The Graduate School Manual - Policies: Doctoral

Academic Policies: Doctoral Degree

Interdisciplinary Doctoral Programs

In addition to some interdisciplinary academic programs that are authorized to give advanced degrees, the Graduate Dean may approve a proposal to construct an interdisciplinary doctoral program that does not fit into an existing degree plan and that may involve several graduate programs with faculty from more than one department or school.

For more information, contact the Graduate School.


Admission to Doctoral Work

For master's degree candidates intending to continue into the doctoral program in the same department or discipline, the program's graduate committee, at a designated time near the completion of the student's master's work, decides whether or not to admit the student to the doctoral program. This is indicated on the Recommendation for Award of Master's Degree Form submitted to the Graduate School by the program. For entry into a Binghamton doctoral program from a master's program at another university, or from a master's program in a different discipline at Binghamton, students follow the regular graduate application and admission procedures.


Beginning the Program

At the beginning of the student's doctoral work, the Dean, chair or director of graduate studies in the student's program appoints a faculty advisor or advisory committee (whose chair is the principal advisor). The initial advisor assists the student in planning coursework and in understanding the program structure and requirements. The advisor has primary responsibility for monitoring the progress of the student's work. The advisor may or may not become the student's dissertation director at a later stage. The initial advisor is expected to meet with the student at least once each semester.


Requirements for a Doctoral Degree

The University Bulletin and the Graduate Student Handbook of each doctoral program stipulate the specific requirements for the doctoral degree in each program. In addition to any specific program requirements, Graduate School policy requires the following:

  1. Maintenance of at least a B (3.0) average in courses approved by the program's graduate committee and presented for the degree. All courses required by the program, all courses required or approved by the student's supervisory committee, and all courses taken while student is supported by university funds are included as "presented for the degree". Note: Students in the PharmD program in the SOPPS must maintain a 2.50 average.
  2. Fulfillment of all program course requirements (no credit is granted for graduate courses in which a grade lower than C- has been received).
  3. Completion of at least 24 credit hours in residence regardless of any previous graduate coursework elsewhere. If entering the doctoral program with a bachelor degree (so pre-master), then credits earned under any of the following rubrics normally may not be counted toward the minimum residence requirement: College Teaching of the Discipline (591), Thesis Research (599), Pre-dissertation Research (698), and Dissertation Research (699). Students continuing their studies for a doctoral degree in the same Binghamton program from which they earned their master's degree need not fulfill a second residence requirement.
  4. Continuous registration, including the semester (fall, spring, or summer) in which final degree requirements are completed.
  5. Demonstration to an examination committee, by means of a comprehensive examination (written and/or oral), of familiarity with basic hypotheses and techniques of the discipline and competence in applying them.
  6. Fulfillment of any research skills requirements.
  7. Submission of a dissertation on a topic approved by the department or school, embodying the results of original research and giving evidence of high scholarship. Note: This requirement does not apply to students in the PharmD program in the SOPPS or in the DNP program in the DSON, who instead complete capstone projects.
  8. Successful defense of the dissertation at a final oral examination.
  9. Completion of any intra- and inter-program major and minor requirements.
  10. Completion of all courses in progress, and posting of final grades on the student transcript. The student should work with the department to attain final grades for all courses; students with in progress grades or missing grades cannot be conferred a degree.


Research Skills Requirements

Each graduate program establishes foreign language reading competency or equivalent research skills for its students. The graduate program determines the method(s) to be used to fulfill these requirements. Graduate students may register for Research Skills (707) courses that have been established in each discipline. The policies of the Graduate School allow students to register each semester for up to four credit hours of Research Skills (707). Students may enroll in 707 courses only if the program faculty have determined that specific research skills are essential to the degree work and that the skills are not normal admission requirements for the degree program. Research Skills credits do not satisfy course requirements in any graduate degree program and cannot be used in determining advanced ("G-2") enrollment status; that is, they do not count toward the advanced status that allows second-year students to take only nine credits.


Comprehensive Examination

A comprehensive or proficiency examination is used to test candidates' specialized knowledge in the discipline and to demonstrate that they are qualified to undertake advanced-level dissertation work. The comprehensive examination may be written and/or oral.

The composition of the examination committee and administration of the comprehensive examination is under the jurisdiction of the academic program and its officers. The student's principal advisor normally serves as chair of the examination committee, and other advisory committee members may also serve on the examination committee. The student may repeat all or part of the comprehensive examination only once without prior approval from the Dean of the Graduate School or designee. The student has five years to complete the doctorate after passing the comprehensive examination.


Admission to Candidacy (for ABD Status)

After the student has passed the comprehensive examinations and met all research skills and coursework requirements, they are eligible for ABD (All But Dissertation) status.  At this time the graduate program must submit the Recommendation for Admission to Candidacy for Doctoral Degree (ABD Status) Form to the Graduate School.

