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Doctoral Degree


The recipient of a doctorate in philosophy is understood to possess thorough knowledge of a broad field of learning and to have given evidence of distinguished and creative accomplishment in that field. The degree is a warrant of critical ability and powers of imaginative synthesis. The degree signifies that the recipient has presented a doctoral dissertation containing an original contribution to knowledge in their field of study. The doctoral degree is not granted by the University of California merely for the fulfillment of technical requirements, such as residence or the completion of fundamental courses. The policies on the General Requirements for Doctoral Degrees are found in the Academic Senate bylaws and regulations section 515-520.

Program Requirements

The student’s program is responsible for the administration of any special requirements listed in the program’s degree requirements. The program should ensure that the student fulfills these requirements. It is not necessary to report the completion of special requirements to Graduate Studies. Please note that no requirements, other than requirements specific to completion of the dissertation (such as an exit seminar) can be placed upon students after they have advanced to candidacy. 

Qualifying Examination

•   Summer 2021 Qualifying Exams are approved as fully remote exams, but may be held in-person, by request, with the option for one or more (by exception) remote committee member(s).  
•   Fall 2021 Qualifying Exams are expected to be held in-person with the option for one or more (by exception) remote committee member(s).  
•   For Summer and Fall 2021 QE's only, Graduate Studies will review requests for more than one remote members in an approved in-person QE, but only in exceptional circumstances.  
•   QE's held after Fall 2021 will be conducted in person with the option of one remote committee member. 

More information on the timeline and processes is available on the Return to In-Person Qualifying Examinations webpage.

The primary purpose of the Qualifying Examination (QE) is to validate that the student is academically qualified to conceptualize a research topic, undertake scholarly research and successfully produce the dissertation required for a doctoral degree. The QE must be an oral exam, 2-3 hours in length and may also include a written component. The QE must cover both breadth and depth of knowledge. The exam must follow any specific format according to the specific degree requirements of the graduate program (which are approved by the Graduate Council). Here are some tips on Acing your Qualifying Exam.

Prior to the exam the program and student must complete the Qualifying Examination Application.  The application must be submitted four weeks in advance of the examination date, for Graduate Studies to process the application and send out a notice of approval to take the exam to the student, his/her graduate program, and the committee chair. 

Students must be registered during the quarters in which they take any portion of their qualifying examination. To be eligible for the qualifying examination, the student must have:

  • achieved a minimum GPA of 3.0 in all work completed while in graduate standing
  • satisfied all program requirements, and
  • removed all academic deficiencies.

A student must not take the exam prior to receiving approval from Graduate Studies. If the exam is held prior to approval and the committee is deemed unsuitable, the exam may be considered null and void. 

Policy for Doctoral Qualifying Exams

Policy on Service on Advanced Degree Committees

UC Davis Qualifying Exam Regulations

Advancement to Candidacy

When the student passes the qualifying examination, he/she should complete the Advancement to Candidacy application form. The student may submit the completed application to Graduate Studies when the graduate adviser, major professor, and graduate program coordinator have signed it and the candidacy fee has been paid at the Cashier’s Office.  The student must be registered full-time to advance to candidacy.

When a student is advanced to candidacy, a dissertation reading committee is nominated by the graduate adviser, and then appointed by the Dean of Graduate Studies, to direct the research and guide the student in preparing the dissertation. 

International students must advance to candidacy before the first day of the quarter to qualify for the UCOP Nonresident Supplemental Tuition Waiver Program.

Once the student has advanced to candidacy, the graduate program may not impose any additional requirements other than those specified under Plans A, B or C. However, graduate programs may require reasonable evidence of successful progress in the dissertation research (not including coursework), as specified in the Graduate Council approved degree requirements the student is following. 


A dissertation on a subject chosen by the candidate, bearing on the principal subject of study and of such character as to show ability to prosecute independent investigation, must receive the approval of the special committee in charge of the dissertation and of the Graduate Council before the degree is recommended. Special emphasis will be placed upon this requirement, and the degree will not be given merely for the faithful completion of a course of study, however extensive.

The policy regarding the different requirements of the dissertation under Plan A, B, or C are covered under the Doctor of Philosophy: Dissertation and final exam, Davis Division regulation 520(c).

Students are responsible for observing the filing dates and for preparing dissertations in proper form. For deadlines and detailed instructions on the dissertation and abstract, visit Filing a Thesis or Dissertation.