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The Ph.D. is an intensive, theory-based study of education for scholars who want to pursue careers in research or teaching at colleges and universities. Doctoral students are expected to become competent in both qualitative (action research, case study, ethnographic methods) and quantitative (statistical data analysis, survey research and measurement) research methodologies, Students gain hands-on experience and practical competencies through service-based placements, mentorships, and research assistantships, and undertake independent research culminating in a dissertation that makes an original contribution to knowledge about educational practice or policies.
At least 12 course units of graduate work must be taken at the University of Pennsylvania. One course must be a research seminar in the area of specialization. The program of study may include work completed for the master’s degree. Up to eight course units may be transferred from another institution upon approval of a student’s advisor. All degree students must maintain a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0 for all courses applied toward the degree.
The faculty determines the curricular requirements for its program. The course of study can include a combination of specific required courses, electives, teaching, independent study or laboratory rotations, colloquia, and demonstration through examination of comprehensive knowledge in the major field.
A student who enters the Ph.D. program with a bachelor’s degree will be expected to spend two to three years taking 3-4 course units a semester before satisfying the graduate group’s academic requirements, passing the required examinations and being Advanced to Candidacy. Faculty may require more extensive preparation through additional work, especially those programs with substantial language requirements. Students who enter with a master’s degree or other transfer credit may satisfy the formal course requirements more quickly. Faculty has flexibility to establish the optimal timetable and requirements for their own students and to respond to the specific academic needs of individual students.
The customary maximum load for a Ph.D. student is four course units each semester; exceptions for a fifth course unit may be made in extraordinary cases upon approval of the graduate dean.
Faculty may establish examination requirements in addition to the University’s standards.
All doctoral students must satisfy a residency requirement as a condition for earning the degree. The residency requirement is defined as completion of at least four course units within two successive terms in University courses approved for graduate credit by the Graduate School of Education. A maximum of two of these four course units may be taken in summer sessions continuous with the academic year term in which the remaining course units are taken (e.g., spring/fall, fall/spring, summer/fall or spring/summer). This requirement may be fulfilled at any time after the student has been admitted to GSE for post-baccalaureate coursework. Some programs require full-time study in every semester. Consult the division for more information.
GSE will, under certain conditions, accept equivalent credit toward the degree. Up to eight graduate level CU’s taken at GSE, Penn, or another institution, may count toward the PhD. degree. Transfer credit is not automatically accepted or applied toward the doctoral degree. Students must follow formal procedures to request the application of transfer credit toward GSE degree requirements. The acceptance of transfer credits does not override specialization requirements. In order to receive transfer credit students must have earned a grade of at least “B” for all courses. Grades of “Satisfactory” or “Pass” are not transferable. No academic work done while the student was an undergraduate will be counted toward a graduate degree with the exception of courses taken when the student was an official submatriculant in the Graduate School of Education. The following conditions apply to transfer of credit:
- a grade of “A” or “B” has been earned;
- the faculty advisor and the division chair agree that the courses are acceptable;
- the student has enrolled in relevant graduate-level courses or engaged in appropriate academic activity after completion of courses for which credit is requested;
- when there is not agreement between the student’s advisor and division chair, the student must pass an examination in the content areas for which credit is requested.
Students must be admitted to a degree program before a request for transfer of credit can be considered. To request transfer of credit, students must:
Penn In Touch will reflect the transfer credits on your transcript.
A Qualifications Evaluation of each student is conducted after the completion of 6 but not more than 8 CU’s. The evaluation is designed by the specialization faculty and may be based on an examination or on a review of a student’s overall academic progress. Satisfaction of this requirement is necessary in order to continue in the graduate program and is recorded in the student’s academic record. The student and the school’s graduate office must be notified of the outcome of the evaluation.
Program candidacy review must be completed after completion of 6, but not more than 8 CU’s, and no later than the fourth semester of coursework. Eligibility will be assessed according to the following criteria: satisfactory performance in courses as shown by the student’s GSE transcript and faculty recommendations; a coherent course of study as illustrated by the planned program of study and prospectus; and a demonstration of the ability to do research as demonstrated by a research paper.
Students who are recommended for program candidacy are permitted to continue in the program. Students who do not pass program candidacy are withdrawn from the degree program.
