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Doctor of Philosophy

Overview

Graduate students are responsible for knowing the graduate requirements of both the Graduate College and their academic departments. The University of Arizona offers five doctoral degrees: the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), the Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.), the Doctor of Public Health (D.P.H.), and the Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.). The University of Arizona also offers a first professional degree, the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD). For information on the PharmD, please refer to the General Catalog. The UA General Catalog also provides definitive information regarding Graduate Minors and doctoral Second Language Requirements, as well as the Academic Calendar.

Credit Requirements and Transfer Credit

The equivalent of at least six semesters of full-time graduate study is required for the Ph.D. A minimum of 36 units of coursework in the area of the major subject, 9 units in the minor subject, and 18 units of dissertation must be completed.  Most students will take more than the minimum number of units for a given degree.

All required units of credit counted toward the degree must be taken for graduate credit, including any courses transferred from another institution.  The only exception is that students admitted to the program prior to Fall 2014 may use up to 6 units of 400-level credit taken at the University of Arizona in the minor if not used toward an undergraduate degree. (These units will not receive graduate credit or be calculated in the graduate grade-point average.)  At least 22 units (i.e. half the required coursework) on the Doctoral Plan of Study must be in courses in which regular grades (A, B, C) have been earned. Courses with grade D cannot be counted toward a graduate degree. A minimum of 12 units of regular grades taken at the University of Arizona are required to establish the Grade Point Average (GPA).

Non-credit based requirements such as comprehensive exams, dissertations or thesis requirements, research requirements, and professionalization requirements may not be transferred from another institution.

Transfer Credit

Graduate credit earned at other approved institutions may be counted toward the requirements of a doctoral degree, but will not be included in the calculation of the University of Arizona GPA

Transferred units are subject to the following restrictions:

  • The credits must be approved by the major or minor department and the Graduate College.
  • The minimum grade for transferred credits must be an A or B or the equivalent at the institution where course was taken.
  • Transferred units may not count toward more than one doctorate.
  • A maximum of 30 units of transfer coursework may be used toward the Ph.D requirements.

Students who wish to transfer credit must submit a Transfer Credit form in GradPath before the end of their first year of study to have the courses evaluated for transfer eligibility.

Courses Shared Between Degrees

There are limits on coursework that can be counted toward more than one degree earned by the student at the University of Arizona or elsewhere.

  • If a student counts credits from a UA M.S. or M.A. towards a UA Ph.D., then additional transfer credit may be limited to ensure that some UA coursework is taken while in the doctoral program.  Thesis credits used for a master's degree cannot count toward the Ph.D. course credit requirements.
  • Up to 30 units of credit counted toward one or more master’s degrees earned at UA or elsewhere may be counted toward the Ph.D requirements.
  • No course may be counted toward the requirements for more than two degrees (earned at UA or elsewhere).
  • No course counted toward a bachelor’s degree may be counted toward Ph.D requirements.
  • A student earning two UA doctoral degrees may use up to 9 units of coursework toward both doctoral degrees (as long as courses were not used toward any other degree).

Graduate Non-Degree Coursework

Students who have completed graduate non-degree coursework at UA may count no more than 12 units of non-degree credit toward the Ph.D requirements

Continuous Enrollment

A student admitted to a doctoral program must register each fall and spring semester for a minimum of 3 graduate units from original matriculation until the completion of all course requirements, written and oral comprehensive exams, and 18 dissertation units. When these requirements are met, doctoral students not on financial assistance and/or needing to maintain appropriate visa status, must register for a minimum of 1 unit each semester until final copies of the dissertation are submitted to the Graduate Student Academic Services Office. While 1 unit satisfies Continuous Enrollment, it does NOT meet requirements for full-time status.  Students receiving funding such as assistantships, fellowships, loans, grants, scholarships or traineeships may be required by their funding source to register for more than 1 unit to meet full-time status requirements.  Students should check with those funding sources regarding such requirements to ensure that they remain qualified for funding.

