The goal of the doctoral program is to nurture intellectual leaders in their respective fields of specialty and within the broader discipline. Doctoral students commonly enroll in courses over a couple of years. The coursework is designed to provide doctoral students with a substantial foundation on the history and philosophy of the discipline, expose them to theoretical and methodological approaches within their areas of specialty, and prepare them to undertake their dissertation research. Students complete the PhD by writing a dissertation that demonstrates command of an area of specialization and the ability to advance knowledge in that area. They conduct several years of intensive research, often in an international setting, that shows intellectual rigor, comprehensiveness, and creativity in expanding the frontiers of their field. Because students often compete at the highest levels for national and international funding in support of their work, they are able to clearly, succinctly, and persuasively elucidate their research objectives, methodologies, and schedules. The Department places its graduates in major research and teaching intuitions in North America as well as internationally.
Applicants for the PhD degree in Geography must be admitted to the Graduate School at The University of Texas at Austin. Applicants should hold a Master’s degree or its equivalent, or have successfully demonstrated their ability to do graduate work at the doctoral level. In order to receive the degree students must meet the requirements of both the Department’s Graduate Program and the Graduate School. Students need to familiarize themselves with the requirements set forth in the Graduate School Catalogue. The responsibility for fulfilling all requirements ultimately rests with the student.
Each student should:
Be able to relate his/her topic to the historical development of the field, as well as current research trajectories.
- Attain breadth within the discipline and an understanding of how his/her specialty is situated within the broader discipline.
- Attain a level of field, archival, and/or technical training and expertise as appropriate for his/her research topic.
- Attain an understanding of his/her respective sub-discipline as it pertains to a variety of spatial and temporal scales.
The doctoral program maintains high standards. PhDs from the Department are expected to be capable of excelling as independent scholars in their profession, whether at major research institutions or at elite liberal arts colleges. Each new PhD should be able to:
Address a rigorous geographical research topic by deploying the appropriate qualitative, quantitative, and/or digital techniques, with results worthy of publication as a monograph or as peer reviewed journal articles.
- Effectively communicate geographical ideas and content through written, oral, and graphical media.
- Attain a high level of competence in classroom teaching and public speaking.
- Understand a geographical specialty in the context of how it interfaces with commercial and/or governmental sectors.
- Understand the ethical dimensions of a professional career.
- Be competitive for tenure-track academic positions in elite liberal arts colleges and research universities.
Upon acceptance by the Graduate School and Graduate Program, the incoming student consults with the Department’s Graduate Adviser, usually during the penultimate week in August. This consultation includes (a) a review and documentation of the student’s academic accomplishment and related experiences, and (b) a discussion of the student’s tentative objectives in graduate study. The Graduate Adviser may suggest meeting with other faculty members who can be of help to the student in preparing a course of study. Remedial coursework may be assigned at this time as appropriate.
Students entering the program with less than 12 semester hours of upper division course work in Geography may be required to make up this deficiency. In some instances successful completion of the remedial work may be a condition for admission to the graduate program. During the initial advising session after the student enters the program, the Graduate Adviser will determine which courses must be taken or audited for remedial purposes. Copies of the Departmental Remedial Coursework form will be signed and retained by the student and the Graduate Adviser. Remedial courses can be taken simultaneously with other courses but they will not count as part of the student’s graduate degree program.
Rules governing the selection of a Supervisor and Supervising Committee are discussed elsewhere under “Advising and the Supervising Committee.” In brief, the student chooses a Supervisor and, working with the Supervisor, assembles a five-person committee in accordance with Graduate Program rules and the approval of the Graduate Adviser.
The Supervising Committee is responsible for verifying that the candidate satisfies all requirements for the doctoral degree. Final approval of the candidate’s program is the responsibility of the Dean of Graduate Studies.
It is desirable for the student and Supervising Committee to meet at least once early in the program to discuss the student’s research plans and schedule for Advancement to Candidacy.
The Committee can be changed at any time prior to Advancement to Candidacy by circulating a new Departmental form. After Advancement to Candidacy, committee changes must be approved by former committee members, the Graduate Adviser, and the Dean.
All doctoral students must demonstrate basic proficiency in one language other than English. Students who are non-native English speakers must demonstrate proficiency in English. In exceptional cases the requirement may be waived, if approved by the Graduate Adviser.
The purpose of the language requirement is for doctoral students to gain a minimum level of competence in exploring the literature related to their field of specialty, beyond the English-speaking world.
Doctoral students fulfill the requirement by petitioning the Graduate Adviser, through a form signed by their Supervisor. Proficiency is normally demonstrated by providing evidence of reading or oral competence, or course work (including at the undergraduate level). The requirement must be fulfilled prior to being advanced to candidacy.
