IX. Academic Requirements and Standards


Academic Advising and Mentoring

Upon your arrival at UCSC, your department will assign a faculty adviser. Your adviser is your personal consultant on academic matters and serves as a liaison between you and your department in procedural matters, such as oral examinations and the submission of your thesis. You are urged to maintain close and frequent contact with your adviser. You may change advisers by petitioning the chairperson of the department.

Graduate programs are expected to have well-defined criteria for completion of degree programs and to keep students informed of all changes in the rules, policies, and procedures in the graduate program which affect them. Formal evaluation of students at the end of their first quarter of attendance is recommended, and an annual review of all students is mandatory. This provides encouragement and support to those students making acceptable progress and may assist students by identifying potential problems.

While each academic unit is free to develop its own process of student evaluation and advising, it is generally accepted that certain elements are essential:

  • Within the context of each course in which the student enrolls, an evaluation of the student's performance by the instructor;
  • For those students engaged in research activities, frequent evaluation and advising on an informal basis by the supervising member of the faculty;
  • Continuing supervision of dissertation or thesis work by the primary faculty adviser with progress evaluated and discussed with the student on at least a quarterly basis.

Each department establishes its own procedure for annual graduate student review. Probably it will differ for Master's and doctoral students, and for doctoral students before and after advancement to candidacy.

Annual evaluation ordinarily is the joint responsibility of the Graduate Representative and the assigned faculty adviser or the chair of the student's doctoral committee. An evaluation should include a brief review of the student's work to date, with particular attention to the period since the last report, describing the student's progress toward the degree, pointing out any areas in which improvement is recommended or required, and establishing academic objectives for the following period.

The results of annual reviews are committed to writing and signed by the supervisor and another faculty member. This is to ensure evaluation and consent by more than one individual faculty member, who may also be a principal source of financial and other support. Before a doctoral student has advanced to candidacy, the second signer may be the Graduate Representative; after advancement, a second thesis committee member must also sign. The annual evaluations are distributed to the student and kept in the student's file in the department office. They form the basis for decisions about continued financial support, academic probation and/or dismissal, extensions of financial aid beyond normative time, and other matters.

These Mentoring Guidelines have been reviewed and approved by the Graduate Council, Graduate Division and Graduate Student Association in Fall 2006

In general, the goal of this document is to provide suggestions on how to conduct constructive interactions between graduate students and their mentors, and to encourage the development of positive, supportive and respectful relationships between graduate students and their faculty advisors. The development of every graduate student requires many shared responsibilities on the parts of both student and faculty member, and a strong commitment to ethical treatment of all. For constructive mentoring, departments should provide intellectual support and guidance to the graduate student. For all involved, an attitude of honesty, courtesy and professionalism is crucial to this process.

Below we suggest, as an opening dialogue, the responsibilities that the relevant campus constituencies should embrace;

Graduate Division Responsibilities

  • Maintain the Graduate Division Handbook
  • Provide leadership on issues of graduate student welfare, training, and education, including the mentoring of graduate students
  • Provide teaching assistant orientation programs

Graduate Council Responsibilities

  • Review graduate programs
  • Ensure that each department publish and disseminate a departmental graduate handbook
  • Provide guidance to the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies

Department Responsibilities

  • The department may delegate these responsibilities to staff, department chair, or to a graduate program committee.
  • Publish and keep up to date a departmental grad handbook for requirements towards degrees
  • Provide orientation programming for new graduate students annually, separate and in concert with Graduate Division and GSA activities
  • Provide seminars (formal + informal), separately and in concert with Graduate Division activities
  • Ensure graduate students have an advisor and meet degree requirements in a timely manner
  • Assist graduate student with department and university degree requirement logistics
  • Foster professional writing, presentation skills and career development in all aspects

Department Chair Responsibilities

  • Ensure degree requirement exams follow departmental and university guidelines
  • Mediate conflicts between graduate student and advisor

Thesis Committee Responsibilities

  • Meet or comment on a PhD candidate’s progress annually once the Qualification Exam has been passed
  • Be available to the graduate student for feedback and guidance
  • Provide timely thesis and dissertation review

