Nonresident doctoral thesis research status

Thesis research is ordinarily done in residence at the Institute. However, on some occasions, it may be essential or desirable that the student be absent from the campus during a portion of thesis research or writing. Nonresident doctoral thesis research status allows thesis research to be carried out while not in formal residence at the Institute.


Nonresident status is intended for doctoral students who have completed all requirements other than the thesis.

Prior to seeking approval from the Office of Graduate Education the student must have:

  • completed the general qualifying examinations;
  • been in residence as a regular graduate student for a period of at least four regular terms (periods of residence at other educational institutions, as a special student or during the summer session at MIT may not be counted in meeting this requirement);
  • included a copy of their thesis proposal (approved and signed by the appropriate departmental committee) with their application for nonresident status.

Terms of status

A student who is permitted to undertake nonresident thesis research must register as a nonresident doctoral candidate and will pay a substantially reduced tuition. For the first three regular academic terms, tuition is approximately 5 percent of regular full tuition. Thereafter, it is charged at approximately 15 percent. The Schedule of Fees sets forth the specific tuition charges.

For the first three semesters of nonresident status, a student may receive fellowship support from MIT for an amount up to 5 percent of tuition per semester. After the third semester, nonresident students can no longer receive tuition or stipend fellowship support from MIT. However, departments and programs may, at their discretion and depending upon availability of funds, cover student health insurance for the duration of the nonresident period. Eligibility for federal loans and sponsored billing remain unaffected for the length of nonresident tenure.

Nonresident doctoral candidates have limited access to the facilities and academic life of the Institute. However, they are permitted access to the libraries and athletic facilities, and may be eligible to use office, design studio, laboratory, or computer facilities of the Institute. Nonresident doctoral candidates also have the same student health privileges and options as resident students upon payment of the health insurance premiums.

Approval process

Permission to become a nonresident doctoral candidate must be obtained from the Office of Graduate Education at least one month prior to Registration Day of the term during which the student wishes to register in this category (a fee will be assessed for late requests).

Prior to submission, the nonresident doctoral thesis research status request form must be approved by the student’s thesis supervisor and by the graduate officer from the student’s department of registration. Justification for the nonresident status must be set forth in the proposal.

This may include:

  • fieldwork or data collection
  • use of special or unique facilities at other laboratories
  • the need to accompany a thesis supervisor who transfers to another institution prior to completion of thesis research
  • simultaneous employment unrelated to the Institute and also unrelated to the thesis research

Nonresident doctoral candidates must describe arrangements for thesis research to be supervised by a member of the faculty or a senior staff member approved by the department.

Duration of nonresident status

Initial approval for nonresident status is granted for two successive regular terms in the same academic year. Registration as a nonresident doctoral candidate is not required during the summer session unless the student is returning to resident status to complete degree requirements and submit a thesis.

Extending nonresident status Continuation for two additional periods of two regular terms each may be granted by the Office of Graduate Education if the student’s progress is satisfactory and if the thesis supervisor and the department so recommend. Generally, a maximum of six regular terms in nonresident status will be permitted. Longer periods will need written endorsement from the thesis supervisor and departmental graduate officer.

Returning from nonresident status A thesis may not be submitted while the student is on nonresident status. Following completion of the nonresident period, the student must return to resident status for a minimum of one term for submission and defense of the doctoral thesis. If the thesis is submitted and defended during the first term of return to resident status (including summer session), tuition for that term will be prorated on a weekly basis subject to a minimum charge of one half the tuition for a regular term.

Registration must be continuous. If a student is withdrawn and then readmitted to resident status to submit a thesis and receive the doctoral degree that same term, tuition will be 1.5 times the full tuition for a regular term.

Special conditions

Housing Nonresident doctoral candidates are not eligible to reside in student housing or to be Graduate Resident Tutors. Upon approval for nonresident status, students must terminate their current license agreements (with adherence to current policies) and forfeit their continuing housing status, if applicable. The standard 30-day advance notice requirement to MIT Housing and any lease termination fees are waived for students who are approved by the OGE to transition to nonresident doctoral thesis research status.

Students granted this status may subsequently request to be put on a waiting list and, when space is available, may be assigned housing on a semester-by-semester basis. Should space become available after all other fully registered students have requested and have been granted an assignment on campus, Housing will then offer the nonresident candidate an available space. Students on the waiting list will be offered a space in the order of date applied. Housing will try to allow students already in graduate housing who move to nonresident status and who receive an offer from the waiting list to stay in their current location, but this is not guaranteed.

Employment Students cannot accept employment as academic, administrative, or research staff, or as hourly employees at MIT, Lincoln Laboratory, or the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory while registered as nonresident graduate students.