Academic Regulations: Time Boundaries for Graduate Study

A student's individualized time boundaries can be found in Esther

Students who are approaching or who have passed their deadline to candidacy must submit an extension of candidacy request to the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral StudiesBeginning July 1, 2012 the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies will impose a $125 reinstatement fee on students who have exceeded their time boundaries for achieving candidacy, defending their thesis, or being beyond their time to degree without prior approval. 

The following wording concerning Candidacy, Time to Defense and Time to Degree were taken directly from the current Rice University General Announcements. 

Candidacy

Candidacy marks a midpoint in the course of graduate education. Achieving candidacy for the Ph.D. implies that a graduate student has:

  1. completed required coursework,
  2. passed required exams to demonstrate his/her comprehensive grasp of the subject area,
  3. demonstrated the ability for clear oral and written communication, and
  4. shown the ability to carry on scholarly work in his/her subject area.

Requirements for achieving candidacy for the thesis Masters degree are determined at the departmental level. Students enrolled in research degree programs submit their petitions for candidacy for a master's or doctoral degree through the department chair to the dean of graduate and postdoctoral studies. In the petition sent to the dean, the department chair identifies the student's thesis director, recommends a thesis committee, certifies that the applicant has fulfilled the departmental requirements, and provides a transcript as evidence that work completed within the department is of high quality.

Students must file their applications for approval of Ph.D. and M.A./M.S. candidacy in the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies before November 1 for mid-year conferral and before February 1 for May commencement. Students may take the final oral examination in defense of their thesis only after the dean of graduate and postdoctoral studies approves their candidacy.

Ph.D. students must be approved for candidacy before the beginning of the ninth semester of their residency at Rice. Master's students must be approved for candidacy before the beginning of the fifth semester of their residency at Rice.

Thus, Ph.D. and M.A./M.S. students will not be allowed to enroll in a graduate program after their eighth and fourth semester, respectively, unless they have been approved for candidacy.

  • Doctoral candidacy petitions may be found here.
  • Master's candidacy petitions may be found here.

Time to Thesis Defense

Ph.D. students must defend their theses before the end of the sixteenth semester of their residency at Rice. Master's students must defend their theses before the end of the eighth semester of their residency at Rice.

A student who does not meet the relevant deadline will be dropped from Rice.

Time to Degree

Time to degree -- Ph.D. students are required to complete their program, including thesis defense, within ten years of initial enrollment. Masters students are required to complete their program, including thesis defense, within five years of initial enrollment. In both cases, students have a limit of six additional months from the date of defense to submit their theses in the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. These time bounds include any period in which the student was not enrolled or enrolled part-time, for whatever reason.

This policy sets strict time limits on time to degree and includes any time taken as an approved leave of absence.

What does this mean in practice?

As students progress in their studies they need to keep in mind that they must be approved for candidacy in order to enroll after your fourth year of study (if a Ph.D. student) or after two years of study (if a M.A./M.S.) Since it is the department that establishes the requirements that must be fulfilled before petitioning for candidacy, graduate students need to talk to their department if these requirements are not absolutely clear to them. This is the student¹s responsibility. A student who does not meet the applicable deadline will be dropped from Rice.

These policies also establish strict time limits on time to degree. If you are an M.S./M.A. student you must defend your thesis by the end of your eighth semester of enrollment. If you fail to defend by this time, you will be dropped from your graduate program. Similarly, Ph.D. students must defend no later than the end of your sixteenth semester. Ph.D. students will not be allowed to enroll after sixteen semesters of study. However, in all cases you have an additional six months to submit your thesis to the Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies Office.

While an approved leave of absence does not count against the clock for candidacy or defense it does count against time to degree. Students will not be granted an accumulated leave of absence of more than two years. Thus, under no circumstances will a student be retained in an M.A./M.S. program for longer than five years after initial enrollment. For Ph.D. students, ten years is the absolute time limit to the degree.

While these guidelines formally apply to students who enter Rice in Fall 1997 and later, the Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies Office will take into account the spirit of what the regulations seek to accomplish in acting on graduate student petitions.