Graduate Regulations & Procedures

EEB Graduate Regulations & Procedures

Regulations and procedures that govern students pursuing masters and doctoral degrees within the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) are based on university and College requirements, as well as department rules and guidelines. Graduate students and faculty are encouraged to read the relevant sections of the Academic Catalog  and the KU Policy Library for more detailed information.

It is each graduate student’s responsibility to know and observe all regulations and procedures relating to the graduate degree program that he or she is pursuing.  Under no circumstance will a regulation be waived or an exception granted because a student pleads ignorance of, or claims that he/she was not informed of requirements, regulations, procedures, or deadlines. The responsibility for following all policies and meeting all requirements and deadlines rests solely with the student.

Advisory Committees

Advisory Committees

As early as possible in the initial semester of enrollment, preferably during the first week, students are expected to have a Preliminary Advisory Meeting (PAM). The PAM must comprise the student, adviser, and at least two additional members of the EEB graduate faculty. To fully benefit from the breadth of knowledge and research expertise in the department, advisors and students are strongly encouraged to include professors outside their own research themes.

The PAM’s purpose:

  • To assess the student’s preparation in the structure and diversity of organisms in disciplines across ecology and evolutionary biology and to address deficiencies by recommending or requiring that the student take courses, tutorials, complete readings or a special project.
  • To determine what initial courses and/or other training are needed to help the student progress in his or her chosen discipline.
  • To provide advice about departmental and programmatic requirements and the fulfillment of the Research Skills and Responsible Scholarship (RS2, formerly FLORS) requirement for doctoral students.

Immediately following the meeting, the graduate student must complete the EEB Preliminary Advisory Meeting form, obtain faculty mentor approval, and email the form to the EEB Graduate Program Coordinator. The form should address the bullet points stated under “The PAM’s purpose.” The PAM is a one-time committee and does not become the core of the student’s Research Advisory Committee (RAC), although the two committees may have members in common if the student so desires. The PAM form will be provided to students by the Graduate Program Coordinator, but students can also request the PAM by email.

Prior to completion of the third semester of graduate study, a Research Advisory Committee (RAC) should be formed (this committee composition may remain the same for the comprehensive oral exam committee and the dissertation committee).  Each student and his/her committee must meet annually, between December 1 and February 15, to discuss the progress during the past year and prepare a plan for the upcoming year. Immediately following the meeting, the graduate student must complete the EEB Research Advisory Committee form, obtain faculty mentor approval, and send it to the EEB Graduate Program Coordinator as an e-mail attachment. The student’s entire committee, or at least a majority of the members, should attend the meeting in person. Failure to meet with the RAC and submit the EEB Research Advisory Committee form may result in an unsatisfactory annual student evaluation. The RAC form will be provided to students, but students may also request the RAC form by contacting the Graduate Program Coordinator.

Elements to include on the summary:

  1. An overall summary of the student’s progress and accomplishments, specifically addressing events from the previous year
  2. A discussion of whether the previous year’s goals were met or not
  3. A list of specific goals for the coming year
  4. An assessment of whether the student is making reasonable progress toward his or her degree, including an expected date of degree completion

A more general note concerns the composition of research advisory committees.  The Graduate Program Committee (GPC) examined the research advisory committee composition over recent years, and found that significantly more men than expected at random are appointed on committees of male graduate students.  Although disciplines are different and may require committees with differing areas of expertise, student and advisor should keep in mind the diversity of the department in all respects (gender, discipline, etc.) when forming a RAC.  Advisers should bear in mind not only the needs of the student when forming committees, but also the need to take advantage of the full diversity of knowledge across the department—using the same committee repeatedly is not always in the best interest of the students in a research group.

The role of the external committee member (on doctoral committees only) is as a representative of the Graduate School to determine if the exam is both fair and rigorous.  Again, the GPC urges EEB faculty members to explore a diversity of external committee members to every extent possible.

Academic Standing

Graduate students in EEB are considered in good academic standing when two conditions are met: (1) a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 and (2) a rating of “satisfactory with warning” or better for the most recent departmental annual evaluation. Students who fail to meet one of these two criteria will lose their good academic standing, and in accordance with University regulations, their eligibility for a GTA, GRA, or CA position.

Academic Standing

Graduate students in the EEB program are evaluated annually to assess progress toward degree completion and professional development.  Early in each calendar year, students submit reports documenting their accomplishments to date.  The EEB Graduate Program Committee (GPC) uses this information along with input from the student’s advisor to assign one of three ratings:  Satisfactory, Satisfactory with Warning, or Unsatisfactory.