Students may appeal to the division chair if the program faculty does not admit them to program candidacy. Students may appeal to the Committee on Degrees if the division does not admit them to program candidacy
A Candidacy Examination on the major subject area is required. This examination is normally held after the candidate has completed all required courses. Feedback will be provided to the student within one month. Satisfactory completion of the Candidacy Examination requirement is recorded in the student’s academic record. Upon successful completion of the Candidacy Examination, the student is advanced to Candidacy. Normally, a student should advance to candidacy by the end of the third year. The maximum time limit for a student to be advanced to candidacy is five years, after which time the student will be dropped from the rolls.
- depth and breadth of familiarity with the literature in their field of study
- synthesis of material across core content courses taken in the doctoral program
- ability to critically analyze issues in the field
- knowledge and understanding of the intellectual domains and research paradigms relevant to their field of study
- the ability to present cogent arguments including the effective use of evidence
To be eligible to take the candidacy examination, students must:
A public, oral presentation of the dissertation is required. The presentation must either include or be followed by an oral examination.
Beginning in 2010-11, the University’s maximum time limit for completion is ten years after matriculation. Graduate students who have been dropped after ten years may petition the graduate group to return as a student for a maximum of one year in order to achieve recertification and defend the dissertation. The faculty has no obligation to continue working with a student who has been dropped, nor is there any presumption that a graduate group will respond favorably to a petition for re-admission. If the faculty wishes to recommend re-admission, it must present to the graduate dean a list of faculty members willing to serve as a dissertation committee and a detailed, realistic plan of how the student will, within one year of reenrollment, achieve recertification, pass the dissertation examination, and submit the final copy of the dissertation. If re-enrollment is approved by the graduate dean, such a student must pay reduced rate tuition for two semesters, unless all requirements are completed within one semester.
A student who is re-enrolled after expiration of the time limit must satisfy the recertification criteria designed by their graduate group and approved by the Graduate Council of the Faculties (or retake and pass the Candidacy Examination). The new deadline for completion of all requirements for the Ph.D., including recertification, shall be within one year.
Ph.D. students in the Graduate Group in Education who have not completed all their degree requirements within 10 years of matriculation may submit a petition to the Graduate School of Education's Committee on Degrees for a one-year extension. The petition must be submitted to the Committee on Degrees at least 2 months prior to the end of the 10th academic year. To qualify for an extension, the student must meet the following four conditions:
The final stage and culmination of doctoral study is preparation of a dissertation. The dissertation is an independently produced piece of original research on a problem in education prepared under the supervision of a dissertation committee. The dissertation should show high attainment and power of independent research, and represent a significant contribution to human knowledge. A GSE Ph.D. dissertation should include:
- a description of the significance of the dissertation research, and
- the selection of the research methods approach(es) chosen to investigate the research question(s) or hypothesis(es);
Multiple authorship of dissertations is allowed as long as no publication is used as dissertation material for more than one student and as long as the candidate includes for publication a concise account of his or her contribution to the whole work.
Dissertations based on joint work with other researchers are allowed provided that in such cases a unique and separate dissertation is presented by each degree candidate. The candidate must include a concise account of his or her contribution to the whole work. Authorship of a dissertation by more than one degree candidate is not allowed.
Students must consult with their advisor for assistance in selecting a group of at least three people with earned doctorates to serve as the dissertation committee. The dissertation committee is responsible for evaluating their proposal for dissertation research, for supervising the preparation of a dissertation on an approved problem, and for evaluating the dissertation. Committee members should be selected on the basis of their relationship to the dissertation content.
Students must complete the doctoral preliminary and minor examinations before seeking formal approval for a dissertation committee. Upon advancement to candidacy, each student has a Dissertation Committee consisting of at least three faculty members (including at least two members of the Education Graduate Group). A list of Education Graduate Group members is available here. The third member may be a scholar external to the University of Pennsylvania with a doctoral degree, including a qualified individual who does not hold faculty rank at a college or university. To include an external member on their dissertation committee, students must have approval from the committee chair and the Assistant Dean for Academic & Student Affairs.