Faculty Adviser Responsibilities

Bear in mind the consequences of agreeing to be an advisor:

  • Be available to graduate student for feedback and guidance
  • Suggest thesis committee members
  • Encourage graduate student to utilize literature and other resources
  • Assist in grant writing and peer review skills
  • Write reference letters
  • Arrange alternate supervision during sabbaticals
  • Write at least one annual narrative evaluation of the student’s progress

Graduate Student Responsibilities

  • Take initiative to maintain regular communication with advisor and thesis committee; we recommend communication on at least a quarterly basis
  • Adhere to departmental and divisional rules and policies
  • Meet degree requirements Update thesis committee on progress annually before graduation (written or in a meeting)
  • Follow disciplinary and scholarly codes of ethics
  • Obtain proper approvals for research and publication activities.

Maintaining Graduate Degree Status

Students begin graduate degree status when they are admitted to a degree or certificate program by the Graduate Division and complete the registration and fee payments for the quarter of admission. Only coursework taken while a student is in graduate status may be counted toward a graduate degree.

Graduate students who fail to register are not considered to be students; they relinquish the right to use faculty time and take advantage of University resources and facilities available to registered students. An exception is the use of the Filing Fee during the final quarter of degree completion.

When students have been unregistered for some time, departments may ask them to apply for readmission to graduate status and register, particularly when they will be consulting with faculty and using University resources. In some cases, students will be required to prove they are still current in the field either by taking classes or by re-taking their qualifying examinations.

English Competency Policy

Academic departments help the Graduate Dean to monitor the campus English competency policy for all prospective Teaching Assistants. The State of California requires that all prospective Teaching Assistants (TAs) whose native language is not English demonstrate competence in oral English communication. There are two testing options for meeting this requirement.

Before a student arrives in Santa Cruz, the student may take the TOEFL or IELTS examination. These tests are offered worldwide. Please refer to our International Applicants section of our website for further information about acceptable scores for admission and for qualification as a Teaching Assistant. Information regarding English Competency requirements for Teaching Assistants is emailed to all new International students during the summer (July-August). 

Academic Standards of Scholarship

Academic Senate regulations provide that a graduate student may be dismissed or placed on probation on grounds of poor academic performance by the Graduate Dean, upon recommendation of the department. At a minimum Departments conduct annual review of all graduate students at the end of the academic year. Departments may also conduct such reviews on a more frequent basis.

Academic Good Standing

To remain in good academic standing, a student must make timely progress toward degree completion and satisfactorily meet the following standards of scholarship established by the Graduate Council in June 2000.

  • A duly registered graduate student is considered to be in good standing so long as (a) the student not advanced to candidacy undertakes a minimum of two upper division or graduate level courses per quarter and passes a minimum of five 5-credit courses toward a terminal degree or certificate by the end of each academic year; the student advanced to candidacy undertakes and passes at least one course per quarter, usually Thesis Research, OR (b) the student's department or committee of studies determines that she or he is making satisfactory academic progress toward a terminal degree or certificate, AND (c) the student's progress meets the minimum criteria indicated below.
  • The academic progress of each continuing graduate student shall be reviewed annually by the student's department or committee of studies by the end of the spring term.
  • A student whose academic progress is judged not satisfactory will be recommended for academic probation until such time (one academic year, maximum) as her or his progress has become satisfactory once again and the Dean of Graduate Studies has been so informed in writing by the Graduate Representative of the student's department.
  • Students on academic probation are not eligible for merit fellowship support and will receive lower priority for academic appointments at UCSC (including Teaching Assistant, Teaching Fellow, Graduate Student Researcher, etc.). Special justifications will be required to appoint probationary students so long as there are any other students in the program who lack financial support.
  • A student whose academic progress has been found not satisfactory in two successive annual reviews will be subject to dismissal from the University.
  • A full-time student who has been enrolled in the same graduate program for four calendar years without advancing to candidacy for the Ph.D. is not considered to be making satisfactory progress and will be recommended for academic probation until advancement is achieved.
  • A student who has been advanced to candidacy for more than three calendar years is not considered to be making satisfactory academic progress and will be recommended for academic probation for up to one academic year by the student's department.
  • A full-time master's degree student is considered not to be making satisfactory progress beyond three calendar years of enrollment and may be recommended for academic probation for up to one academic year by her or his department.
  • Students on probation will continue to be eligible for institutional, state, and federal need-based assistance for up to one academic year to support their efforts to make up satisfactory academic progress shortfalls.
  • Students are expected to be registered full-time and making regular good progress during the majority of their career of graduate study at UCSC; leaves are considered exceptional departures from the norm of full-time continuous enrollment. Total leave time during the graduate career at UCSC will be considered by the Dean of Graduate Studies in approving leaves.
  • A student who fails to register promptly following expiration of an approved leave of absence is not in good standing. Leaves of absence are usually granted for no more than three academic quarters, and all requests to extend or renew a leave must be approved in advance by the Dean of Graduate Studies.
  • Only students in good standing are eligible for leaves of absence. Students who are neither registered nor on an approved leave of absence are not in good standing. Only students in good standing are eligible to use the Filing Fee.

