Programs / Graduate Program

Graduate Handbook


(last updated March 2024)




Core Requirements: 5 courses, 18 units
Research Seminar Requirements: 8 courses, typically 32 units
Professional Series
Individual Research and Study Courses
Other Courses
Foreign Language Requirement
The Qualifying Examination (also known as the “orals”)
QE Committee
Components of the QE
Advancement to Candidacy
The Doctoral Dissertation
The Prospectus Meeting
Teaching-related Support
Research-related Support
Departmental Support
Fellowship Information
Notes for International Students



Normal Course of Progress: The Ph.D. Program in Ethnic Studies is a terminal Ph.D. program, meaning that students enter with the express purpose of obtaining a Ph.D. No separate M.A. program is offered.

Under normal circumstances, students are expected to pass the Comprehensive Exam and obtain the M.A. by the end of the second year; satisfy the foreign language requirement, pass the Qualifying Exam and advance to doctoral candidacy by the end of the third year; present the dissertation prospectus in the fall of the fourth year; and complete the dissertation and obtain the Ph.D. degree by the end of the fifth year or sixth year. Most of the time, the term “advancement to candidacy” refers to doctoral candidacy.

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In order to set a reasonable timetable for completion of the doctorate in each discipline, the concept of Normative Time was created by the Office of the President and the Graduate Council in cooperation with departments. The term “normative time” refers to the elapsed time (calculated to the nearest semester) that students would need to complete all requirements for the doctorate. Normative times for doctoral programs have been recommended by program faculty and approved by the Graduate Council.

Normative time for completion of the Ph.D. in the Ethnic Studies Department is twelve semesters; however, this may be extended by two semesters.

Every semester enrolled or withdrawn, formally or informally, counts in the calculation of elapsed semesters of Normative Time, with limited exceptions for approved medical withdrawal or parenting accommodation.

There are two components of normative time: Normative Time to Advancement (NTA) and Normative Time in Candidacy (NTIC). The Graduate Division computes a student’s time to advancement (NTA) from the time a student first enrolled as a graduate student at Berkeley until advancement to doctoral candidacy. Normative time in candidacy (NTIC) is counted beginning with the semester following the one in which the student was formally advanced to candidacy.

Normative time may also be adjusted under special circumstances, such as when students are parents, have disabilities, were approved for medical withdrawal, or transfer to Berkeley. Graduate students must enroll every semester, not including summers. If they fail to enroll for a semester, they will be considered withdrawn, and will have to petition the Ethnic Studies Department to readmit them. Consult the Graduate Division’s website for further information on normative time.

In order to encourage adherence to Normative Time, the Graduate Division offers the Doctoral Completion Fellowship (DCF). Eligible students may activate their DCF fellowship at any time after their advancement to candidacy, through the end of year 7 (normative time to degree plus 1 year). For more on the DCF, see below.

Remember: During these years of normative time, failure to register or to obtain formal permission to leave the University constitutes voluntary withdrawal from the program and requires readmission. Do not decline to register in hopes of saving money. Consult the Head Graduate Adviser or Graduate Student Affairs Officer if you have a financial emergency in order to discuss all of your options.

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A “Designated Emphasis” is defined as an area of study constituting a new method of inquiry or an important field of application relevant to two or more existing doctoral degree programs. It is not a free-standing degree program, but must be added as an additional major along with an existing doctoral degree program. Students electing to add a Designated Emphasis are required to complete the academic work in the Designated Emphasis in addition to all the requirements of the doctoral program. There are no adjustments made to the normative time of the student’s major when a student undertakes a Designated Emphasis.


To qualify for the Designated Emphasis, students must have on the Qualifying Examination committee a representative of the DE and must be examined in that area of study. Students are consequently required to be admitted to the DE before taking the Qualifying Examination. When students also enrolled in a DE are advanced to candidacy, the advancement application must include the signature of the Head Graduate Adviser for the DE to signify that the dissertation committee had an appropriate representative of the DE in its membership and that the student was examined on the area of the Designated Emphasis.


Many faculty in Ethnic Studies are affiliated with various DEs on the campus. Adding a Designated Emphasis to your course of study ought to be undertaken with great care, consideration, and planning. You are encouraged to consult with the Head Graduate Adviser and your faculty mentors in your first year when exploring this option.  

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A coherent, interdisciplinary program must be created in consultation with, and with the approval of, the Head Graduate Adviser. Students are strongly advised to take courses with faculty who may later serve on the student’s qualifying exam and/or dissertation committees (see below for details on these). Students must have established relationships with prospective committee members before approaching them, which means that when you plan your coursework, you should focus not only on course content but also on establishing such relationships.


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Core Requirements: 5 courses, 18 units

ES 200 (4 units) Critical Terms and Issues in Ethnic Studies

ES 201 (4 units) History and Narrativity: Contemporary Theories and Methods

ES 202 (4 units) Cultural Texts: Contemporary Theories and Methods

ES 203 (4 units) Social Structures: Contemporary Theories and Methods

ES 302 (2 units) Professional Orientation for Incoming Students (Graded S/U)

To remain in good standing, students must maintain a minimum average GPA of 3.0 in the core courses as well as in coursework overall (as required by the Graduate Division).

