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Doctoral Student Support, Ph.D. Program Admissions

September 29, 2020

The COVID-19 public health crisis has had a serious, ongoing impact on colleges and universities across the nation, students enrolled at Brown, our broader campus community, and multiple aspects of University operations and finances. Among the many challenges are the disruption of the ability of many graduate students to conduct research and fieldwork, and the more limited professional opportunities for new Ph.D. graduates that are a result of the financial impact of the pandemic on higher education. We write with an update on support for doctoral students at Brown and to inform you of steps that are being taken to ensure that we can best assist currently enrolled students as they complete their degrees. Read more.

In response to the pandemic’s effect on doctoral students, we made Ph.D. students eligible for a two-semester extension of their fellowship packages. Students now entering the fourth, fifth or sixth year are eligible for this extension, and a number of current seventh-year students are being supported by an exceptional extension of their funding this fall. Recognizing that our new graduates will face diminished employment prospects inside and outside of academia due to the effects of the health crisis, Brown has also redoubled efforts to provide professional development opportunities. The Graduate School is collaborating with academic deans to develop further training and in some cases employment for recent graduates while helping to meet teaching and other needs. As one example, we are expanding the Deans Faculty Fellows program, which enables recent graduates to be appointed as visiting assistant professors at Brown.

These extraordinary measures involve a significant financial commitment, which the University is making because we believe it is our responsibility to support students in Brown’s outstanding doctoral programs and to ensure that they are able to complete their degrees successfully. We also recognize that further measures, such as technology support and emergency funding, may be necessary as we adjust to the new environment.

To ensure that we are able to allocate resources to support the educational and career development of currently enrolled doctoral students, we have decided to pause admission for the coming 2021-22 year to Ph.D. programs that are primarily funded by the University’s central budget. This includes most programs in the humanities and the social sciences, in which students are supported primarily through funding from the University directly. For programs in which doctoral students are sustained by grant funding — largely those in the life and physical sciences — the Graduate School is working with faculty leaders to evaluate how best to support existing students and whether or not to admit new students to these programs. The decision follows input from faculty across multiple departments and requests by many of those departments to pause admissions for the coming year in order to support current students.

While we recognize that some will welcome this decision and others will be disappointed, we firmly believe that it is the most responsible course of action in the current situation. A pause in admission will allow us to prioritize our commitments to our existing students while we also work to strengthen our Ph.D. programs in light of the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. It will provide both time and financial resources to support our students and programs as we navigate the current crisis.

These decisions build upon the extensive commitments the University has made to supporting and expanding the excellence of our graduate programs. Over the past several years, we have increased stipends, enhanced benefits, developed additional advising resources, augmented support for diversity and inclusion, and expanded professional development opportunities. Brown recognizes that graduate students play a vital role, as researchers, teachers and mentors, in binding together generative intellectual communities of faculty, postdocs, grad students and undergrads.

The doctoral program overview pages that are accessible via the graduate program finder on provide details on the status of admissions for each Ph.D. program offered by the Graduate School.


Richard M. Locke, Provost

Andrew G. Campbell, Dean of the Graduate School