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4. Doctoral Degrees

Doctoral degrees administered by the Graduate School include:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). Conferred in recognition of exceptional demonstrated ability and scholarship in a relatively broad field of knowledge.
  • Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.). Offered in composition, conducting, and certain fields of performance for students demonstrating high competence in those areas. The degree program is intended to develop creative and performing artists with great breadth of knowledge and scholarship.

Doctoral education has two stages. During precandidacy students take preliminary coursework and prepare for advanced research by completing at least 18 hours of graded graduate coursework on the Ann Arbor campus. Precandidates who are successful in this coursework, who meet other program requirements including passing preliminary or qualifying exams, and who demonstrate readiness to do original and independent research, are admitted to candidacy by their program.

While credits earned at another institution cannot be transferred to a doctoral program, students may seek approval from their program to use credits earned elsewhere to satisfy certain degree requirements. These credits do not appear on the transcript.

4.1 Cognate Requirement

Rackham recognizes the value of intellectual breadth in graduate education and the importance of formal graduate study in areas beyond the student’s field of specialization. Cognate courses are those in a discipline or area different from a student’s field of study but that are related or connected with some aspect of this field. Doctoral students may satisfy the cognate requirement by:

  1. Completing 4 credit hours of coursework in approved graduate-level cognate courses with a grade of B- or better (graduate programs may have additional requirements).
  2. Taking courses within a subfield of the program other than the student’s own which Rackham has approved as fulfilling the cognate requirement.
  3. Taking a course that is cross-listed with another
  4. Completing graduate courses at another institution that meet the purpose of the requirement, no more than 5 years before admission to the current Rackham doctoral program. The student must provide Rackham OARD with an official transcript and the program should notify Rackham OARD that the coursework fulfills the cognate These courses do not transfer to the University transcript, do not carry credit, and do not apply toward the minimum 18 credit hours required for candidacy.

4.2 Responsible Conduct of Research and Scholarship Training

Ph.D. students are required to complete training in the responsible conduct of research and scholarship before advancing to candidacy. Each graduate program determines the content and methods for providing this and for ensuring its successful completion. Requirements may take the form of a course, workshop, or as part of a larger professional development seminar, but must include at least eight hours of face-to-face contact between students and faculty members, with more than one faculty member involved.

The graduate chair or designee must certify that each student who applies to advance to candidacy has completed the required training.

Training in the responsible conduct of research and scholarship is optional for students in master’s and D.M.A. programs but strongly recommended.

Allegations of violations of academic integrity will lead to inquiries conducted by the Graduate School or other schools and colleges, and may result in the imposition of serious disciplinary actions. Procedures for these inquiries are described in the Rackham Academic and Professional Integrity Policy (section 8).

4.3 Advancing to Candidacy

Students at the precandidacy stage of the doctoral program acquire knowledge and tools needed to undertake original and independent research. They learn about their field of study and gain familiarity with standards of evidence, argument, practice, and methods, and prepare to achieve candidacy, when they focus intensively on a narrower area of research.

Graduate programs should conduct annual reviews of students to assess their progress toward reaching candidacy. While faculty determine candidacy requirements and may set earlier deadlines, students should advance to candidacy no later than three calendar years after the first enrollment in the Rackham doctoral program. A student who does not achieve candidacy within three years and is not making satisfactory progress may be placed on academic probation unless the graduate program petitions Rackham OARD to request additional time because of extenuating circumstances.

The graduate program submits a recommendation for a student to be moved to candidacy by certifying that the requirements have been met by the deadline for the term in which the student will become a candidate. Deadlines are listed on the Rackham website.

A student who registered in the immediately preceding fall and winter terms may take preliminary exams during May without registering for the spring half-term. A student who takes preliminary exams in the summer half-term must be registered.

The enrollment status of a student changes during the term in which he or she advances to candidacy. Tuition and fees will be adjusted to the candidacy rate. A student who advances to candidacy while enrolled in 990, “Dissertation/precandidate,” will have that enrollment automatically changed to 995 “Dissertation/candidate” with 8 credit hours for the term. If a student is enrolled in classes other than 990, enrollment status will be changed to include an additional 8 credit hours of 995 for a full term or 4 credit hours for a half term, with tuition and fees adjusted.

