Attendance

All students must be on campus through the fall and spring exam periods.

Massachusetts law states:

“Any student in an educational or vocational training institution, other than a religious or denominational educational or vocational training institution, who is unable, because of his religious beliefs, to attend classes or to participate in any examination, study or work requirement on a particular day shall be excused from any such examination or study or work requirement, and shall be provided with an opportunity to make up such examination, study or work requirement which he may have missed because of such absence on any particular day, provided, however, that such makeup examination or work shall not create an unreasonable burden upon such school. No fees of any kind shall be charged by the institution for making available to the said student such opportunity. No adverse or prejudicial effects shall result to any student because of his availing himself of the provisions of this section.” Mass. General Laws Chapter 151C, Section 2B.

Consistent with the law, if conflicts are unavoidable and students must miss an hourly or mid-term examination for religious reasons, they will be offered an opportunity to make up the work.

It is their responsibility, however, to inform instructors in ample time to make other arrangements.

Absence from Classes and Exams

Students who must be absent for more than a few days or for an exam, they should inform their program director or the assistant dean for student services and programs who will notify the appropriate faculty members. Absences are excused in the event of personal illness or family emergency. In those instances, absences from class will not count against a course’s participation policy and students will be given an opportunity to make up any missed work. Travel for recruiting, interviews or research trips will not be excused and students may be penalized in accordance with class rules as articulated in the course syllabus. Extended absences may preclude receiving course credit at the discretion of the faculty member or program director. Students should refer to Grades and Credits for details on being absent from a final exam.

Normally, any students absent from class for more than two weeks without approval from their program director will not receive credit for that course(s). Under these circumstances a grade of withdrawn (WD) will be given for each class from which the student has been absent.

Leave of Absence and Residency Requirements

After admission to Harvard Kennedy School and until receipt of the degree, all master’s degree candidates must be enrolled continuously in one of the enrollment categories described below. Students who do not enroll in one of the categories by the ADD deadline in either semester will be withdrawn for the semester.

Enrollment categories include:

  1. Student in residence: All master’s degree candidates are expected to be in residence for the duration of their programs (i.e., two-year students must be enrolled, registered in courses, and paying tuition for four semesters; one-year students for two semesters). All non-degree students are expected to be in residence for one full year and must pay full tuition. Full-time residency requires enrollment, attendance at classes on campus and completion of at least 12 credits per semester. Students may not be matriculated in another school or institution while enrolled in HKS unless engaged in an approved combined degree. Exceptions to this policy must be approved by both their program director and the HKS Registrar’s Office. In rare cases when students receive permission to attend HKS part time, residency requires registration in, and successful completion of, eight credits per semester. Normally part-time students may not register in more than 10 credits per semester.
     
  2. Voluntary leaves of absence: Students who wish to interrupt their studies at any time before graduation may request a leave of absence for either one semester or an entire academic year. Requests for a leave of absence may be granted by their program director in consultation with other officers of the university, as appropriate. With respect to a voluntary leave of absence for medical reasons, the assistant dean for student services and programs ordinarily will consult with Harvard University Health Services (which may consider information from students’ current and/or former health care providers, if made available by the student). Extensions of leaves for up to one year at a time must be requested in writing to the HKS Registrar’s Office. Failure to request an extension of leave time or to obtain approval for an extension of leave time will result in a withdrawal, and it will be necessary for the student to request readmission in writing from the HKS Registrar’s Office, providing the student’s reasons for wishing to return and plans for completing the degree. Readmission is not guaranteed. Students are on leave will be charged an active file fee for each term, payable upon their return. Students on leave are not considered to be working toward their degree.
     
  3. Involuntary leave of absence: Under certain circumstances, students may be placed on an involuntary leave of absence. An involuntary leave of absence is not a disciplinary sanction. 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 for medical reasons rather than to be placed on an involuntary leave of absence for medical reasons is ordinarily allowed to do so. Transcripts do not distinguish between voluntary and involuntary leaves of absence.


An involuntary leave of absence may be required for the following reasons:

  • Medical circumstances:

    (a) The student’s behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of any person, or has seriously disrupted others in their 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 Harvard University Health Services to evaluate the cause of the behavior. The decision to place a student on an involuntary leave of absence for health-related reasons is made in consultation with Harvard University Health Services (which may consider information from the student’s current and/or former health care providers, if made available by the student) after an individualized assessment of all pertinent factors, such as: the nature of the student’s conduct; the nature, duration and severity of the risk; the likelihood of potential injury; and whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices or procedures will mitigate the risk. However, reasonable modifications do not include changes that would fundamentally alter the academic program or unduly burden the School’s resources or staffing capabilities or, with respect to the required level of care or monitoring, that would exceed the standard of care that a university health service 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 allegedly violated a disciplinary rule of the school, and the student’s presence on campus poses a significant risk to the safety of others or to the educational environment of the community.
  • Indebtedness:  The student’s term bill is unpaid and the student has not made arrangements acceptable to the School to address the issue.
  • Failure to provide medical documentation of required immunizations.
  • Unfulfilled academic requirements: The student has not met an academic requirement and has not taken steps acceptable to the School to meet the requirement.
  • Failure to register: The student has not registered as required at the beginning of each term.

