Degree Requirements

Advisor Selection

The primary role of the Academic Advisor is to help the student determine how to develop expertise in the field through courses and research. The Academic Advisor helps plan a course of study and research suitable to the student’s needs in preparation for the comprehensive examination and dissertation, and consistent with ASC and University general requirements. 

The Associate Dean for Graduate Studies serves as the primary academic advisor to entering graduate students. By the end of the second semester in the program, each student is expected to have chosen a main area of research specialization and to have an advisor, who must be a member of the Annenberg School’s standing faculty. It is recommended, however, that students choose their advisor by the end of the first semester so they receive guidance in choosing courses for the second semester. Working together, the student and advisor will plan a course of study and research suitable to the student’s needs in preparation for the comprehensive examination and dissertation. The primary role of the advisor is to help the student determine how to develop expertise in the field through courses and research.

All first-year students are required to enroll in the faculty Proseminar (COMM 500), a non-credit course designed to provide an opportunity for incoming students to become familiar with the ongoing research of the ASC standing faculty. Students are also encouraged to arrange meetings with the faculty members in whose research they are interested to discuss advising possibilities.

When you have selected your advisor please e-mail the Assistant Dean Joanne Murray and copy the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and your new advisor. Subsequent advisor changes, if any, must be made using the same procedure copying the old and new advisors. 

Courses and Grading

Course Registration
Each semester at the advance registration period, students may register and change course enrollments via Penn In Touch. To check the progress of courses and milestones, and see how they are being counted, students are encouraged to open the Ph.D. worksheet in Penn In Touch.

Course Requirements 
The course of graduate studies at Annenberg leading to the Doctorate of Philosophy degree requires a program of active scholarship (coursework, research, and teaching) under faculty supervision, including a dissertation.

The minimum course requirement for the Doctorate of Philosophy degree is twenty graduate course units (one course = one course unit), a minimum of fifteen course units must be completed at the University of Pennsylvania in courses approved for credit for the Ph.D. 

The usual full-time load is three courses. Students may, with permission from their advisors, enroll in up to four courses in a term in order to speed completion of the program. The Annenberg School encourages students to take courses elsewhere at the University of Pennsylvania if they and their advisors believe the courses illuminate their specific programs of study.   

In order to be considered in good academic standing and be eligible for funding, students must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.5. The mark of S (Satisfactory) does not confer credit.

Non-Graduate Courses
Courses offered at levels other than the Doctoral level (including undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, and certificate or special programs) do not count toward the Ph.D. The Annenberg School will not pay or reimburse tuition for such courses, whether they are offered by faculty within the Annenberg School or through other schools within the University of Pennsylvania. If circumstances arise requiring the student to complete undergraduate instruction to facilitate completion of the dissertation, the student should meet with the academic advisor to discuss a plan of action. Reimbursement of undergraduate tuition will only occur with explicit approval and permission from the academic advisor, the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, the Annenberg Dean, and the Manager of Finance and Administration. Students should contact the Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies to initiate such a request.

Auditing Courses
Students may audit a course only with permission from both the academic advisor and the course instructor. Auditors are NOT PERMITTED to register for the course as an auditor, but should instead plan to sit in on class meetings informally. The University requires the same tuition for an audit registration as for a regular course registration, and Annenberg will not pay or reimburse tuition charged for auditing.

Graduate students in the Annenberg School are expected to demonstrate mastery of course material. If a student’s GPA drops below a 3.5, the Graduate Studies Committee will alert the academic advisor and immediately review that student’s file and make suggestions for improvement. If the GPA remains below a 3.5 for two semesters, the Graduate Studies Committee may make additional recommendations.

Appeals of an Evaluation, Exam, or Course Grade
In matters related to grading and student evaluation, instructors giving an evaluation, exam or course grade have sole authority for changing such evaluation, exam or course grade provided they remain on the faculty (or the emeritus faculty) of the University of Pennsylvania.