All doctoral students must demonstrate basic proficiency in rigorous qualitative and/or quantitative methods, as appropriate to their field of study.
The purpose of the methods requirement is for doctoral students to attain a minimum level of competence in methods that are appropriate to their field of study.
Doctoral students fulfill the requirement by petitioning the Graduate Adviser, through a form signed by their Supervisor. Proficiency is normally demonstrated through course work or written materials, including published manuscripts. The requirement must be fulfilled prior to being advanced to candidacy.
Doctoral students must indicate their language and methods option before the end of the second semester of graduate study. A student may not apply for candidacy before completion of the language and methods requirement.
Program of Work
The student and Supervisor, with the help of the Supervising Committee, develop and submit to the Graduate Adviser a Program of Work in accordance with the student's needs and objectives, and in keeping with the department’s requirements. This should be submitted by the end of the second semester, and be kept up to date until completion. The Program should anticipate completion of all course requirements within 6 semesters of admission to the graduate program.
This Program must include the two required courses for the doctoral degree, GRG 390K – Issues in Geography and GRG 390L – Research in Geography. These courses must be passed with a grade no lower than a B.
Breadth Requirement: All doctoral students must take two organized graduate level courses taught by different full-time faculty members within the Department. At least two of these should be graduate courses. GRG 386, 390K, 390L, 391K, 398T, and independent study (397) do not count towards this requirement. Course work taken at the University of Texas soon before entry to the doctor’s degree program may be applied to the breadth requirement if it meets the conditions stipulated above and if it was recent enough to meet the six-year rule (see below).
Doctor’s degree students may repeat GRG 397, Research in Geography, but this course may be counted only twice towards the degree.
Students may resubmit the Program of Work to reflect modifications as approved by their Supervisor.
The Chair of the GSC must verify completion of the Program of Work before the student can advance to candidacy.
Six-year rule. At the time of admission to candidacy, all course work required by the department for the doctor’s degree must have been taken within the previous six years.
Leave of Absence prior to Advancement to Candidacy
Students may apply for a leave of absence of no more than two semesters prior to advancement to candidacy; the Authorization for a Leave of Absence form must be provided in advance by the Graduate Adviser to the Graduate Dean and will be approved only in rare and unusual circumstances. A student on an approved leave may reenter the graduate program by filing an Application for Readmission.
As an alternative, students may apply for Independent Study and Research (ISR) status with the Coordinator of the Center for Global Educational Opportunities. Students must submit a proposal signed by their Supervisor and the Graduate Adviser (see more details below).
Written and Oral Exams for Candidacy
The student should complete both the Written and Oral Exams for candidacy within six long semesters from admission to the program. The student should be a member in good standing in the program and meet the minimum requirements for residency as outlined in the Graduate Catalog. Changes in the Supervising Committee after the written and oral exams require approval by all committee members, the Graduate Adviser and Graduate Dean.
- The student meets with the Supervising Committee as a group. The student and committee will select two sub-disciplines within Geography, generally taken from the AAG's list of Specialty Groups or list of topical proficiencies. The student will circulate a bibliography for each sub-discipline to all committee members, who will then suggest additional readings or other colleagues with whom the student should consult.
- The Supervisor will ask committee members for questions and include or modify them in a list of four or five items for each exam. The student will have approximately one week to complete each exam and will answer two questions for each. These exams will be given within a week or ten days of each other. A copy of the completed exam will be kept in the student’s file.
- The Supervisor will poll the committee to assess the caliber of written responses. The Advancement process will proceed when committee members agree that the student has demonstrated critical understanding of the two areas. The student may be asked to re-sit the examinations.
- The student will then present a dissertation proposal to each member of the committee. This twenty-or-so page document will be released at least two weeks prior to the scheduled proposal presentation.
- The chair will notify all members of the department’s Graduate Studies Committee as to the date and time of the proposal presentation at least two weeks ahead of time.
- After discussing the proposal in a round-table forum, the committee will vote on admitting the student to candidacy. The student may be asked to revise the proposal. The vote will be promptly communicated to the Chair of the GSC by the Supervisor (no form is needed).
Advancement to Candidacy
Upon completing the Language and Methods Requirements, Program of Work, and the Written and Oral Exams, and within six long semesters (in residence) of entering the PhD program, the student must file their Application for Candidacy online using UT Direct.
The online process includes specifying the student’s final Supervising Committee. The Chair of the GSC must approve the Application online based on the student’s successful completion of the Program of Work and Written and Oral Exams.