Doctoral students do not have to register for graduate units during summer sessions unless they plan to make use of University facilities or faculty time. If they plan to utilize facilities or faculty time they must enroll for a minimum of 1 unit of graduate credit. If a student has maintained continuous enrollment, completed all course requirements, taken the required 18 dissertation units, and will only take the Final Oral Exam (the defense), make the final dissertation submission for graduation, or take the comprehensive examinations during the summer or winter term, registration is not required.

Unless excused by an official Leave of Absence (which may not exceed one year throughout the student's degree program), all graduate students are subject to the Continuous Enrollment Policy and must pay in-state and out-of-state tuition and fees in order to remain in the program. If the student fails to obtain a Leave of Absence or maintain continuous enrollment, he or she will be required to apply for re-admission and to pay the Graduate College application fee, and pay all overdue tuition and fees, including cumulative late penalties. There is no guarantee of re-admission. No tuition or registration waivers can be applied retroactively.  Any student considering re-application should first check with the Graduate Student Academic Services Office to see whether additional work or updated forms will be necessary.

Please note that "continuous enrollment" is not the same as "full time enrollment" for financial aid purposes. Please refer to the University policy on Full-Time Status

Time Limitation

All requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy must be completed within 5 years of passing the Comprehensive Exam. Programs may have more stringent time to degree requirements.  Should a student not finish within that time period, he or she may be allowed to re-take the Comprehensive Exam with permission of the program, and then proceed to complete other requirements, e.g., the dissertation. 

Qualifying Examination

A qualifying examination or diagnostic evaluation may be required to demonstrate acceptability to pursue the doctorate as well as to determine areas of study where further course work is necessary. Please review the requirements of the program for more information.

Major Professor

The major professor serves as the student's advisor and mentor. The head of the student's major department may designate a temporary major professor (advisor) for incoming students. During the first year, students should select a major professor who must be approved by the department head. Students may change major professors with departmental approval, but are required to have a major professor in order to maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress.

Plan of Study

In conjunction with his/her major professor or advisor, each student is responsible for developing a Plan of Study during their first year in residence, to be filed with the Graduate College no later than the student's third semester in residence. The Plan of Study identifies

  1. Courses the student intends to transfer from other institutions;
  2. Courses already completed at the University of Arizona which the student intends to apply toward the graduate degree; and
  3. Additional course work to be completed in order to fulfill degree requirements.

The Plan of Study must have the approval of the student's major professor and department head (or Director of Graduate Studies) before it is submitted to the Graduate College.

Comprehensive Examination for Advancement to Candidacy

Before admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree, the student must pass a written and an oral Doctoral Comprehensive Examination. This examination is intended to test the student's comprehensive knowledge of the major and minor subjects of study, both in breadth across the general field of study and in depth within the area of specialization. The examination, therefore, should not take place until the student has completed all, or almost all, of their coursework. The Comprehensive Examination is considered a single examination, although it consists of written and oral parts. While the Graduate College sets general policies and guidelines for exams, it is expected that each program will have different ways of assessing a student's knowledge of the field and their preparation to begin the dissertation. Each program determines the format and administration of the written portion. The minor department controls the minor portion of the written examination and may waive it at their discretion.  A student will pass the written portion before sitting for the oral portion. Programs will have written policies regarding whether or not students may retake failed written exams as well as specific policies regarding second attempts of the oral. The time between the written and oral portion is determined by individual programs, but the oral portion should come early enough to allow the student to advance to candidacy in a timely fashion. Normally, the written and oral portions of the comprehensive examination should take place at least three months prior to the Final Oral Examination (defense of dissertation). The exact time and place of this examination must be scheduled with your department.

Upon successful completion of the written portion of the examination, the Oral Comprehensive Examination is conducted before the examining committee of the faculty. The oral portion of the examination must cover both the major and the minor.  All members must be present for the entire examination. Should special circumstances require a member to attend remotely, prior permission from the Graduate College is necessary. This is the occasion when faculty committee members have both the opportunity and obligation to require the student to display a broad knowledge of the chosen field of study and sufficient depth of understanding in areas of specialization. Discussion of proposed dissertation research may be included. The examining committee must attest that the student has demonstrated the professional level of knowledge expected of a junior academic colleague. The Graduate College allows no more than one re-take of the oral exam.

