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Requirements for the Ph.D.

Important Dates & Information:

Application Deadline: December 15 
Intent to Enroll Deadline: April 15



Requirements that must be taken in sequence, as the student moves through Doctoral Studies, include:

  • Coursework
  • Preliminary Examinations
  • Candidacy
  • Dissertation Proposal
  • Dissertation

Please see the Doctoral Studies Handbook for further details about these components.


Requirements that must be completed, either as a condition of admission or as a condition of continuance in the program, include:

Please see the Doctoral Studies Handbook for further details about these components.

  • Annual Program of Study Report
  • English Language Proficiency
  • Continuous Enrollment
  • Satisfactory Progress



Students are required to complete a minimum of 40 credit hours of graded coursework (including core courses and electives) prior to achieving candidacy. All courses must be complete before Preliminary Exam preparation can begin. Coursework consists of:

  • ARCH 801 Doctoral Colloquium [1 credit x 4 terms = 4 credits]
  • ARCH 812 Theory in Architectural Research [3 credits]
  • ARCH 813— Research Methods [3 credits]
  • ARCH 823, 824, or 825 Area Seminar [3 credits]
  • ARCH 839 Research Practicum [3 credits] or URP 801 [3 credits]
  • 2 cognate courses (graduate level courses outside of Architecture) [6 credits]
  • 6 additional upper-level classes (500- to 800-level) in Architecture or as approved by advisor [18 credits]

In summary, students take:
16 credit hours of core courses* (5 courses, including the Research Practicum)
9 credit hours of letter graded courses in the major specialization area (3 courses)
9 credit hours of letter graded courses in the minor specialization area (3 courses)
6 credit hours of letter graded elective coursework (2 courses)

The Preliminary Examination

The preliminary examination forms a bridge between coursework and dissertation research. It is designed to consolidate and test students’ command of their major and minor research fields and is based upon the initial formulation of a dissertation topic. Students should take the preliminary examination by January of the third year (check candidacy deadlines on the Rackham website).

Preparation. During the second year, students provide a tentative list of the three members of their Preliminary Examination Committee to their advisor and the Doctoral Coordinator. This committee consists of the student’s primary advisor (normally the anticipated chair of his/her Dissertation Committee) and at least one other faculty member from Architecture, with the third member invited from the department that houses the student’s minor area. Major and minor advisors should meet with the student in the last weeks of the winter term of the year prior to the examination to define the areas of questioning and to help with the initial reading lists. The student should begin studying over the summer and continue through to the test date of the following semester. One full meeting of the Preliminary Examination Committee should take place early in the fall semester of the third year, and subsequent meetings may occur at periodic intervals until the test date, as requested by student or committee members.

Please note that students must have completed the research practicum and be registered for at least one credit hour of 990 to be eligible to sit for the preliminary examination.

Components. The preliminary examination first requires the compilation of reading lists based on a series of questions articulated with the help of the Preliminary Exam committee. The examination itself consists of two parts: a written component (also comprising two parts) and an oral defense.

The written test consists of a Major area question, and a Minor area question. The student’s major advisor administers the Major area question, after prior consultation with the student. The minor advisor administers the Minor area question, after prior consultation with the student. The written exam is followed by an oral examination with the full Preliminary Examination Committee following the completion and assessment of both components of the written exam. The meeting offers an opportunity to discuss issues not addressed or insufficiently treated in the written exam and can thus provide the committee with further information about the student’s knowledge of the field. The meeting is also the occasion for looking forward and beginning to discuss preparation of the dissertation prospectus.

Failure. A student must pass all parts of the preliminary examination in order to proceed in the degree. He/she may be asked to retake unsatisfactory portions of the examination. Failure of the Preliminary Exam, however, may also result in permanent suspension from the program. Students cannot re-sit either part of the examination more than once.

The Dissertation

This guideline is intended to help students plan the research and writing of the dissertation, making it possible to finish within two or three years of passing the preliminary examinations, and sometimes earlier. Students should bear in mind that the successful completion of a dissertation is a two-way process of negotiation between student and advisor(s), drawing where appropriate on the advice and expertise of the other members of his/her committee.

Dissertation Proposal [End of Winter semester of third year]. Students who have passed their Preliminary Examination and achieved candidacy are expected to form a Dissertation Committee comprised of no fewer than four and no more than five members (see below) and to write a prospectus of their doctoral dissertation. This should be completed and defended at the end of the sixth term. All members of the committee should be brought into the discussion about the proposed dissertation as soon after successful completion of the Preliminary Exam as possible. All members of the Dissertation Committee should be present at the prospectus defense.

The proposal details concisely the dissertation project and situates the work in the field. The core of the document is typically no longer than 2500-3000 words in length, and the proposal includes a thesis statement, a review of the state of the field in which the dissertation is intervening, a tentative chapter outline, a research plan (including travel necessary to completion of research and a schedule for completion), and a working bibliography. The student should consult with the advisor and all members of the committee in the months when he or she is formulating this important document, which serves as the intellectual plan for subsequent dissertation research and as the basis for grant applications. The dissertation proposal defense typically opens with the student offering a brief presentation (no longer than 20 minutes) of his/her project. This is followed by comments from the members of the committee, and responses from the candidate. Students may pass the defense outright, or they may pass conditionally, with revisions required. Students are normally not permitted to schedule the defense until their committee deems them capable of passing this requirement, although in rare cases it is possible to fail a proposal defense. In that case, students will be given a fixed period of time for revision before a re-examination is scheduled. The defense provides a crucial opportunity for the committee and the student to discuss intellectual and methodological aspects of the project and formulate research plans and strategies to aid the student in timely completion of the work. A copy of the approved proposal with all requested changes should be filed with the degree office within two weeks after the proposal defense.

