Graduate student handbook

Welcome to UAF!

The Graduate School wishes to congratulate you on your acceptance to your graduate program.  We are looking forward to assisting you and working with you during your time here. 

This handbook will acquaint you with information, procedures, and policies about the process of earning your graduate degree.  Together with the UAF catalog, this handbook will provide information about your degree requirements and responsibilities as a student.  Please note that the UAF catalog is the “ultimate authority.”  This handbook does not supersede the UAF catalog and is a reference guide.  If you cannot find an answer to a specific question, please get in touch with your advisor, academic office, or any of us at the Graduate School.

UA Safe- Title IX for students

To promote safety and well-being, the UAF requires UA Safe training to be completed annually.

UA Safe educates students on prevention and safety strategies regarding sexual assaults on campus, as well as educating students on how to report concerns to the appropriate campus authorities.

Students required to take the training include:

  • all certificate and degree-seeking students, including students in Associates, Bachelors, Masters, or PhD programs. Both distance and on campus students are expected to complete this training,
  • national and international exchange students, and
  • all students living on campus.

The full training takes approximately 35-40 minutes to complete, and can be accessed through the student’s UAOnline account or through Blackboard. Click here for more information on this training.

UAF uses email to communicate with students about many important matters. Email is often the only way some information is distributed, so it’s important you check your email frequently and read messages sent to you from the university. For example, if you are waitlisted for a class, an email will be sent to you when a seat becomes available. If you don’t act on the email within a specified time frame, you risk losing that seat to the next student on the waitlist.

The university automatically assigns each student an official University of Alaska email account. If you prefer to use another email account, rather than your university-generated one, there are three steps to take to ensure you get all official communications:

  1. Log in to UAOnline and enter or update your preferred email address under the “Personal Information” menu.
  2. Log in to your University of Alaska email account and set up a forward to whichever account you prefer.
  3. When switching active email accounts, repeat steps 1 and 2 to ensure your preferred email is always up-to-date.

Although you are able to indicate a preferred email address in UAOnline, many faculty and departments at UAF will communicate with you only through your address. You are responsible for knowing — and when appropriate, acting on — the contents of all university communications sent to your university-generated email address.

The graduate advisory committee guides the student in developing and completing their degree program. The student's advisor serves as the chair of the committee and leads in fulfilling the committee's responsibilities.

The committee should be formed within the first two academic semesters by the end of the Spring (Fall) semester for students beginning in the previous Fall (Spring). Some departments and programs may have different procedures about the committee's composition (e.g., the minimum number of departmental/program faculty on the committee). The committee is subject to approval by the department chair, the school or college dean or director, and the graduate school director. The advisory committee of Master's degree students must consist of at least three approved faculty members. All Master's committee members must hold an earned Master's or higher degree, with exceptions for faculty, professionals, or experts with relevant accomplishments and expertise. The advisory committee of Doctoral degree students must consist of at least four approved faculty members. All Ph.D. committee members must hold an earned doctoral degree, with rare exceptions for faculty, professionals, or experts with relevant accomplishments and expertise. Such exceptions must have the approval of the department/program chair, school or college dean, and graduate school director. Both retired, and Emeritus faculty of UAF collaborating with the home department may serve on or (co-)chair graduate advisory committees upon expressed approval by the home department. Faculty from other universities and other professionals UAF does not employ may serve as committee members on advisory committees upon expressed approval by the home department. Non-UAF faculty and professionals may serve as the committee's co-chair, with a UAF faculty member as the other co-chair.

The graduate committee is formally established with the chair (or co-chairs) and committee members identified and the Appointment of Advisory Committee form is submitted to the Graduate School.  The graduate advisory committee's primary responsibilities are to formulate a graduate study plan in consultation with the student by the end of the students second semester; to develop a tentative timetable for completing all requirements for the degree program; to monitor the student's progress in course work and research; to provide advice and feedback to the student on that progress; to attend regular committee meetings and formally evaluate the student's progress at least once a year; to formulate and conduct the comprehensive examination and other exams as required by the department/program; to evaluate a research dissertation/thesis/project when one is required; to uphold the standards of the college/school and the university; and to inform the dean, in writing, if a student's performance is inadequate and provide relevant recommendations.

