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Doctoral Program Time Constraints


To define tenure and duration expectations for doctoral students, doctoral residency requirements, and leaves of absence for doctorl students

Applies to: 

All doctoral students on the Lawrence and Edwards campuses

Policy Statement: 

Minimum Tenure

The student must spend three full academic years, or the bona fide equivalent thereof, in resident study at this or some other approved university, including the time spent in attaining the master’s degree. Resident study at less than full time requires a correspondingly longer period, but the requirement is not measured merely in hours of enrollment. Because a minimum number of hours for the degree is not prescribed, no transfer of credit is appropriate. However, graduate degree programs take relevant prior graduate work into consideration in setting up programs of study leading to the doctorate.

Residence Requirement

Two semesters, which may include one summer session, must be spent in resident study at KU. During this period, the student must be involved full time in academic or professional pursuits, which may include an appointment for teaching or research if it is directed specifically toward degree objectives. Enrollment in approved distance-learning courses offered through KU cannot be used to meet the doctoral residency requirement. The student must be enrolled in a minimum of 6 credit hours per semester, and the increased research involvement must be fully supported and documented by the dissertation supervisor as contributing to the student’s dissertation or program objectives. Research must be performed under the direct supervision of the major adviser if on campus, or with adequate liaison if off campus.

Note: These are minimum residence requirements. Please check with the Graduate Division of your school or college for any additional requirements.

Maximum Tenure

After being admitted to doctoral programs at KU, students complete all degree requirements in eight years. In cases in which compelling circumstances recommend a one-year extension, the Graduate Division has authority to grant the extension on the written advice of the department and dissertation committee. Students who complete the master’s degree at KU and subsequently begin doctoral studies have a maximum total enrolled time of 10 years to complete both degrees. Normal expectations, however, are that most master’s degrees (excluding some professional terminal degrees) should be completed in two years of full-time study, and both master’s and doctorate in six years of full-time study. Some graduate degree programs may have more stringent time restrictions. Students should inquire about the policy in effect in the department in which they plan to study.

A student in any of the above categories may petition the Graduate Division through the department for a leave of absence during either the pre- or post-comprehensive period to pursue full-time professional activities related to the doctoral program and long-range professional goals. Leaves of absence also may be granted because of illness or other emergency. Ordinarily a leave of absence is granted for one year, with the possibility of extension upon request. After an absence of five years, however, a doctoral aspirant or candidate loses status as such and must apply for readmission to the program and the Graduate Division.


Office of Graduate Studies

Approved by: 
Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
Approved on: 
Friday, July 17, 2009
Effective on: 
Friday, July 17, 2009
Review Cycle: 
Annual (As Needed)
Time to degree, time limits, degree progress, residency, time extension, leave of absence
Change History: 

03/09/2018: Updated missing required information

01/27/2015: Minor formatting update.

10/16/2014: Policy formatting cleanup (e.g., bolding, spacing).

04/22/2014: Technical edit.

Academic Categories: 
Academic Programs
Graduation & Degrees

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