Only in the most exceptional circumstances will the Graduate Studies Committee consider an extension beyond the six long semesters (in residence) deadline for being advanced to candidacy.
Continuous Registration Requirement
Continual registration for at least three hours in the dissertation course, the equivalent, or Affiliated Studies is required in each long session until graduation. The dissertation course involves a two-semester sequence (-99R followed by -99W). The first or R (for research) course cannot be repeated. The second or W (for writing) may be registered for continuously until the degree is completed. Students must register for at least two semesters of dissertation, and must complete at least 30 total hours of organized courses and dissertation hours prior to graduation. An asterisk denoting "In Progress" will be assigned until the dissertation has been completed; during the semester in which the Graduate School accepts the dissertation, the Supervisor will assign a letter grade or CR.
Under various circumstances, graduate students must be registered for and must remain registered for a full-time (9 hours long session, 3 hours summer) load, including: holders of Graduate School administered fellowships and scholarships; Assistant Instructors, Teaching Assistants, Academic Assistants, Assistants (Graduate), and Graduate Research Assistants; students living in university housing; students receiving certain student loans; and international students.
Students with the Graduate Adviser’s approval may use the Petition for Leave of Absence (for students in doctoral candidacy) form. However, a student may not receive advice and assistance from a member of the faculty in the preparation of the dissertation without being registered for the dissertation course (either -99R, -99W or -99). Students must petition for readmission following a leave of absence.
Registration in International Study and Research (see below) satisfies the continuous registration requirement for doctoral students in candidacy.
If the student fails to register and has not been granted a leave of absence by the twelfth class day, the student must apply to be readmitted to the graduate program and pay a readmission application fee of $50. The application for readmission will be reviewed by the program's Graduate Studies Committee, which may choose to readmit or deny readmission.
In order to fulfill the continuous registration requirement, doctoral candidates who are readmitted must retroactively register and pay tuition for all semesters that have elapsed since they were last enrolled.
To assist doctoral candidates in meeting the continuous registration requirement, the Graduate School will automatically register eligible students for the spring and fall semesters. Students who have financial or nonfinancial bars will not be registered by the Graduate School. Doctoral candidates who wish to be enrolled during a summer session may register via the Registrar's online services or by calling 512-475-9800.
International Study and Research Status (ISR)Students may register for international study and research (ISR) if they are conducting research or studying independently abroad. Enrollment requires the approval of the student’s faculty sponsor, graduate adviser, and Center for Global Educational Opportunities. The approval may cover up to four consecutive long-session semesters and contiguous summer sessions. Students enrolled in international study and research are considered full-time students by the University. Students that register in ISR are not guaranteed credit for the work completed abroad. Students must consult with GIAC and their department to determine if credit will be granted.
Registration in ISR cannot be used to circumvent the continuous registration requirement for doctoral candidacy; however, when it is determined that a doctoral candidate meets the requirements for ISR registration, it may serve as an acceptable substitute for registration in dissertation hours.
Students will be registered in ISR 080. There is a one time fee charged to students who apply for this registration status. Once approved the actual cost of registration per semester is low ($400, for fall 2007). Students must complete all requirements for application prior to the fourth class day of any long semester or the second class day during summer. Students may enroll in ISR for a maximum of four long consecutive semesters.
Students registered in this category are not eligible for federal, state or institutional loans or grants processed by the Office of Student Financial Services, or athletic facilities usage. Students registered in this category will have an active UT id card and are eligible to use UT Austin Libraries, ITS computer support services, University Health Services, and University Housing.
International students MUST speak with an Immigration Advisor in International Student and Scholar Services in Wooldridge Hall prior to departure from the United States. There are possible immigration implications for those students that fail to meet with an Immigration Advisor.
Graduation Timeline after Advancement to Candidacy
Once the student has been admitted to candidacy for a doctoral degree (and is thus "ABD"), the following timeline should be followed. The student is expected to graduate within three years; exceptions require approval of the Graduate Adviser and Dean. Students must be continually registered until graduation with certain exceptions (see details above).
- Once a student is admitted to candidacy, he or she will have three years in which to complete and defend the dissertation. Failure to meet this deadline may result in the GSC recommending termination of the student's candidacy to the Graduate School. Extensions to the deadline are not automatic and are rarely granted for more than two semesters at a time.
- Working in close collaboration with the Supervisor, the student will release drafts of the dissertation research to Supervising Committee members, gaining necessary input and advice.
- The student needs to submit a Doctoral Degree Candidate Form from the Graduate School early in the semester (fall, spring, or summer) in which they plan to graduate. The form is valid for one semester only.
