Graduate Student Policies

The policies below are specific or pertain to graduate students.

Work Expectations for Funded Graduate Students


Teaching Assistantship (TA): A TA position is a full-time, 40 hour commitment. TAs are expected to work up to 20 hours per week on teaching assistant related responsibilities, with the remaining 20 hours to be spent on coursework, professional development, and research responsibilities.

Research Assistantship (RA): A RA position is a full-time, 40 hour commitment. RAs are expected to work at least 20 hours per week on research related responsibilities, with the remaining 20 hours to be spent on coursework and professional development and any remaining balance of time to be spent on research responsibilities.

Fellowships and Training Grants: Graduate students funded through external fellowships should follow the policies stipulated by their funding agency on working hour expectations. If no such policies are in place, the Fellow should follow the guidance for RAs. Graduate Students funded through internal fellowships or training grants should follow the guidance for RAs.  

Graduate students that feel they are being routinely asked to exceed these work expectations should first discuss their situation with their research advisor or TA course instructor. If an amenable solution is not reached, the student should discuss their situation with their Graduate Coordinator and/or Department Head or Program Director. If the situation is still not resolved, students should reach out to Rory Flinn, Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies ( 


Switching Research Advisors

Students may switch advisors-of-record with approval from their department or program. The Office of Graduate Studies can provide guidance and assistance to graduate students considering a switch.


Withdrawal or Leave Of Absence

There are many reasons why a student may need or wish to take time away from WPI. There may be personal or medical issues interfering with their academics; opportunities for professional experience; family or community commitments; or the desire to just take a break. WPI has a separate childbirth and adoption accommodation policy, which is provided below. 

Institutional Leave of Absence (LOA): Request this if you are planning to return to WPI. Leaves may be granted for the remainder of the current semester (if applicable) and the immediately following semester (not counting summer). Leaves may be renewed for one additional semester, and an extension must be requested before the expiration date of the current leave. If a student does not return by the expiration date, they will be automatically withdrawn.

Official Withdrawal: Request this if you are leaving permanently and not planning to return to WPI.

Additional policy details and required forms: Please visit the WPI registrar website for up to date information regarding the withdrawal and LOA policies, including required forms to complete:  


Childbirth and Adoption Accommodation

Policy: In recognition of the challenges of balancing the demands of graduate study and parenting a new child, the Childbirth/Adoption Accommodation Policy aims to improve the environment for student parents. An Accommodation can be taken based on the student’s individual circumstance in consultation with their Advisor and the Dean of Graduate Studies; early consultation will provide the time necessary to rearrange teaching duties for those students supported by teaching assistantships, or to adjust research/lab schedules. The purpose of this policy is to make it possible for a student to maintain registered full time student status, along with all the benefits of such status, while facilitating the return to full participation in courses, research and teaching. 

Special note for TAs/RAs/Fellowship Students: During the Childbirth/Adoption Accommodation period, expectant graduate students who have been funded for the previous twelve (12) months through WPI internal TA/RA/Fellowships and who have received an award letter indicating continuing support will be eligible for salary continuation. During this timeframe, duties typically performed by TA’s and RA’s will be suspended for (eight weeks) and the student will not be expected to work. If the student parent is a teaching assistant, the Office of Graduate Studies will fund a temporary replacement for the affected period if necessary.

Requesting Leave: Matriculated and enrolled graduate students may formally request a Childbirth/Adoption Accommodation by emailing the Office of Graduate Studies. The student will be provided with a Childbirth/Adoption Accommodation Request form and will need to follow the appropriate procedures and documentation required. This Academic Accommodation Period is not a leave of absence from University responsibilities. The expectation is that the woman will be in residence, and assuming good health of the pregnant woman or new mother and the infant, will remain engaged in classwork and research.