Ph.D. Candidacy Requirements

Students are designated as Ph.D. students when they enter the program. Students become Ph.D. candidates by qualifying for and advancing to candidacy by:

  • Successfully passing the required Ph.D. coursework
  • Successfully passing the qualifying exam (if applicable – see program requirements)
  • Writing and orally defending the research proposal

Students must advance to candidacy within one to three years of their doctoral program. See individual program requirements for more information on candidacy timelines and requirements.

Ph.D. Qualifying Examination

The purpose of the qualifying examination is to test students’ knowledge of the subject matter within their field of study. Each program is responsible for setting the qualifying examination requirements. For more information, please see program requirements.

Ph.D. Dissertation Proposal Defense Committee

The Ph.D. dissertation proposal defense committee, which must be approved by the dean, must consist of at least three members and typically includes no more than six members. The chair, plus one additional faculty member must be affiliated with the student’s program. Please see individual programs for defense committee requirements.

Ph.D. Dissertation Proposal Defense

The purpose of the dissertation proposal defense is to demonstrate that students have the ability and are adequately prepared to undertake Ph.D. level research in the proposed area. This preparation includes necessary knowledge of the chosen subject, a review of the literature and preparatory theory or experiment as applicable. The proposal defense committee must be approved by the dean prior to the proposal defense.

The dissertation proposal defense is part of the candidacy milestone that must be completed to become a Ph.D. candidate. Ph.D. students are required to complete the dissertation proposal defense within one to three years of doctoral studies, see individual program requirements for more information. The dissertation proposal defense includes two aspects: a written research proposal and an oral research proposal defense.

There are four possible outcomes for the dissertation proposal defense:

  • Pass
  • Pass with conditions
  • Retake
  • Fail without retake

A pass is achieved when the committee agrees with no more than one dissenting vote. In the instance of a pass with conditions, the entire committee must agree on the required conditions and if they cannot, the dean decides. The deadline to complete the conditions is three months after the defense date, unless the committee unanimously agrees to change it. In the instance of a fail without retake, the decision of the committee must be unanimous. Students who fail without retake or who fail the retake will be dismissed from the University.

Students who successfully pass the dissertation proposal defense are deemed Ph.D. candidates.