THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA GRADUATE CATALOG

Table of Contents > Academic Policies


4.11 DEGREE REQUIREMENTS*

*The Graduate School reserves the right to change any provision or requirement at any time in order to fulfill its educational mission and exercise its educational responsibility. Refer to the website for master's and doctoral degree program checklists and the academic forms for additional information.

The general requirements for advanced degrees are set out below. Special divisional (i.e., college and school) and departmental requirements are given in the sections dealing with the respective divisions and departments. Each student must assume full responsibility for understanding both the general and special requirements of the division and department in which he or she pursues his or her major work.

4.11.1  Master's Degrees

4.11.2  Educational Specialist Degrees

4.11.3  Doctoral Degrees

 

4.11.1 MASTER'S DEGREES

 

The primary purpose of masterís degree programs is to provide students with subject matter at an advanced level in their fields of study.  Masterís degrees are designed to assist students either to continue their graduate studies or to meet the goals of their professions.  In most cases, masterís programs also help students become familiar with methods of independent investigation.

 

Program Requirements

Two plans are offered for the master's degree:

Plan I. Candidates for the master's degree under Plan I must earn a minimum of 24 semester hours of credit in coursework and write a thesis (a minimum of 6 semester hours of thesis research required).

 

Plan II. Candidates for the master's degree under Plan II must earn a minimum of 30 semester hours of credit and complete a culminating or ďcapstone experienceĒ as described under the Comprehensive Examinations section below.

Both plans require a minimum of 18 semester hours in the major subject. With the approval of the major department, the remainder of the coursework may be completed in either the major or a related field.

 

In some divisions and in many departments of the University, candidates are required to do their work under Plan I. Candidates working under Plan II may be required to participate successfully in seminar or problem courses that will give them an acquaintance with the methods of research and an appreciation of the place and function of original investigation in the field.

 

Residency Requirements

A student's program at the master's level must provide sufficient association with the resident faculty to permit individual evaluation of the student's capabilities and achievements.

 

Graduate Credit
A student must be admitted to the Graduate School and must register as a graduate student in order to receive graduate credit. Approval for graduate registration must be obtained from program advisors prior to registration.

 

Graduate Credit for Noncredit Experiences
All course credit used toward a UA graduate degree must be taught at the graduate level.  No graduate credit may be earned by correspondence study or for experiential learning not conducted under the direct supervision of graduate faculty of The University of Alabama.  The UA does not offer graduate credit for noncredit workshops, seminars, continuing education experiences, professional development, internships, work/life experience, and so forth.  

 

Transfer of Credit

Courses of full graduate-level credit earned in a regionally accredited institution where a student was enrolled in the graduate school may be submitted for review for inclusion in a degree program. Evaluation of credit for transfer will not be made until after the student has enrolled in the Graduate School of The University of Alabama. Acceptance of credit requires the approval of the student's advisory committee and the dean of the Graduate School. Credit will not be accepted for transfer from any institution at which the student failed to achieve a "B" average on all graduate work attempted. Only courses in which a student earned a "B" grade or better may be transferred.

 

A student initiates in the Office of the Graduate School a  Request for Transfer of Graduate Credit earned at another institution. It is also the student's responsibility to assure that the Graduate School receives an official transcript of the credit concerned, well in advance of the final semester and typically before or at the time of advancement to candidacy.

 

With the approval of the student's department and the dean of the Graduate School, the greater of 12 hours or 25 percent of the required coursework for a graduate degree may be transferred from another institution. All credit toward the master's degree, including transfer credit, must have been earned during the six years (18 fall, spring, and summer semesters) immediately preceding the date on which the degree is to be awarded.

 

In some cases, foreign educational credentials may not meet the Graduate School's criteria for transfer of credit. It may be necessary for students in this situation to secure an evaluation of their credentials from World Education Services Inc. (WES), an external foreign credential evaluation service. Additional information on their services can be found at their website.

 

400-Level Courses

A maximum of 6 semester hours of 400-level course credit may be accepted for a master's degree program, but only if a form for Approval of 400-Level Course Work for Master's Credit is approved by the Graduate School prior to the semester in which the 400-level coursework will be taken.

 

Time Limit

All requirements for the master's degree must be completed during the six years (18 fall, spring, and summer semesters) immediately preceding the date on which the degree is to be awarded.  There is no provision for an extension of the time limit beyond 6 years for master's students.

 

Admission to Candidacy
During the 2013-2014 academic year, t
he Graduate Council eliminated the masterís candidacy requirement.  Departments may monitor masterís candidacy if they wish, but the Graduate School does not monitor it and will not accept masterís candidacy forms.  Doctoral candidacy is not affected and remains an important doctoral program requirement.

 

Thesis

A thesis evidencing research capacity, independent thought, and the ability to interpret materials is required of all master's degree candidates who pursue Plan I. The subject chosen must be in the major field and must be approved by the graduate committee of the major department or school and by the head of the student's major department or division.

 

The final oral thesis defense is the culminating experience in the masterís program. As such, all members of the thesis committee are expected to attend and participate in real time. Virtual attendance via interactive video or teleconference is permitted for off-campus external committee members, but Tuscaloosa campus faculty should attend in person unless extraordinary circumstances dictate the need for virtual attendance.  