Time to Degree

Full-time graduate students are expected to complete their degree objectives within the following maximum time frames:

  • Certificate students: one calendar year from the date of first enrollment in the program
  • Master's degree students: three calendar years from the date of first enrollment in the program
  • Ph.D. students: six calendar years for all programs except Literature and History of Consciousness, where it is seven years.

Part-time graduate students are subject to the same provisions as full-time students, except that satisfactory progress toward degree completion is measured at a minimum of one course per quarter or three courses per academic year, and the maximum time frame is prorated accordingly: 

  • Certificate students: two calendar years
  • Master's degree students: six calendar years
  • Ph.D. students: eleven calendar years (eight years to advance to candidacy and an additional three years to complete the dissertation).

For the purpose of measuring satisfactory academic progress, course incomplete, withdrawals, repetitions, and noncredit courses do not count as courses completed.

Appealing Academic Judgments

(En 1 Aug 84; Am 7 Jan 88, 26 May 99, 24 Apr 08, 21 May 09; EC 31 Aug 02, 31 Aug 08, 31 Aug 09) Revisions approved by Graduate Council on May 21, 2009, and effective July 1, 2009 

Students have the right to appeal various institutional judgments concerning their academic standing at UC Santa Cruz including dismissal from graduate standing, placement on probationary status, narrative evaluation or grade notation, and their academic progress. This appeal procedure applies only to enrolled graduate students at UC Santa Cruz and is not available to appeal denial of admission or readmission to any program. The scope of this procedure is limited to the matters listed above, and excludes complaints regarding student employment as a Teaching Assistant, student discipline, auxiliary student services (such as housing, child care, etc.), and sexual harassment, which are covered by other policies and procedures. This document outlines the four levels of complaint resolution available to graduate students at UC Santa Cruz: Instructor appeal, Departmental appeal, Graduate Dean appeal, and Graduate Council appeal. Throughout all stages of the appeal process, both parties are strongly encouraged to seek informal resolution. The Graduate Dean may be consulted for informal resolution at any stage of the process. In addition graduate students may contact the Office of the Ombudsman for assistance with informal complaint resolution. Working toward informal resolution does not preclude continuation of a formal appeal. However, unless a request for extension of a deadline is granted as provided below, informal resolution efforts shall not serve in any way to stay or extend an applicable filing deadline.

Requests for Extension of Filing Deadlines:

Except as otherwise provided in this policy, any party may for good cause seek an extension of a deadline by filing a request with the Dean of the Division of Graduate Studies. Such request must be submitted in writing prior to the deadline for which an extension is sought, and must explain the reason(s) why an extension is necessary. The decision to grant or deny a request is within the discretion of the Dean and shall be final and binding.

