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Open Graduate Education FAQ for Students


Why does the Graduate School target about 10 students for each cohort?
There are real costs associated with the program. Given current resources, we had to limit the cohort size.  The exact number of students admitted to the program will depend on the proposed paths of study of the students in the cohort. 

Are there any legal visa issues?
No, because you will still be considered a full-time student. 

How long will the master’s programs take to complete?
Master’s programs vary in length.  Many take one year, but some take longer. You have to see how your program of choice fits into the six-year timeline.  This might create a bias against the longer duration programs. 

Is it possible to complete my PhD in five years, including my thesis defense, and then continue the Master's program during my sixth year?
Yes, you could complete the program in this format. You would need to complete your master's as quickly as possible, as soon as mid-year in the following year. You would continue to receive your doctoral stipend while taking the master's classes in that period. Note, though, that you would need a plan for the summer months.  If you anticipate receiving a stipend in the summer, you would need to be on campus and pursuing either research or teaching full time. 

Where do you TA – in the department of your doctoral studies?
Yes, you should TA in the department of your PhD.  However, students who in their last year are on TA support may apply to teach a course that that is designed to combine the expertise in the area of the dissertation and the master’s program. 

I’m in my fourth year of studies. What are the complications?
There is not a lot of time left.  It probably would be difficult to design a path to completion of both degrees within the six-year time frame.  

What is the role of the primary advisor in a master’s thesis and can you combine these theses?
From the Graduate School perspective, there can be some combination, but you must clarify your plans with both programs.  

Would you get both degrees at the same time?
You should come to Commencement to receive your degree as soon as you complete the requirements. 

Is there a limit on the number of students a department can put forward for the pilot program?
No, there is not. 

What is required for the coursework in the secondary program?
This will depend on the Master’s program you choose.  Please see specific programs for requirements.

What is the major difference between a dual degree program and this program?
The Open Graduate Education program provides additional financial and professional development support. Opportunities include cohort luncheons and dinners, speakers and conversation, and one-on-one advising with Graduate School deans.  There will be a community supporting you in this program.

What does “in good standing mean” academically?
This is determined by your program, but generally speaking, if you are on top of your work and assignments, you should be in good standing.  For details please refer to the Graduate School Handbook.

What kind of criteria is used to evaluate applicants?
We are looking at the entire application. With that said, we are very interested in how well you have thought out the connection of the two programs and the meaningfulness of this combination of studies.

Will it be necessary for admitted students to be on campus during the summers in order to receive the extra financial support?
It doesn't matter where the student is located, but it is a requirement that the student work on his/her dissertation during the summers. The purpose of the enhanced summer funding is to allow students to make up for time spent on the master’s studies, which is important for reaching the targeted time for completion of both degrees.

Scope and Application

What is the path and how do you structure the combination?
That is up to you. For example, you could take a steady stream of master’s courses while maintaining your focus on the PhD studies, with the aim to complete the master’s program when the PhD is complete. Or, you could focus on the master’s program for a period of time, and then return to the PhD studies later. Or any other combination. Importantly, the path should be well explained and reasoned in the application.  

Do you have any preference for combinations of programs?
No, we don’t. We are excited to see what students propose. Similarly, we have no preconceived notions about the distance between programs. 

Which master’s programs can be chosen?
Please see a list posted of programs that have agreed to participate in this pilot project.

Note, too, that there is an integrative master’s program listed in the Graduate School Handbook. If you are interested in pursuing that, you need Graduate Council approval.  If you are interested in the integrative master’s program, contact Associate Dean Vanessa Ryan well ahead of the application deadline. 

What happens if a master’s program doesn’t want to participate?
Ultimately, whether or not to participate is the program’s decision.  The Graduate School will not force programs to participate. The vast majority of programs are participating.

Is it possible to propose a component of a dissertation as a master’s?
There could be some overlap. Please see the specific notes about theses in the application forms.

I am a first-year student and don’t yet have a research advisor. What should I include in my application? 
You can ask the DGS or the chair to complete a recommendation. You can also check with faculty whom you might potentially choose as a research advisor. 

If a rising second year student has a dissertation advisor, should the DGS still write the letter of recommendation?
If the student has an advisor, that letter would be preferable. A stronger proposal would have both a letter from the advisor and one from the DGS.  

I am a first-year student and think some things that would strengthen my application haven’t happened yet. If I applied and didn’t get it, could I apply again next year?
Yes, you can apply again. But what will make an application strong is based on what you want to do and why.  