4.3.1 Ph.D. Candidacy Requirements

Candidacy requirements for the Ph.D. include:

  1. Bachelor’s degree or equivalent. The U-M transcript must show a bachelor’s degree or equivalent awarded by an accredited institution.
  2. Minimum Rackham grade point average. A cumulative minimum GPA of B (3.0 on a 0 point scale) is required for all graduate work taken for credit. Programs may require a higher minimum cumulative GPA or a minimum grade for specified coursework.
  3. Coursework in residence. Students must complete at least 18 credit hours of graded graduate coursework (including the grade of S – Satisfactory) registered as a Rackham student while in residence on the Ann Arbor campus. Courses elected as visit (audit) do not meet this requirement, or courses designated as 990, or with “preliminary” in the title.
  4. Cognate requirement. Before advancing to candidacy students must complete 4 credit hours of cognate coursework with a grade of B- or better; certain graduate programs may have additional cognate requirements (section 4.1).
  5. Preliminary examinations. A student must pass preliminary examinations to test knowledge of the primary field and all supporting fields. Graduate programs determine the form and content of these examinations and the procedures for administering and assessing them, and inform students in advance about the format, schedule, procedures, and expectations. Students are entitled to specific feedback on their performance.
  6. Additional graduate program requirements. A student must fulfill all additional requirements specified by the graduate program. These may include, but are not limited to: passing of qualifying exams at the end of the first year or at another time during precandidacy; completing additional cognate coursework; achieving competence in one or more foreign languages; being in residence on the Ann Arbor campus during certain terms; acquiring work experience; and preparation of a research paper or essay.

4.3.2 D.M.A. Candidacy Requirements

In addition to meeting general candidacy requirements for students in Ph.D. programs (section 4.3), precandidates in D.M.A. programs normally must accumulate a minimum of 36 fee hours (section 1.4). A student with a relevant non-Rackham master’s degree from an accredited institution must accumulate only 18 fee hours. A student who lacks the required fee hours may be allowed to pay for these at the rate published by the Registrar.

4.4 Doctoral Dissertation Requirements

Rackham’s Dissertation Handbook contains information about completing Ph.D. degree requirements and submitting the dissertation, including procedures for the oral defense, responsibilities of the dissertation committee, and steps for submission of the finished dissertation. Students should consult with their program to learn of any supplementary requirements and refer to the Rackham OARD website for more information.

4.4.1 Time Limit for Completing a Doctoral Degree

Students are expected to complete the degree within five years of achieving candidacy but no more than seven years from the date of the first enrollment in their program. Rackham will notify programs when students do not complete their degree within this period. Programs should conduct annual reviews of candidates to assess progress toward the degree. Students who have not completed the degree within the seven year limit should petition Rackham OARD for an extension of time to degree with a plan for completion. The program may require a student who does not complete the degree after two years of extension to return to precandidacy status and to meet candidacy requirements again.

4.4.2 Candidacy Course Registration

Ph.D. candidates register in the fall and winter terms for eight credit hours of 995/Dissertation Candidate. Part-time enrollment is not permitted. A student who defends in either the spring or summer half term must register for 8 credit hours of 995 for the spring/summer full term, or for both 4 credits in the spring half-term and 4 credits in the summer half-term.

A candidate who registers for a course must seek prior approval from the faculty advisor and also register for 995. A candidate may elect either one course per term, or more than one course for a total of no more than four credits, without paying additional tuition. Courses may be taken for credit or as a visit (audit). A candidate who does not elect a course during a term of 995 enrollment may, in the next term, either register for courses for no more than 8 credits or register for no more than two courses that total more than 8 credits without paying additional tuition. An additional course may not be taken in anticipation of taking none in a future term of 995 enrollment. A candidate who takes courses beyond this limit will be assessed tuition.

When a candidate registers for a course during the fall, winter, or spring and summer half-terms but does not register for 995, the Registrar’s Office will add the 995 to the term and assess any required tuition.

