Progress Toward the Degree

All students in the graduate program are required to show adequate progress towards degree on an annual basis. The time needed to prepare a dissertation in Romance Studies varies widely. There are intellectual variables such as background preparation, availability of research materials, or the need for special language or computational skills, which combine with less scholarly but no less important considerations such as travel needs, finances, health, loved ones, and the political and economic state of the world to influence the dissertation research and writing process.

If you are taking courses, you must meet with the DGS for course planning, and to be made eligible to enroll. If you are not taking courses, you may contact the DGS Assistant to enable you to be eligible to enroll for classes.

Ordinarily a student registered for full-time study should receive preliminary certification by the end of the third year. A student who has not been certified by this time must file with the Dean of the Graduate School a statement, approved by the Director of Graduate Studies in the major department, explaining the delay and setting a date for the examination. Except under unusual circumstances, extension will not be granted beyond the middle of the fourth year.

The graduate program in the department of Romance Studies comprises 14 courses, 4 of which may be taken in related fields within the department (Italian, Portuguese, etc.) or in other departments or programs (Art History, History, Philosophy, Literature, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, etc.). 

We recommend that during the first year, courses be selected from the offerings in the student’s primary field in the Department of Romance Studies.

Transfer students arriving with an MA are required to take 10 courses, 4 of which may be taken in related fields.

The requirement for the second language must be met before the student takes the Dissertation Prospectus Workshop Examination.

See Typical 5-Year Program for Semester-by-Semester Activities

All Ph.D. students must submit an annual report on their progress toward the degree to the Director of Graduate Studies Assistant (DGSA). There is no form for this report. It is just a written report. The DGSA will provide you with the format and content requirements for the report.

For students who have not completed all their coursework or their Portfolio examination, this report should identify the likely schedule of courses still to be taken, and the likely dates at which the student will set for the Portfolio examination.

For students who have passed the the Portfolio examination or the Dissertation Prospectus Workshop, the report should specify annually the progress of their dissertation research, identify any portions of completed written work, establish a clear time-line for completion of any remaining chapters of the dissertation, and set a target date for final defense.

Failure to submit this annual progress report will jeopardize a student's continuation in the graduate program.

It will be up to the Director of Graduate Studies to determine whether or not the progress indicated in this report is sufficient or whether the report should be forwarded to the student’s advisor and/or doctoral committee.

Grades in the Graduate School are as follows:

  • A, B, C, F, I (for Incompletes - see below), and occasionally Z (indicates satisfactory progress at the end of the first semester of a two-semester course). These grades can be modified with pluses and minuses.  
  • a grade of F in a major course normally occasions withdrawal from a degree program not later than the end of the ensuing semester or term; a grade of F in any other course occasions at least academic probation.

In addition to the grade, a Course Performance Evaluation from each professor for each course taken is placed in the student's file. These evaluations are not distributed automatically to the student as are grade reports, but they may be consulted in the departmental office by request to the DGSA.

In order to be certified as making satisfactory progress towards the degree, the Graduate School requires that graduate students must maintain at least a 3.0 (B) cumulative grade point average. Any lower cumulative grade point average will place the student on probation for the semester. Two consecutive semesters below 3.0 cumulative grade point average will result in a automatic dismissal from the program.

In the case of two consecutive semesters with a cumulative grade point average below 3.2 in the core courses the faculty may recommend that authorization to continue towards the degree not be granted.

Students receiving any grade below B+ are urged to meet with both the teacher that has assessed the grade and with the DGS to discuss successful strategies to progress through the program.

A student may occasionally need additional time and may request an incomplete in order to complete a course paper, but this should be exceptional.


The Grade I indicates that some portion of the student's work is lacking, for an acceptable reason, at the time the grades are reported. For students enrolled in the Graduate School, the instructor who gives an I for a course specifies the date by which the student must make up the deficiency. If a course is not completed within one calendar year from the date the course ended, the grade of I becomes permanent and may not be removed from the student's record.

For unclassified graduate students enrolled in the summer session, a temporary I for a course may be assigned after the student has submitted a written request. If the instructor of the course approves the request, then the student must satisfactorily complete the work prior to the last day of classes of the subsequent summer term.

Permanent incompletes will not count as credits; therefore, the student must take a supplementary course.

Graduate Student Permission to Enroll in a Course Below the 500-Level

With the approval of their director of graduate studies (DGS) and the associate dean for academic affairs, graduate students may enroll in courses below the 500 level, but these courses will not count toward the credits required for a post-baccalaureate degree and will not be included in a student’s GPA calculation. The grading basis for such courses will be A+*, A*, A-*, B+*, B*, B-*,C+*, C*, C-*, F*; the asterisk next to the letter grade indicates that the course will not count for graduate degree credit and will not factor into the GPA. Standard drop/add and course withdrawal deadlines apply.

