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Time to Doctorate Policy

In Spring 1988 the Graduate Council approved the establishment of a new policy on doctoral time limits which became effective Winter 1990. The goal of this policy is to encourage students to complete their doctorates and to stimulate faculty to guide their students so they can advance to candidacy and complete dissertations of high quality in a timely manner.

Basic provisions of the policy are given below. The complete text of the policy may be obtained from departmental graduate offices. Time limits vary by department. Students may consult their department graduate coordinators for their department's specific time limits. At the end of their first year of study, doctoral students will receive a letter from the Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA) explaining their time limits. Another notification of time limits will be sent when a student advances to candidacy. Students may log on to the Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA)’s Student Portal to access their letters.

This policy applies to all students in the Doctoral programs.

Each doctoral program has three time limits:

  • Pre-candidacy limit (PCTL) - Maximum registered time in which a student must advance to doctoral candidacy.
  • Support limit (SUTL) - Maximum time during which a doctoral student is eligible for financial support.
  • Total time limit (TRTL) - Maximum registered time in which a student must complete all doctoral requirements.

In addition, each program has a Normative Time, the period within which students, under normal circumstances, are expected to complete requirements for the doctorate. Students may not remain in campus housing after the expiration of normative time plus one year. Normative Time cannot be extended.

Departments may establish earlier doctoral time limits which are administered solely by the department.

Time limits are affected by the following:

  • Up to three quarters time spent on approved leave of absence from the graduate program will not count in the above limits.
  • Time spent withdrawn from the graduate program will count toward all time limits (pre-candidacy, support, total, and normative) for a student who is readmitted to the graduate program.
  • Time spent at UC San Diego as a master's, non-degree graduate, or intercampus exchange student will count in the above time limits.
  • Adjustment to the time limits for students who change departments or enroll for one year or more of half-time study may be made upon departmental recommendation and approval by the Graduate Dean (normative time is not adjusted for quarters registered at half-time status). Students who withdrew from the University prior to Winter 1989 and who have subsequently been readmitted will not have periods of withdrawal in excess of three quarters counted against their support time limit.

Students will not be permitted to continue in doctoral status if they have not advanced to candidacy before the expiration of the pre-candidacy time limit or if they have not completed their program before the expiration of the total time limit. Students will not be permitted to receive UC San Diego administered financial support after the expiration of their support time limit.