Jun 27, 2019  
2013-2014 Catalog 
2013-2014 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Graduate Studies

Welcome from the Dean

Dear Students:

Graduate education is about learning the processes of discovery, knowledge creation, and innovation. Be it in the laboratory, the field, a museum or library, graduate students learn how to identify, investigate and analyze issues of importance to their discipline, and to society at large. California’s San Joaquin Valley is a unique setting and context for academic research, in part because of the diversity of its people, and its central location between the Pacific Coast and the Sierra Nevada mountains. Research conducted at the University of California, Merced, is shaped by this local context, but has impact for issues faced by the state, nation, and world.

The excellence of research at UC Merced begins with our world-class faculty, who work closely with graduate students at the forefront of their fields.  Together they advance theories and methods using state-of-the-art techniques and facilities, and then present their scholarship at the most renowned academic conferences all over the globe.  They also translate research outcomes into environmental, technological, and societal benefits, oftentimes by working with policy makers, industry leaders, and other stakeholders.

Our graduate programs are growing and expanding every year, and they span a wide range of disciplines, and interdisciplinary junctions, of science, engineering, and the humanities and social sciences.

I hope you will explore UC Merced for your graduate education. As the first new American research university in the 21st century, you will become part of our pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit, and help shape our culture and traditions that are defining of the San Joaquin Valley’s first UC campus. The faculty and the Graduate Division are dedicated to providing the best education possible for our students, and preparing them for truly exceptional careers.

Christopher T. Kello
Acting Dean, Graduate Division

Graduate Studies Offers the Following Programs:

Individual Graduate Programs are also offered in the following emphasis areas:

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. All application materials must be submitted to the Graduate Division by January 15. In order for an application to be fully considered, a nonrefundable application fee must be paid. You may pay online with a credit card (minimal surcharge added) at epaygradapp.ucmerced.edu. Alternatively, checks should be made payable to UC Regents, accompanied by the Graduate Application Fee Form for Admission, and mailed to the Graduate Division Office. 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. A score of at least 7 on the IELTS is required. For TOEFL-IBT (Internet-based test), UC Merced requires an overall score of 68 with minimum scores on each section are as follows:
•    18 / writing
•    17 / speaking
•    16 / listening
•    17 / reading

A minimum score of at least 26 on the speaking section is required to be appointed as a teaching assistant; therefore, the overall minimum requirement is 77. Some programs may require higher scores. Please check individual program websites for specifics.

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. A Foreign Applicant Questionnaire for the purpose of verifying the amount and source of funds available for graduate study will be forwarded upon acceptance into graduate study. 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 has made its 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 20 semester units of upper division and graduate courses plus completion of a thesis. Plan II requires at least 24 semester units of upper division and 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. Students are expected to pass the Qualifying Examination before the beginning of their third year of graduate study unless they successfully petition the Graduate and Research Council to take it at a specified later date. 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.

UC Merced graduate programs are built around an interdisciplinary, graduate group model that melds faculty expertise and scholarly approaches, transcending normal disciplinary boundaries.

Masters Program Learning 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.

  1. Graduates will obtain an understanding of the principles that underlie the field of study.
  2. Graduates are able to use the research and/or working methodologies of the field of study.
  3. Graduates 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. Graduates are proficient in the professional skills necessary to lead productive careers in their chosen profession.

Doctoral Program Learning 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.

  1. Graduates are able to apply the underlying fundamental principles and philosophies of their field in the production of new knowledge.
  2. Graduates are able to use the research methodologies of the field of study.
  3. Graduates have added to human knowledge.
  4. Graduates 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. Graduates are self-directed learners able to advance their field of study.
  6. Graduates are proficient in the professional skills necessary to lead productive careers in their chosen profession.
  7. Graduates are versed in the topic of research integrity and apply in their work the ethical norms of behavior associated with their field of study.

Graduate Student Research Positions and Teaching Assistantships

For information on graduate student research positions or teaching assistantships, please see the Graduate Student Financial Support section of this catalog.

Governance of Graduate Education

Graduate study is administered by the Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate Division and by the Graduate and Research 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.

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.