The Graduate Study Plan (GSP) serves as a road map for graduate study and should be drafted early in your program and no later than by the end of your first year. The GSP is a working agreement of mutual expectation between you and your committee and should be developed together. The completed Graduate Study Plan requires approval by the advisory committee, department chair, dean of your school or college, and the director of the Graduate School for interdisciplinary students. The GSP should list the following:

  1. The semester order of when you plan on taking the courses as outlined in the catalog. Selected courses must match the catalog requirements for the degree program or be accompanied by a graduate petition form indicating why they do not (e.g. if you list CHEM F688, but the program requires CHEM F692, the petition will indicate the substitution)
  2. Other courses required by your committee (including deficiency courses)
  3. A description of your research topic
  4. Whether or not you need regulatory approvals to perform your research
  5. The topics that will be included in your comprehensive examination

Depending on the length of your degree program, the first draft of the GSP may be your final one, although it is not unusual to find it necessary to revise your GSP during your studies. Possible reasons for revising a GSP are: a planned course is cancelled, initial results or funding changes dictate a change in research direction, etc. Revising the GSP is permitted and encouraged.

Consult with your committee chair about obtaining any regulatory approvals required for your research.  University and or agency approvals are required for research involving human subjects, vertebrate animals, marine mammals, endangered species, public lands, radioactive materials, biohazards, hazardous materials, and other regulated activities. Note that in many cases, the approval process is lengthy, so get started early.

Complete any training required to comply with regulations governing your research or to help ensure your safety while conducting research. For example, the University requires that you have the training to work in laboratories and remote field locations, and with human subjects, vertebrate animals, hazardous materials, and radioactive materials.

If you have any questions, contact the Office of Research Integrity at 907-474-7800 or

Meet frequently with your committee chair and with the other committee members.  Most students should meet with their committee chair monthly to discuss their progress, especially when actively conducting research and writing a thesis. At least once per year, you and your committee will submit a Report of Advisory Committee form.  This form consists of feedback on your program and research progress from your committee, accompanied by a self narrative from the student.  As you begin working with your committee, find what their expectations are in terms of content and format for your report.  Based on your progress, your committee will indicate whether or not you are making satisfactory progress toward your degree. Students are required to sign the report before it becomes part of their academic record.

If you are not satisfactorily progressing through your program, your committee will submit a “Conditional” or “Unsatisfactory” advisory report and will usually specify the conditions that you must meet to return to good standing and achieve satisfactory progress.  Students receiving a “Conditional” or “Unsatisfactory” report should arrange to meet with their committee frequently over the next year (e.g., every three months) to report on progress. Further, students who fail to correct deficiencies indicated by conditional or unsatisfactory reports can be dismissed on the recommendation of their committee, Department Chair, and Dean of your school or college.

IMPORTANT NOTE: A Report of Advisory Committee form is required to be on file each year to remain in good standing.

Students who begin their graduate program in the fall have an annual due date of May 15.
Students who begin their graduate program in the spring have an annual due date of December 16.

If you do not have a current Report of Advisory Committee on file or an approved extension request you will not be eligible to receive any Graduate School fellowship, grants, etc.

Master’s Students:  Most Master’s programs require a written and/or oral comprehensive examination to determine whether the student has integrated knowledge and understanding of the principles and concepts underlying major and related fields.  Some programs (MBA, MEd, and MSDM) allow or require a capstone course or synthesizing paper instead of a comprehensive examination.  Some programs integrate the comprehensive exam into the thesis/project defense and don’t require a separate exam. However, it is the student’s responsibility to know their department’s requirements for the exam, how it is administered, and the dates it is given.

Ph.D. Students: All Ph.D. students must pass a written comprehensive exam, and most programs require an oral comprehensive exam, which requires the presence of an Outside Examiner.  A request for an Outside Examiner must be submitted to the Graduate School at least two weeks before an oral comprehensive exam.  Click here to request an outside examiner.  Reference the catalog and departmental policies to find out which of these examinations apply to your program.   

All Students: After the completion of your examination (whether combined with your defense or not) you must submit a Report on Comprehensive Exam form signed by your committee chair, committee members, the department chair, and dean of your school or college (and, for Ph.D. oral exams, the outside examiner) within 10 days of taking your exam.

For any comprehensive examination, you will be given a pass, a conditional pass or fail.  If you receive a conditional pass, the “Report on Comprehensive Exam” form should specify the conditions that you will need to fulfill before the exam will be passed. These can include a second, partial oral or written exam covering the areas of weakness, only; completing assigned readings and a synthesizing paper, again addressing the areas of weakness; completion of a course or courses; or other appropriate remedies chosen by the committee.  The Report on Comprehensive Exam form should specify a deadline for satisfying the conditions. After the conditions have been successfully met, a second Report on Comprehensive Exam form must be submitted to the Graduate School showing that you have now successfully passed the comprehensive exam.

Most departments have written policies on how many times a failed comprehensive exam may be repeated.  Such policies usually state that a graduate student will be dismissed from the program if they fail the comprehensive exam either two or three times, but some programs allow more attempts.  

