General Academic Regulations

These regulations apply to all students in The Graduate School. Regulations are specific to master's or PhD programs are detailed in subsequent sections.


The following regulations pertain to credits earned outside of The Graduate School:

Graduate Credit Earned Before the Bachelor’s Degree Is Granted

Ordinarily, no credit will be allowed for graduate courses taken before a student has been awarded a baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university. However, an exception is made specifically for Duke University undergraduates who have been admitted provisionally to an approved accelerated undergraduate/graduate master’s degree program (such as a “4+1” program). Course credits for designated, pre-approved graduate-level courses taken during the senior year and prior to the conferral of the baccalaureate degree may be used toward the master’s degree course requirement, per the specific program’s agreement with The Graduate School and with Trinity or Pratt. The counting of such credits toward the master’s degree must be approved in advance by the academic dean of The Graduate School.

Transfer of Graduate Credits

For master’s programs, up to six units of graduate credit (two standard 3-hour courses) may be requested to be transferred toward the master’s degree after at least twelve credit units have been completed in the student’s Duke graduate degree program. Such credit must be graded and at a mark of B or better and be no more than six years old at the time of graduation from Duke. Transfer of graduate credit does not reduce the required minimum registration of thirty units for a master’s degree at Duke or the requirement of three or more full-time terms of registration. For PhD students, up to one semester of full-time tuition credit (but not course credit) may be given if the student has previously completed a relevant graduate degree. No transfer credits toward a master’s degree will be awarded to those students who wish to receive a master’s degree en route to the PhD, whether the master's degree is in the same or a different subject area. Financial credit for the above programs will be given only after the student has completed one full-time semester in a degree-granting graduate program. For PhD students, departments may consider previous coursework in determining further course requirements for the student. In any case, academic credit is distinct from financial credit or registration requirements for the PhD.

Grades and Academic Standing

Grades in The Graduate School are as follows: A, B, C, F, and I. One of these final grades must be assigned in all cases promptly upon the end of a graded course. An I (Incomplete) indicates that some portion of the student’s work is lacking, for reasons such as illness or emergency absence, at the time the grades are reported. For students enrolled in The Graduate School, the instructor who gives an I for a course specifies, via a written agreement with the student, the date by which the student must make up the deficiency and a permanent grade recorded. If a course is not completed within one calendar year from the date the course ended, or the end of the student's graduation term, whichever comes first, the grade of I becomes permanent. In that event, it may not be removed from the student’s record even if the work is subsequently completed. The grade of Z indicates satisfactory progress at the end of the first semester of a two-semester course. For non-degree graduate students enrolled in the summer session, a temporary I for a course may be assigned after the student has submitted a written request. If the request is approved by the instructor of the course, then the student must satisfactorily complete the work prior to the last day of classes of the subsequent summer term.

In order to be certified as making satisfactory progress toward the degree, and in order to receive their degrees, graduate students must maintain at least a 3.0 (B) cumulative grade point average. Students falling below this average, or who receive a C- or two C’s in a given term, will be placed on academic probation. Except in extenuating circumstances, and at the discretion of the academic dean, a student who receives a grade of F must repeat the course in a subsequent term and receive a satisfactory grade (B or better), or face dismissal. A second grade of F in a major course occasions dismissal from a student’s degree program. To remain in good academic standing in a doctoral program, a student must also demonstrate satisfactory progress in research and related activities beyond coursework, as certified annually by the student’s director of graduate studies. For master’s students to be making satisfactory progress to a degree, at least two-thirds of the credits attempted in any given term must be completed with a satisfactory grade (Credit in the case of Credit/No Credit courses, or a grade better than F for a graded course). Courses from which a student has withdrawn (W) or in which a student receives an incomplete (I) cannot count toward satisfactory completion. Degree programs may establish additional criteria that students must meet to remain in good academic standing.

Failure to attain good academic standing, for whatever reason, results in probation for one semester. Two consecutive semesters on academic probation will normally result in withdrawal from the university. The university reserves the right to require the withdrawal of any student whose academic performance at any time is not satisfactory to the university. Matriculation by the student is a concession to this right.

Reciprocal or Interinstitutional Agreements with In-State Universities

Under a plan of cooperation among Duke University, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, full-time students properly enrolled in The Graduate School of Duke University during the regular academic year and paying full tuition to this institution, may be admitted to a maximum of two graduate-level courses per semester at one of the other institutions in the cooperative plan. Under the same arrangement, students in the graduate schools in the neighboring institutions may be admitted to coursework at Duke University. Credit so earned is not defined as transfer credit. Such courses cannot be taken on an audit or Pass/Fail basis. Students may not enroll in distance education courses under the interinstitutional agreement. To take advantage of this arrangement during either summer session term, the student registers for three units of credit at the home institution and three units of credit at the other institution, for a total of six units. All inter-institutional registrations involving extra-fee courses or special fees required of all students will be made at the expense of the student and will not be considered a part of the Duke University tuition coverage. This reciprocal agreement does not apply to inter-university joint degree programs or contract programs such as the American Dance Festival.

Courses Primarily for Undergraduates

Courses below the 500 level may not be applied toward the required credits needed for a post-baccalaureate degree. With the approval of their director of graduate studies and the academic dean, graduate students may enroll in lower-level courses, but these courses will not count toward full-time enrollment or any graduation requirement, and will not be included in a student’s GPA calculation. The grading basis for these courses is A*, B*, C*, F*. Students must withdraw from courses below the 500-level if they wish to discontinue them after the drop/add period ends.

