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The Department of English offers the B.A., M.A., M.F.A., and Ph.D. degrees.  M.A. students may choose one of three courses of study, while students admitted to the Ph.D. program may tailor their programs to their research and teaching interests.  A student may expect to finish the M.A. in approximately two to three years, the M.F.A. in three years, and the Ph.D. in five to seven years beyond the M.A.  Students who must find employment while they complete their graduate degrees may need additional time. 

The Graduate Program is administered by the faculty of the Department of English.  The Voting Department, a body comprised of all full-time, tenure-track faculty, plus representatives of the lecturers and SAGE, approves requirements for the M.A., M.F.A., and Ph.D. in English. The College Office of Graduate Affairs (COGA) of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) oversees the student’s completion of all requirements.  

In the Department of English, the Graduate Committee, headed by Phillip Drake, the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), reviews departmental requirements, proposes new policies, and acts on student petitions.  The Graduate Admissions Committee is responsible for reviewing applications for admission and recommending students for available fellowships and graduate teaching assistantships (GTAships).  The Graduate Director provides first-semester advising, aid in forming exam and thesis committees, and final graduation checks. Graduating students seeking employment may consult, in addition to other faculty, Professor Philip Barnard, the Job Placement Advisor. Additional information can be provided by the Graduate Academic Advisor, Mary Strickell.

Three graduate student members of SAGE sit as voting members of the Graduate Committee during discussions of general policy. Among the important functions of the Graduate Committee is the consideration of student petitions for the waiver or modification of departmental requirements in individual cases.  Such petitions are always discussed carefully, normally by the faculty members of the Committee, and sometimes lead ultimately to changes in Department policy.

SAGE (Graduate Student Organization)

In 1967, students in the Department organized the Student Association of Graduates in English (SAGE) for the purpose of stimulating and coordinating student activity in such areas as curriculum, academic standards, ethics, graduate teaching assistantships, and orientation of new graduate students. All graduate students in English become members of SAGE when they begin their graduate studies, and the association encourages active participation.  In addition to an annual picnic at the beginning of the school year, SAGE sponsors colloquia and readings.

SAGE is represented by voting members on the following departmental committees: Advisory, Graduate Committee, First and Second Year English, Graduate Assembly, GTA/Lecturers Committee, Lecturers and Readers Committee, Library Committee, and SAGE Events committee.  Other SAGE Officers include Secretary, SAGE Advice Editor, and Treasurer. For additional information, see the SAGE website.


Requirements for application are on the English website. International applicants, please pay special attention to the additional materials required for non-domestic students. Students who are interested in applying for non-degree-seeking status should first make an appointment to speak to the Director of Graduate Studies as well as the specific instructor(s) of the class(es) they wish to take before applying.

University-wide policies regarding admissions can be found at the KU Policy Library. Here are policies regarding general admission requirements (such as minimum GPA for regular admission) as well as English proficiency requirements for international students, and transfer coursework.

The deadline for all applications and supplemental materials is December 31. The English department only admits new incoming students for fall semester. Applications that are incomplete or missing materials after the December 31 deadline will not be considered for admission for the following fall semester. Incomplete applications can be held for consideration the following academic year.

Master’s graduates of the KU English program who wish to apply to the KU English Ph.D. program must submit the materials required of any new applicant, including a new application form and fee. The student need not resubmit transcripts that were included in the M.A. application, but the applicant must submit a current KU transcript that shows all M.A. coursework.

If you have application questions that aren’t answered on the website, please contact the Graduate Academic Advisor, Mary Strickell, maryj@ku.edu.

[Return to Graduate Handbook index]

Changing Programs or Tracks Within the Department

A student wishing to switch between programs within the department must write a short letter of application to the DGS, detailing the reasons for the change. (If the change is approved, the letter will be placed in the student’s file.) The application should also include relevant writing samples for evaluation by at least three faculty members in the proposed program (Creative Writing; Rhetoric, Composition, Language Studies; Literature/Literary Theory). These faculty members will be selected by the DGS based on field of study and availability. Students will not be able to switch programs until the completion of their first year of coursework.

