Academic Calendar

Academic deadlines are published in the University's Academic Calendar.

Student Handbook and Code of Conduct

The Northwestern University Student Handbook describes the expectations for behavior and conduct in the Northwestern community and outlines the procedures to be followed when these expectations are not met.

Academic Integrity

Standards of academic integrity are violated when a student engages in actions as outlined on the Office of the Provost, Principles Regarding Academic Integrity webpage under "A. Basic Standards of Academic Integrity." Academic dishonesty is a serious matter for graduate students committed to intellectual pursuits, and will be adjudicated in accordance with procedures approved by the Graduate Faculty.

3.1 Academic Integrity Violations Procedures

Issues of academic dishonesty not involving research integrity*, such as cheating or plagiarism, will be addressed using the procedure adopted by the Graduate Faculty as outlined below.

*Research misconduct issues will be investigated by the Office for Research Integrity (ORI). If there are concerns regarding potential research misconduct, please consult the Office for Research Integrity policy and procedures concerning research misconduct.

3.1.1 Reporting of Alleged Academic Dishonesty

Any case of alleged academic dishonesty involving a student in The Graduate School (TGS) should be reported by the complainant (course instructor, faculty member involved in graduate education, other party) to the Associate Dean of Student Affairs at The Graduate School (the “Associate Dean”). Such a report must be made in writing no later than thirty days from the date the complainant becomes aware of the alleged dishonesty. The complainant may confer with the student prior to making a written report if doing so would help rule out the possibility of misunderstanding regarding the alleged academic dishonesty.

Students charged with academic dishonesty may not change their registration in a course in which a charge is pending, or in which a finding of academic dishonesty has been made. An incomplete grade (Y grade) should be issued to the extent possible for any course in which there has been an allegation of academic dishonesty while the case is pending.

3.1.2 Case Review

The Associate Dean will review the case of alleged academic dishonesty to determine whether there are sufficient grounds to warrant an academic integrity meeting. The Associate Dean may request additional information from any of the parties involved.

3.1.3 Notice of Alleged Academic Dishonesty

Once the Associate Dean has determined through the case review that there are sufficient grounds to warrant an academic integrity meeting, TGS will notify the student/former student in writing by email. The notification will indicate:

  • the charges made
  • the date of the incident
  • the individual(s) reporting the charges
  • the nature of the alleged violation and supporting evidence

The student will have ten business days from the date of this notification to request a meeting with the Associate Dean to discuss the case and present any relevant materials or statements. If the student fails to schedule a meeting within ten business days or does not wish to meet, the Associate Dean may make a determination on the basis of the available evidence. The Associate Dean may grant reasonable requests for an extension of this time deadline at their sole discretion. Prior to this meeting, the student will be allowed to view the case materials and respond in writing.

3.1.4 Meeting with the Associate Dean for Student Affairs

In meeting with the student, the Associate Dean (and, typically, another TGS staff member) will review the charges made and the evidence supporting those charges. The student will have an opportunity to be heard and to elaborate on the written statement, if submitted.

The Associate Dean for Student Affairs has the authority to determine, based on a preponderance of the evidence available, whether a violation of academic integrity has occurred. After the review, the Associate Dean shall inform the student by letter of the Associate Dean’s decision and the sanction, if any, to be imposed.

3.1.5 Sanctions

Sanctions which may be imposed by the Associate Dean for Student Affairs include, but are not limited to:

  • a letter of warning
  • a defined period of probation
  • a defined period of suspension
  • exclusion from the University
  • expulsion from the University
  • notation on the transcript
  • withdrawal of University funding
  • revocation of an awarded degree

Any grade entered for a student in a course in which an allegation of violations of academic integrity is pending against the student, whether for the course as a whole or for a piece of work submitted in the course, is subject to modification after all proceedings and appeals are concluded. Should the student be found to have violated academic integrity, the course instructor is empowered, in their sole discretion, to determine the effect this violation will have on the student's grade in the course. Possible actions range from disregarding the incident in calculating the grade to failing the student in the course.

Academic integrity findings and sanctions by TGS do not preclude a student’s academic program from taking additional actions that it may deem warranted based on such findings, consistent with published program policies and expectations.

3.1.6 Appeals

The student may appeal any adverse initial determination by submitting a written notice of appeal to the Senior Director of Student Services within ten business days of the date of the initial decision letter. The written notice of appeal must state what is being appealed (whether the finding that a violation occurred, the sanction imposed, or both) and must describe in detail the grounds for the appeal. The appeal should specifically outline what parts of the written record are incorrect or reasons why the findings or sanction(s) are inappropriate. In the event of an appeal, a standing faculty committee will review the case and appeal. 

The intent of the appeals process is to reassess whether academic dishonesty occurred and whether the sanction was commensurate with the finding. Generally, implementation of sanctions will be suspended until all appeals made by the student have been exhausted. If no appeal is filed within ten business days of the initial notification, the decision of the Associate Dean shall become final and will be implemented at the conclusion of the appeal period.

The student will be granted an opportunity to present their case for an appeal and respond to questions from the committee in person. If the student wishes to be present they must notify the Senior Director of Student Services in writing at least five business days in advance of the meeting.

Following its review and meeting, the appeal committee may sustain or reverse the finding of the Associate Dean and may, if finding of a violation stands, sustain or modify the sanction(s). The student will be informed of the committee’s decision in writing.

3.1.7 Appeal to the Provost

The student may appeal the decision of the appeal committee to the Provost of the University. An appeal to the Provost must be submitted within ten business days from the date of the appeal committee’s written notification to the student. Such appeals must be in writing and include a detailed statement setting forth the grounds for the appeal. Appeals to the Provost will be limited to alleged errors in procedures, interpretation of regulations, or alleged manifest discrepancies between the evidence and a finding and/or sanction.

In the absence of an appeal to the Provost, the decision of the appeal committee shall become final and be implemented at the conclusion of the Provost appeal period. In the event of an appeal to the University Provost, implementation of the appeal committee decision will be suspended until a decision on the further appeal is rendered by the Provost. The Provost’s decision is final.

General Registration Policies

Only students who have been officially admitted to The Graduate School may register for courses to earn credits toward a Graduate School degree. The Office of the Registrar maintains a complete, up-to-date online class schedule, which can be found by selecting the "View the Quarterly Class Schedule" link on CAESAR. A quarterly reference copy is also available.

4.1 Full Time Study

Full-time study is defined as no fewer than three and no more than four course units authorized for graduate credit per quarter. Most courses carry one unit of credit. Students must successfully complete all the course units for which they are registered in order to receive full credit toward residency. See the Grades and Grade Requirements below for further information. After completing course requirements, eligible students may maintain full-time status at reduced tuition by registering, as appropriate, for TGS 588, Resident Master's Study; TGS 500, Advanced Doctoral Study; or TGS 512, Continuous Registration.

4.2 Part Time Study

PhD students who, in exceptional cases, have received written approval of the program and Dean of The Graduate School to study on a part time basis must meet all degree requirements, including residency, coursework, and milestones. Part time students must complete the equivalent of eight quarters of residency, or 24 units, taken as coursework and 590s within their programs. The distribution of those units will determine the amount of time required to complete residency. Note the continuous registration requirement.

Master's students may meet the minimum residency requirement by combinations of one-third or two-thirds quarters of residency - that is, one or two course units per quarter.

4.3 Registering

All students register online through CAESAR. Registration deadlines are listed on the Academic Calendar. For courses requiring program consent, students should contact the department offering the course to obtain permission numbers.

4.4 Authorized Courses

Only courses listed in CAESAR with a career of "The Graduate School” are authorized for graduate credit and only those courses can be used to meet the minimum coursework requirement of nine letter-graded, graduate level courses. Courses are arranged in levels designated by number:

  • 300-level courses are primarily for advanced undergraduate students; some 300 level courses are approved for graduate credit.
  • 400-level courses or seminars are primarily for graduate students, but the major part of the work is not research.
  • 500-level courses are graduate courses in which the work is primarily research done by an individual student under faculty direction.

