University Policies & Degree Requirements
This section contains information on requirements and policies of the Office of Graduate Studies and the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, both hereafter referred to as “the University”. It is not a complete list of all policies pertaining to graduate students. Only those policies that most commonly affect graduate students are included.
Policies are described in general terms and are intended to help students understand what is expected. They do not reflect the exact language of the official policy and should not be confused with official policy. Specific information and restrictions as well as links to relevant forms may be accessed by clicking on the policy headings. Links to the official policies in the KU policy library are found at the bottom of each policy description. Students are accountable to and should familiarize themselves with the University's official policies.
The following University policies apply to ALL graduate students regardless of degree, program, or department. These are minimum general requirements. Your department or program may have more restrictive policies in any of these areas.
Degree or non-degree seeking applicants must have a bachelor’s degree (as evidenced by an official transcript from the institution the degree was obtained) and a minimum GPA of 3.0 in the most recent degree that was obtained.
Students* not meeting these requirements may be admitted provisionally upon recommendation by the department; however, restrictions on certain type of funding, including GTA/GRA/GA funding, apply to students on provisional admission status. Students should consult the program admissions advisor or Director of Graduate Study (DGS) on their eligibility for funding with admission.
*By Federal regulation, International students seeking F-1 status must meet the standards of Regular Admission. Provisional admission is not sufficient to issue the Form I-20 unless the reason for the provisional admission is English proficiency.
Related Policies and Forms:
English Proficiency Requirements
The University requires all self-identified non-native English speakers, regardless of international or domestic status, to demonstrate English proficiency for admission to any graduate program at KU. There are a variety ways to prove English proficiency:
- Graduation with a baccalaureate degree (or higher) earned in residence from a regionally accredited English-medium U.S. college or university or from a foreign university which conducts all instruction in English and which maintains substantially equivalent bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree requirements
- Satisfactory completion of the entire AEC curriculum with a final university designation of "Proficiency Obtained"
- Employment as an officer in the U.S. military with documentation of selection or promotion to the rank of Major or higher (or the equivalent U.S. Navy or Coast Guard rank)
- Official scores from an English proficiency standardized test (e.g. TOEFL, IELTS-Academic, or PTE), sent by the testing agency to the University of Kansas. Official scores must be less than two years old at the time that Graduate Admissions processes the application.
Applicants that do not meet the minimum scores should review the English Proficiency Chart, provided via the link above, for information about provisional admission and petition processes based on exceptional circumstances.
Applicants should submit their scores or other proof of English proficiency directly to the Office of Graduate Admissions:
Office of Graduate Admissions
313 Strong Hall
1450 Jayhawk Boulevard
Lawrence KS 66045-7535
Related Policies and Forms:
- English Proficiency Requirements for Admission to Graduate Study
- Spoken English Language Competency of Faculty and Graduate Teaching Assistants, Kansas Board of Regents Policy
- Graduate Credit
For graduate students in the College, advising on enrollment and course selection take place at the department level. While units within the College may define full-time enrollment more stringently, the University defines it as follows:
Fall and Spring semesters:
- Enrollment in 9 credit hours;
- Enrollment in 6 credit hours plus a GTA, GRA, or GA appointment, regardless of percentage of appointment;
- Enrollment in 6 credit hours for graduate students using the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD) and Post-9/11 GI Bill – Active Duty;
- Doctoral candidates enrolled in dissertation hour(s). *See Doctoral post-comprehensive enrollment.
- Enrollment in 6 credit hours;
- Enrollment in 3 credit hours plus a GTA, GRA, or GA appointment, regardless of percentage of appointment;
- Enrollment in 3 credit hours for graduate students using the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD) and Post-9/11 GI Bill – Active Duty;
- Doctoral candidates enrolled in dissertation hour(s).
Graduate students are not normally permitted to enroll for more than 16 hours a semester or more than 8 hours in summer session.
While these are KU’s definitions of full-time enrollment, other institutions may have different definitions. Be sure to consult with your financial aid and/or health insurance providers before making enrollment decisions.
