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UC Berkeley fall 2020: Information for graduate students

"We have created a set of options for you. You will need to decide which course of action is right for you based on your circumstances," campus leaders write

the sun shining through the fiat lux logo on sather gate
Berkeley's fourth comprehensive capital campaign, Light the Way: The Campaign for Berkeley, is one of the largest launched by any U.S. university, public or private. (UC Berkeley photo by Keegan Houser)

Chancellor Carol Christ; Paul Alivisatos, executive vice chancellor and provost; Lisa García Bedolla, vice provost for graduate studies and dean of the graduate division; and Stephen C. Sutton, vice chancellor for student affairs; sent the following message to all UC Berkeley graduate students on Wednesday:

We are delighted to share our plans for fall semester with you. I know you are eager to hear of our decisions, and before we delve into the details, let us caution you that decisions are dependent on approval from local public health authorities.

Between now and the start of fall semester, we will continue to operate amid great uncertainty. It is an uncomfortable feeling for many of us, requiring enormous flexibility, patience, resilience and grace. All of the unknowns make for a very challenging planning environment, and ultimately we must be prepared at very short notice to reduce or limit on-campus activities and move to remote teaching should pandemic conditions worsen at any point before the end of fall semester. We must also point out that while we will do our utmost to mitigate risks associated with living and learning on campus, we cannot eliminate them altogether.

We have created a set of options for you. You will need to decide which course of action is right for you based on your circumstances, your preferences, your goals, and your judgement of the risk. Please be assured that we are committed to providing you with the highest quality academic experience and will do everything possible to support your progress toward your UC Berkeley graduate degree.


It is our intention to conduct some in-person classes this fall for those students who wish to come to campus. The in-person classes will be restricted to a limited number of people, as dictated by factors including local public health guidance and our own building density guidelines.

Instruction in large courses will be offered by remote means. However, large-course discussion sections or other activities may be offered in person. We are in the process of determining which courses will have an in-person option this fall and will have our course schedule available in July.

Students will not be required to take in-person classes or be present on campus for the smaller discussion sections; almost all academic offerings will be provided via a remotely delivered method. Students who require accommodations for classes, whether online or in person, can contact the Disabled Students’ Program.

Graduate student instructors teaching courses or discussion sections this fall are advised to reach out to their course’s faculty member to discuss how the course will be delivered.

For continuing doctoral students, you may be interested in reading this information about how we are ramping up some on-campus research activities this week and what the plans are going forward.

For students pursuing master’s or professional degrees, please consult your individual programs for more information and advice.

Finally, to reduce COVID-19 exposure that could come about as a result of students traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday, all in-person instruction (as well as final exams) will be delivered remotely after Thanksgiving.

International Students

International students are asked to follow the guidance of the Berkeley International Office before arranging or changing travel plans for the fall semester. Information on visas and travel remains unclear and our staff are ready to assist graduate students with understanding their options for remote or in-person learning this fall. Please visit the office’s COVID-19 Updates and FAQ webpage for the most up-to-date information. You may also talk to a BIO adviser during drop-in advising hours or email [email protected].


Unless ordered otherwise by the public health department, we will keep the on-campus residence halls and apartments open. For those graduate students living in campus apartments or family housing, our fall protocols regarding arrival and move-in will be communicated to you later this summer via email.

While we will have reduced density in our residence halls (which typically serve our undergraduate populations), we foresee no density changes for single graduate student housing or family housing.

We still have graduate student apartments and family housing available:

  • Apartments: Learn more and apply for apartment-style living options at
  • Family Housing: We have housing options for those students seeking family housing for children, spouses/partners, or other dependents. Learn more about our University Village housing options at
  • Cal Rentals/Off-Campus Housing: Off-campus housing in the city of Berkeley is often limited. If students need assistance with off-housing options, our team at Cal Rentals is waiting to assist students, free of charge, in their search for additional housing.

Students who wish to cancel their existing on-campus housing contract will receive a message explaining how to do so without penalty. Students who have applied but not yet received a contract will receive a message with information on the action required to complete the housing contract process.

Resources for Student Parents and Caregivers

The Graduate Division is offering grants for graduate students caring for child or adult dependents: a Student Parent Grant and a Caregiver Grant. These grants may be applied toward housing and living expenses, dependent health insurance, and/or tuition. The deadline to apply for both grants is July 15, 2020. International students may apply for a need-based parent grant administered by the Berkeley International Office.

Additionally, students with dependents are eligible for 64 hours of subsidized back-up care if their child’s school is closed, or their regular caregiver is not available. Pre-register for this program online.

Student Activities and Events

It is likely that pandemic conditions and/or public health guidelines will make it inadvisable to hold in-person events as we have done in the past; this consideration will likely cause us to greatly restrict the use of campus facilities for events and meetings this fall. Students will be supported in engaging in clubs, activities and events remotely and we will do all that we can to enrich the student experience for all.

The Graduate Division’s New Graduate Student Orientation (NGSO) for incoming students will be offered remotely as a weeklong series of afternoon workshops from August 18-25, 2020. Many of the workshops will be repeated, and some will be recorded and posted for later viewing. New graduate students will receive a series of informational messages throughout the summer that will include a schedule of workshops and events. Please check with your academic program for information about program-specific orientations.

Protecting the Health of the Community

Because it is in everyone’s interest to keep our community healthly, everyone who will be present on campus will be required to meet campus, city and state mandates of physical distancing, face coverings and hand washing hygiene. We’ll ask you to read and sign a Keep Berkeley Healthy pledge prior to returning to campus.

Ask Questions and Share Your Thoughts

We are eager to hear your feedback. We will hold a Campus Conversation for students and families on Thursday, June 25, from 5-6 p.m. Pacific time. You may submit questions ahead of time or pose them in real time via Facebook Live. Visit the Campus Conversations website for details about how to view and participate.

Let us close by saying we are looking forward to welcoming you back to our UC Berkeley community in whatever way that makes sense for you. Our typical back-to-school mode will be altered, to be sure, but our commitment to your academic success and your personal growth is unwavering. We encourage you to visit the Graduate Division’s COVID-19 information hub and the Student Affairs information site for more information.

Please continue to check your Berkeley email as you will continue to receive further important updates as we approach the fall semester.