A Satisfactory rating indicates that (1) the student is meeting the goals and objectives leading to degree completion, (2) that research is progressing acceptably, and (3) that the student is on schedule to graduate in a timely manner.  In short, it indicates that the student is in good academic standing with the department and the Office of Graduate Studies.

A Satisfactory with Warning rating means that some aspects of the student’s progress are problematic.  Although the student is in good academic standing, he or she is in danger of being rated Unsatisfactory during the next evaluation cycle if his or her academic trajectory does not improve.  The student is strongly urged to (1) meet with the adviser about how to correct the problems, (2) meet with the Research Advisory Committee about how to correct the problems, (3) report plans for correcting the problems to the Graduate Program Committee, and (4) correct the problems.  It should be clear that Satisfactory with Warning is a warning of an impending (the next year) Unsatisfactory, if the problems (documented clearly to the student in a letter from the Graduate Program Committee) are not corrected.

An Unsatisfactory rating means that the Graduate Program Committee rates the student’s progress as unacceptable. Reasons for an unacceptable rating generally include some combination of the following: sustained lack of progress in research; poor record of publication, presentations, proposals; GPA below 3.0; and poor teaching record.  Students who receive an unsatisfactory rating are placed on academic probation with the university and are ineligible for hire to graduate assistantships until reinstated to good academic standing.

A student judged for the first time to be making unsatisfactory progress in the program will typically receive a rating of Satisfactory with Warning.  In such cases, specific areas needing improvement will be identified in the annual evaluation letter issued by the GPC.  The student should meet with her/his adviser, and with her/his Research Advisory Committee, design a strategy for fixing the problems, and report on this strategy to the GPC in the form of a letter.

On receipt of an Unsatisfactory rating, a formal remediation plan, approved by the student’s adviser and advisory committee must be submitted to the GPC within 1 month.  Failure to do so is grounds for dismissal. If the GPC finds the remediation plan unacceptable, the student and adviser will meet with the GPC to reformulate the plan.

A second Unsatisfactory rating will be assigned if the student fails to meet the terms of the first remediation plan.  Within 1 month of receipt of the second Unsatisfactory rating, the student and adviser must schedule a formal meeting with the GPC.  A second remediation plan or dismissal from the program may be considered at this meeting.

A third Unsatisfactory rating triggers automatic dismissal from the program.

Under some circumstances, it is beneficial for a graduate student to be paired with a new faculty mentor. These situations may come about for varied reasons, including changes in thematic focus, need for additional expertise, departure or retirement of the faculty mentor, or incompatibility of student and mentor.  Successful change in mentorship will be contingent upon the identification of an appropriate new mentor and the willingness of the prospective new mentor to assume the responsibilities.  Students can initiate this process at any time by contacting the chair of the Graduate Program Committee, the Director of Graduate Studies and/or the Department Chair.  They can also consult resources outside the department such as the University Ombudsman, who can provide support in the process. EEB leadership is available to help guide the student through the change, which can include help in identifying a new mentor, communicating with the original mentor, and assisting in the transition.  If a student wishes to continue a project that was initiated with the original mentor, details of transferring the project should be worked out in consultation with the Chair, who can mediate the process with the original mentor.  Proposed changes in mentorship assignments will ultimately be approved by the EEB Department Chair, and must be signed by both the student and the new mentor(s). 

As a guideline to committees, in certain unusual situations, students in a doctoral program may not be able to complete a Ph.D. degree.  In such an event, the student’s advisory committee may recommend that the student switch to a master’s program if the committee determines that the student’s accomplishments in the doctoral program are suitable for a master’s thesis or non-thesis report.  The EEB Graduate Program Coordinator should be consulted to determine which degree requirements remain for the new degree program.

Time Constraints

Time Constraints

The KU maximum tenure for EEB graduate students varies according to the degree sought.  Master’s students are allowed a maximum of seven years to complete the degree program, whereas doctoral students are allowed eight years.  A student who earns both an M.A. and a Ph.D. from KU has a total of ten years in which to complete both degrees.  Petitions to extend the time limits must be approved by the student’s advisory committee and forwarded to the EEB GPC for consideration, before being forwarded to the College Office of Graduate Affairs for final approval.

Under normal circumstances, however, the Department expects master’s degree students to complete the degree in 2-3 years of fulltime study, whereas Ph.D. students should take no longer than 4-5 years of full-time study. Students pursuing both a master’s and Ph.D. are expected to complete the degree in 6 years.

Doctoral students must complete the equivalent of at least three academic years of full-time graduate study at KU or other approved university.  This time period may include time spent earning a master’s degree.

