Student and faculty

Common principles of the graduate student experience

Common principles of the graduate student experience should guide faculty and students in their academic relationship, which is crucial to the success of graduate study. The ideal relationship is a collegial one, in which the common goals are the completion of the student’s degree program in a reasonable time frame and the ongoing success of the faculty member’s research program.

Graduate students constitute the majority of the MIT student body, and their involvement has a significant influence on the Institute. Therefore each graduate student bears a responsibility for respect and maturity in their behavior towards all members of the MIT community.

The following enumerated statements are intended as a resource for advisors and students on how to build and maintain a healthy, rewarding and productive relationship. Clearly, such a list cannot be exhaustive; the following guidelines address concerns that arise in the context of a research environment, such as a course of graduate study at MIT. This content is also available in the PDF Best Practices in Graduate Student Advising.

On occasion, there are times when a graduate student wishes to change research advisors or groups. As of Spring 2021, MIT has created a transitional support program for these students. For more general concerns and for situations requiring immediate response, MIT offers a variety of resources.

  1. Faculty members and their graduate students are strongly encouraged to build their relationship by establishing common expectations on the major elements of their professional interactions, such as:

    • Requirements for achieving and maintaining an acceptable academic standing as well as graduation requirements for each academic unit;

    • A regular time for meeting;

    • Lead times for feedback on work such as thesis and manuscript drafts;

    • A shared understanding of what constitutes sufficient notice and reasonable scheduling of events the student is expected to attend following a request from their advisor;

    • A shared understanding of academic integrity and responsible conduct of research.

  2. Faculty and students are strongly encouraged to attempt to resolve conflicts through direct discussion and other informal procedures.

  3. Graduate students are strongly encouraged to keep their advisor apprised of academic progress and seek their advisor’s input on the same subject on a regular basis.

  4. Graduate students should receive attribution for scholarly assistance to faculty, and vice versa, including contributions to publications and patents.

  5. Faculty are expected to be supportive of their students’ participation in extra-academic activities and to recognize the value of such activities for their intellectual and professional development. Depending on the discipline, these activities might include training in job interviews, information on academic and non-academic career options, and internships.

  6. A number of resources are available for graduate students who wish to terminate their relationship with their advisor and search for a new research group. These include their departmental or program graduate administrator, program head or departmental graduate officer, a dean in the OGE, or an Institute ombudsperson.

  7. Graduate students share with the faculty the responsibility for securing, maintaining, and protecting the integrity of grades, scholarship, and research.

  8. Faculty members have the responsibility to inform graduate students of the source and amount of their financial support and of all expectations associated with any funded position. Faculty members should inform graduate students promptly of matters that affect their funding status.

  9. Graduate students and faculty have a responsibility to inform each other as soon as they have knowledge of a possible change in their status. Graduate students should provide reasonable notice to their advisor if they intend to leave or change advisors; have a medical or personal issue that interferes with study and research; or are experiencing other academic or life issues that an advisor might reasonably need to know about. When circumstances require leaving a research project, graduate students should provide a summary of their work so that any delay associated with continuation of the project is minimized.

  10. Beyond the responsibility to provide an evaluation once per term via a thesis grade, advisors should consider providing additional periodic feedback on academic progress, performance and professional potential, preferably in the form of a written evaluation.

  11. Graduate students are protected by a variety of policies and procedures, as summarized in the document Institute Policy Guiding the Graduate Student Experience. If a student feels that they have been unfairly treated, or treated in a way that is in violation of MIT policies, and attempts at informal solutions were unsuccessful, the student can appeal by means of Institute complaint resolution procedures.