Proficiency in a second language or a research tool is not a university requirement, but some departments or programs may have this requirement.  An advisory committee may specify a language or research tool if its requirements exceed those of the program.  The advisory committee determines the specific language or research tool, guided by policies of the administrative unit in which the degree is offered.  Generally, competency in a second language is required.  However, upon approval of the department or program head, the committee may substitute computer languages, statistics, mathematics, or study in areas such as history or philosophy of science, business, administration, law or economics.  In all instances, topics selected must support the student’s degree program. A Report on Completion of Language or Research Tool Requirement must be submitted to the Graduate School when the requirement is completed.

The Advancement to Candidacy formally establishes your specific degree requirements and it is in the best interests of both you and your advisory committee that you apply for candidacy as soon as you qualify. If you are a master’s student, the Advancement to Candidacy should be submitted to the Graduate School after you have completed a minimum of 9 credits of coursework and, if required, passed your comprehensive exam. Ph.D. students should submit their Advancement to Candidacy as soon as they have finished any required coursework and passed the comprehensive exam.  At the latest, this form must be submitted at least one semester before you plan to graduate. The finalized Graduate Study Plan should be used as a basis for completing the Advancement to Candidacy.

Note that any subsequent changes in your program will require you to submit a Graduate Student Petition, to amend the Advancement to Candidacy.

Graduate students must be registered for at least six graduate credits per academic year (fall, spring, summer) when actively working toward a degree. Graduate students failing to register for at least six graduate credits (or 400-level credits on their Graduate Study Plan or Advancement to Candidacy) or obtain a leave of absence will be dropped from graduate study. Students who have dropped will have to apply for reinstatement to their academic program. Students generally must be registered for at least three graduate credits in the semester in which they defend their dissertation, project, or thesis. If they do not graduate in the same semester, they must register for one credit at the 600-level each subsequent semester until their degree is conferred.

The following types of courses cannot be used to meet the requirements of any graduate degree program at UAF: 500-level courses; Courses below the 400-level; Courses at the 400-level that are graded P/F or Cr/No Cr, or in which the grade earned is less than “B” (a B- is not acceptable); Graduate courses in which the grade earned are less than “C”; Courses that have been previously used to meet the requirements of another graduate or undergraduate degree program.

For students who are pursuing a second Master’s degree, 6 credits may be counted from the previous Master’s program if approved by the student’s graduate advisory committee as being relevant to the new program. Seniors who want to count 400-level or graduate courses toward a future graduate degree must reserve those courses by filing a petition during the first four weeks of the semester in which the courses are taken.

Only a limited number of credits from certain types of courses may be used to meet graduate degree requirements: Not more than 12 total credits can be from any combination of 693 and 695 (special topics) and 697 (individual study) courses; Not more than 50% of total graduate degree program credits can be courses completed as a non-degree-seeking student, i.e., before admission to a graduate program; Not more than 12 semester credits of thesis (699) and/or research (698) for thesis Master’s programs (usually requires a minimum of 6 thesis credits); Not more than 6 semester credits of research (698) in non-thesis Master’s programs.

699 Thesis/dissertation credits are intended for students preparing for scholarly or research activity. All students who are working on a thesis/dissertation should be enrolled in 699 credits.

698 Non-thesis research/project credits are intended for students preparing for professional practice. Master’s degree students working on a project should enroll in research credits. 698 credits cannot be applied to a PhD.

Graduate advisory committees can require students to take deficiency courses if the student’s prior coursework did not sufficiently prepare them to complete the graduate level courses or comprehensive examination in their graduate program. Required deficiency courses should be listed on the Graduate Study Plan, but should not be listed on the Advancement to Candidacy. Deficiency courses do not count toward meeting graduate degree requirements. Any undergraduate courses (100- to 400-level) courses included in the deficiency courses must be completed with a grade of “B” or better. English language proficiency is required of all graduate students. A student who is not initially proficient should be required to take English courses as deficiency courses. UAF offers several ESL (English as a Second Language) courses, as well as a technical writing course.

Students may elect to graduate under the degree requirements in effect and published in the UAF catalog in any one of the previous seven years in which you are enrolled as a master's degree student, or in the previous 10 years if you are a doctoral student.

All non-academic policies and regulations listed in the current catalog apply, regardless of the catalog being used for the degree requirements. All coursework listed on the Advancement to Candidacy form and all other degree requirements must be satisfactorily completed within seven years for a Master’s degree and ten years for a Ph.D. Taking a leave of absence or being reinstated into your program does not re-set the time limit. Students may request an extension to the time limits using the Graduate Student Petition Form, but extensions require approval at all levels and are not automatic. Extensions of more than one year are unusual and require special justification.