Dissertation Committee. The Rackham Graduate School requires that each Dissertation Committee have a minimum of four members, three of whom must be regular members of the Rackham faculty. One of these three Rackham faculty members serves as the student’s doctoral advisor; the advisor is primarily responsible for guiding the student through the process of dissertation writing and takes greater responsibility than other members of the committee for the student’s progress. One of these three Rackham faculty members must hold an appointment in a cognate field outside of the Architecture Program. The Program further requires that the dissertation committee include at least two Architecture faculty members. In certain cases, a student may elect to ask two faculty members to serve as co-advisors on their dissertation. Emeritus faculty members do not normally serve on dissertation defense committees after three or more years of retirement. On the Committee composition, see: http://www.rackham.umich.edu/downloads/oard/forms/disscommitteeguidelines.pdf

The members of the Dissertation Committee should be registered with the Program directly after the Preliminary Exam defense and well before the Dissertation Proposal defense, since all members of the Dissertation Committee should help the student to craft a viable dissertation project. When necessary, changes may be made in the committee’s membership in consultation with the Coordinator of Doctoral Studies. All changes must be registered with the Coordinator and the Rackham Graduate School.

Faculty Responsibilities
• The dissertation advisor or co-advisors respond to students’ work-in-progress on the dissertation.
• While on sabbaticals or other leave of absence from the Department, advisors or co-advisors continue to supervise their advisees’ doctoral dissertations.
• If a student fails to meet the agreed upon deadlines for submitting chapters, the student should re-negotiate the missed deadline with the advisor(s) in a timely fashion. While chapter deadlines may shift somewhat, any change to the overall time schedule should be negotiated with the advisor(s), who remains responsible for ensuring satisfactory progress.

Submitting the Dissertation. A student will be expected to present the completed dissertation and defend it at an oral defense conducted by the dissertation committee. It is the student’s responsibility to obtain information on dissertation deadlines, format, and procedures from the Rackham Graduate School well in advance of the defense. Procedures and requirements are outlined on the Rackham website.

Students continue to register for ARCH 995 (8 credits) during the semester in which they defend the dissertation.

A final draft of the dissertation must be submitted to all members of the dissertation committee at least two months in advance of the proposed defense date. It is to a student’s advantage to submit the preliminary final draft to the advisor or co-advisors well before this date. This ensures that any suggested revisions may be properly discussed and incorporated in the final draft in a satisfactory manner.

Defense. A dissertation can be completed within a given academic year only if the defense takes place before the end of the winter semester. This ensures that the advisor or co-advisors and members of the dissertation committee will be in a position to attend the defense. Spring or summer term defenses may also be scheduled if all committee members agree.

The entire dissertation committee (minimum four members) must be present at the dissertation defense. A speaker phone or skype connection will be set up if one or two members are resident outside of Ann Arbor. The defense is public and peers may attend.

After the defense, the student must incorporate corrections required at the defense and submit a final version to Rackham, approved by the advisor or co-advisors or a proxy by the Rackham deadline. The due date for submitting the final, approved dissertation in a given term is set by Rackham and is absolutely inflexible. Should a student miss the deadline for a given term by even a day, he/she will be compelled to pay tuition to enroll the following term.

Rackham sets specific dates each academic year for receiving the degree. These roughly correspond to the following: early October for a December degree; mid-April for a May degree; and late June for an August degree. Students and advisors should consult the Rackham website for specific dates in a given year.

Please see the Doctoral Studies Handbook (available as a pdf on the website) for further description of these degree components.


All students who anticipate working with quantitative or qualitative data manipulation are required to complete at least three credit hours of graded coursework in statistical analyses and/or advanced research methods (beyond the required core course).

Students must complete two consecutive terms of full-time graduate work in residence beginning in the fall term of their first year so that the core courses may be taken in the required sequence. Students who have been offered special admission may be required to complete additional course work. Rackham requires that graduate-level cognate courses of at least four credit hours be satisfactorily completed in a department or program other than the Doctoral Studies in Architecture and the Architecture Program. These courses may be used to satisfy the major or minor requirement and must be approved by the student's major professor. These credit hours are not additional to the 40 required program hours. Upon satisfactorily completing all Ph.D. course work, a Ph.D. student is eligible to apply for and be awarded the master of science degree.

The university class schedule is a great resource to other interesting and beneficial courses offered outside of architecture.

Core Course Offerings

The core curriculum for the program consists of courses in the theoretical foundations of architecture, research methods, and seminars relating to the student's major and/or minor specialization areas. For detailed descriptions of these courses see the course descriptions section.

Course Credit Hours
Arch 801 Doctoral Colloquium 4
Arch 812 Theory in Architectural Research  3

Arch 813 Research Design and Methods in Architecture      

Area Seminar (choose one of three options) 3
Arch 823 Area Seminar:  
Arch 824 Area Seminar:  
Arch 825 Area Seminar:  
Arch 839 Research Practicum 3
Total 16

With approval from the Doctoral Program, a student may elect to take another three hour methods course in lieu of Arch 813.

Architecture Independent Study Approval Form - ARCH 810 (Ph.D. students only)


PhD Architecture sample syllabus
View the sample syllabus course flow chart PDF




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