- Copies of the final draft of the dissertation, reviewed for technical and grammatical correctness by the Supervisor, must be distributed to all members of the Supervising Committee within 4 weeks of the Final Oral Examination (Dissertation Defense). Also, any changes to the Supervising Committee need to be approved by all former and current members of the Committee and the Graduate School within 30 days of the Examination.
- At least two weeks before the Final Oral Examination, the pink Request for Final Oral Examination must be submitted to the Graduate School, with date, time and location of the examination, signed by committee members and the Graduate Adviser. The defense must be physically attended by at least four committee members; all of those who cannot attend must attest that she/he “agrees to read the dissertation and sign the dissertation on approval.” The Supervisor or Graduate Adviser can attest to their agreement if they are not physically available for signing the Request in person.
- Final Oral Examinations (Defenses) may not be held during the summer (mid-May through August) except for compelling reasons as approved by the Graduate Adviser and all members of the Supervising Committee.
- The Final Oral Examination is open to the public and is announced on a University website. The decision of the committee on the outcome of the Final Oral Examination must be unanimous. (In the event that a committee cannot agree on a single decision, the matter is referred to the Dean of the Graduate School for review. The Dean's recommendation concerning the dissertation must be approved by a majority of the Supervising Committee. The results of the review are communicated to the student, the Graduate Adviser, the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee, the Supervising Committee members, and the Department Chair).
- The Report of Dissertation Defense (“Gold Sheet”) is mailed to the Supervisor, who should bring it to the defense. It is signed by all present at the defense if they agree that the oral examination is acceptable and that another oral examination will not be required. The Supervisor should make a note on the back of the gold sheet indicating the approval of any committee members not physically present. (Note that at least four members must be physically present). After the Supervisor signs it as verification that the final dissertation document has been approved, this form is provided to the Chair of the GSC for signature attesting that the student has met all coursework and other departmental requirements. Normally this is sent to the Graduate School within ten days of the defense, although the time may be longer if dissertation revisions are required. (If the Committee decides that the dissertation is unsatisfactory but that rewriting may make it acceptable, the gold sheet is returned unsigned with a letter from the Supervisor reporting a “Not Pass.” Another scheduled defense will be required, and new forms will be generated for signatures. If at least one member of the committee has decided that the dissertation is unsatisfactory and may not be rewritten, the gold sheet is returned unsigned with a letter from the Supervisor reporting a “Fail.”).
- A Committee Certification of Approved Version (“Signature Page”) needs to be signed by all approved committee members who agree that the dissertation document is acceptable either as it stands, or with revisions subject to verification by the Supervisor within three months. The student is advised to bring at least two properly formatted copies of this page to the defense. Members who don’t want to waive their right to personally review changes should not sign this page; in this case the Supervisor should notify the degree evaluator in the Graduate School that the decision of the committee is “Reconsideration.” After reviewing the required changes, a committee member who has not signed and is still not satisfied with the revisions may request another oral examination.
- In addition, each committee member should send a completed and signed Report on Doctoral Dissertation form to the Office of Graduate Studies (OGS) within two weeks following the defense. These forms are sent by email to all committee members with University electronic ID’s prior to the defense for print out. Although these Reports are not mandatory, it is important that all committee members submit them. They are essential in the event of disagreements about the student's dissertation or performance at the final oral defense. They should include an evaluation of the general quality of the dissertation, its potential for being published, the student performance at the oral defense, and any other comments.
- Students are responsible for promptly sending in all materials required by the Graduate School, including, for example, the Publication by UMI/Proquest, a Copyright Disclaimer, an Abstract and Vita, an Intellectual Property Tutorial Certification, a Statement on Research with Human Subjects, and a Dissertation Publication Agreeement, for example. Full details are on the Graduate School website, including a checklist. Students bear sole responsibility for informing themselves of all requirements.
After passing the oral examination, the candidate is recommended by the Chairman of the Graduate Studies Committee to the Dean of Graduate Studies as having completed the requirements for the PhD degree. Committee members will present their written assessment to the Dean of Graduate Studies as per instructions. The student must submit the dissertation to the Office of Graduate Studies for publication, and provide a bound copy to the Department. The doctorate is conferred at the first subsequent commencement date.
Note : The Catalog of the University ( General Information, The Undergraduate Catalog, The Graduate Catalog, and The Law School Catalog) is the document of authority for all students. The requirements given in the catalog supersede information issued by any academic department. The University reserves the right to change the requirements given in the catalog at any time. Please be aware that different admissions procedures apply to foreign applicants, U.S. applicants, and former University of Texas students applying for readmission.