The time limits on degree completion are intended to correspond to extreme situations of part-time students or those who face unusual difficulties in completing their research or creative work. In normal circumstances, for a full-time student, two to three years should be sufficient to complete a Master’s degree and four to six years should be sufficient for a Ph.D.

Students must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 (B) for good standing in courses identified on the Advancement to Candidacy form to both graduate and to maintain a research or teaching assistantship (if applicable). Students must earn an A or B grade (no P grades or C grades) in 400-level courses; a C grade will be accepted in 600-level courses for the purpose of satisfying degree requirements (but a C- is not acceptable), provided a 3.0 GPA, overall, is maintained.

Students who have GPAs slightly below 3.0 and who have reasonable prospects for achieving a 3.0 GPA will be placed on Academic Probation, but are allowed to continue in the program. However, students with a cumulative GPA less than 2.7 after their first year (or 18 credits for part-time students) of graduate study should be advised that their chances of successfully completing the graduate program are poor, and that withdrawing is likely their best option. (A GPA of 2.67 for 18 credits would be the result of 2 C’s and 4 B’s for six, 3-credit courses). Students with a GPA less than 3.0 after their second year of graduate study, or after one year of academic probation (whichever is later) will be academically disqualified from the academic program in which they are enrolled.

Cooperative students (students who have a UAA or UAS faculty member as a co-chair and who complete the majority of their program at UAA or UAS must complete at least 12 UAF course credits as well as completing 18 UAF thesis (699) credits. Up to 50% of graduate program credits, if approved by the student’s graduate advisory committee, may be transferred from UAA or UAS. Up to 33% of graduate program credits, if approved by the student’s graduate advisory committee, may be transferred from other institutions. Note: that these limits cannot be added together, as a minimum of 50% of all credits used to meet the requirements of a degree program must be UAF credits. For example, a typical 30-credit Master’s program could include at most 10 non-UA system credits, and in addition 5 UAA or UAS credits.

Certain kinds of credits are not transferable. These include credits that are below the 400 (senior) level, credits that were not awarded a grade of “B” or above (including most P/F credit, unless the institution will certify that “P” is equivalent to “B”), credits that were awarded by institutions that lack regional accreditation (or the equivalent in foreign countries), credits that were earned more than seven years before the UAF Master’s (or 10 years before the UAF Ph.D.) is completed, and credits that the student’s advisory committee will not accept as meeting the requirements of the student’s degree program.

A dissertation is required of every candidate for the Ph.D. degree and a thesis is required in many Master’s degree programs, as indicated in the specific degree-program requirements.  In some programs a project is prepared rather than a thesis.  The Graduate School does not impose requirements on the format of a project in the non-thesis options.  You must obtain specific project format requirements from your department.

When a student is ready to begin writing their dissertation/thesis, it’s a good idea to have a committee meeting and address the following questions:

  • Which thesis format will be used, monographic or manuscript? If the latter, to which journal(s) will the manuscript(s) be submitted, and hence, what style should be used? If the question is not already settled by journal requirements, will the thesis be written in first- or third-person style? Is the thesis outline (either prepared before the meeting, or shortly afterward) acceptable to the committee?
  • Will the major advisor review and approve drafts before they are passed to the rest of the committee? Or will all drafts go to all committee members simultaneously? • What is the smallest unit that the advisor or committee members prefer to review? For example, A completed chapter or manuscript draft, only? Or, the entire manuscript?
  • What will be included in the thesis? That is, a student might have collected some data that may not be suitable for the thesis, as they are “off topic” from the work, or the student was not primarily responsible for the data or their analysis. Sometimes, such data are included in an appendix rather than in the main body of the thesis.
  • What is the schedule for completion? It is usually best to set up a schedule for submission and review of each unit (e.g., each chapter), as well as setting a target date for completion of the entire thesis. At this time, committee members and the student can point out times when they will be unavailable. The schedule should be realistic, with formal meetings to support steady progress. The student and committee should work within the deadlines set by the department, school or college, and graduate school.

Before students begin writing their dissertation/thesis, they should attend one of the Thesis Formatting Workshops and one of the one-on-one formatting sessions offered by the graduate school. These workshops are offered twice every semester. Adopting the approved formatting style early on will save students a lot of time, as extensive reformatting of a mature document can take a lot of effort. The dates and times of these workshops are announced on the graduate school website. Students who are planning to graduate in the current semester are given priority in the on-on-one sessions.

The graduate school has some specific formatting requirements for projects. While the content of projects may consist of photos, software, or other non-text materials that can be formatted in a variety of ways, the graduate school does require the project to have a specifically formatted title page and abstract. The formatting requirements for the content of the projects are established by the home departments/programs.

