University of Minnesota  FAQ

Doctoral Degree: Performance Standards and Progress


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Please use the contact section in the governing policy.

  1. When should students file the doctoral degree plan?

    A degree plan should be approved at least three months before taking the preliminary oral examination; however students may submit the degree plan at any time after matriculating in the degree/major.

  2. Who approves the coursework on the degree plan?

    The advisor and DGS (including DGS of the minor field, if applicable) must approve coursework on the degree plan before it is routed to the collegiate unit. Some programs may require full faculty review. Collegiate units may review coursework for compliance with collegiate and University policies.

  3. How and when do I request an extension of time for completing my doctoral degree?

    Confer with your advisor and director of graduate studies, obtain their signatures on the Doctoral Degree: Request for Extension to the Maximum Time Limit (UM 1777) form, and submit the completed form to your college for final action. While you are encouraged to apply for a time extension at least three months in advance, you must do so no later than the end of the term in which your deadline for degree completion expires.

  4. I was terminated from my program for exceeding the time limit for degree completion. Can I apply for readmission to my program?

    Yes, although readmission is not guaranteed. If you are readmitted, it must be with a new deadline for degree completion specified by your graduate program. The program may also establish additional readmission conditions such as additional coursework, a schedule for completing each outstanding degree requirement, or other appropriate terms.

  5. Is there a time limit on the length of oral examinations?

    The expected length of an oral examination may differ by program. However, examinations typically range from 1.5 to 3 hours.

  6. I successfully completed my doctoral preliminary written examination at another institution before transferring to the University. Can I use that examination to satisfy my UM graduate program’s examination requirement?

    No. You must take and pass your UM graduate program’s preliminary written examination.

  7. Can I change a committee member after my initial committee has been submitted and approved?

    Yes. Committee changes require program and collegiate approval and must be recorded by the collegiate in the system of record.

  8. Can a collegiate unit delegate responsibility for approving changes in committee membership to the program level?

    No. It is the responsibility of the collegiate unit and the program to ensure that all initial and replacement members are eligible to serve on the doctoral final oral examination committee.

  9. An emergency situation has arisen with one of my prelim oral committee members. Am I allowed to identify a substitute?

    Yes. Substitutions for the doctoral prelim oral examination necessitated by emergency situations should, if possible, be approved in advance. The advisor should consult with the appropriate collegiate unit staff before the start of the examination.

  10. Must my advisor represent my major field on the preliminary oral examination committee?

    Yes. Your advisor must be one of the three people representing your major field on the examination committee.

  11. I have co-advisors. Must both of my co-advisors represent my major field on the preliminary oral examination committee?

    At least one of your advisors is required to represent the major field. If you have co-advisors, one may represent the outside/minor field.

  12. Why does my preliminary oral examination committee have to include an outside committee member? Who qualifies as an outside member?

    An outside committee member is required to both ensure fairness and due process for the student in the examination and to ensure that the student is examined across the breadth of knowledge represented by the student's field of study. An outside member is typically from a graduate program than the student's major field; however see the next FAQ.

  13. I am pursuing a formal track in a graduate program that offers multiple tracks. Can a faculty member from one of my program’s other tracks qualify as the required outside examiner on my committee?

    Yes if approved by the program and collegiate unit.

  14. Must committee members attend the preliminary oral examination in person? No, neither the student nor the committee members are required to attend the preliminary oral examination in person as long as conditions required for remote participation are satisfied .
  15. Who is responsible for communicating with a student who passed the preliminary oral examination with reservations, or who failed the examination? What information should be communicated?

    When a student passes with reservations, the committee chair must inform the student in writing of the reservations, what is needed to remove them, and the deadline for doing so. When a student fails the examination, the committee chair must inform the student in writing why the first attempt at the examination was graded “fail” and -- if the committee approves a retake -- what the student needs to do to prepare.

  16. I cannot satisfy the “oral” component of the prelim oral examination. What accommodations are available to support completion of this requirement?

    Not all students can deliver their oral examination “orally”; for example, a student may need an ASL interpreter or assistive technology to satisfy the oral examination requirement. The Disability Resource Center (DRC) is a resource for graduate students and graduate programs to explore formal disability-related accommodations not only for milestone examinations such as the prelim or final oral, but also coursework, program-specific exams, research/writing, teaching, and lab work.

