-topic.

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    So questions about teaching and grading are off topic?
    – StrongBad
    Commented Apr 23, 2016 at 0:55
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    If this were the case, we would probably have to consider as off-topic more than 50% of the (already asked) questions. Commented Apr 23, 2016 at 8:32
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    It may not be practical, but I tend to agree with this - I think coursework questions are very rarely particularly interesting, and it's even more rare that they pertain very clearly to the scope of this Stack Exchange. However, given that we have a long history of considering course work questions in scope as long as the "sound" like they are about graduate courses, it is probably too late to back out now.
    – xLeitix
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 12:33

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