Normative Time

Normative Time for the Ph.D. in Social Welfare

“Normative Time” refers to the total amount of time, calculated to the nearest semester, that a doctoral student would need to complete all requirements for their PhD degree. Each UC doctoral program recommends normative times for their degree for approval by the Graduate Council. The Graduate Division computes and monitors a student’s total normative time to degree from the time the student first enrolled as a graduate student at Berkeley.

  • For the PhD in Social Welfare, the established normative time to degree (“NTD”) is five years (10 semesters), which includes three years (six semesters) of pre-candidacy, “normative time to advancement” plus two years (four semesters) of “normative time in candidacy.” This means that all doctoral students are expected to pass the Qualifying Examination (QE) by the end of the third year (spring semester) in the program, and file their dissertation by the end of the fifth year.
  • For students in the Combined MSW/PhD Program, the established total NTD is six years (12 semesters), which includes four years (eight semesters) of “normative time to advancement” to doctoral candidacy plus two years (four semesters) of “normative time in candidacy.” Combined MSW/PhD students are expected to pass the QE by the end of their fourth year (spring semester) of graduate study, and file their dissertation by the end of the sixth year.

Students are encouraged to take the Qualifying Examination and be advanced to candidacy as soon as they are prepared, and unless exceptional circumstances exist, within the above-stated Normative Time to Advancement timelines. Doctoral students who do not successfully complete the Qualifying Examination within these timeframes fail to meet normative time to advancement. When they do advance to candidacy, they will still have four semesters of normative time in candidacy to file the dissertation, but since their advancement was (at least) a semester late, during the fourth semester that they are in candidacy, they would be beyond normative time to degree (five years total). A student in this situation will most likely require an extension of normative time to degree from the Graduate Division. 

In any case where a student is not meeting normative time benchmarks, the faculty and student are required to conduct a review, and to map out a plan for making satisfactory academic progress, which must be approved by the student’s primary PhD faculty adviser and the Head Graduate Adviser. To request a “reset” of the normative time clock, the Head Graduate Adviser must submit a Graduate Exceptions eForm with a memo of request to the Graduate Degrees Office, citing the specific circumstances that justify the change (such as break in enrollment between graduate degree programs, or pursuit of a new graduate degree in a distinctly different field).

When a student exceeds their major’s total normative time, they enter a four semester period during which candidacy is still valid, but which is beyond the norm for their discipline. Four semesters after the end of normative time for the particular program, candidacy ends, or “lapses.” Candidacy can be extended when circumstances beyond the control of the student have delayed progress to the degree. Extension of time in candidacy should be requested at the time that the student experiences the circumstances leading to the delay, and in no case any later than the last semester in candidacy. For more information please see the Handbook section on Advancement to Candidacy, and consult the Guide to Graduate Policy: F3.7 Lapsing, Reinstatement, and Termination of Candidacy.

Policies That Modify Calculation of Normative Time

Students in certain circumstances may request and be granted modifications in the calculation of normative time. These circumstances include:

Normative Time and the Doctoral Completion Fellowship

The Doctoral Completion Fellowship (DCF) requires students to maintain progress based on Normative Time for their degree program. 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. Any withdrawal for research or other academic purposes will count in accrued time, as will semesters included in retroactive withdrawals (except approved retroactive medical withdrawals).