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Absences from MIT

Research mandates or personal circumstances may compel graduate students to be absent from MIT for brief periods or for extended periods of time. The Office of Graduate Education has quite specific regulations governing such absences and subsequent return to the Institute, which are described in MIT’s Graduate Education Manual and implemented by the Dean of Graduate Education and the Committee on Graduate Programs (CGP).

All proposed absences must be discussed with and approved by the student’s supervisor and submitted for Departmental approval to the Graduate Program Committee Chair (c/o Room 16-267). In most cases, additional approval will have to be sought from the CGP through the Office of Graduate Education.

Leaves of Absence (Personal or Medical)

Personal or professional circumstances may sometimes compel a student to withdraw from Graduate School, for example to reconsider career objectives, provide financial stability through temporary employment, accompany a spouse to a posting in another city, attend to family obligations, give birth, etc. There are no formal provisions for leaves of absence for graduate students for these reasons (except Child birth, see Child birth section), rather, leaves of short duration for personal reasons, such as family business or a brief personal illness or illness in the family, can be granted at the discretion of the faculty supervisor and are to be negotiated on a case by case basis.

The only formal option for a leave available to graduate students is a medical leave of absence, which is intended for personal medical problems or emergencies only, not those related to family members or others. Students are advised to seek advice from the graduate administrator, or the Department’s graduate officer, to discuss how best to handle this issue.

If a student is absent for longer than one-year (two regular academic semesters and one summer academic semester) the student is then considered withdrawn from MIT and will need to apply through the Department for readmission to the Institute. A letter should be sent to the Chair of the Admissions Committee (c/o Room 16-267), supplying the relevant details. Readmission cannot be guaranteed, and the decision will be based on the student’s prior record as a graduate student, circumstances of the withdrawal,period of absence, prospects for research support upon readmission, and other relevant factors. In some cases re-entering students must arrange for a new project and/or research support.

International students considering a leave MUST check with the International Students Office for detailed information regarding Visa status and applying for a leave.

Personal leave

Leaves of short duration for personal reasons, such as family business or a brief personal illness or illness in the family, can be granted at the discretion of the faculty supervisor and are to be negotiated on a case by case basis.

Medical withdrawal

A medical withdrawal may be granted or required for mental and/or physical conditions that interfere with a student’s ability to participate in campus life including their ability to complete or make satisfactory progress towards academic goals. For graduate students, medical withdrawals are granted or required by the Office of Graduate Education and require appropriate medical documentation and a letter of support from the department from which the student is seeking a medical withdrawal. Medical withdrawal is not intended as a device to shield a student from unsatisfactory progress or any other academic irregularity. Students will need to make an appointment with a counseling dean or graduate education dean as appropriate to discuss their plans.

For detailed information, please consult

Childbirth Accommodation and Parental Leave

MIT graduate students have access (according to eligibility) to two different leaves when they give birth or undertake significant responsibilities for a newborn child or a child newly placed with them: Childbirth Accommodation and/or Parental Leave. Students must initiate planning with their department; the Office of Graduate Education (OGE) provides final review and approval.

Childbirth Accommodation
Applicability: This policy applies to any full-time, registered graduate student who has recently given birth (is a “birth parent”). It does not apply to adoption or to non-birth parents. Birth parents are also eligible for Parental Leave. It is structured as a leave for up to two months from academic and research work.

Parental Leave
Applicability: This policy applies to full-time, registered graduate students who have significant responsibilities for a newborn child or a child newly placed with them through adoption, surrogacy, foster care, or court order. It also applies to both birth and non-birth parents within the first six months of the child(ren)’s birth. It is structured as a one-month leave from academic and research work for eligible graduate students.

If each parent is an MIT graduate student during the first six months of new parenthood, then each is eligible for Parental Leave. For more detailed information, please consult the Office of Graduate Education at

Non-Resident Doctoral Thesis Research Status

Nonresident doctoral thesis research status is intended for doctoral students who have completed all requirements other than the thesis. Thesis research is ordinarily carried out while the student is in residence at the Institute. However, on some occasions, it may be essential or desirable that the student be absent from the campus during a portion of his or her thesis research or writing. Permission to become a nonresident doctoral candidate must be obtained from the Dean for Graduate Education at least one month prior to Registration Day of the term during which the student wishes to register in this category (a fee will be assessed for late requests).

Prior to submission, the request form must be approved by the student’s thesis supervisor and by the departmental graduate officer from the student’s department of registration. Justification for the nonresident status must be set forth in the proposal. This may include: field work or data collection; use of special or unique facilities at other laboratories; the need to accompany a thesis supervisor who transfers to another institution prior to completion of thesis research; simultaneous employment unrelated to the Institute and also unrelated to the thesis research. Arrangements must be described through which the thesis research will be supervised by a member of the faculty or a senior staff member approved by the department.

