Jul 18, 2024  
2019-2020 Catalog 
2019-2020 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Graduate Studies

Phone: 209-228-4723
Email: gradservices@ucmerced.edu
Web: graduatedivision.ucmerced.edu



Welcome from the Dean

Dear Students:

Graduate school is one of the most exciting times in a scholar’s career, and I am pleased you have chosen UC Merced for your graduate studies. The education and research training you receive here will set you on a course for success in your chosen field, and the friendships you make in graduate school last a lifetime. At UC Merced you will find a stellar faculty to guide you, and a supportive and inclusive community of graduate peers with shared interests.

As the first new American research university of the 21st century, UC Merced continues the University of California’s tradition of providing students a world-class education.  To this, we add our distinctive blend of small academic programs, interdisciplinary research opportunities, and personalized attention from award-winning faculty. As a newly admitted graduate student, you will have the opportunity to solve real world problems and contribute to the “esprit de corps” of a new campus of the University of California system.  

As an advocate for graduate students and a leading voice for graduate education, the Graduate Division is here to support you in your academic career. If you have any questions, please contact us at (209) 228-4723. Additional information and resources are available through our website at graduatedivision.ucmerced.edu.

Best wishes as you start your graduate career at UC Merced! 

Marjorie S. Zatz, Ph.D.

Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate Division

Preparing for an Advanced Degree

Admission to a graduate program at UC Merced requires a bachelor’s degree, or its equivalent, that is comparable to a degree from the University of California both in the level of scholarly achievement and in the distribution of academic subject matter. Although applications for graduate study will be evaluated primarily on scholarly achievement, UC Merced will utilize the totality of a prospective student’s qualifications, including research, work experience, recommendations and other creative accomplishments, to render a decision. To be eligible for graduate admission at UC Merced, you must have a minimum 3.0 grade point average in your undergraduate coursework. In addition to a formal graduate admission application and official transcripts, applicants must submit official Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, and three letters of recommendation. Certain Graduate Groups may require a sample of your written work that can be evaluated by the admissions committee.

Applying for Admission

Applications to UC Merced can be accessed electronically at graduatedivision.ucmerced.edu. Applications are accepted for the fall semester only. Prospective students are encouraged to begin the admissions process as early as possible in the prior academic year. International applicants should check the Graduate Division website for details regarding application and admission. Please check our website for application and priority funding due dates. In order for an application to be fully considered, a nonrefundable application fee must be paid. You may pay online with a credit card. Fee exemptions for UC approved programs are available. The Graduate Division website, graduatedivision.ucmerced.edu, provides further information about admission requirements, financial assistance, deadlines and important contacts.

International Students

Students with credentials from universities outside the United States should begin the application process well in advance of the deadline date. Official copies or certified copies of all transcripts in English and in the original language are required.

Applicants whose native language or language of instruction is not English must show evidence of having recently taken the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing Service (IELTS) examination. More information for international student requirements can be found on our website. The English Language Institute (ELI) facilitates the university’s compliance with state mandates for incoming international teaching assistants through various services.

Information on the TOEFL is available online at www.toefl.org and IELTS information at www.ielets.org. These requirements are waived for applicants who have received an advanced degree from a U.S. institution or from a country where English is the language of instruction.

International applicants must certify that they have sufficient funds to cover fees, tuition and living expenses for the first year of their study at UC Merced. Financial verification must be provided before visa forms can be issued.

Admissions and Registration

A formal notice from the Dean of the Graduate Division is the official proof of admission to graduate study at UC Merced. Successful applicants will be notified as soon as possible after the program faculty have made their recommendations to the Dean of the Graduate Division. Accepted students will be asked to submit their intention to register by April 15. Submission of the Statement of Intent to Register reserves your slot in the program. Should you choose not to accept the offer of admission, we ask that you also notify us of your decision as soon as possible so that we can offer the placement to another applicant.

Students must be enrolled in 8 units each semester to retain graduate student standing. Students with teaching assistant or research appointments are required to enroll in 12 units each semester. Registration provides the necessary access to courses, facilities and faculty. Students holding non-immigrant visas must register for each semester covered by their visa.

Programs of Study

UC Merced offers the Master of Science (M.S.), Master of Arts (M.A.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees. New students are assigned a faculty advisor and committee that assist them in developing a curriculum to meet the requirements. Although considerable flexibility to meet individual needs exists, requirements usually include a core of required material that a student must master.

