Satisfactory Academic Progress


The Graduate School of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of History guarantee five full years (12 months each) of financial support for Ph.D. students who maintain satisfactory academic progress. This support will be primarily be in the form of teaching fellowships; non-service fellowships are offered the first full year.  Only those students who are making satisfactory and sustained progress toward the completion of their degree within the specified time periods will be awarded financial support.


In the Department of History, making Satisfactory Academic Progress toward the doctorate is defined as:

  1. Earning no more than two failing grades in their coursework. History defines a grade of B or lower as a failing grade. The Department regards any incomplete grade (I) older than 12 months and any withdrawal (W) as a failing grade.
  2. Maintaining a GPA of 3.3 or higher.
  3. PhD students who do not meet these standards over two semesters – who fail two courses or whose GPA falls below 3.3 – will be placed on academic probation. This status automatically triggers a conversation with the student, their advisor, and the DGS about past performance and how best to improve that performance going forward. PhD students who remain on academic probation risk withdrawal of their funding.
  4. Taking and passing qualifying exams by the end of their third year.
  5. Submitting and receiving approval for a dissertation prospectus within 12 months of their qualifying exams.



End of First Year

  1. Take and pass 8 approved courses, four of which must include the following:
  • HI800: European Historiography
  • HI850: American Historiography
  • HI870: African Historiography
  • HI801: The Historian’s Craft
  1. Take and pass a research seminar that results in the production of a major research paper of 25-40 pages. The paper should examine a topic approved by the course instructor as well as the student’s main advisor. HI801 can serve as this research seminar.
  2. Pass at least one foreign language exam. This can be accomplished in one of three ways:
    • Complete an exam given by faculty members in the history department who specialize in your language of choice. Language exams are normally administered during the semester.
    • Complete a language reading course numbered 621 through the Graduate School. Please note that these courses may not be taken for credit toward the doctorate.
    • Students who have passed a reading examination at another accredited graduate school can petition the Director of Graduate Studies to waive the departmental requirement.

End of Second Year

  1. Take and pass 8 more courses. These courses may take any of the following three forms:
    • Courses offered at Boston University numbered 500 and above.
    • Approved courses offered within the Boston Consortium
    • Directed Reading Seminar
    • Directed Research Seminar
  2. These 8 courses must include another research seminar that results in the production of a second major research paper of 25-40 pages.
  3. Pass a second foreign language exam through one of the three methods described above.
  4. Begin preparing for oral qualifying exams:
    • Select a major and a minor field.
    • Create an orals committee consisting of four examining faculty in the chosen fields.
    • Create reading lists for the minor field and each area of the major field in consultation with the individual examiners.

By the End of Third Year

  1. Take and pass qualifying oral exams.
    • Before taking the exam, students must have completed their coursework as well as both research papers and language requirements.
    • Before taking the exam, students must submit the PhD Qualifying Oral Examination Approval Form to the department.
  2. Submit dissertation prospectus for approval by the first and second reader. Once approved, the student must submit the Dissertation Prospectus Approval Form.
  3. Research and apply for grants to fund archival research.

Fourth Year and Beyond

  1. Apply for grants and fellowships
  2. Conduct archival research
  3. Write up the dissertation
  4. Complete four semesters of HI900: Dissertation Workshop, and present annually on research
  5. Complete the dissertation
  6. File a GRS Intent to Graduate Form for the Doctoral Degree

Please note that PhD candidacy (and thus financial support) expires on its fifth anniversary – that is, five years after taking orals. When students are entering their seventh year, and anticipate needing more time to complete degree requirements, they can submit a petition to the Graduate School for an extension.