Ph.D. Program

The Ph.D. program is designed to prepare the student for an academic career in philosophy as scholar, researcher, and teacher. The requirements described below structure a Ph.D. program of 5 years, for which students will normally receive full financial support. Graduate work in philosophy completed prior to entering the Ph.D. program may be counted toward the Ph.D. degree in philosophy at UNM, subject to approval by GAC and to UNM Office of Graduate Studies regulations (see the UNM Catalog). All students, however, must complete the following requirements at UNM: Proseminar (I.D), Qualifying Examination (III.F), Dissertation Prospectus (III. J), Dissertation (III.K), and other requirements specified by the UNM Office of Graduate Studies (see the UNM Catalog). [Semester number enclosed in brackets next to the title of a requirement indicates the deadline for completing that requirement.]


A. Funding

  1. All applicants for the Ph.D. program (both with and without requests for financial aid) will have the same application deadline. All applicants will be judged by the same standards, independently of funding status.
  2. No applicant will be granted admission unless the department has a reasonable expectation that the student will receive five years of funding, which the department may pro-rate for those applicants who have already completed some graduate work. Continued funding will be contingent on satisfactory progress in the program (L).
  3. Any student admitted into the Ph.D. program with a multi-year Teaching Assistantship from the Philosophy Department may request to defer his/her funding for one or more semesters. A formal petition stating the reasons for and the duration of the deferral must be submitted to the Graduate Director, and it will be reviewed by the members of GAC and the Chair of the Philosophy Department. Typically, a student will be allowed to defer his/her funding only once during his/her tenure as a Philosophy Teaching Assistant and for no more than two consecutive semesters.

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B. Student's Teaching

  1. Beginning with the entering class of 1998, all Ph.D. students are required before graduating to teach at least one course independently, which will be observed at least once by a full-time, tenured or tenure-track faculty member who will enter a written evaluation in the student's file, as well as meet with the student to discuss her or his teaching performance. Normally, teaching an independent course will happen automatically during the course of a student's time here. In the special case of an outside-funded student, the department is committed to giving that student a course to teach during a term decided at the department's discretion (which may be the Summer term).
  2. Each student will have each of her or his courses observed at least once, and the observer will write at least one letter of evaluation for that student. (A separate letter of evaluation for each course observation is not required.) Letters of evaluation are placed in the student's file prior to such time as the student is seeking employment and submitting job applications.

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C. Graduate Credit Hour Requirements [8th Semester]

Every Ph.D. student must complete a minimum of 48 graduate hours of coursework credit, of which at least 24 hours must be at the 500-level. Dissertation (699) hours do not count as coursework credit, and hence they cannot be used toward fulfilling these requirements. Further coursework requirements for doctoral students at UNM can be found in The Graduate Program section of the UNM Catalog.

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D. Philosophy Credit Hour Requirements [8th Semester]

Every Ph.D. student must complete a minimum of 33 graduate hours of coursework credit in philosophy, of which at least 24 hours must be at the 500-level, and no more than 9 may be independent-study credit (498/551/651). Graduate credit hours in philosophy are hours in graduate courses offered by or cross-listed with the philosophy department, or courses approved by GAC as carrying graduate Philosophy credit. Dissertation (699) hours do not count as coursework credit, and hence they cannot be used toward fulfilling these requirements.

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E. Distribution Requirements [6th Semester]

Every Ph.D. student must take courses that fulfill the following DRD requirements (see key to left):

  • A minimum of three courses must be designated H(A), H(M), or H (Note: No more than two courses may be taken in any one of these areas to satisfy this requirement.)
  • One course must be an M or E.
  • One course must be an VT.

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F.   Language Requirement [6th Semester]

A Ph.D. student must demonstrate reading competence in French, German, or a classical language, subject to approval by GAC. Such competence must be demonstrated by passing a translation exam arranged by GAC. A student may, with the approval of the department, substitute a course in metalogic (PHIL 456 or the equivalent) for the language requirement; the student must receive a grade of at least A- in the course. (Note: Though the sixth semester is the official deadline, please be aware that the Qualifying Exam and Dissertation Prospectus Exam, due in the seventh and eighth semesters, respectively, consume almost all of a PhD student’s time from the middle of the third year to the end of the fourth year. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that students complete the Foreign Language Exam as soon as possible after entering the program.)

