Ph.D. Student Affiliation and Backstop Funding Policy


To clarify The Graduate School (TGS) expectations regarding the financial obligation for Ph.D. student funding.


Full time Ph.D. students who are in good academic standing and are making adequate progress toward their degree are guaranteed financial support for their first five consecutive academic years beginning at the date of matriculation into the Graduate School. In order to make this guarantee, The Graduate School must have a Management Center backstop for each graduate student in order to protect each student from the potential loss of external funding during his or her projected years of study. Continued support is, as always, contingent on acceptable academic and research performance as determined in an ongoing manner by the student’s advisor, Director of Graduate Studies, and committee, where appropriate. The term “affiliate” is used in this document exclusively to mean the choice of a degree program open to Ph.D. students who have matriculated into an admitting program in which the student can complete the degree in any one of the programs or departments designated as affiliates of the admitting program.


  1. In the event that a student selects a thesis advisor from a department or program other than the admitting department or program, and therefore opts to affiliate with the advisor’s department or program to complete the Ph.D., the student should be funded in accordance with the compensation model of the department or program with which the student affiliates. Students must be advised by their admitting program Director of Graduate Studies that their stipend level will correspond to that practiced in the department or program of their chosen affiliation. Funding can be provided through any combination of departmental or competitive fellowship, teaching or research assistantship, or external support.
  2. In the event that a Ph.D. student’s thesis advisor is the primary source of the student’s support and is unable to meet the five-year funding commitment, the student’s support (tuition remission, fees, and stipend) will be covered by the department or program that receives the indirect cost revenues (ICRs) generated by the thesis advisor’s grants until such a time as suitable rearrangements can be made for renewed support. In most cases, such “backstop” support will come from the department in which the thesis advisor holds his/her primary appointment. Backstop funding agreements are expected to occur for the first five consecutive years of study, which is the standard institutional funding commitment to Ph.D. students. In some schools or graduate programs, this commitment continues until the end of the Ph.D. student’s career.
  1. When a graduate student’s thesis advisor has a primary, tenure track appointments in one unit but the ICR revenue from the advisor’s grants flows to another organizational unit within Duke, such as in the University Institutes and Centers (UICs) that are jointly funded by the Provost Area Management Center (PAMC) and the Medical Center Management Center (MCMC), the backstop agreement will be as follows:
  • 50 percent from the UIC budget
  • 25 percent from Graduate School reserves, on behalf of the PAMC
  • 25 percent from School of Medicine graduate student reserves, on behalf of the MCMC
  1. Backstop funding should be provided when there are changes in faculty advisor, whether due to the advisor leaving the institution or other reasons causing interruptions or delays in mentor support. The funding can be provided through any combination of departmental or competitive fellowship, teaching or research assistantship, or external support.


  1. Faculty advisors will be expected to commit and attest to the financial obligations outlined herein by completing and signing the Statement of Financial Support form (PDF).
  2. The director of graduate studies assistant (DGSA) of the admitting department or program should complete the form, obtaining all required signatures.
  3. Electronic copies (PDF) of the completed forms should be uploaded into the student’s electronic record in Perceptive Content (Instructions).
  4. For admitting programs in the School of Medicine, an electronic copy should also be available to the Office of Biomedical Graduate Education (OBGE) upon request.

Issued Date

September 30, 2022

Last Revised

September 30, 2022

Last Reviewed

September 30, 2022
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