Georgetown University announced yesterday a major restructuring of its graduate school, discontinuing eight programs--including physics, accounting, and six foreign languages--while pledging to strengthen nine of its best specialties, such as history, English, foreign service, and Arab studies.

"I have been saying to the faculty that Georgetown should only do the things we can do in an excellent way," the Rev. J. Donald Freeze, the university provost, said in outlining Georgetown's new blueprint for its 1,600-student graduate school.

Georgetown's board of directors approved the plan Friday. It calls for the elimination of programs considered weakest and least able to attract students. They are physics, accounting, Russian, French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese and Portugese, which together have 200 graduate students, including many part time.

"It is not just a question of quality, but a question of student demand . . . and also the job market," said Richard B. Schwartz, dean of the graduate school.

The Georgetown plan has prompted "great concern" in the affected departments, Schwartz said. "It is not a pleasant prospect," he said.

The university will accept no new students in the eight graduate fields after September, officials said. All students now in the programs will be allowed to finish degrees, while retaining scholarships or fellowships.

The plan involves no cuts in faculty, Freeze said. But in most cases no new faculty will be hired to replace retirees in the eight fields, and the job slots will be assigned instead to the areas slated for expansion.

The nine programs that have been "designated for excellence"--English, foreign service, Arabic, Arab studies, business administration, linguistics, chemistry, and Spanish--will be strengthened "to the full extent allowed by resources," Freeze said.

Much of the school's $1.6 million in graduate scholarships and fellowships will be gradually shifted to these areas. In addition, they will receive a large share of Georgetown's planned $4 million "faculty development fund" through which teachers can be freed of their duties to pursue research and writing.

Georgetown's restructuring is somewhat unusual, according to David Riesman, a specialist in higher education. "What usually happens when there is shrinkage in this country is not selective curtailment. It is across-the-board cuts in which the flourishing, the mediocre, and the withering" programs all suffer, he said.

"What Georgetown has done is often attempted and only sometimes accomplished. It is a more wise step to take . . . a sad step, but a wise step," he said. Riesman added, however, that cuts tied to enrollment are unique to American education, whereas in other nations "the marketplace doesn't dominate" in deciding what courses to offer.

Spokesmen for the five other major graduate schools in the Washington area--American, Catholic, George Washington, Howard and Maryland--said yesterday there were no plans for any major reductions in graduate offerings, and several expressed surprise at Georgetown's action.

The plan announced yesterday is the result of nearly a decade of "self-analysis" of the graduate program, Freeze said. By building on its strengths and not diluting its efforts, he said, the university can enhance its national and international reputation.

"We have always been aware that our primary mission and our current national distinction are in undergraduate education," Freeze said in a newsletter to faculty this week. He said streamlining the graduate school will allow Georgetown to better concentrate on that mission.

The university began assessing many of its 41 graduate programs in 1975 with a review of enrollment figures and quality of course offerings. Georgetown later brought in evaluators from other schools, and asked each department to draft five- and 10-year plans. A review committee including deans and senior faculty members drafted the final plan.

The plan defined the graduate school's mission as primarily to help students gain entry into government careers and international affairs.

In addition to the 17 programs to be suspended or strengthened, the Georgetown plan includes other categories. Government, philosophy and economics were called "integral" offerings, but those departments are to be restructured "to the satisfaction of the deans and provost" or they will be suspended in 1985.

Latin American and Russian area studies are in need of "radical revision" and will be suspended while changes are made. German, psychology and a master's program in taxation were placed in a "wait and see" status and will be continued without any new funding.