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Interdisciplinary Studies
The University of Alabama


The Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE) has authorized The University of Alabama to offer the Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies when existing Ph.D. programs at the University do not meet the needs of a student and when the University has the faculty and research resources to offer such a program.

The Interdisciplinary Ph.D. is designed for advanced students whose interests and goals do not fit within traditional academic boundaries. Students propose their own degree program working under the direction of a five-member Advisory Committee who commits to the student from admission to graduation, including mentoring the student throughout the dissertation process. Every program is unique in terms of coursework, methodology and research, but the program must combine course work and research in two or more academic departments. Due to the demands and rigor of the Interdisciplinary Studies Ph.D. program, only students who demonstrate a high degree of self-reliance and responsibility will be considered for admission. 

Prerequisites for Admission

Prior to submitting an application for the Interdisciplinary Studies Program, each prospective candidate must meet with the Assistant Dean of the Graduate School.

Additionally, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  1. The student must have completed a master’s degree or its equivalent at an accredited university. 
  2. The student must normally have a graduate GPA of 3.3 or higher, on a 4.0 scale, in their master's degree (or equivalent) and scored at the 50 percentile or better on an appropriate entrance examination (e.g., GRE, GMAT, MAT). If the student has less than a 3.3 cumulative graduate GPA, the entrance exam score must be exceptional. Interdisciplinary Ph.D. programs are not available to students who have been unsuccessful in previous graduate work.

Admission Procedures

An applicant must submit to the Graduate School the following:

(a) Completed application form and application fee

(b) Official transcripts from all colleges and universities that the student has attended

(c) Proof of an earned master’s degree

(d) Three letters of recommendation

(e) The results on an appropriate entrance exam (GRE, GMAT, or MAT)

(f) A statement of purpose that includes reasons for pursuing the Interdisciplinary Studies Ph.D. and career goals. Your Statement of Purpose should clearly demonstrate how your professional goals are related to your intellectual pursuits.

(g) A resume

(h) Advisor Signature Form

(i) Interdisciplinary PhD Committee Agreement Form (should be signed after the committee has met as a whole with you and your advisor)

(j) Home Department Request Form

(k) Proposed Course Schedule Form. The course of study should include a minimum of 48 hours of coursework and 24 hours of dissertation. The courses must reflect at least two different fields of study, and the majority of them should be at the 600 level.  15 hours of research methodology, theory, and/or design must be included. Typically no courses may be transferred to the PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies.  On rare occasions, with compelling justification, the Assistant Dean of the Graduate School may approve up to 6 hours of transferred courses.  The student is responsible for convening a meeting with all committee members present to discuss the proposed course schedule.  Please note that a formal Plan of Study must be submitted to the Graduate School Registrar prior to completing 30 hours of coursework as per Graduate School policy.

(l)  A one- to two-page statement of proposed research topic outlining the intended focus of research and the significance of the research to the integrated fields of study and the student’s professional goals. The prospectus must be signed by the Committee Advisor/Chair.

(m) Written explanation (signed by advisor/chair) explaining how the following Graduate School requirements will be met:

 Residency requirements (Denote the two contiguous, full-time semesters and the courses to be taken)

 Comprehensive examination. The exam must be rigorous and use the same general procedures as the doctoral exams in the departments in which coursework is taken. The specifics of the examination (including where the exam will be taken, the number of questions, the number of evaluators, the grading process, the process for reporting results to the student, etc.) should be detailed.

*The forms can be downloaded from the following links:

  1. Advisor Signature Form
  2. Interdisciplinary PhD Committee Agreement Form
  3. Home Department Request Form
  4. Proposed Course Schedule Form

Admission will be decided by the PhD Interdisciplinary Studies Admissions Committee within six (6) weeks of receiving the completed application packet.

Additional Guidelines

Course of Study

The Interdisciplinary Ph.D. degree provides students opportunities for creative academic programming and research that cross the boundaries of traditional disciplines.  The UA Graduate School requires that Ph.D. students must complete a minimum of 48 hours of coursework, although Interdisciplinary Ph.D. students typically take more than 48 hours. All students in the interdisciplinary PhD program must take AHE 591: Disciplinarity and American Higher Education (or its equivalent) during the first 3 semesters of coursework. The Interdisciplinary Ph.D. coursework should reflect two or more distinct academic areas, 24 hours of dissertation research, and a minimum of 15 hours in research methods or research theory and design. The majority of courses should be at the 600 level. 