 

Article Style vs. Journal Format

 

Article Style

At the doctoral level, "article-style dissertations" are unified works that include several distinct but related studies of research or creative activity, each of which is of publishable quality.  The University does not permit an "article-style thesis" to be presented for a master's degree.

 

Journal Format

A "journal-format thesis" is acceptable.  Such a thesis follows the format of a particular journal in which the student and advisor want the thesis to be published. To prepare  a journal-format thesis, the student uses the journal's "information for authors" or similarly titled guidelines in conjunction with the Graduate School's Student Guide to Preparing Electronic Theses and Dissertations.

 

A thesis committee must consist of at least three members appointed by the dean of the Graduate School. A form for Appointment or Change of Master's Thesis Committee is used to request that the graduate dean appoint a thesis committee. The request normally is made as soon as the successful defense of the thesis proposal has been completed. All members of a thesis committee must be members of the Graduate Faculty. The Committee Chair must be a full or associate member of the Graduate Faculty. One member must be from outside the student's major department. If the outside member is not a full or associate member of the UA Graduate Faculty (e.g., a highly qualified person from another university, a business or industry), the graduate dean needs to appoint that member by approving Temporary Graduate Faculty status for the specific purpose of serving on the student's thesis committee. Unless there are extraordinary circumstances meriting approval by the graduate dean before the final oral defense of the thesis, all members of the thesis committee must attend the defense.

 

The candidate must give members of the examining committee a minimum of two weeks to read the thesis before the date of the final oral examination. A final oral examination is required of all students completing a thesis.  All members of the thesis committee must be members of the UA graduate faculty and must attend the final oral examination unless there are extraordinary circumstances warranting the graduate dean's approval of the absence prior to the defense meeting.

 

As of August 15, 2009, all theses are submitted electronically rather than on paper.  See the graduate school's homepage for a link to information on Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETD) for details.

 

Theses must comply with the regulations set out in A Student Guide to Preparing Electronic Theses and Dissertations, available on the Graduate School's website. Approval of the thesis by the graduate dean is necessary before graduation.

 

The thesis should be completed, if possible, while the student is in residence at the University. To request permission to complete a thesis in absentia, the student must, before leaving the University, submit a satisfactory outline of the thesis, as well as evidence that adequate facilities are available where the work will be done, to the head of the student's major department.

 

Protection of Human Subjects for Research

Scientific research involving human subjects has produced substantial benefits for society, but it also can pose troubling ethical questions. The mission of the University's Institutional Review Board (IRB) for Protection of Human Subjects is to ensure that research involving human subjects is conducted ethically. University and federal policies require that review and approval to use human subjects in research precede the research. In the case of thesis research that involves the use of human subjects in any way, the principal investigator is responsible for contacting the college Human Research Review Committee to obtain approval for the planned research. 

 

Comprehensive Examinations

In addition to the regular course examinations, a final comprehensive examination representing a "culminating" or "capstone" experience for a degree is required of all candidates for the master's degree (except for those candidates pursuing the master of accountancy, the master of business administration, the master of library and information studies, the master of social work, and the master of tax accounting). The comprehensive examination is a culminating experience in which the student is expected to integrate prior learning. Each department, with approval of the Graduate Council, determines the most appropriate format. The various exams may consist of one or more of the following: 

  • a written and/or oral examination based on the content of the degree program;

  • a thesis and final oral defense;

  • a course requiring interpretation and integration of information from previous courses;

  • a research paper, a "policy and practice" paper, or equivalent experience;

  • a public performance or exhibition along with a contextualizing paper; and/or

  • a practicum or internship.

If the comprehensive exam requirement is met with option 1 and/or 2 above, then the examining committee for comprehensive examinations must consist of at least three members of the graduate faculty from that department and appointed by the dean of the Graduate School. The examination must be given at least six weeks before the date of graduation (two weeks before for Plan II) and reported promptly to the dean of the Graduate School on appropriate forms. A final report, on the Master's/EdS Examination Form is on the Graduate School website.  The form should be submitted when all examinations are completed. A student may take the final oral or written examination only twice.  Failing the examination twice results in dismissal from the degree program and the Graduate School.

 

Application for Graduation

Each candidate for a master's degree must apply for graduation through the Office of the Graduate School no later than the registration period for the semester or the first session of the summer term in which requirements for the degree are to be completed. The Application for Degree is available on the web and is required for this purpose.

 

Second Master's Degree

Six (6) semester hours of eligible credit from one master's degree at The University of Alabama may be applied to the requirements for a second master's degree, but only if the department of the second masterís agrees to the courses in the plan of study. Any hours from the previous masterís degree must have been earned during the six years (18 fall, spring, and summer semesters) immediately preceding the date on which the second degree is to be awarded.

4.11.2 EDUCATIONAL SPECIALIST DEGREES

 

The educational specialist degree (EdS) is offered in some departments of the College of Education that offer doctoral degrees. Students interested in the EdS degree should contact the department involved regarding availability of the degree.

