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Student Handbook

Student Handbook

Course Registration

Students may register for courses via the online Albert system accessible from their NYUHome page. Students should monitor the NYU Registrar deadlines for course registration each semester to ensure timely enrollment. Students wishing to register for courses after the online system has closed must see the Academic Affairs department.

All ISAW seminars and directed studies are designated with ‘controlled enrollment’. Once you have been given faculty approval, please email or visit the Academic Affairs department to request an access code for each desired course. For registration issues with courses taught outside of ISAW, please see the administrator for that department.

Students may enroll in up to 16 credits per semester. Enrollment over this amount requires approval from the DGS. Enrollment beyond 72 graduate credits must also be approved by the DGS.

Credit Transfer Requests from Master’s Degree

Students may apply to transfer up to 30 credits from a previous Master’s degree towards their doctoral credits. Only courses taken at the graduate level qualify and should have a direct bearing on the student's current course of study. The transfer request must be processed within the first year of study. The form can be found at All requests must be accompanied by an original copy of the school transcript. Students should submit the form to the Academic Affairs department. All credit transfer requests must first be approved by the student’s committee before they are submitted to GSAS for final approval.

Tuition Remission for Undergraduate Skills

ISAW's tuition fellowship can only be applied to graduate-level courses that count towards the doctoral degree. Students who require courses only offered at the undergraduate level must fill out the ‘Tuition Remission for Undergraduate Skills’ form, available at Students may take up to 12 credits of these courses. Forms should be submitted to the Academic Affairs department when the student enrolls and will receive final approval from the GSAS Office of the Vice-Dean.

Pass/Fail Grading

Students who wish to take a course pass/fail must have the approval of the DGS and their committee. The form can be found at Please submit the completed form to the DGS for review. Once it has been signed it can be submitted to the GSAS Vice-Dean's office.

Inter-University Consortium

Students who have completed at least one year of graduate study (not necessarily at ISAW) may register for courses through the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium (IUDC). If you wish to register for a course in the consortium, please see the Academic Affairs office as soon as possible to process the paperwork, which can take up to two weeks. For more information on the program and the list of participating schools, please see the GSAS website at


Before the beginning of their first semester, new students meet with a faculty committee to discuss their long-term academic plans, establish a course plan for the year, and to formulate their future committee.  Students will then complete their first doctoral contract and submit it to the faculty committee for review. The final approved version should be sent to the Academic Affairs department.

Committees will generally consist of three members and must have at least one ISAW faculty member who will serve as the student's advisor.  The committee may change according to adjustments to the student’s course of study.

First-year students will meet with their formal committees at the end of the fall and spring semesters.

Continuing students normally meet with their committees once per year, at the end of the spring semester. Additional meetings may be held at the request of the student or the committee.

Revisions to the doctoral contract should be submitted to the student’s committee prior to each of these meetings and final approved contracts submitted to the Academic Affairs department.

Doctoral Contract

The doctoral contract form is given to students after their first committee meeting, to be filled out and submitted for review within the student’s first two weeks. Updated versions are submitted per the above.

All departures from the doctoral contract must be discussed and approved by the student’s committee if done outside the normal committee meeting timeline.

Student Travel Fund Request

Students may apply for funds to travel to a conference, lecture, or other academic event that will aid them in their program of study. The application form, available on the ISAW website, must be submitted at least one month before travel. Preference will be given to students who will be presenting or otherwise participating in an academic event. Please see the form for further details.

Student Summer Funding Request

Student may apply for funds for summer language courses, or for similar acquisition of technical skills, that cannot be taken within NYU or consortium schools. The application, available on the ISAW website, must be submitted by February 1st each year. Please see the form for further details.

Sixth Year Funding (NEW!!)
Students wishing to extend their funding to a sixth year should submit a letter of request to their committee by March 31st outlining the current state of their dissertation and a plan for the coming year. The committee will evaluate the request and then make a recommendation to the faculty, who will render the final decision.

Study Away from ISAW

Students planning on studying away from ISAW during the academic year must submit a formal request. Please see the form for further details.

Language Exams

Students are required to demonstrate reading ability in at least 4 languages (other than English) by the end of their second year. This can be done one of three ways:

  • an ISAW-administered language exam (2 hours, dictionaries always allowed for modern languages and on a case-by-case basis for ancient languages)
  • with DGS approval, the completion of at least a fourth-semester course with a grade of “B” or better not more than two years before date of first registration at ISAW
  • with DGS approval, the successful completion of an exam of equivalent level to ISAW's


