The first graduate of Harvard's Graduate Department was William Elwood Byerly, who received a PhD in mathematics in 1873. In 1890, the Graduate Department became the Graduate School of Harvard University as part of the the newly organized Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS). In 1905, the name was changed to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Women could not enroll in GSAS until 1962; however, they did pursue graduate studies through the Harvard Annex, which later became Radcliffe College. The first AM certificate was granted in 1890 and soon after, in 1894 when Radcliffe College became a degree-granting institution, women began studying for more advanced degrees. The first PhD at Radcliffe was awarded in 1902; enrollment grew, and by 1930, Radcliffe had become the largest graduate school among women’s colleges. This popularity ultimately led, in 1934, to the establishment of the Radcliffe Graduate School, which existed until 1962.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences oversees GSAS and is responsible for setting the conditions of admission, for providing courses of instruction for students, for directing their studies and examining them in their fields of study, for establishing and maintaining the requirements for its degrees and for making recommendations for those degrees to Harvard’s Governing Boards, for laying down regulations for the governance of the school, and for supervising all its affairs. The dean of GSAS is responsible for implementing and supervising the policies of the faculty in the area of graduate education. In the administration of academic policy, the dean is guided by the Administrative Board, the Graduate Policy Committee, and the Committee on Graduate Education.

GSAS offers PhD, AM, SM, and ME degrees. For specific information on degrees, tests, financial aid applications, and departmental requirements, visit the admissions section of this site.