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Ph.D. General Requirements

Brown University awards more than 200 doctor of philosophy degrees annually. The Brown Ph.D. is primarily a research degree. Teaching is an important part of many doctoral programs, and many departments require candidates for the Ph.D. to have teaching experience.

Brown University offers substantial financial support to doctoral students. All incoming doctoral students are guaranteed five years of support, which includes a stipend, full tuition remission, health-services fee, and a health-insurance subsidy. (This support policy dates to the 2006-07 academic year.) All promises of student support are subject to students making satisfactory academic progress, as determined by their programs of study. Please see related links for additional details regarding the University's commitment to doctoral education.

There are four general requirements for the doctor of philosophy:

  1. ADMISSION. The candidate must be formally admitted to his or her degree program.
  2. RESIDENCE. The normal residency requirement is the equivalent of three Academic Years of full-time study beyond the bachelor's degree. Students who enter a PhD program at Brown already holding a master’s degree in a related field have a residency requirement equivalent to two Academic Years of full-time study upon entering the PhD program at Brown. Use of a previously earned master’s degree to reduce PhD residency requirements is contingent upon approval of the program Director of Graduate Study.

    Graduate work done at other institutions and not used in fulfillment of the requirements for any doctoral degree elsewhere may, on the approval of the program Director of Graduate Study, be counted in fulfillment of up to, but not exceeding, one year of the residency requirement. A student who desires credit for work done elsewhere should file a timely application with the program Director of Graduate Study; transfer credit forms are available through the Office of the Registrar.
  3. ADVANCEMENT TO CANDIDACY. A student is advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. when he or she has completed satisfactorily all the requirements, departmental and general, requisite to beginning work on the dissertation. Candidacy is determined by the department or program of study and certified by the Registrar. Most departments require a preliminary examination before advancing any student to candidacy. Most departments also require a final examination or defense. The examination is conducted by professors in the department and by such other members of the faculty as may be appointed.
  4. DISSERTATION. The candidate must present a dissertation on a topic related to his or her area of specialization that presents the results of original research and gives evidence of excellent scholarship. The dissertation must be approved by the professor or committee under whose direction it is written and by the Graduate Council. All requirements for the Ph.D. must be completed within five years after advancement to candidacy.

If a faculty member working with a doctoral student leaves Brown for any reason before that student has completed his or her degree requirements, it may not always be possible for that faculty member to continue working with the student as an advisor. In such cases, departments will work with students to help them locate a new advisor.

Individual departments and programs may have additional requirements regarding the number of courses to be taken, proficiency in foreign languages, special examinations, and theses. The department should be consulted for specific information.