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Graduate Education and COVID-19

To: All Graduate Students, Lawrence and Edwards Campus

From: Jennifer A. Roberts, Vice Provost for Graduate Studies


Good afternoon, Graduate Students.

I sincerely hope this message finds each and every one of you safe and healthy. I also hope this message will bring some peace of mind as you consider how your academic plans and research might shift to accommodate the transitions brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak. Below, I provide several updates that should simplify the policies and processes you may be navigating right now. If you have any questions about this information, or if you have other questions that you do not see answered, please reach out to your supervisors, your directors of graduate studies (DGSes), and/or the Office of Graduate Studies (graduate@ku.edu) for clarification. Our team, in collaboration with staff and faculty in your unit, wants to do our utmost to support you during this collectively challenging time.

Emergency Funding

Many of you are encountering unexpected expenses that may have a significant impact on your ability to continue your studies while maintaining your shelter and food security. To help alleviate financial burdens created by COVID-19, Graduate Studies has partnered with Student Senate to identify additional emergency funds, which we will distribute through the Emergency Aid Network. Please apply for these funds if you have an acute need, using the help.ku.edu portal.

Extension of Maximum Time to Degree

Many of you have been affected by the research closures taking place to ensure the health and safety of our campus community. In some cases, these closures may substantially limit the progress you are able to make toward your degree requirements this semester. Please know we are actively advising faculty that your performance in coursework and research hours should be evaluated within the context of what it is possible to achieve amidst our current public health crisis.

In addition, I am relaxing the university-level policies concerning maximum allowable tenure to complete graduate degrees for all who are affected by the COVID-19 developments. If you are a graduate student enrolled in a Lawrence- or Edwards-campus program during the spring 2020 semester, you are eligible to opt into a one-year extension of your maximum allowable time to degree without the need to petition for this additional time. You will be able to elect this extension during the final semester of your current program, if it becomes necessary. This COVID-19 extension is available to you even if you have already been granted a one-time extension according to the established university petition processes. However, it is not additive to COVID-19 extensions already in place at your school or college. More information on these policies is available through the links at the end of this message.

Please bear in mind that departments and schools may have more stringent time limits and expectations concerning time to degree. You must also maintain good standing in your program to be eligible for this extension. Graduate coursework can also expire after ten years, requiring you to repeat it. I strongly encourage you to consult with your advisor and your research supervisor to discuss the specifics of your situation and determine how you are best able to continue making progress during these unprecedented circumstances. Please also note that an extension of the maximum allowable tenure to complete a degree does not imply any extension or availability of funding during the extension period.

Remote Milestone Exams Extended

On 13 March, the Office of Graduate Studies suspended in-person attendance requirements for graduate milestone exams (e.g., thesis and dissertation defenses) during the spring semester. Today, we are announcing an extension of this temporary policy adjustment: you and all of your committee members may participate remotely in milestone exams conducted through the end of the summer 2020 term. If you are living in Lawrence, KU Libraries has made available a private room in which students can conduct their exams. The room offers a whiteboard and stable WIFI, and laptop computers are available for check-out if needed. Please contact Jeromy Horkman to schedule your exam in Watson Library.

During Kansas’ stay-at-home order, no participants should attend an exam in person—all individuals should participate using mediated means (video-conferencing). Once the state deems it safe to lift the stay-at-home order, please work with your committee and use your discretion in evaluating whether some or all individuals should participate in your exam remotely. In cases where you prefer for all committee members to be physically present, your preference shall be honored. However, this preference may require rescheduling and therefore delay your progress to degree.

All participants in an exam involving remote participation must be fully aware of what is transpiring and fully able to participate in all components of the discussion with you and each other. Any material presented during the examinations, orally or in writing, must be seen and heard by all participants. Oral examinations that do not meet these participation requirements are not valid. Your milestone outcome will not be influenced by any proceedings that take place without full engagement of all participants. If a committee member has not arrived, the exam may not begin; if a committee member leaves, the exam may not proceed.

Commencement and Graduation Ceremonies

Yesterday, the Provost announced that the 2020 Spring Commencement and associated graduation ceremonies have been postponed. This includes the Doctoral Hooding Ceremony. For those of you who are graduating, please be aware that degrees will still be conferred in May, although the ceremonies will take place in summer or fall. Your transcript is the formal documentary record of your achievement and will show your degree completion as of May 2020, if you complete all requirements this spring.

Quick Reminders: 

  • Please stay in regular communication with your advisors as this situation develops, particularly if you are concerned about your grades. Your advisor will be able to provide the most direct and specific guidance about your options, which may include taking an Incomplete in required degree courses or switching to CR/NC for courses that do not fulfill degree requirements. 
  • Please check the Graduate Studies website regularly: we are working hard to develop a hub that collects information and campus communications that may be useful to you as you navigate this semester.  To better serve your needs please give us feedback here!
  • Please join us for our Virtual Pet Cafes in celebration of Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week next week! No pets required but, of course, if yours would like to share a bit of the limelight, we’d love to meet them! 



Jennifer Roberts

Vice Provost for Graduate Studies