Note: The core courses must be taken in sequence in the company of your cohort, as the Comprehensive Exam for each cohort will be tied to the content of these courses. ES 200/201 and ES 202/203 are offered in alternate years, and each set of courses enrolls two cohorts. Students must take the Comprehensive Exam in the spring of their second year. No exceptions will be made.


Students are strongly discouraged from requesting incompletes in the 200-201-202-203 series. Students must bear in mind that performance in this series is crucial to evaluation of their progress in the program. If a student must take an incomplete in a core course, it must be cleared by spring of the student’s second year in the program, prior to taking the Comprehensive Exam.

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Research Seminar Requirements: 8 courses, typically 32 units

5 courses from within Ethnic Studies and 3 courses from other departments

Choices within Ethnic Studies:

ES 240: Transnational and/or National Theories and Methods (4 units)

ES 250: Research Seminar on Selected Topics (4 units)

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Professional Series

Professional Orientation (ES 302) is required for all incoming students. Critical Pedagogy (ES 375) is required for all students who wish to teach or serve as a GSI, regardless of previous teaching experience in other institutions.

In addition, the department periodically offers an optional course on Professional Writing (ES 303).

All 300-level courses are two-unit courses and are graded satisfactory/unsatisfactory.

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Individual Research and Study Courses

(There are many restrictions on these courses. Please read descriptions carefully!)

ES 296 Directed Dissertation Research. 4-12 units. Advancement to Candidacy status required. To be taken by qualified students working on the doctoral dissertation. Taken S/U. May be repeated for credit.

ES 299 Directed Reading (Individual Research). 2-4 units. To be taken by a student who is planning to do individual research and must be in residence during that semester. May be taken for a grade and repeated for credit.

Note: Students are discouraged from taking too many 299s with the same faculty member. Taking a variety of 299s with several faculty members is one way to establish working relationships with varied faculty.

ES 601 Individual Study for Master’s Students. 4 units. Individual study for comprehensive or language requirements in consultation with the Head Graduate Adviser or faculty member. Must be taken S/U.

Note: 601 DOES NOT COUNT toward academic residence (which is fulfilled by completing a minimum of 4 units of upper-division or graduate courses per semester: two semesters for the M.A and four semesters for the Ph.D.). Also, 601 CANNOT be used to satisfy the minimum requirement of 8 units per semester for a Graduate Student Instructor or Graduate Student Researcher.

ES 602 Individual Study for Doctoral Students. 2 – 8 Units. Individual study, in consultation with the Head Graduate Adviser or faculty member. Must be taken S/U.

Note: Students may not accumulate more than a total of 16 units of courses numbered 600 towards exam preparation. Units of 601 do not count toward academic residence or toward the unit requirements for a graduate degree; however, they do satisfy the “full program of study” visa requirement for international students. Students may not enroll in 601 or 602 once they have passed these examinations.

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Other Courses

In addition to the above courses, students may take any courses necessary to complete their training. Students may take graduate-level research seminars from other departments or Designated Emphasis programs. Students entering the Ethnic Studies Doctorate Program without prior Ethnic Studies training often take upper-division undergraduate courses, with the approval of the Head Graduate Adviser, to strengthen their background in the field. In such cases, they must arrange with the instructor to do additional readings or writing assignments in order to take the course as a 299. Such an arrangement may also be made for other upper-division undergraduate courses. These arrangements are strictly between individual students and instructors.

One Directed Reading course (ES 299) taken inside Ethnic Studies may be substituted for research seminars with the approval for the Head Graduate Adviser. Directed Reading courses taken outside of Ethnic Studies may not be used to substitute outside research seminars. Except for Professional Orientation, all required courses must be taken for a letter grade.

Foreign language courses taken to fulfill the Foreign Language Requirement may not be used to fulfill degree requirements.

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Requirements to obtain an M.A. in Ethnic Studies:

  1. Satisfactory completion of 200, 201, 202, and 203 for a letter grade with a minimum average GPA of 3.0.
  2. Satisfactory completion of at least 16 units of additional graduate seminars for a letter grade, with two seminars taken outside of the department
  3. A “Pass” on the comprehensive exam. 

The Comprehensive (MA) Exam is a take-home exam consisting of three written essay questions, corresponding to the course contents of the core seminars, 200, 201, and 202/203 (administered jointly). Students receive the questions on a specified date late in the spring semester of their second year and are given ten days to write the essays. The format and content are determined by the instructors of the core courses. The questions are designed to test students’ mastery of key concepts taught in the core courses as well as their ability to analyze and compare diverse materials, to think critically, and to express ideas in a clear and concise manner. Each essay must not exceed 10 pages in length (double-spaced, 12-point font).

Essays are evaluated “blind,” with only the student’s ID number provided, by a committee composed of instructors of the core courses. The committee evaluates the essays and assigns either no-pass, pass, or high-pass to each of the three essays. In cases of grading discrepancy, an additional faculty member is asked to grade the essay and break the tie. Upon fulfilling all of the requirements listed above, the student is awarded the M.A.

