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Research Doctoral Degree (Ph.D.) - Residency Requirement


Purpose  |  Academic Goal  |  Scope  |  Background  |  Definitions  |  Statement of Policy  |  Further Information


This policy describes and establishes a minimum residency requirement applicable to all Ph.D. degrees awarded by Penn State.

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Academic Goal

The Academic Goal of this policy is to ensure that for a period of time during their studies, all Ph.D. students are immersed in the scholarly life of their disciplinary community.

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This policy applies to all students enrolled in any program of study leading to the Ph.D.

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Completion of the Ph.D. degree requires demonstrated mastery of a body of knowledge, a set of skills, and evidence of embodying essential professional attributes. Only the most rudimentary of these can be learned or demonstrated through coursework or remote study. An important goal of this requirement is to ensure that students are inculcated with the full scope of knowledge, skills and professional attributes, including the values and ethical norms specific to their discipline. To acquire these essential characteristics requires concentrated study and dedicated time spent engaging in academic pursuits in the scholarly, research-intensive environment of the University in the close company of faculty members and other Ph.D. trainees. While essential for all disciplines, this requirement has special significance for disciplines in which the research is frequently conducted by individuals rather than teams, or where the bulk of the research might be conducted at remote field sites. An immersive experience interacting with diverse scholars with diverse experiences and opinions is invaluable to the student’s development as a scholar and researcher.

The policy specifies that students must meet this requirement while enrolled in their Ph.D. program because master’s degree students are frequently focused on developing a more limited set of specific research skills and completing their project in 2-3 years. In contrast, Ph.D. students are expected to have a much broader perspective, and are expected to become leaders in whatever career path they choose.

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Head of a graduate program – Member of the Graduate Faculty with ultimate responsibility and academic authority for a graduate degree program. For departmental graduate programs, this may be the Department Head; for Intercollege Graduate Degree Programs it is a faculty Chair. In all cases, the Head must be a tenure-line member of the Graduate Faculty.

Unit Leader – Individual to whom a University employee reports for their primary appointment.

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Statement of Policy

  1. Over a twelve-month period the Ph.D. student must spend at least two consecutive semesters, exclusive of summer sessions, as a registered full-time student engaged in academic work at the Penn State campus(es) offering the Ph.D. degree in the student’s graduate major program.
    1. SUBJECT 601 and SUBJECT 611 cannot be used to meet this requirement.
  2. Full time University employees enrolled in a Ph.D. program must be registered for 6 credits or more in each semester in which residency is declared and must be certified as full time employees by their unit leader. In exceptional cases, the Head of the graduate program may certify to Graduate Enrollment Services that the student is devoting half time or more to graduate studies in lieu of registered credits.
    1. This requirement must be satisfied at a Penn State campus offering the Ph.D. degree in the student’s graduate major program.
    2. This requirement must be satisfied prior to the semester in which the final oral examination is administered.
  3. Nothing in this policy shall preclude individual programs from establishing residency requirements more stringent than the minimum specified herein.
    1. Any additional degree requirements established by graduate programs must be approved through the Graduate Council curricular review process.
    2. Additional program specific requirements shall be published and made readily accessible to program students and faculty.

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Further Information

Updated: 12/14/11; links updated: 8/13/14

Reviewed by Graduate Council, 5/2/2018

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