Students who wish to have any evaluation or grade reviewed must first discuss the matter with the instructor. Should this meeting not yield a resolution that is satisfactory to both the student and the instructor, or not be possible, the student may then ask the Associate or Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies for assistance. If again the matter is not resolved, it can be taken up by the Dean of the School. Reviews of any grades are intended to ensure only that appropriate grading procedures have been followed, not to examine or question the professional judgment of the faculty.

Incomplete Grades
The grade I (Incomplete) is given only for satisfactory work that cannot be completed on time because of unusual problems that justify an extension. Incomplete grades must be changed to letter grades by the time agreed upon by the instructor, but no later than the day on which grades are due for ASC students in the semester following the original assignment of an Incomplete grade. Thus, Incompletes awarded in the Fall semester must be eliminated no later than the “Grades due” date in the following May. Incompletes given in the Spring semester must be eliminated no later than the “Grades due” date the following December. If a grade of Incomplete is not eliminated by the due date, the course will not count toward the minimum course requirements and the student will have to enroll in another class at their own expense in order to meet the minimum course requirements.

While a single grade of Incomplete may be explained as due to temporary circumstances, the accumulation of two or more Incompletes, or a pattern of individual Incompletes over time, suggests that the student may be having academic difficulty. The Graduate Studies Committee will take such facts into account in its regular review of academic progress and will act as needed. A student must be in good academic standing in order to continue in the degree program and/or to be eligible for financial aid.

Students with grades of Incomplete in courses required for the doctorate are not eligible to undergo the Qualifications Evaluation or to take the Comprehensive Examination until the necessary work has been completed and a grade has been assigned.

Course Evaluations
Any instructor teaching a graduate course at the Annenberg School (including all standing faculty, adjunct instructors, or visiting scholars) is required to distribute course evaluation forms to all students registered for the course during the final class meeting of the term. Each student in the class should deliver their evaluation to the Graduate Program Coordinator at the end of the class meeting. Alternatively, the course evaluation may be completed online.

It is each student’s duty to complete an evaluation for each course. Evaluations are completed anonymously. 

Questions regarding the course evaluation process should be directed to the Assistant or Associate Dean for Graduate Studies.

Teaching Fellow Evaluations
Teaching Fellows are encouraged to distribute a teaching evaluation to the students in the course they are working with to help build their teaching portfolio. The evaluations should be turned in to the instructor of the course and held for the teaching fellow until after the course is completed and grades have been submitted.  

Designing Your Course Curriculum
The ASC program is structured to provide flexibility for students, in regular consultation with their advisors, to design a personalized curriculum tailored to their specific interests. A well-chosen set of courses should provide students with an understanding of the field broadly, coupled with more in-depth knowledge of the theories, methods, and research findings most relevant to their area of specialization. 

Course Requirements:

  • A minimum of 20 credit-bearing courses
  • COMM 500: Proseminar (non-credit bearing)
  • COMM 522: Communication Research Methods
  • Introduction to Statistics (usually SOCI535 or STAT500) course at Penn
  • Courses taught by at least five different ASC faculty
  • A minimum of 13 courses taught by ASC faculty

Non-ASC Courses
The program is designed to find a balance between disciplinary and interdisciplinary training. With the approval of their faculty advisors, students may take up to six Ph.D.-level courses (out of the required 20) from other Penn departments or elsewhere. This limit of six includes any courses (taken either prior to entering or while enrolled in the ASC Ph.D. program) transferred from other graduate programs. In rare cases, this six-course limit can be waived if educationally justified and formally approved by both a student’s faculty advisor and the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies.

Transfer Credit
Requests for transfer credit are considered on a case-by-case basis. Students entering with a relevant Master’s Degree or other graduate work may request transfer of up to five course units, with approval from the academic advisor. To request transfer credit by the end of the first term, the student must complete Form #6 (Credit Transfer) and submit it to the Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies along with a syllabus or course description and official grade report for each course, if course is not recorded on transcripts previously submitted.  

