Students are required to be enrolled on a full-time basis during the number of terms of residence required by their respective degree programs, unless splitting. A student must be enrolled and in good standing to be eligible to submit a thesis.

Part-time Enrollment

Permission for part-time enrollment will be granted only as a special exception, and usually only for medical reasons. A written, detailed plan for completing remaining degree requirements must be approved by the program director and filed with the Dean of Students. MArch I students may be able to choose the split-semester option, which extends their final term to the full academic year for part-time study. Students must take a minimum of eight units in order to remain eligible for financial aid. When splitting, international students must take a minimum of 16 units in the fall term of the split year in order to maintain their visa status.

Splitting Policies


MArch I and MArch I AP students may choose to split their final, fall semester into two semesters. A Facilities Split Fee ($1,000) is applied to the spring semester term bill. Students who choose this option will formally enroll in thesis during the fall or spring semester, and take only lecture and seminar courses in the other semester. Students who split will be charged half tuition for both semesters (see exception below), with the understanding that they will enroll in no more than 24 units for both semesters combined. Students who split do not have the use of a desk during the semester in which they do not enroll in studio or thesis. In the spring semester prior to their final year at the GSD, the Registrar will email the necessary form to eligible students.

Splitting for International Students

International students who are enrolling in thesis in the spring semester pay for one extra course (four units) if they decide to split. The reason for this is that in order for international students to maintain their student visas, they must be considered full-time students during the fall of their split-semester year (enrolled in 16 units or four courses). Sixteen units in the fall and 12 (thesis) in the spring are 28 units, which is four more than full tuition. (That results in 1/4 more tuition in the fall.)

Leave of Absence Policies

The following policies govern students while on a leave of absence (LOA):

ID Cards
Students do not have active ID cards while they are on leave of absence.

Health Insurance
Students may have the option to continue their Student Health Insurance Plan coverage while on a leave of absence for a limited time. Please visit the Leave of Absence Policy at www.huhs.harvard.edu for more information.

Library Privileges
Loeb Library: Students may purchase Loeb Design Library privileges at the rate of $50 for four months or $125 for a year. A ‘Frances Loeb Library Special Borrower’ picture ID will be issued. This card is non-transferable and valid only at the Loeb Library. The following conditions must be met: the student is returning to graduate from the GSD; and the student has research or course work to complete while on LOA. To obtain an ID from the Loeb Library, a student should present a copy of his or her Leave of Absence Petition to a Loeb Library Circulation Desk staff member. An ID can be created in 24 hours. For further questions, contact a staff person at the Circulation Desk 617 495 9163 or libcirc@gsd.harvard.edu.
Widener Library: Students should go to the Privileges desk, room 195, an immediate left after entering the main entrance to the library, with some form of identification, such as a driver’s license. If a student has been registered for at least one semester, he or she will qualify as an ‘alumni’ and is granted privileges which are: six days of stacks free and six borrowed books free of charge; then $50/four months or $125/year.

Harvard Housing
Students cannot maintain leases on Harvard housing while on leave, or reside in Harvard dormitories.

Access to GSD Computing Resources
Students’ GSD email accounts remain active for the duration of their leaves of absence; however, GSD computer accounts are disabled. Students on leave do not have any access to GSD computing facilities or technical support. Special circumstances, such as required computer course work to be completed, must be arranged with the Dean of Students and Director of Computer Resources.

Leaves of Absence for Masters Degree Students

A student may take a voluntary leave of absence for not more than one year, or two academic terms. A student must have been enrolled for at least one semester prior to taking a leave. Occasionally, a program director might approve the extension of a leave of absence beyond one academic year or term, usually for medical reasons. Leaves beyond four consecutive semesters are not allowed. The deadline for application for a leave of absence is listed in the Academic Calendar, and there is no guarantee that applications received after that date will be approved. A $15 fee will be charged for petitions received after the deadline. Students should fill out a leave-of-absence petition, available from the Office of Student Services Gund 422, 4th Floor, which must be approved by the program director.

The deadline for taking a LOA without becoming liable for payment of tuition is listed in the Academic Calendar and under the section on Tuition and Expenses. After that date, tuition is charged to the end of the tuition period in which a student takes a LOA.

If students wish to continue their health insurance while on leave, they must meet with the registrar. A student who fails to register for the next regular academic term following a leave of absence will be withdrawn automatically effective the end of the term in which the leave of absence expired. A student who is withdrawn must reapply for admission.

Financial aid recipients must reapply for financial aid, generally by mid February of the previous academic year, for the term in which they return.

MArch I students who plan on taking a leave of absence for any length of time must speak with the registrar about the ramifications this will have on their ability to “split” during their last semester at the GSD. In order to be eligible to “split,” a MArch I student’s final semester must be slated to be a fall semester. That is, “splits” may only begin with a fall semester and end with a spring semester. “Splits” can never start in a spring semester.

Leaves of Absence for Doctoral Students

A Doctor of Design student may apply to the Advanced Studies Programs (ASP) committee for a leave of absence of up to two semesters after the first year of study, provided the general examination has been passed. Such a leave of absence may be used for collection of data, related field research, or for personal reasons. Students with health or medical issues requiring a leave of absence should meet with the Dean of Students, who will help the student make appropriate arrangements for the duration of the leave as well as plans to return, and will ensure compliance with all academic rules. Regardless of a leave of absence, the residency requirement for the Doctor of Design program is four academic semesters, and the maximum length of time for the program is three academic years since matriculation. A student must be registered for the semester in which the thesis is submitted for approval.