If the student earns a no-pass for any or all three of the essays, the HGA and the comprehensive exam committee may recommend one of three options:

  1. the student may retake the failed portion of the exam with new questions,
  2. recommend to the Dean of the Graduate Division that the student be dismissed from the doctoral program with no terminal degree, or
  3. recommend to the Dean of the Graduate Division that the student be dismissed from the doctoral program and be allowed to enroll in the terminal Plan II M.A. program in which the student must submit an approved 30-page capstone project that is of near-publishable quality. The thesis must be the product of research and/or writing that was done for any Ethnic Studies graduate seminar. The faculty instructor for that seminar must serve as the primary reader. Another Ethnic Studies faculty member will serve as the second reader. The thesis would be due by the end of the semester following the semester in which the comprehensive exams were taken. Upon submitting an approved thesis and meeting all other Graduate Division requirements for the M.A. degree, the student would receive an M.A. in Ethnic Studies.

Students should note that you have the right to appeal the results of their exam. For details, please refer to:

For details on the policy to dismiss students who have failed the exam from the graduate program, please refer to: 

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        I. Foreign Language Requirement

        II. Qualifying Exam  

        III. Advancement to Candidacy

        IV. Prospectus Meeting

        V. Dissertation


I. Foreign Language Requirement


Because foreign language training may take several years, students should make plans during their first and second years to fulfill the foreign language requirement. This requirement must be fulfilled before taking the Qualifying Exam. The language requirement can be fulfilled with evidence of sufficient competence in a language that is relevant to the student’s proposed dissertation research. In some cases, a student’s adviser may require the acquisition of additional languages when such expertise is necessary for the proposed research.

The foreign language requirement may be fulfilled in one of three ways. (For details, please refer to:

1) Completion of four semesters or six quarters of a college-level foreign language with a grade of B or better. Course sequences taken at other institutions must be approved by the Graduate Division. The last course in such a sequence must have been completed within four years of the student’s admission to the graduate program.

Note: If you plan to use undergraduate foreign language units to fulfill the Requirement, meet with the Graduate Student Affairs Officer (GSAO) as soon as possible to complete the necessary paperwork. Bring to the meeting official transcripts showing the relevant courses; where the course numbers and titles are not self-explanatory, bring relevant syllabi or a brief course description from the instructor.

2)  A translation examination administered by a UC Berkeley faculty member. For those who elect to complete the translation examination, current practice specifies the translation into English of a passage of approximately 300 words, with a time limit of 90 minutes. A dictionary may be used. Students must contact a faculty member/examiner and present a scholarly text for approval. The examiner will select, at random, a passage of approximately 300 words. The examiner will then give the passage to the Graduate Student Affairs Officer, who will arrange a time and place for the student to complete the translation. The GSAO will monitor the time, collect the exam, and deliver it to the examiner for grading. The grade will be submitted to the GSAO along with the original examination, and the examiner will sign off on a memo indicating the result. This memo will be submitted to the Graduate Division, along with the original examination, before the student submits their application to take the Qualifying Examination.

3) Documented native ability in a language other than English appropriate to the student’s proposed research. Students must submit documentation to the Head Graduate Adviser, who will then write a memo to the Graduate Division certifying native ability and relevance of the language to the proposed research.

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II. The Qualifying Examination (also known as the “orals”)

The intent of the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination (QE, or “Orals”) is to ascertain the breadth of the student’s comprehension in at least three subject areas related to the major field of study, of which Ethnic Studies and at least one related discipline should be included. The examination should demonstrate the student’s ability to think incisively and critically about the theoretical and the practical aspects of these areas; and should determine whether the student has the ability to analyze and utilize sources, theories, and methodologies relevant to chosen areas of expertise. The QE tests the student’s general training, intellectual maturity, and overall readiness to undertake a Ph.D. dissertation. To that end, they are also symbolic insofar as QEs ask the student to speak authoritatively from the perspective of a professional in the field.


The Qualifying Examination must be taken no later than two semesters after passing the Comprehensive Exam (that is, normally in the spring of the third year) or else students risk being placed on probation. A student on probationary status may register but may not hold academic appointments (such as GSIships), receive graduate fellowship support, or be awarded advanced degrees. Planning for the QE should begin no later than the period immediately after the student has passed the Comprehensive Exam. Preparation includes creating reading lists in consultation with faculty examiners, reading the titles on the lists, and writing three papers–two field statements and one publishable essay. For more on these papers, see below.


A formal application to take the QE must be submitted to the Graduate Division at least three weeks prior to the scheduled exam date. Upon successful completion of the QE, the student should apply immediately through the Graduate Division for formal “Advancement to Candidacy for the Ph.D.” The Qualifying Examination Application and Application to Advance to Candidacy are both part of the Higher Degree Committee eForm in CalCentral ( For details, please refer to:

PrerequisitesBefore applying to take the Qualifying Examination, a student must have:

*completed the foreign language requirement

*be registered and enrolled for the semester in which the exam is taken

*maintained at least a 3.0 average GPA in all graduate coursework

*no more than two courses graded “Incomplete”

*completed at least one semester of academic residency

*registered during the semester in which the exam is taken

*constituted a QE committee that conforms to University requirements

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QE Committee 

The QE is administered by a committee of four faculty members appointed by the Graduate Dean upon the recommendation of the Head Graduate Adviser. The QE Chair and at least half of the committee members must be from the student’s home department. The QE Chair must be a member of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate (i.e., ladder-rank faculty–Assistant, Associate, or Full Professor). The QE Chair cannot also be the Dissertation Chair. The QE Chair oversees the administration of the oral exam. Non-administrative, academic questions on the QE should be discussed with the student’s prospective Dissertation Chair, not with the QE Chair.