All requests for transfer credit must be approved by the student’s advisor and the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, who may consult with the Committee on Graduate Studies. Courses approved for transfer may count toward fulfilling Ph.D. course requirements (e.g. general elective and statistics requirements). A Master’s thesis course may be transferred in as an independent research project (COMM 799), but it will not satisfy the research requirement.

Advanced Project in a Medium (COMM 699)
Students may earn one graduate credit per semester for an advanced project in a medium (COMM 699) AFTER completing the first semester as a degree candidate. If the student proposes the project is worth more than one credit per semester, s/he must petition the Committee on Graduate Studies. The proposal for COMM 699 must be written in a specified form and approved by both the student’s project supervisor and the academic advisor; if these are the same person, another member of the ASC Standing Faculty must approve the proposal as well. The proposal must be submitted using Form #8 Advanced Project in a Medium during the registration period for the term during which the work is to be done. Please ask the Assistant Dean for details.

Independent Research Proposal (COMM 799)
Students may earn graduate credit for an independent research project (COMM 799). The proposal for COMM 799 must contain an introduction, literature review, methods section, conclusion, and budget. The proposal must be approved by both the student’s project supervisor and academic advisor; if these are the same person, another member of the ASC Standing Faculty must approve the proposal as well. The proposal must be submitted with the appropriate form during the registration period for the term during which the work is to be done. For details about the format of the Independent Research Proposal, see Form #7 (Independent Research Proposal)

Human Subjects: Policy Regarding Research
Students whose research involves human subjects, and who have received ASC faculty approval for a COMM 699, COMM 799, dissertation proposal, or other research project, must complete the IRB Protocol Face Sheet for the Office of Regulatory Affairs, in consultation with the instructor or thesis supervisor. For further information use this website. Students must submit a completed copy of the IRB Face Sheet with their research proposal.

Johns Hopkins University (JHU) School of Hygiene & Public Health Collaborative Education Program
Students with a particular interest in health communication are permitted to enroll in related courses at the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health and count them toward graduate degrees at ASC. Under the exchange agreement, JHU courses are credited as ASC courses and tuition arrangements are the same as if the courses were taken at ASC. The number of JHU credits taken as part of an ASC degree program will reflect the needs of the student as agreed with his/her advisor. These JHU courses, however, will not count as part of the required courses that must be taken within ASC for the degree. Exceptions must be approved by the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, who may consult the Committee on Graduate Studies. A student who is interested in this program should write a letter to the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, indicating which courses he/she wishes to take and in what semester. The letter should be countersigned by the student’s advisor, and be presented during the advance registration period in the previous semester, along with other pre-registration materials. ASC will then make formal arrangements with JHU to permit registration.

Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR)
Given a number of similar research interests, ASC and ASCoR have agreed to experiment with an informal program designed to facilitate intellectual exchange and collaboration between the two schools. The program will allow Ph.D. students and faculty from one school to visit the other for shorter or longer periods.

The “rules,” such as they are, are simple at this point. Interested faculty or students should visit ASCoR’s website to familiarize yourself with their faculty and research. A proposal detailing the project (e.g., giving a lecture, spending time learning more about a specific research project, conducting research, even teaching or taking a course, etc.) can then sent to the Dean. The Dean would then contact the appropriate person(s) at ASCoR to see if the proposal is possible. The only firm limitations are that whatever is proposed cannot run afoul of ASC curriculum requirements and TF/RF responsibilities (for graduate students) or confirmed teaching responsibilities (for faculty). This is very much in an experimental mode so we will work through logistics as they develop.

SPEAK Test for International Students 
The University requires that all international teaching assistants (ITAs), except those from Canada, the U.K., and Australia, must be certified as fluent in English before they are eligible to teach undergraduates. For details see

International students are required to take the test before the first semester starts, even if they are not assigned as Teaching Assistants during the first semester. New international students will be informed during the summer of the test date.

Research Project 
Each student is required to complete a research project by the end of the term in which 12 course units are accumulated (including both transfer and Penn courses) to help establish his/her ability to formulate, carry out and write up independent scholarly research. For students entering with an undergraduate degree, the project must be completed by the end of the fourth term. Students transferring courses may need to complete the research requirement in an earlier term.