4.4.2.1 Course Registration for D.M.A. Candidates

D.M.A. candidates must be registered for 8 credit hours (or a maximum of 8 fee hours) of 995/Dissertation Candidate for any full term (or a maximum of 4 fee hours for a half term) in which they draw University services, including faculty consultation and guidance. D.M.A. candidates must accumulate additional fee hours to reach the Required Fee Total (RFT) of 68 for the degree (50 fee hours for a student with a master’s relevant to the doctoral degree) (section 1.4). A student must register for 995 during the term in which the dissertation and degree requirements are completed. A student who defends in the spring/summer term must register for either 8 credit hours of 995 for the spring/summer full term, or for 4 credits in the spring half-term and 4 credits in the summer half-term.

A candidate who registers for a course must seek prior approval from the faculty advisor and also register for 995. A candidate may elect either one course per term, or more than one course for a total of no more than four credits, without paying additional tuition. Courses may be taken for credit or as a visit (audit). A candidate who does not elect a course during a term of 995 enrollment may, in the next term, either register for courses for no more than 8 credits or register for no more than two courses that total more than 8 credits without paying additional tuition. An additional course may not be taken in anticipation of taking none in a future term of 995 enrollment. A candidate who takes courses beyond this limit will be assessed tuition; these credits will be counted toward the RFT requirement (section 1.4).

When a candidate registers for a course during the fall, winter, or spring and summer half-terms but does not register for 995, the Registrar’s Office will add the 995 to the term and assess any required tuition.

4.4.3 Formation of the Dissertation Committee

Dissertation committee members are expected to have specific and complementary knowledge of a student’s area of research and to provide guidance and support throughout the research and writing process (or performance, in the case of D.M.A. students).

The graduate program must recommend the dissertation committee membership for approval to the Graduate School at least six months before the defense date. The graduate administrator may request this on behalf of the program by submitting the “Dissertation Committee Form.” The graduate program may request a change to the membership of the dissertation committee by submitting an updated form. Nominations for dissertation committee service must be approved by the program and the Graduate School and are subject to the following:

  • Committees must have at least four members, including at least three tenure or tenure-track members of the instructional faculty affiliated with a Rackham doctoral program. Such faculty are those holding a regular or “unmodified” (i.e., not research, clinical, visiting, adjunct, etc.) appointment as Professor, Associate Professor, or Assistant Professor.
  • At least two of the four committee members must be from the candidate’s home program.
  • Committees may include a person holding regular clinical, research professor, visiting, adjunct, instructor, or lecturer appointment. Subject to review on a case-by-case basis, a committee may include other qualified University faculty and staff, or person from outside the University who can provide expertise in the candidate’s research area.
  • Persons who do not have an earned doctorate, whether affiliated with a Rackham doctoral program or not, must be approved for committee service on a case-by-case basis.
  • Committees must have a cognate member who is familiar with the standards for doctoral research. The cognate member’s role is to broaden the scholarly representation of the committee beyond the candidate’s home program and to provide a perspective on the quality of the dissertation from outside the candidate’s field of specialization. Except for the committee of a student in an interdepartmental program, the cognate member must hold at least a 0.50 appointment in a Rackham doctoral program other than the student’s home department/program, and may not hold a sole appointment as research or clinical faculty, instructor, or lecturer. The cognate member may not serve as chair or co-chair.
  • A committee may have a sole chair or two co-chairs. By special arrangement, retired faculty members who were affiliated with a Rackham doctoral program or research professors may serve as sole chairs. Persons who may serve as co-chair, but not sole chair, include:
    • tenure or tenure-track members of the University’s instructional faculty who are not affiliated with a Rackham doctoral program;
    • research faculty;
    • instructors and lecturers;
    • similarly qualified University faculty or staff, or person from outside the University; and
    • former University faculty members who have moved to a faculty position at another university.

For more information on the composition of the committee and roles of the members, see Guidelines for Dissertation Committee Service.

The committee chair, graduate program personnel, or the graduate student may call a meeting of the dissertation committee, as needed.

