Virginia Commonwealth University

Ph.D. Program

Policies and regulations

Due Process Policies and Procedures

Students in the program are governed by the university policies as described in the VCU Insider/Resource Guide. The Due Process Policies and Procedures document, guided by university policy, is a detailed statement of the school’s policies on grade reviews, the appeals process for students terminated for non-grade related academic reasons, and readmission of terminated students.

All appeals to decisions based upon the Due Process Policies and Procedures document are made to the program director. In the event that satisfactory resolution is not attained, the next level of appeal is the dean of the School of Social Work. Exceptions to any of the policies and procedures identified in this document require the written consent of the program director and, where necessary, the dean of the school.

The School of Social Work Academic Standards Committee has the responsibility for reviewing all doctoral student grade appeals; requests for readmission from students who have been terminated from the program, and reviewing formal charges of violations of professional or ethical conduct lodged against a student. 

» Review the entire Due Process Policies and Procedures


Exceptions to graduate policies must be approved by the dean of the Graduate School.


According to university policies, the time limit for the doctoral degree is eight years. Refer to the Graduate Bulletin for more information concerning the university’s policy on dissertations.

Students are required to enroll continuously (fall and spring) and are expected to make satisfactory progress every semester from matriculation to graduation. It is the responsibility of the student, in collaboration with his or her adviser, to plan for and implement a program of study that achieves those goals.

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The Ph.D. program is an integral part of the School of Social Work, and is well represented in school committees and task forces. The program director oversees the development and implementation of Ph.D. policies and curricular matters in cooperation with the faculty, the dean of the school, and the Doctoral Program Committee (select teaching faculty and elected student representatives).

GRA Q&A and guidelines

For graduate research assistantship information, please see GRA Q&A and guidelines Get Adobe Reader.

Guidelines for funding Ph.D. student travel

The School of Social Work has established the following guidelines for making decisions related to funding Ph.D. students to travel to conferences where they are presenting a paper or engaging in official school business. Although the school will try to give students who meet these criteria some dollars to defer their expenses, there is no guarantee that money for student travel will always be available.

Support for each conference is capped at $500 per student. We want to ensure fair distribution of these funds so that 1) all students have an opportunity to be supported for presentations at the primary social work conferences and 2) student requests for support to present at additional conferences receive fair consideration. Students are to work with their advisors to develop their plan for conference presentations early in the school year and to submit that plan to the doc program director for review. Specific requests for student travel support will be considered within the context of the overall student travel plan for the program.

The program director and ultimately the dean of the School of Social Work reviews all travel requests and makes decisions regarding funding based on the following guidelines:

  1. The presentation must be based on a paper, and the student must be first author or share equal authorship.
  2. It must be a juried presentation – whatever format the presentation takes (e.g., paper presentation, poster session), there has to be a competitive selection process.
  3. The presentation must concern something that was done in conjunction with the student’s Ph.D. work.
  4. The student must be a major participant in the presentation.
  5. The student has an overall plan for conference presentations on file and this presentation fits within his/her overall plan.

Procedure for requesting funding:

  1. The student works with the program assistant to complete a travel request form, specifying the travel information and costs.
  2. A letter (email) requesting the funding with details on how the student meets each of the criteria outlined above should be attached to the travel request form. The student also must indicate if, and when, he/she has previously received conference travel funding from the school.
  3. These materials must be submitted to the program director’s office.
  4. The program director reviews the request, provides a written response to the student and forwards the material to the business office.

In the event that there is not enough money to support all students who meet the minimal criteria, students who have not previously been funded would have the highest priority.

Incomplete grades

The assignment of incomplete grades is reserved for those instances when outside circumstances, such as major illness or life events, prohibit the student from completing coursework within a semester’s usual timeframe. It is not appropriately used due to unforeseen delays in research implementation or to offset the student’s time management issues. It is used when withdrawing from a course(s) is deemed inappropriate for the circumstances and there is reasonable chance the student can complete the work in a timely manner.

When an I grade is assigned by the professor, an Incomplete Grade form must be completed and signed by the student and the faculty member (forms are available from the Program Assistant). A copy of the form must be filed in the student’s file in the Doctoral Program Office. Incomplete grades must be removed by the end of classes in the semester following the semester in which they are given. A student with six hours or more of I will not be permitted to register for additional courses until at least one or both I grades are removed. Students are not eligible for their Comprehensive Exam prior to removal of all I grades by June 30 prior to the exam administration in September. Please refer to the VCU Graduate Bulletin for more information.

Leaves of absence

In general, a leave of absence relieves the student’s obligation to be continuously enrolled in the university and should be used only under extenuating personal or financial circumstances. A request for a one-semester or a one-year (maximum) leave of absence must be made in writing and directed to the Ph.D. program director. Letters must include sufficient detail of the reason for the leave and any relevant documentation. Students who do not receive prior approval for a leave of absence and do not register are dropped from the program and must reapply for admission. In order to avoid termination, during the semester following their leave students are expected to register for appropriate credits/courses and submit a revised program of study/timeline approved by their adviser within the first two weeks of classes. Refer to the Graduate Bulletin for more information about the university’s policy. 

“Residence” requirement and part-time study

While part-time study is possible for some part of the doctoral education experience, one year of full-time study is required at some point during the course work phase of the program. “One year” is specifically defined as two semesters in a row with at least nine credits each. There is no requirement to actually “reside” in Richmond.

School of Social Work Academic Standards Committee

Academic standards policies in the School of Social Work and the university include those related to classroom performance and attendance, as well as ethical and professional conduct.

Academic Standards Committee
VCU Insider/Resource Guide

Student progress and continuation evaluation

As noted above, planning for a program of study to acquire content area knowledge is done by the student in collaboration with a faculty adviser. This planning is completed prior to the completion of the 20 core curriculum credit hours and can be recorded on the Ph.D. Program Planning/Assessment Form [PDF]. A copy of the form is forwarded to the Ph.D. program director and becomes a part of the student’s permanent file. Students also complete a self-assessment [PDF] at the end of their first year.

Students must maintain a B grade-point average to remain in good standing in the program. Any student is immediately terminated if their GPA falls below 3.0. In addition, if two C grades are earned in the program, the student cannot continue in the program. Termination for non-grade related reasons and readmission of students terminated from the program are guided by the School of Social Work’s Academic Standards Policy.