Prior to taking the oral comprehensive exam, EEB graduate students must complete a minimum program engagement equivalent to two semesters of full-time study. This requirement can be met by two semesters of full-time enrollment as defined by University enrollment policy or by completion of at least 18 hours of enrollment that are completed over several part-time semesters.


See the policy library for more information about Doctoral Degree Requirements .

Credit Transfer

Not all graduate students are allowed to transfer credits completed at outside institutions.  Since no credit hour completion requirement exists for doctoral students, doctoral students are not allowed to transfer graduate credits.  Master’s students do have a credit hour completion requirement:  30 credits for those pursuing the thesis option degree, or 36 credits for those pursuing a non-thesis master’s degree.  Accordingly, master’s students are allowed to transfer up to 9 graduate credits from other institutions.  Contact the departmental Graduate Program Coordinator to obtain the necessary paperwork. More information can be found on the graduate credit policy page.

Enrollment Policies


Enrollment requirements for EEB graduate students follow University and College regulations.  Minimum enrollment requirements may vary according to a student’s degree plan and progress toward degree completion. To avoid problems caused by enrolling in the incorrect number of credit hours, students should familiarize themselves with the enrollment regulations stated in the Policy Library. Students may seek permission from the Graduate Program Committee (GPC) to petition the College when personal circumstances merit exception to the rules.

Full-time enrollment is defined as follows:

Fall and Spring semesters

  • Minimum 9 hours enrollment
  • Minimum 6 hours enrollment plus a GTA/GRA/CA, regardless of percentage of appointment
  • Doctoral candidates enrolled in dissertation hours (BIOL 999: Doctoral Dissertation). See the Doctoral Candidacy policy for information on Post Comprehensive Enrollment.

Summer term

  • Minimum 6 hours enrollment
  • Minimum 3 hours enrollment plus a GTA/GRA/CA, regardless of percentage of appointment
  • Doctoral candidates enrolled in dissertation hours (BIOL 999: Doctoral Dissertation). See the Doctoral Candidacy policy for information on Post Comprehensive Enrollment.

Half-Time enrollment is defined as follows:

Fall and Spring semesters

  • 5 hours enrollment
  • 3 hours enrollment plus a GRA, regardless the percentage of appointment*

Summer term (note – not all loan companies require summer enrollment)

  • 3 hours enrollment
  • 1 hour enrollment plus a GRA, regardless the percentage of appointment.*

*Students who wish to defer student loans are often required to maintain at least half-time enrollment. Please note that, for students studying in a master's program, only master’s students in their last semester of enrollment are eligible for the three quarters-time and half-time enrollment exception while holding a GRA. Also, please note that Ph.D. candidates who have met post-comprehensive enrollment requirements and had paperwork submitted on their behalf by the Graduate Program Coordinator are considered full-time students while enrolling in a single credit hour. See the GRA appointment eligibility policy or the GTA appointment eligibility policy for more information.

Students enrolled in fewer hours than defined by half-time enrollment are considered part-time.

Master’s students and doctoral students who have not yet passed the comprehensive oral exam (pre-orals) are required to enroll continuously for fall and spring semesters in a minimum of one credit hour. However, graduate students who hold a graduate research assistantship (GRA), curatorial assistantship (CA), or graduate teaching assistantship (GTA) must enroll in a minimum of six credit hours per semester to maintain eligibility for the assistantship.  Summer enrollment is not generally required; however, if one of the following three circumstances applies, a minimum enrollment of one credit hour is required:

  • The student has a GRA appointment for the summer.
  • The student intends to graduate over the summer.
  • The student will use university resources during the summer (e.g. use lab space to conduct thesis or dissertation research).
  • The student receives departmental, university or external funds through scholarship or fellowship awards that require enrollment.

Doctoral candidates must enroll continuously in at least 6 credit hours for each Fall and Spring semester until 18 post-comprehensive hours have been completed. Summer enrollment is not required unless one of the exceptions mentioned in the previous section applies.

The 18 post-comprehensive hours include credit hours from the semester during which the comprehensive exam was taken. At least one of the credit hours each semester must be in BIOL 999: Doctoral Dissertation––note that this requirement does not apply to the semester the student took the oral comprehensive exam. During the semester in which the student will complete the 18 credit hours, enrollment may drop to the number of hours required to complete 18. For example, a student entering the fall having completed 15 post-oral hours has to enroll in only 3 credit hours.

After fulfilling the 18 hour post-oral credit hour requirement, a student may reduce Fall and Spring semester enrollment to 1 hour of BIOL 999: Doctoral Dissertation. 