 

The EdS degree normally is granted at the end of the sixth year of collegiate study and falls in time between the master's degree and the doctorate, although it is not viewed as intermediate between the master's and doctoral degrees. In the College of Education, some EdS degrees lead to a teaching certification for PĖ12 education fields. In some teaching fields, the purpose of the degree is to prepare undergraduate-college teachers, especially those who will be employed in junior colleges, small private and state colleges, and the group of colleges labeled as "developing" institutions. The primary goals of the EdS degree are teaching and acquiring professional proficiency.

 

Because the purposes of the EdS degree may differ from those of either the EdD or PhD, credit earned in an EdS program is not automatically transferable to a doctoral program. Instead, if a holder of an EdS degree enters a doctoral program at a later date, the doctoral advisory committee will decide how much of the credit earned in the EdS program will be counted toward the doctorate.

 

Program Requirements

The EdS degree requires a minimum of 30 semester hours of study beyond the master's degree. (Students completing an EdS program and also expecting to receive an Alabama Class AA certificate for service in the public schools must complete a minimum of 30 semester hours and achieve a minimum 3.25 grade point average on all work attempted.) Generally, the following requirements will hold for the degree:

  • If a student enters a program with a master's degree in the same field, a minimum of 12 additional semester hours in the teaching field must be taken as part of the 30-hour total.  Some departments may require more than these minimums.

  • Since one of the goals of the EdS degree is to prepare undergraduate-college teachers, certain courses in higher education may be necessary, if required by the major department. A faculty advisor in the program in higher education administration will advise students on the appropriate courses to complete this requirement.

  • Candidates for the EdS degree will be required to complete all coursework at the 500 and 600 levels.

Residency Requirement

A student's program at the EdS level must provide sufficient association with the resident faculty to permit individual evaluation of the student's capabilities and achievements.

 

Graduate Credit
A student must be admitted to the Graduate School and must register as a graduate student in order to receive graduate credit. Approval for graduate registration must be obtained from program advisors prior to registration.

 

Graduate Credit for Noncredit Experiences
All course credit used toward a UA graduate degree must be taught at the graduate level.  No graduate credit may be earned by correspondence study or for experiential learning not conducted under the direct supervision of graduate faculty of The University of Alabama.  The UA does not offer graduate credit for noncredit workshops, seminars, continuing education experiences, professional development, internships, work/life experience, and so forth.  

 

Transfer of Credit

Courses of full graduate-level credit earned in a regionally accredited institution where a student was enrolled in the graduate school may be submitted for review for inclusion in a degree program. Evaluation of credit for transfer will not be made until after the student has enrolled in the Graduate School of The University of Alabama. Acceptance of credit requires the approval of the student's advisory committee and the dean of the Graduate School. Credit will not be accepted for transfer from any institution at which the student failed to achieve a "B" average on all graduate work attempted. Only courses in which a student earned a "B" grade or better may be transferred.

 

The greater of 9 semester hours or 25 percent of appropriate post-master's-degree credit, earned through a regionally accredited institution approved to offer graduate programs beyond the master's level in the field of study where the credits were earned, may be transferred to apply toward an EdS degree. To be considered for transfer, credit must have been completed during the six years (18 fall, spring, and summer semesters) immediately preceding the date on which the degree is to be awarded.

 

Previous and appropriate post-master's-degree credit earned at The University of Alabama before a student applies for admission to the EdS program can be applied toward the EdS. degree, provided it meets the program requirements of the particular department and the time limitation stated below.

 

Evaluation of credit for transfer will not be made until after the student has enrolled in the Graduate School of The University of Alabama. Acceptance of credit requires the approval of the student's advisory committee and the dean of the Graduate School. Credit will not be accepted for transfer from any institution at which the student failed to achieve a "B" average on all graduate work attempted. Only courses in which a student earned a "B" grade or better may be transferred. A student initiates a Request for Transfer of Graduate Credit earned at another institution. 

 

A student in his or her last semester of work toward the master's degree who does not need a full course load to complete the course requirements of his or her master's program may register for work toward the EdS degree, in the amount needed to complete full registration loads.

 

In some cases, foreign educational credentials may not meet the Graduate School's criteria for transfer of credit. It may be necessary for students in this situation to secure a credentials evaluation from World Education Services Inc. (WES), an external foreign credential evaluation service.

 

Time Limit

All requirements for the EdS degree must be completed during the six years (18 fall, spring, and summer semesters) immediately preceding the date on which the degree is to be awarded. There is no provision at the EdS level for a time limit extension beyond 6 years.

 

Plan of Study

A standard form for an EdS plan of study is not available at the Graduate School's website, because each department or program participating in the EdS degree has established a framework of requirements for the degree that indicates the general structure of its program. At or before initial registration, each student develops a formal plan of study for the degree, designating all courses he or she plans to take in the program. In reaching decisions, the student should consult with the program director. The student will file a completed plan with the program director who, upon approving the plan, will distribute copies to the Graduate School and to the student, retaining one copy for departmental files.

