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Engagement and Enrollment in Doctoral Programs


To define minimum pre-comprehensive enrollment and duration expectations for doctoral students. 

Applies to: 

All doctoral students on the Lawrence and Edwards campuses.

Policy Statement: 

Student enrollment should reflect accurately the amount and kind of work undertaken in the doctoral program. Doctoral degrees are granted primarily on the basis of achievement, so engagement with one’s discipline is an important part of achieving quality in a dissertation or its academic equivalent. KU maintains an enrollment requirement in order to promote a high level of intellectual and scholarly activity in all doctoral programs at the University. These requirements foster intensive, concentrated engagement with the faculty members and other graduate students in a student's program. To earn a KU doctoral degree, students must demonstrate a minimum level of engagement with coursework at KU by completing the enrollment requirements below. KU coursework used to meet the enrollment requirement may be taken on campus or online.

Students must satisfy any credit-hour and/or enrollment requirements established by their academic programs, departments, and/or schools, which may be more stringent than those stipulated by this policy. Students should inquire about the policies and minimum expectations in effect in their home academic departments.  International students must also work with International Support Services to ensure they are meeting all immigration requirements.

Enrollment Requirement

Prior to the semester in which the comprehensive exam is held, all doctoral students must complete a minimum program engagement equivalent to two (2) full-time semesters. This may be accomplished through either of the following:

  • Two (2) semesters (fall and/or spring) of full-time enrollment in KU coursework, as defined by University policy
  • At least 18 hours of enrollment in KU coursework spread out over several part-time semesters

Summer enrollment is not required to maintain registration, but summer enrollments may be counted toward the 18 part-time pre-comprehensive hours. The time spent in attaining the master’s degree at KU may also count toward this enrollment requirement, at the program’s discretion.

During the required enrollment outlined above, the student’s supervisor must affirm that the coursework and research involvement contribute to the student’s dissertation or academically equivalent program objectives. Research must be performed under the direct supervision of the major adviser if on campus, or with adequate liaison if off campus.

Recognition of Prior Work

Transfer of credit toward a doctorate is not appropriate. However, graduate degree programs take relevant prior graduate work into consideration in setting up programs of study leading to the doctorate.

Maximum Time to Degree

Once admitted, KU doctoral students complete all degree requirements in eight (8) years. When compelling circumstances recommend a one-year (1-year) extension, the Graduate Division has authority to grant such an extension on a case-by-case basis upon the written advice of the department and examining committee.

Students who complete the master’s degree at KU and subsequently begin doctoral studies in the same academic department have a maximum total enrolled time of ten (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 (2) years of full-time study, and both master’s and doctorate in six (6) years of full-time study.


Office of Graduate Studies

Approved by: 
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Approved on: 
Thursday, December 17, 2020
Effective on: 
Thursday, December 17, 2020
Review Cycle: 
Annual (As Needed)
Time to degree, time limits, degree progress, residency, time extension, leave of absence
Change History: 

07/18/2023: Approved by changed to Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor, updated links and formatting.
09/28/2021: Updated links.
12/17/2020: Policy uploaded to the Policy Library.

Academic Categories: 
Academic Programs
Graduation & Degrees

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