The scope and framework of the project will be decided by the student and advisor. The project may be undertaken as an independent study, an extension of work undertaken in a course, or as work done as part of a research fellowship. Research will be conducted under the supervision of the student’s advisor or another standing faculty member. The product of the research project must be an article appropriate for submission to a refereed journal, a paper appropriate for submission to a scholarly convention, or equivalent. Both the advisor and a second standing faculty member must sign their approval of the final paper.

Qualifications Evaluation

Qualification Evaluation (QE) is a University-mandated review that the Graduate Studies Committee conducts to ensure Ph.D. students have the requisite skills, creativity, initiative, and plans to successfully complete their degree, including their dissertation. The QE must be completed at the end of the semester during which the student accumulates 12 course units (at least eight of which must be acquired at Penn) toward the degree, but no earlier than the end of the first year.

The QE is a major milestone en route to successful completion of the doctoral program. All students must pass the QE to complete their coursework and take comprehensive exams. The Graduate Studies Committee considers the following during the QE:

  • Performance in coursework, including any pending incomplete grades (The minimum grade point average to remain in good standing in the program is 3.5.)
  • Evidence that the student’s selection of courses (and plans for future courses) provide a coherent mix of breadth and depth, allowing the student to be familiar with the Communication field’s diversity of topics and methods while providing expertise in one or more specific area.
  • Evidence of a student’s evolving ability to develop, conduct, and report on original research
  • Evidence (to the extent possible) of a student’s developing ability to teach
  • The appropriateness of the Comprehensive Exam Committee proposed by the student

To this end, a student’s QE dossier should include the following:

  • A list of all graduate courses completed while at ASC/Penn, including the grade received for each
  • A list of all courses the student is currently taking as well as those they plan to take in order to complete required coursework
  • A list of graduate-level courses taken at other institutions for which a student has or is planning to request transfer credit
  • A list of the proposed chair and members of a student’s Comprehensive Exam Committee
  • A research paper/project, based on work done at ASC and approved by the student’s advisor and one other ASC standing faculty member, that demonstrates the student’s ability to conduct original research
  • A description of the student’s proposed dissertation topic (more information follows)
  • Evaluations (if available) the student has received regarding research and teaching
  • A written evaluation by the student’s academic advisor assessing progress to date in the program, and the ability to carry out dissertation-quality research

Complete Form #10 (Qualifications Evaluation) and submit it to the Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies by the appropriate deadline. In completing this form and assembling the other material for your dossier, it is important that you consult with your advisor, using the QE process as a way of getting useful feedback and advice on your progress and plans. PLEASE NOTE that you must also complete the AUGUST online degree application in order to receive the A.M. degree and your diploma from the University of Pennsylvania.

In the event that the Graduate Studies Committee, after consultation with a student’s advisor and other relevant faculty, deems a student’s QE unacceptable, the committee may do one of three things: (1) Provide the student with feedback on the areas of concern and ask him or her to resubmit a revised QE dossier for re-evaluation. In such cases the student should consult with the dean of graduate studies and the advisor, and resubmit the dossier within 30 days of the date on which they were notified; (2) Remove the student from the Ph.D. program but permit him or her to complete the requirements for a Master of Arts (A.M.) degree; or (3) Ask the student to leave the program immediately. 

Description of the Student’s Proposed Dissertation Topic
The purpose of the proposed dissertation topic component of the QE is to demonstrate that by the end of two years of coursework (or the equivalent) a student is able to articulate the topics, concepts and methods that most interest them, situate them in a body of existing theory and research, and begin to formulate the research questions the student might address in a dissertation. In addition, the description of your proposed dissertation topic and method allows the Graduate Studies Committee (and your advisor) to determine whether your completed and planned coursework is appropriate to the substance and methods of your likely dissertation research. It is not realistic, for example, that a student with courses centering on cultural studies and little, if any, training in quantitative methods should propose a dissertation which involves experimental research at its core, or for a student with little to no coursework in ethnographic methods or cultural theory to propose a dissertation based on these approaches.