The number following the three-digit course number indicates whether the course is part of a sequence:

  • 0 = one-quarter course
  • 1,2 = two-quarter sequence
  • 1,2,3 = three-quarter sequence

The number of units for which a student is registered determines if a student is in full-time status. Most courses carry one unit. Students are considered to be full-time if they are registered for three to four units of credit.

Some registrations (499 Independent Study or Projects, and 590 Research courses, for example) allow the student to register for anywhere from one to four units for the course. By registering for such courses for a total of three to four units, it is possible for a student to take only one or two courses and still be considered full-time.

4.5 TGS General Registrations

General courses of The Graduate School are designated TGS. These TGS General Registrations are not graded and do not count toward the accumulation of quarters of residency required for a degree.

4.5.1 TGS 500 Advanced Doctoral Study

Available to doctoral students who have completed the residency requirement of eight quarters of full-tuition registration within their program and are receiving aid from the University. Provides full-time status. Students may register for TGS 500 via CAESAR.

4.5.2 TGS 509 International Summer Institute

Required for all international PhD students designated as International Summer Institute Fellows.

4.5.3 TGS 512 Continuous Registration

Available to students who completed the program coursework and are continuing in their degree program (writing a thesis or dissertation and/or performing research required for the degree), but not receiving University or external funding. TGS 512 is a full time registration intended for students who are continuing to work in a full-time capacity toward degree completion.

TGS 512 is $100/quarter and allows for:

  • Continuation of the student's Net ID and email account
  • Access to University facilities such as libraries, labs, and sports facilities
  • Maintenance of one's visa status
  • The ability to defer student loans
  • The ability to take additional cost-of-living loans (federal and alternative) as determined by their financial state; and
  • Ability to enroll in NU-SHIP (Northwestern University Student Health Insurance) and be charged the annual premium

Note that students enrolled in TGS 512:

  • are not eligible for TGS Activity Fee or its attendant services, including legal services and U-Pass
  • are not eligible for the health insurance subsidy
  • may not register for any additional units of study
  • must be making progress toward degree completion

4.5.4 TGS 588 Resident Master's Study

Available to master's degree students who are receiving financial aid. Provides full-time status, but allows no accumulation of credit or residency toward the master's degree. This registration requires TGS permission.

4.6 Non-TGS Courses

  • Students taking non-TGS graduate classes in SESP, McCormick, Music, Communication, or taking undergraduate classes may register using CAESAR by obtaining a permission number from the program offering the class.
  • Registration for classes in other schools, including Kellogg, SCS, and the Law School are handled through the respective schools' registrars. To request enrollments in other schools, students should contact Student Services.

4.7 Change of Registration

  • Registration changes are permitted during the add/drop period, through the fifth day of classes. In the Summer Session, the add/drop period extends through the fourth day of classes. Students who fail to register for a fall, winter, or spring quarter will be automatically discontinued and must apply for readmission.
  • Students may drop a course after the add/drop period and before the "last day to drop a course" deadline listed in the Academic Calendar. The University cannot give refunds or reduce tuition bills for any course dropped after the fifth day of classes.  See the Student Financial Services policy on enrollment changes for additional information.

4.8 Course Withdrawal

  • A student may request permission from The Graduate School to withdraw from a course or courses after the published drop deadline (the end of the sixth week of the quarter) until 5pm two Fridays before the published last day of classes, per the University academic calendar. When the Thanksgiving or other University holidays conflict with this deadline, withdrawal petitions must be submitted by the last class/business day of that same week. The University Academic Calendar lists the exact withdrawal deadline for each quarter.
  • Students may not request withdrawal after the due date for the final assessment (exam, paper, project, etc…) has passed and students will be asked to attest that the due date for the final assessment in the particular course(s) has not been reached. Students who request withdrawal after the final assessment date has been reached will be in violation of the policy on academic integrity.
  • All approved withdrawals will result in a W (withdrawal) grade being posted to the transcript. A grade of W does not factor into the GPA, but remains permanently on the transcript. In no case will tuition be refunded when a student withdraws from a course or courses.
  • If the deadline to withdraw has passed, students should consult with the class instructor about the option of taking an incomplete or how to best complete the course.
  • To submit a request to withdraw from a course after the drop deadline students should submit the request form (link available after drop deadline). The form must be approved by both the student’s faculty advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). Once the form is received and approved by The Graduate School, the course instructor(s) will be notified of the student’s withdrawal from the course.
  • This process is distinct from requesting to withdraw entirely from the University. Students in The Graduate School who wish to withdraw from their program and the University must notify TGS Student Services in writing.

4.9 Summer Registration

Students receiving financial support administered by the University must be enrolled during the summers. Summer enrollment may also be required as a result of visa or loan status.

4.10 Auditing

Course auditors are not given formal recognition by either TGS or the Registrar. The auditing of any graduate course without formal registration by full-time graduate students in good standing is permitted depending on the limitations of space and facilities, and permission of the instructor.

4.11 Continuous Registration Policy

All active students in The Graduate School (TGS) must be registered at Northwestern University in each of the fall, winter and spring quarters until all degree requirements have been completed. (See the Master's and PhD webpages for information about degree completion.) Students who are working toward degree completion but are not required to enroll in coursework or 590 Research may register for the appropriate TGS general registration (see section 4.5, TGS General Registrations). Students on an approved leave of absence are not subject to the continuous registration policy during the leave period. 

4.12 Language Courses During the Academic Year

Students may take 100-, 200-, and 300-level language classes through the Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg college of Arts and Sciences during the academic year. Students must take these classes as their fourth class in a given term, if full-time status is needed. Students beyond course work would take these language courses in addition to TGS 500 registration. All language courses must be taken for a grade.

4.13 Taking Courses at Other Universities

Students who wish to register for classes at other universities may do so via two programs:

  • Traveling Scholar Program - full-time PhD students may register at any of the Big Academic Alliance (former CIC) participating universities
  • The Chicago Metropolitan Exchange program - for graduate students who are interested in registering for classes at UIC or the University of Chicago. The Chicago Metropolitan Exchange Program (CMEP) allows graduate students in a doctoral program, or in a participating training program that is jointly supported by the Exchange Scholar’s home and host institutions, to enroll at one of the three participating institutions and take advantage of academic courses that are not available at their home institution.

These programs enable a full-time graduate student in any of the participating universities to register for courses at other institutions upon the recommendation of the student's advisor and with prior agreement between the advisor and the course instructor. Applications must be finalized at least six weeks prior to the start of classes at the host university.

Graduate students interested in the Traveling Scholar Program or the Chicago Metropolitan Exchange Program must first consult their advisor who will determine whether the off-campus opportunity is likely to enhance the student's course of study and ascertain that it is not, in fact, available on the home campus. Questions should be directed to Antoaneta Condurat.

4.14 Grades and Grade Requirements

A minimum GPA of 3.0 is required for all work presented for a graduate degree. Grades given for completed, credit-bearing graduate courses not taken on a pass/no credit (P/N) basis are:

Grade Grade Points
A 4.0
A- 3.7
B+ 3.3
B 3.0
B- 2.7
C+ 2.3
C 2.0
C- 1.7
F 0
X Failed to earn credit: missed final examination 0
Y Failed to earn credit: work incomplete 0

The following notations are ignored in computing the grade point average:

P: Pass with credit

N: No grade, no credit

K: In progress

S: Satisfactory: noncredit course

U: Unsatisfactory: noncredit course

W: Withdrawn by permission

NR: No grade reported by instructor

X, Y, NR, and F: Do not count toward the accumulation of quarters of residency required for a degree.

4.14.1 Pass/No Credit Option

Students will follow individual program requirements regarding graded coursework. Courses may be taken Pass/No Pass (P/N) only when this grading basis is available for selection in CAESAR. No individual exceptions will be allowed.

  • 590 research registrations must be taken on a P/N basis. A grade of K, not a Y, is given when the work for 590 is in progress. The one-year deadline to make up an incomplete does not apply to the K grade.