The M.S. and M.A. degrees are either Plan I or Plan II programs. Plan I requires a minimum of 24 semester units in approved graduate courses plus completion of a thesis. Plan II requires at least 24 semester units in approved graduate courses, followed by a comprehensive examination administered by the faculty.

Students pursuing M.S. or M.A. Plan I degrees will begin their thesis research at the end of the first year. Although they may continue to take additional graduate seminars or independent study, the majority of the second year involves thesis research and writing. The thesis committee must approve the scope of the thesis and provide guidance during the process of developing the thesis. Approval of the thesis must be unanimous for the awarding of the master’s degree.

The Ph.D. degree is designed to prepare students for creative activity and original research. A doctoral degree is awarded in recognition of a student’s knowledge of a broad field of learning and for distinguished accomplishment in that field through an original contribution of significant knowledge. The dissertation must demonstrate a high level of critical ability, imagination and synthesis. In contrast to the master’s degrees, there are no University unit requirements for the doctorate, although individual programs may set specific course requirements. However, students must complete at least four semesters of academic residence at UC Merced and successfully complete the course requirements before they are allowed to take the Qualifying Examination.

All students pursuing the Ph.D. degree must pass a Qualifying Examination before admission to candidacy. The intent of this examination is to ascertain the breadth of a student’s comprehension of fundamental facts and principles that apply in the major field of study. It will also determine the student’s ability to think critically about the theoretical and practical aspects of the field. Students are advanced to candidacy when they fulfill the following requirements:
•    Successfully completed the Qualifying Exam;
•    Maintained a minimum grade point average of 3.0;
•    Received incomplete grades in no more than two courses; and
•    Fulfilled any language requirement associated with their program.

Once a student is advanced to candidacy, it is imperative that he/she begin his/her dissertation studies promptly.

Graduate Degree Learning Outcomes

Master’s Degree Outcomes

The goal of the M.S./M.A. degree at UC Merced is to sufficiently educate students at an advanced level in specific fields of knowledge so that they may continue in their pursuit of graduate education, or be competitive for careers in the private or public sector. Towards this end, recipients of the M.A. or M.S. degree:

  1. Have an understanding of the principles that underlie the field of study.
  2. Are able to use the research and/or working methodologies of the field of study.
  3. Are able to use the communication formats of their field to effectively communicate with professional, specialist audiences as well as to other audiences as appropriate for the field.
  4. Are proficient in the professional skills necessary to lead productive careers in their chosen profession.

Degree specific versions of these objectives are available under each program’s description.

Doctoral Degree Outcomes

The goal of the Ph.D. degree at UC Merced is to advance human knowledge and to provide for the dissemination and use of that new knowledge. We will educate students at the most advanced level in specific fields of knowledge so that they may assume positions of leadership in research, teaching, industry, business and government. Toward this end, recipients of the Ph.D.:

  1. Are able to apply the underlying fundamental principles and philosophies of their field in the production of new knowledge.
  2. Are able to use the research methodologies of the field of study.
  3. Have added to human knowledge.
  4. Are able to use the communication formats of their field to effectively communicate with professional, specialist audiences as well as to other audiences as appropriate for the field.
  5. Are self-directed learners able to advance their field of study.
  6. Are proficient in the professional skills necessary to lead productive careers in their chosen profession.
  7. Are versed in the topic of research integrity and apply in their work the ethical norms of behavior associated with their field of study.

Degree specific versions of these objectives are available under each program’s description.

Governance of Graduate Education

Graduate study is administered by the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education and by the Graduate Council, a committee of the Academic Senate. The Coordinating Committee on Graduate Affairs is a system-wide body that assures coordination between the campuses and develops general policies that govern graduate education throughout the University of California.

Financial Support

Several forms of financial support are available to facilitate the pursuit of a graduate education at UC Merced. Most forms of support are granted for merit, while others are granted for financial need or a combination of merit and need. The Graduate Division works closely with the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships and the academic units to coordinate all forms of financial support.

The Graduate Division and Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships administer need-based financial aid for graduate students. We are here to help students understand financial aid opportunities as well as the criteria utilized in determining eligibility for the various financial aid programs available at UC Merced.

For more information on graduate student financial support, please see Graduate Student Financial Support section of our website. 

