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Doctor of Philosophy

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The doctor of philosophy (PhD) degree signifies mastery of a broad discipline of learning together with demonstrated competence in a special field within that discipline. In addition to the common requirements below, PhD candidates must complete additional requirements specified by their academic program

Academic Residence

PhD students must register full-time until receipt of the degree, for a minimum of two years. At the discretion of the program, this requirement can be reduced up to one year (8 courses: 32 credits) if academic credit is given for work done elsewhere. A department may appeal to the Office of Academic Programs to request certification of other criteria to measure the amount of progress a student has made.

English Proficiency

All incoming Harvard Griffin GSAS PhD students must demonstrate English proficiency. Those who are non-native speakers of English and have not received their undergraduate degree from a primarily English-speaking institution will have their English proficiency screened based on either the iBT TOEFL or IELTS academic speaking score.

Tuition and Fees

PhD students must pay two years of full tuition and two years of reduced tuition unless the time from the student’s initial registration to completion of the degree is less than four years. In years five and up, students must pay the facilities fee.

General or Qualifying Examination

In most programs, students must pass a general examination or other preliminary or qualifying examinations as determined by the academic program before undertaking independent dissertation research. 


Many programs require that students prepare a dissertation prospectus, which must be approved by their program often before beginning the process of extensive independent research, fieldwork, and writing the dissertation. Any student wishing to present a dissertation as a published article, series of articles, book or other document, or a manuscript that has been accepted for publication must also receive the approval of their program. Approved dissertations must be submitted to ProQuest ETD by the dates noted in the degree calendar.

  • A dissertation submitted for another degree, either at Harvard or elsewhere, may not be used.
  • Students writing their dissertations must follow Harvard Griffin GSAS formatting policies.
  • If an approved dissertation is submitted to the Registrar’s Office prior to the registration deadline for a term, a student does not need to register for that term.
  • If a student registers for a term and then submits an approved dissertation to the Registrar’s Office before or by the last day to cancel registration for the term without payment of tuition, registration will be canceled and any tuition paid for that term will be refunded.

Satisfactory Progress toward the PhD

In addition to overall satisfactory progress requirements, PhD students must make progress toward the completion of expected milestones, which typically take the form of: 

  • course and GPA requirements 
  • general exams 
  • dissertation prospectus and/or prospectus defense, and  
  • dissertation writing and defense. 

Academic programs will outline the required timelines for academic milestone completion and may require additional and/or more stringent conditions.

G10 Enrollment Cap

PhD candidates who have not completed the requirements for the degree by their 10th year of study will be withdrawn. Once the dissertation is complete, withdrawn students may apply for readmission for the purpose of receiving the degree. Exceptions may be made for students with special circumstances. For more information, students should contact their program, which may confer with the Office of Academic Programs to review particular circumstances.


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