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Covid Extension to Time to Degree Policy


The program feels that the most pressing need during the COVID crisis is to help candidates who are struggling to finish their dissertations. To identify students who might require extra support, the program will ask dissertation supervisors to meet with their advisees at the beginning and end of each academic term to discuss the impact of COVID on dissertation progress and how modifications to the dissertation project can be made to facilitate completion. The dissertation supervisors are requested to report in writing to the director (1) whether the student and the supervisor think that an extension is needed; (2) what changes to the original project are being made to expedite the project’s conclusion; and (3) what the timeline is for completion of the revised project. If an extension is requested, the written report will be forwarded to the program Executive Committee, which will meet to discuss whether and how an extension should be granted. If there is a conflict of interest on the Executive Committee, the director will ask another core IPAH faculty member to serve on the Executive Committee while the request for an extension is being reviewed. As part of this decision process, the Executive Committee will take into primary consideration the feasibility of the timeline of the revised project (e.g., an additional term of support is more financially achievable than a year) as well as how many terms of fellowship and GSI positions the student has been granted, especially when they are past their allotted funding package. The Executive Committee will write to both the student and the dissertation supervisor with their decision. 

Appeals process: The student can submit an appeal in writing to the director within a week after receipt of the Executive Committee’s decision that responds to the areas of concern about the feasibility of the revised project and timeline by, for example, offering more substantive changes to the project or showing attempts to receive outside funding. The director will then convene with the Executive Committee within a week of the receipt of the student’s appeal to review the student’s revised plan for completion. If there is a conflict of interest on the Executive Committee, the director will ask another IPAH core faculty member to serve on the committee for the course of the appeals process. Within two days of this meeting, the director will provide a written response to the student’s appeal that contains the Executive Committee’s decision. If a resolution cannot be reached at the program level, the student can appeal to Rackham’s expedited dispute resolution process for extensions to time to degree. The process and timeline can be found here.

The program is also aware that COVID may impact students’ progression to candidacy. To address this potential difficulty in an economizing manner, the program will stress flexibility with regard to pre-candidate requirements such as qualifying and preliminary exams. As the program requirements stand, students must pass one ancient language exam and course-off their second ancient language through the completion of four courses in this language. If a student is struggling to pass their ancient language exam, the student and their faculty mentor can appeal to the Executive Committee to have this language be coursed off as well. That is, if the student has completed or will complete four courses in this language, this course work can be accepted as a substitute for the ancient language exam. This proposed change would reflect the program’s policy regarding the modern language requirement, in that students have either the choice to sit exams in two modern languages (French/Italian and German), or obtain a ‘B’ in the “for reading” series offered during the regular academic year (German 112 / French 113) or two regular second-year courses.

In recognition of the difficulty of conducting research during COVID times, the program has recommended that all preliminary exams be converted to oral exams rather than papers.

How Extensions Will be Funded

As a small program with a usual annual cohort of two, it is not feasible for IPAH to make a sustained reduction in our admissions to fund extensions. That being said, we will endeavor to enact a number of budget-conscious measures to ‘bank’ additional funds. First, based on the information that we receive from candidates and their dissertation advisors, the Executive Committee will make the decision on whether to pause admissions for a year to fund extensions. The program can also decide to hold a ‘modest’ admissions season, where only one offer will be made. As a program committed to diversifying and making more inclusive the study of the pre-modern world, we will also prioritize applicants who may qualify as Rackham Merit Fellows.