Prior to being admitted into the PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies, the student must complete the Proposed Course Schedule Form. No later than the semester during which the student will complete 30 semester hours of UA and/or transfer credit toward the doctoral degree, he/she must submit a formal PhD Plan of Study for Graduate School approval.

Typically transferred graduate courses may not be included in the student’s interdisciplinary Ph.D. proposed course schedule form.   On rare occasions, with compelling justification, the Assistant Dean of the Graduate School may approve up to 6 hours of transferred courses.  This petition must come from the Chair of the Advisory Committee and is subject to official evaluation by the Graduate School Registrar and approval by the Graduate Dean, per policies in the Graduate Catalog.    

Composition of the Advisory/Dissertation Committee

The Advisory Committee consists of at least 5 members.  All members must be members of the Graduate Faculty at The University of Alabama and must represent at least two academic departments. The chair of the committee must be a full member of The University of Alabama Graduate Faculty. 

It is expected that the applicant’s Advisory Committee chair will have competence in the proposed major area(s) of study and has the time and willingness to devote to being an academic mentor for the student throughout the Ph.D. program. The committee chair and at least one additional committee member should have experience in directing and supervising doctoral-level research.  The Advisory/Dissertation Committee should meet as a whole with the student prior to signing the “Interdisciplinary PhD Committee Agreement Form.”

Progress towards the Degree

The Advisory Committee has the responsibility for monitoring the progress of the student in completing coursework in a timely manner and ensuring that satisfactory progress is made towards completing all degree requirements (coursework, comprehensive exam, admission to candidacy, dissertation proposal, dissertation research and final oral examination). All requirements must be completed within the time limits specified in the Graduate Catalog at the time of admission.

Comprehensive Exam

The content and administration of the comprehensive exam are the responsibility of the Advisory/Dissertation committee and should be thoroughly discussed with the student prior to admission.  Typically, the comprehensive examination is taken after the completion of all coursework.  It is expected that the comprehensive examination for the Interdisciplinary Studies Ph.D. will be as rigorous and use the same general procedures as the doctoral exams in the departments in which coursework is taken.  The specifics of the examination (including where the exam will be taken, the number of questions, the number of evaluators, the grading process, the process for reporting results to the student, etc.) should be detailed in the admission materials (see Admission Procedures).  The Committee Advisor/Chair should inform the Graduate School Registrar of the results of the comprehensive exam.   

Admission to Candidacy

When the Advisory Committee certifies to the Graduate School that the comprehensive exam has been passed and all other requirements set out in the Plan of Study (except the dissertation) have been satisfactorily completed, the Graduate School admits the student to candidacy.


The dissertation must be completed and defended within the time limits specified by the Graduate School at the time of admission.  If human subjects are involved, the student and his/her advisor/chair are responsible for complying with the Institutional Review Board requirements before beginning research.

Final Oral Examination

The final oral exam for the Ph.D. is administered and evaluated by the Advisory Committee. The Graduate School should be notified of the date of the oral examination at least one month in advance. Final oral examinations are open to the University community, and a representative from the Graduate School may attend the oral examination.

Reviews of Progress

During each semester of the program, the student must meet with the Advisory Committee to review progress.  At the end of the spring semester the student and his/her Advisor should prepare an annual written summary of progress towards degree and submit to the Assistant Dean of the Graduate School. 

For more information about the Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies, contact:
Assistant Dean
The Graduate School
The University of Alabama
Box 870118, 102 Rose Administration Bldg.
Tuscaloosa, AL  35487-0118
(205) 348-8283



Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Is the PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) offered in an on-line format?

No.  The PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies is only offered on site in Tuscaloosa.

