Table of Contents > Interdisciplinary Program


Coordinator: Dr. Andrew Goodliffe, Assistant Dean, The Graduate School




The Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program is designed for advanced students whose interests and goals do not fit within traditional academic boundaries. Students propose their own degree program working under the direction of a five-member Advisory Committee who commits to the student from admission to graduation, including mentoring the student throughout the dissertation process. Every program is unique in terms of coursework, methodology and research, but the program must combine course work and research in two or more academic departments. Due to the demands and rigor of the Interdisciplinary Studies Ph.D. program, only students who demonstrate a high degree of self-reliance and responsibility will be considered for admission.


The Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE) has authorized The University of Alabama to offer the Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies when existing Ph.D. programs at the University do not meet the needs of a student and when the University has the faculty and research resources to offer such a program.


Prerequisites for Admission


Prior to submitting an application to the Interdisciplinary Studies Program, each prospective candidate must meet with the Assistant Dean of the Graduate School.


Applicants must meet the following criteria:

1.    A completed masterís degree or its equivalent from an accredited university.

2.    GPA of 3.3 or higher. If the GPA is less than a 3.3, the admission test score must be exceptional.

3.    Admission test scores at the 50 percentile or better on an appropriate entrance examination (e.g., GRE, GMAT, MAT).


Note: Interdisciplinary Ph.D. programs are not available to students who have been unsuccessful in previous graduate work.


Application Requirements


The following must be submitted as part of the application:

1.    Interdisciplinary PhD Committee Agreement Form: As part of the application process you are required to find five faculty members for your committee. All committee members must be members of the Graduate Faculty at The University of Alabama before formal appointment to the committee will be made by the Dean of the Graduate School. It is expected that the applicantís Advisory Committee chair will have competence in the proposed major area(s) of study and has the time and willingness to devote to being an academic mentor for the student throughout the Ph.D. program. The committee chair and at least one additional committee member will have experience in directing and supervising doctoral-level research.

2.    Advisor Signature Form: One of the faculty members on your committee will serve as your advisor. It is preferred that your advisor be selected from a department that offers doctoral degrees.

3.    Home Department Request Form: It is hoped that a home department or program will include an IDS student in the intellectual-social life of the unit, e.g., department mailing lists, colloquia, social functions, etc. This department may also consider an IDS student for Graduate Teaching Assistant and Research Assistant appointments, and for office space.

4.    Proposed Course Schedule Form: The student is responsible for convening a meeting with all committee members to discuss the proposed course schedule. Please see Course of Study for more details.

5.    A one- to two-page statement of proposed research topic outlining the intended focus of research and the significance of the research to the integrated fields of study and the studentís professional goals. The prospectus must be signed by the Advisor/Chair of the studentís Advisory Committee.

6.    A statement of purpose that includes reasons for pursuing the Interdisciplinary Studies Ph.D. and career goals. Your Statement of Purpose should clearly demonstrate how your professional goals are related to your intellectual pursuits.

7.    Written explanation (signed by advisor/chair) explaining how residency requirements (two contiguous, full-time semesters) will be met.

8.    Written explanation (signed by advisor/chair) explaining how the comprehensive examination requirement will be fulfilled. See Degree Progression for more details.

9.    Completed application form and application fee.

10. Official transcripts from all colleges and universities that the student has attended.

11. Three letters of recommendation.

12. A resume.


Course of Study

The UA Graduate School requires that Interdisciplinary Studies Ph.D. students must complete a minimum of 48 hours of coursework. All students in the interdisciplinary PhD program must take AHE 591: Disciplinarity and American Higher Education (or its equivalent) during the first 3 semesters of coursework. The Interdisciplinary Ph.D. coursework should reflect two or more distinct academic areas, 24 hours of dissertation research, and a minimum of 15 hours in research methods or research theory and design. The majority of courses should be at the 600 level.


Prior to being admitted into the Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies, the student must complete the Proposed Course Schedule Form. No later than the semester during which the student will complete 30 semester hours of UA and/or transfer credit toward the doctoral degree, he/she must submit a formal Ph.D. Plan of Study for Graduate School approval.


Typically transferred graduate courses may not be included in the studentís interdisciplinary Ph.D. proposed course schedule form.   On rare occasions, with compelling justification, the Assistant Dean of the Graduate School may approve up to 6 hours of transferred courses.  This petition must come from the Chair of the Advisory Committee and is subject to official evaluation by the Graduate School Registrar and approval by the Graduate Dean, per policies in the Graduate Catalog.


Degree Progression


Interdisciplinary Studies Ph.D. students must ensure that coursework is completed in a timely manner and that satisfactory progress is made towards completing all degree requirements (coursework, comprehensive exam, admission to candidacy, dissertation proposal, dissertation research, and final oral examination). All requirements must be completed within the time limits specified in the Graduate Catalog at the time of admission.


Progress Review: During each semester of the program, the student must meet with the Advisory Committee to review progress.  At the end of the spring semester the student and his/her Advisor should prepare an annual written summary of progress towards degree and submit to the Assistant Dean of the Graduate School.  


Comprehensive Exam: The content and administration of the comprehensive exam are the responsibility of the Advisory/Dissertation committee and should be thoroughly discussed with the student prior to admission.  Typically, the comprehensive examination is taken after the completion of all coursework.  It is expected that the comprehensive examination for the Interdisciplinary Studies Ph.D. will be as rigorous and use the same general procedures as the doctoral exams in the departments in which coursework is taken.  The specifics of the examination (including where the exam will be taken, the number of questions, the number of evaluators, the grading process, the process for reporting results to the student, etc.) should be detailed in the admission materials (see Admission Procedures).  The Committee Advisor/Chair should inform the Graduate School Registrar of the results of the comprehensive exam.


Admission to Candidacy: When the Advisory Committee certifies to the Graduate School that the comprehensive exam has been passed and all other requirements set out in the Plan of Study (except the dissertation) have been satisfactorily completed, the Graduate School admits the student to candidacy.


Dissertation: The dissertation must be completed and defended within the time limits specified by the Graduate School at the time of admission.  If human subjects are involved, the student and his/her advisor/chair are responsible for complying with the Institutional Review Board requirements before beginning research.


Final Oral Examination: The final oral exam for the Ph.D. is administered and evaluated by the Advisory Committee. The Graduate School should be notified of the date of the oral examination at least one month in advance. Final oral examinations are open to the University community, and a representative from the Graduate School may attend the oral examination.



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