Basis for Appeals

An appeal may be filed based upon one or more of the following grounds, provided that the action complained of has had a material impact on the student’s academic standing:

1. Procedural error or violation of official policy by academic or administrative personnel;
2. Judgments improperly based upon non-academic criteria including, but not limited to, discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, medical condition, ancestry, marital status, citizenship, sexual orientation, or status as a veteran or special disabled veteran, or any personal or arbitrary reasons; 
3. Special mitigating circumstances beyond the student’s control not properly taken into account in a decision affecting the student’s academic progress; 
4. Capricious or arbitrary application of appropriate criteria in a manner not reflective of the student’s performance in relation to a course or program requirement.

Procedure for Appeals

Throughout the appeals process all time periods are expressed in working days within the academic term or during the normal working days of summer. Students should be aware that appeals begun late in spring or in summer may be delayed by the unavailability of specific faculty and/or the Graduate Council. A written appeal must be initiated by the student within the time limits specified below. The student must seek resolution of the action sequentially as described below, unless the action complained of is not an evaluation or grade notation. In that instance, the student would begin the appeal with Step II below.

Step I. If the student is appealing an evaluation or grade notation, the appeal must be submitted to the instructor who provided the evaluation or grade notation; 
Step II. For all other appeals, or if the student is continuing the appeal of an evaluation or grade notation, the appeal must be submitted to the student’s major department; 
Step III. The Graduate Dean; 
Step IV. The Graduate Council. In all cases (Step I through IV), the appeal should indicate the action(s) being appealed, the date(s) the action(s) occurred, the grounds upon which the appeal is based, and the outcome desired.

Step I. Appeal to Instructor

If a student is appealing a narrative evaluation or grade notation, the student must submit a written appeal to the instructor of the course within twenty (20) working days of the deadline contained in the campus Academic and Administrative Calendar for submittal of narrative evaluations or grade notation or, if that deadline has passed, of the actual date when the faculty member filed the narrative evaluation or grade notation. The chair of the faculty member’s department should be copied on the appeal, in order to inform the student if the faculty member is unavailable. The faculty member may elect to meet with the student to discuss the appeal and determine if a reasonable compromise can be reached that is acceptable to both parties. The faculty member must submit a written response to the student with a copy to chair of the student’s department within ten (10) working days of the date of the student’s Step I appeal. This deadline may be extended by the chair of the faculty member’s department or his/her designate should the faculty member be away from campus for research, administrative duties, sabbatical time, or personal leave. If the course in question was sponsored by a unit other than the student’s home department, the appeal should be addressed to the instructor of the course and copied to the chairs of the two departments jointly.

Step II. Appeal to the Department

The student may continue the appeal of an evaluation or grade notation with the department. In addition, a student may begin the appeal of any other action at this level. Students continuing the appeal of an evaluation or grade notation must submit a written appeal to the chair of the department of the faculty instructor of the course, and this appeal must be submitted within twenty (20) working days of the date of the written response from the faculty instructor in Step I. If the course in question was sponsored by a unit other than the student's home department, the chair of the student's home department should be copied. In addition, the student may begin the appeal of any other department action at this level by submitting a written appeal to the chair of the department. This appeal must be submitted within twenty (20) working days of the date of the notice of the appealed action.

Review of the appeal at the departmental level should be conducted by the departmental graduate affairs committee or analogous group. This group should minimally include two or more faculty members. If a faculty member’s action(s) is the subject of the appeal, s/he must recuse him or herself from the committee. Departments may also elect to establish an ad hoc committee to handle appeals filed in a given academic year. The committee will initiate a review process within ten (10) working days of receipt of the appeal. The committee will receive the written appeal from the student, all pertinent material from the faculty member and student, and any additional material considered germane to the appeal either by the student or the faculty member. The committee may request additional information, as it deems necessary.

The committee or its designated members may elect to interview the faculty member and/or student involved in the appeal. The appeal must be concluded within fifteen (15) working days of receiving the written appeal from the student.

The committee will render its decision in written form within five (5) working days of the conclusion of the review process. For the decision to be binding, it must be consensual and accepted by all parties.

If the action being appealed, such as probation or dismissal, was initiated by the department, the review process remains the same.