4.14.2 Incomplete Grades

A grade of Y is given when a student does not submit all assigned work in a course; a grade of X is given when a student fails to take the final examination.  All X or Y grades are incompletes and must be made up within one calendar year of the date the grade is incurred. 

Program Transfer

A student who wishes to transfer from one program to another within The Graduate School must submit an online application (making sure to accurately respond to the first page of questions) no less than two weeks before the start of the winter, spring and summer quarters and no less than four weeks before the start of the fall quarter. Programs may require supporting materials in order to consider the request.  Approval is granted by The Graduate School in consultation with the program into which the student is requesting a transfer. University funding awarded by the student's current program will not follow the student to the new program.

Change in Degree Sought

Any student admitted to The Graduate School who wishes to change the degree sought from non-degree to Master's or PhD, or from Master's to PhD should first consult their program of study. The student must then submit an online application and be sure to accurately respond to the first page of questions. Programs may require supporting documents to consider the request.

Students who wish to change the degree sought from PhD to Master's should consult the policy on withdrawal.

Withdrawal

Students who wish to withdraw from The Graduate School must notify a Student Services representative in writing. Refunds of part or all of the tuition depend on the time the request is made, per the published refund schedule. Withdrawals in the Fall, Winter, and Spring quarters with an "Effective Date" through the end of the 6th week of classes will result in an entry on the transcript documenting the withdrawal date. Withdrawals with an "Effective Date" after the end of the 6th week will result in the withdrawn courses, with grades of "W", being posted on the transcript along with the withdrawal date.

Readmission

Degree-seeking students who miss one or more quarters of registration (excluding summer), who fail to request return after an approved period of leave of absence, or who request to withdraw from their program will be discontinued from The Graduate School. Those who are discontinued are not enrolled and are not considered active students. Students who fall into this category and who wish to return to the University must submit an online application no less than two weeks before the start of the winter, spring and summer quarters and no less than four weeks before the start of the fall quarter and be sure to accurately respond to the first page of questions on the application. The decision to readmit a former student is at the discretion of the program and The Graduate School.

Those who have previously been enrolled in The Graduate School at Northwestern University as degree-seeking students but have had a break in their enrollment resulting from withdrawal or failure to continuously register will be subject to a readmission fee of $250 plus $100 for each fall, winter, and spring missed quarter of enrollment up to a cap of $1000.

Students who are awarded a degree from The Graduate School and apply for readmission to pursue another degree in The Graduate School are not assessed a readmission fee.

Students in the bachelor’s/master’s combined degree program who do not continue in the master’s program following conferral of the bachelor’s may apply for readmission within five years of admittance to the combined degree program and will be assessed a $75 readmission fee.

Leaves of Absence

Leaves of absence are defined as a temporary separation from the University for a minimum of one quarter and a maximum of one year. Students who need to interrupt their progress towards degree may petition for a leave of absence. There are three types of leaves:

  • Personal Medical Leave of Absence: For students who must temporarily interrupt progress toward degree due to a physical or mental health need.
  • Family Medical Leave of Absence: For students who must temporarily interrupt progress toward degree to extend absence post-childbirth, care for a newborn, adopt a child, or care for a family member. This leave of absence is separate from the parental accommodation policy and may be taken in addition to a parental accommodation. The parental accommodation is not considered a leave of absence. Please see the parental accommodation section of this guide.
  • General Leave of Absence: For students who elect to temporarily interrupt their progress toward degree for a non-medical and non-family care reason

9.1 Leave of Absence General Policies

All leaves of absence must be approved by the appropriate University offices/programs. The procedure for requesting a leave and the specific approvals required depend on the type of leave. The general policies that apply to all leaves of absence are:

  • Leaves of absence are granted for no less than one quarter and no more than one year.
  • No leaves will be granted retroactively. In certain circumstances and when the appropriate approvals are granted, students may retroactively withdraw from coursework. Note that mid-quarter leaves of absence with an "Effective Date" through the end of the 6th week of classes will result in an entry on the transcript documenting the withdrawal date. Leaves of absence with an "Effective Date" after the end of the 6th week will result in the withdrawn courses, with grades of "W", being posted on the transcript along with the withdrawal date.
  • During a leave of absence, students are not permitted to enroll at the University and will not be considered active students.
  • International students who apply for a leave of absence must consult with the International Office. International students taking a leave of absence for medical reasons (and with documentation from a healthcare provider) will need to receive approval from the International Office and may be eligible to remain in the country for up to 12 months while on leave. International students taking a leave for non-medical reasons may have their status terminated and may need to depart the U.S.
  • Students on an approved leave of absence are not eligible for federal financial aid, including Federal Direct Loans. In some cases, student loans may not be deferred for the entirety of a leave. Students should contact Student Financial Services for additional information.
  • Approved leaves of absence automatically extend milestone deadlines by the length of the leave. This includes the qualifying exam deadline and prospectus deadline for PhD students, and the degree deadline for Master's and PhD students. Leaves of absence do not exempt students from meeting the residency requirement or other TGS degree requirements.
  • Students on a leave of absence are not to fulfill any degree requirements during the time on leave. If a student plans to be away from the University to work on a thesis, dissertation, or other degree requirements, this would not constitute a leave of absence and would require enrollment.
  • A student on a leave of absence will have limited access to University facilities normally available to enrolled students:
    • NetID: The NetID will be deactivated after a period of time following the start of the leave of absence, following the NUIT NetID Expiration schedule.
    • Library: Students on a leave of absence may obtain a Borrower's Card to access the University Library if needed and approved.
    • Health Insurance: Students who are on an approved medical leave of absence or an approved family leave of absence to care for a dependent have the option to purchase health insurance in fall quarter but are not eligible for the subsidy and are responsible for the full cost of the health insurance. Students may apply for coverage in fall quarter through the Health Insurance Office. Students on an approved general (non-medical) leave are not eligible to purchase the health insurance in fall quarter. However, students who are active and enrolled in the fall quarter immediately prior to a leave may retain health insurance coverage through the following August for a general leave taken in winter, spring, or summer quarter.
    • University Housing: Students taking a leave of absence who reside in University Housing must contact the Graduate Housing Office as soon as possible to determine what options are available during the leave of absence.
  • Students on leave of absence must request return in advance of the quarter in which they wish to return.  Instructions and the timeline for requesting a return from leave are detailed below.
  • Students who fail to petition to return after a leave of absence will be withdrawn (discontinued) from The Graduate School and need to apply for readmission in order to return.

9.2 Medical Leaves of Absence

9.2.1 Personal Medical Leave

A student who must temporarily interrupt their progress toward degree due to a physical or mental health need must petition for a medical leave of absence. Medical leaves of absence are initiated through the Dean of Students Office. International students on a visa must also have their leave approved by the International Office. The process for a student to petition for a personal medical leave of absence is as follows.

  • Student should consult with academic program's Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) or DGS designate.
  • Student must submit the Request for a Voluntary Medical Leave of Absence form, found on the Dean of Students Office website.
  • The Dean of Students Office will work with the student and The Graduate School to review the request.
  • At the end of the approved leave period, the student must petition for reinstatement through the Dean of Students office.

9.2.2 Family

A student who must temporarily interrupt progress toward degree to extend absence post-childbirth, care for a newborn, adopt a child, or care for a family member should petition for a family leave. Family medical leaves of absence must be approved by the student's program of study and The Graduate School. International students on a visa must also have their leave approved by the International Office. The process to petition for a family medical leave of absence is as follows:

  • Student must submit the “Petition for Absence” form via TGS Forms in CAESAR. The program's DGS (or DGS designate) will review the form, after which The Graduate School will review.
  • The Graduate School will notify the student (and the program) of the approval status and, if approved, provide a written communication to the student outlining the details of the leave.
  • At the end of the approved leave period, the student must petition for reinstatement by contacting TGS student services via email at least 6 weeks before the start of the quarter in which they plan to return.

