Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois

Graduate Studies in English

Current Students

Information for All Students in the Program

Information for Students in Stage I: Literature and Writing Studies

Information for Students in Stage II and III: Literature and Writing Studies

Placement Services

Program Requirements

Financial Aid

The Grading System

Graduate courses in all three stages are graded A+, A, A-, etc., and numerical averages are calculated on a 4.0 scale. Thus 16 hours of A = 4.0, 8 hours of A and 8 hours of B = 3.5, 4 hours of A and 12 hours of B = 3.25, etc. Credit for a course in which a student has received an F cannot be counted toward the degree. Points in the computation of grade-point averages are as follows:

  • A+ 4.00
  • A 4.00
  • A- 3.67
  • B+ 3.33
  • B 3.00
  • B- 2.67
  • C+ 2.33
  • C 2.00
  • C- 1.67
  • D+ 1.33
  • D 1.00
  • D- .67
  • F 0.00
  • (no plus or minus for F)

Special Grades

W - Officially withdrawn from a course. No grade is given.

EX - Temporarily excused.

DF - Grade temporarily deferred. Used only in 599, the dissertation research course.

S or U - Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory. Used as final grades only in the Thesis Research course (599); not included in the GPA computation.

CR or NC - Credit or No Credit.

AB - Absent from the final examination without an acceptable excuse; counts as a failure (F) in the GPA.

An accepted dissertation is graded S; grades in English 593 are entered as S or U. A limited number of courses may be taken on a credit/no credit (Pass/Fail) basis but only with the approval of the candidate's advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies.

Although the Graduate College requires that a student's GPA meet the minimum of a B or 3.0 for degree purposes, it holds that a C is a legitimate grade and may count toward the degree. It also allows individual departments to require a minimum of B for all courses if they wish to. In the English Department we allow a C to count toward the degree and to satisfy distribution requirements. It should be noted, however, that a C at the graduate level is an indication of a serious deficiency in the quality of work and, though it will count toward the degree and satisfy distribution requirements, it does not augur well for -- in fact, it militates against -- admission to the PhD program or further financial support. We expect that our students will maintain at least a 3.5 grade-point average.

The Grade of I

A student who cannot finish the work of a course during the semester he or she is enrolled may ask the instructor to grant a grade of I (incomplete). The instructor need not grant this request, and some instructors announce at the beginning of a semester a policy of no excused grades. By Graduate College ruling, a grade of incomplete must be replaced by a letter grade no later than 5:00 p.m. of Reading Day of the next semester in which the student is registered or it automatically becomes an F grade. If the student does not enroll the following semester in a graded course, the incomplete grade becomes an F-by-rule after one year. Incomplete grades earned in the spring semester will not be converted to F-by-rule until the end of the following fall semester, whether or not the student registers for the summer term. A student will not be certified for a degree with an incomplete grade in the academic record.  Except in an extreme emergency, a student should not take an I in more than one course in any semester and should remove the I well before the beginning of the following term. I grades may affect the awarding or retaining of financial aid and teaching assistantships.  Students with an incomplete from the previous semester must submit all completed work to the instructor and to the Graduate Studies Office no later than two weeks prior to reading day.  Individual Instructors may require the work to be turned in sooner than this.  Instructors who give permission for work to be turned in later than this date must inform the Graduate Office of the deadline in writing.  On reading day a grade must be turned in if the I is not to turn to an F.  When the instructor submits the grade, the incomplete will be erased and the course grade inserted in its place.

It is the policy of the graduate program that students with two or more incompletes outstanding at the time that teaching contracts are signed in July or when instructors must be secured in January will have their teaching assistantships reduced.  Every effort should be made to take as few I’s as possible and to clear them expeditiously.

Normal Progress and Required Course Loads

The MA degree (Stage I) can be completed in one academic year (or in two semesters plus a summer) by a student taking a four-course load. If a student is teaching or is otherwise employed, progress will be slower; for most students, practically speaking, Stage I leading to the MA will be a two-year program. Students entering the program with a bachelor's degree are allowed five calendar years in which to win the MA.  (Note: Students who for legitimate reasons must interrupt their studies should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies. If a Leave is approved, their time limit may be extended be petition to the Graduate College.)  Graduate students who have not been registered for more than one year at the Urbana campus cannot register without an approved petition for re-entry. 

Candidates for the PhD who enter with the bachelor’s degree must finish their MA and PhD (stage II and III) work in seven years after their first registration in the Graduate College. Candidates who enter with the MA degree already earned elsewhere must finish their PhD in six years after their first registration in the Graduate College.

Students must enroll for the appropriate number of courses to maintain their tuition waiver. Normal progress is reckoned variously according to each student’s commitments to the University and the Department as follows:

  • Students receiving no financial aid (no fellowship, no teaching assistantship, no tuition waiver) may take as many as 20 hours of course work per semester or as few as four hours. They must maintain a grade average of 3.0 or better and complete a degree within the time limits set by the Graduate College.
  • Students holding a fellowship are required to take a full load of courses at least 12 hours (or the equivalent) per semester. They may take up to 20 hours.
  • Students holding a one-third time teaching assistantship must take at least 12 hours (or the equivalent) per semester.
  • Students holding a two-thirds time teaching assistantship must take at least 8 hours (or the equivalent) per semester.
  • Students holding a one-half time teaching assistantship must take 8 hours (or the equivalent) during the semester in which they are teaching two sections and must take 12 hours (or the equivalent) during the semester in which they are teaching one section.