  17. I am retaking my preliminary oral examination and need to replace one of my committee members due to an emergency situation. Is this allowed?

    Yes. As with other committee substitutions that are necessitated by emergency situations, the substitution should be approved in advance, and the advisor should consult with the appropriate collegiate unit staff before the start of the examination.

  18. Must a minimum amount of time elapse between a first attempt at the doctoral preliminary oral examination and an approved retake?

    The University does not require a minimum amount of time between the first and second attempts at the doctoral preliminary oral examination; however, collegiate units and/or programs may set a minimum time requirement.

  19. Can a program assess a pass with reservations to a student’s preliminary written examination?

    Graduate programs decide – at a program rather than a student-specific level – whether to offer the option to pass with reservations, as well as whether/how many retakes of the preliminary written examination are allowed. Only the final outcome of the written examination is recorded in the central system of record as a pass or fail.

  20. How many S/N course credits can I apply to my degree requirements?

    Up to one-third of the course credits applied to your degree requirements can be graded S/N. Courses offered only on the S/N grading basis are not included in the one-third calculation. Courses for which you earn an N grade cannot be applied to degree requirements.

  21. Course credits that I transferred from an international institution were assigned “S” grades because equivalent A/F grades could not be determined. Do these credits count toward the S/N limit?

    No, the international courses graded “S” will not be included in the one-third calculation.

  22. I left the University after completing my master’s degree and want to come back to complete my doctoral degree in the same program. How will my time to degree be counted?

    A student who completes a master's degree in a program, leaves the University, and returns to enroll for the doctoral degree in the same program will have their time to degree clock stopped after the master's and restarted upon enrollment in the doctoral program.

  23. Can a student pursue two Ph.D. degrees at the same time?

    Pursuing concurrent PhD degrees is not allowed. Students may pursue a second PhD after completing the first, although are generally discouraged from doing so. A second PhD is considered only under special circumstances, and only if the second PhD is in a distinctly separate graduate program. Students cannot apply milestone examinations or the dissertation completed for the first PhD to the second PhD’s degree requirements.

  24. I have been admitted to take graduate courses as a Graduate Professional Development (GPD) student. Do I have to register every term?

    Yes. Students admitted for GPD status must adhere to the same registration requirements as other admitted students and must register in the fall and spring semesters.

  25. My graduate program admitted a student for Graduate Professional Development. How long can a GPD student remain in the program?

    For domestic students, the graduate program determines how long the student can take courses as a GPD student. The period for which the student can register as a GPD student should be clearly stated in the letter of admission. For international students, federal visa regulations and SEVIS requirements determine how long the student can take courses as a GPD student. International students admitted to GPD are given an I-20 for one year and must be admitted to a degree program if they wish to continue their advanced education at the University after that one-year period.

  26. A student admitted for Graduate Professional Development (GPD) in my program is performing poorly and we want to t discontinue them at the end of the semester. Can we do this?

    The program can discontinue the student if expectations, as well as consequences for not meeting those expectations, were clearly communicated at the time of admission. If this information was not provided in the admission letter, the program should communicate to the student in writing its performance expectations, what is needed to satisfy them, and consequences if they are not met. If the stated expectations then are not satisfied, the program is positioned to discontinue the student.

  27. Our program wishes to restrict the role of the advisor in the preliminary oral examination. Can we do this?

    The advisor must be a member of the preliminary oral examination committee, and all committee members are expected to participate in the examination proceedings. Programs that choose to limit the role of the advisor in the preliminary oral examination must do so for all students in the program. Programs cannot impose such restrictions on other committee members.

  28. My program wants to require a higher GPA for its doctoral students. Can we impose higher GPA requirements?

    Yes. Graduate programs can impose more stringent GPA requirements for their students. The higher GPA requirement may pertain to the overall GPA or to the degree plan coursework.

  29. My program wants to require higher grades for courses applied to our degree requirements than the C- required by University policy. Can we do this?


  30. Can a committee member abstain from voting in the doctoral preliminary oral examination?

    No, all committee members are required to vote.

  31. My program wants to require its graduate students to earn higher grades for specific major-field courses. Can we do this?

    Yes. Graduate programs may impose more stringent grading requirements for courses its students complete in the major.