A description of a “proposed dissertation topic,” then, should show that the student has been thinking about these issues. As such it should include:

  • A brief statement of the research questions or topics that likely will be explored in a student’s dissertation research, and a description of how the these questions/topics relate to the completed and planned coursework and projects
  • A brief description situating the planned dissertation research in existing theories, frameworks research and/or scholarly approaches
  • A brief explanation of the method(s) and (if relevant) type of empirical evidence that will likely be used to carry out the research

This description should not exceed 600 words, excluding references.  

Master of Arts (A.M. Degree) 
Students may apply for a Master of Arts (A.M.) in lieu of the Qualifications Evaluation if they are unable to complete the Ph.D. The A.M. is awarded by the Graduate Division of the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) and all degree applicants must complete the online SAS application by the appropriate deadline for the term in which the degree is to be awarded. Applicants must complete Form #17 (Master of Arts Application) and submit it, along with a copy of the approved paper, to the Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies at least two weeks before the end of the term in which the degree is to be awarded.

Comprehensive Exams

In order to advance to candidacy, become eligible to defend the dissertation proposal and to receive a dissertation research fellowship (DRF), students must successfully pass a comprehensive examination. 

Comprehensive exams are administered twice per year over a maximum of three days in a single week. Exams will take place in January and September in the last week before the beginning of the fall and spring semesters. In those instances, when this week includes New Year’s Day or a holiday, these will be accommodated accordingly. Please see the academic calendar for specific dates. 

Students may take comprehensive examinations during any semester after they have passed the Qualifications Evaluation (QE). Students must undergo the QE at the end of the semester in which they acquire a total of 12 course units, at least 8 of which must be acquired at the University of Pennsylvania. All comprehensive exams will be taken no later than in a student’s last semester in which coursework is completed or the beginning of the following semester. Each student should consult their advisor to decide the semester in which to be examined. The student must notify both the advisor and the Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies of the student's intention to take an exam at least one month before the exam date. No student may take Comprehensive examinations while maintaining a grade of Incomplete in any course.

  • The makeup of a comprehensive exam committee is determined by the academic advisor in consultation with the student in question. This committee should be based on the student’s specific research interests/needs and requires the written approval of the advisor, the committee members, and the associate dean of graduate studies.
  • Each comprehensive exam committee must consist of a minimum of three ASC standing faculty members, one of whom must be the student’s academic advisor. Committees may be larger than three, and in this case can include faculty who are not ASC standing faculty, but for all committees a majority of the members must be made up of ASC standing faculty.
  • Students submit the names of the member of the exam committee on the QE from. Subsequent changes to committees post-QE must be approved by the advisor and the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies via email copying the Assistant Dean. The comprehensive exam committee must be assembled and approved by the academic advisor and associate dean of graduate studies no later than the point at which a student goes through qualifying evaluations (normally the semester in which a student has completed 12 courses, including transfer courses).
  • The comprehensive exam questions will be determined separately by each comprehensive exam committee, except that:
    • All students taking exams in a given semester will do so in the same, School-designated week consisting of three exam days, with one day focused on methods and the other two focusing on some combination of theory and research. 
    • Examinations will be open-book and will be taken at a location convenient for the student.  Students are expected to adhere to the honor system and not consult with other students in preparing their answers. 
  • If a student fails any part of the exam, the examining committee will decide whether the student must do a rewrite of a designated portion of the exam within that semester, or should write a whole new exam at the next exam period. Rewriting a portion of the exam should occur as soon as possible and must be completed before the end of classes that semester. The Graduate Studies Committee makes the final decision regarding the outcome of failed comprehensive examinations.
  • A student who fails the whole exam will be required to retake the exam at the next examination period.
  • Students who fail to pass any component of a rewritten exam, whether in whole or in part, will not normally continue in the program except where there may be very exceptional circumstances.
  • Students will be informed whether they passed or failed their rewritten exams within one month of the last day of the exam.
  • At the end of each academic year, the membership of comprehensive exam committees and copies of the exams given by them to students in the prior academic year will be made available to the entire ASC faculty as a way of sharing approaches and informally monitoring the implementation of the process.