When the student has an approved doctoral Plan of Study on file with the Graduate Student Academic Services Office, has satisfied all course work, language, and residence requirements, and passed the written and oral portions of the Comprehensive Examination their bursar account will be billed the fee for candidacy, dissertation processing, and archiving. This is a one-time fee and the student will not be billed again if they change their anticipated graduation date. Copyrighting is optional and carries an additional fee.

Comprehensive Examination Committee

The examining committee must consist of a minimum of four members. The Major Advisor and two additional members must be current tenured, or tenure track faculty members. The fourth member may be tenured or tenure-track, or an approved special member. Special members must be pre-approved by the Dean of the Graduate College. Any members beyond the fourth can also be current tenured or tenure-track faculty members, or approved special members.

Dissertation Prospectus/Proposal

Every student in a doctoral program needs to have an approved dissertation prospectus or proposal on file within their department.  As soon as the student has an approved prospectus/proposal on file within the department, the department's Graduate Coordinator will submit the prospectus/proposal confirmation form in GradPath on behalf of the student.

Committee Appointment Form

When the student has an approved doctoral Plan of Study on file, has satisfied all course work, language, and residence requirements, and passed the written and oral portions of the Comprehensive Examination, he or she must file a Committee Appointment form. Any changes to the committee should be reported to the Graduate Student Academic Services office.  Under normal circumstances, submission is expected at least six months before the Final Oral Examination (i.e., Defense).  Deadlines for the submission of paperwork pertaining to doctoral programs are available online at Deadlines for Completion of Degree Requirements.

The Committee Appointment form reports the student’s planned dissertation committee, dissertation title (subject to change) and the expected graduation term. It requires approval from the dissertation director and the major and minor departments. The approval signature from the minor department on this form indicates both approval of the reported dissertation committee and confirmation that the student has satisfied all requirements for the minor.

Dissertation

All Ph.D. programs require the completion of a dissertation which meets required standards of scholarship and demonstrates the candidate's ability to conduct original research.

Research involving human subjects or vertebrate animals requires permission from the relevant University committee. Consult your research director and the Office for the Responsible Conduct of Research for details. Their telephone number is (520) 626-5515.

Research activities involving the use of human subjects require the review and approval of the University Human Subjects Committee.

Any research involving vertebrate animals must be approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). The student must be listed on an approved IACUC protocol before they begin their animal research.

Instructions relating to the format of the dissertation and required abstracts are included in the Dissertation Formatting Guide (including those that include previously published papers, papers accepted for publication, and/or papers with multiple authors).

Dissertation Committee

Students will form a dissertation committee by the time of Advancement to Candidacy. Some departments require earlier committee formulation. Individual faculty members may decline membership on committees for academic reasons. Candidates must be able to develop a proposal of sufficient academic merit and on a topic that satisfies their committee. Candidates can be suspended if they do not have an approved dissertation chair and committee.

The Graduate College requires a minimum of three members, all of whom must be current University of Arizona faculty members that are tenured, tenure-track, or approved as equivalent. If a committee has only three members, all must approve the dissertation. In departments that require four or five members, there may be one dissenting vote. The fourth member may be tenured or tenure-track, or an approved special member. Special members must be pre-approved by the Dean of the Graduate College. Any members beyond the fourth can also be tenured or tenure-track, or approved special members. All dissertation committee members are expected to attend the entire final defense.

Final Oral Defense Examination

Upon the completion of the dissertation, the candidate must submit to a Final Oral Defense Examination. A student must be in good academic standing to schedule the defense. The examination focuses on the dissertation itself but can include general questioning related to the field(s) of study within the scope of the dissertation (Final Oral Defense Instructions).