The decision to place a student on involuntary leave is made by either the senior associate dean for Degree Programs and Student Affairs or the assistant dean for student services and programs in consultation with other officers of the University, as appropriate. As noted above, in the case of an involuntary leave of absence for medical reasons, the School will consult with an appropriate person at Harvard University Health Services.

Students are notified in writing if they have been placed on involuntary leave. A student may petition the senior associate dean for Degree Programs and Student Affairs for reconsideration and may appeal a final decision to the Dean of the School.

While on Leave of Absence

If students go on a leave of absence during the academic year, they are charged tuition and any applicable fees, including rent, to the end of the period in which they leave. If they received scholarship or other financial aid, they should consult the HKS Student Financial Services office concerning the financial implications of going on leave. If they are an international student, they should consult the Harvard International Office about their status.

The date students go on leave will affect their student health insurance through Harvard. For details, review the Leave of Absence policy on the Harvard University Student Health Program website, contact member services at 617-495-2008 or email them.

Libraries and other facilities normally may be used only if students are currently registered. If they are on leave, they may not participate in extracurricular activities. Exceptions to this rule must be specifically approved in advance by the school. If so instructed by the senior associate dean for Degree Programs and Student Affairs or the associate dean for Degree Programs and Student Affairs, students must remain away from the university campus.

Students going on leave must remember that all degree candidates, whether currently registered or not, are expected to maintain a satisfactory standard of conduct.

Following an individualized assessment, the school may require students—if they are on leave for medical reasons—to comply with a treatment plan during their time away.

Returning to School

Students in good standing who are on a voluntary leave of absence ordinarily may return by notifying the HKS Registrar’s Office 12 weeks in advance of the start of any term, although it remains their responsibility to ensure that they have adequate time to complete the degree within the time limits established by the School.

Students who were not in good standing at the time a voluntary leave of absence was granted and students who were placed on an involuntary leave of absence must petition either the senior associate dean for Degree Programs and Student Affairs or the assistant dean for student services and programs for permission to return to the School and must demonstrate that the circumstances that led to their leave have been satisfactorily addressed and they are ready to resume their studies. The decision whether to allow a student to return is made by the senior associate dean for Degree Programs and Student Affairs or such other person as the Dean designates.

If the leave, voluntary or involuntary, was for medical reasons, then the student must petition either the senior associate dean for Degree Programs and Student Affairs or the assistant dean for student services and programs for permission to return to the School and must demonstrate that the circumstances that led to their leave have been satisfactorily addressed and they are ready to resume their studies.

In addition, so that the school may conduct an individualized assessment of their circumstances, students on medical leave ordinarily will be required to consult with Harvard University Health Services (and to grant permission to Harvard University Health Services to obtain their treatment records and communicate with their treatment providers) so that a professional assessment of their stability and readiness to return can be shared with the School.

Please also note that if the school learns of serious concerns about the health or well-being of a student who is away from School but not on a medical leave of absence, then the School similarly may require the student to consult with Harvard University Health Services (and to grant permission to Harvard University Health Services to obtain their treatment records and communicate with their treatment providers) so that a professional assessment about the student’s stability and readiness to return can be shared with the school. In all such cases, the decision whether to allow a student to return is made by the senior associate dean for Degree Programs and Student Affairs or such other person as the Dean designates.

Any disciplinary matter must be resolved before a student on a leave of absence will be allowed to return and, if the student has been required to withdraw while on a leave of absence, then any conditions for return after a required withdrawal also must be satisfied.

Students returning from a leave who wish to apply for financial aid must notify the HKS Student Financial Services office and file the necessary application forms by mid-April for the following fall term, and by October 1 for the following spring term. Students who apply late cannot be assured that their aid will be available in time for registration payment deadlines.

Students who have been granted a leave and have borrowed money through Harvard must submit an annual loan deferment form to the Student Loan Office upon their return to Harvard. Deferment forms may be obtained through either the Student Loan Office or the HKS Student Financial Services office and must be completed and certified by the HKS Registrar’s Office immediately following registration. Failure to file a deferment form upon return will cause payments to be due on loans and could affect future borrowing eligibility.

Students will not be allowed to register in the University again until all previous term-bill charges have been paid and no loan is in default.

Contracts for Enrollment

The school may condition a student’s enrollment on certain terms or conditions, as set forth in a written contract between the School and the student, when the student’s conduct or circumstances have caused heightened concerns about the student’s safety and/or well-being and:

  • The appropriateness of the student’s continued enrollment; or
  • The student’s readiness to return to the Harvard community

The contract may include, among other things, compliance with a medical treatment plan; regular consultations with health care professionals; communication with administrators; and limited disclosure of relevant medical information, on a need-to-know basis, such as compliance with treatment and restrictions on certain activities. The decision to require such a contract is arrived at in consultation with Harvard University Health Services after an individualized assessment of the nature of the student’s conduct and circumstances and any other pertinent factors.

Degree Completion

Students must reapply for admission if they do not complete their degree within the designated time after matriculation (five years for two-year students, four years for mid-career students). Readmission is not guaranteed.