The advisory committee, department chair, and college/school dean/director usually have thesis or project submission deadlines that are well in advance, typically a month or more, of the graduate school deadlines. As the chair of a committee, it is most important that you convey any deadlines to your students in a timely manner. Although students are responsible for knowing these deadlines and meeting them, problems often arise when a chair, or committee member fails to take into account thesis submission deadlines when they set their own calendars.

Advisory committee chairs and members are responsible for carrying out timely reviews of theses. This is a time-consuming task to do well, and students should expect it will take a minimum of several weeks. However, it is your responsibility to communicate your timeline with your students. Sometimes a faculty member may have other unusually time-consuming responsibilities in any particular time period. If this happens the faculty member should make their students aware of any changes in their schedules so that the timeline can be adjusted. Also, some theses submitted for faculty review need much more work than others. If a thesis draft needs many corrections and revisions, the time for the faculty to review it will be longer. However, faculty members should give students a date when the review will be completed, and do their very best to meet the agreed-upon schedule.

Committees and students should determine together if a dissertation, thesis or project is ready to be defended and decide when to schedule the defense exam. It is important to determine when the committee members are available. If necessary and if approved by the department chair, committee members may attend by audio or videoconference. Ph.D. students must submit a Request for Outside Examiner a minimum of two weeks prior to the dissertation defense.

The defense exam should be chaired by the committee chair, and the chair should work with the student to set up the exam (e.g, reserving rooms etc.). The exam should follow the format established in the department/program/discipline.

The university is committed to public dissemination of research and scholarly activity and the examination should be publicized with the time and location announced. The student should submit their name and project, thesis, or dissertation title and the date, time, and location of their defense examination to the Graduate School at least two weeks prior to their defense examination date. The Graduate School, along with the home program, department, college, or school, will advertise the examination.

Before final acceptance, all members of the advisory committee, the department chair, the dean of your school or college, and the director of the graduate school must approve the dissertation/thesis. Any of these individuals may require changes or corrections. The committee chair and other advisory committee members are primarily responsible for evaluating the dissertation/thesis, and they consider both the academic standards of their field and the quality of presentation. Usually, the committee will give the student the required changes or corrections shortly after the defense. The student must make those corrections before the committee members give their final approval. The department chair should also conduct a thorough review, to check for any overlooked errors, and to monitor the quality of dissertations/theses for the program as a whole. The chair will approve the dissertation/thesis after the student has corrected any additional errors they have found. Most deans/directors read only parts of dissertations/theses, or selected dissertations/theses, again with the purpose of monitoring quality, but they too can require changes before approving. The graduate school checks that format and style conform to UAF standards, and the graduate school director will not give their final approval until the student makes any required corrections. The graduate school director reviews selected theses in some detail, and the student must also correct any errors that he or she finds before his or her final approval.

The many steps in the evaluation process require substantial time and departmental and graduate school deadlines for thesis submission are set well before the end of the semester. If you think your student will miss a deadline, but will be very close to meeting it, the committee chair may request an extension for the spring or summer terms. The committee chair (not the student) must submit a Request for Extension to Thesis/Dissertation Deadline form. This form must be submitted to the graduate school no later than April 7th for spring, and August 1st for summer. Because of the holiday break, fall (December) extensions are not granted. At the graduate school level, 1-week extensions are often granted but on a first-come-first-served basis, and 2-week extensions may be granted in special circumstances, but are strictly limited, because they require an expedited turnaround to meet the graduation deadlines.

All dissertations/theses must be submitted electronically to the graduate school though the designated website. Currently the graduate school works with ProQuest. Electronic copies of the dissertations/theses/projects are hosted in Scholarworks.

All forms are available online at the graduate school website. They are completed and submitted electronically.  Check with the Graduate Coordinator in your department on who initiates forms.  While all completed forms are filed with the central UA storage system, students may wish to keep copies of these forms. You should also confirm if your department/program maintains a copy of the forms.

Required Forms:
The Appointment of Advisory Committee form records the members of the graduate advisory committee, and identifies the chair or co-chairs of the committee. The committee should be established and the form submitted to the graduate school before the end of the students second academic semester in the program.
The Graduate Study Plan (GSP) outlines the curriculum of study and timetable to be followed by the graduate student in completing their graduate degree. It serves as a road map for graduate study. It should be drafted early in a student’s program and submitted to the graduate school by the end of the second semester of study. The GSP serves as a working agreement between the student and the committee and should be written collaboratively. The GSP contains the specific degree requirements and indicates the mechanism for fulfilling these requirements (e.g., via coursework, examinations). The GSP can be revised as warranted. Possible reasons for revising a GSP are: a planned course is cancelled, initial results or funding changes dictate a change in research direction, etc.