9.3 General Leave of Absence

A student who wishes to temporarily interrupt their progress toward degree for a non-medical and non-family care reason may petition for a general leave of absence. General leaves of absence must be approved by the student’s program of study and The Graduate School. International students on a visa must also have their leave approved by the International Office. The process to petition for a general leave of absence is as follows:

  • Student must submit the “Petition for Absence” form via TGS Forms in CAESAR. The program’s Director of Graduate Study (DGS)  or DGS designate will review the form, after which The Graduate School will review.
  • The Graduate School will notify the student (and the program) of the approval status and, if approved, provide a written communication to the student outlining the details of the leave.
  • At the end of the approved leave period, the student must petition for reinstatement by contacting TGS student services via email at least 6 weeks before the start of the quarter in which they plan to return.

Parental Accommodation

The parental accommodation policy aims to support active graduate students of all gender identities and gender expressions in The Graduate School who become new parents (whether by childbirth or adoption) by providing a period of parental accommodation, roughly equivalent to the length of a quarter, during which funding may continue (for funded students) and TGS milestone deadlines will be extended (for all parents). This policy is separate from any student absences that are medically necessary due to pregnancy or childbirth – all such absences are accommodated at Northwestern through The Graduate School’s Leave of Absence policy.

10.1 Eligibility

  • The Graduate Student Parental Accommodation applies to active students of all gender identities and gender expressions in The Graduate School who experience the birth or adoption of a child for whom they have parental responsibilities.
    • Those adopting children over the age of 18 or a spouse’s or partner’s child are not covered by this policy.
    • Those residing in localities where legal adoption is not an option but who are assuming parental responsibilities and otherwise meet the eligibility criteria are covered by this policy.
  • Students are eligible who have not utilized a parental accommodation during the previous 12 months before the requested accommodation start date.
  • All students in The Graduate School, both funded (regardless of funding source) and unfunded, are eligible for the minimal parental accommodation of 12 weeks of leave and a one-year extension of milestones.  Accommodation options vary depending on funding status and source.

10.2 Accommodation Options

Accommodation options vary with the student’s funding status and funding source:

1. Funded graduate students (graduate assistants, research assistants, teaching assistants, trainees, fellows) who receive tuition and stipend from the University at the time of the requested accommodation as well as graduate students who are funded from an external source may request paid leave from their duties for a 12 week accommodation period.  

  • Funding will be provided by The Graduate School for the 12 week accommodation period. Funding will be applied in the quarter closest to the dates of the accommodation.
  • If a student is not receiving funding as of the start date of the parental accommodation, none will be provided by this accommodation.
  • Graduate students who are funded from an external source supported on external fellowships or awards are obliged to inform their funding agency and should consult Financial Aid staff in The Graduate School. 

2. Unfunded graduate students may request unpaid leave from their studies for up to a 12 week accommodation period.

3. Funded or unfunded students may request registration for up to one year in TGS 512 Continuous Enrollment in order to remain a full-time student with access to University services and resources.  Students in this status are enrolled only in TGS 512 (no coursework) and must work with the advisor and Director of Graduate Study (DGS) to devise a modified schedule for making progress toward the degree.  During this time, students would not be eligible to receive funding.  Students may defer funding for the period of time enrolled in TGS 512. Students would assume responsibility for the tuition and fees associated with TGS 512 during this time.

Students may utilize one of these options.  In the case of two eligible graduate student parents, each parent is entitled to choose one option.

Any of the above options will result in the extension of outstanding TGS milestone deadlines (qualifying exam, prospectus, degree deadline) by one year (four quarters). Programs must extend program-specific deadlines by the same length. Students, Directors of Graduate Study (DGSes) and advisors are expected to discuss a timeline for meeting requirements well in advance of the start of the accommodation period.

To ensure that programs have ample time to arrange coverage during the accommodation, students must request the accommodation at least 60 days in advance of the accommodation start date.  In unforeseen circumstances, students must provide as much notice as possible.

10.3 Stipulations

  • Individual students may request one accommodation per childbirth or adoption event.
  • Students who have had a prior parental accommodation within the past 12 months may not request another accommodation, but may request a medical or family leave of absence.
  • Students must begin the accommodation period within the first 30 days of the birth or adoption, or prior to the birth/adoption if medically necessary.
  • The period of accommodation applies to calendar weeks. If a Parental Accommodation overlaps with an academic break, the break period will still count toward the 12-week period of accommodation.
  • Whichever accommodation option students choose, students will be eligible to maintain their student health insurance.  Depending on a student’s funding status, the health insurance subsidy may or may not be applied.  If the health insurance subsidy is not applied, a student will have the option to purchase coverage in fall quarter and may be eligible for a prorated subsidy depending on timing of return and funding status at the time of return. The Graduate School Student Services Staff will be able to assist in this process.
  • Students accommodated under this policy will retain access to the following services:
    • NetID and email
    • WildCARD access and related privileges
    • Northwestern Library access
    • Graduate student housing
    • Health Services and Counseling and Psychological Services
  • Students may wish to utilize a Leave of Absence in addition to (either before or after) a Parental Accommodation.  Students who require medically necessary time away due to pregnancy or childbirth may request a Medical Leave of Absence.  Students who wish to have additional time for the care of a child may request a Family Leave of Absence.  See the Leave of Absence policy for additional information. 
  • Students who are enrolled in coursework at the time of an accommodation may work with instructors to take incomplete (Y or X) grades if a substantial amount of work has already been completed in the course.  Students should arrange a timeline for completion of coursework with the course instructors.  If students anticipate taking a parental accommodation at the start of or early in the quarter, it is recommended that the student not enroll in coursework and instead arrange for enrollment in a research course or other non-classroom based course.  Students who are beyond coursework should enroll based on their funding status and in consultation with their program and The Graduate School Student Services unit.
  • Students who are utilizing a parental accommodation are not expected to fulfill any degree requirements or make significant progress toward degree during the accommodation period. Programs (including instructors and advisors) may not require fulfillment of requirements or progress toward degree completion during the accommodation period.

10.4 Procedures

  • Eligible students will request a Parental Accommodation by submitting a Petition for Absence form via CAESAR, TGS Forms and selecting "Parental Accommodation."
    • This form must be submitted at least 60 days prior to the accommodation start date (or as soon as possible in unforeseen circumstances).
  • Upon submission of the form, The Graduate School will review the request to ensure that the eligibility criteria are met and to identify what financial and academic accommodations will be necessary.
  • TGS will notify the appropriate Director of Graduate Study (DGS) or designate to communicate the approved accommodation period and related accommodations.
  • TGS will update the student’s record to reflect the extension of milestones and make any other necessary changes to the record.
  • At the end of the 12 week period, students will resume their studies.  If additional time away is needed, students must file for the appropriate leave of absence.
    • If students are returning mid-quarter, the appropriate TGS staff will work with program staff to make changes to funding and enrollment as needed.
    • If students wish to return prior to the end of the 12 week period, they must first consult with TGS staff.

Master's Degree Requirements

The Graduate School at Northwestern University offers the degrees of:

  • Master of Arts (MA)
  • Master of Science (MS)
  • Master of Public Health (MPH)
  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA) 

All Northwestern University graduate students must fulfill a set of requirements regarding:

Each student's program of study for a master's degree must be approved by the student's academic program. Each student enrolled in a Master's program must have a committee and an advisor who advise on plan of study, degree requirements, and thesis and/or final exam, if required. The advisor and at least two of the committee members must be members of the Northwestern University Graduate Faculty. In addition to requirements directly related to awarding of a degree, all students are required to maintain satisfactory academic progress and standards of academic integrity.

Registration and changes of academic program regulations apply to all students across degree programs and disciplines. These policies are subject to change without notice.