Additionally, at least one Ethnic Studies faculty member must serve as an examiner for either one of the field statements or for the publishable essay.

Each exam committee must include one faculty member (referred to as the Academic Senate Representative, or outside member) who is from outside of the Department of Ethnic Studies and is a member of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate. The outsider member may supervise a QE list, though that is not a requirement. This person lends the necessary balance and independence to ensure that the student’s mastery of the subject matter is broad and comprehensive. The Dissertation Committee must also have a faculty member from outside the Ethnic Studies Department. This person may also serve on the QE Committee.

Constitution of the QE Committee is governed by a complex set of rules from the Graduate Division, which cannot be reproduced in full in this Handbook. You are REQUIRED to consult the Head Graduate Adviser about the constitution of the committee LONG BEFORE setting an exam date or submitting an application form to take the QE. If you fail to consult the Head Graduate Adviser in a timely way, Graduate Division may not allow you to take the QE as planned, causing delays in your Advancement to Candidacy. Among the requirements for the QE committee are:

  1. The chair must be from the student’s department (no co-chairs are allowed); the QE chair cannot later serve as the student’s dissertation chair.
  2. All members must be Berkeley Academic Senate faculty. Any non-Berkeley (e.g. Stanford), or non-senate members (e.g. Adjunct Professor without blanket approval for service on student committees), must have an exception. Non-senate members may not serve as outside members under any circumstances.
  3. A majority of committee members must be from the student’s home department. For this purpose, we consider 50% a majority. For example, 2 out of 4 members from the department is acceptable. Two out of 5 members is not.
  4. At least one member must come from outside the student’s major. This person must be an Academic Senate member (no exceptions will be considered). Also note that professors with joint appointments in the student’s department (including 0 percent appointments) can not serve as the outside member.

For more on Graduate Division policy on higher degree committees, see:


For the role of each member of the QE Committee, see:


The QE Committee cannot be constituted on short notice. You need to have established relationships with prospective committee members before approaching them, which means that when you plan your coursework, you should focus not only on course content but also on establishing such relationships. The QE committee should be constituted no later than the beginning of the semester prior to the exam date, e.g. at the beginning of the fall semester of the third year if the exam is to be taken in the spring of that same academic year.  Faculty and students jointly determine areas of examination and appropriate reading lists. It is advisable to conduct regular meetings with committee members to prepare for the exam.


Setting an exam date is extremely time-consuming. Just tracking down QE Committee members, finding out their schedules, and getting them to agree on a date can take weeks. You must plan as far in advance as possible.

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Components of the QE

There are two components to the QE: a written exam, consisting of three essays, and a three-hour oral exam.

The written examination consists of three essays, each drawn from a bibliography of approximately 20-30 scholarly sources (articles, books, and in some cases, other primary materials).  Students create each examination list in consultation with the QE committee member assigned to supervise that list. Usually QE topics correspond to academic fields that the student needs to master in order to undertake dissertation research.


In the three-hour oral portion of the exam, students demonstrate mastery of the three QE lists, the relationships among them, and their relevance to the proposed dissertation project.


Students must submit electronic versions of the final lists to the GSAO before QE paperwork is submitted. All exam lists will be kept on file for future reference by other students.


Final drafts of all three QE papers must be submitted to committee members no less than two weeks prior to the scheduled oral exam.


Two of these essays must be field statements, each approximately 12 double-spaced pages, or 3500 words, in length, with one-inch margins.  Field statements provide concise histories of the QE fields and the intellectual questions, critical debates, and methodologies that define them. 


The third written exam must be an article-length essay, approximately 17-25 double-spaced pages, or 5000-7500 words, in length, with one-inch margins. The article-length essay must be of publishable quality. Two members of the QE committee (a first and second reader) will meet with the student to discuss their assessment of the paper and to provide advice on publication. Both members must approve the paper before the student is allowed to proceed to the oral portion of the exam.


At least one of the three essays must be interdisciplinaryand at least one essay must be comparative across racial and ethnic groups. Students will consult with the faculty supervising these essays to agree upon the pertinent contours of interdisciplinarity and comparativity.


The structure of the oral exam should be decided upon in consultation between the student and committee members, but should provide equal amounts of time to each essay. In some cases, this may mean two rounds of discussion focused on each essay with a break in between each round; or one longer round in which each essay is discussed at length, followed by a break, and then a longer conversation across all of the essays.


The exam must be held with the entire committee present for the length of the exam. A student may not be examined separately by committee members. A committee member not present on campus may participate through a conference call, videoconferencing, Skype, or other media with prior approval from Graduate Division. The distant member must be online for the entire examination and deliberation period and be audible to all present.


After the exam, the student steps out of the room while the committee deliberates. All members of the Qualifying Examination committee must be present to vote on the exam, and each member is expected to vote either “pass,” “fail,” or “partial fail” on the student’s performance during the entire examination. Committees should make every attempt to reach a unanimous decision. If allowed a retake, the student who has partially failed an examination must be orally examined before the full committee on all portions failed in the first Qualifying Examination.