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G. Qualifying Examination [7th Semester]

All Ph.D. students are required to pass a Qualifying Examination prior to taking their Dissertation Prospectus Exam.

1. By the end of his/her fourth semester in the program, each Ph.D. student will obtain the QE Form from the departmental administrative staff, fill in his/her name and proposed Area of Specialization (AOS) and Area of Competence (AOC), and turn it in to the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS).

2. If necessary, the DGS will work with the student to revise the proposed areas to assure that they are professionally and departmentally viable, and consistent with the student’s interests and abilities.

3. Once the AOS and AOC are approved by the DGS, the DGS will assign a qualified faculty member to be the AOS Exam Referee and a qualified faculty member to be the AOC Exam Referee. The two faculty members will together comprise the QE Committee.

4. The AOS and AOC Exam Referees will be responsible for filling in the “Reading Units” section of the QE Form. A “Reading Unit” will normally be one book or four article length papers. There will be a total of twelve reading units. Eight of the reading units should pertain to the AOS, four to the AOC. The AOS and AOC Exam Referees may choose to include the student in this process and/or call a formal meeting to discuss and settle the contents of the Reading Units List.

5. Once the AOS and AOC Exam Referees decide upon the contents of the Reading Units List, each will sign the form, and return it to the DGS.

6. The DGS will either sign off on the List, or return it to the referees with a list of recommendations for changes. (The DGS will normally only recommend changes in order to ensure equitable treatment of students in the same areas.)

7. The Reading Units List must be approved by the sixth week of the student’s fourth semester in the program. Once the DGS has signed and dated the list, he/she will photocopy the QE Form for the Department’s records, and return the original to the student.

8. The student will have until the sixth week of his/her seventh semester to obtain the signatures of both AOS and AOC Exam Referees for each unit on the Reading List. The referees will sign off on a unit when, in his/her judgment, the student has demonstrated a specialist’s knowledge of the readings in that unit. The interpretation of what constitutes such a demonstration will be left to the individual faculty member, but will typically include evidence from one or more of the following: face-to-face conversations or written exchanges, seminar presentations, written work/publications, written exams, and/or teaching experience.

9.  When all the signatures have been obtained, the student will (a) return the QE Form to the DGS and also (b) inform the DGS of the three departmental members who have agreed to serve on the students Dissertation Prospectus Committee. After completing both (a) and (b), the student will have earned a Ph.D. pass on his/her Qualifying Exam and will be cleared by the DGS to take the Prospectus Exam. Any student who acquires more than 6 but fewer than the requisite 12 signatures by the sixth week of his/her seventh semester will earn an M.A. Pass on the Qualifying Exam.

Students may petition for additional time to acquire the 12 signatures required to earn a Ph.D. pass, which will be granted only with the majority approval of the DGS and the Referees. 

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H.   Requesting an M.A. Degree

A doctoral student who receives a Ph.D. pass or an M.A. pass on the Qualifying Exam and completes the coursework requirements described in the M.A. Program Plan II will be awarded, upon request, an M.A. degree in Philosophy.

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I.   Dissertation Prospectus (DP) Exam [8th Semester]

The DP Exam will be an oral exam of roughly 2 hours based on a written dissertation prospectus. The examining committee shall consist of the three departmental members of the student's dissertation committee. The expectation is that the student will have been consulting with the Chair of the dissertation committee throughout the writing process and that a complete draft of the prospectus will be submitted to the Chair no later than three weeks in advance of the scheduled defense.

Failure to distribute the final draft to the committee at least three weeks before the prospectus exam date will result in a cancellation of the scheduled exam, and in most cases the rescheduled exam will be deferred until the following semester.

Please note that the Department does not hold summer exams or defenses.