Student not enrolled by 11:59pm the day before the first day of classes will be assessed a late enrollment fee. The University Registrar then deactivates the KU ID of any not enrolled by the last Friday in October (for Fall) or last Friday in March (for Spring). Students who wish to enroll after that must pay a fee to be reactivated.
Students who wish to leave their graduate program should inform the department of such plans in writing so that a Voluntary Withdrawal form may be submitted on their behalf.
Deadlines for adding, changing, dropping, or withdrawing from courses entirely, as well any fines associated with the change, are set by the University. Deadlines vary from year to year. Students should carefully review the current Academic Calendar.
The College Office of Graduate Affairs’ (COGA) website has a very useful Enrollment Changes Guide, which provides comprehensive guidance on the forms and endorsements required for different enrollment situations, including late enrollment changes after the published deadlines.
You may also wish to consult the Registrar's page on Effects of Dropping or Withdrawing on your Transcript.
- Discontinued Enrollment
- Enrollment Regulations (CLAS)
- Full-time Enrollment for Graduate Students
- Graduate Coursework Expiration Dates
- Master's Enrollment Requirements
Graduate Credit (Including Transfer Credit)
The Office of Graduate Studies policy on Graduate Credit defines KU’s conditions for the following:
- Definition of graduate credit for the purposes of a course “counting” towards a graduate degree or graduate certificate at KU;
- Transfer of graduate credit to KU from an outside institution;
- Reduction in the required number of graduate hours for Master’s students;
- Counting credit hours taken as non-degree seeking student towards a later graduate degree at KU;
- Counting credit hours taken as a certificate seeking student toward another graduate degree.
The transfer credit option allows master’s students to count graduate-level coursework completed at another institution toward their KU degree. Restrictions apply to what non-KU graduate courses and the number of credit hours that can be counted toward a KU master’s degree, so students should carefully review the information provided in the link above and the related policies below, as well as consulting with their DGS. In all cases, transfer credit must first be approved at the department of program level. To begin the transfer process, students should consult with their DGS to submit the required transfer materials. These include a transcript reflecting the courses to be transferred and descriptions and/or syllabi for the courses in question.
No transfer of credits is allowed for the Ph.D. In circumstances where students enter the Ph.D. program with an M.A. from another intuition or relevant graduate coursework, it may be possible for students to request a reduction in the number of hours required for the Ph.D. Students should consult with their DGS about their enrollment plan.
Reduced Credit Hour Degree
Kansas Board of Regents policy defines 30 hours as the minimum for master's degrees at KU. Departments may petition for a reduced hour degree Master's degree for individual students. A reduction in hours is distinct from a transfer of credit and is reserved for those students especially well-prepared to complete a graduate-level degree and able to maintain a superior grade point average. Reduced credit hour degrees are also distinct from transfer credit in that they may be based on non-coursework (e.g. internships, work experience, study abroad, previously completed degrees, etc.) and there are no modifications on the transcript.
Restrictions apply to the number of credit hours that can be reduced for a master’s degree, so students should carefully review the information provided in the link above and the related policies below. In all cases, a reduction in hours must first be approved at the department or program level, so to begin the process for approval, students should consult with their DGS.
Because there is no minimum number of required hours for the Ph.D., reduction of required hours based on prior degrees or experience is determined solely at the program level. Doctoral students should consult with their DGS about their enrollment plan.
Count Toward Degree
The Count Toward Degree form form is an Office of the Registrar Form that allows graduate credit hours taken at KU as a non-degree seeking student to count towards a later degree at KU.
As with transfer credit and reduced hour degrees, restrictions apply, so students should carefully review the information in the link above and the related policies below, and consult with their DGS.
