PhD General Information

  • There are two start dates each in summer, fall, and spring.
  • PhD courses are seven-weeks in length, with the exception of one research design course and the three dissertation courses, which are semester long.
  • The average PhD student takes two courses for a total of 6 credit hours per semester (one each 7-week session), which is considered a full load at the doctoral level. While there is flexibility with course load, most students are balancing professional careers, family, and personal responsibilities, and find that two courses per semester is reasonable and feasible.
  • The PhD is the pinnacle degree awarded by any university, and students are expected to possess extremely high-level competencies. Students earn the PhD after gaining a strong grounding in research and analytical tools to write a robust dissertation and produce new knowledge in the field.


PhD Degree Requirements

  • The maximum time limit to complete the program is seven years or 150% of the credits, whichever the student reaches first.
  • A minimum of 37 credit hours must be completed at CU.
  • Up to 50% of the required credit hours can be transferred into the program.
  • Graduation is contingent upon the completion of 73 hours of prescribed courses with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 and no more than one C. Students must complete all coursework, pass the written comprehensive examination, and successfully write, present, and defend their dissertation.
  • Continuous enrollment (a minimum of one course per semester) is required Fall, Spring, and Summer semesters.
  • In the event of extenuating circumstances, a PhD student may request in writing one Leave of Absence of up to two semesters. A PhD student who remains inactive for longer than two semesters must reapply to the program. Special accommodations will be extended for military deployments. The LOA does not “stop the clock” on the 7-year time limit for degree completion.


PhD Residency

Students are required to attend a one-week on-campus residency the first time it is offered after acceptance, typically in conjunction with their first summer semester of attendance. The residency is a highlight for students as they develop competencies in dissertation choice, design and methodology, and APA writing style and format. It is an opportunity for students to build relationships with professors and grow their networks with fellow students.

Students can stay in university housing for a fee or stay in area hotels. Details are provided before registration for the event.

As an option, Learners who have already attended the first Residency can choose to attend Residency for the second time to work on a draft of their Dissertation Alignment Document or Chapter 1.

As an option, learners who have started Dissertations I, II, or III can attend PhD Residency to receive one-on-one coaching to work on their proposal.  NOTE: Learner must receive approval from their Dissertation Chair.

While students have the option to participate synchronously or asynchronously in their core classes, students must attend the PhD Residency in person. Under no circumstance will Learners be allowed to attend PhD Residency Virtually.


PhD Comprehensive Examination, Dissertation, and Oral Defense

The PhD student will submit and pass a written comprehensive examination upon completion of 55 hours of coursework before moving forward on the dissertation research.

The PhD dissertation is a formal treatise that advances a proposition based on scholarly research. Included among the criteria of a successful dissertation are the following: appropriate topic, valid research question, original research, sound methodology, coherent argumentation, critical evaluation, effective style, conformity to deadlines, and contribution of scholarship.

The presentation and oral defense of the written dissertation will be scheduled through the committee chair.


John Wesley School of Leadership Leave of Absence

In the event of extenuating circumstances, a student may request in writing one Leave of Absence (LOA) from the School of Leadership. Students must consult with their academic advisor to review the effects an LOA will have on their academic plan and create a post-LOA academic plan to maintain continuous enrollment, which will also be submitted to the Dean. Contingent upon Dean approval, the student will be allowed a maximum leave of absence of two consecutive semesters (summer semester included). A student who remains inactive for longer than two semesters must reapply to the program. Special accommodations will be extended for military deployments (please see information on military withdrawal in the Academic Information section of the catalog).

F1 Students

F1 students are not eligible for a LOA during any semester wherein they are required to be a fulltime student. Because continuous enrollment is a requirement of PhD programs, F1 students eligible for annual vacation may take an approved vacation and maintain continuous enrollment in the program by opting to complete courses online without requesting an LOA.

An LOA does not “stop the clock” on the 7-year time limit for earning the degree. 


Working with a Committee

In order to be effective, all communication between the Learner and Committee members must be timely, open, and honest. All interactions should maintain a positive, respectful, and professional tone.

Learners should communicate regularly with their Chair via the Learning Management System and/or CU channels only (i.e., CU Email). Responses to all communications, regardless of sender, should be within 48 hours. Chairs may also choose to communicate with Learners via phone or videoconference.

As per Carolina University’s Attendance Policy (2023-2024), if a Learner is inactive for more than three consecutive weeks in a 15-week course (RES 877, RES 878, RES 879, and RES 880 Continuation), it will be considered course abandonment. This policy will apply to grandfathered dissertation courses (REX 877, REX 878, and REX 879) as well. Course abandonment will result in the student being withdrawn from the course. For F1 students, course abandonment (Unauthorized Withdrawal) will result in termination of their SEVIS record.

Unlike the core classes, the Dissertation Classes (RES 877, RES 878, RES 879 and RES 880) will be graded on a Pass/Fail basis. To avoid failing the Dissertation Classes, Learners must submit deliverables at the designated due dates agreed upon between the Learner and the Dissertation Chair. Additionally, the Learner must actively participate in some weekly or bi-weekly activity (i.e., submitting a literature review matrix, Chapter 1 revisions, Zoom meetings, etc.). Not submitting deliverables or not participating in scheduled activities may lead to course failure, and the Learner will repeat that specific class (RES 877, RES 878, RES 879 or RES 880). The pass/fail policy will apply to grandfathered courses (REX 877, REX 878, and REX 879) as well. NOTE: If receiving Financial Aid, the Learner must contact the Financial Aid Office to find out how this will impact their Financial Aid.