4.4.4 Human Subject and Other Research Approval

Federal regulations and University policy require that all investigations using humans as subjects of research be reviewed and approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) before such investigations may begin. No dissertation based on the use of humans as subjects can be accepted without prior review and approval by the appropriate IRB. The faculty advisor may request the review, but the student should verify that this has taken place and approval has been granted. See the Use of Human Volunteers in Research.

Special approval may also be required for animal research. Visit the University Committee on Use and Care of Animals.

4.4.5 Use of Copyrighted Material

Doctoral students are required to receive written permission from the copyright owner for any material to be used in the dissertation that falls outside the guidelines of “fair use.” See “The Dissertation Handbook: A Guide to Submitting Your Doctoral Dissertation and Completing Your Degree Requirements.”

4.4.6 Dissertations in Languages Other Than English

If the primary literature on a subject matter is in another language and the dissertation addresses a community of scholars who publish in a language other than English, a student may elect to write the dissertation in that language provided that all committee members speak and read the language and support its use in the dissertation. If a reasonably broad English-speaking community of scholars is actively pursuing the dissertation’s general topic, the dissertation should be written in English. See “The Dissertation Handbook: A Guide to Submitting Your Doctoral Dissertation and Completing Your Degree Requirements.”

4.4.7 Dissertation Formatting Requirements

The style and format of the dissertation must meet Rackham’s style and formatting requirements. See “The Dissertation Handbook: A Guide to Submitting Your Doctoral Dissertation and Completing Your Degree Requirements.”

4.4.8 Oral Defense Preparation

A candidate must register online with Rackham OARD for a pre-defense review. The pre-defense review must take place at least 10 working days before the oral defense. Candidates are encouraged to e-mail a copy of the dissertation for a format review.

Oral defenses are public, and a candidate must provide Rackham OARD with the date, time, and location of the defense so it can be announced publicly.

As soon as possible but no later than 10 working days before the oral defense, the candidate should distribute copies of the dissertation and abstract to all committee members. A committee member who does not receive a copy of the dissertation and abstract at least 10 working days before the defense may ask Rackham OARD for a postponement.

Committee members should send dissertation evaluations to Rackham OARD at least 3 working days before the oral defense so the entire committee may review the evaluations before the final defense.

4.4.9 Oral Examination Report and Approval

The committee chair should submit the Oral Examination Report to Rackham OARD within 48 hours of the oral defense, but no later than the deadline with which the student is working. The student should confirm with the chair that the report has been submitted. The Certificate of Dissertation Committee Approval must be submitted online by the chair no later than the deadline with which the student is working (section 4.4.13).

Any disagreement over the acceptability of a dissertation will be reported to the Dean of the Graduate School, who will act as final arbiter in consultation with the Dissertation Committee members.

4.4.10 Post-Defense Submission and Dissertation Revisions

After the committee chair has submitted the Oral Examination Report and the online Certificate of Dissertation Committee Approval to Rackham OARD, the candidate must complete the Rackham OARD post-defense submission and submit the final revised dissertation and other materials, including:

  • A final, correctly formatted PDF of the dissertation and abstract which will be submitted electronically to the University’s Deep Blue digital archive as the official copy of record
  • An application for graduation via Wolverine Access
  • The NSF Survey of Earned Doctorates (Ph.D. only)
  • An exit survey of Rackham Doctoral Recipients (optional)

To avoid registering for another term and having the degree awarded in a later term, the candidate must submit these materials by the published deadline for the final term of enrollment. A candidate who fails to submit the final dissertation and all materials within one year from the date of the oral defense will be required to defend the dissertation again.

4.4.11 Submitting the Dissertation to the University Library

Candidates must submit final digital copies of the dissertation to Deep Blue, the permanent digital repository of the University Library, as the official copy of record. More information is available in “The Dissertation Handbook: A Guide to Submitting Your Doctoral Dissertation and Completing Your Degree Requirements”.

4.4.12 Dissertation Embargo

Doctoral dissertations and abstracts are normally made publicly available upon degree conferral when they are deposited electronically in Deep Blue. In limited circumstances, a doctoral student may wish to delay, or embargo, the public release of the final dissertation of record that is deposited in Deep Blue, the permanent digital repository of the University Library.

