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A. Introduction

This guide is intended for use by faculty and staff graduate advisors. It presents policies governing the sequence of steps involved in completing a graduate degree at Berkeley and procedures to implement them.

For changing information, such as deadlines, phone numbers, and email contact information, consult the Graduate Division website. When communicating about policies or making requests under any of the procedures listed, please use the operational email addresses listed on the Graduate Division website rather than the email addresses of individual staff members, to ensure prompt receipt of requests and proper routing.

Admissions, appointments, degrees, and fellowships handbooks supplement this guide with detailed step by step instructions intended for staff. For graduate students, the Graduate Division produces guides for filing the Master’s thesis and Doctoral dissertation, and an overview of appointments called What You Need to Know About Being a GSI, GSR, Reader, or Tutor. Information in those resources supplements this guide, but in case of apparent contradiction, the Guide to Graduate Policy is authoritative.

A1. How to use this guide

Each section of this guide begins with a discussion of specific issues, citing relevant policy. Policies are often based on memos from the Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Dean of the Graduate Division, which are available on the Graduate Division website, and implement the regulations and decisions of the Graduate Council of the Academic Senate, which are published on the Academic Senate website.

Where appropriate, discussion of policy is followed by description of procedures to be used by programs to implement specific policies. Unless an alternative is described, requests for exceptions to policies should be made through a memo signed by the Head Graduate Advisor directed to the relevant Associate Dean for Admissions and Degrees or the Associate Dean for Fellowships and Appointments, submitted to the Graduate Divisions Degrees Office, Admissions Office, or Fellowships Office.

Throughout this guide, “program” refers to a degree granting program, whether housed in an academic department or administered by a graduate group; “student” means an admitted graduate student; “applicant” means a person who has applied for admission, but has not yet been offered admission and replied to the offer using the SIR form.

A1.1 Partners in Student Progress

The Graduate Council, faculty Graduate Advisers, Faculty Advisers for GSI Affairs, Faculty Equity Advisers, and Graduate Student Affairs Officers are partners of the Graduate Division. Each has a unique role to play in graduate education.

Graduate Division

The administrative arm of the Graduate Council of the Academic Senate, it is empowered to enforce regulations and policies developed through faculty governance. The Graduate Division appoints faculty Graduate Advisors and Faculty Advisors for GSI Affairs as its representatives in graduate programs. The Graduate Division supports Graduate Student Affairs Officers with online systems, information about policy updates, and training in new procedures.

Within the Graduate Division, different offices provide support for graduate students, faculty, and staff addressing distinct issues. The Admissions Office handles all aspects of the admissions process. The Fellowships Office manages university fellowship competitions and administration of fellowships managed through the graduate division. Appointments reviews all proposed academic appointments for graduate students for compliance with policy. The Degrees Office monitors graduate student progress through benchmarks, and receives and processes all petitions concerning course enrollment, changes or additions of majors, appointment and changes of committees, and the filing of the thesis or dissertation.

The Graduate Division also offers professional development for graduate students, primarily through its GSI Teaching and Resource Center and Academic Services.

Assistant Deans and Associate Deans are consulted by these offices when needed, but unless noted specifically in the Guide, requests addressed to the Deans normally are routed first to one of these offices. The Assistant and Associate Deans are responsible for policy development and implementation, strategic planning for new and existing programs, and handle student grievances and student and faculty consultations about less routine aspects of policy.

Graduate Council

The Graduate Council is the committee of the faculty Academic Senate charged with safeguarding the excellence of graduate education at Berkeley. It consists of 12 faculty members, plus three graduate students nominated by the Graduate Assembly. The Dean of the Graduate Division is an ex officio voting member of the council and chairs its Administrative Committee.

The Graduate Council sets the policies and standards for graduate admission, fellowships, and degrees. The Council reviews established degree programs and proposals for new fields of study or degrees; establishes qualifications and policies for Graduate Student Instructors and Graduate Student Researchers; and responds to issues referred to it by the Dean of the Graduate Division, the Chancellor’s Office, and the Coordinating Committee on Graduate Affairs.

Head Graduate Advisers and Graduate Advisers

Graduate Advisers are faculty members responsible for the academic advising of graduate students. They are official deputies appointed by the Dean of the Graduate Division to act in matters affecting graduate students in their programs. When a program has more than one officially appointed Graduate Advisor, one is designated the Head Graduate Advisor. The Graduate Council requires that the Head Graduate Advisor be a tenured Academic Senate member. Other Graduate Advisors ideally are also tenured, but an Assistant Professor may serve with the Dean’s permission.

Role of the Graduate Adviser

Graduate Advisers are responsible for assisting students in selecting programs of study, and acting on petitions to add or drop courses. Graduate Advisers should maintain records of their advisees and review the records of all graduate students in the program once a year and inform the Graduate Division, in writing, if a student is not making adequate progress toward a degree.