Anyone hoping for exceptions to these course load requirements—either an over-load or an under-load—must first obtain the permission of the Director of Graduate Studies.

(Note: One of the non-credit 500 or 501 language courses may be counted as equivalent to an hour in reckoning study load or workload.)

If certification for full-time status is required which does not take teaching assistantships into account (for example, for loans, immigration, or fellowships), registration must be for at least 12 hours or an equivalent combination. To register for appropriate course loads in such instances, see the Assistant or Director of Graduate Studies in room 210 English Building.

Procedures for Independent Study

In order to register for an independent study course (English 591), you must find an instructor willing to direct it and the two of you must agree on a course description/rationale and a reading list. Students should contact the Graduate Studies Office for the instructor’s CRN number in order to register.  Applications are available there and these must be completed, signed by the instructor, and approved by the Director of Graduate Studies before or in the first two weeks of the semester in which the independent study will be undertaken.  An independent study cannot be used to satisfy area distribution requirements for the MA.  It should not be undertaken in areas in which there are already course offerings. Independent study is probably best used at the end of Stage II as students move toward the more specialized study of the Special Field exam and dissertation.

Completing the Ph.D.

Candidates in Stage III who have accumulated 32 hours of Dissertation Credit, but have not yet completed their dissertation, need not continue to register unless they choose to do so.  Candidates who have completed residence requirements may register in absentia. Students who have reached the limit of their time in the program may not register.  In the semester in which students not currently registered finish their dissertation, they must petition the Department and the

Graduate College for permission to re-register (if they have time left).  Such petitions are usually granted. Students with no time left must apply to the Department and the Graduate College to be re-admitted before they can re-register.  This can be done at the time when the Dissertation Defense is set or at least six weeks before depositing.  It is typical to grant such permission but it is not guaranteed. All students must be registered in the semester in which they defend their dissertations.

If more than one year elapses between the student's final examination and the deposit of the dissertation in the Graduate College, the dissertation must be accompanied by a signed petition and statement from the executive officer of the student's department to the dean of the Graduate College.

Leave of Absence

Anyone who wishes to interrupt study for a semester or longer must petition to the Director of Graduate Studies for an official Leave of Absence. Such leaves cannot exceed a period of one calendar year plus a summer session or the equivalent. Application for an official Leave of Absence should be made to the Director of Graduate Studies no later than six weeks prior to the semester in which the leave is to begin. Time on leave does not count as time in the program. Graduate students who have not been registered for more than one year at the Urbana campus cannot register without an approved petition for re-entry.

Conditions for Dismissal from the Program

Students whose grade-point average falls below 3.0, or who have used up their time in the program, or who are not making adequate progress toward their degree, or who are dismissed from the University for violation of statutes will be dropped from the program.

Appointment and Retention of Teaching Assistants

Decisions concerning the appointment and retention of teaching assistants are made jointly by the Director of Freshman Rhetoric, the Director of Business and Technical Writing, the Director of Academic Writing, and the Director of Graduate Studies.

Students in Stage I of graduate work (candidates for the MA) are eligible to hold one-third time assistantships during their first year in the program. If by their second year they have completed four units of course work in residence, and are in good standing as teachers and students, they are eligible to hold two-thirds time assistantships. Students in Stages II and III who are in good standing are eligible to hold two-thirds time assistantships.

Since money for financial aid is limited, the Department will use such resources as it has to support students whose academic performance gives the best promise of future achievement in scholarship and teaching. Financial aid in the form of assistantships may be withheld or reduced or even terminated for such academic reasons as these: grade-point average markedly below the average of the community of students (3.5 on a 4.0 scale is the minimum average for holding a two-thirds time appointment; students with an average below 3.0 are not considered to be "in good standing"); as many as two EX grades outstanding at contract-signing time; failure to complete the allowable minimum number of units per semester; other circumstances that make it impossible to complete academic work.

Research Grants and Fellowships

Dissertation Travel Grants: Doctoral students may apply for these grants to subsidize travel and other costs associated with dissertation research, whether for exploring a potential dissertation topic, conducting dissertation research, or making a return trip to gather additional data. Competitions are held during the fall and spring semesters. Further information is available in the Graduate Studies Office.

Conference Travel: Through a combination of Graduate College and departmental support, partial reimbursement for expenses connected with travel to conferences to present papers is available. Competitions are held during the fall and spring semester. Stipends are dependent upon the student’s expenses and the availability of funds.  Further information and applications for conference travel reimbursement are available in the Graduate Studies Office.

Fellowships: PhD candidates are eligible to apply for University and Departmental fellowships and Release Time fellowships. The competition is held in the spring for the coming academic year and winners are usually announced in late March or April. More information on how to apply for such internal fellowships is available in the Graduate Studies Office.


While obtaining their PhD degree in English, students may concentrate within the department in either Film Studies or in African American Literature. For further information about these concentrations, students should contact faculty members in these areas. Graduate Students in English may also receive certification in the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory or in the Gender and Women’s Studies Program. For further information about these Certifications, students should contact the appropriate program office.

Grievance Committee

Each year graduate students and faculty elect a Graduate Student Grievance Committee composed of three members of the faculty and three graduate students. Students who have special concerns they wish to discuss or who believe they have grievances may first consult their advisors, other faculty members whom they trust, or the Director of Graduate Studies. Many concerns and perceived grievances can be addressed satisfactorily in this way. But for other ongoing concerns and serious grievances students should contact the chair of the Grievance Committee.

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