Policies and Guidelines

Graduate School Academic Guidelines

The Graduate School acts as the Dean’s office for graduate students. The Graduate School website contains comprehensive information about Graduate School policies and procedures. Included on this website are the Graduate School Academic Guidelines.

The following policies and guidelines are for the SLA Program. They are intended to supplement, not to replace, the policies and guidelines of the Graduate School.

Note: please also see Student Handbook


The SLA Doctoral Program is governed by an Steering Committee consisting of core members of the SLA programs and directed by primary SLA faculty elected by the Steering Committee to serve rotating terms. A student representative is invited to attend appropriate portions of each meeting.


The advisor is perhaps the most important individual in the student’s doctoral program. Advisors must be core SLA faculty members. Students are required to meet with their advisor at least once each semester to review their progress, select courses, and to discuss any outstanding issues or questions.

Students are assigned an academic advisor when they begin the SLA Program. The advisor is selected based on the student’s interests and the interests and availability of faculty. As students progress through the program and formulate a research agenda, they may decide to change their advisor.

Students identify a dissertation advisor prior to taking the preliminary examination (April, 2013 policy). The dissertation advisor may or may not be the same faculty member as the student’s advisor at the pre-dissertation stage. The choice of a dissertation advisor is a mutual decision between the student and the professor.

Prior Coursework Credits

The Graduate School requires that students take a minimum of 32 graduate credits (300 level or above, no audits or pass/fail) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 6 credits of graduate course work from graduate work at other institutions or the UW-Madison. Course work earned ten or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree or earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Request for Exceptions to Course Requirements

In addition to counting up to 6 credits of graduate course work to the SLA program, the student may request to waive additional courses if he/she has taken similar course work.  If a student wishes to waive a required course, he/she must submit first to the advisor, and then in writing to the SLA Steering Committee, a description of the course taken and a statement of which course is desired to be waived.  The student should append to that request relevant material documenting the course (e.g., transcript, reading list, syllabus, if available).

Satisfactory Academic Progress

Continuation in the Graduate School at UW-Madison is at the discretion of the SLA Program, the Graduate School, and your advisor. Students who are not making satisfactory academic progress are placed on academic probation.

Criteria for making satisfactory academic progress are:

  • GPA:  The Graduate School requires students to maintain a minimum of a 3.00 grade point average for graduate courses (numbered 300 and above, excluding research) to receive a degree.
  • Ph.D. Major coursework: Students typically complete all of the coursework requirements within two years of enrolling in the Program. Students are required to complete all coursework before taking the preliminary examinations.
  • Preliminary Examinations: Students must take the preliminary examination within one semester of completing coursework. It is expected that students take and pass the preliminary exam within 3 years after the start of their doctoral studies.
  • Language Requirement:  Students must meet the oral and reading language requirements before being granted dissertator status.
  • Dissertation Director and Proposal:  Students must come to an agreement with the SLA primary faculty member who serves as the dissertation director prior to taking the preliminary examination (April, 2013 policy). The dissertation proposal must be approved no later than one calendar year after achieving dissertator status. If the proposal is not approved by that date, the candidate, with a support letter from his or her advisor, must petition the SLA Steering Committee for an extension.
  • Dissertation Defense: Graduate School regulations require Ph.D. candidates to defend their dissertation five years from the date of passing their preliminary examinations.


The Graduate School requires that incompletes be resolved by the end of the next fall or spring term in which you are enrolled. The SLA Program requires that all incompletes be resolved before students may take any portion of the preliminary examination.

Leaves of Absence

Students at the pre-dissertator stage who wish to take a leave of absence must apply to the SLA Steering Committee for a leave of absence from the program. Approval of that leave is necessary for the student to continue to make satisfactory academic progress.  Approval is also necessary to defer guaranteed support. In certain types of guaranteed support, the program may not be able to defer, and thereby maintain, the guarantee of support if a leave of absence is taken. It is to the student’s advantage to request a leave of absence as soon as possible, especially when funding is at issue. Students at the pre-dissertation stage who take a leave of absence must apply for reentry to the Graduate School within one year of the semester in which they wish to return.

Dissertators may not take a leave of absence. They must remain enrolled until graduation. See the Graduate School policy on continuous enrollment for dissertators.

Auditing Courses

Students may not audit a course that is used to fulfill a degree requirement.  In addition, courses that “by their nature require participation (seminars, research, laboratory, or performance courses)” are not appropriate for auditing. Audits do not count toward the minimum/maximum credit load but students need to complete a form if they will go over the total 12 credits with the audited course. Dissertators who audit a course beyond the 3-credit (dissertation) requirement will be removed from dissertator fee status and assessed regular graduate student fees.

Grievances and Appeals

Students should first approach the person(s) concerned, if possible, then the advisor, then the SLA Director, then the SLA Steering Committee, and then, only if the problem is not resolved, the Graduate School.

Academic Honesty

The SLA Program holds its students to high standards of academic integrity.  We expect all students to become familiar with the University’s guidelines for academic honesty and the consequences for academic misconduct.