- Graduate Credit
- Count Toward Degree Form
- MA and MS Degrees (on Reduced Hour Master's Degree)
The University supports and encourages interdisciplinary study, which may include graduate students enrolling in coursework at the graduate level that is outside of their primary discipline. The Credit/No Credit (CR/NC) is an option for graduate students who are taking a course that is not required for their degree or certificate and who do not wish to have the course grade reflected in their overall graduate GPA. Rather than a grade appearing on the transcript, the student receives a designation of CR or NC, which does not factor in the GPA.
No course graded CR/NC will count toward the satisfaction of any graduate degree or certificate requirement. This includes, but is not limited to, courses taken to fulfill the Research Skills and Responsible Scholarship requirement for doctoral students.
If a student elects to take the CR/NC option, they must make this election during the CR/NC time frame, which can be found in the Registrar's current Academic Calendar. This period typically begins after the last day to add a class and extends for approximately two weeks. This process must be initiated in the COGA office.
The student should consult with their own program advisor about the appropriateness of the course prior to enrolling. In cases where CR/NC is elected, the course instructor is not informed of the election unless the student chooses to share this information.
Additional restrictions apply. Students should carefully review the information on the Registrar's website.
Related Policies and Forms:
Probation & Dismissal
Probation is an academic status that can be assigned to a graduate student if they are not making satisfactory progress toward completing their degree. The department initiates the probation process and will inform the student what they must do to return to good standing.
Students are most commonly placed on probation if their graduate cumulative GPA drops below a B average (3.0 on a 4.0 scale). In these cases, probation occurs automatically and is reflected on the student’s record for the semester following the semester in which the student’s GPA drops below 3.0. If the student’s overall graduate average is raised to 3.0 by the end of the probationary semester, the student will be automatically returned to good academic standing.
Students may also be placed on probation by their departments for other reasons that constituting a failure to make satisfactory progress towards degree. These may include, but are not limited to; failure to make adequate progress on a thesis or dissertation, unacceptable academic performance on program components outside of coursework (e.g. exams), an unsatisfactory result in their department’s annual evaluation, or as a result of going beyond their official time to degree. Students should carefully review the Good Academic Standing policy for graduate students at KU for more information on what constitutes making satisfactory academic progress.
Individual programs may also have additional measures of progress. Students should also consult the Annual Review section of their department graduate handbook and with their program advisor for more information.
If a student is unable to raise their GPA or otherwise meet departmental expectations for adequate academic progress by the end of the probationary period, they may be dismissed from the graduate program. Once dismissed, a student will no longer be able to be enrolled in coursework and cannot complete their degree. Students dismissed from any College graduate program may not be admitted to any other graduate programs in the College.
A student on probation or facing dismissal should discuss their status with their advisor.
The Office of Graduate Studies' Grading policy governs requirements for the grading of graduate students above those described in Article II of the University Senate Rules and Regulations. Additionally, individual schools, departments, or programs may have grading policies that are more stringent than those of Graduate Studies. Students should review the College-specific grading information and consult their adviser and the departmental section of this handbook for additional information that may affect them.
At minimum, for all graduate students at KU, at least a B average is required on course work counted toward any of the master's degrees at KU, and only courses graded A, B, or C (excluding C-) may be counted. Course work counted toward a doctorate, including that for a master's degree if obtained at KU, should average better than a B.
Additional information pertaining to graduate grading can be found on COGA's pages for Retroactive Withdrawal, Incomplete Grades, and Graduate GPA. The Registrar’s Office’s also offers information on the Credit/No Credit option.
- University Senate Rules & Regulations
- Academic Probation
- Dismissed Enrollment
- Probation and Dismissal (CLAS)
The University expects that master’s degree should typically be completed in two (2) years of full-time study, the doctorate degree in five (5) years of study, and both the master’s and doctorate together in six-seven (6-7) years of study.
Students who anticipate exceeding these targets should review the information in the link above and in the policies below, as well as consult with their program advisor to create a timeline for degree completion. In order to support this process, COGA offers DGSs and advisors a Mentoring Agreement Template to use and/or adapt to their own needs. The template may be used with students in danger of going beyond the program’s expected time limits, or simply as an advising tool for all their students. It is especially useful for doctoral students in the dissertation phase.