After ten (10) working days, the suggested resolution, if not accepted by all parties, becomes null and void.

III. Appeal to the Graduate Dean

The student may elect to submit a written appeal of the department’s decision to the Graduate Dean. The decision must be appealed within ten (10) working days of the expiration of the department’s suggested resolution (see Step II).

At the discretion of the Graduate Dean, the appeal may be assigned to the Associate Graduate Dean. Additionally, if the Dean determines that the appeal should be submitted directly to the Graduate Council (for example, if the Dean determines that a fair and impartial hearing may be jeopardized by conflicts within the Graduate Division or other extenuating circumstances), the Dean may refer the appeal directly to the Graduate Council.

The Graduate Dean will review all documents and records submitted in the departmental review. In addition the Graduate Dean may meet with the student, faculty member(s), and/or graduate affairs committee, where appropriate, and may consider additional materials as s/he deems appropriate. The nominal time limit for completing the Graduate Dean’s review in within twenty (20) working days of receipt of the student’s appeal The Graduate Dean may suggest a resolution of the appeal in written form within five (5) working days of completion of his/her review. For the decision to be binding, it must be consensual and accepted by all parties.

After ten (10) working days, the suggested resolution, if not accepted by all parties, becomes null and void.

IV. Appeal to the Graduate Council

The student may submit a final appeal to the Graduate Council within ten (10) working days of the expiration of the Dean’s suggested resolution (see Step III). The Graduate Council is a committee of the Academic Senate. There are ten Santa Cruz faculty members, plus the Graduate Dean serving ex officio. In addition, there are one Library representative nominated by the UCSC Librarians Association, no more than three Graduate Student Association representatives, and one Postdoctoral Scholars Association Representative.

The student will submit a written appeal to the Graduate Council through the Academic Senate Office. The Graduate Dean will forward all pertinent documents to the Graduate Council for evaluation. The Chair may request additional information, as she/he deems necessary. The Graduate Council Chair in consultation with the Graduate Council will review the file and determine whether sufficient cause exists to justify a formal hearing. This determination must be made within ten (10) working days of receipt of the student’s appeal, a written decision must be submitted within five (5) working days thereafter. If the Council declines to hear the case, this would be the final conclusion of the appeals process. If the Council determines that a hearing is to be held, the student and instructor or chair of the department will be notified of the initial hearing date in writing at least twenty (20) working days in advance. The hearing may continue to later session if necessary but in any case must be completed within ten (10) working days.

The Graduate Council Chair may at his/her discretion constitute a subcommittee of at least four members, including at least one student representative, to hear the appeal, or she/he may convene the Graduate Council as a whole, as appropriate to the case and circumstances. If a subcommittee is established, it acts for the Graduate Council for the remainder of the appeal at this level. At least five (5) calendar days prior to the hearing date, each party shall provide the other with all relevant materials, including: names of all witnesses and any and all written materials to be introduced at the hearing. Copies of this material must also be submitted to the Graduate Council at least ten (10) working days prior to the hearing.

During the appeal, the Graduate Council shall review the charges. At the hearing, the Graduate Council may interview such witnesses as are brought to the hearing by either party or such other witnesses as the Graduate Council considers relevant.

During the procedure, the graduate student members of the Graduate Council participate fully and equally with faculty members of the Graduate Council to review the issues of the case and ensure due process for the student. The graduate students are not to be viewed as a special resource or advocate for the student to any greater degree than any individual faculty member of the Graduate Council.

A formal hearing will follow these procedures and conditions:

1. The student:

a. shall be present throughout the hearing. If the student fails to attend the hearing, she/he shall be considered to have abandoned her/his appeal unless deferral was granted by the Graduate Council;

b. may be accompanied by a Senate member of her/his choice, if desired and available;

c. may be accompanied by a graduate student of her/his choice to serve in an advisory role, if desired and available;

Please note: although Graduate Council will attempt to accommodate requests, the non-availability of a requested accompanying Senate member or graduate student is not sufficient cause for delay of an appeals hearing, nor does it affect the legitimacy of the Council’s findings.

d. shall have the right to present evidence, including witnesses, first; and

e. may cross-examine all witnesses presented by the instructor, department, or dean. If the student desires a Senate member as an advisor and is unable to secure a Senate member to serve in this role, the Graduate Council, at the student’s request, will appoint a faculty member to act in this role. This advisor may or may not be a member of the Graduate Council. A Graduate Council member serving in this capacity shall be recused from the Graduate Council deliberations of the appeal.

