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Some Facts About Columbia's Ph.D. Programs and Its Doctoral Students

University's Relationship with Graduate Students: Graduate students are valued members of our community and we continually seek to understand and address their needs. The University's relationship with graduate students is an educational and collaborative one; it is not an employer-employee relationship, a view endorsed by the National Labor Relations Board in its July 2004 ruling. Teaching is an integral part of the education and training of men and women preparing for academic careers.

Ph.D. Programs Mission and Demand: The principal mission of Columbia's Ph.D. programs is to recruit and train the intellectual leaders of tomorrow. In the current admissions cycle, more than 7,000 applications were received for the 300 Ph.D. seats in the Arts and Sciences. Students are admitted on the basis of their outstanding qualifications and their academic promise.

Number of Teaching and Research Assistants: In fall 2004, 1,830 doctoral students held appointments as teaching and research assistants across the University. The bulk of the teaching and research fellows are located on the Morningside Campus. In the 28 Departments of the Arts and Sciences at Columbia, roughly 300 new students every year are enrolled in Ph.D. programs.

Teaching Responsibilities: Teaching is a requirement for the Ph.D. degree, and teaching preparation while in graduate school is essential for scholars who will be the teachers of tomorrow. Students in the Humanities and Social Sciences have teaching or research assistant appointments during six of the 10 semesters of their five-year fellowship package. In the other semesters, their primary focus is on making academic progress toward their degree. Students in the Sciences also hold both research and teaching appointments during the course of their training.

Assistance Provided: Since fall 2001, all entering Ph.D. students in the 28 Departments of the Arts and Sciences are guaranteed  the following support:

  • 4 to 6 years of full tuition fellowships.   
  • 4 to 6  years of stipend. In 2004-05, stipend levels ranged from a minimum of $18,000 to more than $25,000. In 2005-06, the minimum stipend will be $19,000, which is competitive with other leading doctoral institutions.
  • A basic health care plan paid for by the University, available to all students during the years they are supported. A 50 percent subsidy on the comprehensive plan and on coverage of dependents.
  • Access to Columbia University housing for all entering students desiring it. This housing is guaranteed for five years, and extensions may be given in the 6th and sometimes even in the 7th year.
  • Students in the Humanities and Social Sciences receive on average two years of summer support at $3,000 a summer during their fellowship years. In the summer of 2004, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) provided nearly $750,000 in summer stipends for these students.

Resources and Programs for Graduate Students: The University offers a number of programs and resources to help graduate students develop teaching skills, assist with career choices and assess needs and interests. They include:

  • The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Teaching Center, established in 2003 as a continuation of the 1999 Teaching Program, offers programs and workshops to guide graduate students in their roles as teachers and helps lay the foundation for their professional lives after graduation. Initiatives range from fall orientation sessions prior to classroom assignment to workshops to enhance teaching skills, to individual advice and guest lecturers.
  • GSAS works closely with the Center for Career Education (CCE) to provide non-academic career advice.
  • In mid-March, GSAS reinstated its annual survey of doctoral students enrolled in Arts and Sciences departments to gather student views on a range of areas important to them, including academic training and advising, professional training and development, student services and housing.


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Published: Apr 15, 2005
Last modified: Apr 18, 2005

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