Are supplemental recommendations beyond the required ones allowed?
Yes, they are. 

Can prospective graduate students apply to the pilot project?
No, they cannot, not at this point. Students must be enrolled as a graduate student in order to apply. Prospective students who are interested in the program should first apply to the PhD program. Once admitted and matriculated at Brown, they can then apply. 

I already have a master’s degree. Can I apply to get another?
Yes, as long as there is strong additional academic value to the proposed second master’s degree. You will need to reason this in your Open Graduate Education proposal. 

I already have taken four courses toward a master’s. Can that be counted?
Yes, as long as those courses do not count toward another degree, whether it be undergraduate, another master’s, or your PhD. Only two courses can be “double counted” for two degrees in the Open Graduate program. 

What is the timeframe for decisions?
The committee, which will include deans and faculty, will decide within three or four weeks of the application deadline. 

Why is there a bias in selection for students early in their studies? Advanced students who have passed their exams can, with their training, handle the master’s work easier and get through faster.
You are welcome to make your case for how you can finish the dual programs in the six-year timeframe.

Would the master’s program also see transcripts from our internal studies at Brown?

If I don’t have a background in the master’s program, can I still apply?
Courses in the master’s discipline below the 1000 level are not allowed. Consequently, it will probably not work to start studies in the master’s program without adequate background. But not all master’s programs have stringent disciplinary prerequisites, so it depends somewhat on the program. 

How do I get endorsement from the master’s program I’m interested in?
Contact the DGS and meet with them about your proposed plan.  

Which DGS should I contact for an integrative studies master’s program?
You would need to identify an advisor and contact the DGS from his or her program. Please also consult with the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, as the integrative master’s programs would need to be approved by the Graduate Council.  

Does my advisor need to be a DGS?
No, but you will need a recommendation from the DGS of the program you choose. 

If the DGS and my advisor for my current PhD program are the same person, is it permissible to include a recommendation from a second faculty member?
One letter from the DGS will suffice. Additional letters of recommendation are not required, but may strengthen your application. 

When proposing a path to completion, will that plan of study be locked in throughout the studies for the two degrees, or can there be adjustments as I go along?
The Graduate School understands that the proposed plan of study is how you anticipate completing both degrees.  As you proceed, the path in the program may change.  The key to creating the plan of study is to show that the two degrees can be completed within the proposed time frame.  Advising from the Associate Dean will be available to students to deal with changing circumstances.

Is there any difference for international students in terms of the application process?
No, there is no difference in the process for international applicants.


With this pilot project, participants get a 6th year of support. In that 6th year, will the student be a teaching assistant?
Yes, Humanities and Social Science students who are in the 6th year and who are supported by the Graduate School will be a TA for at least one semester. 

How many summers of support can we expect under this program?
That depends on your path of study and funding model. If you start with the Fall semester of year 2 and are under the summer-funding model, the maximum support is for four summers (after years 2, 3, 4 and 5). If you start later, there will be fewer summers left.  

What are the arrangements for students who are a research assistant?
During fellowship year(s), the Graduate School will support the OGE students. This will be budget relief for Faculty advisor’s research grants or for graduate program’s student support budget (TSV). 

What if you need an extra year to finish?
There will not be any stipend support beyond the 6th year. The extra financial support, either through two fellowships or enhanced summer support, is meant to enable participants to complete both degrees in six years. For example, 4 summers at 3 months each equal 1 calendar year.  Thus, the rules as stated do provide extra time for the dissertation. 

Life and graduate studies are unpredictable. What if I need extra time without seeking funding? Would we be expelled if we didn’t finish in six years?
No, you would not be expelled. For the 7th year, you could apply for a waiver of tuition, but not for a stipend, through the Dissertation Extension Proposal process.  

I am a TA with a 3-course load. Will I get a break to do the master’s program?
During your fellowship year(s) you will not be expected to teach. As you chart out the path of studies through the two programs you should carefully consider when best to take the fellowships.  

Am I required to take four courses during a semester and have a TA position?
We recommend proposing a path and choice of fellowship year(s) to make sure that you will be successful.

Are we required to TA?
The minimum PhD program requirements for teaching remain in effect for OGE students.

Will the tuition for the Master’s program be covered?
Yes, the tuition of the Master’s program is covered through your participation in the program.