11.1 Master's Residency And Courses

To be eligible for a Master's degree, a student must successfully complete at least nine letter-graded courses (non P/NP) authorized for graduate credit and meet the minimum residency requirement. Residency is calculated in terms of quarters of full-time study:

  • Students pursuing the Master of Arts, Master of Science, or Master of Public Health must meet a residency requirement of the equivalent of three quarters of full-time registration in courses authorized by the Graduate Faculty for graduate credit.
  • Students pursuing the Master of Fine Arts must meet a residency requirement of the equivalent of six quarters of full-time registration in courses authorized by the Graduate Faculty for graduate credit.

Credit earned at an undergraduate institution or at another graduate school or a professional school may, with program approval, be applied toward the program's coursework requirements, but not toward The Graduate School’s residency requirements. Specific course requirements for the master's degree are listed on each program's website. For a full explanation of courses that count for graduate credit, see the Registration section.

No more than one-third of the total units presented for the Master's degree may be 499 Independent Study.

11.2 Master's Timeline

Students must complete all the requirements for the master's degree within five years of the date of their initial registration in The Graduate School, which falls on the last day of the 20th quarter.

Students who do not complete their degree within five years will not be considered in good academic standing and will be placed on academic probation

11.3 Master's Degree Completion

11.3.1 Final Examination And Graduation Requirements

A minimum of two individuals must serve on the Master's committee and confirm that all requirements for degree completion have been met. At least two members of the committee, including the chair, must be members of the Northwestern University Graduate Faculty. In order to receive the master's degree, the student must:

  • Complete all required coursework and the program's requirements for the degree.
  • File for degree by completing an Application for a Degree form via TGS Forms in CAESAR by the date specified in the Academic Calendar.
  • Complete the Master's Degree Completion form via TGS Forms in CAESAR and receive program approval of the form by the date specified in the Academic Calendar. (Students in a combined Bachelors/Master's Degree Program who are unable to access TGS Forms should email Student Services for assistance.)
  • Have at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA and no X, Y, or NR grades on their transcript. All grades must be entered and Change of Grade forms submitted by the grade deadline specified on the Academic Calendar.
  • If required by the program, engage in a culminating academic experience, such as a thesis or oral presentation, or pass a final exam as a part of the program of study for a Master's degree. Programs will determine the nature of this culminating experience requirement, with the approval of The Graduate School, and the corresponding number of units of credit, if any. The Graduate School does not collect Master's theses or documentation of the academic culminating experience.

11.3.2 Thesis Or Final Project

A program may require the preparation of a thesis or, in the case of a Master of Fine Arts degree, a final project, as a part of the program of study for a Master's degree. Programs will determine the nature of the thesis or project and, with the approval of The Graduate School, the number of units of credit, if any, to be allowed for the thesis. The Master's thesis or project is submitted to the program.

PhD Degree Requirements

The only doctoral degree offered by The Graduate School (TGS) is the doctor of philosophy (PhD) degree. In some cases, this degree is offered in conjunction with another degree, whether from another program administered by TGS or from another school at Northwestern University.

The Doctor of Philosophy degree is oriented toward research that will advance knowledge. Study for a specified time and accumulation of credit toward residency for courses taken are not by themselves sufficient to earn the PhD degree. A student must demonstrate scholarly distinction and the ability to advance knowledge through independent research by achieving admission to candidacy and writing a dissertation.

Each student enrolled in a PhD program must have a principal research advisor and a committee.

The principal research advisor (also known as mentor, PI, dissertation director, advisor) is a member of the Northwestern University Graduate Faculty who works with the student to develop a research topic, formulate ideas and structure for, and guides the progress of the thesis/prospectus/dissertation. In some cases, although rare, there is a Principal Research Co-Advisor who also works with the student to develop a research topic, formulate ideas and structure for, and guides the progress of the thesis/prospectus/dissertation.

The committee members are those who have expertise in and inform the student's area of research, serve as a reader of the thesis, prospectus, or dissertation, and vote on the outcome of the proposal defense/final exam. The committee chair is a member of the Graduate Faculty who leads the committee for the defense of the prospectus or final exam (dissertation). In some cases, there is a Committee Co-Chair who co-leads the committee. The Committee Chair may or may not be the same individual as the Principal Research Advisor. A minimum of three individuals must serve on the final exam committee. At least two members of this committee, including the chair, must be members of the Northwestern University Graduate Faculty.

All Northwestern University graduate students, must fulfill a set of requirements regarding

12.1 PhD Coursework and Registration

A student who enters a doctoral program must successfully complete at least nine letter-graded courses (non P/NP) authorized for graduate credit. A 3.0 cumulative GPA must be maintained. TGS does not accept transfer credit in lieu of the 9 letter-graded minimum course requirement.

Two types of advanced courses, 499 Independent Study (or 499 Projects) and 590 Research, are applicable to residency credit but bear restrictions concerning either when they may be taken during a student's academic career or total allowable credits:

  • 499 Independent Study - For doctoral students, independent studies may not represent more than half of the total units taken in the first three quarters of enrollment in a PhD program.
  • Program courses identified as 590 Research, may be taken for one, two, three, or four course units per quarter. Generally, this registration is not available to students until a core of basic courses has been completed. All 590 Research registrations must be taken on a P/N/K basis

Students in quarter nine and beyond may have additional course requirements to complete in their program and may register for up to four units:

  • Students who are funded and who register for less than three units must also register for TGS 500. All course requirements for a doctoral program must be completed by the end of the twelfth quarter.
  • Students in quarters thirteen and above may register for non-required coursework in addition to TGS 500 if the courses are related to the student's area of study.
  • Grading for advanced year registrations must adhere to existing grading policies.

12.2 PhD Residency

Residency is calculated in terms of quarters of full-time study. A student pursuing a doctoral degree must complete eight quarters of residency consecutively over two years, including summers (see the PhD Timeline Completion). Approved leaves of absence or parental accommodation may alter the residency timeline.

No PhD residency credit will be awarded by The Graduate School (TGS) for work completed in a graduate program prior to admission to and enrollment in the PhD program in TGS. Individual programs may waive course requirements based on work completed at another institution (either prior to or after enrollment at Northwestern), but all doctoral students must complete nine letter-graded (A,B,C) courses authorized by TGS for graduate credit, eight quarters of residency, and maintain a 3.0 GPA. Students may register for 590 Research within their programs to maintain full-time registration during quarters in which they are not enrolled full-time in graded coursework.

12.3 PhD Candidacy

Admission to The Graduate School (TGS) does not constitute or guarantee a student's admission to candidacy for the PhD degree. Admission to candidacy is contingent upon the recommendation of the student's department or program and upon approval of The Graduate School.

A student must be admitted to candidacy by the end of the third year of study, which falls on the last date of the 12th quarter. A student failing to meet this milestone will be considered not in good academic standing and therefore will be placed on academic probation. Deadlines will be altered in the case of an approved leave of absence or parental accommodation.

  • Admission to candidacy is reached by passing a comprehensive qualifying examination, written or oral or both. Individual departments or programs determine the character of this examination. At the time of admission to candidacy, proficiency in the major and related fields is certified and additional requirements for the PhD degree are stipulated. Students should be aware of requirements for admission to candidacy established by both the department or program and the Graduate Faculty.
  • The Director of Graduate Studies (or DGS designate) submits the PhD Qualifying Exam form online via TGS Forms in CAESAR (SES). The program must submit approval of this form before the end of a student's third year. Following the submission of the approved Qualifying Exam form in SES students are admitted to candidacy. Students are notified via email by TGS of approval of their Qualifying exam form and admission to candidacy.

12.4 PhD Prospectus

Students must have a prospectus (dissertation proposal) approved by their committee no later than the end of the fourth year of study, which falls on the last date of the 16th quarter. A student failing to meet this milestone will be considered not in good academic standing and therefore will be placed on academic probation. Deadlines will be altered in the case of an approved leave of absence or parental accommodation. The prospectus must be approved by a faculty committee. A minimum of three individuals must serve on the prospectus committee. At least two members of this committee, including the chair, must be members of the Northwestern University Graduate Faculty. The student must submit the PhD Prospectus form through TGS Forms in CAESAR. The program must approve this form online before TGS enters the final approval. Students are notified via email by TGS of approval of their prospectus form.

