2018-2019 General Catalog 
    Apr 24, 2018  
2018-2019 General Catalog

Metropolitan Planning, Policy and Design, Ph.D.

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Doctoral Requirements for Metropolitan Planning, Policy and Design

Department of City & Metropolitan Planning
College of Architecture + Planning
Architecture Building (037)
CMP Office Suite RM 220
PhD Website

Minimum Doctoral Hours: 57

The Ph.D. in Metropolitan Planning, Policy and Design helps meet society’s need for researchers, scholars, teachers, and leaders to make our metropolitan areas sustainable and resilient. The degree is managed by the Department of City & Metropolitan Planning in the College of Architecture + Planning but it is designed to facilitate the interdisciplinary culture of the University of Utah. Depending on the nature of prior graduate work, the doctoral degree will require between 57 and 78 credit hours, or more, and extend a minimum of six full time semesters of course work. Along with rigorous admission standards, admitted students will have posed a clear direction in pursuing doctoral studies.

The doctoral degree includes core, dissertation, electives, qualifying examination, and dissertation benchmarks. The core is composed of six semester-long doctoral seminars in quantitative methods, qualitiative methods, article writing and publishing, research design, pedagogy, and urban theory and form for a total of 18 credits. Doctoral students will complete 21 credits of dissertation of which 3 credits will be dedicated to diseration proposal, as well as a minimum of 12 credits of electives including courses outside the department, and six credits of qualifying examination. (Students without a master degree in planning will need to take up to 21 credits in core planning courses.) The qualifying examination will demonstrate the ability of the candidate to undertake independent research through the preparation of a paper sufficient for submission to a scholarly journal; the paper itself will include literature review, theory, research design, research execution, findings, and conclusions. The dissertation will then be proposed, prepared, and defended. Doctoral students will have 5-7 years to complete the program. 

Program Description

The doctoral program will be available to students on a full-time and part-time basis. In either case, admission will be selective (see below) to (a) assure the number of students being managed by the faculty is never very large and that (b) those admitted have demonstrated their ability to complete demanding, long-term commitments within a reasonable period of time.

The Ph.D. in Metropolitan Planning, Policy and Design will be guided by a particular philosophy. Students entering the program will demonstrate a clear purpose in pursuing doctoral studies; this assures direction in students’ doctoral work. Second, they will demonstrate their ability to complete challenging projects. Third, students’ interests will be highly correlated with several faculty members to assure a critical mass of mentoring. Finally, a least one member of the faculty will be the principal mentor including chairing relevant student doctoral committees and seeking funding support if needed. The objective is to assemble a group of highly motivated, self-directed, and talented students who show great promise to complete the degree and succeed in society after graduation.

Requirements for Completing the Program

Ph.D. Supervisory Committee

The supervisory committee is responsible for approving the student’s academic program, preparing and judging the qualifying examinations subject to departmental policy, approving the thesis or dissertation subject, reading and approving the thesis or dissertation, and administering and judging the final oral examination (thesis or dissertation defense). The chair of the supervisory committee directs the student’s research and writing of the thesis or dissertation. The final oral examination may be chaired by any member of the supervisory committee consistent with departmental policy. If a graduate student’s preliminary work is deficient, the supervisory committee may require supplementary undergraduate courses for which no graduate credit is granted. Decisions concerning program requirements, examinations, and the thesis or dissertation are made by majority vote of the supervisory committee.

All University of Utah faculty members including tenure-line, career-line, adjunct, visiting, and emeritus are eligible to serve as supervisory committee members. The faculty member must hold an academic or professional doctorate, the terminal degree in the relevant field, and/or must have demonstrated competence to do research and scholarly or artistic work in the student’s general field. Persons not from the University of Utah may also serve as committee members upon approval of the dean of The Graduate School (a vita for the proposed committee members must accompany the request). Committee chairs should usually be selected from tenure-line faculty (exceptions on a case by case basis). Immediate family members are not eligible to serve on a student’s supervisory committee.

The supervisory committee must be formed by the end of the second year of graduate work. It is the responsibility of the student to approach prospective committee members with a view to their willingness and availability to serve in such a capacity. Faculty have the right, however, for justifiable academic reasons, to refuse to serve on a student’s supervisory committee.

Filing a Request for Supervisory Committee form (appendix A) with the MPPD Academic Coordinator completes the process of forming a supervisory committee. Doctoral supervisory committees consist of five faculty members, the majority of whom must be tenure-line faculty in the student’s major department. One member of the supervisory committee must be from another department (outside of University on case by case basis).

Exceptions to these guidelines must be recommended and justified by the director of graduate studies of the department or the department chair, and approved by the dean of The Graduate School.


Program of Study

Doctoral students will complete a minimum of six semesters of full time course work as approved by the Supervisory Committee and reflected in an approved Program of Study.  At least one year (i.e., two consecutive semesters) of the doctoral program must be spent in full-time academic work at the University of Utah. When a student proceeds directly from a master’s degree to a Ph.D. degree with no break in the program of study (except for authorized leaves of absence), the residency requirement may be fulfilled at any time during the course of study. A full load is nine credit hours. Three hours of Ph.D. Dissertation Research (CMP 7970) also is considered a full load after the residency requirement is fulfilled.


Graduate Planning Foundations (Maximum credits = 21)

For students with an accredited planning master degree from Utah or elsewhere, the graduate planning core is waived. For those without this degree, the graduate planning core is required although individual courses may be waived by the Supervisory Committee based on comparable graduate work at Utah or elsewhere. For most students without an accredited planning degree, completing the core planning courses will require the equivalent of about one full academic year of study. 


Doctoral Foundations (Minimum credits = 18)

Subject to the needs of individual doctoral students as determined by the Supervisory Committee, each doctoral student will satisfactorily complete the doctoral foundations core courses found at the end of this page.


Field Study (Minimum credits = 12)

Working with the Supervisory Committee, a selection of courses including independent study will be identified providing sufficient foundation for the student to pursue the dissertation topic. Depending on the topic, many courses may be taken outside the College. Relevant courses would be those in theory, methods, processes, and foundations related to the dissertation topic. While a minimum number of credits are expected, this may vary depending on the level of preparation by the student as determined by the Supervisory Committee.


Qualifying Examination (Minimum credits = 6)

The qualifying (preliminary) examination is unique among doctoral programs nationally in that a publishable scholarly work will be the written product and reviewed orally with the Supervisory Committee. The philosophy is that since a key skill of a doctoral graduate is to disseminate knowledge through scholarly work, the very best way to demonstrate mastery of this skill, and thus ability to continue on to the dissertation, is to write such a work. Together with the Supervisory Committee, the topic for preparing a scholarly, publishable work will be identified along with prospective sources of data and literature. The scholarly work will include a review of relevant theory, discussion of the research design appropriate for the theory and data or other forms of information, application of the selected research method, findings, and conclusions including relevant metropolitan planning, policy, and design implications. After oral review it is anticipated that students will refine their qualifying examination product and submit it to an appropriate peer-reviewed journal for its consideration. Students will register for CMP 7930 when they are ready to complete their qualifying exam with prior approval from their faculty advisor. 


Dissertation Research Proposal (Minimum credits = 3)

Candidates will prepare and defend their proposal for a dissertation based on the plan and format negotiated with the Supervisory Committee. The design for the proposal itself may be commenced at any time.


Dissertation (Minimum credits = 18)

Students are required to write and defend their dissertation in order to graduate from the program. Typically, dissertations are a written work on a singular topic including multiple chapters, such as Introduction, Literature Review, Research Methods, Results, and Discussion/Conclusion. Students will register for CMP 7940 when they are ready to complete their qualifying exam with prior approval from their faculty advisor. 

The doctoral committee will also consider a three discrete paper dissertation option as an exception to this traditional dissertation (in addition to the scholarly paper necessary for the Qualifying Examination). Students pursuing a three-paper dissertation must obtain approval from their committee chair before proceeding.  Students pursuing a three-paper dissertation are also subject to the following rules:

  1. The three papers must be deemed publishable in peer-reviewed journals by a majority of the committee.
  2. It is expected that the three papers will be on related topics, such that they can be placed in a volume with introductory and concluding chapters.
  3. An introductory/methodology chapter must be included framing the three papers and their relationship to one another
  4. A concluding chapter must be included which synthesizes the overall outcomes of the three papers
  5. Co-authorship of the papers in the dissertation is permitted, provided that the student is the first author on all papers and is responsible for the full writing of all of the papers. If it is found that any significant portion of a paper was not written by the student, the committee may prohibit that paper from being included in the dissertation.
  6. All dissertations must conform to the formatting requirements outlined in the Graduate School’s Handbook for Theses and Dissertations (available at: gradschool.utah.edu/thesis). If the three-paper option is selected, then the student must obtain a release from any coauthor(s) and must follow the rules outlined in Appendix B of the Graduate School’s Handbook for Dissertations regarding the use of previously published material.


Applicants are normally expected to have a master degree in or related broadly to the fields of planning, policy, and/or design; but this will not be exclusive. We will have a selective doctoral program drawing students generally in the 60th percentile or higher of peer institutions based on GRE scores. (Consideration will be made that normally GREs are taken for master and not doctoral degree admission. Consideration will also be made of accomplishments since graduate education indicating preparedness for doctoral studies.) The resume, two letters of reference, writing and/or other portfolio samples, statement of interest, presentation of a dissertation topic, and where feasible campus visits will be used to gauge suitability for doctoral work at the University.

The Doctoral Admissions Committee will carefully screen all applications, and all admissions decisions will be made by consensus of the entire faculty. At least one faculty member must agree to supervise any applicant whose record meets admissions requirements before they will receive a formal offer of admission.

Follow the link for more information on admissions.

Student Advisement

Student advisement will be consistent with the established advising practices within the Department of City & Metropolitan Planning for undergraduate and MCMP students. Each doctoral student will be advised by at least one faculty member who will also facilitate financial support during doctoral studies. We will update the Department Graduate Handbook to reflect the doctoral degree.

Program Curriculum

All University graduate students are eligible to take CMP 7000-level courses with instructor approval. Graduate City & Metropolitan Planning students may take such courses as credit toward their degree subject to their approved Program of Study.

The Supervisory Committee will determine which courses are sufficient preparation for dissertation work. It is anticipated that all students will take several courses in planning along with courses outside City & Metropolitan Planning, and that students without an accredited graduate degree in planning may take more. The list is illustrative of how students may tailor doctoral studies, and is subject to change. The categories are not necessarily exclusive; many courses cut across multiple fields.

Continuous Registration

According to the Graduate School policy, “all graduate students must be registered for at least one course from the time of formal admission through completion of all requirements for the degree they are seeking, unless granted an official leave of absence.” The City & Metropolitan Planning department allows that a 1-credit hour course is sufficient to meet this requirement.

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