This Report of the Advisory Committee (RAC) is the fundamental evaluation and record of the student’s progress. The report is an evaluation by the committee of the student’s progress in both their coursework and their dissertation/thesis/project and is accompanied by a self-assessment by the student. The RAC must be submitted to the graduate school annually for the student to remain in good academic standing (by May 15 for students admitted in Fall, and December 15 for students admitted in the Spring). A committee can meet formally with a student more often than once a year (semiannually or quarterly) However often the committee meets, reports should be filed for each of the meetings. Lack of a current RAC on file with the graduate school can impact a student’s ability to receive scholarships or fellowships from the graduate school.

The student’s progress can be evaluated as “Satisfactory”, “Conditional” or “Unsatisfactory”. If their progress is deemed “Conditional” or “Unsatisfactory” the report must include specific and complete instructions to the student on how to improve and a timeline for meeting the requirements. If appropriate, consequences for not fulfilling the conditions must be specified. A student who is not making “Satisfactory” progress may be placed on academic probation. Students with “Unsatisfactory” progress may also lose their eligibility for graduate assistantships or graduate school Fellowship support. If a student has been evaluated as “Conditional” or “Unsatisfactory” the committee should meet formally to reevaluate the students’ progress in the next semester and file a RAC that documents the student’s progress, whether the student has met the requirements of the previous report, and again evaluates their progress as “Satisfactory”, “Conditional” or “Unsatisfactory”. If a student does not return to good standing in two semesters, with a “Satisfactory” evaluation, the student may be dismissed from their degree program.

Reports of “Conditional” and “Unsatisfactory” progress can affect the status of international students. If you think it might be necessary to file such a report for an international student, please consult the graduate school beforehand.

The Advancement to Candidacy Form (Master’s & PhD) formally establishes the student’s specific degree requirements. The form documents the courses that were taken by the student at the recommendation of their committee and must be consistent with the requirements of the degree program. It is in the best interests of both the student and the advisory committee to file the Advancement to Candidacy form as soon as possible. Master’s students are eligible to advance to candidacy if they are in good standing, have completed at least 9 graduate credits after admission to a graduate program, and have their committee’s approval of their Graduate Study Plan, including research topic, coursework, comprehensive exam topic(s) and any other requirements. Some Master’s programs require the student to have passed the comprehensive or a qualifying examination before advancing to candidacy. Ph.D. students are eligible to advance if they have completed the full-time equivalent of two academic years of graduate study, have completed at least 9 UAF credits, have an approved Graduate Study Plan, and have passed a written comprehensive examination. At the latest, the Application for Advancement to Candidacy form must be submitted at least one semester prior to graduation.

The most recent Graduate Study Plan should be used as a basis for completing the Advancement to Candidacy form, but it is not necessary to submit a Graduate Study Plan to the graduate school with the Application for Advancement to Candidacy. Once filed, the Advancement to Candidacy form can be revised with a Graduate Petition Form.

The Report on Comprehensive Exam documents the result of the student’s written and/or oral comprehensive examination. After the completion of a comprehensive exam (either oral, written or both), the student submits a Comprehensive Exam Report signed by the committee chair, committee members, the department chair, and dean of their school or college (and, for Ph.D. students, the outside examiner) to the graduate school. The student can receive a “Pass”, “Conditional Pass” or “Fail” for the exam. The report is also used by Master’s in programs that have qualifying exams. To report the results of these exams

If the student receives a “Conditional Pass” the report should specify the conditions that the student needs to fulfill before the exam will be passed. The report should also identify the deadline for meeting these conditions. These conditions can include a second, partial oral or written exam covering the areas of weakness, only; completing assigned readings and a synthesizing paper, again addressing the areas of weakness; completion of a course or courses; or other appropriate remedies chosen by the committee. If the student fulfills these conditions the student submits a report indicating that they have passed the exam.  If the student does not fulfill the conditions by the specified deadline, then the committee submits a new Report on Comprehensive Exam form that indicates a “Fail” grade.

Most departments have written policies on how many times a student can attempt the comprehensive examination. Such policies usually state that a graduate student will be dismissed from the program if they fail the comprehensive examination after a certain number of attempts (usually two or three). If your department does not have such a policy we strongly recommend that you establish one in writing and communicate it to your students.

The Report on Dissertation/Thesis/ Project Defense documents the result of the students public defense examination. After the completion of a defense, the student must submit a Report on Dissertation/Thesis/Project Defense signed by the committee chair, committee members, the department chair, and dean/director (and, for a Ph.D. defense, the outside examiner). The report on the defense is distinct from the approval of the dissertation/thesis/project”.