Types of Aid

Financial support is available at UC Merced in the form of graduate student research positions, teaching assistantships, fellowships and loans. All students, regardless of income, are encouraged to apply.

Graduate Student Research (GSR) Positions

Research positions afford excellent opportunities for graduate students to gain invaluable experience in areas of importance to your graduate education while receiving financial support. Information and application materials for GSR positions are available from the academic units.

Teaching Assistantships (TA)

Graduate students working toward advanced degrees are given duties in undergraduate courses that may include conducting discussion or laboratory sections, grading student work and providing students with individual help in the subject. Teaching assistants are chosen for their excellent scholarship and promise as teachers. They serve apprenticeships under active tutelage and supervision of regular faculty members. Teaching assistants engage in learning how to teach and work closely with faculty mentors. A limited number of teaching assistantships are available each year. On the recommendation of the academic deans, the academic units make appointments to teaching assistantships.


Fellowships are awarded primarily on the basis of merit and the promise of outstanding academic and professional achievement. Consideration is given to the extent and quality of previous undergraduate and graduate work, evidence of ability in research or other creative accomplishment, evidence of intellectual capacity and promise of productive scholarship.

Financial need or the availability of other sources of support in your graduate program is not relevant to the evaluation of academic merit, but may be an additional criterion for some fellowships. Students must establish eligibility for need-based fellowships by filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For faster and more accurate filing, students can complete the FAFSA online at www.fafsa.ed.gov.


Financial aid awards that require repayment, loans, offer the opportunity to defer the cost of your educational expenses by borrowing now and repaying later. Some loan programs are based on financial need, but there are loan programs available to all students regardless of income. Loan programs available through UC Merced are federally funded, providing long-term, low-interest loans.

Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loans - Not based on financial need, these loans are available to all eligible students, regardless of income. This loan is “unsubsidized” in that the student is responsible for paying all interest due. There is no federal interest subsidy for the loan. Interest accrues immediately upon disbursement. Borrowers may elect to pay accrued interest on a monthly or quarterly basis or have it added back to the principal balance in a process called capitalization.

PLUS Loans for Graduate and Professional Degree Students – Graduate and professional degree students are eligible to borrow under the PLUS Loan Program up to their cost of attendance minus other estimated financial assistance.  The terms and conditions applicable to Parent PLUS Loans also apply to Graduate/Professional PLUS loans.  These requirements include a determination that the applicant does not have an adverse credit history, repayment beginning on the date of the last disbursement of the loan.  Applicants for these loans are required to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  They also must have applied for their annual loan maximum eligibility under the Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loan Program before applying for a Graduate/Professional PLUS loan.  

Please refer to the Satisfactory Academic Progress section under Financial Aid and Scholarships for more information on the academic requirements for student loans. 

General Requirements for Graduate Degrees

Most requirements for graduate degree programs are determined by the Graduate Group that offers the degree. However, the Graduate Council, on behalf of the Academic Senate, has approval authority over all graduate programs on the Merced campus. Graduate students must complete a minimum of 4 units of letter-graded coursework, either upper division or graduate-level, at some point prior to receiving a graduate degree at UC Merced.

Second Advanced Degrees

If admitted for a second graduate degree, student will be held to all the usual degree requirements and University regulations pertaining to fees, examinations for advancement to candidacy, residency, etc. Courses already applied to any previously earned graduate degree cannot be applied toward the requirements of the second degree.

  1. Second Master’s Degree

In accordance with the policy approved by the Graduate Council, the Graduate Dean has delegated the authority to admit students for a second Master’s degree to the Graduate Groups. While official policy is to discourage duplication of degrees, graduate groups may allow more than one degree at the same level, including more than one academic or professional master’s.

  1. Second Ph.D.

Admissions for a second Ph.D. is rarely granted and must be handled as an exception to policy and approved by the Graduate Dean. All requests must be made in writing to the Dean and should include strong justification for admitting the applicant for a second Ph.D., as well as a statement assuring the Dean that the applicant’s first Ph.D. is an unrelated area and that there will be no duplication or waiving of coursework.

Transfer of Credit

Transfer of credit toward master’s degree requirements are governed by the University regulation and policy summarized in the Graduate Policies and Procedures Handbook. Courses taken toward a graduate degree at another institution cannot be transferred for credit toward a Ph.D. at UCM. However a course requirement may be waived if a similar course was taken at another institution.