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III. Advancement to Candidacy

After passing the QE, the student must submit an Application for Advancement to Candidacy to the Graduate Division. The Application to Advance to Candidacy costs $90, and will be charged to the student’s account. This application is available on CalCentral as part of the Higher Degree Committee Eform.  

Doctoral Completion Fellowship: 

In order to encourage adherence to Normative Time, the Graduate Division offers the Doctoral Completion Fellowship (DCF). This fellowship guarantees payment of full tuition and fees plus a stipend of $30,000 for one academic year to students who have passed the Qualifying Examination, Advanced to Candidacy, have a satisfactory online Doctoral Candidacy Review for the most recently completed academic year, and have applied for one external fellowship. Eligible students may activate their DCF fellowship at any time after their advancement to candidacy, through the end of year 7 (normative time to degree plus 1 year). For many students, the DCF is supplemented with a departmental block grant.

Prior to Spring 2021, no university fellowship funding could be awarded to a student who had activated the DCF beyond one year past Normative Time to Degree. Effective Spring 2021, students who have activated the DCF (including those who have activated the fellowship prior to Spring 2021) are no longer subject to university fellowship funding restrictions one year past normative time to degree. Thus, students who have activated DCF and continue beyond one year past normative time to degree remain eligible for university fellowship programs and block grant funding.

Note: eligibility is not a guarantee of funding; students must demonstrate adequate and continual progress towards completion of their PhD when submitting all funding applications. 

The fellowship is designed to allow students to make substantial progress on their dissertations without the need to work. Students on this fellowship will have employment restrictions for the duration of the fellowship, limiting them to no more than one 25% job in either fall or spring semester.


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IV. The Doctoral Dissertation


The dissertation is a book-length study that emerges from original research on a topic of scholarly significance to Ethnic Studies. The dissertation must be analytical rather than merely descriptive, and it must include a comparative dimension. The dissertation topic and plan of research are created in close consultation with the dissertation chair and other committee members. Upon final acceptance of the dissertation by all committee members and approval by the Dean of the Graduate Division, the degree of Doctor of Philosophy is awarded.


Constitution of the Dissertation Committee: The Ph.D. dissertation is written by the student under the supervision of a committee of at least three members of the University faculty. Normally, the Chair of the committee is primarily responsible for close supervision of the work, but the other members of the committee must also be consulted throughout the process. The Department requires that at least one of the three members of the committee be appointed from outside the department and be a member of the Berkeley Academic Senate.


The composition of the dissertation committee must abide by these rules:


  1. The chair or co-chair of the committee must be an Academic Senate member who is a member of the Ethnic Studies Department. The Chair of the Dissertation Committee may not be the same person as the Chair of the QE Committee, although the Dissertation Chair may sit on the QE Committee.
  2. One member of the committee must be a faculty member from outside of the Ethnic Studies Department. Any member of the Academic Senate can serve on the committee, regardless of departmental, school, or graduate group affiliation. The prohibition against non-Senate faculty serving in this role remains in place.
  3. For all higher degree committees, the Head Graduate Adviser in the student’s degree granting unit must approve the composition of the committee.


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The Prospectus Meeting


An approved dissertation prospectus of approximately fifteen (15) double-spaced pages, excluding bibliography, will be due the semester following the QE exam. The prospectus describes the subject of the dissertation, its scholarly significance, the contents of individual chapters, and research materials and methodologies. It must include a timeline of work and preliminary bibliography. It is written in consultation with the student’s dissertation committee.


All members of the committee must receive a hard copy or an electronic copy of the prospectus no later than one full week before the prospectus meeting. The student should schedule the meeting at least two weeks in advance in consultation with the GSAO, who will help with room reservations and provide the Prospectus approval form to be completed and signed immediately following the meeting.


Students present and defend the prospectus at a 1.5 hour long formal meeting with all dissertation committee members present. A committee member not present on campus may participate through a conference call, videoconferencing, Skype, or other media. The distant member must be online for the entire examination and deliberation period and be audible to all present. This meeting is chaired by the dissertation committee chair. The structure is as follows:

  1. Candidate provides an overview of the dissertation’s argument, conceptual framework, and evidence
  2. Dissertation chair provides a response and assessment
  3. Additional committee members provides their assessments
  4. Open conversation that includes suggestions and/or alternatives regarding theoretical frameworks, evidence, and anything that may assist the student as they conduct their research and begin to write their dissertation


After the defense, the student will leave the examination room while the committee deliberates. All members of the dissertation committee must be present to vote on the prospectus, and each member is expected to vote either to approve the prospectus, approve with specified revisions, or not to approve the prospectus. Committees should make every attempt to reach a unanimous decision. The student must submit an approved prospectus before proceeding with dissertation research. If approved, the prospectus approval form must be signed by all committee members.


Research and Development Activities Involving Human or Animal Subjects:

Students planning research that involves the use of human or animal subjects require review and approval from either the Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects or the Committee for the Protection of Animal Subjects. Students should initiate the review process early, as it can take several months to get approval. Proof that students have begun the review should be presented at the Prospectus Meeting.  CPHS Approval must be obtained prior to the initiation of the research. Protocols involving human subjects must be filed and the research must be carried out in accordance with the UC Berkeley Assurance of Compliance with DHEW Regulations on Protection of Human Subjects.


Students will be required to submit a copy of the approved protocol at the time the doctoral dissertation is filed in the Graduate Division. No dissertation or thesis that includes any material obtained or produced in the absence or contravention of proper authorization from these committees can be accepted by the Graduate Division.


Further information, including a copy of the Committee’s “Guidelines for the Preparation of a Protocol,” can be obtained on their website:


Dissertation Filing and Graduation:

A dissertation must conform to the manuscript preparation format set by the Graduate Division; consult Guidelines for Submitting a Doctoral Dissertation or a Master’s Thesis, available at Graduate Degrees, 302 Sproul, or on the Graduate Division website:


Doctoral degrees are awarded at the end of every semester (including summer). The deadline to file a dissertation is the last working day of the semester. Please double check with the Graduate Degrees/Petitions Office for current deadlines for exact deadlines. Be sure to allow enough time to obtain the signatures of Dissertation Committee members, as they are sometimes out of town, on leave, or otherwise unavailable.


Note: A student must have prior approval from their Dissertation Chair in order to participate in graduation. The Dissertation Chair is the person who hoods the student at the ceremony.


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Types of Advisers

Head Graduate Adviser (HGA)


The Head Graduate Adviser is appointed by the Department Chair to administer the graduate program and to provide guidance to all graduate students on such matters as academic requirements, general academic decisions, administrative matters, policies of the Graduate Division, qualifying exam and dissertation committees, professional relationships, campus resources to deal with personal difficulties, the job market, etc. The HGA is also typically responsible for signing official documents. Appointments with the HGA are made through the program’s Graduate Student Affairs Officer (GSAO).


Faculty Adviser for GSI Affairs


The Faculty Adviser for GSI Affairs is appointed by the Dean of the Graduate Division on behalf of the Graduate Council, upon nomination by department chairs. The Faculty Adviser for GSI Affairs in each department is the primary liaison between the Graduate Division and departmental faculty and GSIs in all matters pertaining to GSIs. The adviser’s most important functions are to coordinate the flow of information among these three bodies and to contribute to the preparation of GSIs for teaching at UC Berkeley and in future careers. For more information:


Faculty Mentors

The HGA assigns a faculty mentor to each student in years 1 and 2 in the program.  Assignments are usually based on shared research interests.  The role of the mentor is to facilitate the student’s academic progress and to provide academic support. The student should feel free to call upon the mentor directly as necessary, but students should meet with their mentors at least once per term. Although assigned faculty mentors might later serve on the student’s qualifying exam or dissertation committees, there is no expectation that this will be the case.

Faculty Advisers and Committee Members

As soon as the student has become oriented to the Ethnic Studies graduate program, but no later than year 3, they should begin thinking about faculty to serve on the Qualifying Exam and Dissertation Committees. These advisers help the student to formulate a specific plan of study and research. The Dissertation Chair, or Dissertation Adviser, is chosen by the student to be their main academic, intellectual, and professional teacher and adviser for the remaining time in the program.

Graduate Student Affairs Officer (GSAO)

The GSAO provides essential information and guidance on a number of issues, including bureaucratic matters such as deadlines, forms, available resources, job placements, etc. When in doubt about requirements, always check with the HGA and GSAO.


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Annual Reviews:

For students who have not yet advanced to doctoral candidacy:

Students are required to submit an annual review report and meet with at least two members of the Ethnic Studies Department Graduate Committee. The annual review report is an interdisciplinary self-statement that sets intellectual goals, describes progress over the past year in meeting those goals, and outlines concrete steps for advancing them in the coming years.  A representative from the graduate committee then writes a short assessment of each student’s progress including, when necessary, recommendations for improvement. Students will receive a call for the submission of annual review reports in late Spring.

Post-M.A. Review and Consequences of Unsatisfactory Progress: 

For the M.A. portion of the Ethnic Studies Graduate program, students are expected to finish all work required for the M.A. degree, including the Comprehensive Exam, within four semesters. If the appropriate time frame is exceeded, the Department may recommend dismissal of the student to the Dean of the Graduate Division.

Upon completion of the M.A. portion of the Ethnic Studies doctoral program, each student’s overall performance will be evaluated by the faculty and a recommendation made as to whether or not the student will be allowed to continue in the Ph.D. program. Insofar as all students accepted into the doctoral program are assumed to have the potential to complete the Ph.D. degree, a positive recommendation is the usual result. However, in some cases of unsatisfactory performance, a student may be awarded a “terminal M.A.” and asked to leave the program. For more details, see “Requirements to obtain an M.A. in Ethnic Studies,” above.


For students who have advanced to doctoral candidacy: 

Annual Review of Doctoral Candidates and Consequences of Unsatisfactory Progress: 

The Graduate Council requires that all doctoral students who have advanced to candidacy meet annually with at least two members of their dissertation committees and submit a Doctoral Candidacy Review form. This annual review is part of the Graduate Council’s efforts to improve the doctoral completion rate and to shorten the time it takes to obtain a doctorate.

In the Doctoral Candidacy Review, the student must describe the progress that has been made toward the degree and the requirements that remain to be completed. The dissertation committee members then comment on the student’s progress and objectives. The student has an opportunity to make final comments. Students who are away from the campus may meet with committee members remotely.