For MA students in Rhetoric and Composition: Any student who wants to move from the standard MA program to the Rhetoric and Composition 5-year PhD program must consult with the Graduate Director and one of the faculty in Rhetoric and Composition for advice about the appropriateness of the accelerated program for that individual student. If the student wishes to proceed with changing programs, the student should submit to a Rhetoric and Composition faculty member an (unofficial) transcript from KU and a sample paper written in a graduate-level Rhetoric and Composition course at KU. The faculty in the field will consult to determine whether the switch of programs is appropriate.

Allowed Courses for Credit

Courses numbered below 600 may not be taken for graduate credit. A maximum of two 600-level classes can count toward one’s graduate degree. Here are the graduate courses in English currently listed in the KU Graduate Catalog. They are broken into fields.

600-level courses

Rather broad coverage of subject-matter areas; little previous knowledge of the field under study expected. These courses include both undergraduate and graduate students.

700-level courses

Coverage is likely to be more intensive, and field somewhat more limited (although not narrowly confined to the instructor’s individual research), than 600-level courses; amount of writing and student participation in class work, much of it reflecting independent study, likely to be greater than in 600-level courses; classes likely to be smaller than in 600-level courses.

800-level courses

ENGL 800 (Methods, Theory, and Professionalism) is designed to introduce graduate students to the history, methods, resources, conventions, and issues peculiar to English studies and to prepare them to go forward in their graduate careers. Its basic divisions are the history and present status of English studies; the nature and analysis of texts; reference sources and bibliographical tools in all areas of English studies; current critical and theoretical approaches to language, literature, and rhetoric. The course is required for entering Ph.D. students who did not have a similar course in their master’s program, and it is one of the courses that can fulfill the theories and methods requirement for the M.A. It is strongly recommended for MFA students who plan to continue in academia. The DGS will decide whether a course taken elsewhere may fulfill this requirement.

Instructors should teach ENGL 800 as a service course. Its focus is the field as a whole (with the exception of creative writing), and the course should benefit students who want a fuller understanding of literary history and criticism, literary theory, composition and rhetoric, and language study. It should not be confined to the instructor’s individual interests.

ENGL 801 (Study and Teaching of Writing) is a survey of major concepts and issues in the study of writing, especially as applied to teaching composition. Practices in writing pedagogy are also discussed, and students’ teaching of composition is observed and explored. Required of, and enrollment limited to, new teachers of English 101. Three credit hours.

ENGL 802 (Practicum in the Teaching of College English) is a practicum concerned with teaching English 102. Includes weekly group meetings, individual conferences, and class visitations. Required of, and enrollment limited to, new teachers of English 102. One credit hour.

ENGL 896 (Internship) on a transcript highlights professionalization experience that can be valuable in academic and non-academic careers. Unlike a graduate certificate, which might require 2 – 3 courses outside of the department, the student gets a credential from the internship but only has to dedicate one course of one to three credit hours. Students can enroll in ENGL 896 with DGS permission after completing one year of graduate coursework. Only one internship for credit can be completed in any single position; in other words, students cannot get credit for a second semester of English 896 if the internship is taking place at the same place and fulfilling the same duties as in a prior semester. Students can apply up to 6 hours of ENGL 896 towards their degree requirements. Because students cannot get paid for internships and are receiving course credit for ENGL 896, they should be able to testify to the educational portion of this experiential learning project. A journal, portfolio, or reflection paper tying the skills gained during the internship back to English graduate study must be submitted to the internship supervisor to receive the final grade. After the student submits the final project to the internship mentor, the mentor submits a short report and grade to the DGS, who will submit the grade.

ENGL 897 (Preparation for the MA Exam) is an independent reading course for students preparing to take the M.A. examination and not otherwise enrolled in the semester of the examination.  The grade in the course will be S or U, as determined by performance on the examination. It is not required if the student is already enrolled in coursework the semester they take their exam and/or graduate.

ENGL 899 (MA/MFA Thesis) is required for students who choose the thesis option for their degree.

900-level courses (seminars)

Coverage likely to be quite limited; amount of writing and student participation in class work, a great deal if not all of it reflecting independent investigation, likely to be larger than in 700-level and 800-level courses; classes likely to be smaller than in 700-level and 800-level courses (normal maximum for seminars:  twelve students); previous knowledge of the field, normally acquired in formal coursework, essential. ENGL 800 is a prerequisite for all seminars, except with instructor approval.

A seminar should develop:

  • A student’s skill in doing research and formulating and articulating the results of such research.
  • A student’s ability to form an extended critical or scholarly synthesis of materials.

