Graduate Handbook - Teaching Assistantships

General Information

Teaching Assistants in the Department of English are offered two years of support at the M.A. level, and 5 years at the Ph.D. level. Eligibility is also based on the year in the program. For example, if a second year PhD receives a TA for the first time in the second year, then the PhD student is eligible to renew the TA three more times for a total of four years of assistance. As described below, renewals are granted on the basis of progress toward degree, strong classroom performance, and good academic standing. In the event of a medical emergency or other extraordinary circumstances a sixth year of support may be considered, but is not guaranteed.

Teaching Assistants take two courses per semester, until the semester of their preliminary examination, when they are eligible to take one credit of English 990 (see Preliminary Examination). After obtaining Dissertator status, Teaching Assistants take three credits of English 990 per semester until they file their dissertation with the Graduate School (see Dissertation). TAs enrolled in English 820 take 7 credits for that semester. New TAs enrolled in 701, which is a 4 credit course, take 7 credits for that semester.

New students wishing to be considered for Teaching Assistantships for the coming year must submit an application form to the English Graduate Studies office by December 15th as part of their English Department Application. Current TAs must also submit an application form by December 15th to be eligible for renewal. Renewal and Internal forms are available online on the Graduate Student Handbook's Forms Checklist and Links page.

Each plan Advisory Committee meets in January to review applications for Teaching Assistantships that have been submitted by newly admitted and continuing students in its plan. Only fully completed applications can be considered. Each Advisory Committee recommends up to ten students as candidates for new TA positions and compiles a ranked list. The Graduate Policy Committee's TA Selection Committee then reads the applications of all candidates recommended by the plans and ranks them on a confidential list. As new TA positions become available, offers are made to candidates according to this ranked list.

Stepping out of a Teaching Assistantship

A student may "step out" (temporarily resign) a Teaching Assistantship for normally up to one year, with the approval of the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies, the Director of Composition or Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies, and the graduate coordinator of the student's plan. There must be serious reasons for the exception, such as compelling personal circumstances or opportunities that will clearly and significantly benefit a student's research or enhance his /her professional credentials. The clock (years in program) will continue to run during the time the student has "stepped out." A student's Teaching Assistantship status upon return thus will be determined by the number of years in the master's or doctoral program, progress toward the degree, strong teaching performance, and good academic standing, as if the Teaching Assistantship had not been interrupted. Contact the Graduate Studies Office in the Department of English for the appropriate documentation.

NOTE: The Graduate School requires dissertators to maintain continuous registration (three dissertation/research credits during fall and spring semesters). A Teaching Assistant with dissertator status who steps out of the assistantship must still maintain continuous registration according to the rules established by the Graduate School.

In the event that a student with approval to step out of a teaching assistantship has not finished his or her course work, the student's advisor or plan coordinator, the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies, and the student, will develop a plan to bring the student back into compliance with the requirements for renewal


Renewals of Teaching Assistantships are granted on the basis of a student's progress toward degree, strong classroom performance, and good academic standing.

Progress Toward Degree: Master's Students

  • To be eligible for support in a student's second academic year at the master's level, he/she must have completed at least 12 degree credits during the first year as a master's student.
  • To be eligible for continued support, a student must have completed 24 degree credits and be admitted to the doctoral program.

Progress Toward Degree: Doctoral Students

To be eligible for support in a student's:

  • second year at the doctoral level, he/she must have completed a total of 12 credits beyond the M.A. degree.
  • third year at the doctoral level, he/she must have completed a total of 24 credits beyond the M.A. degree.
  • fourth year at the doctoral level, he/she must have passed both the second language requirement and preliminary examination by the end of the spring semester and applied for dissertator status. The Second Language Requirement form can be found online on the Graduate Student Handbook's Forms Checklist and Links page. The link for the Preliminary Examination Application is also available on this page.
  • fifth year at the doctoral level, he/she must obtain a letter from the Major Professor, detailing progress in the dissertation and projected completion date. The Associate Chair for Graduate Studies must receive this letter by the end of the spring semester of the fourth academic year. Dissertators seeking a fifth year of funding are expected to demonstrate significant progress towards completion of their dissertation.

It is important to note that completion of academic progress requirements after the deadlines noted above may result in delayed receipt of any salary increases associated with a change in status.

Strong Classroom Performance

Teaching Assistants' appointments will be renewed only if their classroom performance remains strong and only if they fulfill all the duties as required by their teaching assignment. Classroom performance will be evaluated by such measures as observation reports, student evaluations, and number of student complaints.

For Teaching Assistants who have been assigned administrative positions or other duties in lieu of teaching one or more classes, performance of the student's administrative duties will be included in the overall performance evaluation. The student's supervisor or supervisors will evaluate the performance of non-teaching duties, in consultation with the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies. As a factor in the overall performance evaluation, performance of administrative duties will be weighted in proportion to the percentage of appointment involved.

Good Academic Standing

Teaching Assistants must maintain at least a 3.33 average and have no incomplete grades to be eligible for renewal. Any incomplete grades at the end of the spring semester must be cleared before July to maintain eligibility. This means that the incomplete work must be submitted to the instructor at least one week before the July deadline so that there is adequate time for the instructor to grade the work and process the necessary forms. It is the student's responsibility to make these arrangements with the instructor in advance and to inform the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies that the incomplete has been cleared.

GPC Policy on Workload

A Teaching Assistantship in the English department is considered a full-time job. The student's instructional and/or administrative responsibilities are estimated to take 20 hours per week. The student's academic responsibilities should take approximately another 20 hours. Other employment should not interfere with these primary commitments.

ESL Teaching Assistantship

The English Department's ESL TA is open to all qualified TAs in the English Department. Both new and continuing TAs are eligible. The ESL TA is ordinarily held for one year only. Former ESL TAs may reapply for a subsequent year, but priority will be given to qualified candidates who have not yet held the position. Following an appointment as the ESL TA, the TA returns to the Department's TA pool and must meet the same conditions for renewal as all other English TAs. As a member of the English Department's TA pool, the ESL TA will take (or have taken) English 701 during the first semester as a TA.

Students interested in applying for the ESL TA submit an ESL TA application. All materials must be submitted by December 15. Only TAs eligible for renewal or new applicants ranked by the GPC TA Selection Committee will be considered. ESL applications are available from the Graduate Program Manager in Curtin Hall 422.

Use of University Equipment

Teaching Assistants may not use Department copiers to prepare materials for their own academic careers, including academic submissions required by the Department of English under terms set forth in this Handbook.