Ad Hoc Degree Programs

Ad Hoc degrees

Current PhD candidates who find that their scholarship extends beyond a single academic department may apply to the GSAS Administrative Board for creation of an ad hoc PhD program. Master’s degrees are not awarded in ad hoc subjects.

A student interested in an ad hoc program should first make an appointment to speak to Patrick O'Brien, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Secretary to the GSAS Administrative Board.

Makeup of an Ad Hoc Committee

An ad hoc committee is a group of faculty advisors and includes a chairperson who serves as the student’s primary advisor. A committee ordinarily consists of four members, three of whom must be FAS faculty members. At least two established academic programs must be represented by the proposed committee. The chair of an ad hoc committee must be a full-time, in resident, FAS faculty member.

Application Deadlines

Applications will be reviewed throughout the year, but they must be received well in advance of the term for which the student wishes to be admitted to the newly created program to allow ample time for review. A student must have completed a full year of graduate study and achieved an outstanding academic record in an established PhD degree program in order to apply to transfer to an ad hoc PhD program.

Students wishing to create an ad hoc PhD program must complete and submit an Application for Creation of an ad hoc PhD program and an ad hoc Program of Study form available from the Office of Student Affairs.

Applicant Eligibility

A student must have completed a full year of graduate study at GSAS and must be making satisfactory progress toward their degree in order to apply to transfer to an ad hoc PhD program. 

Financial Aid

Ordinarily, when a student transfers to an ad hoc degree program the original department retains financial responsibility for the student. Students are encouraged to explore funding offered by various fellowships when possible.

The Office of Student Affairs recommends the applicant have a discussion with their Financial Aid Officer and/or the Office of Fellowships when considering submission of an application.

Preparing an Application Dossier

Students who wish to apply following an initial conversation will work closely with Patrick O’Brien to compose a formal application dossier for the Administrative Board.

The applicant is asked to carefully consider and clearly outline their motivation to create the ad hoc program in the Proposal for Creation of the ad hoc PhD Program, including:

  • an explanation of the focal subject area, its academic context or relation to an existing body of knowledge, including citations, and their present interest in the subject matter;
  • the history, including examples, of their research and scholarship to date in the focal subject area;
  • the anticipated direction of their research upon creation of the program and the research questions they will seek to address in the program;
  • a description of the interdisciplinary nature of the subject area and explanation as to why the proposed research and program would be impossible to accomplish in an existing GSAS academic department, division, or committee.

The applicant should also include:

  • the general timeline to completion of the degree;
  • a brief description of the role of each of the faculty committee members relative to the applicant and the proposed research; 
  • a description of how they intend to fund their program of study during the years remaining until degree (the Office of Student Affairs recommends the applicant have a discussion with their Financial Aid Officer and/or the Office of Fellowships);
  • if known, whether they intend to conduct fieldwork, including any years that may be spent as a non-resident Traveling Scholar in the field;
  • a bibliography of any cited works.

Ad hoc PhD Program of Study and Degree Requirements

The applicant must first discuss their proposed program of study and degree requirements with faculty in their prospective committee. They then formally propose the ad hoc Program of Study and Degree Requirements (all GSAS PhD candidates must meet the Common Requirements stated in Chapter VI of the GSAS Handbook), including, but not limited to:

  • Course Requirements
      • Course requirements completed to date (including academic term of enrollment and grade earned)
      • Additional course requirements (including anticipated term of enrollment) (if required)
  • Language Requirement(s) (if required)
  • Teaching Requirement (if required)
  • Any additional, special requirements (if required)
  • General or Qualifying Examination (or equivalent)

PhD Dissertation

  • Prospectus timeline, format, and defense/oral presentation process
  • Dissertation topic (if known), timeline, format, and defense process
  • Proposed ad hoc Faculty Committee Members

Letters of Recommendation

The applicant is asked to submit a letter of recommendation from each member of your proposed ad hoc committee. 

The Administrative Board asks that faculty members speak to:

  • the viability of the Proposal and the research goals outlined therein,
  • their approval of the Program of Study and Degree Requirements;
  • the interdisciplinarity of the project and how the Proposal relates to an existing body of knowledge or, if applicable, their own personal research;
  • and their role on the ad hoc committee relative to the applicant/student and the proposed research.

Final Submission and Review

The complete dossier including the documents noted above, a current CV, and a current FAS transcript are submitted to Patrick O'Brien for review by the Administrative Board. The review process takes 2-4 weeks depending on the time of year. Official decisions are sent from the Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid.