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Ph.D. Program

The Ph.D. program in Philosophy at the University of Utah provides students with the opportunity to study philosophy on an advanced level, prepares students to engage in independent research in philosophy, and equips them to teach philosophy at the university level.  The Philosophy Department also recognizes the appropriateness for some students of philosophy to receive training in a complementary discipline such as mathematics, computer science, law, or health specialties.

In addition to the Departmental Requirements noted in the Philosophy Department Graduate Handbook, please read the University requirements for the Ph.D. degree, which are listed on the Graduate School’s website.

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PhD Departmental Requirements

For a complete list of Doctoral Degree Requirements, please review the Graduate Handbook, pages 13-23.

  • Students must maintain a minimum graduate GPA of 3.10
  • Complete all degree requirements within 7 years of admission

Maintain Funding Eligible Standing

       Funding Eligible standing is normally required for initial eligibility for funding and for the presumption of continued funding.

At the time of being offered admission to the graduate program, students are issued a letter that states for how long and at what level the department proposes to fund the student’s studies, based on long-term departmental budgetary planning at the time the offer of admission is made. However, all student funding as outlined in such letters is contingent on the availability of funding: in case of unexpected fiscal shortfall, funding may not be available and the department shall not be obligated to fund students under such circumstances. The purpose of the “Funding Eligible Progress” or “Funding Eligible Standing” designation is to indicate to unfunded students that they are eligible to receive funding and to indicate to funded students that (in normal circumstances) they have the presumption of continuing funding.

(upon the availability of funds as described above. Failure to retain Funding Eligible standing is, therefore, a loss of this presumption (and not necessarily the loss of continuing funding).

       A student who fails to meet the conditions set out below shall have their “Funding Eligible” status reviewed by the Graduate Committee, upon which the Graduate Committee may issue guidance to the student, set conditions upon remaining in Funding Eligible standing, remove Funding Eligible standing or remove funding, as appropriate.

Maintain a high level of quality in all graduate work

  • Students who receive a B- or below in a philosophy graduate course will have their Funding Eligible standing status reviewed by the Graduate Committee within one semester.
  • Students shall not have excessive incompletes (I grades). No more than two, and none lasting more than two years.

Notes that students who fall below a 3.0 will have their funding automatically cut by the Graduate School, as per Graduate School regulations. (See also the “Minimally Eligible Standing” requirements above).

  • Funded students enroll in PHIL 7020: Philosophical Traditions. Each semester this course awards credit for attendance at departmental colloquia. This requirement may be waived with approval from the department’s Director of Graduate Studies.
  • Funded students who teach or are TAs shall be required to enroll in PHIL 6920: Teaching Practicum for 1 credit hour each semester. When taking PHIL 6920, students should enroll in 2 credit hour of PHIL 7020: Philosophical Traditions. This requirement may be waived with approval from the Director of Graduate Studies.
  • Complete the Proseminar (PHIL 7010) and GSQE – All students entering the program must take PHIL 7010: Proseminar twice: once during their firs fall semester and once again their second fall semester. The GSQE will be administered in November of the first fall semester, and administered a second time in April, at the end of the first year.
  • Teaching Assistants should maintain a sufficient level of quality in teaching. Students should arrange to have faculty members visit their class and complete an evaluation form once a semester.
  • * Summer teaching assignments are made at the discretion of the Director of Graduate Studies. Funding Eligible status will be considered when making these assignments.

All students entering the program must take PHIL 7010: Proseminar, twice: once during their first fall semester and once during their second fall semester.


Pass the Graduate Study Qualifying Examination (GSQE). In the Philosophy Department, the examination required by the university is a three hour written examination, which must be taken during the first semester of graduate study. Students are given three hours to analyze and evaluate two passages of philosophy. The Graduate Committee grades the exam. If the exam is not passed on the first attempt, it must be taken again no later than the second semester of study. Failure to pass the exam on the second attempt will trigger a review by the Graduate Committee to determine whether the student should be dismissed from the program. If the Graduate Committee recommends retention, it may set conditions upon the student’s remaining in the program (e.g. successful defense during the next semester). If the Graduate Committee recommends that the student be dismissed, there will be a vote of the whole Department (tenure-line) faculty on that recommendation. If the department accepts the recommendation of dismissal the student will be dismissed; if the department rejects the recommendation of dismissal, the student will be permitted to continue in the program. The department may set conditions upon the student’s remaining in the program (e.g., successful defense during the next semester). In no case shall a student be allowed to proceed to the comprehensive exam paper without having passed the GSQE, and in no case shall a student be granted a degree without having passed the GSQE.

Comply with the Graduate School requirement for formation of the committee.

  1. A Supervisory Committee should be formed as soon as an area of focus has been settled on, but no later than the beginning of the semester in which the student intends to defend his/her COMP Exam.
  2. Doctoral students’ Supervisory Committees must consist of five faculty members, the majority of whom must be tenure-line faculty in the Philosophy Department. At least one member must be from outside the Philosophy Department. Faculty members may at any time withdraw from the committee, and shall notify the student that they are doing so. Likewise, a student may remove a faculty member from the committee, but must notify both the chair of the Supervisory Committee and the faculty member(s) being removed.
  3. Members may or may not include those used for the approval of the COMP Exam paper.

In order to advance to candidacy, students must pass a comprehensive exam (called a “Qualifying Exam” by the Graduate School). To pass this exam, students must write and defend a substantial paper of journal submission length (5000 words or more). The objective of the comprehensive exam is to demonstrate that the student is able to produce written work of professional quality and is capable of defending the paper in oral presentation. The paper of professional quality and the oral presentation will be graded by faculty members selected by the Director of Graduate Studies as appropriate. It is intended that acceptable papers be submitted to professional journals for publication or to professional conferences for presentation. Students MUST be registered for at least 3 credit hours when defending their comprehensive exam. See: Graduate School website.

The expectation is that graduate students will use coursework to develop a broad understanding of the main areas of philosophy and of several more specialized areas of philosophy. After fulfilling the field requirements, students specializing in a particular area will be encouraged to complete their remaining coursework in that area. After completion of coursework, students must consult with the Director of Graduate Studies to ensure that they have completed their course requirements.

Funded students who are not TA’s must register for 3 credits of PHIL 7020 – Philosophical Traditions. (This last requirement may be waived with approval from the Director of Graduate Studies.)

  1. For students who enter the PhD program without a master’s degree, the dissertation prospectus must be successfully defended in the 6th semester of PhD study.
  2. For students who enter the PhD program with a master’s degree, the dissertation prospectus must be successfully defend in the 4th semester of PhD study.
  3. For students who enter the PhD program from the master’s program at the University of Utah, the dissertation prospectus must be successfully defended in the 2nd semester of PhD study. A written copy of the prospectus must be given to the student’s Supervisory Committee at least 2 weeks prior to the oral defense.

Present Dissertation Prospectus

In order to advance to candidacy, students must have their written prospectus defense approved at an oral review and defense conducted by the student’s Supervisory Committee. A student’s prospectus will normally be on the order of 15 pages. The committee may request that the student complete a review of the literature on their dissertation topic; if so, students may be examined on their literature review during their prospectus defense.

The comprehensive exam and dissertation prospectus, and their respective oral defenses, are distinct exercises. The written component of the comprehensive exam is a paper intended for ultimate publication (one which may also be intended as a draft of a dissertation chapter); it will contain a completed argument for some claim. The prospectus outlines and motivates a plan of action for writing a dissertation; it will describe how the student proposes to go about developing an argument for what will ultimately be the conclusion of their dissertation.

Defend Dissertation

              PhD students must pass an oral examination based on the thesis in order to graduate. The examination should be scheduled only when the dissertation is essentially completed and the student’s thesis advisor has agreed that the thesis is ready to be defended. The Supervisory Committee schedules and announces a public oral examination at which the candidate must defend the dissertation. The length and content of the oral examination are determined by the thesis Supervisory Committee. All members of the committee must participate in the oral defense. A candidate must be enrolled for at least 1 credit hour in the semester in which his or her oral examination is held.

The department requires that the thesis advisor and the other members of the committee must receive a copy of the dissertation at least four weeks before the final oral examination. The Graduate School also requires that in order to be considered for graduation in a particular semester, the defended and committee-approved thesis or dissertation must be submitted to the Thesis Office seven weeks prior to the closing date of the semester, and eight weeks’ prior for manuscripts in excess of 200 pages.

PhD students may receive a milestone master’s’ degree while pursuing a PhD. To do so they must:

  1. Fill out a Change of Classification Form and mark ADD Career – Non-thesis Master’s. This effectively makes them a master’s student while completing the PhD degree. The form must be signed by the Graduate Director.
  2. The 30 hours required for the master’s (recorded on the Program of Study) cannot be counted towards the PhD Program of Study. Students should review coursework with the Graduate Director. NOTE: There is no hour requirement for the PhD program, so even though coursework listed on the Master’s Program of Study will not be listed on the PhD program of Study, the coursework will still count internally for the PhD.
  3. Gather a Supervisory Committee and defend their best paper as if they were doing a normal Non-thesis master’s program. (The Supervisory Committee should be assembled one semester before defending the best paper.) The Best Paper for the master’s non-thesis must be a paper that is written at the University of Utah, for one of our graduate faculty, and (ideally) the paper should have received an “A” for a graduate seminar. There is no prohibition on using the comprehensive paper, in cases where the student is applying for the “Milestone” Master’s. The paper will be signed-off by the student’s graduate advisor. If the student does not have a supervisor, the Director of Graduate Studies will sign-off.
  4. Meet all requirements of the Master’s including two consecutive semesters of at least 9 hours each for the residency

To complete the PhD

  1. Students must have three more years of continuous registration at the University of Utah of at least three hours per semester (this can be all thesis hours or other courses not already counted toward the non-thesis master’s).
  2. Students must complete another two consecutive semesters of at least nine credit hours each for the residency requirement (they may be nine thesis hours) See:

NOTE: Although the master’s degree does not have area requirements other than formal methods, those also pursuing a PhD should take classes as if following the PhD coursework with area requirements. Also, students should be aware that all coursework must be completed in order to receive the master’s degree. Thus, if you are a PhD student with incomplete coursework you are not eligible for the Milestone Master’s degree.

