GSAS Academics

Information about academic progress and related issues for Graduate School of Arts and Sciences students.

The Pass/Fail mandate is for all classes, period. It supersedes all other grading options, including R. This is not the normal pass/fail option in which actual grades are submitted and converted to Pass or Fail. This means that faculty and graduate student instructors will not submit letter grades that can be uncovered later. (NB: There will be no P/D/F in any class, as GSAS initially communicated incorrectly. Our apologies.) 

This term, an exception will be made so that core and approved elective courses graded P/F that normally do not count toward an MA or PhD requirement will count toward the requirement. Academic programs will be given wide latitude in the implementation of these guidelines.

We hope this change provides relief to both students and instructors, and reduces the anxiety that has arisen from any new pedagogical challenges of remote teaching and learning —challenges due to unequal access to course materials or academic support, the rapidity of the transition, and the new need for asynchronous teaching and learning. We as a community would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the range of experiences of our students now located around the globe in the realms of medical care, housing, family and social support, and more.


If you have an upcoming comprehensive exam, you should communicate with your DGS about arranging to take that exam remotely.

If you have an oral exam, prospectus defense, or dissertation defense, you and the members of the relevant committee may participate remotely. Many such exams have already been moved to remote participation. Any policies governing the requirements for in-person attendance for some members of those committees have been suspended for the spring term.

Please consult your advisor about how you can advance projects remotely, and to determine appropriate adjustments of internal deadlines for distribution of materials.

MA students writing theses normally due in May should consult their program directors about options for thesis completion this spring, summer, or fall. Please consult with your advisor regularly via e-mail or Zoom.  Remember also that you have at your disposal online all of the resources of Columbia Libraries.

PhD dissertation deposit for a May degree normally has a deadline of May 1. GSAS has worked with the Registrar this year so that PhD students may deposit by May 22, 2020, and still have a May 2020 degree conferred. Students who deposit after May 22 will be eligible for the next degree conferral in October.

Other PhD program deadlines are internal, governed by departmental expectations and GSAS policy. We ask all programs to exercise maximum flexibility at this time while we try to maintain as best as we can a sense of academic progress while taking into account the real restrictions and anxieties during this time of upheaval. Faculty should feel free to consult GSAS for any modifications or extensions.

Please continue to check this Columbia Libraries page about online research support, which includes sections on reference and consultation; access to e-resources; and temporary free access to additional resources: it is updated regularly. 

Please consult your PI to determine whether any of the research work may be conducted remotely.

Consult this FAQ on the required research ramp-down for more information.


PhD students on spring fellowship, whether teaching fellowship (salary and stipend) or dissertation or dean’s fellowship (all stipend), will continue to receive their funds on the normal schedule for the entire term. GSAS will disburse summer stipends to PhD students in their funding years (1-5) through the same process and schedule as previous years. If you wish to request an early disbursement of the summer stipend, please write to