Related Policies and Forms
- Master’s Degree Program Time Constraints
- Doctoral Program Time Constraints
- Doctoral Comprehensive Exam Time Constraints
- Doctoral Program Profiles with Time To Degree Information
- Graduate Degree Completion Agreement (PDF)
- Mentoring Agreement Template (Doc)
Leaves of Absence
In exceptional circumstances (e.g. cases of illness, emergency, financial hardship, military leave, to pursue family responsibilities, or to pursue full-time activities related to long-range professional goals) it may be necessary for graduate students to take a break from their program temporarily, without having to withdraw entirely from the program. An approved leave of absence allows a student to take a temporary break from enrolling in graduate coursework while remaining in good standing with the University and the department and while “stopping the clock” on their time to degree.
Requesting a Leave of Absence is done via a University petition. University petitions must first be approved and supported at the program level, so students wishing to initiate the petition process should first consult with their Director of Graduate Studies and review their department’s internal petition procedures. Units or the Director of Graduate Study may request documentation to support the student’s need for a leave of absence; however, the only document that COGA requires for the petition is the Leave of Absence Petition form, linked below.
Students on Leave of Absence are automatically reactivated after their leave is over and are eligible to enroll for their intended semester back during the normal enrollment periods. See the KU Academic Calendar for exact dates that enrollment begins.
If at any time plans change and a student wishes to return and enroll before leave was supposed to end they may contact their department to be reactivated early.
Related Policies and Forms:
All graduate students must complete one or more exams as part of their degree requirements. In addition to department or program guidelines, the University has several policies pertaining to the following exams:
- Master's Exam/Thesis Defense for Master's degree
- Doctoral Comprehensive Oral Exam
- Doctoral Final Exam/Dissertation Defense
Before a student is allowed to sit for any of these three exams, pre-approval from COGA is required. COGA checks to ensure that the student has fulfilled certain University requirements. The full list of requirements that COGA checks for may be found via the link in the heading above. Students should work with their departments well in advance of their planned exam date, to schedule their exams in a timely fashion and to ensure that all University policies relating to oral exams are being followed.
In many cases, programs may have additional exams, such as a written pre-qualifying exam. Exam preapproval by COGA applies ONLY to the oral portions of the three exams listed above.
The following are University policies pertaining to these oral exams:
Oral Exam Committee Composition
For all oral exams, the committee members must be appointed members of the Graduate Faculty of KU. In addition, a majority of committee members serving on a graduate student oral examination committee must be tenured/tenure-track faculty holding the appropriate graduate faculty privileges in the student’s program of study.
Many additional restrictions apply, especially for doctoral exam committees. Master’s and doctoral students should carefully review the University policies pertaining to exams, as well as consult with their Director of Graduate Studies when forming an exam committee.
Oral Exam Attendance (Physical Presence)
The Oral Exam Attendance policy describes rules for physical versus mediated attendance (e.g. Skype or phone) at oral exams.
In all cases, a majority of committee members must be physically present with the student for an exam to commence. Both the chair and Graduate Studies representative (for doctoral exams) must form part of this majority. In cases where the student prefers that all committee members are physically present, the student's preference shall be honored.
Master’s and doctoral students should carefully review the policies below, as well as consult with their Director of Graduate Studies in the formation of an oral exam committee.
Related Policies and Forms:
- Master’s Student Oral Exam Committee Composition
- Doctoral Student Oral Exam Committee Composition
- Oral Exam Attendance
- Graduate Faculty Appointments
Doctoral Degree Requirements
In addition to the student’s individual Ph.D. program’s degree requirements, the following are University requirements for graduation with a Ph.D. at KU.
Two semesters, which may include one summer session, must be spent in full-time resident study at the University of Kansas. During this period of residence, fulltime involvement in academic or professional pursuits may include an appointment for teaching or research if the teaching/research is directed specifically toward the student's degree objectives.