  • Request for Supervisory Committee (attach form)
  • Comprehensive Exam Form (COMP Paper)
  • Prospectus Defense Form
  • Program of Study, Doctoral
  • Apply for Graduation

Day of Defense Paperwork (Forms needed on day of defense)

  • Report of Final Oral Examination and Thesis for the PhD
  • Supervisory Committee Approval of a Thesis
  • Final Reading Approval

Students are responsible for filing these forms with the Academic Advisor in a timely manner. All forms must be sent to the Graduate School directly from the Philosophy Department so that the students record can stay in compliance with graduate school policy. Please submit your forms no later than one week before they are due to theGraduate School.

Students can track their progress online through the Graduate Tracking System (GTS). It is the student’s responsibility to make sure the information online is accurate.

In providing student stipends and in helping our students receive stipends from outside the Department, the Philosophy Department seeks to enable our students to concentrate on philosophy, to further their development as philosophers, and to provide them with a source of support. Thus, the Department requires that full-time student TA’s and those teaching independent courses not take outside employment or teaching. We recognize, however, that student’s may receive outside opportunities which further their career objectives or that they may need to seek outside employment for further economic support. Any exceptions to the policy prohibiting outside teaching or employment for full-time TA’s and those teaching independent courses require explicit disclosure to and permission from the Director of Graduate Studies.

Graduate students receiving fellowships to support completion of the PhD may accept outside part-time teaching or outside part-time employment as long as two conditions are met. First such work must not be explicitly prohibited under the terms of the fellowship. Second, the student must make satisfactory progress toward the degree. (Note: normal progress includes regular attendance at Departmental programs and colloquia). If a student has not make satisfactory progress, they will not be recommended for a fellowship the following year. Any outside teaching or employment must be disclosed to the Director of Graduate Studies.

Purpose: To provide financial support for graduate students in the form of a teaching apprenticeship under the guidance of professional teachers of philosophy.

Stipend:  Varies per academic year but includes full tuition and mandatory fee waiver. Also includes health insurance option.

Application: Submit a Departmental Application for Financial Aid form by January 15 for fall semester of the same year.

Current students without funding are eligible on the same cycle year if they apply.

For information on Graduate Fellowships from outside the Philosophy Department, please see the Graduate Fellowships Officer.

The Philosophy Department recognizes that, during their time in the graduate program, some students may have children or add children to their families through childbirth or adoption. With advance notice (at least three months prior to the arrival of the child), the department is willing to make reasonable accommodations for students who need to take parental leave and who meet the criteria for being an “eligible caregiver” as defined in the University Policy 6-315. In such circumstances, students will be eligible to take leave for up to 16 weeks, and:

  1. Students on parental leave shall have the deadlines for completion of required coursework, courses, exams, theses, or thesis defenses extended by one full semester. Such extensions shall be taken into consideration in determining whether the student is maintaining minimally acceptable standing and funding eligible standing (but shall not count as adding a semester of eligibility under the Graduate School’s Tuition Benefit Program).
  2. Students should avoid registering for classes and then withdrawing from them. Students should therefore either a) register for classes and then maintain their registration throughout the leave period, or b) avoid registering for classes entirely when the leave period would commence or overlap with the beginning of a semester in such a way that, in the opinion of the instructor(s), the student would be unlikely to obtain the requisite grade for the course as specified elsewhere in this handbook. Students who do not register for any classes need to file leave paperwork in advance with the Graduate School, in order to retain their eligibility to register again in future semesters.
  3. For students who are funded by the department, the department shall continue their compensation (at the usual rate) and health insurance benefits for up to 8 weeks of any period in which the department would normally pay for compensation and benefits.

Other details of accommodations will depend on the student’s stage of progress through the graduate program and will be arranged in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and other relevant department faculty. The departmental accommodations as described above will be granted no more than twice during the entire time of a student’s matriculation in the graduate program. Applications for parental leave should be filed with the departments Director of Graduate Studies. Students who experience a medical condition associated with their pregnancy and need accommodations recommended by their medical provider should contact the Office of Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Title IX Office, ( who will work with the student, cognizant faculty, and administration, to determine what accommodations are reasonable and effective.

Students may also petition for leave for other reasons, as specified by the policies of the Graduate School. For details, see:

The department expects graduate students’ behavior to adhere to the Professional Code of Conduct adopted by the American Philosophical Association, as outlined at:

Graduate students who violate this Code of Conduct may be subject to disciplinary actions by the department, up to, and including dismissal from the program.

Last Updated: 2/26/19