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The Graduate College Handbook

for students, faculty and staff – August 2019

E. Time Limits

A doctoral student is required to graduate within seven years of first registering as a degree- seeking student in a graduate program. A student who enters the graduate program with an approved previous Master’s degree that would satisfy Stage I of the doctoral program is considered entering at Stage II and is required graduate within six years of first registering as a degree seeking student in a graduate program. Stages of a doctoral program are described below. Time extensions can be made under extenuating circumstance, as described below.

Expected Graduation Date Calculation

  • Admitted to doctoral program as Stage I (No approved Master’s): 7 years
  • Admitted to doctoral program as Stage II (With approved Master’s): 6 years
  • Admitted to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Master’s program and continuation into UIUC doctoral program: Time limit will be calculated using admission term of the Master’s program

Doctoral Stages and Time Limits

Stage I (Should be completed within 2 years of first registration in the graduate program): A student is considered to be in Stage I from initial enrollment in the graduate program to completion of a master’s degree or its equivalent. Each department should have a procedure for evaluating a student's progress at this first stage of doctoral work. Elements of this evaluation will include GPA, along with other factors related to good academic standing and satisfactory progress. In some departments, this evaluation may take the form of a qualifying examination, or other examination or series of examinations, which a student must pass before entering Stage II of the doctoral degree program. Evaluation of progress in Stage I, whether by examination or other formal review, should take place no later than the end of the second year after a student enters the doctoral program. The evaluation results should be communicated in writing to the student. Students who apply to a doctoral program having already completed a master's degree equivalent to that awarded by the University of Illinois are generally considered to have completed Stage I of the program unless the department deems otherwise, in which case the department must notify the student of the stage in which they are entering the program.

Stage II (Must be completed by end of year 4 or 5 depending on admission stage): A doctoral student is considered to be in Stage II from completion of the master’s degree or equivalent to completion of all departmental requirements (except the defense and deposit of the dissertation), including passing the preliminary examination. In some programs, doctoral students entering with a master’s degree will take a qualifying examination early in Stage II. Stage II usually consists of one or more years devoted to course work and research in preparation for the preliminary examination. Stage II must be completed no later than year 5 for a student entering in Stage I and year 4 for a student entering in Stage II and ends with the successful passing of the preliminary examination. Students who have not successfully passed their preliminary examination at the end of year 4 or 5 (as determined by their admission stage) of their graduate program will be put on academic probation.

Stage III (Must be completed by end of year 6 or 7 depending on admission stage): Stage III is the time from the completion of Stage II to graduation. Stage III consists of the student conducting research and writing their dissertation, successful passing of their final examination (defense) and deposit of their dissertation. Students in Stage III must have a director of research (who is often the student’s adviser) who oversees the dissertation research (See Chapter 6.C.). Stage III must be completed by the end of year 7 of a doctoral program if the student entered as Stage I or by the end of year 6 if the student entered at Stage II. Students who have not completed Stage III by this time will be put on academic probation.

Leaves and Changing Programs

  • Degree time limits are not automatically extended for students who transfer from one doctoral program to another doctoral program within the Graduate College.
  • Degree time limits are not automatically extended for students who do not register or who are on an approved leave of absence.
  • The process to request extensions is described below.


In some unusual scenarios after review by the graduate department and Graduate College, it may be appropriate to restart the time limit for an individual student. Things to be considered would include the amount of time spent in the previous program and the amount of time away from the program. In these cases where the time limit is restarted, the student would follow the degree requirements for the new term of admission. This is documented through the re-entry process.

Time Extensions
Exceptions to the above time limits are reviewed on a case-by-case basis through the Graduate College petition process.

Use of Old Coursework
When supporting petitions for extensions of time to degree, it is the program’s responsibility to determine whether old coursework is still relevant to the current degree.


Program Effective Term Time to Degree
All College of Education Doctoral Programs Fall 2000 7 years from first enrollment in doctoral program, after completing the Master's degree
Anthropology PhD Fall 1999 10 years from enrollment in doctoral program, if no master's was earned previously


Second Preliminary Examination: 
If more than five years elapse between a doctoral student's preliminary and final examinations, the student is required to demonstrate that his or her broad knowledge of the field is current by passing a second preliminary examination. It is not adequate that the student has sufficient current knowledge in the area of the dissertation. The form of the second preliminary examination need not be identical to that of the first. Scholarly publications and college-level teaching assignments may be used as partial evidence of the student's current knowledge of his or her field, but a preliminary examination committee must be appointed by the Graduate College, an examination given, and its result reported to the Graduate College.

Dissertation Deposit: 
Students are expected to deposit their dissertation promptly following their final exam to preserve the currency of the research and the integrity of the document approved by the committee. Students must deposit their dissertation within three semesters (including the current semester). The deposit must be made by the published deadline for that semester. After this time, a new final examination may need to be conducted.

Revised August 2019