Ph.D. Regulations and Policies

Current students should consult the Communications Ph.D. Handbook for further details on academic and financial matters as well as information about practicalities like how to choose courses, find housing, get accepted at conferences, and make timely progress. Students are presumed to be fully acquainted with all the information on the website and in the handbook.

In order to finish coursework in two years (for those with advanced standing from transfer credits) or three years (for those who must first earn the Master of Arts degree), we recommend distributing coursework as follows:

First (Master of Arts) year: five courses (15 credits) per semester, one of which, J9900, is for R credit and the rest for letter grades.

Second year: five courses (15 credits) per semester, including, if desired, J9900 for R credit.

Third year: four courses (12 credits) per semester, including, if desired, J9900 for R credit.

J9900, our "directed reading" course available for R credit only, may be taken repeatedly as a fifth or (in the final year) fourth course; it may not be taken as an additional course if the student has already registered for the recommended credit load for a given semester. In their last semester of coursework, students may register for up to 6 credits of J9900 as dissertation research. A student must register for at least 12 points per semester (or for RSRH J0001, described below), to be considered full‐time; taking more than 19 points per semester incurs additional charges, which are the responsibility of the student.

Students in their second or later year of study may cross‐register for courses at New York University (some divisions only), the New School, CUNY Graduate Center, Fordham, Princeton, Rutgers or Stony Brook through the Inter‐University Doctoral Consortium (IUDC). Find information here on how to register for courses in the Media, Culture, and Communication Department at NYU’s Steinhardt School.

No more than 18 of the 54 additional points required for the M.Phil. may be taken for R credit, including all enrollments in J9900. Students should familiarize themselves with GSAS policies concerning R credits and Incompletes, which govern all courses taken in GSAS or in the Communications program. Other Columbia divisions and the IUDC institutions may have similar regulations of their own and it is the student's responsibility to confirm those with the registrar of the other institution when enrolling.

Requests to take a course for R credit are handled directly between students and instructors any time from the start of the semester until the eleventh week of classes. (See the Academic Calendar for the precise deadlines each term). For students taking half-semester courses, the deadline to request R credit is the Friday of the fourth week of the course. Students should discuss the R credit option with the instructor and obtain written confirmation of the agreement, typically via email, which should be forwarded to the Program Director. Instructors will be able to select the R at the end of the semester, when submitting grades. Students who elect to take a course for R credit are not required to take the final examination; however, they must meet all other course requirements, unless the instructor states otherwise in writing. A course that has been taken for R credit may not be repeated for a letter grade.

The mark of IN (Incomplete) is given to a student who has satisfactorily met all the requirements of a course except for the completion of certain assigned papers or reports or the final examination, which the student has been compelled to postpone for reasons that are 1) beyond his or her control and 2) satisfactory to the instructor. For a course in GSAS or in the Communications program, if the student does not submit the outstanding work by the deadline specified below, the mark of IN may be changed to an F, which will be not subject to change at a later date.

For Incompletes earned in the fall semester, the deadline for students to submit their outstanding work is the June 30 that immediately follows. For Incompletes earned in the spring semester, the deadline for students to submit their outstanding work is the Dec. 31 that immediately follows. Departments and instructors may set an earlier deadline for completion of the outstanding work; in such cases, that deadline will supersede the deadlines noted here. Leaves of absence and withdrawals stop the clock on Incomplete deadlines.

The doctoral subcommittee will not normally recommend for the M.Phil. students who have one or more grades of F outstanding on their transcript, even if the F is the temporary result of a lapsed Incomplete and even if they have enough credits otherwise to qualify. Students who wish to retake a course in which they received a grade of F may appeal to the program director and must also obtain approval from the DGS of the department offering the course. The student must retake the entire course. Students cannot retake a course for which they received a passing grade (i.e., R, P, D or higher). To receive permission to retake a course, the student must submit the Registration Adjustment Form to the program director requesting that the course be added to the student's registration the next time it is offered. Please note: This appeal must be filed no later than 10 days after the grade has been posted on SSOL.

If the student passes the second iteration of the course, the F will not count toward the student's minimum GPA for good standing and will not prohibit the student from receiving the MPhil, but the grades for both of the courses will be posted on the student's transcript. The student will be charged applicable tuition for both courses.