Comprehensive Exams

  • The purpose of the examinations is to satisfy the committee that the candidate is familiar with the context of his/her dissertation, is adequately prepared to begin work on his/her dissertation, has developed one or more areas of professional competence, and is familiar with typical problems, including problems of method.
  • The areas of the candidate's comprehensive examinations are determined by the candidate's supervisory committee. Requirements shall be as uniform in difficulty and time demands as possible. The areas shall be reasonably broad. In normal circumstances the candidate is to be assumed to devote the equivalent of 6-8 months to preparation for the examinations.
  • The examinations comprise three written papers and an oral examination.
  • The examination will be set and assessed by an examining committee normally consisting of the candidate's supervisory committee. With the DGS's approval the examining committee may have additional members if the areas call for additional expertise.
  • The written papers are set by the supervisory committee and based on a reading list drawn up by the student in consultation with the committee. The reading list will consist of primary sources and secondary material as appropriate for the areas. The candidate's areas and the format of the written papers must be approved by the ISAW regular faculty at least six months before the examination. Decisions will be communicated to the candidate in writing and not departed from without prior agreement of both candidate and committee.
  • The written papers will be written under examination conditions, with a duration of 3 hours each.
  • Following the examination, the candidate will be provided with copies of his/her written answers without delay.
  • The written papers are assessed on a pass/fail basis.
  • If a candidate's written answers indicate the likelihood of a pass, the candidate will be asked to attend an oral examination. The function of the oral is to confirm or modify an opinion based on the candidate's written papers.
  • If the candidate fails either the written papers or the oral, one adjournment of each is permitted. The examining committee may rule, in voting for an adjournment, that part only of the written papers need be repeated, the candidate's answers to the other papers being allowed to stand over.
  • Unsatisfactory performance in the oral will normally result in an adjournment.
  • The candidate's supervisor will send the student, with copies to the committee and the DGS, a written summary of the committee's evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses in the written and oral components of the examinations. The contents of this summary must be approved by the examining committee before it is sent.

Dissertation Proposal

After passing comprehensive examinations, the student will draft a dissertation proposal in consultation with the student's supervisory committee. The composition of the committee may be altered at this stage to reflect the dissertation topic. The proposal should normally not exceed 20 pages (1.5 spacing, 12 pt type) exclusive of bibliography. Not later than one month before the end of the first semester following the comprehensive examinations, the student will submit the draft to the ISAW faculty, and will defend it before the faculty and any external committee members who are available. Students should submit their proposal at least one week in advance of the meeting (an earlier deadline may be set by their committee, one week is the deadline for distribution to the entire faculty). Students should also make a brief presentation on their proposal. The purpose of this meeting is advisory. Within four weeks of this meeting, the student will submit a revised proposal to the supervisory committee, who, together with the DGS, will approve it or require modifications.


Dissertation Committee and Defense (NEW!!)

1. When the candidate's dissertation proposal has been submitted and accepted, the Director of Graduate Studies and Supervisory Committee, in consultation with the candidate, will review the membership of the Supervisory Committee and the choice of advisor or of two coadvisors. The advisor, or at least one of the coadvisors, must be a full-time ISAW faculty member. Until the dissertation is ready to be defended the Supervisory Committee continues to serve. It will meet at least once every academic year with the candidate, and will provide a written report of the candidate's progress towards completion to the candidate and the Director of Graduate Studies. The candidate may submit a response to this report.

2. In the case of a permanent ISAW faculty member who retires or accepts a position elsewhere, ISAW considers the faculty qualified as a full-time ISAW faculty member for the purpose of dissertation supervision and examination until the faculty member's advisees have completed their dissertations. If a faculty member is not already on a student’s committee, they may be added and counted as a full-time ISAW faculty member within five years from the date the faculty member severs ties with ISAW and serve until the dissertation is completed.

3. The Dissertation Examination Committee must be formed not later than the approval of the dissertation for defense.

4. The Dissertation Examination Committee must consist of five members, of whom at least two and no more than three must be members of the full-time faculty in ISAW. Normally the advisor or coadvisors will be members of the Committee. The Committee will be chaired by an ISAW full-time faculty member, designated by the Director of Graduate Studies and not identical with the advisor. 

5. The Director of Graduate Studies must approve all members of the Dissertation Examination Committee.

6. All Dissertation Examination Committee members must have a scholarly record that is germane to the dissertation.

7. On advice of the Director of Graduate Studies, the ISAW full-time faculty may remove or add Dissertation Examination Committee members for any reason, subject to the preceding regulations for the composition of the Dissertation Examination Committee.

8. Approval for Defense: Prior to the scheduling of a doctoral dissertation defense, the advisor (or both coadvisors) and the chair must approve the dissertation for defense. The Director of Graduate Studies must provide signed authorization of this approval. Approval for the defense does not constitute approval of the dissertation. This approval and the distribution of the dissertation to all readers must take place a minimum of one month before the scheduled date of the defense.

9. Successful Defense: After the oral defense, each member of the Dissertation Examination Committee shall cast a single vote of "pass," "fail," or "incomplete" on the dissertation and its defense. An abstention will be counted as a vote of "fail."

10a. If all or all but one members of the Dissertation Examination Committee cast a vote of "passed," the dissertation will be considered to have been accepted. The Committee may stipulate specific minor corrections and modifications of the dissertation, in which case a member of the Committee designated by the Director of Graduate Studies must report before deposit and within 90 days after the defense that these corrections and modifications have been made.

10b. If two or more members cast a vote of ‘incomplete’, or one ‘fail’ and at least one ‘incomplete’, a three-person subcommittee will be selected from the Dissertation Examination Committee by the Director of Graduate Studies, or by the ISAW Director if the DGS is a member of the dissertation committee, to supervise revisions. At least one person must be a full-time ISAW faculty member. The dissertation will be considered accepted if the three-person subcommittee unanimously so recommends; otherwise it will be changed to a final grade of "failed."

10c. If three or more votes of ‘fail’ are cast, the dissertation will be failed. If there are two votes of disapproval, the entire ISAW full-time faculty will review the dissertation and render a final decision. Specific minor corrections and modifications may be requested before a final verdict is rendered by either the committee or the ISAW faculty.



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