Role of the Head Graduate Adviser

Only the Head Graduate Adviser can sign documents or make requests to the Graduate Division on matters concerning graduate enrollment, degrees, progress, and financial aid, such as admission, reenrollment, change or addition of major, graduate standing, and appointment of Qualifying Examination and dissertation committees.

Faculty Advisers for Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) Affairs

The Faculty Adviser for GSI Affairs functions as a liaison among the Graduate Division, program faculty, and GSIs; provides information concerning policies relating to GSIs to faculty and GSIs in the program; and raises issues on their behalf with the administration.  Like the Graduate Advisors, they are nominated by the program and appointed by the Dean of the Graduate Division, and must be tenured Academic Senate faculty unless the Dean approves an exception.

Faculty Advisers for GSI Affairs are expected to be thoroughly familiar with the Graduate Council’s policies on GSI mentoring. The staff of the GSI Teaching and Resource Center supports the Faculty Advisors for GSI Affairs through its programs.

Faculty Equity Advisers

The Equity Adviser, or, in units with more than one Equity Adviser, the Head Equity Adviser, is approved by the Vice Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion. Among their functions, they consult with the Head Graduate Adviser and the other Graduate Advisers in the program to ensure that diversity is taken into account in the recruitment, selection, and retention of graduate students. The Equity Advisor must be a tenured member of the Academic Senate. The Equity Advisors’ Workbook is available through the web site of the Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion.

Graduate Student Affairs Officers

Graduate Student Affairs Officers (GSAOs) are program staff members who are responsible for the administrative advising of graduate students. They remind students about registration and fellowship deadlines, stay abreast of admissions, degrees, fellowship, and appointments requirements, as well as manage administrative paperwork on behalf of the program and its graduate students. Departments may add other roles and responsibilities to the work of these staff graduate advisors.


Annually, the Graduate Division sends program chairs a form to nominate the next academic year’s Graduate Adviser and Faculty Advisor for GSI Affairs. The nominees are reviewed and appointed by the Dean of the Graduate Division, on behalf of the Graduate Council.

A “Delegation of Authority” form is provided to the program at the same time as the call for nominations, allowing the delegation to a Graduate Student Affairs Officer of signature authority for many student petitions and requests for exception.

Both forms must be returned by the stated deadline, or the Registrar and Graduate Division staff may not be able to act on submitted petitions signed by individuals not yet recognized by the Graduate Division.

If for some reason a Graduate Adviser can no longer serve, the program chair should immediately notify the Graduate Division in writing.

A1.2 Special Resources for Students with Difficulties

Faculty and staff working with graduate students can refer students with specific challenges to a number of offices and programs that work with graduate students or have resources specific to their needs, and/or are partners with the Graduate Division.

Faculty and staff may provide information about a student under the exception to FERPA for Health and Safety Emergencies authorized by the U.S. Department of Education:

“In an emergency, FERPA [Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act] permits school officials to disclose without student consent education records, including personally identifiable information from those records, to protect the health or safety of students or other individuals. At such times, records and information may be released to appropriate parties such as law enforcement officials, public health officials, and trained medical personnel….This exception to FERPA’s general [student] consent rule is limited to the period of the emergency and generally does not allow for a blanket release of personally identifiable information from a student’s education records. In addition, the Department interprets FERPA to permit institutions to disclose information from education records to parents if a health or safety emergency involves their son or daughter.”

Ombuds Office for Students and Postdoctoral Appointees

The Ombuds Office provides neutral assistance in situations where students may feel they have been treated unfairly or need help with a procedural or academic problem.

University Health Services (Tang)

Provides counseling and psychological services. Approves medical withdrawals recognized by the Graduate Division.

Berkeley International Office

Works with international graduate students to ensure compliance with US visa requirements, advise on family and work issues, and lists resources for English as a second language.

Gender Equity Resource Center

Provides programs and guidance to university resources for LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff.

Disabled Students Program

Provides students facing challenges from vision and hearing impairment, AD/HD, psychological impairment, mobility impairment, speech impairment, acquired brain injury, chronic illness, or other disabilities guidance about how to verify their disability and request accommodations.

Students of Concern

The Student of Concern Committee “is a multi-disciplinary body of stakeholders from across the University which receives referrals pertaining to students of concern, collects additional information, and identifies and enacts appropriate strategies for addressing the situation”. The Graduate Division is represented on this committee. The committee website provides links to resources across the campus that may be useful in different situations.


A student can be brought to the attention of the Student of Concern Committee by submitting a report through a secure online form accessed on the committee website.

In immediate emergency situations, faculty or staff should contact Tang Center’s Counseling and Psychological Services, and/or the UC Police’s Threat Management Unit.