To enroll in a course below the 500 level, a graduate student must complete this form, obtain the signature of the DGS and submit the form to or to the Graduate School, 2127 Campus Drive, before 5:00 p.m. two business days before the last day of the drop/add period. Note: Full-time enrollment in graduate-level coursework is required for approval to add a course below the 500 level. For master’s students, full-time enrollment is 9 credits; Ph.D. students do not have set credit requirements to maintain full-time status.

Audited Courses

In order to audit a course, a student must have the approval of the instructor of the course. The student takes the written approval to the Registrar’s Office for manual registration. Any student registered full-time in a degree program may audit courses without charge during the fall and spring semesters. Otherwise an audit fee is charged. As a footnote, perhaps, it might be noted that students are frequently unaware of the opportunity to audit courses. It may be to students' interests to continue auditing select courses after they have completed all departmental course requirements, or after having completed the equivalent of 6 semesters of full-time tuition.

Inter-Institutional Courses

A Duke graduate regularly enrolled as a degree-seeking student and paying full fees can sign up for one course at UNC-Chapel Hill or NC State University each semester through an inter-institutional agreement that exists between these institutions and Duke. You can take a course through the inter-institutional agreement only if:

  • The course is not being offered at Duke during the same academic year;
  • The course is equivalent to a full, 1.0 cc Duke course (no partial credit);
  • The student can take it for credit (no audits); and
  • The student can take it for a letter grade (no Pass/Fail option).

Under the same conditions, one inter-institutional course per summer may be taken at a neighboring institution participating in the agreement provided that the student is concurrently enrolled at Duke for one full course credit.

Grades for inter-institutional courses will appear on your transcript and will be factored into your grade point average, if approved by your Director of Graduate Studies at Duke and the Home Institution registrar. Information on inter-institutional courses can be found at the Registrar's Web site. The student must also obtain approval of the instructor of the course he or she wanted to take, fill out an inter-institutional approval form and have it approved and signed by the Director of Graduate Studies in the Duke department in which the course would fall. Click here for information on the inter-institutional courses.

Forms for requesting a leave of absence can be downloaded here.

When a student takes a leave of absence, time does not stop in regards to exams. The student still must get his or her exams done in a timely manner. The graduate school says the student must have passed his or her Preliminary Examination by the end of your third year. The defense must be submitted and accepted within 4 years of your preliminary examination.

A leave of absence differs from voluntary withdrawal in that the student granted a leave is  insured a place in the graduate program if he or she returns to Duke within the time limit specified. Leaves of absence may be granted because of: 

  • medical necessity; 
  • full-time employment at Duke University; 
  • acceptance of an external award judged likely to benefit the student as an individual but not related to degree requirements; 
  • other reasons approved by the Associate Dean. 

Students who request a leave of absence must obtain the Director of Graduate Studies' (DGS) endorsement, as well as that of their major professor. Leaves are not to be considered a right that students have or can exercise at will: we expect all requests to be subject to careful consideration as to whether or not they are truly in the best academic interests of the student. 

All requests for a leave of absence must be submitted to the Associate Dean for consideration before the first day of classes in a semester. No fees are charged to students who are on a leave of absence, but time limitations on degree requirements and time schedules for the completion of incomplete coursework are not waived during a leave. Only students who have completed at least one semester at Duke are eligible to request leaves of absence. 

A leave of absence may be granted for a period of time no longer than one calendar year. Before the end of the period of time granted for a leave of absence, the student must notify the Associate Dean and the Director of Graduate Studies of his or her intention to resume graduate study. 

Things to Note: Non-US citizens with a student visa normally cannot take a leave of absence, since doing so jeopardizes their student visa status.

Although the International Office cannot advise students about the academic validity of a leave request, non-US students with student visas would be well-advised to check with a representative of the International Office before submitting a leave of absence request to the Graduate School. 

The department encourages students to spend an extended period abroad, particularly during dissertation research. Students are expected to take the initiative to investigate funding prospects, including Duke international fellowships, Fulbrights, AAUW, FLAS, Chateaubriand and other foundation grants. The department, and especially the student's advisor and the DGS office, will help students in their application process.  

Students who show proof of good faith efforts made in a timely manner to secure external funding through applications to dissertation research fellowship sources may be supported by departmental funding, as possible in any given fiscal year. Consult with your faculty advisor and DGS.

When students go abroad as Graduate Assistants for Duke in France/EDUCO, while there, they are to be studying for their upcoming exams. This is considered one of their funding years, and does not delay fulfilling of Ph.D. program requirements.