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Degree Requirements

GWS Degree Requirements and Rules

Note: This is a summary of the rules for general information only. 

Ph.D. in GWS
Students will be admitted directly to the Ph.D. program; it is not necessary to pursue a master’s degree first.

The Ph.D. program includes required coursework and specialized coursework.

The purposes of the required coursework are (1) to familiarize students with fundamental concepts, theories and frameworks for scholarly feminist inquiry, and (2) to familiarize students with different approaches to inquiry and research in gender and women’s studies.

Required Core Courses
All students must complete the two course sequence: Feminist Theory and History of Feminist Thought (GWS 650 and GWS 640).

All students must complete two courses in methods/skills training (GWS 630 and an additional GWS or approved course).
All students must complete two "area" pro-seminars (listed under GWS 600 or GWS 700), which include topical areas in gender, women’s and sexuality studies.

Students who have previously taken comparable graduate work at another institution may be exempted from some of the course requirements. Exemptions must be approved by the student’s advisory committee; the committee chair must petition the DGS, and the DGS must approve the exemption. 

Dissertation Advisory Committee and Director
All students are required to create and meet with an advisory committee by the end of their third semester of enrollment.  The dissertation advisory committee must be formed at least 1 year prior to the qualifying examination.  This committee must include a minimum of 4 faculty members.  The committee must include a minimum of 2 GWS core faculty members, a thrid member that has primary or secondary graduate status in GWS,  and one member from outside the department. Until a committee is formed, the DGS will assign each incoming student an interim faculty advisor. 

All students are required to complete a GWS Program of Study form approved by their advisory committee (or interim advisor if no committee has been formed by the second semester) by the end of their second semester of enrollment. 

All students are required to meet with their advisory committee at least once a year prior to their qualifying exams.  The chair of the committee is required to send a letter to the DGS, to be placed in the student's file, to report on the results of each meeting and the student's progress toward degree.

Major Area of Study
Students must specify in writing a “major area” of research focus approved by their advisory committee prior to beginning their third semester of study (during the first semester of residence for students entering with a prior MA).

The program does not require that students specify a “minor” area of study.

The purposes of the specialized phase of the Ph.D. program are to provide the student with (1) in-depth familiarity with a major field of specialization, (2) familiarity with other fields of study related to gender and women’s studies or the major field, and (3) provide sufficient preparation for the qualifying exam and doctoral dissertation proposal.

The courses that a student takes in order to specialize in their major area of study will be determined by their advisory committee and reported to the DGS in the annual report of student progress.

Qualifying Exams
A student must complete a minimum of 36 hours of coursework (less for those with approved transfer course credits) with a GPA of 3.0 or higher to be eligible to take the qualifying exam.  A reading list for the qualifying exam will be prepared by the student with the advice and consent of the advisory committee.  The qualifying exam is constructed by the chair of a student's PhD committee in consultation with other committee and department members.

The written component of the exam shall consist of a take-home exam with three sections. All sections are administered concurrently.  Students will have three weeks to complete the written exam.  The exam will consist of one section of questions related to Feminist Thought and Theory, one section of questions related to general topics in Gender and Women's Studies, and one section of questions related to the student's substantive major area of focus.

Following the written exams, a student must pass an oral examination.  Students must pass both parts of the exam (written and oral). 

After passing the qualifying examinations, the student will prepare the dissertation proposal. The proposal preparation is directed by the student's advisor and committee and will typically include a review of the relevant literature and a statement of the dissertation question(s), its theoretical importance, and the contemplated methods and procedures. The proposal is a demonstration of the student's writing ability, creativity, analytical skills, and critical familiarity with the literature in the area of focus. The proposal should be defended within 6 months of passing the qualifying exam.

The dissertation is expected to be a work of original scholarship which demonstrates critical maturity in research skills. It is written under the direction of the chair of the advisory committee. Final examination on the dissertation will be conducted by a committee appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School. Such a committee normally includes the members of the student’s advisory committee, as well as an outside person appointed by the Graduate School.

Timeline for PhD Students
Please note that 4 years is the minimum timeline for completing the degree.  Many students will take longer than 4 years to complete their degree. 

Please note that the Graduate Program in Gender and Women’s Studies at UK is designed for PhD students. We do not accept applicants for the MA degree only.  We do, however, offer an MA Degree under certain terminal conditions.  The MA may be earned under either one of two plans.  An M.A. degree will be awarded based on either Plan A or Plan B.

Plan A includes 24 hours of coursework, including the 2 courses in methods (GWS630 plus additional skill course), the 2 course sequence in Feminist Theory (GWS640 and GWS650), and 2 area seminars (GWS600 or GWS700 topic courses).  Plan A also requires a written thesis that demonstrates the ability to conduct original research and write in a professional academic manner and oral defense.

Plan B includes 30 hours of coursework, including the 2 courses in methods (GWS630 plus additional skill course), the 2 course sequence in Feminist Theory (GWS640 and GWS650), and 2 area seminars (GWS600 or GWS700 topic courses).
Plan B also requires a written examination and oral defense.  The written and oral examinations will be prepared by a committee of 3 GWS faculty members taking into consideration the coursework completed by the student.

Students earning a Master’s degree under Plan A or Plan B must meet the course level distribution requirements of the Graduate School.

Note that an M.A. will be awarded to Ph.D. students after passing their written and oral qualifying examinations.


Application deadlines
Students may apply for admission beginning in the Fall semester only.  Applications for fall admission must be received no later than March 1st. Earlier deadlines are required for consideration for financial aid and assistantships (December 1st).  International students must meet the deadlines established by the Graduate School (applicants must check the Graduate School website for this deadline, but no later than March 1st).  Applications must be complete by the deadline for consideration.  Partial applications will not be considered.  Students must see the GWS PhD admissions page for required application materials. 

Applications for teaching assistantships, fellowship nominations, or other financial aid through the Department must be received by December 1 prior to the Fall semester for which the student is applying for admission. The application to the Graduate School must be complete and all materials, including letters of recommendation, must be received no later than December 1 in order to receive full consideration for awards.

See the Application webpage for more information.

Application requirements
Applicants must have at least a 3.00 undergraduate GPA.  For those with credit in graduate classes, their graduate GPA must be at least a 3.2.

Students must submit their GRE scores to the Graduate School.  The GRE scores will be considered as part of the application.  Students must provide transcripts from all previous institutions of higher learning they have attended and received course credit from.  Applications must include 3 letters of recommendation.

Additional rules for international applicants are on the Graduate School website.