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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 Division 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 Division portal to access their letters.

This policy applies to all students in the Doctoral programs.

Students appointed in instructional titles (Teaching Assistant, Language Assistant, or Associate) must be within the instructional appointment limits established by the Office of the President. Departments may approve a fifth and sixth year of instructional appointment for students advanced to doctoral candidacy. Absolutely no exceptions beyond the sixth year (18 quarters) are permitted by University-wide policy.

  • To be eligible for readmission, the student must have been in good academic standing at the time he or she left the program and must satisfy departmental requirements for readmission. A department may provide a student who is leaving the program with a letter specifying the conditions under which the student will be readmitted. Departments may establish an absolute time limit for degree completion by a student who withdraws after which he or she will not be readmitted.
  • Doctoral candidacy lapses when a student withdraws from a doctoral program. If a previously advanced student withdraws and is later readmitted, the student or department asks the doctoral committee members if they will continue serving on the doctoral committee; if they will not, the doctoral committee is reconstituted. The student is re-advanced to candidacy upon the recommendation of the doctoral committee (who may require the student to retake the qualifying examination) and upon payment of the candidacy fee, after which the student defends the dissertation.
  • Each doctoral student is to receive an annual substantive progress review. The review for pre-candidacy students is to be conducted by the student's advisor and signed by the advisor and the student. Evaluations for in-candidacy students are to be conducted by at least three members of the student's dissertation committee and must bear the signature of those committee members, the student and the department chair. Continued approval for support is dependent upon the annual filing of a satisfactory evaluation with Graduate Division.
  • Students may not remain in campus housing after the expiration of normative time plus one year.
  • Parenting Leave: A graduate student who is bearing a child, who has primary responsibility for the care of an infant immediately following birth, a child under the age of five, or adoption of a child under age five and is in good academic standing is eligible for a total of 3 quarters leave of absence for childbearing or parenting. The student must submit a leave of absence form to request the leave. The student will be granted an extension of all unexpired doctoral time limits for the duration of the leave of absence (up to 3 quarters). During the quarter in which childbirth or adoption occurs, the graduate student may choose one of the following options:
    1. Continue registering as a full-time graduate student and retain eligibility for support, in which case a leave of absence is not taken and time limits will not be adjusted.
    2. Reduce to part-time status (6 units or less) and be eligible for up to 25% time employment on campus. Again, a leave of absence is not taken in this instance.
    3. Take a leave of absence for up to 3 quarters. Follow the instructions on the Leave of Absence page.
  • The total amount of time for which graduate students may receive extensions of time limits for parenting or childbearing may not exceed three quarters in a graduate student's career at UCSD. Approved leaves for childbearing and parenting will not count in the three-quarter leave limit available to all graduate students.

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 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. 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 UCSD 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 Dean of Graduate Studies (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 UCSD-administered financial support after the expiration of their support time limits.