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Expectations for Graduate Education, Departments and Programs

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The graduate degree program bears primary responsibility for developing and communicating specific guidelines and procedures governing study in the discipline. It should provide all incoming and enrolled students with a clear structure of the expected stages of progress towards the degree.  It should offer a curriculum and appropriate forms of instruction necessary to ensure timely completion of that degree, and it should provide specific details regarding likely career opportunities for those seeking the degree.  In addition, it should encourage the development of interdisciplinary skills and, whenever possible, participation in interdisciplinary research. The department should also provide clear information about the procedures for assessing students’ satisfactory progress toward the degree.

Progress Toward Degree

It is expected that departments and programs will:

  • Inform graduate students of the requirements (see Presidential Policy Memo #152, a revision of Presidential Policy #126) for the academic program, including the expected time-to-degrees within their program, the plan-of-study requirements, and the availability of courses required for their graduate studies.
  • Provide accurate, timely, and clearly stated information concerning academic requirements and academic evaluation, as well as guidance toward establishing and maintaining acceptable academic standing.
  • Provide relevant course offerings at the graduate level; these courses are listed in the Graduate Catalog.
  • Provide supervision, external to the institution if necessary, if the student’s dissertation or thesis advisor departs Virginia Tech after the student’s work has begun.
  • Ensure that graduate students receive regular evaluation and feedback throughout their academic program, including annual evaluation (see Presidential Policy Memos #152, #229).  Written evaluations should, at a minimum, include annual progress reports.
  • Provide graduate students with a fair opportunity to correct deficiencies in their academic performance before being dismissed. Dismissal of a graduate student from a graduate program for academic reasons should typically be based on annual progress reviews (see Presidential Policy Memo #229).
  • Refer international students to Cranwell International Center staff to learn about requirements for international students to maintain adequate progress.

Research and Ethics

It is expected that the department or program will:

  • Provide appropriate resources to allow students to complete their education and research in a timely and productive manner.
  • Ensure that advisors and committees treat all students fairly and assess their work in meaningful ways, consistent with the discipline.
  • Ensure the highest standards of academic quality in all aspects of the graduate program.
  • Follow FERPA guidelines, which mandate a student’s right to reasonable privacy and confidentiality in all communications among students, professors, staff, and administrators.
  • Provide graduate students with a safe working environment (see Environmental Health and Safety Services).

Teaching and Training

It is expected that the department or program will:

  • Provide training appropriate to the teaching assignment given to graduate students.
  • Review teaching evaluations of graduate teaching assistants and work with them to improve their teaching skills through mentoring and participation in teaching workshops.
  • Encourage graduate students with interests in teaching to participate in opportunities to enhance teaching and pedagogical skills, including those provided by the Academy for GTA Excellence, the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and TLOS (Technology-Enhanced Learning and Online Strategies), as well as other Transformative Graduate Education initiatives.
  • Professional Development

It is expected that the department or program will:

  • Provide information to graduate students about professional meetings, public forums, and exhibitions relevant to their research area.
  • Provide information to graduate students about professional training programs, seminars, and courses that will enhance their professional growth and development. See the Graduate School website on Professional Development.
  • Assist students to be competitive for employment by providing information about opportunities and, when appropriate, making use of professional contacts for the benefit of graduate students.

Assistantships and Financial Support

It is expected that the department or program will:

  • Provide clear expectations to students on their responsibilities as GAs, GTAs, or GRAs.
  • Inform graduate students of the requirements and qualifications necessary for academic employment, training, or financial support.
  • Provide graduate students on assistantships (GA, GTA, GRA) with a written agreement, as well as the terms and conditions of any graduate-assistant appointments (see Presidential Policy Memo #152, which updates and replaces policies #14 and #126).
  • Inform graduate students that they must work an average of 20 hours/week for those individuals on full assistantship (for half time assistantship, 10 hours/week would be expected) and that these hours are in addition to the hours needed for coursework and individual research.
  • Inform graduate student assistants of academic or other institutional policies affecting their role as employees.
  • Inform graduate students of available funding sources, including departmental or program of study sources of funding.
  • If departmental funding is not available, assist graduate students in seeking assistantships and other funding sources outside of the home department or program. Should a funding source be terminated through no fault of the graduate student, the department should make reasonable effort to find alternative funding for that student.
  • Recognize that the employment of international students is governed by immigration regulations, and adhere to policies and procedures that are set forth by International Graduate Student Services and the payroll office.
  • Recognize that international students do not have the same financial resources available to them as domestic students (e.g., federal financial aid, loans).


It is expected that the department or program will:

  • Create a collegial learning environment in which faculty and students work together in mutual respect and collaboration.
  • Establish an environment in which members of diverse communities feel welcome and honored.
  • Provide specific mechanisms for appeal or complaint when standards of collegiality or fairness may have been violated; see the complaint/appeals process.