Doctoral candidates enrolled in 1 credit hour of BIOL 999: Doctoral Dissertation are considered full-time.  International students should visit the ISS website, contact the International Student Services (ISS) office at, or call them at 785-864-3617 and take care of any requirements to ensure that reduced enrollment does not interfere with their immigration status.

Doctoral candidates who completed 18 post-oral credit hours and who hold assistantships (e.g. GTA, CA, GRA) qualify for reduced enrollment providing two conditions are met:

  1. Students must enroll in at least one credit hour of BIOL 999: Doctoral Dissertation (note that BIOL 985: Advanced Study may not be used as a substitute) and
  2. EEB Graduate Program Coordinator must be notified so that a “GTA/GRA/CA Certification to Enroll in Fewer Than Six Hours” can be filed with the Office of Graduate Studies.

Doctoral candidates are strongly encouraged to familiarize themselves with the post comprehensive enrollment regulations. Additional information about this policy is available on the COGA post-comprehensive enrollment page. Failure to comply with the policy may result in additional enrollment requirements and tuition expenses near the end of the graduate program.

Students must be enrolled during the term in which they graduate.  This requirement, however, is waived if all degree requirements are completed within the first two weeks of the fall or spring semester or within the first week of the summer session, providing the student was enrolled during the previous term. Early graduation dates and deadlines are available on the Graduate Studies Graduation Calendars.

Students holding assistantship appointments should be aware that less than full-time enrollment will trigger social security tax withholding from their paychecks, though international students who hold certain types of visas may be exempt. Doctoral candidates who have completed 18 post-orals credits are exempt from social security tax deductions when enrolled in a single credit of BIOL 999 Doctoral Dissertation while holding a GTA, GRA, or GA appointment.

Doctoral students are required to demonstrate engagement in their program to qualify for the Oral Comprehensive Exam. This can be fulfilled in one of two methods:

  • Two fall and/or spring semesters of full-time enrollment in KU coursework as defined by University policy
  • At least 18 hours of enrollment in KU coursework spread out over several part-time semesters

International students are required to maintain full-time status (see above) in order to meet U.S. immigration requirements.  Summer enrollment is not required for purposes of maintaining a visa unless it is the student’s first or last term; however, other circumstances, such as a GRA appointment or the receipt of university scholarship funds, may necessitate summer enrollment. For further information, visit the ISS website, contact the International Student Services (ISS) office at, or call them at 785-864-3617.

If personal circumstances warrant a break from graduate study and enrollment requirements, a student may seek permission from the EEB GPC to petition the College for a leave of absence.  Contact the departmental Graduate Program Coordinator for assistance.

Graduate Student Health Insurance

The University of Kansas, together with the Kansas Board of Regents, offers health insurance coverage for eligible graduate students through United Healthcare Student Resources. Eligibility, requirements, and premiums vary depending on the student’s status.

  • Students who hold a 50% GTA/GRA appointment and meet the eligibility requirements qualify for KU’s reduced premium health insurance plan offered through United Healthcare.
  • Students who are not employed as GTA/GRAs may be eligible to enroll in the regular health insurance plan underwritten by United Healthcare.
  • Health insurance is mandatory for international students on an F-1, F-2 and J-1 visa and is automatically added after the student enrolls in classes. For more information visit the Insurance Requirements section of the International Student Services website.

Students enrolled in a graduate student health insurance plan should check the policy’s terms of eligibility and enroll accordingly. Visit the Graduate Student Health Insurance page for more information and insurance premiums or contact Stephanie Miller at, or by phone at 785-864-1817 with your health insurance questions.

Graduate Assistantship Appointments

Most graduate students in EEB receive a funding package that includes a combination of graduate teaching (GTA), research (GRA), and curatorial assistantships (CA).  These appointments include tuition sponsorship and depending on the funding source may include full or partial fee sponsorship as well.  Students must be in good academic standing to be eligible for appointment to a graduate assistantship. More information about this is available in the "Academic Standing" section of the handbook. Students must be enrolled as full-time students to be eligible to hold teaching or research assistantships.  Students employed in half-time assistantships (20 work hours/week) are eligible to enroll in KU’s GTA/GRA health insurance plan, which is available at a reduced premium rate.  More information about health insurance is included in the "Graduate Student Health Insurance" section of the handbook.

Graduate Assistantship Appointments

The EEB Graduate Program Coordinator will solicit GTA requests from EEB graduate students several months prior to the term of appointment.  Students should consult with their faculty advisers to determine the source of funding for the upcoming term prior to submitting a GTA application.  In the event that the number of GTA applications exceeds the number of available positions, GTAs are appointed using a prioritization scheme that takes into consideration the student’s most recent annual evaluation rating, time in the program, record of teaching, and previous types of funding received. 

