Policy 3.9: Posthumous Degrees – UW Graduate School Skip to content

Policy 3.9: Posthumous Degrees

The University of Washington Graduate School follows the guidelines outlined by the University for awarding posthumous degrees, which can be found on the Procedure for Awarding Posthumous Degrees at the University of Washington (Seattle) page.

The University of Washington Graduate School recognizes the sense of loss that the student’s family and the university community feel when a student dies. One means of expressing gratitude for an advanced student’s life and work and/or sympathy for the surviving family and friends is to support the nomination of that student for a posthumous degree. The following policy is designed to allow such an award.

Please note: the nomination must be accompanied by a request from the deceased student’s family and does not necessarily mean that the degree will be awarded.

A graduate degree may be awarded to a student who is deceased prior to but nearing formal completion of all degree requirements of the program being pursued. 

3.9.1     Requirements for Consideration of a Posthumous Degree

  • Request is made by a family member(s);
  • Faculty from the student’s supervisory committee, or equivalent, support the awarding of the posthumous degree;
  • Student was within two quarters of graduating;
  • The student was in good academic standing at the time of death. Good standing is defined as not being academically deficient (warn, probation, final probation, drop);
  • For graduate students in thesis/dissertation programs, significant coursework should have been completed, and the student must have been admitted to candidacy and made tangible progress toward completion of approved research. For example, the student should have produced a dissertation in at least draft form or some other product that was acceptable to the student’s supervisory committee as indicating the expected mastery of material and independent capability in research.
  • The department chair and the dean of the student’s college/school recommend to the dean of the Graduate School the awarding of the degree.
  • If the recommendation is denied, the dean of the student’s college/school will notify the family and include a letter of explanation.
  • The Dean of the Graduate School approves the awarding of the degree.
  • The Dean of the Graduate School may consider cases that do not meet the above criteria when extraordinary circumstances prevail.

3.9.2     Process

  • The family makes a request to the university (typically through the student’s faculty/department) for a posthumous degree.
  • If the student record is not marked as “deceased” in the student database (SDB), the family should provide documentation of the student’s passing (The department can contact Graduate Enrollment Management Services for confirmation of whether or not the student record is marked as “deceased.”).
  • The student’s department (including the student’s supervisory committee) collects the appropriate documents and reviews the student’s work to make a determination on recommendation of a posthumous degree. The Director of Graduate Enrollment Management Services manages the process for the Graduate School and will create a secure folder for supporting documents to be placed for review by all parties.  Documents submitted by the academic unit include:
    • A copy of the student’s degree audit and/or a copy of the student’s transcript.
    • Letter of support from the student’s faculty/supervisory committee articulating the details of the student’s scholarship and recommending the awarding of the posthumous degree.
  • If the recommendation is supported by the department chair, it is forwarded to the college/school dean. 
  • The dean of the student’s college/school reviews the recommendation and if supported, submits the recommendation and supporting documents to the dean of the Graduate School for formal approval.
  • The Graduate School will forward the approved request and supporting documentation to the Office of the University Registrar per the instructions on the Posthumous Degree Request form for degree posting and issuing of the diploma.

Policy 3.9 created: December 2022