 

A plan of study may be amended at any time using appropriate forms and following the procedure described above. Until formal approval of an amended plan of study is made, the original or current modification of the plan will be in effect.

 

Admission to Candidacy

As noted above, the EdS Plan of Study is available in the College of Education and must be approved by the Graduate School before the student can be admitted to candidacy for the EdS degree.  Thus, it is best to complete the plan of study by the end of the first or second semester of course work.  

 

Each EdS student completes the Admission to Candidacy for the EdS Degree application form and submits it to the Graduate School. 
 

Examinations

In addition to the regular course examinations, a final comprehensive examination is required. The examination may be written or oral or both, at the discretion of the major department.  No candidate is eligible for the final examination until approved by the appropriate program director. A student may take the final oral or written examination only twice.  Failing the examination twice results in dismissal from the degree program and the Graduate School.

 

The examination will be prepared and conducted by a committee of at least three members of the UA graduate faculty, including the program director in the major area of study and a designee (or two or more people from the major area of study, designated by the program director) and the program director (or a designee) from the minor field of study, if one has been included in a program. Committees will be appointed by the dean of the Graduate School on request of the major program director. Each candidate must be judged by the major department to have completed the examination(s) satisfactorily. 

 

If a candidate receives failing marks in both the minor area of study and the professional education field, the candidate will be judged to have failed the examination. If a candidate fails either the minor examination or the professional education examination, the committee as a whole will reach a decision about the satisfactory or unsatisfactory nature of the candidate's performance on the examination. If a candidate does not have a minor field, the committee members will meet to reach a decision in the event the student fails the professional education examination.

 

All written examinations will be kept on file by the program directors for one year following the date of the examination, and students will have the right to confer with their program directors regarding the strengths and weaknesses shown on the examinations.

 

Application for Graduation

Each candidate for an educational specialist degree submits the Application for Degree through the Graduate School no later than the registration period of the semester or the first term of the summer session in which requirements for the degree are to be completed.

4.11.3 DOCTORAL DEGREES

 

The University offers several types of doctorates, each of which is described below.

The doctor of philosophy (PhD) degree is regarded as the researcher's degree. Program requirements include the acquisition of special skills for conducting independent, scholarly research of publishable quality.  Requirements traditionally include a working knowledge of one or more foreign languages, but currently a number of foreign-language alternatives have been approved by departments. Through acquisition of these skills, PhD candidates demonstrate their potential for careers as independent, publishing scholars.   Refer to departmental sections of this Catalog for details on foreign-language requirements or alternatives.

 

The minimum period in which a doctoral degree can be earned is 3 full academic years of graduate  study after completion of a baccalaureate degree, although in most disciplines the period is longer.  Graduate teaching assistants (GTA) or graduate research assistants (GRA) whose work assignments are 10 hours per week (i.e. the equivalent of 3 semester hours) or more should expect to take more than the minimum period of 3 academic years to earn a doctoral degree.  The only exception to the 3-year minimum is the practice-focused DNP.

 

Doctor of Philosophy Degree

The doctor of philosophy degree is granted on the basis of scholarly proficiency, distinctive achievement in a special field, and capacity for independent, original investigation. The first two criteria are tested in coursework and a comprehensive examination, the last in a dissertation in which the student must present clearly and effectively the results of substantial research. A combination of these accomplishments, rather than the mere accumulation of residence and course credits, is the essential consideration in awarding the PhD degree. The PhD differs from the EdD in a number of ways, including the fact that the PhD Plan of Study and comprehensive examination demonstrate a higher-level research focus, and there is a greater number of dissertation hours and higher level of complexity and independent thought in a PhD-level dissertation.

 

Field of specialization

A defined field of specialization is required of all candidates for the doctor of philosophy degree. A minimum of 48 semester hours of non-dissertation course credit is required. Candidates should consult their departments or the appropriate section of this Catalog for additional requirements. The doctoral course as a whole must be unified, and all its parts must contribute to an organized program of study and research. In addition, a student must complete a minimum of 24 hours of dissertation research.

 

Research skill/language requirements

There is no University-wide foreign language/research skill requirement for doctoral students; each college or department offering the PhD degree may set its own requirements. This policy reaffirms the importance of research skills and foreign languages in the highest academic degree granted by American universities, but it also recognizes that the departments offering the degrees are in the best position to determine the number and nature of such requirements in the interests of their students. For further information about PhD foreign language/research skill requirements, students may contact their departments or the Graduate School office (205-348-5921).

 

Interdisciplinary Studies

There is a PhD degree program in interdisciplinary studies, and it is administered by the Graduate School. In addition to the general requirements for the PhD degree, the program of study and the supervisory committee for the prospective interdisciplinary studies degree candidate must be approved by the dean of the Graduate School before the student is admitted to the program. See Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) at the Graduate School's website for information on prerequisites, admission procedures, course of study and other aspects of IDS programs.

Doctor of Education Degree

A minimum of two years of graduate study beyond the master's degree is required for the completion of the EdD program. The student is required to complete 60 semester hours in approved graduate courses beyond the master's degree, or 90 semester hours of approved graduate courses, and to defend a dissertation. The student must complete a minimum of 12 hours of dissertation research.  In the College of Education section of the Graduate Catalog, there are specific regulations governing the EdD program.  

