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Graduate Degrees: Residency

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Residency Policy for Graduate Students

Each type of graduate degree offered at Stanford (for example, Master of Science, Doctor of Philosophy) has a residency requirement based on the number of academic units required for the degree. These residency requirements and the maximum allowable transfer units for each degree type are listed below. Unless permission is granted by the department (for example, for fieldwork) enrolled graduate students must maintain a significant physical presence on campus throughout each quarter a student is enrolled.

The unit requirements for degrees can represent solely course work required for the degree or a combination of course work, research, and a thesis or dissertation. Academic departments and schools offering degrees may establish unit requirements that are higher than the minimum University residency requirement, but they may not have a residency requirement that is lower than the University standard. In addition to the University's residency requirement based on a minimum number of units for each degree, the School of Medicine and the Graduate School of Business may establish residency requirements based on the number of quarters of full-time registration in which students are enrolled to earn a degree. However, in no case may a student earn fewer units than the University minimum for each degree. All residency requirements are published in the Stanford Bulletin. Students should consult the Stanford Bulletin or their academic department to determine if their degree program has residency requirements that exceed the minimum.

Students eligible for Veterans Affairs educational benefits should refer to the "Veterans' Educational Benefits" section of this bulletin.

It is Stanford University's general policy that units are applicable toward only one degree. Units may not normally be duplicated or double-counted toward the residency requirement for more than one degree, with the exception that up to 45 units of a Stanford M.A. or M.S. degree may be applied to the residency requirement for the Ph.D., D.M.A., or Engineer degrees. Other exceptions to this general policy for specified combinations of degree types, known as Joint Degree Programs, may be approved by agreement of the Faculty Senate and the deans of the schools affected, with review by the Committee on Graduate Studies.  Students pursuing a Joint Degree that includes a Ph.D. may not also count a Stanford master’s degree or transfer units towards residency for the Ph.D. degree.  See the "Joint Degree Programs" tab of this section of this bulletin for additional information.

Only completed course units are counted toward the residency requirement. Courses with missing, incomplete, in progress, or failing grades do not count toward the residency requirement. Courses from which a student has formally withdrawn do not count toward the residency requirement.

Terminal Graduate Registration (TGR) is available to graduate students who have met all of the conditions listed in the "TGR" section of this bulletin.

University Minimum Residency Requirements for Graduate Degrees

University Minimum Residency Requirements for Graduate Degrees

Degree Type

Minimum # of Units

Maximum Allowable External Transfer Units

M.A., M.S., M.F.A., M.L.A.

45

0 (see note 4)

Engineer (see note 2) 90 45

M.B.A., M.P.P. (see note 3)

90

0 (see note 4)

Ph.D., D.M.A. (see note 5)

135 45

M.D.

235

90

M.S. in Physician Assistant Studies

186 (see note 6)

0 (see note 4)

J.D.

109

45

M.L.S., L.L.M., J.S.M.

35

0 (see note 4)

J.S.D.

44

0 (see note 4,7)

1. The University has authorized the granting of the M.A.T., Ed.S., and Ed.D. degrees, but they are not being offered.

2. Up to 45 units completed at Stanford toward an M.A. or M.S. degree or accepted as transfer credit, but not both, in an Engineering discipline may be used toward the 90 unit residency requirement for the Engineer degree. At least 45 units of work at Stanford are necessary to complete the 90 residency units for the Engineer degree.

3. Enrollment in the M.P.P. degree program is limited to candidates who have earlier been accepted to another Stanford graduate degree program and to recent (within three years) Stanford graduates.

4. Students eligible for Veterans Affairs educational benefits should refer to the Veterans Benefits section of "Admissions and Financial Aid" in this bulletin.

5. Up to 45 units completed at Stanford toward an M.A. or M.S. degree or accepted as transfer credit, but not both, may be used toward the 135 unit residency requirement for the Ph.D. or D.M.A. degree. At least 90 units of work at Stanford are necessary to complete the 135 residency units for the Ph.D. or D.M.A. degree.

6.  6 units of the total are in an area of scholarly concentration.

7. Up to 35 units completed at Stanford toward a J.S.M degree may be used toward the 44-unit residency requirement for the J.S.D degree. 

University Minimum Residency Requirements for Graduate Degree Combinations

Students with multiple degree programs must complete the residency requirements for all their degree types. Students enrolled in a joint degree program should see the "Joint Degree Program" section of this Bulletin.