The annual reviews provide students with timely information about the faculty’s evaluation of their progress and performance, identify areas in need of improvement, and approaches and timeframe for addressing these needs. If the annual review shows unsatisfactory progress, a student may be placed on probation if they are not making adequate progress toward the completion of degree requirements, has a cumulative GPA of less than 3.00, has numerous grades of incomplete, and/or is doing unacceptable work on required preparatory work for the dissertation. A student on probationary status may register but may not hold academic appointments (such as GSIships), receive graduate fellowship support, or be awarded advanced degrees.

Time Limits of the Use of Courses for Degrees: 

Often students return to the University after an absence and request to satisfy course requirements by using units that they completed in the past. The following time limits have been established by the Graduate Division for the use of these units:

M.A. students, 4 years from time of completing units; doctoral students, 5-7 years from time of completing units, or at the Department’s discretion


Lapsing of Doctoral Candidacy:

Lapsed candidacy is a probationary status, usually lasting two years, for students who are not completing the final requirements for their degrees in a timely manner. Typically a student’s candidacy is lapsed by the Graduate Division two years after they exceed the Normative Time in candidacy for the discipline. Departments can recommend that a student’s candidacy be lapsed earlier if the student is given a written warning six months before lapsing is to take effect.

In fall semester, the Graduate Division sends to each department a list of students who will have exceeded their time in candidacy plus two years by the end of that semester and who will therefore be subject to lapsing. The list also names those students whose candidacy will lapse the following year. Unless the department requests an extension that is approved by the Graduate Division, the candidacy of students who have exceeded their time in candidacy will be lapsed at the end of fall semester. A student whose candidacy has been lapsed may not hold any academic appointment on campus, including that of Graduate Student Instructor or Graduate Student Researcher.

After a student’s candidacy has been lapsed, it may be reinstated by the Dean of the Graduate Division if there is sufficient evidence that the student has renewed progress toward completing degree requirements and if previously completed requirements, such as coursework and the qualifying exam, remain valid.

Usually, the Graduate Division will terminate a student’s candidacy two years after candidacy formally lapses, although departments may request that the Graduate Council approve a different time limit for that discipline.

A student’s candidacy also may be terminated if: 1) they no longer hold the qualifications appropriate for the award of the degree; 2) continued lack of progress indicates that they will not be able to complete the remaining requirements within a reasonable period; or 3) the student fails to correct within a reasonable period major deficiencies in a dissertation previously submitted for committee review.

After a student’s candidacy is terminated, it may be reinstated only by the student retaking the qualifying examination and being advanced to candidacy.

Student Appeals Procedure:

A graduate student may bring a grievance to the Head Graduate Adviser who will attempt to resolve the matter. If the matter is not resolved, it may be brought for further consideration to the Chair of the Department. In the event that the grievance concerns a decision by the Chair, then another faculty member, acceptable to both the Chair and the student, may be asked to seek a resolution of the grievance. If both of these procedures fail to resolve the grievance, the student may present a formal appeal to the Dean of the Graduate Division.

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(1) Teaching-related Support

Graduate Student Instructorships (GSIs)

As part of their training, all students are expected to serve as a Graduate Student Instructor for a minimum of one semester, a maximum of eight semesters without an exception, and a maximum of twelve semesters with approved exceptions. The Graduate Appointments Unit of the Graduate Division must approve exceptions. GSI positions awarded for the Summer Session are excluded from this maximum.

The Department of Ethnic Studies offers a number of Graduate Student Instructorships (teaching assistantships), which pay approximately $11,283 per semester. GSI applications are available from the Graduate Student Affairs Officer. They are due in April for the following academic year.

Students must be registered during the term in which they serve as GSIs, have a GPA of at least 3.0, and have no more than two grades of incomplete in coursework. Students whose GSI appointment is greater than or equal to 25% are eligible for a partial fee remission, which includes tuition, the student services fee, and the health insurance fee.  A partial fee remission does not include the Berkeley campus fee, the Class Pass (AC transit) fee, or nonresident tuition. Students who receive a SHIP fee waiver from the University Health Services or have their fees paid by fellowship, traineeship, grant-in-aid, or other sources (excluding awards) will not be reimbursed or compensated (receive a stipend) for any fees not paid by the fee remission.

Note: Before you commit to serve as GSI for a course, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE for checking your own records to ensure that you have no more than two outstanding incompletes. Check directly with Student Records, as printed transcripts are sometimes out-of-date. Also check with faculty to ensure that necessary Removal of Incomplete forms have been filed. If it is discovered too late that you have more than two outstanding Incompletes, both you and the Department will suffer–you will be prohibited by the Graduate Division from teaching and may have missed opportunities to find other financial support, while the Department will have to find a replacement instructor at the last minute. The Department will not be responsible for finding replacement sources of financial support if you are prohibited from teaching.


For comprehensive resources on GSIing, see:



Readers must have received a “B” or higher in the course (or equivalent) in which they wish to serve as Reader. They must also meet the other requirements for GSIs.

(2) Research-related Support

Graduate Student Research Assistantships (GSRs)

Research assistantships are not available on a regular basis. Such positions are usually awarded by individual faculty holding research grants. Occasionally GSR positions can be found with faculty and research institutions elsewhere on campus.

