Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Education Degree Requirements

Requirements for all Doctoral Programs

The doctoral degree is conferred upon graduate students who have met the following requirements:

1. Successful completion of all courses and projects specified by the adviser/guidance committee within the guidelines of the candidate’s graduate studies program.

2. Satisfactory completion of foreign language requirements under Graduate Council policy. (These requirements are listed in the departmental sections of this Bulletin.)

3. Passing a preliminary comprehensive examination conducted by the major department. Any student who fails the comprehensive examination may, at the discretion of the examining committee, be permitted a second and final examination.

4. Submission of an approved dissertation prospectus to the Graduate School at least seven months prior to the Final Oral Examination (defense of dissertation).

5. Preparation of a dissertation satisfactory to the Dissertation Committee and the Department Head/Chair.

6. Passing a final (at least partly oral) examination conducted by the Dissertation Committee on the Amherst campus. This examination shall be primarily upon, but not necessarily limited to, the candidate’s dissertation. This examination time and date shall be submitted to the Graduate Dean for announcement to the Graduate Faculty when all of the Dissertation Committee members and the Department Head/Chair agree that the dissertation is sufficiently complete to stand defense; approval of the dissertation, passing the defense, and/or recommending the degree are not implied by scheduling this examination.

7. Registration for the required number of dissertation credits (refer to the Policies and Regulations section of this Bulletin.

8. A doctoral candidate must spend the equivalent of at least one continuous academic year of full-time graduate work (nine credits per semester) in residence at the university. The residency year must be either in fall/spring or spring/fall sequence. During this year, the student must spend some part of each week physically on campus. Doctoral students enrolled in recognized off-campus programs may satisfy this regulation at their off-campus site.

9. Doctoral students are required to complete their program within five years of achieving candidacy. Candidacy is recommended by the academic department upon satisfactory completion of coursework and passing the qualifying examination. Two-year extensions to this policy will be considered upon recommendation submitted to the Graduate School by the student’s Graduate Program Director.

Evaluation of Degree Progress

The departmental* Graduate Program Director is responsible for the following, all within the guidelines of the Graduate School and the candidate’s graduate studies program:

a. Approving the candidate’s program of courses.
b. Approving the procedure for satisfying the language requirements, if any.
c. Arranging for the candidate’s preliminary comprehensive examination.
d. Reporting fulfillment of the above requirements to the Head/Chair of the Department, and to the Graduate School.  

As soon as the student has passed the preliminary comprehensive examination, the Department Head/Chair or Graduate Program Director of the candidate’s major department* shall recommend to the Dean of the Graduate School the names of at least three members of the Graduate Faculty to serve as a Dissertation Committee. At least two of the Graduate Faculty so nominated shall be from the candidate’s major department.*  One member shall be appointed from outside the candidate’s department* but from within the University community. The outside member shall, without exception, be a voting member of the Dissertation Committee.  

It shall be the responsibility of the Dissertation Committee to approve the dissertation project, to supervise its execution, and to arrange and attend the final examination of the student. All members of the Dissertation Committee must tentatively approve the dissertation before the final oral examination is scheduled and agree that it is time for this examination to be held. Attendance at the final oral examination is open to all members of the candidate’s major department and any member of the Graduate Faculty. However, only members of the Dissertation Committee may cast votes. A unanimous vote of the Dissertation Committee is required for the student to pass the final oral examination. If, at the final examination, two members of the Dissertation Committee cast negative votes, the candidate will be informed that he or she has not passed the examination. If there is but one negative vote, the degree will be held up pending action of the Graduate Council.

*Refers to administrative entity for which degree has been authorized (i.e., department, program, school, etc.).

Five College Cooperative Ph.D. Program

A cooperative Ph.D. program is offered by Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith Colleges, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The degree is awarded by this university, but in exceptional cases much of the work leading to it may be taken at one or another of the participating institutions. Departments authorized to offer the cooperative Ph.D. degree are: all departments in the biological sciences, Chemistry, Geology, Physics, and Astronomy.

An applicant must apply for the Five College Cooperative Ph.D. Program through the Graduate School of the University of Massachusetts. The applicant must then secure the approval of the appropriate academic department at the university. The application then will be forwarded to the appropriate Five College institution for its evaluation. The letter of acceptance to the applicant is sent only by the Dean of the Graduate School of the University of Massachusetts, not by the other cooperating institution.

