Council of Graduate Schools - Ph.D. Completion Project  
Project Information Project Participants Quantitative Data Promising Practices

Research Partner Profile

University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill

Principal Investigator
Steven Matson
Dean, The Graduate School
(919) 962-3521

Participating Programs (11)
Biomedical Engineering
Computer Science
Environmental Science and Engineering
Geological Science
Political Science

In the last three years, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has introduced a series of interventions to improve the Ph.D. completion rates in several science and engineering fields as well as in the humanities and social sciences with particular focus on those students at the greatest risk of attrition. The major interventions in Phase II will include 1) expanding opportunities for departments to bring prospective students to campus for recruitment visits, with an emphasis on those students from underrepresented populations, 2) specific interventions that reward faculty for excellence in student mentoring, and 3) renewing emphasis on information about time-to-degree and completion rates in the campus-wide external Program Review process. In addition, on the basis of observations and discussions prompted by Phase I of the project, the university will introduce a continuous enrollment policy that will both provide better tracking of students as well as encourage them to complete their degrees in a timely fashion. The enhanced interventions proposed here will support students in three key areas: recruitment, the student/faculty mentoring relationship, and time to degree as collected via student feedback and survey data.


  • On-Campus Recruitment Visits and Student Selection: Expand the opportunities for departments to bring prospective students to campus for recruitment visits, with emphasis on those students from underrepresented populations. UNC will continue to make resources available for campus visits so programs and prospective students can learn more about each other in order to optimize a good fit between the student and the department.

  • Mentoring: Initiatives aimed to reward faculty for their performance as outstanding student mentors. The Graduate School recognizes the importance of successful advisor-student mentoring relationships and how this relationship can be directly related to attrition and time-to-degree issues.

  • Data dissemination: Inclusion of information and collected data on time-to-degree in the program review process. This will ensure Department chairs have the necessary data needed to implement appropriate program modifications.

  • New Initiative: The introduction of a continuous enrollment policy. The merit of a continuous enrollment policy for the UNC campus is that it will serve as the impetus for students to stay on track and work collaboratively with their mentors towards their final goal of completing the degree.


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