All students are required to complete a total of six Residence Units (an RU is generally equivalent to a full-time semester). Doctoral students who have completed the requirements for an identical or comparable MA degree conferred in another division of Columbia or by another regionally accredited institution (or the international equivalent) will be granted, upon entrance to the program, two Residence Units toward the required total of six. The program must confirm whether the previously completed MA is comparable: it must meet Columbia departmental standards and contribute directly and substantially to the fulfillment of the requirements for the MPhil and PhD degrees at Columbia. PhD students who have taken graduate-level courses outside Columbia, but have not completed an appropriate MA degree program or the equivalent (or an appropriate professional degree), may receive up to 15 points of transfer credit. Students who have been granted two Residence Units toward the total of six Residence Units are not eligible to receive an MA from the Communications Ph.D. program. 

Students who have completed all coursework should register each semester for RSRH J0001 until their  primary adviser and defense moderator have formally approved the dissertation as ready for defense. This "course" qualifies the student for full‐time status and carries a registration fee, for which students will be responsible if they continue to enroll after their eligibility for funding by the school ceases. (The RSRH J0001 registration does not entitle a student to enroll in classes, and students holding that status who choose to formally enroll in a course will be charged the per‐credit tuition fee.) Students are required to register in each semester until they have either completed all degree requirements or formally withdrawn from the program; they are exempt from this requirement only when granted an official leave of absence by the program director.

Students who must interrupt their studies for a compelling reason may be granted a personal or medical Leave of Absence for up to a year. A second year (or additional time) may be possible if a written appeal is submitted to the Program Director and the Senior Associate Dean of Students. Approved leaves are entered on a student's permanent academic record. The period of a Leave of Absence is not counted as part of the time allowed for the completion of degree requirements, and the student may not fulfill any degree requirements during that time. If the leave is granted, a non-negotiable return date will be added to the student’s record.

To be granted a personal Leave of Absence, a student must first visit the Senior Associate Dean of Students to discuss the situation. Supporting documentation may be requested from the student to substantiate the need to take the leave. Leaves are not approved during the first eight weeks of a semester except under documented emergency circumstances.

A medical leave is granted to a student whose health prevents successful study and is normally granted for a minimum of one full calendar year, but may not extend longer than two years. To be granted a medical leave of absence, a student must first visit the Senior Associate Dean of Students to discuss the situation. It is mandatory that students on a medical leave be actively engaged in a course of treatment that leads to recovery. Documentation of treatment will be essential before readmission. See this website for further information on taking a medical leave.

International students are advised that taking a personal leave of absence may affect their student visa status and should consult with the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO).

Permission to register each term is contingent on the judgment of the director, the program chair, and the senior associate dean of students that progress in the degree program is both satisfactory and in keeping with university and federal requirements.. Students who fail to maintain satisfactory progress will be alerted of their deficiencies, advised of the means to remedy them, and told the consequences of their failure to do so. If their progress or conduct remains unsatisfactory, their candidacy may be terminated.

Satisfactory progress for M.A. and Ph.D. candidates in the Communications Ph.D. program includes but is not limited to:

  • Acquiring an advisor no later than March 1 of your second year
  • Maintaining consistent contact with the program director and adviser 
  • Meeting the timeline for the M.A. and the M.Phil. degrees, described below
  • Fulfilling the dissertation proposal requirement
  • Meeting at least once a semester with your two main  advisers to discuss your research
  • Completing degree requirements and maintaining superior quality of work as determined by the program
  • Maintaining a cumulative grade point average (GPA)* of at least 3.0
  • Holding no more than one mark of Incomplete at any given time
  • Fulfilling pedagogical or research requirements as designated by the school 
  • Meeting other criteria specified by the program.

* The cumulative GPA is derived from all courses in which a student has registered and received a grade, except in cases in which the student re‐took a course after receiving an F. In such cases, the F received for the original iteration does not count toward the GPA.

Additionally, students are expected to remain in compliance with all applicable administrative policies and procedures of the Journalism School and the University, such as those of the Columbia LibrariesColumbia Residential, and the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards, as well as the regulations described in the University Policies pages.

Students are expected to exhibit the high level of personal and academic integrity and honesty required of all members of an academic community as they engage in scholarly discourse and research. They are required to familiarize themselves with the standards for academic integrity as set out by GSAS, and violations will be dealt with severely by the program.

GSAS regulations state that all requirements for the M.A. must be fulfilled within four consecutive semesters of full‐time study; for the M.Phil., within four calendar years of first registration, or three for students with advanced standing from transfer credit; and for the Ph.D., within nine calendar years of first registration, or eight for students with advanced standing. Exceptions may be made only under extraordinary circumstances and upon petition to the  Program Chair, the Program Director, and the Senior Associate Dean of Students.