12.5 PhD Dissertation

Every candidate for the PhD degree must present a dissertation that gives evidence of original and significant research.

12.5.1 Dissertation Assistance

All dissertators should consult with their advisors about appropriate forms of assistance before assistance is rendered. Dissertations must acknowledge assistance received in any of the following areas:

  • Designing the research
  • Executing the research
  • Analyzing the data
  • Interpreting the data/research
  • Writing, proofing, or copyediting the manuscript 

12.5.2 Formatting

Dissertations must be formatted according to the Dissertation Formatting Guidelines document. Dissertations not conforming to these instructions will not be accepted by The Graduate School.

12.5.3 Depositing the Dissertation

Dissertations must be deposited into the ProQuest Database. In addition, the University Library receives a copy of the dissertation that may be used at its discretion for reasons including but not limited to long term archiving, library use and interlibrary loan, and dissemination through an institutional repository or other means. The library also archives electronic copies of dissertations to help ensure that the content is preserved for future generations. 

12.5.4 Dissertation Embargo

A student wishing to delay public release of their dissertation for an initial embargo of up to two years must submit a request providing a clearly stated rationale. Whatever the rationale, the student should be sure to consult with their faculty mentor(s) before considering an embargo, since support of a faculty member well versed with the student’s work and the fields it engages – presumably the primary advisor – is required for the request to be reviewed by TGS Academic Affairs, which will consult with all parties concerned before making a final determination as to whether the dissertation can be embargoed. 

An approved request to place an embargo has the effect of restricting online access to the dissertation through the library's discovery systems and ProQuest for the period of the embargo. Metadata (author,
title, abstract, keywords and subjects) about the embargoed dissertation will be available through the ProQuest system and the library catalog. Users of those systems are able to search for and see the metadata, but not the actual text or other content of the dissertation.

The dissertation will automatically be released in the library's discovery systems and ProQuest after the approved embargo expires. To extend the embargo with ProQuest, students should contact ProQuest Support directly. To extend the embargo with the University Library, students must contact TGS at least thirty days prior to the point of expiration. The student may request a one-time extension of the embargo for up to six years and must provide a sufficient intellectual and/or professional rationale in seeking approval from TGS Academic Affairs.

12.6 PhD Completion

Scheduling the final examination (dissertation defense) is the responsibility of the candidate and the members of the committee.

  • The PhD final exam must be approved by a faculty committee. A minimum of three individuals must serve on the final exam committee. At least two members of this committee, including the chair, must be members of the Northwestern University Graduate Faculty.

12.6.1 Filing Requirements and Forms

Students pursuing the Doctor of Philosophy degree must file the following required documents prior to graduation and by the published deadlines:

  • Application for Degree: this form must be filled out via CAESAR. Students should login to CAESAR, click on "Main Menu"-> "TGS Forms" and navigate to "Application for a Degree" form.
  • PhD Final Exam Form: this form must be filled out via CAESAR. Students should login to CAESAR, click on "Main Menu" -> "TGS Forms" and navigate to "TGS PhD Final Exam" form. Students must print out a hard copy of the completed form to take to the PhD final exam. Each committee member must sign the form. The signed form should go to the Director of Graduate Studies (or their designate) who will finish the approval process online; the form will be submitted to The Graduate School electronically for final approval, with the signed copy to follow.
  • Dissertation submission via ProQuest's website. Once the dissertation has been approved by the committee and all edits and revisions are complete, the student must submit online via ProQuest. The dissertation must conform to TGS formatting standards on the Dissertation Formatting Guidelines document. Once the student has submitted the dissertation online, a Student Services representative will review its formatting and confirm via email that the dissertation is acceptable or notify the student if changes need to be made.

Change of Grade forms: Students with Y or K grades on their transcript must work with their program/department to ensure the appropriate change of grade forms are submitted to The Graduate School by the published deadline.

12.7 PhD Timeline

The Graduate School policy states that all requirements for the doctoral degree must be met within nine years of initial registration in a doctoral program, which falls on the last day of the 36th quarter. For students on an approved leave of absence or approved parental accommodation, milestones will be extended accordingly.

Year One Tuition Rate Registration Milestones to be Achieved Forms to be Completed
Q1 - Fall Full Rate 3-4 units of coursework or 590 Coursework towards residency requirement. A minimum of nine letter-graded (ABC) courses approved by TGS for graduate credit are required. Individual programs may require more graded courses.
Q2 - Winter 3-4 units of coursework or 590
Q3 - Spring 3-4 units of coursework or 590
Q4 - Summer 3-4 units of coursework or 590
Year Two Tuition Rate Registration Milestones to be Achieved Forms to be Completed
Q5 - Fall Full Rate 3-4 units of coursework or 590 Coursework towards residency requirement. A minimum of nine letter-graded (ABC) courses approved by TGS for graduate credit are required. Individual programs may require more graded courses
Q6 - Winter 3-4 units of coursework or 590
Q7 - Spring 3-4 units of coursework or 590
Q8 - Summer 3-4 units of coursework or 590
Year Three Tuition Rate Registration Milestones to be Achieved Forms to be Completed
Q9 - Fall Advanced Rate TGS 500 and/or coursework Coursework towards program requirements (if applicable). Students must complete all required courses (including incomplete grades/F grade make-up) and be admitted to candidacy (PhD Qualifying Exam) by the end of the twelfth quarter. Students who have completed their program requirements will register for TGS 500 in addition to any non-required (extra) coursework. Students who have not completed their program requirements will register for courses as determined by their program. PhD Qualifying Exam form (submitted by program. No student entry)
Q10 - Winter TGS 500 and/or coursework
Q11 - Spring TGS 500 and/or coursework
Q12 - Summer TGS 500 and/or coursework
Year Four Tuition Rate Registration Milestones to be Achieved Forms to be Completed
Q13 - Fall Advanced Rate TGS 500 in addition to non-required coursework Students must complete their prospectus (proposal of dissertation topic) before the end of the sixteenth quarter. PhD Prospectus form (submitted by student via TGS Forms in CAESAR ; approved online by program)
Q14 - Winter
Q15 - Spring
Q16 - Summer
Year Five Tuition Rate Registration Milestones to be Achieved Forms to be Completed
Q17 - Fall Advanced Rate TGS 500 in addition to non-required coursework Students who are completing their degree must complete: (1) Application for Degree via TGS Forms in CAESAR; (2) PhD Final Exam Form via TGS Forms in CAESAR to be approved by the program (3) Online submission of dissertation via ProQuest
Q18 - Winter
Q19 - Spring
Q20 - Summer
Year Six Tuition Rate Registration Milestones to be Achieved Forms to be Completed
Fall Advanced Rate or Continuous Registration TGS 500 if receiving funding; TGS 512 if unfunded Degree deadline - students have 9 years from matriculation to complete the PhD degree. Only rarely under extenuating circumstances will students be granted permission to continue beyond 9 years. Students who are completing their degree will complete the following forms: (1) Application for Degree via TGS Forms in CAESAR; (2) PhD Final Exam Form via TGS Forms in CAESAR which will be approved by the program (3) Online submission of dissertation via UMI ProQuest.
Winter
Spring
Summer
PhD students who do not complete their PhD program within  9 years of initial registration in the doctoral program will be placed on academic probation.

Ad Hoc Combined Degrees

Students in TGS are admitted to specific academic programs and are expected to concentrate on their area of scholarship. In some cases, pursuing a secondary master’s degree outside of their area of specialization can enhance their primary area of scholarship. Alternatively, students may pursue a graduate certificate to show expertise in a secondary area. 

13.1 Eligibility

Students may pursue multiple degrees concurrently in more than one program within TGS only under the following conditions:

  • the student has been admitted into an existing combined degree program, or
  • the student has received permission to pursue a secondary master’s degree at the beginning of the proposed plan of secondary study, per the procedure outlined below. 