Students may choose to delay public release of the dissertation for a period of two years, renewable, to protect intellectual property during the patent application process; to maintain confidentiality agreements protecting third-party proprietary information; to provide sufficient time to publish their dissertation in book form or as journal articles; or to protect informants at risk of identity exposure.

The embargo may be extended for a fifth and final year only for purposes of protecting the ability to publish the dissertation in book form. This request must be made in writing and must be approved by the Graduate School.

A student who is considering a dissertation embargo should discuss this option with the faculty advisor and the dissertation committee. The student is responsible for requesting a dissertation embargo. The request must have the approval of the dissertation committee chair (and co-chair, if any).

Students may choose one of two levels for restricting accessibility on Deep Blue during the first two years in which public release is delayed:

  • Complete restriction: the author, title, abstract, and dissertation will not be listed or accessible to anyone.
  • Partial restriction, limited to those with U-M Kerberos access: the author, title, and abstract will be listed; the dissertation will be accessible only with permission of the student.

Only partial restrictions are allowed for extensions of the embargo beyond the initial two years. Students will be contacted via email at least one month before the expiration of the embargo period. The dissertation will be publicly released if the student does not request an extension and provide a reason for this request.

Students may lift an embargo and make their dissertation publicly accessible at any time.

A student may independently choose among several levels of embargo for the copy of the dissertation that is deposited electronically with UMI/ProQuest.

Embargo requests must be submitted before the final dissertation submission deadline with which the student is working.

4.4.13 Final Dissertation and Degree Requirement Deadlines, and Commencement Eligibility

Degrees are awarded three times a year, at the end of the fall, winter, and summer terms. Commencement exercises are held at the end of the fall and winter terms only. Students completing in spring/summer may participate in a future commencement. Rackham OARD publishes annual deadlines for students to apply for degree conferral and commencement eligibility. Students who meet these deadlines may participate in commencement in either the same or a following term.

Final deadlines for dissertation requirements to be completed so the degree can be conferred at a given commencement are firm dates and extensions are not permitted. A candidate who does not meet the final deadline cannot be listed among the degree recipients for that particular term, nor participate in commencement, and will be required to register for at least another full term.

A student may not participate in a commencement ceremony unless Rackham OARD has approved and confirmed degree conferral.

4.5 Student-Initiated Ph.D. Programs

A student may propose to the Graduate School a course of study and research for a Ph.D. that combines different disciplines and fields from two graduate programs and results in a doctoral degree with a single designation. Because of the breadth and depth of study required, only students of exceptional preparation and focus should consider this option.

Only students admitted to a regular Rackham doctoral program who have completed at least one term of coursework may request a Student-Initiated Doctoral Program. Students must consult with advisors from both programs and submit an application to the Graduate School that includes a statement of purpose and describes the proposed courses, other requirements, and the qualifying and preliminary exams. The proposed course of study should reflect the majority of requirements of both participating programs and specify all courses the student has taken and/or plans to take to satisfy these requirements. The proposal should also state how the student will meet the preliminary examinations of both programs necessary to achieve candidacy. The application must be approved and signed by both advisors and the graduate chairs of both programs, and be approved by the Graduate School. The application should be submitted no later than the term before the student becomes a candidate. A student who is a candidate will be returned to precandidacy if the application is approved, and both programs must recommend re-establishing candidacy status.

The proposal should be submitted to Rackham OARD with a completed “Request Form for Student-Initiated Degree Program”.

A student in a Student-Initiated Doctoral Program should have advisors from both programs who supervise pre-candidacy work; determine and conduct preliminary exams; and recommend the student for candidacy. A minimum of two faculty members from each program are required for the dissertation committee, but a cognate member is not required.

Student-initiated degree programs may use only the authorized names of the graduate programs that have been combined. For example, a student interested in the history and philosophy of science may work toward a Ph.D. in the graduate programs of History and Philosophy. In this case, the degree program, and the degree citation, would be “History and Philosophy” and not “History and Philosophy of Science.”