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5. Academic Guidelines

5.1 Guidelines for Satisfactory Progress

The Department’s goal is to provide an environment in which our graduate students can thrive and to support students in making satisfactory progress to degree according to the following guidelines:

Precandidacy Progress Reports

  1. In addition to submitting grades, faculty members who teach a student in the first or second year of our graduate program are asked to submit a progress report on the student’s academic performance to the Comparative Literature office for inclusion in the student’s file. The student does not automatically have direct access to these reports but may request a brief written summary from the DGS.
  2. The DGS will review transcripts and pre-candidacy progress reports at the end of each semester and will contact students who fail to receive a minimally acceptable grade-point average of B.
  3. The Third Term Review Committee will review all pre-candidacy progress reports along with transcripts from the first year.  In the case of a negative review, the student will be notified by the DGS (see Procedures below).

Incomplete grades

  1. Students in their first and second year may hold no more than one incomplete grade during any academic year.  Doing so results in loss of good academic standing.
  2. Students who anticipate having to take an Incomplete should speak with the faculty member teaching the course and the DGS before the end of the semester to consider possible alternatives.
  3. Students who receive an Incomplete must, in consultation with the faculty member teaching the course, confirm a clear plan and deadline for completion of the coursework, and the Incomplete must be cleared during the academic semester (Fall or Winter) immediately following the one in which it was given.
  4. Any student failing to clear an Incomplete in the semester after which it was given, or who accrues an additional Incomplete while holding one, will not be in good academic standing, unless the DGS and the Department Chair grant an exemption. (see Procedures below).


  1. A Third Term Review will take place in the fall of the second year, as a mentoring conversation between the student and a faculty committee, followed by a written summary reporting on academic progress.
  2. The Preliminary Exam must be taken no later than the beginning of September in the third year of study.
  3. The Topics Paper must be completed by the end of the Winter term of the student's third year of graduate studies.
  4. The Prospectus should be submitted quickly upon successful completion of the Topics Paper, preferably in the first term of year four and absolutely within one year of the Topics Paper.
  5. Circumstances may arise that cause students to fall one semester behind in completing any of these milestones.  Students in these situations should consult with and gain approval from their academic committee chair, who should communicate that approval to the DGS.
  6. Any student falling more than one semester behind in completing these milestones (e.g. a student who by the end of the Winter term of the third year has still not taken a Preliminary examination; a student who by the end of the Fall term of the fourth year has not yet completed the Topics Paper; a student who by the end of the Fall term of the fifth year has not yet submitted the Prospectus) will be notified of the possibility of unsatisfactory academic progress by the DGS (see Procedures below).

Post-Candidacy Progress Reports

  1. For students in their fourth year and beyond, an annual Post-Candidacy Progress Report must be submitted by the student and by the academic committee chair no later than March 15 of each year. 
  2. Annual Progress Reports will be reviewed by the DGS and the Department Chair to determine satisfactory progress. 
  3. Any student failing to demonstrate satisfactory progress will be notified by the DGS (see Procedures below).


  1. Any student failing to demonstrate satisfactory progress as defined above will be notified by the DGS, who will convene a meeting with the student and the student's academic committee chair (if there is one).
  2. The purpose of the meeting will be to set forth the conditions under which, including a date by which, the student may be returned to good academic standing, and a deadline for completion of these conditions.
  3. If the student has not fulfilled the conditions by the date set forth at this meeting, the DGS will convene the Graduate Committee. After reviewing the student’s record, the Graduate Committee may determine unsatisfactory progress (at which point the student is no longer eligible for teaching or tuition support in Comparative Literature).  The Graduate Committee may also decide to discontinue the student’s participation in the program (at which point the student will follow Rackham’s procedures for Discontinuation and possible later Reinstatement).
  4. Final determination of unsatisfactory progress and implementation of its consequences rests with the Department Chair in close consultation with the DGS and the Graduate Committee. Should the student elect to pursue an appeal, this must be filed directly with Rackham.   
  5. As always, it is the responsibility of the student to communicate to the DGS, his or her academic committee chair, and the Department Chair to inform them of any circumstances, personal or otherwise, that may prevent the student from either fulfilling the requirements to remain in good standing or those conditions set forth to return to good academic standing.  

5.2 Petitions

Requests for exceptions to any departmental requirements may be made only with a written petition to the DGS and the Department Chair, who will refer the petition to the Graduate Committee for discussion and a decision. Since petitions for exceptions are by their nature addressed on a case-by-case basis, the student should first schedule an individual meeting with the DGS to assess the need for and feasibility of the exception and what kind of documentation the student should provide in order to make a convincing case to the Graduate Committee. Bear in mind that in most instances exceptions to departmental requirements are—again, by their nature—granted only in exceptional circumstances.                                                                                                        

Request for exceptions to any Rackham requirements must be granted by the Rackham School of Graduate Studies. No unit within LSA has the authority to override Rackham policy.

5.3 Statement on Academic Integrity

Rackham documents its policies on academic standards and integrity in its Dissertation Handbook, as well as in a separate document on Academic Integrity.  Among rules that need particular emphasis is the one concerning multiple submission of term papers. Rackham states: “It is improper to submit the work one has done for one class or project to a second class or as a second project without first getting the informed permission of the second instructor.  Acceptance of one piece of work that is submitted for two classes must be arranged beforehand.”  The Department of Comparative Literature requires that a student obtain written permission of both instructors before submitting one paper in two courses and notify the DGS of same. It is expected that work submitted for credit in more than one course will be substantially expanded and developed in a manner consistent with dual credit. The new requirements for the combined assignment must be specified and approved in writing by both instructors.

5.4 Rackham Policies on Continuous Enrollment and Leave of Absence

Events may occur that make it necessary for a student pursuing a PhD program to interrupt his or her progress toward a degree.  Since Rackham requires that students in PhD programs be continuously enrolled (registered), a student may ask for a temporary leave of absence when certain life events make it impossible to continue active participation in the degree program.  A leave of absence enables a student not to register during a fall or winter term (students only register in the spring/summer term if they are defending the dissertation) and remain in compliance with the continuous enrollment requirement.  A leave will be granted to students for illness or injury, to provide care or assistance for family and dependents, to meet military service obligations, or for other personal reasons. 

A student on a Rackham-approved leave of absence suspends progress toward the PhD degree for a minimum of one fall or winter term.  No tuition and fees are charged for the period during which a student is on a leave of absence.  A leave of absence may have implications for a student’s federal financial aid and loans.  Please check with the Office of Financial Aid for further information. 

Students on leave have access to limited services that allow them to remain current in their field of study and connected to their program, but they do not have the benefits of registered status and may not use University facilities or services normally available to registered students.

Students are strongly encouraged to discuss the impact of a leave on the plan of study with the DGS and their faculty advisor in order to develop a strategy for completing the degree program as well as to discuss alternatives to a leave.

U.S. immigration regulations may restrict the eligibility of an international student for a leave of absence.  International students considering a leave of absence must consult with the International Center as a first step toward discussions regarding a leave of absence.

Rackham offers leaves of absence for medical reason, family necessity or dependent care, military service, extramural study, and personal reasons.  Please see the Rackham website for further information regarding leaves of absence for PhD students.