(3) Departmental Support

Block Grants

The University awards blocks of money to departments for distribution to students based on merit. These awards vary from small amounts to several thousand dollars per semester.

Travel Grants

Over the course of a doctoral student’s academic career, the Graduate Division provides support to present research at two conferences. For more information, see:

Once students have exhausted support for conference travel from the Graduate Division, they may apply to the Ethnic Studies Department to support additional conference travel. To be considered, students must submit a brief application, including an official notice of acceptance. Departmental funds are available on a first-come first-served basis, and are distributed with equity in mind. Current departmental award levels are: up to $1,000 for in-state travel, $1,500 for North American travel, and $1,750 for travel outside North America.

(4) Fellowship Information

The Fellowship Section of the Graduate Division offers a useful guide to fellowships and grants.

University fellowships are merit-based awards that provide a stipend for living expenses, plus tuition and fees. Applications for fellowships are judged on the basis of the quality of previous academic work and academic promise. Deadlines vary for applications for University fellowships. Please consult the Fellowship Office, the Graduate Division website, and/or the Graduate Student Affairs Officer for more information.

The Fellowship Section of the Graduate Division also keeps an updated list of extramural fellowships. The Graduate Student Affairs Officer will also circulate notices of extramural support whenever they are received in her office.

For an extensive up-to-date list of campus based and extramural fellowships, please visit:


(5) Notes for International Students

International Graduate Student Instructors

Financial resources at the University are extremely limited. Foreign students may not work outside the University except under special circumstances. The Berkeley International Office has comprehensive resources to consult to support international students studying and working at UC Berkeley:

University policy requires departments to assess spoken English competence of graduate student instructors from non-English speaking countries. For more on how this assessment occurs, see:


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Students access the enrollment functionality directly through CalCentral. Students add classes one-by-one to their shopping cart. Login to, click  My Academics, click Class Enrollment.  Step-by-step instructions are available at: 

Students, including new graduate students, are assigned enrollment appointments in CalCentral. Students can begin enrolling and making updates to their schedules during Phase I and Phase II enrollment appointments.  Enrollment appointments are staggered to ensure a fair distribution of courses to the student body.  Students experiencing issues with enrollment should consult the GSAO.

Transfer of Credit from Other Institutions: Students entering with prior graduate coursework units at another institution should consult the Head Graduate Adviser. University regulations allow no more than one course to be transferred for credit.

Registration and Withdrawal

The Graduate Division expects all graduate students to be enrolled continuously during their graduate career at Berkeley. The only exceptions are those semesters during which a graduate student is on official withdrawal or on Filing Fee status.

To be considered a full-time student requires that a student be enrolled in at least 12 units.

Students can withdraw (by petition to the Graduate Division) for up to one year to undertake fieldwork abroad or due to special circumstances (such as childbirth or financial hardship).  Forms are available from the GSAO in the Department. Withdrawal for more than one year requires a memo from the Head Graduate Adviser explaining the reasons for prolonged absence from the University. A student on approved withdrawal must formally apply to be readmitted to the Ethnic Studies Graduate Program upon completion of leave. Readmission petition forms are available from the GSAO.


Filing Fee

The Filing Fee permits eligible master or doctoral students to pay one-half of the University Student Services Fee in lieu of full registration fee. Filing Fee allows students to file theses or dissertations or take required final examinations during the four-month eligibility period that begins the day the Graduate Division approves the application. Only students who have been continuously registered, except for two semesters of approved withdrawal, are eligible for Filing Fee status. If this is not the case, detailed written justification from the dissertation chair, endorsed by the Head Graduate Adviser, must accompany the application. For more on Filing Fee policies, see: 

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Petitioning for Resident Classification (for continuing students)

If you are a continuing student who is classified as a nonresident for tuition purposes and you believe you will be eligible for resident status, you must file the requisite application through CalCentral. For comprehensive instructions on how to file a residency application, see:

Time Limitation on Providing Documentation

If additional documentation is required for a residence classification but is not readily accessible, you will be allowed until the end of the applicable semester to provide it.

Incorrect Classification

If you were incorrectly classified as a resident, you are subject to reclassification and to payment of all nonresident tuition fees not paid. If you concealed information or provided false information and were classified incorrectly as a result, you are also subject to University discipline. Resident students who become nonresidents must immediately notify the campus residence deputy.

Inquiries and Appeals

Inquiries regarding residence requirements, determination, and/or recognized exceptions should be directed to the Residence Deputy, Office of the Registrar, 120 Sproul Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720-5404, telephone (510) 642-7209, or the Legal Analyst-Residence Matters, 1111 Franklin Street, 8th Floor, Oakland, CA 94607-5200. No other University personnel are authorized to supply information relative to residence requirements for tuition purposes.


Any student, following a final decision on residence classification by the residence deputy, may appeal in writing to the legal analyst within 30 days of notification of the residence deputy’s final decision.

For more on inquiries and appeals, see:

Note: This summary is not a complete explanation of the law regarding residence. Additional information is available from the Office of the Registrar. Please note that changes may be made in the residence requirements between the publication date of this statement and the relevant residence determination date.

Last revised July 2021

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