The date, time, and location of the final examination must be scheduled with the Graduate College in advance using the Announcement of Final Oral Defense form in GradPath.  This form should be submitted far enough in advance of the examination that all approvers can grant their approval in time for the form to reach the Graduate College one week prior to the exam.  The Graduate College will place an announcement on the UA master calendar to invite the public to attend the candidate's presentation of his or her work.  Final Oral Examinations should be scheduled during days when the university is in session and during normal business hours. Permission to hold examinations during University holiday closures or outside of normal university business hours may be granted by Graduate College.

The dissertation director presides over the examination. The initial seminar portion during which the student presents the dissertation and entertains questions is open to the public.  The committee's deliberation is closed to the public

There is no minimum time limit for the Final Oral Examination, but the entire proceedings may not exceed three hours. Members of the committee must be present for the entire examination. Should special circumstances require a member to attend remotely, prior permission from the Graduate College is necessary.

If the committee requires revisions, those must be done in a timely manner, not to exceed one year.  If the revisions are not completed by the dissertation submission deadline for the term when the student defends, the student will be required to register for the next semester and will graduate in the semester when the revisions are complete and approved.  If revisions are not done by the end of the time to degree period, the student will have to re-take comprehensive examinations to demonstrate currency of knowledge.

Submission of the Dissertation

Upon successful completion of the Final Oral Defense Examination, the candidate submits the dissertation electronically for forwarding to the Library of the University of Arizona and to University Microfilms, Inc (UMI). The major department may require a print copy for department files.  Upon receipt of the finalized dissertation, the Dean of the Graduate College will recommend conferral of the doctoral degree by the Arizona Board of Regents.

Storage and Publication of Dissertation

University Microfilms, Inc. (UMI), Ann Arbor, Michigan catalogs, microfilms, and stores the dissertation and sends catalog information to the Library of Congress for printing and distribution for depository catalogs and libraries. The abstract of the dissertation is printed in Microfilm Abstracts and distributed to leading libraries in the United States and elsewhere, and to a select list of journals and abstracting services. A copy of the dissertation will be archived in the University of Arizona Library, where it serves as the record of the student's research.

Publication by microfilm does not preclude publication by other means, and successful candidates are urged to submit dissertation material for publication in a scholarly or professional journals. Suitable acknowledgment must indicate the publication was a dissertation, or portion of a dissertation, submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Arizona.

Second Doctoral Degrees

Persons holding a Ph.D. who wish to expand their training are encouraged to pursue post-doctoral training, a graduate certificate, or a professional degree (e.g, MD, JD, PharmD).  In the rare case a graduate program wishes to admit a student for a 2nd Ph.D., the case must be justified by the department in a petition subject to approval by the Graduate College. The department must explain why the 2nd Ph.D. would be qualitatively different from the first.  This rule applies to cases where the first degree is from the University of Arizona or from another domestic or international institution.  Admission to a second Ph.D. will be allowed only with strong rationale from the program.  If admitted for a second doctoral degree, students will be held to all the usual degree requirements and University regulations pertaining to fees, registrations, examinations, advancement to candidacy, residency, internships, etc. Not more than 9 credits from the prior degree may be applied toward the second degree.  Applicants who already have a doctoral degree may not be given special preference for admission or for financial support.

Students sometimes want to pursue a UA master’s along with a UA doctorate in a different major. This is allowed, subject to the following restrictions:
  • No credit may be counted for more than two degrees. Thus UA credits could not be used for a master’s in UA major 1, a doctorate in UA major 1, and a master’s in UA major 2.
  • A student may use no more than a total of 30 credits from all master’s degrees toward a doctorate. Thus, if a student earned a non-UA master’s, up to 30 credits could be used toward a UA doctorate. In that case, none of the transfer credit nor any additional coursework toward the UA doctorate could be used toward a UA master’s in a major that differs from the doctorate because the student would have exhausted the 30 credit limit of master’s coursework that can be shared with a doctorate.

 

Last updated 4 Aug 2015