Graduate Student Appointments: Graduate Student Research Assistantship Program - What is a Graduate Student Research Assistantship?

A Graduate Student Research Assistantship (G.S.R.A) is an appointment which may be provided to a student in good standing in a University of Michigan graduate degree program who performs personal research (including thesis or dissertation preparation) or who assists others performing research that is relevant to his or her academic goals.


The Graduate Student Research Assistantship program is a vehicle to provide financial support for the academically-related research activities of active University of Michigan graduate students. Therefore, in order to hold the title "Graduate Student Research Assistant," an individual must be:

  1. Term I and II: In good standing as a student in a graduate degree program and registered for not less than six (6) credit hours each term or, with the written approval of the student's faculty advisor, not less than five (5) credit hours consisting of not less than two (2) courses relevant to the student's degree program.
  2. Term III: In good standing as a student in a graduate degree program with no specific enrollment requirement.


G.S.R.A. appointments will typically be made for periods coinciding with academic terms. An appointment end date must always be specified. Appointments may be structured to begin or end during the course of a term, as the result of unanticipated needs or variations in external grant or contract support. It should be noted, though, that appointments of less than a full term are not accompanied by some of the benefits described in this document.

In all cases, the appointment period should closely coincide with the period of personal research or services rendered.

Once a commitment has been made to provide a given level of funding for a specific period to a student, this support would not normally be reduced during a period of appointment nor would an appointment normally be terminated prior to the originally processed end date unless the appointee fails to meet the stated program enrollment requirements at the University of Michigan.

If it is determined that the appointee is not making satisfactory progress towards a degree, or when appointment performance is unsatisfactory (including cases involving misconduct) the appointment duties may be reduced and the appointment fraction and stipend may be reduced correspondingly, or the appointment may be terminated. Prior to initiating a termination, the matter should be discussed with the G.S.R.A. in an effort to correct the problem. Where efforts at correction are inappropriate or prove to be unproductive, the proposed termination of appointment and support should be reviewed and approved in advance by the department chairperson or an equivalent level of authority (in an Institute or Center) prior to proceeding. In addition, the Academic Human Resources Office should be made aware of the pending action.1


The minimum amount for stipends associated with G.S.R.A. appointments is announced annually in a late-summer memorandum from the Office of Academic Human Resources to Deans, Directors, and Department Heads. While individual units may provide stipends exceeding the announced full time equivalent minimum, it should be kept in mind that the FTE stipend amount of an individual in a department cannot be reduced in subsequent terms.


A stipend which is made available as a result of an externally-funded grant or contract may be contingent on continuation of that grant or contract and must be subject to all of its terms. G.S.R.A.'s appointed under such circumstances should be made aware of this fact at the time of appointment. In the event that external sponsor support is reduced or terminated resulting in an impact on the funding of a Graduate Student Research Assistantship, the affected G.S.R.A. should be notified as soon as possible. In such cases, every effort should be made to maintain an equivalent amount of financial aid from other sources for not less than the stated period of appointment.

Stipend amounts shall be consistent with those announced annually for the Office of Academic Human Resources. In this connection, University proposals to prospective sponsors involving support of G.S.R.A.'s should be consistent with the Graduate Student Research Assistantship Program. Note that, in developing proposals, G.S.R.A. tuition support is generally included in the stipend/salary category rather than indicated as a separate item on the budget.

Additional information regarding inclusion of GSRA's on sponsored projects is available from the Office of the Vice President for Research. Information concerning the impact of tuition waivers on grant or contract accounts is provided in the Tuition Waiver section of this publication. (Refer to Benefits).2


In that appointment fractions represent a commitment on the part of the appointing unit to a given level of support for a graduate student, normally they will not change during the appointment period. Any changes proposed during the course of a previously processed appointment should be explained in an attachment.

Where G.S.R.A. activity is funded by external sponsors, it is particularly important to ensure that effort during the appointment periods is not less than indicated on the appointment. Effort certification may be required.

G.S.R.A.'s should not normally be appointed at a fraction of 75 percent or higher during a term of academic enrollment. In no case should the appointment fraction of effort interfere with the G.S.R.A.'s progress towards a degree or exceed 100 percent. Fractions of 75 percent or higher during the Fall or Winter terms should have the approval of the involved G.S.R.A.'s academic department.

1Staff of Academic Human Resources (734-763-8938) are available to advise and assist students and departments in the resolution of non-academic issues which may arise relating to the terms and conditions of G.S.R.A. appointments.  

2Reference: Questions concerning Benefits costs for G.S.R.A.'s to be factored into proposal budgets should be directed to the Benefits Office (734-615-2000).

Questions regarding the preparation of proposals, or project budgets involving G.S.R.A. participation in general, should be directed to DRDA Project Representatives. (734-764-5500).