Doctor of Musical Arts Degree

The DMA. degree requires a minimum of 48 semester hours beyond the master of music degree, plus recitals and other examinations as determined by faculty of the School of Music.  Specific requirements for each major area are outlined in the School of Music section of the Graduate Catalog.  

 

Doctor of Nursing Practice

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a joint program offered by the University of Alabama in Huntsville College of Nursing (UAHCON), the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing (UABSON), and The University of Alabama Capstone College of Nursing (UACCN).  The DNP is a practice-focused degree that is detailed in the Nursing section of this Catalog.

 

 

Admission to Doctoral Degree Programs

Admission to any doctoral program is limited to students whose scholastic records show distinct promise of success in doctoral study. Admission to the Graduate School and the earning of a master's degree from The University of Alabama do not guarantee acceptance into a doctoral program. A student obtaining the master's degree at the University must submit to the dean of the Graduate School written permission from the department head or division dean to be eligible to work toward the doctoral degree. Students in doubt about their acceptance into doctoral programs should consult with departmental advisors and the Graduate School, which makes the final decision about admission. A department may terminate a student's doctoral admission if there is documented unsatisfactory academic or other progress toward completion of the degree.

 

Residency Requirements

The intent of the residency requirement is to ensure that doctoral students contribute to and benefit from the complete spectrum of educational, professional, and enrichment opportunities provided at The University of Alabama. Though not all-inclusive, the list below shows some of the primary reasons why best practices in U.S. graduate education and the graduate faculty on the UA Graduate Council have determined that a substantial residency experience must be included in a doctoral program: 

  • provide significant interaction between the student and the various UA graduate faculty in the student's discipline;

  • provide ample opportunities for student exposure to and engagement with cognate disciplines and research scholars working in those disciplines;

  • provide significant opportunities for face-to-face peer interaction between and among graduate students in the student's discipline and in other disciplines; and

  • provide the opportunity for a mentor-apprentice relationship between the student and graduate faculty, as well as adequate time for in-depth and direct faculty evaluation of the student.

There are two possible methods for meeting doctoral residency.  The traditional method is the method of choice by the majority of UA departments.  There also is an alternative method available, but only for doctoral students in specific departments or programs that have submitted a proposal for an alternative and had the faculty of the Graduate Council evaluate and approve the alternative.  (Those departments and programs are in a bulleted list in the last paragraph of this section of the Catalog).

 

Traditional Doctoral Residency

The residency requirement is that the student must spend an academic year in continuous residence on the campus of The University of Alabama as a full-time student in the Graduate School.  Any one of the following 4 methods can be used to meet traditional residency:

To meet this requirement, only graduate-level, non-dissertation coursework can be applied.  Dissertation or thesis research cannot be used. The Graduate Council, consisting of representatives of the UA graduate faculty, has established a policy that distance learning courses delivered online or by any other distance learning format may not be used to satisfy the traditional doctoral residency requirement. 

 

As mentioned earlier, the majority of UA departments follow traditional residency as described above and do not permit any distance learning hours to be used to meet residency.

 

Alternative Doctoral Residency

For many years there has been an alternative for EdD students at the Gadsden Center.  See the College of Education section of this Catalog for details.

 

For other doctoral students, in 2008 the Graduate School worked closely with the Graduate Council so that a department could apply for approval of an Alternative Doctoral Residency (ADR) option for its doctoral students.  There is a brief format (available from the Graduate School) for departments to follow in proposing an ADR option.  It includes such things as demonstrating that the proposed ADR will assure that ADR doctoral students meet 5 "value constructs" that underpin doctoral education. 

 

When a department or program receives Graduate Council approval to offer an ADR, the ADR provides a second possible way for students in that department or program to meet the residency requirement.  The approved ADR does not replace the traditional residency option, which is still available to students who choose it. Whether the student meets doctoral residency through the traditional method or an approved ADR method, dissertation (699) hours may not be used; only non-dissertation graduate hours may be used.

 

In the specific departments or programs that have received Graduate Council approval to offer an ADR, students choosing the ADR option may be able to include up to a certain number of distance learning hours.  The specific number is what was approved in the ADR proposal for that particular department.  Contact the department for details. The following have been approved to offer an ADR:

  • PhD in Counselor Education

  • PhD in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics

  • PhD in Curriculum and Instruction

  • PhD in Human Performance

  • PhD in Instructional Leadership

  • Instructional Technology Concentration in the PhD Program in Instructional Leadership

Graduate Credit
A student must be admitted to the Graduate School and must register as a graduate student in order to receive graduate credit. Approval for graduate registration must be obtained from program advisors prior to registration.

 

Graduate Credit for Noncredit Experiences
All course credit used toward a UA graduate degree must be taught at the graduate level.  No graduate credit may be earned by correspondence study or for experiential learning not conducted under the direct supervision of graduate faculty of The University of Alabama.  The UA does not offer graduate credit for noncredit workshops, seminars, continuing education experiences, professional development, internships, work/life experience, and so forth.  