Related Policies and Forms:
Continuous Enrollment for Post-Comprehensive Students
During the semester in which the comprehensive exam is completed and each Fall and Spring semester follows, doctoral candidates must enroll in at least 6 credit hours per semester until all requirements for the degree are completed OR until 18 post-comprehensive hours have been completed, whichever comes first. At least one of these credit hours each semester must be a dissertation hour (or an approved dissertation equivalent).
During the semester in which the student will complete this requirement, enrollment may be dropped to only the number of hours required to complete the 18. For example, if a student is entering the Fall semester having completed 15 post-comprehensive hours, they need only enroll in 3 credit hours.
After fulfilling the post-comprehensive enrollment requirement, enrollment may be reduced to as little as 1 dissertation hour per semester or summer session up to and including the semester of graduation.
Students are strongly advised to closely review the University regulations on continuous enrollment for post-comprehensive students (found in the above heading or the policy links below). Failure to properly comply with the policy could result in additional enrollment requirements and tuition expense near the end of your degree program.
Post-comprehensive enrollment requirements also apply to students with GTA/GRA/GA appointments, but these students must be certified to drop their enrollment levels. Departments are responsible for tracking student enrollment and submitting the certification form on the student's behalf through the Progress to Degree (PTD) system at least two weeks prior to the beginning of the semester in which the enrollment will drop below 6 hours. Students who are certified to reduce hours continue to meet the University's definition of full time enrollment, as well as the enrollment requirements of their employment contract.
Related Policies and Forms:
Graduate Certificate Requirements
The University offers a variety of Approved Graduate Certificate Programs to encourage current graduate students to pursue interdisciplinary study. Certificate programs also provide an option for a coherent course of advanced study for those not ready to commit to a full degree program. There are certain restrictions on the timing of admissions to a Graduate Certificate program and the granting of credit for courses completed. Students whose interests or career goals may be served by a Graduate Certificate should familiarize themselves with the University’s policies relating to Certificate programs (found below) early in their graduate career, in addition to individual certificate program requirements.
Related Policies and Forms:
- Graduate Certificate Programs: Eligibility and Admission Criteria
- Policies & Procedures for Graduate Certificate Programs
Graduation Requirements (M.A. & Ph.D.)
In addition to all program requirements, students planning to graduate must complete all University graduation requirements prior to the published Graduation Deadline in a given semester. Students should consult the current Academic Calendar for the published Graduation Deadline, which varies by semester.
COGA's graduation checklists contain a comprehensive list of all University requirements for graduation and should be used by every graduating master's or doctoral student in the College:
Submission of the final draft of the thesis or dissertation is done electronically. Students must comply with all University requirements for formatting and electronic submission of the thesis or dissertation. There is no University requirement that students provide a bound or printed copy of the draft.
Students who have concerns or questions about fulfillment of graduation requirements may arrange for a Graduation Appointment with the College Office of Graduate Affairs (COGA) following the defense or final exam and in advance of the applicable Application for Graduation deadline. While this appointment is not a requirement, it can be useful to review all degree requirements with a COGA staff member, verify that the Application for Graduation and Thesis/Dissertation submissions have been completed, and receive guidance on any pending items.
Graduate Studies Funding Opportunities
The Office of Graduate Studies offers funding opportunities in several different categories. Students interested in applying should direct inquiries to the department’s Director of Graduate Studies or to the Office of Graduate Studies. Some of the available funding includes:
- Dissertation Fellowships: intended for doctoral students who have passed their comprehensive examinations; for one academic year, non-renewable.
- Summer Fellowships: intended primarily for doctoral students.
- Graduate Scholarly Presentation Travel Fund: intended for graduate students presenting a paper at a national or regional meeting of a learned or professional society. A student may receive an award ($500) only once, and funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Doctoral Student Research Fund: Designed to support KU doctoral students who need assistance to carry out research that advances progress toward the degree. Applications for this fund are accepted only for a limited time as funding is available. Students should check the link above for additional information and restrictions.