A table of these residency requirements is also available on the Registrar's website

University Minimum Residency Requirements for Graduate Degree Combinations
Degree/Degree Combination Minimum # of Stanford Units Required Maximum # of Residency Units Required Minimum # of Residency Units Required

MA/MS/MSM

45

0*

45

MA/MS/MSM + MA/MS

90

0*

90

Engineer

45 45 90

Engineer + MA/MS

90

0*

90

Ph.D.

90 45 135

Ph.D. + MA/MS

135

0*

135

Ph.D. + 2 MA/MS

180

0*

180

Ph.D. + Engineer

180 45 225

Ph.D. + Engineer + MA/MS

225**

0*

225**

Ph.D. + Ph.D.

180 90*** 270*

* Students eligible for Veterans Affairs educational benefits should refer to the "Veterans Benefits" section of this bulletin.

** Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) students should refer to the CEE program page in the Stanford Bulletin for additional information regarding residency.

*** Up to 45 quarter units of work completed outside of Stanford may be applied towards a Ph.D. via the Graduate Residency Credit petition process. Students may apply up to 45 unduplicated units towards each Ph.D. (i.e., students may not use the same external course work towards both Ph.Ds).

Graduate Residency Transfer Credit

After at least one quarter of enrollment, students pursuing an Engineer, D.M.A., or Ph.D. may apply for transfer credit for graduate work done at another institution (Graduate Residency Transfer Credit).

Engineer candidates who also earned their master’s at Stanford may not transfer residency credit, nor may any master’s degree students. Ph.D. or D.M.A. students may only apply a total of 45 units of transfer credit and credit earned for a Stanford master's degree toward the Ph.D. residency total. The M.D. program permits 90 transfer units (3.0 terms) and the J.D. program permits 30 transfer units (2.0 terms). The M.B.A. program does not allow the transfer of units. 

A maximum of 45 units for graduate work completed at another institution or completed at Stanford towards a master’s degree may be applied to the Stanford requirements for the degrees of Ph.D., D.M.A., or Engineer.

Applications for transfer credit should only be made after successful completion of at least one quarter of graduate work at Stanford. Students enrolled at Stanford who are going to study elsewhere during their degree program should obtain prior approval of any transfer credit sought before their departure. 

The following criteria are used by the degree program in determining whether, in its discretion, Stanford will award transfer residency credit for graduate-level work done at another institution:

  1. Transfer of units earned for graduate work completed at another institution including coursework completed partially or fully online must be approved by the student’s degree program.

  2. The graduate work must have been completed after conferral of the bachelor’s degree; the only exception is for graduate work taken through program structured like the Stanford coterminal bachelor’s/master’s program.

  3. Up to 12 units of graduate work completed when a student is not enrolled in a graduate degree granting program (e.g., extension courses or non-matriculated enrollment) are eligible for transfer; with degree program approval.

  4. Graduate work must have been completed with a grade of B or better in each course. Degree programs may accept a course with a lower grade provided the graduate work accepted for transfer received an overall grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 (B) or better. Pass grades may be accepted at the discretion of the degree program.

  5. Graduate work must have been completed at a regionally accredited institution in the U.S. or at an officially recognized institution in a foreign country. Graduate work completed at foreign universities must be at the level of study comparable to a U.S. graduate program.

  6. Units of graduate work accepted for transfer do not automatically exempt a student from completing Stanford course requirements for their degree.

The Application for Graduate Residency Credit is reviewed by the degree program and the Office of the University Registrar. For transfer credit done under a system other than the quarter system, the permissible maximum units are calculated at an appropriate ratio of equivalence.

Evaluation of Credit for Students Receiving VA Educational Benefits

Liaison among the university, its students, and the various federal, state, and local agencies concerned with veterans’ educational benefits is provided by the Office of the University Registrar. All students eligible to receive veterans’ educational benefits while attending the university are urged to complete arrangements with the appropriate agency well in advance of enrollment. In addition, students are required to have their degree program approve their study lists as meeting graduation requirements before the Office of the University Registrar can certify the courses for Veterans Affairs.

Subject to current federal and university guidelines, students eligible for receipt of VA educational benefits have their prior education and training evaluated up to the credit limits outlined in this Residency policy. As an exception to this policy, students in master’s programs in the Schools of Earth Sciences, Education, Engineering, Humanities and Sciences, Law, Medicine, and Graduate School of Business are allowed a maximum of 6 transfer (quarter) units.