To receive multiple degrees in The Graduate School, students must satisfy all TGS requirements for each credential, and cannot double count TGS’s minimum requirements. Programs may allow double counting courses for work beyond TGS’s minimum requirements. Students seeking a secondary master’s degree must be in good academic standing and be in compliance with all TGS policies and milestones. 

When students pursue multiple degrees concurrently that are not part of an existing combined degree program, degrees must be conferred in the same quarter. A student who departs (withdraws, is dismissed, or otherwise discontinued from) the program in which they were originally admitted becomes ineligible for the secondary degree.

A student’s enrollment in courses outside the primary degree area prior to securing all necessary approvals to pursue a secondary degree does not guarantee approval of awarding a degree in that area. A limited number of introductory courses taken prior to formal acceptance into the secondary degree program may be accepted to satisfy graduate degree or residency requirements, if approved by TGS and the secondary program. In no case will more than the equivalent of one quarter (four units) of coursework taken prior to admission into the secondary degree program be counted toward the secondary degree requirements.

13.2 Procedure for Requesting Permission to Pursue an Ad Hoc Combined Degree

To request permission to pursue concurrent degrees outside of an existing combined degree program, students must  submit a General Petition Form to Student Services that provides:

  • An explanation providing an academic/intellectual rationale for the plan of study;
  • A written description of the student’s plan to fulfill all published requirements for each degree without double counting TGS’s minimum requirement for courses or other work;
  • A letter from the student’s academic advisor(s) supporting the rationale for the secondary degree and confirming that the student is making acceptable progress toward the primary degree and;
  • A letter from the Director of Graduate Study (DGS) for each the primary and secondary degree programs confirming that the outlined plan of study is acceptable and that the student has permission to pursue the degrees concurrently.

Satisfactory Academic Progress

All programs must make clear and direct reference in their materials (in a printed handbook and/or on the web) to the policies detailed below and any additional program requirements, to the extent that they differ from The Graduate School's (TGS) policies.

 Cases of improper academic and/or research conduct, and inappropriate or unprofessional behavior are considered outside the boundaries of "satisfactory academic progress." Resources for these cases can be found here:

Per federal regulation, recipients of federal financial aid must meet certain requirements (in addition to those listed below) to maintain satisfactory academic progress. Recipients of federal aid should be aware of the Federal Financial Aid Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy.

14.1 Criteria for Satisfactory Academic Progress

TGS sets the minimum standard for satisfactory academic progress. Programs may have additional criteria beyond TGS's for determining a student's academic standing. There are three sets of criteria that The Graduate School takes into account in determining whether or not students are making satisfactory academic progress:

  • Program length. Doctoral students must complete all requirements for the PhD within nine years of initial registration in TGS. Master's students must complete all requirements for the master's degree within five years of initial registration in TGS. Students who do not complete degree requirements by the established deadlines will will be placed on academic probation.
  • Grades and cumulative GPA. A student whose overall grade average is below B (3.0 GPA) or who has more than three incomplete (Y or X) grades is not making satisfactory academic progress and will be placed on probation by TGS. Individual programs may have stricter criteria.
  • Internal milestone deadlines. Doctoral students who have not been admitted to candidacy (passed the qualifying exam) by the end of their third year, or who have not completed the dissertation prospectus by the end of the fourth year are not making satisfactory academic progress and will be placed on academic probation by TGS

Programs may have additional criteria beyond TGS's for determining a student's academic standing. Failure to make satisfactory academic progress, as determined by the program, may be a result of (but is not limited to): unsatisfactory performance in classes, unsatisfactory performance on qualifying exams, unsatisfactory research progress, or failure to meet other program requirements (such as language proficiency or publication requirement).

Each student's academic progress must be reported annually by the student's program to the student and to TGS. Failure to make satisfactory academic progress as determined by either The Graduate School or the program will result in probation or exclusion (dismissal).

14.2 Petitioning for Extension

Students who have not achieved the GPA requirement or exceeded their time to degree deadline, qualifying exam or prospectus milestone deadline and cannot remediate within the two quarter probationary period may petition TGS for an extension. The petition for an extension must contain the following information:

  • The specific length of the extension including the exact date by which the requirement will be met. The extension time frame should be realistic.
  • A detailed rationale for the extension
  • A detailed timeline for meeting the new deadline including what work remains to be completed and the specific timeline, with proposed deadlines by which that work will be completed within the extension period
  • A detailed letter of support for the extension from the Director of Graduate Study
  • A detailed letter of support for the extension from the student's academic/research advisor

14.3 Probation

A student who is not making satisfactory academic progress due to one of the reasons outlined above will be placed on academic probation by The Graduate School and/or the program.

When a decision to place a student on probation is made by The Graduate School, the student will be notified in writing, along with the program's Director of Graduate Study, and will be given at most two quarters (not including summer quarter) to resume satisfactory academic standing. The Graduate School notifies students of probation status on a quarterly basis.

During the probationary period, students will remain eligible to receive federal and institutional assistance (except when they have exceeded their degree deadline). At the end of the probationary period, progress will be reviewed. If a student cannot re-establish satisfactory academic standing during the two probationary quarters, the student will become ineligible to receive financial aid and will be excluded (dismissed) from TGS.

When a decision to place a student on probation is made by the program, the student and The Graduate School must be notified in writing.

14.4 Exclusion (Dismissal)

The University defines exclusion in the Student Handbook. A student who fails to resume satisfactory academic standing after at most two quarters (excluding summers) after being notified of placement on probation by The Graduate School will be excluded from The Graduate School. Under certain circumstances, a student can be excluded by a program without first being placed on probation. This may occur only if:

  • the criteria for exclusion have been stated clearly by the program and have been disseminated to the students effectively, and
  • both the Director of Graduate Study and either the Chair of the graduate program's student advisory committee or the Chair of the student's department approve the exclusion.

Funding will cease on the effective date of the exclusion unless other arrangements are made.

14.5 Notification of Exclusion (Dismissal)

When TGS determines that a student is to be excluded, both the program and the student will be informed in writing (e-mail communication is considered to be "in writing") within five business days of the determination. Similarly, when a decision to exclude a student is made by the program, both the student and TGS must be informed in writing within five business days of the decision. The exclusion (dismissal) notification must include the effective date of the exclusion and a clear statement of the reason(s) for exclusion.

14.6 Appeal Process

Students wishing to appeal a program's exclusion decision may appeal the final program exclusion decision to The Graduate School. To appeal a program decision, students should submit a request in writing to the attention of the Director of Student Services within ten days of the date of the program's final written determination of exclusion to the student and include any supporting materials at that time. If no appeal is filed within the ten-day appeal period, the program's decision becomes final and not subject to appeal.

Exclusion appeals are reviewed by the Dean of The Graduate School (or his designate) who may request additional information from, or a meeting with, the student and/or program before making a final decision. The Dean's decision will be made within 30 days of the submission and will be communicated in writing to both the student and the program. When resolution cannot be achieved within 30 days, students and programs will be informed in writing of the delay and the final disposition will be achieved as quickly as possible.

The Dean's decision is final in both program and Graduate School exclusions proceedings related to academic progress.

Teaching

Teaching is an essential element of the education and training experience of PhD students at the university. TGS requires that all PhD students serve in some instructional capacity for at least one academic quarter during their graduate education at Northwestern.

  • Academic programs may define the teaching responsibilities of their PhD students independently. This teaching experience should provide PhD students with an opportunity for direct contact with and to contribute to the assessment and evaluation of students.
  • PhD students should have the opportunity to assist in course planning; however, TGS recognizes that this type of opportunity may not be practical in all instances.
  • To ensure work-load equity both within and among programs, the type of teaching responsibilities required by programs should be approved in advance by the dean's office of the relevant school and periodically monitored by TGS.
  • No student currently enrolled in a TGS program should be responsible for the final assessment of any assignment, or the final grade, in coursework undertake by another student enrolled in a TGS program. In rare cases where graduate students are involved in the instruction of other graduate students in credit-bearing courses peer to peer assessment must be done under close faculty supervision and faculty must take full responsibility for the final assessment of the enrolled students. (This pertains to Master's and PhD students teaching students in their own as well as other programs.)
  • The teaching requirement is unrelated to a student's source of funding.