The test will proceed as follows: Examination questions will be distributed directly to the examinees by the Graduate Studies Assistant via e-mail at approximately 9am on each day of the exams. Examinees will have eight hours from the time the questions are received to complete the questions and return their typed answers to the Graduate Studies Assistant. IF NECESSARY, the examinees can request to work on the exam later in the day (for example, a person may wish to begin the test at 11am and return it by 7pm). In this case, the student should ask the Graduate Assistant to arrange for a “Return Receipt” to be generated when the examinee opens the e-mail containing the test questions.

Dissertations and Degree Conferral

Dissertation Committee
The dissertation committee’s role is to guide the student’s dissertation research and to give final approval to the completed dissertation. The committee must be approved by the Graduate Studies Committee and must include at least three current members of the ASC standing faculty, plus faculty from other departments, if appropriate. An exception to that rule may be granted by the graduate studies committee for faculty who leave the Annenberg standing faculty due to retirement or moving to another institution. Those faculty may, with consent of the ASC Graduate Committee, serve on a student’s dissertation committee in the role of a standing faculty member and to serve as an academic advisor, but may not serve as chair of a dissertation committee (the latter being a University rule).   

Also, each dissertation committee must have at least half of its members as current members of the ASC Standing Faculty. Consistent with this rule the Graduate Studies Committee may also appoint additional prior Standing Faculty members to a dissertation committee above the minimum of three. Consistent with University rules, all dissertation committees must be chaired by a current member of the Standing Faculty of the University of Pennsylvania.

Dissertation Committee Chair
The Dissertation Committee Chair must be a member of the ASC Standing Faculty (i.e., tenured or tenure track). The Chair is responsible for convening committee meetings, advising the student on ASC and University expectations, and assuring the ASC Dean of Graduate Studies/Graduate Studies Committee that all requirements have been met. The Dissertation Committee Chair typically is, but does not need to be, the Dissertation Supervisor (see below). If the Chair of a Dissertation Committee leaves the ASC Standing Faculty before the dissertation is completed, then a new Chair from the Standing Faculty must be appointed as Chair. Faculty who leave the ASC standing faculty may, with the consent of the ASC Graduate Studies Committee, continue to serve on the Dissertation Committee as a Member or in the role of Dissertation Supervisor.

Dissertation Supervisor (also known as Primary Dissertation Advisor or Dissertation Advisor)
The Dissertation Supervisor is the Committee Member with primary responsibility for providing substantive guidance and input on the dissertation form, content and methodology. In most cases the Dissertation Supervisor and the Dissertation Chair are the same person, though this is not required. In cases when the two roles are split (e.g., if the faculty member most appropriate for the role of Dissertation Supervisor is not a member of the ASC standing faculty), the Supervisor can be thought of as the substantive expert whereas the Chair would serve a purely administrative role.

Dissertation Committee Member
A dissertation committee member helps the chair/supervisor with research oversight of the dissertation and provides feedback to the student on the work. All ASC dissertation committees must consist of a minimum of three members of the ASC Standing Faculty.

Dissertation Proposal and Oral defense
Before becoming eligible for a dissertation research fellowship and beginning work on the dissertation, the student must submit and defend a proposal for dissertation research to the Dissertation Committee. The proposal is a full statement of the research problem, including its theoretical rationale and methodology. The student will defend the proposal at an oral exam with the Dissertation Committee. The student should talk with his/her advisor about how to prepare for the oral defense. After passing the exam, the student must submit Form #14 (Proposal Examination) to the Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies.

Defense and a Public Presentation of the Dissertation 
After completing the dissertation, the student submits a draft copy to each member of the committee. The committee will then assemble to conduct the final examination. On the appointed day, the student will give a public talk (20-30 minutes) on the dissertation topic to all Annenberg faculty and students who wish to attend. At the end of the presentation, the audience will leave and the student will orally defend the dissertation in front of the dissertation committee. The committee will ask appropriate questions of the candidate and then decide to accept or reject the dissertation. 

