Academic Progress

The Coordinated Doctoral Programs in Biomedical Sciences require that all work for the PhD degree must be completed within nine years of full-time registration, less any Leave of Absence. Permission to register each term is contingent, in part, on judgment that progress in the degree program is satisfactory. Satisfactory progress is assessed on the basis of grades, timely completion of qualifying examinations and thesis requirements, and success in securing a Research Mentor. All coursework must be completed with a minimum grade of “B”. A student who fails to maintain satisfactory progress will be alerted to his or her deficiencies, advised of the means to remedy them, and told the consequences of his or her failure to do so. A student who fails to maintain satisfactory progress after such a probationary period will have his or her candidacy terminated. Each program maintains its own standards of satisfactory academic progress and procedures for addressing deficiencies. In cases of egregious failure to achieve progress, a student may be dismissed from the degree program without a probationary period.

Change of Program

A student who is currently registered in the Coordinated Doctoral Programs in Biomedical Sciences may apply for a change of PhD program/track by completing the proper form and submitting a detailed description of the reason for the change. Change of department requests cannot be made within the first year of enrollment. Approval for such requests is solely at the discretion of the DGS of both programs and the deans. Once the request is approved, you are considered to be a student in the new program and are subject to the academic requirements of that program.

Child-Care Subsidy

Parents who are PhD candidates enrolled in the Coordinated Doctoral Programs in Biomedical Sciences are eligible to receive a $5,000 subsidy for each child who qualifies by being under the age of 6 and not yet attending kindergarten for FY23-24. If both parents are PhD students in the Coordinated Doctoral Programs eligible for funding, each of them can apply individually for the child-care subsidy. The Application for Child-Care Subsidy must be submitted each academic year to the OGA. For each eligible child, a copy of his/her birth certificate or adoption documents must be attached.


During the fall and spring semesters, it is possible to register for courses in other divisions of the University at no additional cost. There is no cross-registration during the summer semesters. The availability of courses and procedures vary by School. Permission of your mentor and DGS are required.


Enrollment in the PhD Program is a full-time endeavor. While we recognize that work experience can be beneficial for your career, there are only two conditions under which students can secure employment outside of the doctoral program: The work must be science related and can be no more than 8 hours per week. All employments outside of the doctoral program (on campus or off campus) must be approved by your mentor, the DGS, and the Deans.

International students enrolled full time and in valid F-1 status can generally work on-campus for up to 20 hours per week during when classes are in session.  The United States has strict rules for international students who want to work during their studies.  Please contact the ISSO for clarification.

Leave of Absence

Continuous registration is normally required of all degree candidates in the GSAS. Under certain circumstances a student may be exempt from the continuous registration requirement as described below. Students who intend to take a leave of absence must notify the OGA by submitting the Leave of Absence Form.

  • Medical Leave of Absence: On the written recommendation of a physician and with the approval of the DGS and the Deans, a student who must interrupt study temporarily because of physical or psychological illness will be granted a Medical Leave of Absence. The physician should confirm that the student is unable to engage in graduate study and may suggest when the resumption of study can be expected. A Medical Leave may be approved at any time during a student’s degree candidacy, except during the first term of study, when a Withdrawal would be more appropriate. A Medical Leave may be granted only to students in good academic standing who are eligible to continue in the degree program when they return from leave. PhD students on approved medical leave will continue to have health insurance coverage for up to two semesters.  The Coordinated Doctoral Programs will pay for the first semester and the student may pay out of pocket for health insurance coverage for the subsequent semester if needed. In order to be reinstated after a Medical Leave, the student must secure the written approval of the physician treating the student during the Leave, confirming that the student is capable of returning to graduate study and proposing any recommended qualifications (e.g. part-time study) as necessary.
  • Military Leave of Absence: A student who must interrupt study temporarily to fulfill a compulsory military obligation will be granted a Military Leave of Absence. The student seeking a military leave of absence must provide written documentation from the appropriate military authorities (including dates of the period of obligation), and the program must certify that the student is in good academic standing and is eligible to continue in the degree program upon return.
  • Personal Leaves of Absence: A student in the Coordinated Doctoral Programs in Biomedical Sciences is eligible for a Personal Leave of Absence only after satisfactory completion of at least one year of study. Students who have completed the Master of Philosophy (MPhil) or who have completed five years of full-time study or the equivalent areNOT ordinarily eligible for a non-medical, non-military leave. A leave will be granted only upon certification by the program that the student is in good academic standing; has progressed in a timely manner towards the degree according to GSAS and program requirements; and is eligible to continue in the degree program upon return.

Student Emergency/Hardship Fund

The Student Emergency/Hardship Fund is intended to mitigate financial hardship that results from sudden, extreme, and unanticipated circumstances, and which may preclude the student from completing their studies. The fund reimburses one-time expenses up to $5,000 for students who demonstrate that expenses cannot be covered by current sources of income or other prosonal resrources. Students must be currently registered in the Coordinated Doctoral Programs in Biomedical Sciences.  Expenses must be for immediate circumstances and directly related to the student. Expenses must be for new and unanticipated, non-recurring circumstance. 