As a challenging intellectual enterprise for advanced graduate students, a seminar will strike some balances:

  • Between the interests, qualifications, and responsibilities of the professor and those of the students.
  • Between independent investigation and group interaction.

ENGL 997 (Preparation for the Doctoral Examination) is a placeholder enrollment for PhD students who are finished with coursework but are not planning to take their exam that semester. There is no formal work required; rather, students use this time to read widely and review intensively, and to consult freely the members of their examining committees and other members of the graduate faculty about appropriate subjects for study.

ENGL 998 (Investigation & Conference) is a graduate-level directed readings course for students working one-on-one or in a small group with a faculty member. Students wishing to enroll must secure the prior approval of the member of the graduate faculty with whom they intend to work and the approval of the Graduate Director.  Students may count only two sections of 998 toward their coursework for a degree. ENGL 998 does not count as a seminar.

ENGL 999 (Dissertation) Students should enroll in ENGL 999 for the semester they take their doctoral exam, and every semester including summers until they successfully defend their dissertation. Please see the KU Policy Library entry for the 18-hour enrollment requirement regarding hours of 999. 


Only grades of A—B are normally taken as indications that a graduate student has done satisfactory work in the courses in which they were received. Please see the KU Policy Library for KU’s letter grade designations for graduate work. Instructors may assign + and - grades, as well as full letter grades. At least a 3.0 average in graduate work is required for the M.A.; a 3.5 average or higher is expected of Ph.D. aspirants.

The grade “I” (Incomplete) is used to indicate work of passing quality in a course, some part of which is, for good reason, unfinished.  It is given only by advance arrangement between instructor and student.  Some instructors may reserve the right not to give I’s.  University policy on Incompletes may be found here. The English department discourages Incompletes except in truly unusual emergency situations; students are advised to make the removal of any I’s on their record a matter of first priority. The accumulation of more than three Incompletes or the failure to have an Incomplete removed within one year will result in a graduate student falling out of good academic standing and non-reappointment to a graduate teaching assistantship.

The letters S or U (Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory) are used to indicate participation in M.A. exam, M.A. or M.F.A. thesis defense, doctoral exam, doctoral dissertation defense, and in the first semester enrollment of a two-semester sequence course. Upon completion of a two-semester sequence course, the instructor shall assign a regular letter grade for each P (Pass) or S given. A grade of I is not appropriate for enrollment in thesis, exam hours, or dissertation and will not be accepted.

Transfer Credit

Students planning to transfer graduate credit from other institutions are urged to secure advance approval from the DGS; in order to have the DGS consider counting this credit, they must submit, to the Department, an official transcript showing the work done elsewhere and graded A or B, and indicating clearly that it was taken for graduate credit while enrolled in a graduate program but was not counted toward a degree. Students may request up to nine hours of transfer credit. Graduate Studies will not accept for transfer:

1.Courses taken at a university outside of the United States.

2.Courses from any non-accredited domestic school.

3.Courses listed as workshops or institutes.

4.Distance-learning classes.

5.Courses graded lower than a B.

[Return to Graduate Handbook index]

Academic Integrity, Good Standing, and Academic Misconduct

To be considered in "good standing" in any graduate program, the University requires graduate students

to maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 (or “B” average) and be making timely progress toward meeting their

degree requirements. Here is the policy page for additional information on good standing.

According to the University Senate Rules and Regulations (Article II, Section 2.6.1.), “Academic misconduct by a student shall include, but not be limited to, disruption of classes, giving or receiving of unauthorized aid on examinations or in the preparation of notebooks, themes, reports or other assignments, or knowingly misrepresenting the source of academic work.” The Policy Library contains further discussion of university procedures and penalties regarding academic misconduct.

In addition, the departmental Graduate Committee approved the following statement: “Written work done for one class will not be accepted in another class. Questions of interpretation of this rule must be cleared with the instructor in advance. Work submitted for any course is expected to be substantially original (i.e., original with the student) and designed to meet the requirements of the course.”

If a student falls out of good standing and has not returned to good standing after one semester out of good standing, the student’s name will be forwarded to the College and the student will be put on academic probation for one additional semester. Following the probationary period, the DGS and Graduate Committee senior staff will review the student’s progress. If satisfactory progress has not been made, the student may be dismissed from the program. S/he can also withdraw voluntarily. If dismissed, the student cannot re-enroll at the university at any point in the future. Voluntary withdrawal allows a student to re-enroll at a future time.

