Teaching Fellow Program Policies

Conditions of Eligibility and Appointment Letters

You must be registered in the Graduate School or in a professional school to be appointed as a teaching fellow or as a part-time acting instructor (PTAI).

The Graduate School requires that all students who teach be in good academic standing. Teaching fellows must also be fluent in English (with the exception of Except for "graders without contact"). Graduate students whose native language is not English are required to meet the oral English proficiency standard before they may begin teaching. 

Your letter of admission will inform you of your program's teaching requirement. In many programs, there are specific years during which students teach and this when a portion of their financial aid is derived in part from teaching. For example, most humanities and social science students will participate in teaching in their third and fourth years. In the sciences, the timing of teaching is earlier or is flexible across several years. When you are teaching as part of the requirement specified in your letter of admission, your teaching assignment will not be adjusted in response to changes in the course's enrollment (with the exception that six students are required for discussion sections and nine for course graders). Your appointment during your teaching requirement will only change if a course is cancelled or if you, the course instructor, and your director of graduate studies (DGS) all agree upon a reassignment.

Upon admission, many students receive financial aid packages that include teaching fellowships. The admission letter sets the minimum annual total stipend (including the teaching fellowship) that will be awarded, even if appropriate teaching is not available or if the teaching fellowship is less than the standard departmental stipend. Such funding adjustments are made with the participation of the relevant associate dean in the Graduate School and the student's DGS.

Teaching appointments outside those specified in the letter of admission are contingent on your satisfactory academic progress and on sufficient course enrollment. Because the Graduate School considers teaching experience an integral part of graduate education, every effort will be made to assign you to another course at an equivalent level if enrollments are lower than anticipated. PhD students who teach in their first or second year, or when such teaching is not a departmental requirement, will receive the full teaching fellowship, plus a supplemental fellowship, bringing their combined stipend up to the level awarded in the admission letter. Master's students will receive the full teaching fellowship; any other financial aid will be awarded according to the policies of their program.

Teaching Fellow Selection Process

Departments and programs are responsible for selecting individual teaching fellows and assigning their students via the Teaching Fellow System (TFS) in consultation with the Teaching Fellow Program (TFP) Office. Teaching fellows are selected from the pool of eligible graduate students who have documented their interest in teaching. First priority goes to students in their teaching years, followed by other GSAS students, and finally to professional school students. Specific teaching assignments are made on the basis of:

  • the academic importance of a particular teaching assignment for the individual student
  • the graduate student’s field of specialization and academic progress
  • the projected enrollment and teaching methodology for the course.

Once the assignment process has been completed, you will receive an email asking you to accept (or decline) the appointment.

Responsibility for monitoring and reporting enrollments rests with the faculty member who is the instructor of record for the course. As enrollments stabilize in the first few weeks of each term, departments are asked to monitor closely course and section sizes. It is occasionally necessary for departments to change teaching fellow appointments in response to unexpectedly high or low enrollment.

During your teaching years (as specified in your letter of admission), your teaching assignments are not affected by course enrollment and do not change unless the course is cancelled or you, your DGS, and the course instructor agree upon a reassignment. Two exceptions are that discussion sections must have a minimum enrollment of at least SIX students and graders must have at least NINE students.

A few weeks after the course selection period ends, the TFP Office will send a Verification Survey to teaching fellows so that students and faculty can verify the accuracy of their appointments and any needed adjustments or corrections can be made. Near the end of the term, the TFP Office will post a list of the appointments processed in TFS for confirmation by departments and will send teaching fellows confirmation of their appointments.

Access to Teaching Fellowships

When departments are considering applications for teaching fellowships, priority is given to qualified graduate students who are expected to teach as indicated in their letter of admission (usually in years three and four in the humanities and social sciences). If you are in your fifth or sixth year of study, you will be permitted to teach as long as there is appropriate teaching available. In this case, you must have been admitted to candidacy and in a term in which you are not supported by the University Fellowship. Students who are permitted to register beyond the sixth year of study may be appointed as TFs or PTAIs, but only if there is no other qualified candidate available in the first six years of study in any department or program of the Graduate School. In cases where an appointing department must choose between two or more graduate students who are each well qualified to teach a particular course, the student or students who have not yet had a chance to teach or who have taught the least should be given preference.

Program & Policy Resources

Refer to these highlighted sections of the Programs & Policies Bulletin for the policies governing the Teaching Fellows Program.

Teaching Fellow Program Overview

See here for a detailed overview of the policies governing the Teaching Fellow Program.

University and Teaching Fellowships

See here for an overview of the funding sources of the PhD program financial aid package.

Training in Teaching

See here for an overview of how the Teaching Fellow Program fits into the overall degree requirements of PhD programs in the Graduate School.

Teaching Fellow Resources