Ph.D. time limitation and extension

Students have a seven-year time limit to complete all requirements for the Ph.D. A student whose Ph.D. time limit has expired is regarded by the Graduate School as automatically terminated from the program unless the department submits an appropriately justified request for a time extension and the Graduate School approves that request.


Time-to-degree is a national issue in graduate education. The Graduate School concurs with the statement by the Graduate Council at UCLA, summarizing the impact of lengthy times to a degree:

Overly long times-to-degree are costly to students and the University, decrease the influx of new ideas that come with new students, reduce the productive work-life of holders of advanced degrees, diminish the capacity to meet anticipated faculty renewal needs, make it more difficult to diversify our graduate students and ultimately our faculty, and surely discourage some undergraduates from even considering graduate study.  Within limits, a shorter time-to-degree is neither synonymous with high quality graduate education nor antithetical to it.  However, timely progress is a sign of intellectual vigor, competence, and commitment.

Total time for extensions

The total time for earning the Ph.D., including all time extensions and any required revalidation, is 12 years.

Requesting a time extension

To allow a student to continue in the Ph.D. program past the seven-year time limit, the department must request a time extension from the Graduate School no later than six months following the student's time limit expiration. The Time Extension Request form must be used to transmit the request.

Time extension requirements

To be considered eligible for a time extension, the student's prospectus must have received Graduate School approval prior to the request for an extension.

Issues that must be addressed in the Time Extension Request form include:

  1. The reasons for the request
  2. An explanation of how the student's circumstances have changed to enable them to complete the dissertation now
  3. Compelling evidence that the student's dissertation is in progress
  4. A plan and timeline for completion of the dissertation
  5. An explanation of how the student has remained current in their field

The Request form must include:

  1. Copies of all the student's Annual Review/Individual Development Plans
  2. Endorsement by the student's advisor and a majority of the dissertation committee
  3. The approval of the departmental Graduate Director (or the Graduate Director in consultation with the departmental Graduate Committee)

The length of time extensions should be handled on a case-by-case basis, justified by the timeline. During the extension, the student must meet with the advisor and committee annually, and documentation of the meetings must be maintained in the Annual Review/Individual Development Plan.

Revalidation requirement

Approval of a time extension beyond the 10-year mark requires revalidation of credentials through retaking of the written Qualifying Examination in the major area. Additional coursework may be required.

Appeal process

If the advisor, dissertation committee or graduate director does not approve an extension, the student has the right to appeal the decision. If the advisor or dissertation committee does not approve the request, the student may appeal to the graduate director, who will meet with the graduate committee to respond to the appeal. If the graduate director does not approve the request, the student may appeal to the Graduate School. If the Graduate School does not approve the request, the student may appeal to the Provost.