 

Transfer of Credit

Acceptable graduate credit that was earned in a regionally accredited institution in which the student was enrolled in that institution's graduate school may be considered for transfer and application to the requirements for a doctoral degree if approved by the department and the Graduate School.  Only credit that was earned during the six-year period (18 fall, spring, and summer semesters) preceding admission to the doctoral program may be considered for transfer. 

 

Revalidation (recertification) of credits more than 18 semesters old at the time of admission to a doctoral program is not an option.

 

Consideration of credit does not guarantee its transfer.  Evaluation of credit for transfer will not be made until after the student has enrolled in the Graduate School of The University of Alabama. Credit will not be accepted from any institution at which the student failed to achieve an overall "B" average on all graduate work attempted. Only courses in which a student earned a "B" grade or better may be transferred.

 

A student completes a Request for Transfer of Graduate Credit and submits it to the Graduate School. The student also must ensure that the Graduate School has an official (not faxed or copied) transcript of the credit involved.  Students should be aware that planning to transfer a course in the final semester typically will delay commencement by a semester if the UA graduate registrar does not receive official notice of completion of the course by at least 3-4 weeks prior to commencement.  It is best to apply for official transfer of credit in the student's first semester of doctoral enrollment; otherwise, the student and advisor will be unsure about the number of course hours needed when submitting the required Plan of Study.

 

With the approval of the student's department and the dean of the Graduate School, up to one-half of the required coursework (exclusive of dissertation research hours) for a doctoral degree may be transferred from another institution if approved by the department and the graduate school.  Please note that some departments allow fewer than 24  hours of transfer credit, so be sure to check with your department's graduate coordinator regarding your department's transfer policy.

 

In some cases, foreign educational credentials may not meet the Graduate School's criteria for transfer of credit. It may be necessary for students in this situation to secure an evaluation of their credentials from World Education Services Inc. (WES), an external foreign credential evaluation service.

 

Time Limits

All requirements for the doctoral degree must be completed within seven years (21 fall, spring, and summer semesters) following admission to the doctoral program, with the following specific exceptions approved by the Graduate Council: psychology, modern languages and classics, English and political science (eight years if entering the doctoral program with a baccalaureate, not master's, degree), and eight years from the time of first registration in PhD courses for students dually enrolled in the PhD program in political science and the JD program.

 

Previous graduate credit may be applied to the doctoral degree if the credit was earned during the six-year period (not seven years) prior to admission to the doctoral program. Such credit must be identified clearly on the Outline of PhD Program (Plan of Study) and requires Graduate School approval. Only those students graduating within the time limit for their doctoral program may apply previous graduate credit to the doctoral degree if the credit was earned during the six-year period prior to admission to the doctoral program. Revalidation (recertification) of credits more than 18 semesters old at the time of admission to a doctoral program is not an option.

 

Time Limits Extension Request

Only under compelling circumstances beyond the student's control a student may petition for a one-semester extension to the seven-year time limit (or eight-year time limit for the selected programs noted above). The Graduate Council approved the following steps to request an extension:

  • To begin the process, the student petitions the department head. In the petition the student (a) describes the compelling circumstances, (b) briefly describes the current status of the dissertation, then (c) includes a timeline showing each important remaining step in the completion of the dissertation. The last step and date in the timeline are submission of the successfully defended dissertation on or before the published final date for submission of dissertations for the requested extension semester.

  • If the department head supports the petition, it is forwarded to the college dean.

  • If the college dean supports the petition, it is sent to the graduate dean.

  • If the graduate dean or his designee approves the extension, it will not require the student to validate any out-of-date UA or transfer courses previously approved for the plan of study.

If a student fails to complete all degree requirements within the time limit for the studentís doctoral program or within a one-semester extension approved as noted above, the student will be dropped (suspended) from the doctoral program. To complete a doctoral degree, the student would have to reapply for admission and be admitted by the department and Graduate School. Graduate Council policies do not provide the option to revalidate (recertify) either UA or transfer courses completed more than six years prior to the date of admission. Thus, a readmitted student would be able to apply to the new admission only those courses approved by the department and Graduate School and completed within the 6 years (18 fall, spring, and summer semesters) prior to the new admission.


Repeating Courses When Given an Extension

When requests are made for extensions of the doctoral time limits, and it is deemed that an out-of-date course is integral to the degree program, the college dean may request permission of the Graduate School for such a course to be repeated. In this case, both grades are used in calculation of the GPA.

 

Plan of Study

Early in the graduate program, each student must confer with the appropriate departmental adviser or major professor to select courses, discuss when and by which method the doctoral residency requirement will be completed, discuss research interests, and so forth.  Then a Plan of Study must be prepared and submitted to the Graduate School.

 

The PhD Plan of Study and DMA Plan of Study are available at the Graduate School website. The Plan of Study for other doctoral programs (EdD, DNP) are available from the student's department, college or school.  All doctoral students must have a completed Plan of Study approved by the Graduate School no later than the semester during which the student will complete 30 semester hours of UA and/or transfer credit toward the doctoral degree.  Otherwise, a ďholdĒ may be placed on future registrations. 

