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For information about other academic policies and procedures; student responsibilities; student academic and co-curricular life; faculty rights and responsibilities; or general personnel policies, benefits, and services, please refer to university policies and related procedural guides, as appropriate.  

Graduate Program Policies and Procedures

The General Regulations booklet reviews the minimum academic requirements established by the University and the Graduate Office. This booklet is updated annually and the academic year is noted on the cover. Students may also obtain a copy of the booklet in their department.


Active students can review their coursework through curriculum and track academic progress towards graduation using the degree audit system. Instructions can be found on the Registrar’s Degree Audit website, under “Graduate (non-CPS) and School of Law.”  If you have questions or concerns about your audit, consult the graduate program administrator in your department.

Academic advising is a critical part of a student’s experience in the graduate program. New students are assigned faculty advisors and are welcome to subsequently change advisors as they fine-tune their academic and career objectives. Advising covers substantive questions in the student’s field of study as well as long-term academic and career planning. Students are strongly urged to speak to an advisor before registering for courses each semester. Any change in advisor must be reported to the program director.


A directed study is an individual reading and research course arranged between a student and a faculty member. A directed study is an opportunity for more in-depth analysis of a particular topic or the study of a subject matter not covered in the program’s curriculum. Directed studies carry three semester hours for academic credit. Prior to the start of a directed study, the student and the faculty member must prepare a syllabus that outlines required readings, writing assignments, and other work to be performed by the student, as well as criteria for determining the student’s grade. The syllabus represents a contract that clarifies the responsibilities and expectations of both the student and the faculty member. The proposed directed study must be approved by the director of the program in which the student is enrolled before the start of the semester.


Up to nine semester hours of graduate level credits can be transferred into the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs Master’s degree programs. These credits must be earned at an accredited institution in the US, must not have been used toward a prior degree, and must be graduate level. In addition, the student must have earned a B or better and the credits must be valid at the time that the student will complete the Northeastern degree. A petition for transfer should be submitted to the director of the program. If transfer credits are recommended by the program, the College will consider the petition.


Satisfactory progress means satisfying the requirements of the College of Social Sciences and Humanities Graduate Programs General Regulations and of the regulations specified in the department booklet. The College sets minimum standards for all students to fulfill. Masters students must maintain an overall grade point average of 3.000 as well as a 3.000 in the core courses. Each PhD student will have an annual review of his/her progress toward the completion of the degree. Receipt financial support administered by the Graduate Office is contingent on satisfactory academic progress toward the degree and on meeting department-specific guidelines.

Any student failing to make satisfactory progress is placed on academic probation, a warning that serves to alert the student to the fact that he/she may not be allowed to continue in the program unless the deficiency is addressed. Students should monitor their own academic records to ensure that they are meeting program standards. Program personnel monitor transcripts each semester and will report any failure to maintain satisfactory progress to the individual student, to the student’s advisor, and to the director of the program.


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Resources for PhD Students

All PhD students are required to meet with their faculty advisors for an annual student progress review. The reviews will be submitted to the Department’s Graduate Studies Committee, which will determine whether satisfactory progress is being made and students are eligible to proceed to complete their graduate work. The College’s Graduate Office will receive a copy of each student’s review.

Students are required to complete two qualifying events and a dissertation proposal to advance to candidacy.

  1. A comprehensive exam on the common four-course core requirements: policy seminar, research methods, quantitative methods (statistics), and qualitative methods. The comprehensive exam assesses the student’s knowledge of the common core curriculum. This exam should occur as soon as possible after these core courses are completed. The program director will coordinate the content of the exam with the faculty of the core courses. This is a written take-home exam testing the knowledge of the content of the core curriculum. Students will be given the questions and have a time limit of five days to complete the exam. Students must pass the exam to proceed.
  2. A concentration specific qualification hurdle that will be either a publishable literature review or a directed qualifying task or assignment, taken after the concentration required theory or seminar course, and/or summer research residency. The program director and the student’s concentration advisor will coordinate and agree on the form of this qualifying task. It should advance the student towards the development of a dissertation proposal.


After completing required coursework and the two qualifying events described in the prior section, students will enroll in a dissertation course, with their advisor as instructor, for two consecutive semesters. Students may enroll in the first semester of the dissertation course if they have not completed coursework, provided that they are taking the last course needed to complete their credit requirements and have already completed the two qualifying events. The purpose of this dissertation course is to assist students in developing the dissertation proposal and establishing a dissertation committee, to which the student must submit the dissertation proposal by the end of the second semester. A student achieves candidacy only after the committee has approved the proposal and notified the Graduate Office.


No dissertation committee shall have fewer than three faculty members, two of whom shall full time employees of Northeastern University. The chair of the dissertation committee (the student’s advisor) will be a full-time tenured or tenure-track member of the faculty of Northeastern University and will hold an appropriate doctoral degree or equivalent. A non-tenure track research faculty member may chair a dissertation committee if he or she holds an appropriate doctorate and has received the approval to do so from the tenured and tenure-track faculty members of the unit(s) in which his or her appointment resides. Upon establishing the committee, the student should notify the Graduate Office.


Each doctoral student must complete a dissertation that embodies the results of extended research in a field of study, advances theoretical knowledge, and makes an original contribution to the field and to policy or policy analysis. This work should give evidence of the candidate’s ability to carry out independent investigation and interpret the results of the research in a logical manner. The dissertation can be organized in one of two ways: (1) as a full-length monograph based on a set of specific and related research questions/hypotheses, or (2) as three papers of publishable quality. At least one of the individual papers must be empirical, i.e. employ either primary or secondary data (or both) in analyzing specific research questions or hypotheses.


Once the Dissertation committee agrees that the dissertation is ready to defend, the student and the committee will establish a date and time for the defense. The student will assume responsibility for notifying the Graduate Program Office ( and the College of Social Sciences and Humanities Graduate Office of when the defense will take place, as detailed in the Guide to the Preparation and Submission of Theses and Dissertations and that the defense will be publicly advertised for at least two weeks prior to the scheduled date.

This oral exam will be taken after completion of all other degree requirements and must be held at least four weeks prior to the commencement at which the degree is to be awarded. The student and at least two committee members, including the advisor, must be physically present at the defense. All internal and external committee members are expected to participate in the defense. If the committee is not satisfied that the dissertation meets the requirements of a satisfactory dissertation specified above, members may request that the student make revisions before depositing the dissertation or that second defense be scheduled. Note commencement deadlines when scheduling the defense.