During the past academic year, half-time (0.50 FTE = 20 hours/week) GTA positions in EEB were paid a starting salary of $9370 per semester. Minimum GTA salaries for the coming year will be no less than $9370 per semester, and may even see an increase if budgetary funding allows for raises or merit pay increases. 

Students who hold a 50% GTA appointment receive a full tuition waiver as well as payment of 3 credit hours of campus fees.  All new GTAs must complete a training program that includes mandatory attendance at KU’s New GTA Orientation, follow-up training sessions, and the completion of an online tutorial.  International students must meet English proficiency requirements or pass the SPEAK test to qualify for a GTA position. Contact the Applied English Center at or at 785-864-4606 should you require information and updates on the SPEAK test.

University policy strictly limits the number of GTA assignments a graduate student may receive while enrolled in a graduate program at KU.  Those admitted to a master’s program are limited to 6 semesters of GTA-ships. In the spring of 2019 Graduate Studies increased the maximum allowable number of GTA appointments for students admitted to the doctoral program to 16 semesters The same limit, namely 16,  applies to those admitted for both a master’s and doctoral program. Summer appointments do not count toward the GTA semester limit.

Faculty advisers will notify graduate students when funding is available for GRA or CA appointments.  Salaries for GRAs are determined by the grant’s Principal Investigator(P.I.) using the pay matrix developed by the hiring unit.  Most often, EEB graduate students are hired by one of three units: the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB), the Biodiversity Institute (BI), or the Kansas Biological Survey (KBS).  Whenever possible, GRA salaries mirror EEB GTA salaries.  The P.I. should work with the appropriate hiring staff (Graduate Program Coordinator in EEB or the designated BI or KBS staff) to complete the appointment documents.  With the implementation of Shared Service Centers P.I.s are no longer required to complete the Staff & Staff Dependent Rates form or sponsorship authorization forms. If the hiring grant does not provide for tuition and fee sponsorship, and if the student in question is studying in a Ph.D. program, the P.I. may request assistance from the Tuition Assistance Pool (TAP) by informing the appropriate hiring staff.

Students who enroll for the summer semester but do not hold a GRA/GTA position may qualify for the in-state tuition rate by meeting the eligibility criteria for the previous spring and fall semester. For more information, visit the Staff and Staff Dependent Rates Policy on the University Registrar site. Contact the EEB Graduate Program Coordinator if you find that the waiver has not been applied to your account.



Students traveling out-of-state on behalf of the university, e.g., to attend professional conferences or to visit field sites for research, must report their travel plans to the university. This is particularly important for students who anticipate reimbursement of travel costs. However, even those traveling on their own dime are asked to report travel, in part because each individual traveling on university business is covered by a $100,000 accidental death and dismemberment policy. All EEB graduate students must complete the online Travel Request form prior to domestic or international travel.

Additionally, the University of Kansas requires that all students who travel as institutional-affiliates register international travel through the Student International Travel Registry. More information is available on the International Travel Policies page on the International Affairs website.

Departmental:  EEB students may submit a written request for financial support when attending professional meetings. In order to qualify for funding the student must make an oral or poster presentation at the meeting. The maximum award is $300.  Students requesting departmental travel funds must concurrently apply for or have previously received travel funds from Graduate Studies (see below for details).

Applications for departmental travel funds should be submitted to the department chair three weeks prior to the meeting and must include the following:  (1) a letter or e-mail request that lists the conference name and location, dates of travel, and a budget identifying other sources of funding, including the Graduate Scholarly Presentation Travel fund, (2) a brief letter or e-mail of endorsement from the student’s faculty advisor, and (3) a copy of the title and abstract of the presentation.  For more information, contact the EEB Program Assistant at the EEB office (2041 Haworth).

Biodiversity Institute:  Graduate students whose faculty mentor is affiliated with the Biodiversity Institute may request financial assistance for travel to conferences or training opportunities from the BI director, Jorge Soberón. Students can contact Dr. Soberón at or at 785-864-4540.

Office of Graduate Studies:  The Graduate Scholarly Presentation Travel Fund is available to graduate students through the Office of Graduate Studies and operates on a first come, first served, basis.  To be eligible students must be traveling to a regional or national meeting of a learned or professional society for the purpose of presenting a paper.  Students are limited to one $500 award during their graduate career at KU.  Applications must be submitted at least 30 days prior to the expected departure date and must be accompanied by a one-page copy of the abstract. To receive these funds, students must submit an application for travel funds to Graduate Studies.