 

An amended Plan of Study (if needed) must be submitted to the Graduate School when the student submits the form for Admission to Candidacy for Doctoral Degree.

 

Preliminary or Comprehensive Examination

A preliminary or comprehensive qualifying examination is required of all doctoral candidates. This examination is given after

  • any foreign language/research skill requirements are met (PhD students only);

  • two full years of graduate study are completed; and

  • the supervisory committee deems the student to have adequate preparation in the major and minor fields of study.

The examination is conducted by the student's supervisory committee or other committee established in the program area.  Whereas one of the purposes of the preliminary examination is to determine the student's research competence to begin work on a dissertation, the examination should be completed at least nine months before the degree is to be awarded. A student may take the final oral or written examination only twice.  Failing the examination twice results in dismissal from the degree program and the Graduate School.

 

Admission to Candidacy

The requirements for advancing to candidacy include passing the qualifying (major or preliminary) examination; completion of all coursework as listed on the approved program of study; receiving departmental approval of the dissertation subject (although some departments require the defense of a dissertation proposal and/or writing one or more preliminary sections of the dissertation as well); and having the committee recommend the student for Admission to Candidacy for the Doctoral Degree.  The completed candidacy form is submitted to the Graduate School well in advance of the final semester.

 

Continuous Dissertation or Document Registration

Once a student has met the requirements for admission to candidacy, received approval for the dissertation research proposal, or initiated enrollment in 699 (dissertation research for a doctoral degree), the student must pursue completion of the dissertation without interruption by enrolling each fall and spring semester of the academic year for at least 3 hours of dissertation research.  Summer enrollment for 699 Dissertation Research is expected if the student is working on the dissertation and using any University facilities or resources, including faculty time, but the only time summer registration is required for dissertation research (3 hours minimum) is when a doctoral student is graduating in August or defending the dissertation during the summer semester.  This is true whether or not the student has formally  submitted an Application for Admission to Candidacy.  

 

Each PhD student must have completed a minimum of 24 hours of such dissertation work upon completion of the degree. The amount of dissertation research for which a student enrolls in any given semester should be commensurate with the progress a student is expected to make on the dissertation, as well as reflective of the extent to which University facilities and faculty time are invested in the proposed activities.

 

Dissertation Proposal

The dissertation proposal aims to show the appropriateness, manageability and significance of the projected research.  The student formally presents the written proposal to the dissertation committee and defends it in a meeting with the committee.  The proposal normally includes an introduction giving an overview and stating the significance of the proposed research, review of the literature, and methodology.  Departments determine the details of the dissertation proposal's format with respect to such things as the length of the introduction and detail of the review of the literature.

 

Once the student and dissertation chair have developed a proposal, and the graduate dean has approved the dissertation committee, the student schedules the dissertation proposal meeting that includes all committee members.  The student cannot propose a dissertation and have its final defense in the same semester. 

 

Dissertation

A dissertation showing the ability to conduct independent research and skill in organization, writing and presentation must be prepared on a topic in the major field. It must constitute an original contribution to knowledge. Early in the process, the subject of the dissertation must be approved by the dissertation committee of the major department or division and by the dean of the Graduate School.

 

A dissertation committee, with the director of the dissertation as its chairperson, supervises the preparation of the dissertation. The committee shall have not fewer than five members, all of whom are appointed by the dean of the Graduate School. The graduate deanís approval of the proposed dissertation committee is expected to be obtained before significant progress is made on the dissertation--typically just before or just after the dissertation proposal meeting. For this purpose, the student submits the form for Appointment/Change of a Doctoral Dissertation Committee

 

All members of a dissertation committee must be members of the UA Graduate Faculty. The committee chair must be a full member of the Graduate Faculty, as described in the Catalogís section on Qualifications of the Graduate Faculty. One member must be from outside the student's major department. If the outside member is not a full or associate member of the UA Graduate Faculty (e.g., a highly qualified person from another university, a business or industry), the graduate dean needs to appoint that member by approving Temporary Graduate Faculty status for the specific purpose of serving on the student's dissertation committee.

 

The final oral dissertation defense is the culminating experience in the doctoral program. As such, all members of the dissertation committee are expected to attend and participate in real time. Virtual attendance via interactive video or teleconference is permitted for off-campus external committee members, but Tuscaloosa campus faculty should attend in person unless extraordinary circumstances dictate the need for virtual attendance.  

 

The dissertation must comply with the regulations in A Student Guide to Preparing Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Graduate School deadlines, including each semester's dissertation deadline, are available at the Graduate School's homepage

Consult the ETD website for details of ETD submission, including information on what needs to be submitted to the Graduate School.  The graduate dean must approve the dissertation before the student can be cleared for graduation.

The Catalog section on Continuous Dissertation Registration for Doctoral Students states that once a student qualifies for doctoral candidacy, the student must enroll each semester for at least 3 hours of dissertation (699) research. If certain conditions are met for the student's final semester, the student may qualify to enroll for fewer than 3 hours of 699 dissertation research, but only in that final semester (see table below).  A zero-hour or one-hour 699 registration is not permitted in any but the final semester, and only under the conditions described in the table below.

