Friday, February 18, 2011

Ph.D. Program overview/expectations

 Description from Columbia University:

The purpose of earning a Ph.D. in Philosophy is to become an independent scholar and, also, a teacher of the subject. Perhaps the single most important accomplishment during the Ph.D. is the writing of the doctoral dissertation, which is typically a student's first substantial and original scholarly contribution to Philosophy. The coursework that is undertaken in advance of the dissertation is meant to serve as preparation both for writing the dissertation and for teaching. In addition to coursework and the dissertation, Ph.D. students at Columbia are required to assist in the teaching of undergraduate courses as part of their doctoral training.

Phases of Study:

The program of study for the Ph.D. in Philosophy tends to fall into three phases: 1) the first and second years, during which the student focuses on coursework and distribution requirements; 2) the third year, during which the student develops advanced research skills and knowledge, which are then employed in the formulation of a dissertation proposal; and 3) the fourth, fifth and, possibly, sixth years, during which the student completes a dissertation.

Academic Review Process

There are important reviews at the end of each of the first three years of study. The first year review assesses how well you are keeping up with coursework. The second year review confirms that you are on schedule with respect to completing coursework and other “pre-dissertation” requirements for the Ph.D. which belong to Phase 1 of the program. It also determines whether you have demonstrated the proficiency and initiative necessary to pass to Phase 2, in which you develop your dissertation proposal. The third year review is the hurdle you must clear in order to become an official 'candidate' for the Ph.D. It is based on both your formal dissertation proposal and your teaching performance. Note: Successful reviews are a necessary condition for remaining in the program as a student in good standing, and for the continuation of your funding. If your review at the end of the third year is unsuccessful, you may be asked to leave the Ph.D. program with an M. Phil.

Timely Degrees

Students on multi-year funding packages are expected to complete their Ph.D.'s within the time-period covered by their funding, which is typically five years. Some students elect to teach as Preceptors or Teaching Fellows in Columbia College (see the subsections below on financial aid and on teaching). Because these are demanding positions, students who become Preceptors or Teaching Fellows are expected to complete their Ph.D.'s within six years. Students who pass beyond the sixth year have no right to continue to live in University Housing. Furthermore, GSAS recognizes absolutely no obligations of any kind to students who pass beyond the seventh year.

Advanced Standing

Students who have completed an M.A. in Philosophy prior to joining the Ph.D. program in Philosophy at Columbia may be eligible for advanced standing, which would advance them one year toward the M. Phil. Advanced standing is granted at the discretion of the DGS, and is not granted until after the student has begun studies at Columbia. Usually, it is not in a student's interest to seek advanced standing. For such standing may reduce the number of years that Columbia University is willing to provide funding.

Applying for Interim Degrees

Along the way to earning the Ph.D. in Philosophy at Columbia, students automatically fulfill the requirements for the M.A. and M. Phil. Degrees. The possession of these degrees is often a prerequisite to various fellowship and teaching assignments both within and outside of the University. The Philosophy Department therefore urges students to apply for these degrees as soon as they have completed the requirements. Please watch for the notice each semester that announces the deadline for submitting these applications

Completion of coursework and the M. Phil.

We continue to maintain the longstanding requirement that “All work for the M. Phil. degree must be completed within four years unless the student has received advanced standing, in which case all degree requirements must be completed within three years.” We will monitor when students get their MPhil, and query departments about students who do not get the MPhil on time. As in the case of the M.A., students who do not meet this requirement will be viewed as not making satisfactory academic progress. It is therefore imperative that students fulfill the requirements and apply for the degree in a timely way.


Columbia University is committed to training its Ph.D. students to become distinguished teachers as well as distinguished scholars in their field. Therefore, all Ph.D. students in Philosophy must teach least one term as a requirement for the Ph.D. degree. All students who are funded by GSAS on five-year funding packages are required to teach at least six terms, leaving four terms of funding without teaching. Funded students who become Preceptors or Teaching Fellows in Columbia College typically teach an extra year, for a total of eight terms of teaching, again leaving four terms of funding without teaching.

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