Selected graduate-level courses are offered concurrently with their undergraduate-level counterparts. Graduate students enrolled in these courses are required to complete the requirements and meet the rigor delineated on the graduate-level syllabi, which must be distinct from—and more rigorous than—the requirements for undergraduate credit. For additional information, please contact the university registrar and/or the director of graduate studies.

Withdrawal from a Course

For permissible changes during the Drop/Add period of the fall or spring semester and during the first three days of summer session term, see the page on Registration Requirements. If a course is dropped after the Drop/Add period during the fall or spring or after the first three days of classes during the summer, a Withdraw (W) will be noted on the permanent record. Course withdrawals are allowed up through the last day of graduate classes in any given term.

Interruption of Program and Withdrawal from The Graduate School

Students are expected to meet academic requirements and financial obligations, as specified elsewhere in this bulletin, in order to remain in good standing. Certain nonacademic rules and regulations must be observed also, such as the Duke Community Standard. Failure to meet these requirements may result in summary dismissal by the academic dean of The Graduate School. The university reserves the right, and matriculation by the student is a concession to this right, to require the withdrawal of any student whose academic performance at any time is not satisfactory to the university, as determined by the student’s degree program faculty or the academic dean.

A student who wishes for any reason to withdraw from their graduate degree program or from individual courses during the fall, spring, or summer session must notify in writing both the DGS in the major department and the academic dean prior to the date of the expected withdrawal and no later than the published last day of graduate classes for that semester or summer session. International students on visas should be aware that withdrawal has immediate implications for their legal status in the United States and should contact Duke Visa Services for guidance. If students wish to withdraw from courses in the summer session, they must consult both the director of graduate studies in the major department and the Graduate School Registrar. To learn about the policies on tuition refunds upon withdrawal, see the chapter “Financial Information.”

After completion of at least one semester of graduate study in good academic standing, a student who must withdraw before completion of a graduate program may, with the approval of the major department, request the dean to issue a certificate of graduate study.

Students who have been voluntarily withdrawn must seek reinstatement before they can be enrolled again. To be considered for reinstatement, a student must send a letter to the DGS for potential endorsement before it is forwarded to the academic dean of The Graduate School for consideration. The student must pay a reinstatement fee as well as continuation tuition for all fall and spring semesters that transpired since their discontinuation term. Previously completed coursework or examinations that are more than six years old will not count toward degree requirements.

Leave of Absence

A leave of absence for no more than two semesters may be granted because of medical conditions, full-time employment relevant to completing the degree, receipt of an external research award, or other acceptable reasons as judged by the academic dean of The Graduate School. A request for a leave of absence should be originated by the student, endorsed by the student’s DGS, and submitted to the academic dean for consideration prior to the beginning of the semester for which the leave is requested. Students are eligible to request a leave of absence only if they are in good academic standing and have completed at least one semester in the current graduate degree program at Duke. No more than two semesters of leave, in total, may be granted throughout a student’s degree program. Requests for medical leaves of absence must be supported by a letter to the academic dean from a treating medical practitioner. Return from such leave must be similarly supported by evidence, such as a letter from a current treating practitioner, that the student is ready to return to the rigors of graduate study. If an emergency medical leave must be taken once a semester has begun, it would be retroactive to the start of the term. Formal leaves of absence are not applicable to the summer term, but summer experiential leave may be requested by PhD students who otherwise would be registered.

Time limitations that pertain to the various degrees and requirements, and the completion of courses on which a grade of Incomplete (I) was earned, are not waived during leaves of absence, other than those of medical necessity and as approved by the academic dean.

Students contemplating leaves of absence should be aware that, for financial purposes, all guarantees of financial support are calculated from the date of initial matriculation. For example, if a graduate program has stated that a student will be supported through the fifth year of graduate study, and the student subsequently takes a leave of absence for one of those years, the student would forfeit a year of institutional support. Departments and programs are encouraged, but not required, to offer a deferral of funding to a subsequent term in the case of medical leaves of absence. Foreign students on visas should consult Duke Visa Services for the implications of a leave of absence on their legal status in this country.

English Proficiency for International Students

All international students whose first language is not English must enroll in appropriate sections of English for International Students (EIS) during their initial year at Duke, unless formally waived from this requirement by The Graduate School upon certification of competency in English. The determination and assignment of the necessary course sections are made by the EIS staff based on placement test results and prior degree institution. The lower level EIS courses must be taken in the first year; in any case, all required courses should be taken as early as possible in the student’s course of study at Duke. Completion of all EIS courses into which a student places is a requirement for graduation. International MS and PhD students in the Pratt School of Engineering are subject to the same requirements, but the placement testing and course instruction will be provided directly by Pratt. Duke Kunshan University MS degree candidates are also subject to these requirements and will receive training in English proficiency at that campus.

Library Privileges

Graduate students have full library privileges and are entitled to carrels only if registered as full-time students. Only PhD students who have attained candidacy (passed the preliminary examination) are eligible for closed carrels.

Student Health and Insurance

The Student Health Fee covers most of the services offered at Duke Student Health if medically indicated and rendered by a Student Health Provider. The health fee should not be confused with the supplementary Duke Student Medical Insurance Plan, which covers a large number of medical costs above and beyond the treatment available through the University Student Health Program. Full-time students who are entitled to coverage by the student health program are also eligible for the supplementary insurance policy.

All students enrolled in programs that require payment of the health fee must also have adequate medical insurance. The university requires all students to be responsible for health costs over and above what is covered by the student health fee. Students will automatically be enrolled in the Duke Student Medical Insurance Plan unless they submit a waiver indicating that they are covered by a comparable plan. Students indicate their health insurance decision through DukeHub as part of the online registration process. For international students holding J-1 or F-1 visas, participation in the Duke Student Medical Insurance Plan is mandatory.