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Course Substitution

On occasion, students may need to seek course substitutions on the basis of a documented disability that inhibits the ability to learn certain subjects. For example, students with certain types of learning disabilities may find it extremely difficult to learn foreign languages or mathematics. While tutoring and accommodations may help some students succeed in these courses, others may be unable to succeed even with the use of academic adjustments and accommodations. In such situations, students may want to consider requesting a substitution for the course in question. Students should note that the University does not grant course waivers. Also, a substitution cannot be granted if the course in question is considered to be an essential part of the student’s academic program or a requirement for certification or licensure.  These guidelines are provided so that Student Disability Services can respond appropriately to the individual needs of the student.


The process established by Student Disability Services (SDS) for requesting a substitution is as follows:

    1. The student must have a diagnosed disability that would inhibit the ability to learn the subject matter in question. Documentation of the disability must be submitted to Student Disability Services. Documentation guidelines may be found on the SDS website or be provided in writing upon request.
    2. Once a major is declared, the student may complete and submit the application for a course substitution, which details past attempts to take the course (or related courses), information about the disability, and a specific request to substitute the course. Students may also request to meet with SDS if they would like to discuss their application and accommodation needs prior to applying.
    3. If the student attempted courses at a previous institution for which they are now requesting a substitution, and the grades are not part of their UTK academic record, they must submit a copy of the transcripts showing the course attempts.
    4. The student may be required to complete a language assessment in Student Disability Services when requesting a substitution of a foreign language course. Students will be notified if this is required and must contact the SDS Testing Coordinator to schedule a time to complete the assessment. Please allow a two-hour block to take the assessment.
    5. The SDS Course Substitution Committee will review the disability documentation, transcript, and the student’s application. Once a determination is made, a decision letter will be issued to the student. If the request is approved, the letter will also be provided to the director of academic advising for the student’s college.
    6. If approved for the course substitution accommodation, students must contact their academic advisor as soon as possible to request a list of courses they may take in substitution. Students who are nearing graduation are encouraged to speak to their academic advisor before applying, to understand how a substitution may impact their degree progression.

Appeal Process  

If the student is not recommended for a course substitution through Student Disability Services, they may appeal the decision to an independent review board. The process for appeal is as follows:

  1. The student must submit a formal letter of appeal to the Director of SDS within 30 days of the denial. The student is encouraged to submit additional documentation that would support the appeal.
  2. A committee will convene to review the documentation and consider the request. The committee members will have full access to the student’s application/request for a course substitution and disability documentation submitted to support the application/request.
  3. The Director of SDS will inform the student via a letter of the committee’s decision and further recommendations or next steps in the process.
  4. If the committee upholds Student Disability Services’ decision, the student may file a formal grievance with the Office of Equity and Diversity.


Apply for a Course Substitution