  1. I began my PhD in another UA program. May I transfer to the PhD in IDS?

It depends on the reason. The PhD in IDS is not an option for students who have not been successful in previous graduate work or who are not making adequate academic progress in a current program.  However, if, after meeting the Assistant Dean of the Graduate School, it is determined that you are a good fit for the IDS program, then you may apply for the PhD in IDS. This requires submitting an entirely new application packet that includes all the components necessary for admission consideration into the IDS program. 

  1. How do I go about getting faculty members to serve on my Advisory/Dissertation Committee?

This is, perhaps, the most difficult component of the admissions process for the IDS program.  We want to make sure that you will have the resources necessary for success in the program. This means that you put together a team of faculty BEFORE being admitted who are supportive of your goals and are committed to mentoring you throughout the PhD process.  It is your responsibility to find faculty who seem to be a good fit for you and to set up appointments with them to discuss your plans.  This typically means a trip (or multiple trips) to Tuscaloosa to have face-to-face meetings with faculty in order to gain their support.

  1. What financial aid is available for IDS students?

There are no special fellowships, scholarships, or assistantships specifically designated for IDS students. You are eligible for any of the fellowships offered by the Graduate School. All of these require a nomination from your advisor.

  1. I have taken 24 hours of PhD coursework at another institution. May I transfer that to the PhD in IDS?

No.  Typically we do not allow any transferred courses. On rare occasions, a student’s advisor may petition the Assistant Dean of the Graduate School to approve up to 6 hours of transferred courses.

  1. May I count courses from my master’s program of study towards my PhD in IDS?

No. See #5.

  1. My career goal is to become a history professor at a community college or university. Will this degree help me achieve this goal?

Many universities and communities colleges require a faculty member to have a doctoral degree in the specific field in which they will be teaching. If your career goal is to be a history professor, you would be wise to discuss with a history professor at UA or at a community college whether or not you would be competitive for a job in their institution if you had a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies. While many liberal arts colleges look favorably on an interdisciplinary degree, many colleges and universities look for a more traditional discipline-specific PhD when hiring new faculty. It is very important that you do your homework about whether or not this degree will help you achieve your professional goals.

  1. I don’t have a master’s degree. May I go straight from an undergraduate degree into the PhD in IDS?

No. A master’s degree is a prerequisite for this degree.

  1. I took the GRE in 2002. Do I have to retake it?

Yes. GRE/MAT/GMAT scores are only valid for 5 years.

  1. I want to begin the IDS program in the fall. What is the application deadline?

The good news about the IDS program is that we accept applications year-round and there is no fixed date for admission. However, to ensure that your application is reviewed in a timely manner, you must submit all materials at least 6 weeks prior to the date of intended enrollment.

  1. What is the first step in getting admitted into the IDS program?

Meeting with the Assistant Dean of the Graduate School.  Many students think they are interested in this program, but upon meeting with the Assistant Dean, they discover that their professional goals can best be achieved through one of the traditional graduate programs offered at UA.  Before submitting any materials, including an application, you should contact the Assistant Dean (205-348-8283) to set up either a phone interview or an on-campus interview to discuss your goals and plans.

  1. Will I have the opportunity to meet other students in the IDS program?

Yes. You must take AHE 591:  Disciplinarity and American Higher Education (or its equivalent) during the first 3 semesters of coursework. Because this is the only required courses for all IDS students, you will have other IDS students in your class.

  1. I want to combine Higher Education Administration and Finance. Is this PhD a good fit?

It depends. One of the reasons that you are required to have an initial meeting with the Assistant Dean of the Graduate School is to determine whether or not the program you are proposing is truly interdisciplinary. Often students want to take the majority of courses in one field but have the flexibility to take a few courses outside the program. This is NOT an interdisciplinary degree, and most traditional programs have enough flexibility to allow you to take elective courses in other programs and colleges.  The PhD in IDS is designed for the rare student who wants to work outside traditional academic boundaries and is looking for a way to create an individualized program that crosses and/or blurs traditional disciplines. 

  1. How long will it take me to complete the PhD in IDS?

It depends on a host of factors, but generally the minimum time it would take to complete a PhD of any kind is 3 years. However, many students take as many as 7 or more years to complete a PhD. It is unrealistic to think you will finish this degree in less than 3 years.


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