The Dissertation Committee meets at least once annually with the student to review the student’s progress. The student prepares an Annual Dissertation Progress Report and the committee gives timely feedback (within one month) and confirms whether progress is satisfactory. A copy of the signed progress report is submitted to the Supervisor/Advisor and Graduate Group Chair and is documented by the school in the student’s PhD Worksheet.
One person is designated the chair. The chair of a Ph.D. dissertation committee must be both a member of the standing faculty and a member of the Graduate Group in Education. The dissertation committee chair becomes the official faculty advisor.
To formalize the committee, submit a completed Request for Appointment of the Dissertation Committee and Scheduling of the Oral Proposal Form to the Student Records Office. The committee must be formally approved before students can hold their oral proposal hearing. Allow at least three weeks for the request to be reviewed by the Assistant Dean’s office. To request a change in dissertation committee, students must complete a Request for Change of Dissertation Committee form. Changes to the committee must be approved by the Assistant Dean for Academic and Student Affairs.
Students must obtain University approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) before they may conduct research on human subjects for their dissertation study. Since education research generally involves little or no risk to the participants, the University permits GSE students to apply for an expedited review by the IRB. Detailed information about these procedures is available from the Office of Research Services.
All doctoral candidates must present their dissertation proposals orally to the dissertation committee. To schedule the oral proposal, the student must:
Decide with the committee members on a day, date and time to hold the proposal
Submit the Request for Appointment of Dissertation Committee and Scheduling of Oral Proposal Form signed by the chair and each committee member to the Student Records Office at least two weeks in advance of the date the hearing is to take place. The Student Records Office will assign a room for the proposal hearing and notify the student, the committee members and the division coordinator. The notice will also be posted on the bulletin board in the second floor administrative suite.
Having passed the oral proposal, the student will be issued a signed ballot verifying that fact. A second copy of the ballot must be submitted to the Student Records Office so that this information can be added to the student’s transcript. A third copy of the ballot is for the dissertation chair’s records.
The student, the chair, and majority of the committee are required to be physically present at the oral proposal and final defense hearings.
Although all members of a student’s dissertation committee are expected to be physically present at the oral proposal and final defense hearings, in extenuating circumstances one member, or a minority of the committee, may be physically absent as long as the absent member(s) participate(s) in the oral proposal and final defense hearings.
At the oral proposal hearing, the dissertation committee will review the proposal with the student and help refine the proposed dissertation project. The committee will vote on the proposal and indicate any revisions that might be required before the student may be allowed to proceed with the dissertation research. Oral proposal hearings are not normally held during the summer. Candidates who wish to have the oral proposal hearing during the summer must secure the approval of all committee members. If approval is granted, the student will be required to register for courses, or for dissertation supervision (EDUC 995) for the summer session in which the oral proposal hearing is held. After the dissertation proposal is approved, three ballots will be signed by the committee. One ballot is for the student, one for the chair, and one for the Student Records Office. Students must complete all remaining requirements for the degree within a period of four years. For an extension of time to complete the dissertation, students may petition the Committee on Degrees. Students must have the recommendation of the dissertation committee chair to be considered for an extension of this time limit.
Your committee will determine whether you pass your oral proposal hearing. Your proposal must pass the following criteria:
The final oral defense is approximately one and a half hours in length and is based upon the candidate’s dissertation. To schedule the final oral examination, doctoral candidates must submit the completed the Final Defense Hearing Form and abstract to the Student Records Office at least two weeks in advance of the date of the final defense. The Student Records Office schedules the meeting room and formally notifies the dissertation committee that the meeting has been scheduled. Students and Education faculty are also invited to attend these presentations.
The student, the chair, and majority of the committee are required to be physically present at the oral proposal and final defense hearings.
Although all members of a student’s dissertation committee are expected to be physically present at the oral proposal and final defense hearings, in extenuating circumstances, one member, or a minority of the committee, may be physically absent as long as the absent member(s) participate(s) in the oral proposal and final defense hearings.
At least one term must elapse between passing the preliminary examination and the final defense. At the discretion of the dissertation committee, the candidate will be recommended to the faculty of the Graduate Group in Education for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. After the final defense hearing, three ballots will be signed by the committee. One ballot is for the student, one for the chair, and one for the Student Records Office.