Applicants must provide a brief description (300 words or less) of their unanticipated hardship. The description should include details about the circumstances that present the hardship. Applicants must submit all required application materials and related receipts to the Office of Graduate Affairs (Biomedicalsciences@cumc.columbia.edu). 

Time Off

  • Parental Accommodation: Students who give birth or adopt while enrolled are entitled to up to 12-week (funded) where regular responsibilities associated with their doctoral program are suspended for pregnancy, birth, and/or care of a newborn. Responsibilities that may be suspended include class attendance, course assignments, exams, and other academic requirements; and research and other work in the lab. The use of parental accommodation must be approved by the DGS. Request for Accommodation for Parental Responsibilities should be submitted to the OGA. Either parent is eligible for parental accommodation.
  • Religious Holidays: It is the policy of the University to respect its members' religious beliefs. In compliance with New York State law, each student who is absent from school because of his or her religious beliefs will be given an equivalent opportunity to register for classes or make up any examination, study, or work requirements that he or she may have missed because of such absence on any particular day or days. No student will be penalized for absence due to religious beliefs, and alternative means will be sought for satisfying the academic requirements involved.
  • Sick Days: Students may continue to receive compensation for up to two weeks of paid sick leave per year. Sick leave may be used for the medical conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Vacation: In any given academic year, students are entitled to ten days of vacation time off per year without loss of compensation beyond the 13 designated university/federal holidays. A “week” is defined by the number of days in a given calendar week that students are expected to be available to discharge their responsibilities. Time off during the designated university/federal holidays is non-negotiable. Students observe the University academic holiday schedule. Those who are required to work on a University academic holiday shall receive an alternate day off approved in advance by their supervisor. Doctoral students who plan to take time off at other times may do so only after coordinating with their adviser or PI when holding a research appointment and/or the faculty instructor or lead course coordinator when holding a teaching appointment. This will ensure that the requested time off does not conflict with the responsibilities attendant to the research enterprise or course. Vacation time off not taken within the academic year will be forfeited.  The period between the spring and fall semesters is considered to be an active time of research and research training, and is not considered to be a vacation or holiday.
  • Personal Day: Students are entitled to one (1) paid personal day per semester (fall, spring, and summer). Personal day use must be approved in advance after coordinating with their thesis advisor or PI when holding a research appointment and/or the faculty instructor or lead course coordinator when holding a teaching appointment.  Personal days not taken with the semester will be forfeited.  

Time to Degree

The average time-to-degree in the Coordinated Doctoral Programs is 5.6 years. Students enrolled for more than six years need Dean's approval for additional time in the programs and registration, and may not be guaranteed funding or housing. Students are allowed nine years of continuous registration to satisfy all requirements for the doctoral degree. Students who do not complete all requirements for the doctoral degree by the end of the ninth year will no longer be considered GSAS PhD degree candidates and will be notified accordingly in writing by GSAS.


A student in good academic standing who is not subject to discipline will always be given an honorable discharge if he or she wishes to withdraw from the University. Withdrawal is defined as the dropping of one’s entire program in a given term as opposed to dropping a portion of one’s program. Any student withdrawing must discuss with the DGS in person and notify the OGA in writing.

Essential Policies for the Columbia Community

The Columbia University Essential Policies website contains valuable information to help students, faculty, and staff understand some of the policies and regulations of the University. Policies on this website pertain to campus safety (including harassment and discrimination), the confidentiality of student records, drug and alcohol use, student leaves, and political activity, as well as others.

Procedures to Host an Event with Alcohol

  1. Student Organizations officially recognized by the Office of Graduate Affairs (OGA) are permitted to register a university-sponsored activity at which alcoholic beverages are consumed and served.  Student Organizations must submit a request to OGA and identify the “Primary Contacts” and “Secondary Contacts” in the request. 
  2. Student Organization wishing to initiate a university-sponsored activity at which alcoholic beverages will be served must comply with all university policies and all applicable federal, state and local laws pertaining to the procurement, and/or distribution of alcoholic beverages.  Alcoholic beverages may not be served where money changes hands (sale of drinks, admission charged, donations solicited, etc.) without the appropriate license or permit. Events that involve money changing hands require a Temporary Beer and Wine Permit issued by the New York State Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. This includes free events under an organization that charges a membership fee. For more information on New York State legal requirements visit Columbia University's website.
  3. At events where alcohol is served, there must be designated students responsible for upholding the alcohol policy. Designated students must participate in Social Host Alcohol Training sponsored by AIMS: Addiction Information and Management Strategies.
  4. Unless otherwise specified by other published university policies, alcohol may only be served during the following hours:  Sunday through Thursday, Noon - 11:30PM, and Friday and Saturday, Noon - 1:30AM.
  5. Food and non-alcoholic beverages must be provided for consumption throughout the duration of the sponsored activity.
  6. Drinking contests or games of any kind are not allowed at events.
  7. Alcohol cannot be donated for a university-sponsored activity at which alcoholic beverages are consumed or served.
  8. Sponsors are responsible for the behavior and conduct of their members and their guests at any sponsored activity at which alcoholic beverages are consumed or served.  Violations of law, these Procedures, or other university policies at an activity at which alcoholic beverages are consumed or served may result in administrative or disciplinary action for the hosting or co-hosting student organization or the respective individual students.