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Graduate Advising

Policy Statement

Academic advising by Stanford faculty is a critical component of all graduate students’ education. By the start of their first term, all graduate students should identify or be paired by the department with a faculty advisor who assists them in planning a program of study to meet degree requirements. The process by which students are matched with faculty advisors varies by department or program.

The university requires that within each department or program minimum advising expectations be set for both advisor and advisee. Such minimum expectations must differentiate between master’s and doctoral programs, and between different types of advisors (academic/program vs. research). These department or program expectations must be distributed to faculty and graduate students on an annual basis at the start of each academic year and must be easily accessible on the web. Faculty are expected to affirm that they have received the advising expectations. Each faculty member has the prerogative to augment the departmental advising expectations with their specific additional expectations, while remaining consistent with the departmental advising policies. 

Faculty advisors are to: 

  • serve as intellectual and professional mentors to their graduate students

  • provide knowledgeable support concerning the academic and non-academic policies that pertain to graduate students

  • help to prepare students to be competitive for employment

  • maintain a high level of professionalism in the relationship

  • establish and collaboratively maintain expectations of the advisor/advisee relationship, consistent with departmental standards.

Students are obliged to follow university and department procedures for identifying advisors and committee members for their dissertation reading and university oral examinations.  The principal dissertation advisor for doctoral students must be a member of the Academic Council. Students may identify a co-advisor in addition to the principal dissertation advisor; normally both principal advisor and co-advisor are members of the Academic Council. A former Stanford Academic Council member, emeritus professor, or non-Academic Council member may serve as co-advisor with the appointment of a principal dissertation advisor who is currently on the Academic Council.

Occasionally, a student's research may diverge from the area of competence of the advisor, or irreconcilable differences may occur between the student and the faculty advisor. In such cases, the student or the faculty advisor may request a change in assignment. If the department decides to grant the request, every reasonable effort must be made to pair the student with another suitable advisor. This may entail some modification of the student's research project.

In the rare case where a student's dissertation research on an approved project is in an advanced stage and the dissertation advisor is no longer available, every reasonable effort must be made to appoint a new advisor, usually from the student's reading committee. This may also require that a new member be added to the reading committee before the draft dissertation is evaluated, to keep the reconstituted committee in compliance with the university requirements for its composition.

Departments should make every effort to assist doctoral students who are not yet admitted to candidacy in finding an appropriate principal dissertation advisor. The department should also inform doctoral students in a timely fashion about procedures for selecting a dissertation advisor, reading committee members, and orals committee members.

Several university policies apply to all faculty-student advising relationships. The university’s Research Policy Handbook 1. Conduct of Research outlines policies and practices related to the conduct of research, including obligations to students, staff, and sponsors. The Administrative Guide 1.1.1. University Code of Conduct articulates the policy that all members of the Stanford community are responsible for sustaining the highest ethical standards and values of the university and of the broader community.

Additional information and resources about advising can be found on the Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education’s Advising & Mentoring webpages.