Final oral examinations are not normally held during the summer. Candidates who wish to have the final oral examination during the summer must secure the approval of all committee members and register for Dissertation Supervision (EDUC 995) for the summer session in which the final oral examination is held.
To schedule the final defense, the student must:
REQUIRED DOCUMENTS FOR PH.D. DISSERTATIONS
The Graduate Group reports to the graduate office regarding acceptance of the Ph.D. dissertation and its suitability for immediate publication by the prescribed deadline. Here is how the process works. Once the dissertation is approved, Form 152 (Acceptance of Dissertation) is signed by the entire committee. The student brings the completed form to the Student Records Office. When the student is ready to file the dissertation with the Graduate Group Chair for signature, the student picks up Form 152 with Form 153, (Certification of Dissertation), at the Student Records Office. Dissertations must follow the format prescribed in the Dissertation Manual, which describes in detail the requirements for preparing and filing the dissertation. Please allow three weeks for Graduate Group Chair approval before dissertation is filed with the Graduate Group in Arts and Sciences.
Please click here for instructions on submitting PhD dissertations.
Ph.D. students will be charged Full Tuition until they have completed 4 years of full-time study. The time may be as brief as three years if a student enters with credits from a post-baccalaureate degree program or successfully completes the Ph.D. in less than 4 years.
If the student has not earned the Ph.D. degree by the end of the 4 years, the student will be charged Reduced Tuition until the degree is awarded, or for a maximum of 6 additional years. Continuous enrollment is required through year ten (or until graduation), with exception for approved leave.
After a maximum of 6 years at Reduced Tuition, the student ceases to be enrolled. (See above, Time Limit for Completion of the Ph.D. Degree.)
With permission and recertification from the graduate group (see section above, “Recertification”), a student may reenroll for a final year in order to defend and deposit the dissertation. Such a student must pay reduced rate tuition for a final two semesters, unless all requirements are completed within one semester.
A student in a Ph.D. program at Penn is eligible for time off of eight weeks for the birth or adoption of a child. The student must notify the graduate group chair and Advisor/Supervisor in writing, at an early date, of his/her plans to initiate a “Time Off” period, so that appropriate arrangements can be made to cover any teaching/research responsibilities.
A student in the Ph.D. program at Penn may take an unpaid Family Leave of Absence for the birth or adoption of a child, child care, or care of an immediate family member (spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent) with a serious health condition. University policy on family leave is available in the Pennbook, here.
*IMPORTANT: If you anticipate adding a dependent (e.g., newborn) to your Penn Student Insurance Policy while on Family Leave, you must remain in ACTIVE student status at the start of the fall semester. Students should arrange with their school/division to maintain full-time student status for at least 31 days from the start of fall classes, after which time the Family Leave status can be recorded in the Student Records System. After the birth/adoption, contact the SHS Insurance Coordinator to enroll the dependent. The premium for dependent coverage is payable directly to Aetna Student Health.
The GSE academic calendar lists the deadlines for completing degree requirements in order to graduate in any academic term. All degree candidates must apply to graduate on-line at the beginning of the term in which they plan to receive the degree. Ph.D. students must apply on-line to graduate with Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Failure to apply for graduation by the published deadline will make it impossible to receive the degree at the time desired.
GSE holds a commencement ceremony each year in May for students who have completed degrees during the past academic year. Doctoral students who have successfully defended their dissertation by the last day of graduate classes listed on the spring semester of the GSE academic calendar may also participate in the ceremony in May. August graduates who participate in the May commencement ceremony:
August and December graduates are also invited to participate in the spring commencement exercises that follow completion of their degrees.
Doctoral students who have successfully passed the final defense of the dissertation may participate in the May graduation ceremony even if they will officially graduate in the next term. The final defense must be held, and the ballot submitted to the Student Records Office, by the last day of the spring semester.
Students who complete all requirements for a Doctor of Philosophy except the preliminary examination and the dissertation may apply to the Assistant Dean to receive a Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS). The CAS is a form of recognition for completing significant doctoral level study in an educational field. Students who elect to receive a CAS will not be eligible to re-enter a degree program and complete the doctorate at a later date. A CAS may be awarded to students matriculated in the Graduate School of Education who:
The certificate contains: