Printed on: 05/23/2017. Please go to for the most current version of the Policy or related document.


Doctoral Degree: Performance Standards and Progress

Responsible University Officer(s):

  • Executive Vice President and Provost

Policy Owner(s):

  • Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education

Policy contact(s):

Date Revised:

July 2012

Effective Date:

July 2012


Students are responsible for knowing all program requirements of their doctoral program when they matriculate. If program requirements change, students may elect to continue under the requirements in effect when they matriculated, provided they have remained in good standing.

The advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) for the program are jointly responsible for helping each student plan and appropriately complete the requirements in a timely fashion. The DGS is also responsible for ensuring that each student receives training appropriate to the discipline in the responsible conduct of research and ethical teaching and scholarship.

Programs and collegiate units may have additional and/or more stringent requirements.

I. Pre-Matriculation Requirements for Programs

Programs must, before students begin their first term of study:

  • Provide each student a current graduate program handbook, specifying the program’s requirements and policies governing successful degree completion
  • Assign each student a temporary advisor.

II. Progress Review

  1. Annual Review Programs must review the progress of each doctoral student at least once a year and must provide the results to the student in writing.
  2. Degree Plan Doctoral students must have an approved degree plan on file with their collegiate unit prior to taking the preliminary oral exam.
    1. If a student intends to complete a minor, the minor must be declared on the degree plan prior to taking this exam. The degree plan must be centrally archived in the system of record.
    2. It is recommended that the degree plan be filed, at minimum, three months prior to the exam date.

III. Performance Standards

  1. Continuous Enrollment Students are required to enroll every semester (fall and spring) from the time of matriculation until degree conferral.
  2. Time Limit for Earning the Doctoral Degree All requirements for the doctoral degree must be completed and the degree awarded within the shorter of eight calendar years after initial enrollment to the graduate program or the more restrictive time frame specified by the program.

    Students who are unable to complete the degree within the time limits described above may petition the program and collegiate unit for one extension of up to 24 months. Students must obtain the approval of their advisor/s and program DGS and submit the petition for an extension at least six months prior to the end of the time limit.

    • If a petition is approved, the student is notified in writing of the expectations for progress and of the month/year of degree conferral.
    • If the petition is denied, the student will be terminated from doctoral candidacy and from the graduate program upon expiration of the time limit. The student will be notified in writing.
  3. Under extraordinary circumstances, students may file a second petition for an additional 24 month extension after the first 24 months have expired; however such petitions after the initial extension must be reviewed and approved by the advisor/s, program DGS, and Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education.
  4. Students who have been terminated under such circumstances may apply for readmission to the program; however, readmission is not guaranteed.
  5. Minimum Grade Requirements To remain in good academic standing students should meet the minimum GPA requirement specified by the graduate program or 3.000 (on a 4.000 scale), whichever is higher. Students who have filed a doctoral degree plan should maintain a 3.000 GPA for courses included on the degree plan. Only courses with grades of A, B, C (including C-) and S may be counted toward the degree. Students who have not yet filed a degree plan should maintain an overall GPA of 3.000. Students who fall below the program's minimum GPA requirement may be terminated from the program.
  6. S/N grades for courses A minimum of 2/3 of the course credits included on a degree plan must be taken A/F.

IV. Doctoral Preliminary Written and Oral Examinations

  1. Each doctoral candidate must pass a written examination in the major field.
    1. The doctoral preliminary written examination will be graded either pass, pass with reservations, or fail in accordance with program standards.
    2. For students who pass with reservations, conditions to be met must be given in writing to the student within ten working days, including a timeline for completion.
  2. Every doctoral student must pass a preliminary oral examination in the major field in programs where such an examination is a degree requirement. The preliminary oral examination is conducted as a closed examination, attended by only the student and the examining committee.
    1. The oral examination may not take place before examiners have certified that the candidate received a passing grade on the preliminary written examination and that any reservations have been removed.
    2. The doctoral preliminary oral examination will be graded either pass, pass with reservations, or fail.
    3. A student who fails the exam may retake the examination once. All committee members, or all committee members save one must approve this option.
    4. The second attempt to pass the preliminary oral examination must use the same committee members unless an emergency situation necessitates a substitution.
    5. If the committee does not approve a retake, or if the student fails the second attempt, the student will be terminated from the program.
  3. The doctoral preliminary oral committee must consist of at least four members, including the advisor/s. All members of the committee and the candidate must participate in the preliminary oral examination. Committee members and/or the student may participate remotely as long as all conditions for remote participation in the examination are met.
    1. At least three members (including the advisor) must be from the student's major field.
    2. At least one member must represent a field outside the major. (If the student has declared a minor, the outside member, or one of the outside members, must represent the minor field.)
    3. Members cannot satisfy the requirement with respect to more than one field.


Programs with a distinctive student population or approved joint-degree programs may request a program-wide exception to the eight-year time limit for earning the doctoral degree.

Doctoral programs with approved degree performance standards and progress requirements that do not require preliminary written and oral examinations are exempt from IV.

Effective Date

This policy applies to all students admitted after January 1, 2013. Students who matriculated before January 1, 2013 may choose to continue under the policies in effect when they initially matriculated in their graduate program.

This policy does not apply to first professional degrees. (The first professional degrees are the J.D., M.D., Pharm.D., D.V.M., D.D.S, and L.L.M. degrees.)


This policy creates the framework for communications to students about degree requirements and the student's progress; sets minimum standards for satisfactory progress in doctoral programs; establishes clear standards and procedures for administering and grading doctoral written and oral preliminary examinations. This policy establishes uniform and procedures for doctoral preliminary examinations.

The policy also assists the student and advisor in planning for timely completion of program requirements, provides timely evaluations to students as they proceed through program; alerts student and advisors to problems, and provides opportunity to develop best approach for addressing those problems; and creates a clear record in cases where program decides to terminate student.






Primary Contact(s)
University of Minnesota - Duluth
Erik Brown
University of Minnesota Rochester


Good standing/good academic standing
Students remain in good standing if they: (a) make timely progress towards degree completion as required by the program and by this policy; (b) maintain a GPA at or above the minimum set by the program and by this policy; and (c) pass all appropriate examinations within the time frame specified by the program.


Collegiate Units
  • Ensure appropriate review of coursework on the degree plan (including any subsequent changes to an approved degree plan); archive the degree plan in the system of record
  • Approve and archive in the system of record committee membership (including any subsequent changes to an approved committee). Changes in committee membership must also be approved by the program DGS.
  • Approve and record the specific procedures used by programs for administering and grading the doctoral preliminary and final examinations.
  • Review and approve program-wide requests for exceptions to the time limit for completing the doctoral degree, archive requests in the system of record.
  • Review and approve requests for extensions to the time limit for completing the doctoral degree; archive petitions in the system of record.
  • Clearly state the program requirements for maintaining good standing in the Graduate Program Handbook, even if they are identical to the requirements in this policy.
  • Review and approve the degree plan (including any subsequent changes to an approved degree plan).
  • Review and approve any changes in committee membership; route program-approved requests to the collegiate unit for approval and archiving.
  • Review and approve requests for extensions to the time limit for completing the doctoral degree; notify students in writing of the decision and subsequent actions (i.e., expectations for progress and for the month/year of degree conferral or termination from the program upon expiration of the limit).
  • Must obtain the required approvals and file the degree plan with the collegiate unit.
  • Must initiate the request for an extension to the maximum time limit for completing the doctoral degree, obtain the approval of their advisor/s and program DGS, and submit their request by the deadline



July 2012 - New Policy, Comprehensive Review. 1. Changes the beginning and ending points for calculating time to degree. Time is currently measured from the conclusion of the oral prelims, to defense of the thesis. This policy measures time to degree from enrollment in the doctoral program to the point at which is the degree is awarded. 2. Establishes a minimum GPA for students to remain in good standing (3.0 for doctoral students.) 3. Extends applicability of policy requirements to programs not formerly under the aegis of the Graduate School.
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