In order for all billing and student records to reflect this status correctly, this form should be submitted at least one month prior to the beginning of classes. Upon meeting all other requirements, a student may be admitted to candidacy (ABD) beginning in the next major semester (Fall or Spring). Under very special circumstances the Graduate School may be able to change students to ABD status up to one week before classes begin for the following semester. Under no circumstances can a status-change to ABD be processed once the semester has begun.

Intra- and inter-program majors and minors should be declared at this time. Two semesters normally elapse between admission to candidacy and the granting of the degree. Doctoral candidates must complete all requirements for the degree, including the dissertation, within five years after admission to doctoral candidacy.


Five-Year Limit for Admission to Candidacy

A student in a doctoral program must be admitted to candidacy within five years of admission to the Graduate School if entering directly into a doctoral program or within five years after award of a master's degree at Binghamton University. The following clarifications to this policy should be noted:

  • If a student is granted a leave of absence, the period of the leave is not counted against the time limit to be admitted to candidacy.
  • If a student earns a master's degree at Binghamton University and then does not continue immediately for the doctoral degree, the five-year limit begins when the student is readmitted to the University for doctoral studies.
  • A student may petition for an extension of the time limit by submitting a request to the director of graduate studies in his or her program unit. The director of graduate studies, if he/she endorses the request, then forwards it to the Graduate School for final action by the Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School.

Download the Petition for Extension of Five-Year Limit Form.


Dissertation Planning

After the student passes the comprehensive examination, and in consultation with the student, a dissertation committee of at least three members is appointed from among the graduate faculty by the director of graduate studies. Appointments must fit the guidelines of the Graduate School as stipulated in its Bylaws.

Committees are formed and modified (if necessary) by mutual agreement between the student and the faculty. The principal dissertation supervisor may serve as chair of the dissertation committee, or another committee member may be selected as dissertation chair. Faculty are not required to serve on a particular dissertation committee if they do not wish to, and they are entitled to withdraw from a dissertation committee for reasonable cause. Faculty members from outside the student's own department or school may serve on the three-member dissertation committee, but they do not replace the outside examiner, who is appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School before the final examination is scheduled.

Under special circumstances visiting, adjunct, and research faculty of Binghamton University (not holding the formal rank of professor, associate professor, or assistant professor) may be appointed to a dissertation committee by the Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School upon recommendation of the program, for a period not to exceed their term appointment at Binghamton University. The request should be signed by the Graduate director and/or chair of the department and, for the professional schools, by the dean.

For a dissertation advisor who is no longer a BU employee to continue in the role of dissertation advisor, approval from the Associate Dean of the Graduate School is required. The request should include signatures of the advisor (indicating he/she will continue to meet those obligations in a timely and appropriate way), student (indicating he/she accepts the arrangement and will provide regular updates to the advisor), representative of the department (department chair or graduate director) who attests that this is in the student's best interest, and a faculty co-mentor (indicating availability to student and willingness to mentor). The co-mentor's role is to ensure that the student has someone in residence to assist the student and to make sure that student's paperwork is completed on time (e.g., annual progress report, recommendation for award of degree). The co-mentor may be another member of the student's committee or the Graduate Director. Normally approval is for one year. Under exceptional circumstances, an extension may be approved. This policy is endorsed as good practice by the Council of Graduate Schools.



The prospectus identifies the topic to be undertaken in the dissertation and formalizes the approval of the project by a faculty committee. The timing, format, length, and conventions governing the prospectus are set by each graduate program. If the student's department requires a prospectus, the student should submit it within six months after being admitted to candidacy; the prospectus must first be approved by the dissertation committee. In conventional prospectuses, students are asked to identify a topic, to summarize relevant backgrounds, and to explain their approach. Some programs substitute another means of ensuring that the student's project has been identified clearly and has received written approval by each member of the committee.

Before approving the dissertation project, the chair of the dissertation committee is encouraged to arrange a conference with the student and the other committee members for the purpose of discussing the research topic.

Each program must inform doctoral students of its expectations, standards, and procedures regarding the prospectus or other approvals of dissertation projects and must provide access to samples of accepted proposals or prospectuses. Departments should include specific information about their expectations for a prospectus in advising manuals for graduate students.


Graduate Application for Degree

Doctoral degree students must file a Graduate Application for Degree (GAFD) form at the beginning of the semester in which they plan to complete all degree requirements and graduate.  This serves as notification to the Graduate School, the student's department, and the Office of Student Records and Registrar Services of a student's intent to graduate. The GAFD is valid for one semester only. If a student files a GAFD but fails to graduate, they must submit a new application for degree the following semester or the semester of intended completion. 