Graduation and Diploma Mailing

16.1 Degree Awarding

Degrees are awarded in December, March, June, and August. Students should refer to the Master's Degree Completion and PhD Degree Completion pages for filing requirements.

Deadlines for filing for graduation can be found on the academic calendar.

16.2 Diploma Mailing

Diplomas are mailed to the address indicated on the Application for Degree form. If the diploma mailing address changes between the time the form is submitted in CAESAR and diploma mailing, students should send an email to Student Services indicating the new mailing address. Diplomas are mailed approximately four to six weeks following the date of degree awarding:

Degree Awarded Diploma Mailed
December end of January - early February
March end of April - early May
June end of July - early August
August end of September - early October

16.3 Certificates of Completion

Students who require proof of degree completion prior to the date of degree awarding or prior to diploma mailing may request a Certificate of Completion. Assuming all degree requirements have been met, a Certificate of Completion can be generated in 1-2 business days. To request a Certificate of Completion, students should:

Following the date of degree conferral, confirmation of degree completion can be requested via an official transcript through the Office of the Registrar.

Diversity Statement

The Graduate School considers having a diverse student population a key element to the educational experience of its graduate students. Diversity presents itself in many different forms such as: socioeconomic status, race or ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, nationality or place of origin, disability, unique work or life experience, etc. While completing the online application, applicants are invited to submit a statement explaining how they will contribute to the diversification of The Graduate School, your program and Northwestern University. The submission of this statement is optional.

Financial Aid Policies

All students in The Graduate School receiving financial support administered by the University must be registered full time. Students being supported during the summer by fellowships, teaching assistantships, research assistantships (including research assistants supported on sponsored projects) or external awards must be registered full time for the summer quarter.

18.1 Regulations Governing Recipients of University Assistance

Newly admitted applicants must use the online application enrollment tool to officially accept or decline the University's offer of admission. The act of accepting admission also signifies the acceptance of the University's financial award.

All recipients of University funding must meet the following conditions. If any of the conditions specified in this document are violated, financial assistance may be withdrawn by The Graduate School.

  1. Submit to The Graduate School official transcripts listing all prior undergraduate and graduate coursework undertaken and degrees awarded;
  2. Continuously register as a full-time graduate student.;
  3. Maintain at least a "B" average each quarter;
  4. Keep records free of incomplete grades;
  5. Refrain from remunerative work, unless a written request for a waiver is approved by The Graduate School;
  6. Notify The Graduate School Financial Aid Office and home department (via email) of other sources of support, such as an external award, traineeship, teaching assistantship, research assistantship, School of Continuing Studies teaching, or other fellowship. In cases where alternative funding is available, The Graduate School's financial award may be adjusted;
  7. Be aware that funding beyond five academic years is not guaranteed by TGS, but the program to which you are being admitted may have other policies;
  8. Adhere to all regulations as stipulated on The Graduate School web site and in the University Student Handbook.

In unique instances, applicants may choose to accept admission but decline the University's financial offer. In this circumstance, the applicant should initially accept the admission and financial award using the online system. After which, the applicant should notify the department and The Graduate School Financial Aid Office (via email) that the financial offer is being turned down. The Graduate School will then update the applicant's financial record to reflect this fact.

Summer Quarter

All students in The Graduate School receiving financial support administered by the University must be registered full time. Students being supported during the summer by fellowships, teaching assistantships, research assistantships (including research assistants supported on sponsored project accounts) or external awards must be registered full time for the summer quarter.

Appropriate full time registrations for the summer quarter include: 3-4 graduate units; TGS 588 or TGS 500. Students employed by the Summer Session as instructors to teach classes during the summer are not required to register, unless they are also receiving financial support as described in the first paragraph. The following documents pertain to all applicants for and recipients of any type of University assistance:

18.2 Permission To Work

Graduate students are expected to be full-time students conducting their studies and research.  On occasion another funding opportunity may arise.  When that situation occurs permission to receive remuneration must be requested.

 A Graduate Student Permission to work Request Form is required when students are receiving additional pay if ANY of the following conditions are met:

  1. The graduate student’s service exceeds 10 hours/week.
  2. The graduate student’s period of service exceeds one month.
  3. The requested compensation is greater than or equal to $600.

If any of the above conditions are met, complete the form and submit it via one of the below methods. The form should be submitted BEFORE the work begins.

Paper Additional Pay forms

  1. If you are submitting a paper Additional Pay form, email the completed Graduate Student Permission to Work Request form to the TGS Financial Aid staff at tgs-fa@northwestern.edu.  Some schools may require school level approval as well.  Please check with your school for routing instructions.
  2. If the request is approved, the signed form will be sent back to the requestor.
  3. Attach the signed form to the Additional Pay form before submitting to Payroll.

 Electronic Additional Pay in myHR

  1. Email the completed Graduate Student Permission to Work Request form to the TGS Financial Aid staff at tgs-fa@northwestern.edu.  Some schools require school level approval on the form as well.  Oher schools approve online during the Additional Pay Request workflow.  Please check with your school for routing instructions.
  2. If the request is approved, the signed form will be sent back to the requestor.
  3. Upload the signed form into the Additional Pay Request.  Be sure to check any relevant check boxes regarding the student’s hours/week, length of service and total compensation.

 External Funding Directly to the Student

  1. If the student will be funded directly by an external source, email the completed Graduate Student Permission to Work Request form to the TGS Financial Aid staff at tgs-fa@northwestern.edu.  Some schools may require school level approval as well.  Please check with your school for routing instructions
  2. If the request is approved, the signed form will be sent back to the requestor.  The form should then be uploaded into the student’s record in GSTS.

 Please contact TGS Financial Aid staff with any questions.  

18.3 TGS External Award Policy

Graduate funding is a collaborative effort between students and Northwestern University. The Graduate School (TGS) strongly encourages every student to apply for funding from a source external to the University sometime prior to the end of their fourth year. While TGS understands that some disciplines and students may have fewer opportunities for external funding, we still expect PhD students in all programs to pursue external awards. Such awards offer students opportunities to hone grant writing skills, secure funding, enhance their curriculum vitae and make invaluable academic contacts for the future. 

To encourage and reward the pursuit of external funding opportunities, TGS will provide the following to students enrolled in PhD programs in the School of Education and Social Policy; the Bienen School of Music; the School of Communication (social sciences and humanities programs); and Divisions II and III of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences (the social sciences and humanities), Mathematics, and Statistics.  

The provisions listed below apply to those awards that provide student comparable stipend support.  Therefore, awards such as the doctoral dissertation research improvement grants (DDRIG), which provide only research and travel support, are not eligible for the support listed below.

  1. A 1:1 match up to an additional three quarters of support to be used in the summer of the 5th year through the spring of the 6th year of support for graduate students who are awarded and accept an external competitive award within their first five years of study; and
  2. A stipend supplement of $500 per month for the duration of the external award to students through their fifth year.
  3. A stipend top-up to the TGS base stipend if the external award stipend is lower to students through their sixth year.

For students enrolled in MFA programs, The Graduate School will determine on an ad hoc basis to provide the stipend supplement of $500 per month and/or a stipend top up to the TGS base stipend if the external award stipend is lower.

To request a supplement, the department chair, director of graduate studies, or program designee must submit a copy of the external award notification detailing the amount and award period through our Specials Tool. Following a thorough review of the external award details, if approved TGS will process the request.

Patent and Invention Policy

Any invention or discovery by an individual, including a student, who (1) made the invention or discovery within the normal field of his or her employment responsibility and activity with the University, without regard to location or salary source (specifically including individuals employed at affiliated hospitals and institutions), or (2) makes use of Northwestern University Resources, except library, is subject to the provisions of the University Patent and Invention Policy and thus owned by the University. Visit the Innovation and New Ventures Office's website for further details.