 

Final-Semester Dissertation (699) Minimum Registration Hours

When was the *completed electronic dissertation

submitted to ProQuest/the Graduate School?

Minimum hours of 699 registration required in the final semester

By 4:45 p.m. on the last-possible day for instructors to post grades for the semester before the studentís final semester (date published in the **University Academic Calendar)

 

0

After 4:45 p.m. on the last-possible day for instructors to post grades for the semester before the studentís final semester, but before 4:45 p.m. on the last-possible day to register or add a course for the studentís final semester (both dates published in the University Academic Calendar)

 

1

After 4:45 p.m. on the last-possible day to register or add a course for the studentís final semester (date published in the University Academic Calendar)

 

3

* "CompletedĒ means submitted at ProQuest after being successfully defended; being carefully edited following the defense meeting; and having the Committee Acceptance Form (CAF) signed by all committee members, department chairperson and graduate dean.  At the time of ProQuest submission, the student also must submit the Survey of Earned Doctorates through the NORC website.


**The University Calendar is available at the Academics tab of the website of the University Registrar

Article-Style Dissertations

This approach is intended for doctoral students whose dissertation will consist of a number of related manuscripts or articles that represent independent research or creative activity. It is an option available only to students in certain fields in which the faculty have received Graduate Council approval from the Graduate Council. A complete list of these fields is below:

 

Accountancy
Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics

Applied Statistics
Biological Sciences
Chemical Engineering
Chemistry
Civil Engineering
Computer Science
Economics
Education (all departments)
Electrical and Computer Engineering
 

Finance
Geological Sciences
Health Education and Promotion
Management
Management Science
Marketing
Mechanical Engineering
Metallurgical and Materials Engineering
Physics
Psychology

Article-style dissertations must be based upon research completed while the student is enrolled at The University of Alabama. For each article used, the student must be the first author, or equivalent, as defined by the discipline.

 

As with traditional dissertations, the article-style dissertation must be the student's original idea. It must be a unified work and include a sequence of articles of publishable quality around a cohesive theme, with a comprehensive review of literature demonstrating an in-depth understanding of the unifying framework.

  • In article-style dissertations there will be introductory material to describe the studies, show how they are related, and explain their significance;

  • connecting language to bridge each study to the next; and

  • a summary making clear the importance of the studies, integrating the major findings, and discussing the implications for the overall topic.

These components do not have to be separate sections or chapters. They may be parts of the

manuscripts or may be accomplished in an abstract.

 

All parts of both traditional and article-style dissertations must conform to the provisions set forth in A Student Guide to Preparing Electronic Theses and Dissertations, except when the circumstances of a specific project or disciplineís style manual require deviation. Students considering the article-style approach should contact the Graduate School before beginning their work if they have questions concerning specific problems or deviations from traditional procedure.

 

All doctoral candidates must give members of the dissertation committee a minimum of two weeks to read the dissertation before the date of the required final oral examination.

 

Electronic submission of dissertations:  August 15, 2009, is the date when electronic submission began to be required and paper submission no longer was accepted. Consult the ETD website for details of ETD submission, including information on what needs to be submitted to the Graduate School.  The graduate dean must approve the dissertation before the student can be cleared for graduation.  

 

 

Protection of Human Subjects for Research

Scientific research involving human subjects has produced substantial benefits for society, but it also has significant ethical questions. The mission of the University's Institutional Review Board (IRB) for Protection of Human Subjects is to ensure that research involving human subjects is conducted ethically. University and federal policies require that review and approval to use human subjects in research precede the research, no matter how great or small the involvement of the human subjects. In the case of dissertation research that involves the use of human subjects, the principal investigator is responsible for contacting the college Human Research Review Committee to obtain approval for the planned research. The University's IRB approval form is available at the IRB website.  

 

Final Examinations

When the dissertation has been completed, the candidate will be given a final oral examination by a committee of not fewer than five members, one of whom must be from outside the student's major department or, for students in the College of Education, outside the student's area (not program), and appointed by the dean of the Graduate School. This examination will focus primarily on the candidate's research work, as embodied in the dissertation, and the field in which the dissertation lies, but it may encompass the complete program for the degree. The results of the examination must be reported to the Office of the Graduate School at least six weeks before the commencement at which the degree is to be conferred.

 

Application for Graduation

Each candidate for a doctoral degree must apply for the degree through the Office of the Graduate School no later than the "last day to register or add a course" of the semester or the first term of the summer session in which requirements for the degree are to be completed. That day is published for each semester at the website of the University Registrar.  To apply for graduation, the student submits an Application for Degree to the Graduate School.

 

Clearing the Academic Record for Commencement

At least one week before commencement, the candidate's record must have been cleared for graduation.

 

Attendance at Commencement

A candidate for a doctoral degree must be present at a scheduled commencement to receive the diploma and hood, unless excused by the graduate dean. 

 

Withholding or Withdrawing an Advanced Degree

The University of Alabama reserves the right to withhold or withdraw an advanced degree on the recommendation of the graduate faculty. 


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Last Update: August, 2014