Student Progress

The department judges satisfactory progress based on:

  • coursework, languages, and the general exam in the first two years

  • completing an approved dissertation prospectus, forming a dissertation committee and performance as a Teaching Fellow in years three and four

  • completing research and annual chapters of the dissertation in the fifth year and beyond

    Advisors' reports are used to discuss each case, in the sixth year and above, with the Dean of the Graduate School (GSAS) in February, and as the basis of the Department's Graduate Student Review meeting in May.

Academic Residence

The minimum academic residence requirement of graduate study in history at Harvard is two years of full-time study.

Time to Degree

The Registrar’s Office calculates a student’s Graduate Year (G-year) based on total time enrolled at the Graduate School (GSAS); it does not stop while a student is on non-resident status. The Department’s “dissertation clock” (departmental calculation of number of years a student has devoted to dissertation completion) only stops when a student is on a leave of absence for documented medical or maternity reasons, active service in the U.S. military, or participation in a Harvard coordinated degree program.

Enrollment Time Limit

Students who have exceeded ten years of registered status in the program will not be permitted to register for further terms of academic residence in GSAS. A student who has not completed his or her dissertation by the end of the tenth year (June degree) shall be withdrawn, and may later be readmitted for the degree once the dissertation is complete. Withdrawn candidates should note that Harvard alumni are eligible for both borrowing and stack access privileges at Widener (arrangements can be made with the library privileges desk at Widener for a nominal fee) and several other Harvard libraries. Also, if covered by student health insurance, Blue Cross / Blue Shield will send a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) letter indicating the termination date of group coverage. The letter may be used to obtain non-group coverage in Massachusetts or other states.

Degree Withdrawl & Readmission

Withdrawal from the Program
Students contemplating withdrawal from the program should speak first with their academic advisors and other readers about such plans. Following these discussions, the Graduate Coordinator can provide the appropriate form to fill out and send to GSAS. It constitutes the formal notification to the School of withdrawal. For more information, visit the GSAS web site.

Readmission for Degree
A candidate who no longer has student status at the University may continue to work on the dissertation, sending complete drafts to the readers for their review. Once the committee has read and agreed that the complete dissertation would be ready for submission, the candidate would apply for readmission to GSAS. The candidate would submit the readmission application along with letters from the dissertation committee, primarily the advisor, stating that they have read and approved the complete dissertation. The Department Chair would review the materials and, once approved, the candidate immediately would apply for the degree and submit the dissertation under normal procedures. Readmission for degree forms may be downloaded at the GSAS web site.