The student can receive a “Pass”, “Conditional Pass” or “Fail” for the exam. The “Conditional Pass” is usually appropriate for a defense where the student’s work can be remedied by re-analysis or re-interpretation. The student should work with their committee to remedy the work. Once the work has been corrected to the satisfaction of the committee the student submits a new report indicating that they have passed the exam. A student who receives a “Fail” may be allowed to repeat their defense if the departmental policy allows it. If your department does not have a policy on failed thesis defenses, then we recommend that you write one and make it known to all graduate students.

Graduate study provides students with the opportunity to conduct independent scholarship and research focused on their personal and professional interests. The graduate student has the primary responsibility for the successful completion of their graduate degree. The student is resident in a department or program that offers their degree and serves as their academic “home.” As outlined in the UAF catalog, the student should know the relevant university, departmental, and graduate school rules, regulations, policies, and deadlines relating to their degree.   The student is responsible for proactively working with their advisor to develop their graduate study plan, form an advisory committee, and professionally conduct their scholarship and research appropriate to their discipline and consistent with university procedures, policies, and regulations.

Code of Conduct
As with all members of the university community, the university requires students to conduct themselves honestly and responsibly and to respect the rights of others.  Students may not engage in behavior that disrupts the learning environment, violates the rights of others, or otherwise violates the student code of conduct, university rules, regulations, or procedures.  Students and student organizations will ensure that they and their guests comply with the student code of conduct while on property owned or controlled by the university or while attending activities authorized or sponsored by the university.

To read more, please visit the Student Code of Conduct and Student Rights and Responsibilities.

As discussed earlier, the advisor guides the graduate student through their degree program and chairs their graduate committee. Beginning as early as the application stage, the advisor and student should discuss the student’s academic and career goals. Programs and faculty should accept applicants whose goals and interests are consistent with what UAF and the faculty member can offer. Once admitted, the advisor should work with the student to help them attain personal goals, consistent with the academic standards and requirements of the degree program.

In the student’s first year, the advisor works with the student to become established in their graduate program: forming a graduate student advisory committee; establishing a graduate study plan; and evaluating the student’s progress. In each following years the advisor and the graduate committee formally review the students’ progress annually. The advisor guides the student through their required examinations (i.e., qualifying examination for some MS programs, comprehensive examination for all PhD programs), their advancement to candidacy, the defense of their dissertation/thesis/project, and the completion and submission of their dissertation/thesis/project.

Assist the student in designing their scholarship and research, review the final plan carefully, and approve it, in consultation with the other committee members, before the student begins work. Help the student to revise the design as needed based on the early results and other developments.

The advisor should describe the general scope of the dissertation, thesis or project topics that are consistent with their expertise and, if applicable, any funded projects, or potential funding sources. The advisor should fully inform the student of any restrictions on publication associated with the nature of the work or funding source(s).

If the student is offered a graduate assistantship, either as a teaching assistant or research assistant, the advisor should set clear expectations about the duration of support and the options for subsequent funding at the time the offer is made. The student should be informed as soon as possible of any substantive changes in funding. The student should be provided with a detailed description of the duties that will be required of any graduate assistantship, especially any unusual requirements (e.g., remote field work, shipboard work, travel, hazardous materials or activities, work schedule). Graduate assistantships (both teaching and research) are required to include the mandatory health insurance. We encourage faculty who are providing research assistantships to also include coverage of the student’s university fees.

The advisor serves as the chair or co-chair of the committee. Advisors may co-chair the committee for a variety of reasons. For example, if the student is working closely with you and another faculty member, combining your complementary fields and expertise, you may wish to serve as co-chairs. If you are working with a student and a faculty member based at another University of Alaska campus, the non-UAF faculty member may serve as co-chair of the committee. If you are working with a student in a department that you are not a member of, you should establish yourself as a collaborating faculty member with the department. You may be required to have a co-chair from that department. The co-chairs should determine which responsibilities they will meet individually and collectively.

Work with the student and the Office of Research Integrity (ORI), and the Institutional Review Board (IRB), to ensure that both you and the student have completed the required training, developed the necessary protocols, and obtained the University and agency approvals for research involving human subjects, vertebrate animals, marine mammals, endangered species, public lands, radioactive materials, biohazards, hazardous materials, and any other regulated activities.

Meet frequently with the student to follow progress, provide guidance, and assist with problems that arise. Work with the student to set realistic timelines for completion of the dissertation/ thesis/project. If the student is not meeting their timeline deadlines, meet with the student as soon as possible and to ascertain the reasons. Work with the student to improve their progress or alternatively revise their timeline. Use committee meetings to document progress, formally address any concerns, and identify pathways to resolve any problems.