Dissertation Committee

For doctoral programs, only faculty with the formal rank of assistant, associate or full professor in an academic department offering advanced degrees may serve as members or chairs of a graduate student dissertation committee, or serve as faculty advisors. For clinical doctoral programs, faculty with the formal rank of assistant, associate or full professor, and, in addition, non-tenure track faculty with the formal rank of clinical assistant, clinical associate, or clinical full professor in an academic department offering advanced degrees may serve as faculty advisors. The Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School may approve exceptions to both of these restrictions in specific cases. Requests will not be considered without submission of a current curriculum vitae and letters of endorsement from the chair or graduate director of the department offering the advanced degree or the dean of the college or school. Upon such approval, these individuals who are not members of the graduate faculty may serve as members, but not as faculty advisors or chairs of a graduate student dissertation committee.


Dissertation Defense

The dissertation committee has direct charge of all matters pertaining to the dissertation. The student's dissertation must have the unanimous approval of his or her dissertation committee and of the Director of Graduate Studies to proceed with a defense before arrangements are made for the final examination for the degree.

Members of the dissertation committee serve on the examination committee, and the dissertation chair normally servers as examination chair. The list of examiners may include one or more faculty members from a program other than the student's, if they were members of the student's dissertation committee.


Outside Examiner

The Dean of the Graduate School, upon recommendation from the department, adds an outside examiner to the examination committee as the representative of the faculty of the Graduate School. Access the Outside Examiner Request Form and the Outside Examiner Instructions and Pre-approved List. The form should be completed and sent to the Graduate School no later than one month prior to the scheduled defense. The outside examiner is either a Binghamton faculty member from a related area outside the student's major program, department or division, or someone from a related discipline outside the University. Normally, the outside examiner will have no involvement in the supervision of the student's dissertation. The outside examiner reads the dissertation and participates fully as a dissertation-examining committee member during the dissertation defense.  The outside examiner's function on the examination committee is to render an independent judgment and to assure that the dissertation satisfies Graduate School standards. An outside examiner is intended to serve the Graduate School and, therefore, must have substantial experience evaluating the scholarship/research of doctoral students (e.g., by being part of a graduate program, or unit or departmental graduate committee). It is imperative that the nominee has supervised graduate research as faculty advisor, served on a number of doctoral committees, and served on at least several doctoral defenses prior to appointment as an outside examiner for BU. It is also important that the person is tenured, which increases the likelihood that if there is an issue with the defense, then that person will be able to fulfill his/her responsibility to the Graduate School. There must not be any conflict-of-interest between the outside examiner and the student or faculty. For example, the outside examiner cannot be a friend, relative or a former advisor of the candidate. In cases of potential conflict-of-interest, inquiries should be sent to the Associate Dean of the Graduate School.

The outside examiner must be present either physically or virtually for the examination. See the Remote Participation in Dissertation Defenses via Videoconferencing and Other Devices section of the Graduate School Manual.). Part of the job of the outside examiner is to observe the defense process, the rigor of questions, how well the student handles questions, whether the defense seems fair, etc.  The outside examiner reports to the Dean of the Graduate School any unusual problems prior to, during and/or following the conduct of the dissertation defense.  Report of any irregularities in the defense must be submitted within three business days of the defense date.

If the nominee is from another institution, the Graduate Director should forward the nominee's academic credentials, including a vita, to the Associate Dean at the Graduate School to be evaluated. The program director should also include a brief statement (one paragraph) that explains the relevance of the nominee to the student's dissertation research topic and the nominee's experience in evaluating doctoral research (e.g., as outlined in the description above regarding criteria for appointment). The Dean then invites the nominee or another faculty member to serve as outside examiner. The nomination should be submitted to the Graduate School no later than one month before the defense.


Final Oral Exam (Dissertation Defense)

After the student's program has been notified of the appointment of an outside examiner, the graduate program director, in conjunction with the chair of the examination committee, may proceed to schedule the final oral examination.

Because of the time required to give adequate consideration to the student's research, the student should submit the dissertation to the dissertation committee well in advance of the final oral defense. Normally, two months is recommended; the student should consult the committee. No member of an examination committee can be expected to participate in a dissertation defense if that member has not had at least two weeks to read and consider the dissertation.

The final oral examination is open to any person wishing to attend. Members of the examination committee must be given sufficient time to question the candidate about the dissertation. The final defense is a public examination, however, and the committee chair is responsible for the conduct of an open and impartial examination, including reasonable participation by observers. At the conclusion of the examination, it is customary for the chair to request that everyone except the examining committee leave the room, so that the members may reach a decision. This procedure should not be invoked at any other time during the examination and should not preclude any questions from either committee members or outside observers.

At the final examination, the student will be required to respond to examiners' questions concerning the dissertation and to defend the validity of the dissertation.

