Graduate Requirements & Grades

Requirements and Academic Assessment

Doctoral candidates ordinarily spend at least two, and more often three, full academic years in residence.  Before the dissertation defense takes place, doctoral candidates must have completed 72 units of graduate credit.  Over the course of their doctoral program, graduate students may not register for more than 72 units of credit without special consideration.  Of the 72 required units, no more than 24 units may be transferred from previous graduate work elsewhere.  After accumulating 72 units, doctoral students pay a fixed “resident” or “nonresident candidate fee” each semester.

Languages and Quantitative Skills

Each graduate student’s need for linguistic and quantitative skills is determined during the first semester in consultation with his or her adviser.  This determination is subject to review by the Graduate Studies Committee. The student's examining committee will ascertain, by the time of the qualifying examination, that sufficient progress toward acquiring these skills for dissertation research has been made.

The minimum requirement is normally competence in the language of the documents or culture in which the student proposes to do dissertation research, and competence either in one other language (not English) or in the practice of a quantitative or other technical skill.  Students normally demonstrate competency by successfully taking a particular course, by passing a translation examination, or by using foreign-language primary sources to write a research paper.


The performance of students in the Office of Graduate Studies in Arts and Sciences is marked by the grades A, B, C (Conditional), and F. The grade of C indicates unsatisfactory work and will be awarded academic credit only if matched by an equivalent number of units graded A.  Plus or minus grades may be given, except for grades of B- or C+. Some courses may be graded S (Satisfactory) or F.

Graduate students should expect to earn a grade of A or A- as mark of good progress through the program.  Although a grade of B + or B will qualify a student for full credit, these should be viewed as a warning that she or he has not sufficiently demonstrated a full mastery of the course material at the doctoral level.  More than one or two grades at this level carry the risk of negatively impacting a student’s chances on the academic job market.

Annual Letters of Review and the Second-year Review

The History Department uses annual letters of review and the second-year review to keep students informed of our expectations of their progress and to identify any problems.  At the end of each academic year, except the second year, students receive annual letters of review based on the observations of all faculty members with whom they have worked during the academic year, whether in a class, in a directed readings course, or as a mentored teaching experience.  The letters will identify any areas in which the student needs to improve, and provide clear steps for addressing this.  In January of the second year, students receive a second-year review letter.  The Department uses the second-year review to identify students who are not performing at a satisfactory level.  In consultation with the student’s primary advisor, the Department then sets goals for that student to meet by the end of the second semester of the second year.  If these goals are not met, then the student will not be allowed to proceed to the Ph.D. qualifying examinations; instead, the student will be offered an opportunity to secure an M.A. degree before leaving the Ph.D. program.  In such cases, requirements for the M.A. degree are as follows:

  • Students must have satisfactorily completed a minimum of 36 hours of credit.  Since the Department does not offer a separate M.A. degree, we do not require an M.A. thesis.  Therefore, none of the required 36 hours will be awarded for thesis research.
  • Students must have successfully completed the course, Literature of History (L22 5471).
  • Students must develop expertise in two fields of historical study: one primary field and one secondary field.
  • Students must pass an oral examination in these two fields of history.

Academic Probation and Dismissal

The History Department closely follows guidelines in the Office of Graduate Studies in Arts and Sciences Policy on Probation and Dismissal for Academic Reasons.

All students in the Ph.D. program are expected to satisfy the academic performance requirements of the Office of Graduate Studies in Arts and Sciences, which can be found in the Office of Graduate Studies Bulletin in the General Requirements section.

Additional History Department requirements and explanations:

A full-time graduate student shall not be allowed more than one incomplete per semester, and that incomplete must be removed by the end of the following semester. Within this requirement, faculty and students may wish to enter into contracts specifying conditions for the removal of the incomplete.

To remain in good standing, a student should take the qualifying examinations by the first semester of the fourth year, at the very latest.

The History Department’s Graduate Studies Committee manages all departmental decisions regarding placement on probation, removal from probation, recommendations for dismissal after a probationary period, and recommendations for immediate dismissal due to extreme underperformance.  The Graduate Studies Committee consists of the Director of Graduate Studies and 3-4 additional History Department faculty members appointed by the Chair of the History Department at the beginning of each academic year.

Otherwise, there are no additional requirements beyond those of the Office of Graduate Studies in Arts and Sciences.

These guidelines will remain posted on this website, and hard copies will be distributed at the annual History Department orientation for new Ph.D. students in August.