The dissertation prospectus must contain the following elements:

  • a definition or clear characterization of the problem or issue that will be the focus of the dissertation, a coherent explanation of the approach to the problem or the historical-interpretive thesis that the student will pursue in the dissertation, as well as an overview of the anticipated argument
  • a review of the literature relevant to the problem or issue in question
  • a 2-3 page outline of the dissertation broken down into chapters
  • a bibliography (of no fewer than 20 items) reflecting a grasp of the essential literature relevant to the problem or issue

The prospectus should have the format of a paper, including footnotes or endnotes. The total length should be approximately 25-30 pages.

Every Ph.D. student entering the program after 2006 is expected to complete the DP exam by the end of his/her eighth semester in residence. Otherwise, he/she will be deemed to be making unsatisfactory progress toward the degree.

* The prospectus defense counts as the PhD qualifying exam.  As such, an Announcement of Exam form must be electronically initiated by the student at least 2.5 weeks in advance of the defense date.

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J.   Dissertation Committee [Before the Start of 9th Semester]

Every Ph.D. student must select, in consultation with the Graduate Director and subject to approval by the department Chair, a dissertation committee of at least four members, a majority of whom must be from the philosophy department, and one of whom must be an external member.

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K.   Application for Candidacy and Other Graduation Requirements

Each student must file an Application for Candidacy before the end of the semester of the term before he or she intends to graduate.  It is recommended that this form be completed soon after the student becomes ABD.  The Application for Candidacy and further details on graduation
requirements can be found here.

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L.   Dissertation

1. Doctoral students must select, in consultation with the Graduate Director and subject to approval by the departmental Chair, a dissertation committee consisting of at least four members, at least half of whom must be full-time UNM Philosophy faculty members.

2. A copy of the final draft of the student’s dissertation, which must not exceed 75,000 words of main text, shall be distributed to each member of the student’s dissertation committee for review at least one month prior to the examination. The date for the defense shall be fixed in consultation with the Graduate Director.

Failure to distribute the final draft to the committee at least one month before the examination date will result in a cancellation of the scheduled exam, and in most cases the rescheduled exam will be deferred until the following semester.

Please note that the Department does not hold summer exams or defenses.

3. Every doctoral candidate is required to pass successfully a dissertation defense (considered as the final exam for the Ph.D.), which is an oral exam focused on the student’s dissertation. If a doctoral candidate earns a “Conditional Pass” for the defense, the candidate will be required to submit a revised version of the dissertation to his/her committee members no later than the end of the subsequent semester, and the revised dissertation must show clear evidence that the conditions for a passing grade have been met.

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M.   Satisfactory Progress

A doctoral student is considered to be making satisfactory progress toward the Ph.D. only if he or she successfully completes each requirement by the specified deadline and maintains a GPA of 3.15 at the end of each academic year. Projected failure to meet any requirement by the specified deadline may also count as failure to make satisfactory progress. A student who is not making satisfactory progress by the end of the academic year may be disqualified from continuing in the Ph.D. program and, thereby, no longer be entitled to financial support.

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N. Disenrollment Procedures

If a student is not making satisfactory progress, the department may notify the student that it is starting disenrollment procedures against this student. The student has two weeks from the date of the notification to petition GAC against his/her disenrollment. This petition should explain why he/she thinks that this procedure is not warranted. Only in exceptional cases will such petitions be approved. GAC may either reject the petition or recommend in favor of the petition and forward it to the department for a vote on the petition. If GAC rejects the petition, the student can appeal to the department within two weeks. If the department rejects the petition or GAC rejects the petition and the decision is not appealed to the department within two weeks, or if the student does not petition GAC within two weeks from the notification, the student will be disenrolled from the program. A letter to this effect will be sent to the student and to the Office of Graduate Studies.

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Distribution Requirement Designations (DRD's)

  • H(A) - history of ancient philosophy
  • H(M) - history of modern philosophy
  • H - history of philosophy
  • M - metaphysics
  • E - epistemology
  • VT - value theory