Depositing Procedures for submission of final draft for degree conferral 
Final approval of the dissertation completes the program requirements for the Ph.D. degree. Results of the final examination are reported to the Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies by the committee chair on Form #152 (Dissertation Completion form) and Form 18 Report on Oral Defense of Dissertation. Please note that the student may NOT handle these forms; the committee chair will submit it.

The candidate must submit the following items to the Office of the Graduate Division of Arts and Sciences:

  • Original dissertation (formatted according to the Doctoral Dissertation Manual, available at the Office of Graduate Division of Arts and Sciences
  • One exact electronic copy of the dissertation
  • One original, signed cover page
  • Form #153 (Dissertation Certification), signed by the Dean and the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies
  • Form #152 (Acceptance of Dissertation), signed by the dissertation supervisor, readers and the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies

Graduation and Conferral of Ph.D. Degrees
Degrees are conferred in May, August, and December of each year. Formal commencement ceremonies are held in May. Ph.D. candidates file for their degree through the Office of the Graduate Division of Arts and Sciences. The academic calendar published each July lists the current deadlines for Ph.D. applications.

Time Limit for Completion of Proposal and the Dissertation 
Beginning in academic year 2013, the University’s maximum time limit for completion is ten years after matriculation.

Annenberg students who have not completed all requirements for the Ph.D., including the deposit of the dissertation, within ten years of matriculating must submit all written work they have completed on their dissertation to a committee comprised of a minimum of three members of the Communications standing faculty. This committee may be the student's dissertation committee or, if that committee is not intact, an Ad Hoc committee appointed by the Committee on Graduate Studies. The committee members will evaluate this material (they may, at their discretion, meet with the student), and take one of the following actions: (1) require the student to retake all or part of the Comprehensive Examination (if the committee believes there is a question about the continued currency of the student's research); (2) impose other conditions such as the committee believes will ensure the currency and timely completion of the student's work toward the Ph.D.; (3) recommend to the Committee on Graduate Studies that the student be disqualified from continued doctoral candidacy (if the committee believes the written work provides insufficient evidence of progress toward the completion of an adequate doctoral dissertation). In the case of (1) or (2), above, the committee will report its decisions and actions to the Committee on Graduate Studies. Upon satisfactory re-certification, the student must complete all requirements for the Ph.D., including deposit of the dissertation, within one year.

Recertification will be permitted only in exceptional circumstances. Requests for re-certification must be submitted by May 31 of the tenth year. If the dissertation is not defended and deposited within the one-year extension, the student will be automatically withdrawn from the program.

Academic Freedom and Grievances

Academic Freedom Statement for ASC Graduate Students and Faculty
In its educational and research programs, ASC seeks to foster an open exchange of ideas and is committed to academic freedom for both its faculty and students. 

The content and methods of instruction and research are determined by the faculty. In the pursuit of knowledge, faculty members often confront difficult, controversial, and sometimes uncomfortable issues, and they have a duty as educators to encourage students to do the same.

Grievance Procedures Guidelines

  1. Students concerned about the educational climate in any course or project are encouraged to discuss their concerns with the relevant instructor or research supervisor, who should in all cases treat these matters with respect and close attention. 
  2. Should these discussions not adequately address the concerns raised, or if students feel unable to approach the instructor or faculty supervisor directly, students then may consult the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies. If the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies determines University policy has been violated, action will be taken consistent with such policy.
  3. If still unresolved following this consultation, the matter can then be taken up with the Annenberg Dean, whose role is limited to ensuring that the faculty has arranged for a proper review of the matter.
  4. At any point, the student may wish to circumvent steps 1-3 and contact the University's Ombudsman.

If a graduate student has a grievance concerning a non-academic matter, the suggested procedural steps should be discussion with (as applicable): Assistant Dean, Associate Dean, Dean, Ombudsman. At any point, the student may wish to contact the Ombudsman.

Information about University grievance procedures policy