Review drafts of the dissertation/thesis/project, or portions thereof, in a timely manner. In general, two to three weeks should be sufficient for a Master’s thesis or project, and four to six weeks for a Ph.D. thesis. Several factors may extend the review time, such as conflicting commitments on part of the advisor and committee members, or challenges with the quality of the writing or technical description. However, the advisor should communicate these special circumstances to the student promptly and tell them when the review will be completed. Thoroughly review the final draft of the thesis/project before the defense. In addition to reviewing the content, see that a high standard of writing quality is maintained throughout the thesis/project.

Chair the public defense of the dissertation/thesis/project. It is good practice to work with the student on a practice defense. A public defense of the dissertation or thesis is required, while a public defense of a project may/or may not be required by the department/program.

Carefully review the dissertation/thesis/project before it is submitted to the graduate school (or department, in the case of projects) and confirm that the changes required by the committee after the defense have been incorporated. Make certain that the final copy of the dissertation/thesis/ project conforms to the format and style requirements of the field of study, department and the graduate school.

The members of the graduate advisory committee review and approve the Graduate Study Plan and the Advancement to Candidacy Form, including the research plan. Check the thesis/project design before the research or project begins, and suggest needed changes. Attend committee meetings and carefully review the materials the student prepares for them, such as progress reports. Assist the student with research issues that fall within the committee member’s special area(s) of expertise.

The members should review the dissertation/thesis/project before the defense and see that a high standard of scholarship and writing quality are maintained throughout. Participate in the public defense of the thesis/project. Review the dissertation/thesis/project before the final version is submitted to the graduate school, to ensure that the required corrections have been made.

The graduate coordinators work at the department/program level. They are employees of their departments/programs, not the graduate school. These coordinators work closely with the graduate school staff to answer student questions and resolve student issues. Their specific responsibilities vary by department/program. In general, the graduate coordinators are the frontline resource for students who have questions about their program requirements and may serve as academic advisors. The coordinators review all graduate student forms, and depending on departmental/program practice may be responsible for originating the forms. The graduate coordinators also work with human resources to establish and manage graduate assistantships, and may organize department/program specific orientation activities for graduate students. You should confirm the scope of these duties and practices with the coordinator in your department/program.

The Department or Program Chair ensures that the courses, comprehensive examination topics, and research plan included on the Graduate Study Plan and Advancement to Candidacy Form meet departmental/program requirements. Works with faculty to ensure that degree programs have appropriate requirements and standards, including standards for dissertation/thesis/project quality. Implements Student Learning Outcomes Assessment (SLOA) for graduate as well as undergraduate programs. Reviews the final form of the dissertation/thesis/project. Sees that a high standard of scholarship and high quality of writing are maintained in the dissertation thesis/project.

The chair is also available as a resource for graduate students to confidentially discuss any issues or concerns associated with their program.

The Dean or Director of the College or School works with faculty and departments to ensure that degree programs maintain appropriate academic standards for graduate scholarship including the quality of dissertations/theses. Reviews (or delegates a review of) sufficient portions of the dissertation/thesis to ensure that a high standard of scholarship and writing quality are maintained. Reviews and approves (as appropriate) departmental admission decisions. Review results of SLOAs for graduate as well as undergraduate programs, and support programs in making needed improvements.

The Graduate School Staff is a resource for information and support to graduate students, departments, schools and colleges. Promptly processes paperwork of graduate students and maintains student files. The staff provide training opportunities for graduate students, faculty, and staff. The staff conducts the final check of dissertations/theses to ensure that they meet UAF requirements for style and format.

The director of the graduate school works with faculty, departments, deans, and the Graduate Academic and Advisory Committee of the Faculty Senate to ensure that degree programs have appropriate standards for graduate scholarship and research. Administers financial assistance programs for graduate students, and work to secure more resources for those programs. Reviews and approves (as appropriate) departmental/program admission decisions. Monitor graduate student progress, as reflected in the forms and reports submitted to the graduate school. Reviews and approves (as appropriate) major academic decisions involving graduate students. Draws on Program Reviews, Outcomes Assessments, and Institutional Research, to monitor graduate programs’ quality and productivity, and assist in their improvement.

The Graduate School Student Advisory Board (GSSAB) works with the Graduate School to maintain and improve the quality of graduate education at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and to enrich the academic, professional and social experience of graduate students.  The GSSAB brings a comprehensive student voice to the graduate School.

The GSSAB members are representatives from each college or school at UAF.  They serve a one year term and are responsible for sharing concerns, findings and recommendations with the director of the graduate school. The GSSAB members also recruit new members, develop meeting agendas, meeting protocols, membership responsibilities, and board make-up.