Prior to seeking approval, the student must have completed the general qualifying examinations and must have been in residence as a regular graduate student for a period of at least four regular terms (periods of residence at other educational institutions, as a special student or during the summer session at MIT may not be counted in meeting this requirement). The student must also have submitted a thesis proposal that indicates approval by the supervisor and the appropriate departmental committee. A summary of the proposal must be included with the request for nonresident status submitted to the Dean for Graduate Education.

Registration, Tuition, Graduation

A student who is permitted to undertake nonresident thesis research must register as a nonresident doctoral candidate and pay a substantially reduced tuition. For the first three regular academic terms, tuition is approximately 5 percent of regular full tuition. Thereafter, it is charged at approximately 15 percent. The Schedule of Fees sets forth the specific tuition charges.

Registration must be continuous. If a student is withdrawn and then readmitted to resident status to submit a thesis and receive the doctoral degree that same term, tuition will be 1.5 times the full tuition for a regular term.

Initial approval for nonresident status is granted for two successive regular terms in the same academic year. Registration as a nonresident doctoral candidate is not required during the summer session unless the student is returning to resident status to complete degree requirements and submit a thesis. Continuation for two additional periods of two regular terms each may be granted by the Dean for Graduate Education if the student’s progress is satisfactory and if the thesis supervisor and the department so recommend. Generally, a maximum of six regular terms in nonresident status will be permitted. Longer periods will need written endorsement from the department of registration.

Following completion of the nonresident period, the student must return to resident status for completion and presentation of the doctoral thesis. If the thesis is completed during the first term of resident status (including summer session), tuition will be prorated on a weekly basis subject to a minimum charge of one half the tuition for a regular term.

Fellowship support

For the first three semesters of nonresident status, a student may receive fellowship support from MIT for an amount up to 5 percent of tuition per semester. After the third semester, nonresident students can no longer receive fellowship support from MIT. Eligibility for federal loans and reimbursement-based external tuition fellowships remain unaffected for the length of nonresident tenure.

Use of facilities

Nonresident students have limited access to the facilities and academic life of the Institute. However, they are permitted access to the libraries and athletic facilities and have the same student health privileges and options as resident students upon payment of the appropriate fees.

Housing for nonresident students

Nonresident doctoral candidates are not eligible to reside in student housing or to be graduate resident tutors. Upon approval for nonresident status, students must terminate their current license agreements (with adherence to current policies) and forfeit their continuing housing status, if applicable. Students granted this status may subsequently request to be put on a waiting list and, when space is available, may be assigned housing on a semester-by-semester basis.

Should space become available after all other fully registered students have requested and have been granted an assignment on campus, Housing will then offer the nonresident candidate an available space. Students on the waiting list will be offered a space in the order of date applied. Housing will try to allow students already in graduate housing who move to nonresident status and who receive an offer from the waiting list to stay in their current location, but this is not guaranteed.

Part-time MIT employment for nonresident students

Students cannot accept employment as academic, administrative, or research staff, or as hourly employees at MIT, Lincoln Laboratory, or the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory while registered as nonresident graduate students.

Brief Absences for Research Conducted Elsewhere

Thesis research is ordinarily done in residence at the Institute. However, on some occasions research may need to be conducted elsewhere – at a national laboratory or national facility, with collaborators at another university or industry, at a research sponsor’s premises, etc. If the absence from the Institute is only for a few days, it is necessary only to ensure that the thesis supervisor is adequately informed.

For research elsewhere conducted for periods longer than one week, approval must be sought in writing from the Chair of the Graduate Committee after establishing compelling reasons. A copy of the Graduate Committee Chair’s approval must be filed with the Graduate Students Office. Such approval must be obtained before leaving the Institute, with ample time for consideration by the Graduate Committee Chair and notification of the BE Graduate Education Office.

Thesis Research in Absentia

Thesis research is ordinarily done in residence at the Institute. However, on some occasions and in some fields, work such as the gathering of data away from the Institute may be essential or desirable. Approval for thesis research to be done in absentia is given in writing by the departmental graduate officer, after establishing that there are compelling educational reasons to approve thesis research in absentia. A copy of that approval must be filed in the Office of Graduate Education.

Such approval must be requested before leaving the Institute, with ample time for full consideration by the department and/or notification of the Office of Graduate Education.

Students must register and pay full tuition while pursuing thesis research in absentia. In unusual circumstances, the Dean may set a special tuition rate for such students.

The following requirements must also be met:

  • The opportunity for the continuing intellectual growth of the student must be clearly evident.
  • The thesis must continue to be supervised by an Institute faculty member, or by a senior staff member approved by the department.
  • The student must be registered as a full time resident during the final term.
  • A doctoral student must normally have completed the general examination requirement for the degree, and devote full time to thesis research in absentia.