Registration for the Five College Cooperative Ph.D. students is handled only through the Graduate School of the University of Massachusetts.

Degrees awarded in this program will be appropriately indicated on the diploma and the permanent record.

All requirements for the Five College Cooperative Ph.D. degree are similar to those for the Ph.D. degree at the university except for the residency requirement. Residence in this program will apply to the institution where the dissertation work is done.

The names of the Graduate Faculty at cooperating institutions are listed at the end of this Bulletin.

Doctoral Dissertation

In addition to the other requirements of the Graduate School, a candidate for the degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) must complete an acceptable dissertation. The dissertation qualifies for acceptance when it satisfies the following criteria: 1) It should demonstrate the candidate’s intellectual competence and maturity in the field of concentration; 2) It should make an original and valid contribution to human knowledge; 3) It should be an individual achievement and the product of independent research.

Although doctoral dissertations may result from a project involving collaboration of several scholars, the individual contribution of each doctoral candidate must be substantial, clearly identified, and separately presented. Length of the dissertation is governed by the nature of its subject matter.

The dissertation in its completed form will be judged largely upon the ability of the candidate to review and make critical use of the literature; to formulate a problem, plan a method of attack, and work systematically toward a solution; to summarize the material or data, and draw conclusions based thereon. Scholastic attainment in writing and presenting the results of the study will be crucial. The goal of the dissertation is to make a contribution to knowledge. It should be of publishable quality.

The following rules shall be adhered to in preparation and presentation of a dissertation:

1. The professor responsible for the direction of the student’s research shall be the Chair of the candidate’s Dissertation Committee. Only members of the Graduate Faculty may be appointed to this committee.

2. It is the responsibility of the Chair of the Dissertation Committee to arrange a conference with other members of the committee and the candidate to discuss the research problem before approving the dissertation prospectus.

3. A copy of the candidate’s dissertation prospectus must be signed by each member of the Dissertation Committee and Department Chair/Head or Graduate Program Director to indicate that the prospectus has been approved and that a conference with the candidate has been held. The signed copy of the prospectus shall then be sent to the Dean of the Graduate School, via the candidate’s Graduate Program Director.

4. Prior to arranging for the final preparation of dissertations, candidates should refer to the Guidelines for Master’s Theses and Doctoral Dissertations, available online at

5. The Dissertation Committee is responsible for preparation of an acceptable dissertation. The dissertation must have the tentative approval of this Committee and the approval of the Department Head or Chairman before arrangements are made for the final examination for the degree.

6. Because of the time required to give adequate consideration to the research, it is important that the dissertation be submitted to the Dissertation Committee at least one month before the Graduate School degree-granting deadlines.

7. Although different disciplines have distinctive research and presentation styles, the Guidelines for Master’s Theses and Doctoral Dissertations (see 4 above) must be followed in order to achieve the maximum uniformity possible. As the Graduate School has every dissertation microfilmed, much attention is paid to the finished form. Both the Dissertation Committee and the Graduate School must approve the final format and appearance.

The candidate shall submit the dissertation to the Graduate School in electronic format following the instructions online at by the deadline for the appropriate degree period. The dissertation will be made available at the W.E.B. Du Bois Library and at branch libraries. Some departments require a bound copy for their own file as well.

The microfilm fee is required. This fee covers the submission of the electronic dissertation and the microfilm publication of the dissertation by ProQuest/University Microfilms Dissertation Services and the publication of the abstract in Dissertation Abstracts International.

8. The Eligibility for Degree form and one original signature page for the dissertation must be submitted to the Graduate School by the deadline for the appropriate degree-granting period.

9. The University of Massachusetts Amherst requires that all dissertations be copyrighted by placing a copyright notice in all copies of the work. Registration of the copyright and payment of the registration fee are optional. Further information concerning copyright is available at For current fees, check with the Office of Degree Requirements.

The dissertation will be cataloged in the Library of Congress and in the University of Massachusetts Library. Copies may be purchased from University Microfilms Dissertation Services, 300 N. Zeeb Road, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1346 or online at Publication by microfilm does not preclude the printing of the dissertation in whole or in part in a journal or as a monograph.

Additional Requirements

For additional information, refer to individual program listings in this Bulletin.

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