Advising and Mentoring

Master’s students, during their first year at KU, are advised by the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), with whom they are expected to confer about enrollment. Incoming doctoral students will be assigned a faculty advisor by the DGS, who will take into account each student’s preferences as to advisor. At the minimum, the advisor will confer with the new doctoral student about course selection; will assist the doctoral student in developing (or articulating) a specialty; and will suggest avenues for pursuing the student’s professional goals (e.g., suggesting journals or conferences to submit to, fellowships to apply for, etc.). Assignments of doctoral advisors must be evenly distributed among tenured faculty members; junior faculty are permitted, at their choosing, to opt out of advising incoming doctoral students until they are tenured, and should not be asked to advise more than one new doctoral student at a time. Doctoral students will be assigned advisors during their first two years of study or until they designate a chair for the doctoral exam committee, whichever comes first.

M.A. and M.F.A. students are required to find advisors no later than the end of their second year. Advisees are encouraged to meet with their advisors regularly to discuss progress and plans. Each Ph.D. student should confer regularly with the DGS regarding his or her progress toward the doctoral exam examination and the doctorate.

Students need have no doubt as to their academic standing and should not hesitate to approach the DGS and appropriate graduate faculty members for counsel about scholarly, academic, or professional matters.  In each course, the instructor will be glad to discuss the student’s work with him or her.  Regarding more general questions, the DGS is available for consultation during scheduled office hours and by appointment.

Mentoring is an extended and ongoing conversation between the student and the graduate advisor—whether about classes, the thesis or dissertation process, professional expectations, or post-graduation plans.

1.The student and the advisor should clearly outline the expectations for the student’s performance.

Here are some questions you might consider:

  • What is considered good academic progress when preparing for oral exams? What are the key milestones and timelines for completion?
  • What is considered good academic progress toward the thesis or dissertation? What are the key milestones and timelines for completion?
  • What is expected of students in order to prepare for meetings with the advisor/committee members? What is the appropriate way to submit draft materials? Should something written be prepared?
  • What happens if the student doesn’t meet these expectations as discussed and agreed upon with the advisor? (i.e. What might be the short- or long-term consequences?)

2.The student and the advisor should clearly outline the expectations for the advisor.

  • What is the turnaround time on feedback? How frequently should meetings occur? What is the extent of written comments/suggestions for revision? etc.

3.The student and the advisor should establish a realistic timeline for completion of the independent study paper / thesis / dissertation / degree that takes into account past performance, the work that remains, the amount of time the student can reasonably dedicate to the work, and any extenuating circumstances or challenges that might affect progress.

4.The timeline and expectations should be revisited regularly (each semester or annually) and adjusted as needed.

Example of Graduate Mentoring Agreement

Student Name:

Advisor Name:


Milestones and Timeline: Please provide detailed information on the expected steps toward completion of the project, including the various stages of research, drafts, revisions, and final submissions.











Results of Inadequate Progress: If the student does not complete the tasks set out for the semester, will s/he receive a “U” grade? What are the implications of this “U” grade?

Feedback and Revisions: Please explain who will provide feedback to the student and with what frequency. If a committee will provide feedback and review of student progress, please explain what the student should expect of this process.

By signing below, all parties acknowledge that they understand and agree to adhere to the expectations outlined in this Agreement.

Student Signature: ____________________________________                            Date: ____________________

Faculty Signature(s) : __________________________________                            Date: ____________________

[Return to Graduate Handbook index]

Professional Development

The Department sponsors events that provide an opportunity for students to gain valuable professional experience through the presentation of a paper, or perhaps a dissertation chapter, before fellow students and faculty. Among these opportunities are periodic conferences and events sponsored by SAGE. Also, the Graduate Director and the Job Placement Advisor, in conjunction with SAGE, organize regular sessions on the job market, alternatives to academic employment, interviewing, getting into print, grant writing, and finances. Students are encouraged to participate, receive important criticism of their work, and prepare for future careers, the presentation of research and creative efforts at scholarly and professional conferences, and/or publication.