To pass, the student must receive the unanimous approval of the dissertation examining committee approved by the Graduate School. All members of the examining committee who accept the dissertation in partial fulfillment of requirements for the doctorate shall so attest on the student's electronic Recommendation for Award Form (RFA). If the outside examiner does not signify approval in this manner, he or she should give the reason for dissent by submitting a separate memorandum to the Dean of the Graduate School within three business days of the examination.

If at the final examination the examiners generally approve of the dissertation but require significant changes and are not yet prepared to submit their approval on the student's electronic Recommendation for Award Form (RFA), the chair of the examination committee will coordinate with other members of the committee to compile all required changes and will inform the student of the scope and substance of those changes. The committee will establish how the changes will be reviewed and approved.

Following the oral exam and approval of the dissertation, the student should initiate their electronic Recommendation for Award Form (RFA).

The Dean of the Graduate School may void any dissertation defense that is not carried out in accordance with the policies and procedures of the Graduate School.  In addition, upon recommendation of the Dean's appointed outside examiner, the Dean may declare a dissertation defense null and void.


Remote Participation in Dissertation Defenses via Videoconferencing and Other Devices

Normally, all dissertation defenses take place on campus and require the full attendance of the dissertation committee including the Outside Examiner. However, at the discretion of the Department, and with the unanimous consent of all members of the dissertation committee and the student, committee members or the outside examiner may participate in the defense via real-time videoconferencing. In special cases (undue hardship), the student may also request to have the oral presentation of their dissertation via video-conferencing.  Similarly, if in exceptional circumstances one member of the dissertation committee cannot be present (either physically or virtually), he or she may submit questions and comments in writing. Such arrangements must be approved in advance by the Department and must have the unanimous consent of all other members of the dissertation committee and the student. In all instances, the chair of the committee and the outside examiner must be physically or virtually present to observe the process.

Any of the above situations for onsite programs must be endorsed by the Director of Graduate Studies and/or Chair of the Dissertation Committee.

For online graduate programs, the student and all committee members (chair, members and outside examiner) may join the dissertation defense online. For public presentation portion of the online defense, those wishing to be present may join by videoconferencing or the department may choose to have a room available on campus for viewing.


Preparation and Submission of the Dissertation



The deadlines for students to submit their doctoral dissertation and Recommendation for Award Form (RFA) are posted online by the Office of Student Records and Registrar Services each semester. Students who have not completed all degree requirements by the established deadlines will not graduate, and are required to register for the following semester and resubmit the Graduate Application for Degree (GAFD).


Degree Conferral and Commencement

Degrees are conferred by the Office of Student Records and Registrar Services three times each year: December, May and August. Students who complete degree requirements in the fall semester are awarded degrees in December; students who complete degree requirements in the spring semester are awarded degrees in May; students who complete degree requirements in summer are awarded degrees in August.  Formal investiture of degrees awarded in all semesters will occur at the annual spring Commencement. Information regarding Commencement is mailed approximately two months prior to each commencement ceremony to all students who have declared themselves candidates. Commencement details are distributed via Binghamton University email addresses; thus, it is imperative that candidates have access to their Binghamton University email accounts.


When Completion Letter is Needed

Students who complete ALL requirements for the degree well in advance of the award of the degree may, upon request to the Degree Coordinator in the Office of Student Records and Registrar Services, receive a statement certifying that all requirements for the degree have been completed.


Checklist for Completion of Degree Requirements

  • Have you maintained continuous registration?
  • Have you submitted a Graduate Application for Degree for the semester you intend on completing all degree requirements?
  • Do you currently have ABD (All But Dissertation) status?
  • Has your dissertation committee (including outside examiner/external reader) been APPROVED by the Graduate School? (Please follow up with your department if you are not sure.)
  • Have you addressed any incomplete or missing grades on your academic record, ensuring ample time (two weeks is recommended) for your instructor to grade any incomplete coursework or to resolve any missing grades prior to the last day of classes?
  • Have you cleared up any financial obligations or holds on your account?
  • Have you passed your oral dissertation defense?
  • Have you electronically submitted the Recommendation for Award Form (RFA) by the degree completion deadline?
  • Is your dissertation in an acceptable format as outlined in the Thesis/Dissertation Formatting Guide?
  • Have you submitted your dissertation electronically via ProQuest?
  • Have you submitted your dissertation processing fee?
  • Have you completed the Survey of Earned Doctorates online?


Survey of Earned Doctorates

The Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) is an annual census of individuals who were awarded a research doctorate from an accredited U.S. institution. When a doctoral student submits the Graduate Application for Degree (GAFD), the student will be asked to complete the survey, which is administered by Research Triangle Institute (RTI) International based in North Carolina. Students should complete the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) online. RTI International will notify the Graduate School when a student completes the survey.