Leaves of Absence for International Students

International students who plan on taking a leave of absence must speak with the GSD’s liaison at the Harvard International Office (HIO) about the immigration-related ramifications of taking a leave. International students who take leaves of absence must be aware of how this might affect their visa status and optional practical training eligibility (OPT). Please go to the HIO web site to to make an appointment in order to seak with her about this. The HIO is located on the eighth floor of Holyoke Center in Harvard Square.

Involuntary Leaves of Absence


A student may take a voluntary leave of absence or may be placed on involuntary leave of absence. A student who has been placed on an involuntary leave of absence is subject to the same rules regarding financial aid and financial obligations that apply to a student who has taken a voluntary leave of absence. An involuntary leave of absence is not a disciplinary sanction. Transcripts and other external reports do not distinguish between voluntary and involuntary leaves of absence. However, an incident that gives rise to a leave of absence, whether voluntary or involuntary, may subsequently be the basis for disciplinary action. A student who prefers to take a voluntary leave of absence rather than to be placed on involuntary leave is ordinarily allowed to do so. An involuntary leave of absence may be required for the following reasons:

Health Condition
(a) The student poses a direct threat to the health or safety of the student or others, or has seriously disrupted others in the student’s residential community or academic environment; and
(b) either the student’s threatening, self-destructive, or disruptive behavior is determined to be the result of a medical condition or the student has refused to cooperate with efforts by the University Health Services to determine the cause of the behavior. The decision to place a student on a involuntary leave of absence for health related reasons is arrived at by an individualized assessment of all of the pertinent factors, such as the nature of the student’s conduct, consultation with Harvard University Health Services (which may consider information from the student’s current or former health care providers, if made available by the student), and the absence of feasible alternatives (for example, where the extent of accommodation needed would fundamentally change the academic program or unduly burden the resources or staffing capabilities of the GSD, or where the care or monitoring required would exceed the standard of care that a university health services can be expected to provide).

Alleged Criminal Behavior
The student has been arrested on allegations of serious criminal behavior or has been charged with such behavior by law enforcement authorities.

Risk to the Community
The student has been charged with a violation of a disciplinary rule of the GSD, and his or her presence on campus poses a significant risk to the safety of others or to the educational environment of the community.

The student’s term bill is unpaid and the student has not made arrangements acceptable to the GSD to address the issue.

Failure to provide medical documentation of required immunizations.

Unfulfilled Academic Requirement(s)
The student has not met an academic requirement and has not taken steps acceptable to the GSD to meet the requirement.

Failure to Register
The student has not registered as required at the beginning of each term.

Being Placed on Involuntary Leave of Absence

The decision to place a student on involuntary leave is made by the Dean of Students in consultation with the executive dean and the student’s program director. With respect to a leave of absence for medical reasons, the Dean of Students may ask for permission to consult with a student’s health care providers. In the case of an involuntary leave of absence for medical reasons, the Dean of Students will consult with an appropriate person at Harvard University Health Services. A student is notified in writing that he or she has been placed on involuntary leave. The student may petition the Dean of Students for reconsideration and may appeal a final decision to the dean of the GSD. During a leave of absence, the student may not participate in student activities. If so instructed by the Dean of Students, the student must remain away from the University campus. A student who has been placed on involuntary leave of absence may petition the Dean of Students to return to the GSD. He or she must demonstrate that the circumstances that led to the leave have been satisfactorily addressed. If a student has been required to withdraw while on leave of absence, the conditions for return after a required withdrawal must be satisfied. Any disciplinary matter also must be resolved. If a leave was for medical reasons, whether voluntary or involuntary, the Dean of Students will communicate with the student about the process for readmission and this process will usually require consultation with the Harvard University Health Services as to a professional opinion about the student’s readiness to return. Other evidence of the student’s readiness to return may include a substantial period of employment and a letter of recommendation from the employer or employment supervisor. The decision whether to terminate an involuntary leave of absence and allow a student to return is made by the Dean of Students, in consultation with the Executive Dean and the student’s program director.

Graduation and Commencement Participation Policies

The Office of Student Services maintains the following policy in regard to granting of degrees and participation in commencement ceremonies. A degree will not be granted to a student who is not in good standing or against whom a disciplinary charge is pending. Students who have not fulfilled their degree requirements, or have an outstanding financial obligation to the University, will not be allowed to walk in commencement exercises. For students who have fulfilled their degree requirements but have outstanding obligations to the university, the following policies apply. Students whose outstanding term bills are less than $500, or who have outstanding library books or fines, or telephone bills will have their diplomas withheld by the GSD. Their names will be listed in the Harvard commencement program, and they will be eligible to participate in commencement ceremonies, but they will receive an empty diploma envelope. The GSD will release diplomas to these students upon notification from the Student Billing Office that their term bills are cleared, or upon notification from other offices. Students with outstanding term bills greater than $500 will have their degrees withheld by the university, and they will not be eligible to participate in commencement ceremonies. The Harvard Corporation will vote to grant the degree retroactively upon notification from the Student Billing Office that the student’s term bill is cleared. The GSD will release the student’s diploma after the degree has been voted. Student transcripts will not be sent to a third party. A student can request an unofficial transcript which will indicate that the ‘degree is withheld due to financial obligation.’


A student who wishes to withdraw from the GSD is required to discuss the matter with his or her assigned faculty advisor or program director and the registrar or the Dean of Students. A letter indicating reasons for withdrawal should then be filed with the registrar. The deadline for withdrawing without becoming liable for payment of tuition is listed in the Academic Calendar and on the registrar’s website. After that date, tuition is charged to the end of the tuition period in which a student withdraws. A student who fails to register by the deadline for late registration in a given term will be withdrawn automatically as of that date, unless a leave of absence has been approved. Students who withdraw must reapply for admission.