2013 and Later Satisfactory Progress and Departmental Guidelines


Please note that the information given here pertains to students entering the program in the Fall 2013 semester or later. You can view the previous version of this page here. To earn a PhD, a student must complete the Graduate School requirement of 51 credit hours of course work, and maintain Satisfactory Progress in all phases of the Course of Study in the Economic Program.

The Economics Department’s performance standards for Satisfactory Progress are described here. A student must also meet the general requirements of the Department, the Graduate School, and the University regarding academic integrity and student conduct. If a student is ever unsure about the standards for satisfactory progress or academic integrity, he/she should consult the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS).

In addition, any student who receives financial assistance from the Department and/or the Graduate School should review the guidelines in Students with TA Stipends and/or Tuition Assistance, and the Graduate School’s rules on the subject.

The general grading standard for course work is given here:

  A   strong
  A – good
  B + minimum acceptable performance for PhD Program
  B   below standard for PhD but OK for MA
  B – below standard for MA
  C   unacceptable
  F   immediate termination warranted

First Year Standards: Every PhD student is required to maintain at least a B+ (3.33) grade average in their first-year coursework. A student who meets the 3.33 requirement at the end of the first year is permitted to continue in the PhD program. The nature of the course work is outlined in Course of Study. Any student who for medical or otherwise legitimate reasons cannot complete part or all of the first year course work should consult the policy on Incompletes, Leaves of Absence, Termination, and Appeals.

The Comprehensive Exams are administered in August before a student’s second year. The exam consists of three components: microeconomics, macroeconomics and econometrics. These components are cumulative and typically cover the material in Microeconomics I and II, Macroeconomics I and II, and Econometrics I and II. Students who have maintained Satisfactory Progress in their coursework are eligible to take the exam.

Comprehensive Exams

The Comprehensive Exams in Microeconomics, Macroeconomics and Econometrics are set and graded by committees consisting typically of three faculty members.  The grade choices are Pass and Fail.

Students must pass all three components. A student who fails a component the first time may, at the discretion of the Comprehensive Exam Committee, be allowed to re-take the exam. A student is allowed at most two opportunities to pass each component of the exam.  Students who do not pass all three components are terminated from the PhD program at the end of the Fall semester of their second year. Note that these students are eligible to receive a Master’s degree by the end of the Fall semester of their second year provided that they have completed 30 hours of graduate coursework and have achieved at least a B (3.0) grade average. 

Field Requirements

As indicated in the Course of Study, students must demonstrate competence in two fields of specialization. In order to demonstrate competence in a field, a student must earn an average grade of at least B+ in the two courses that comprise the field. A student who does not earn at least a B+ average in a chosen field may, at the discretion of the Graduate Committee, be permitted a second attempt to qualify for that field, or to choose an alternative field.

Thesis Proposal Defense

The Thesis Proposal Defense consists of a workshop presentation of a viable proposal for dissertation work. It is given in the presence of the full faculty at the end of the third year. Each student must have a thesis advisor who approves the proposal before taking part in the proposal defense. Students should be explicit when asking a faculty member whether he/she is willing to serve as a thesis advisor.

Every proposal must be judged to be acceptable by the faculty present at the workshop. A student whose proposal is judged to be unacceptable in his/her first try is allowed one more opportunity to present in the following semester. Any student whose proposal fails after two tries may not continue in the program.

Thesis Requirements

Students must demonstrate to their dissertation committees that they are working actively toward completing their dissertations within Departmental and Graduate School time limits. Requirements for the thesis vary by field. However, as a general rule, the doctoral thesis should consist minimally of two papers publishable in highly respected economics journals. It is highly recommended that one such paper should be presented in a departmental seminar before the student’s final thesis defense. The student may also be required to present his/her paper at an acceptable academic conference.

With the approval the student’s thesis committee and that of the DGS, a student may schedule his/her final thesis defense if Satisfactory Progress is achieved in the student’s Course of Study.

All students must, in consultation and with the approval of their main advisor, have a PhD Committee formed no less than three months before their defense date. Committees consist of no less than three members and may include Faculty from other Universities or experts from institutions such as the IMF and World Bank. The Director of Graduate Studies must be informed of the Committee membership.

All students must circulate a final draft of their dissertation to the members of their Committee at least one month before their defense date. The Director of Graduate Studies must be informed that such circulation has taken place.

If a student has not completed the PhD degree within six calendar years (counting leaves-of-absence) of passing the comprehensive examinations, then the student must re-take the comprehensive examinations in order to continue in the program. A student whose six-year time limit has lapsed is subject to the same requirements as a student taking the comprehensive exams for the first time. (It is important to note that the Graduate School has separate time-to-completion restrictions that must also be satisfied.)

Students with TA Stipends and/or Tuition Assistance

Graduate School rules dictate that students who receive financial stipends cannot work in this capacity more than an average of 15 hours per week. Students who receive stipends are expected to fulfill their TA obligations and responsibilities fully and professionally. Unprofessional conduct and/or shirking of one’s TA responsibilities may lead to withdrawal of the award.

A student who receives a full stipend cannot receive outside compensation of any kind during the academic year (September through May). Compensation received in the summer (June, July, and August) is exempt. A student who does plan to receive some sort of external, non-compensatory funding or scholarship should inform the Graduate Coordinator or DGS immediately.  Note: The department does not want to discourage applications for external scholarships, and can work with students to ensure that they are not financially penalized for doing so. However, any student with full funding who receives external funding during the academic year without notifying the department will have his/her stipend withdrawn.

Leaves of Absence, Incompletes, Termination, and Appeals

Incompletes and Leaves of Absence: Grades of Incomplete are only given for short-term medical illnesses or other legitimate reasons, and require the approval of the course instructor(s) and the DGS. Incompletes are not given for poor performance in coursework. Longer term illnesses require an excused leave of absence. Leaves of Absences may be granted for longer term medical illnesses or other legitimate reasons. They are typically granted for a minimum of one year and require the approval of the DGS.

Termination and Appeals: The Graduate Committee regularly reviews every student’s progress in the Ph.D. Program. In the event that a student fails to maintain Satisfactory Progress, the student’s continued fellowship funding and enrollment in the program is subject to termination. Any student who believes that he/she has been wrongfully terminated is entitled to one internal (Departmental) appeal. The student must prepare a written statement and submit it to the DGS within 10 days of the notification of termination. The validity of the appeal is then decided by the Graduate Committee.

External appeals made directly to the Graduate School must follow the Graduate School’s procedure. See:  Grad School web page under Appeals Process.

Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Any student found to be in violation of  University policies regarding plagiarism, academic integrity, or student conduct is subject to university sanctions. These may include immediate termination from the program, depending upon the offense. See Academic Integrity, Policies, and Procedures