Funds for Professional Development

The Travel Funds Committee invites applications from graduate students and part-time lecturers to support professional development activities. Funds are intended to support a trip of significant distance to support your own professional development, such as (in order of preference):

  • Presenting a scholarly paper or reading from your own creative work at a regional or national conference,
  • Conducting research at a library or archive,
  • Engaging in a project at a major workshop or institute, or
  • Serving as principal organizer for a session at a regional or national conference.

Graduate student applicants should first seek support from the Office of Graduate Studies, which maintains funds to help defray expenses for one trip per student for a conference presentation or dissertation research (http://www.graduate.ku.edu/funding). Applicants for department travel funds are encouraged to submit their materials well in advance, preferably six weeks before the travel dates. Electronic applications (preferably by Word or PDF attachment) are encouraged. Applications should include:

1.Cover letter detailing the professional activity to be completed, including title(s) of any presentation(s), dates of travel, destination, and an explanation of how the activity will help the applicant meet professional goals for his or her own work;

2.Copy of presentation abstract, conference session proposal, or research project description;

3.Copy of acceptance letter (for conference presentation or session), letter of invitation (for readings or workshops), or information regarding the archival materials to be viewed (for research projects);

4.Copy of completed coursework.

The Committee urges applicants to write their presentation abstracts or research project descriptions in language accessible to non-specialist readers. We look forward to receiving inquiries and applications at dfowler@ku.edu.

The Angela L. Jones Opportunity Fund, which used to be limited to graduate students focused on technical writing, has now been broadened to include graduate students in rhetoric and composition. The fund is designed to support travel, fees, research, and projects. The student does not have to be presenting a paper at a conference to be eligible. Applicants are encouraged to submit their materials well in advance, preferably six weeks before the travel dates. Electronic applications (preferably by Word or PDF attachment) are encouraged. Applications should include:

  1. Cover letter detailing the professional activity to be completed, including title(s) of any presentation(s), dates of travel, destination, and an explanation of how the activity will help the applicant meet professional goals for his or her own work;
  2. Copy of presentation abstract, conference session proposal, or research project description;
  3. Copy of acceptance letter (for conference presentation or session), letter of invitation (for readings or workshops), or information regarding the archival materials to be viewed (for research projects);
  4. Copy of completed coursework.

Applicants should write abstracts or project descriptions in language accessible to non-specialist readers. Send inquiries and applications to the DGS.

Grievance Procedures

Should a grievance arise, the student affected should make the circumstances known to the DGS, either directly or through the SAGE Ombuds.  If the matter cannot be satisfactorily resolved at the departmental level, the next recourse is the University Ombuds.  The last resort is the College Office of Graduate Affairs (COGA). Here are instructions and department policy on filing an official grievance.


If a graduate student has compelling reason to seek exemption from program requirement or University policy, they may submit a petition to the graduate faculty. Petitioners should write a letter, addressed to the graduate faculty, explaining the reasons why the student is seeking exemption from specific rules, as well as how the educational goals the rules reflect will still be fulfilled. Where applicable, this petition should be accompanied by a letter of support from the student's advisor and/or the appropriate supporting materials. The letter should be sent to the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), who then refers the petition to the graduate faculty, which will convene to consider the petition.

In cases where the policy or requirement is a departmental requirement (for example, a course requirement for degree) the graduate faculty will issue a final decision (for example, the student may be exempt from a Ph.D. course requirement based on coursework taken at the M.A. level at a previous institution).

In cases where the policy or requirement being petitioned is a University policy, the graduate faculty will decide whether to support the student’s petition. If the faculty is in support, the department will submit a petition form to the College Office of Graduate Affairs accompanied by supporting materials as required. The petition form specifies the supporting material needed for each kind of petition. These materials must accompany the petition sent to COGA. COGA’s petitions web page provides additional information regarding University petitions, including supplemental documentation that may be required by the University. Additional information regarding the more common University petitions, such as Leave of Absence, Enrollment requirements, and Time Limit Extensions may also be found in the University Policies & Degree requirements section of this document.

In cases where the graduate faculty declines to support a University petition, no paperwork may be submitted to COGA. COGA only accepts student petitions in cases where there is documented departmental support and when the petition itself is submitted by a representative of the department. Students should always consult with the DGS prior to submitting a petition to the graduate faculty to ensure that a petition is necessary and that all the appropriate supporting documentation is accounted for.

[Return to Graduate Handbook index]


this week's Departmental News Bulletin
information about First and Second Year English
information about Undergraduate Degrees
information about Graduate Degrees
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