2. The hearings will be confidential and limited to the principals (student, Senate member selected by the student, graduate student selected by the student, and instructor or department representative or relevant administrator), and members of the Graduate Council (but see 3 and 5 below).

3. By prior arrangement, witnesses may be interviewed as part of the hearing process.

4. All witnesses other than the student and the instructor (or department representative or other relevant administrator) shall be excluded from the hearing except when testifying.

5. Evidence may be oral or written, but must be limited to issues raised in the original written complaint. Formal rules of evidence shall not apply, and evidence shall be admitted if of the type upon which reasonable people are accustomed to rely in the conduct of serious affairs. The Graduate Council may, in its discretion, exclude irrelevant or unduly repetitive evidence. At its discretion the Graduate Council may agree to hear closing arguments (either oral or written at the Council’s discretion) as to the correct resolution of the matter. If the Council determines to allow written closing arguments, the hearing process shall be deemed complete upon the parties’ submission of their written arguments to the Council.

6. The meeting shall be tape recorded, or, at the option of the student, a stenographer may be provided at the student's expense. The student shall have access to a copy of the tape recording and may copy the tape at her/his expense. All records pertaining to the hearing shall be kept by the Graduate Council for a period of three years. Student records shall be retained beyond that time if there is an outstanding request by a principal party to the review to inspect them.

7. The Graduate Council will reach its finding subsequent to completion of the hearing. The deliberations of the Graduate Council shall be in private. The Graduate Council shall submit a written finding including an explanation for the basis of it to the Graduate Dean within ten (10) working days of the date of completion of the hearing process.

8. Consistent with Senate authority and informed by the finding of the Graduate Council, the Graduate Dean will make the final decision on all cases involving probation and dismissal. The Graduate Council will have final decision-making authority in all other cases. In either case, the decision must be made within ten (10) working days of the receipt of the Graduate Council finding. Grade changes mandated by the Graduate Council are limited to Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory/Withdraw.

9. The Graduate Dean will have the administrative responsibility to implement the elements of the final decisions from Step 8 and to ensure that the instructor involved and/or department abide by the terms of the final resolution of the appeal. In addition the Graduate Dean will take reasonable steps to ensure that the student is not subject to any form of retaliation and is further restored to good standing with the department if so determined by the decision of the review. This may include the provision of lost wages or fellowship funds if so determined by the decision of the review.

V. Financial Support

Financial support will continue for the student for the term in which the appeal is submitted. Support beyond this term will be contingent upon approval of the department and the Graduate Dean, and determined on a case-by-case basis.

VI. Ramifications of Appeal Process

At all stages of the appeal process, a faculty member may request that his or her name be removed from the course in the final academic transcript.

No punitive actions may be taken against the instructor on the basis of these procedures. Neither the filing of an appeal by a student nor the final disposition of the appeal shall, under any circumstances, become a part of the personnel file of the instructor. The use of non-academic criteria in assigning a grade is a violation of the Faculty Code of Conduct. Sanctions against an instructor for violation of the Faculty Code may be sought by filing a complaint in accordance with CAPPM 002.015 or the relevant collective bargaining agreement. A complaint may be filed by the student or by others consistent with CAPPM 002.015.

No punitive action may be taken against the complainant on the basis of these procedures. Neither the filing of an appeal by a student nor the final disposition of the appeal shall, under any circumstances, become a part of the complainant’s file. The instructor may, if he or she feels that his or her record has been impugned by false and malicious allegations, file charges against the complainant through the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs.

This information can also be found in Appendix D of the Academic Senate Manual.