Academic Policies

The PhD is an academic research degree, awarded by the Graduate Council of the Faculties of the University of Pennsylvania. Accordingly, students in the Wharton Doctoral Programs are also subject to the rules and regulations established by that body.

The Wharton Doctoral Programs report for academic matters to the Faculty of the Wharton School and for administrative matters to the Dean of the Wharton School. Matters relating to standards and policies concerning degree requirements are normally decided by the Wharton Doctoral Executive Committee in consultation with the Wharton Faculty, subject to overall guidance and ultimate governance by the Associate Provost for Graduate Education and as advised by the Graduate Council of Faculties of the University of Pennsylvania.

Academic Standards

Wharton expects the highest quality of scholarship from its doctoral candidates, and your performance is reviewed at the end of each academic year. Students with less than a B average for all courses taken in that 12-month period (including final grades or incompletes from previous work) must submit a written statement in support of his or her continuation in the program, to be reviewed by the student’s program coordinator and the Doctoral Programs Office. Failure to initiate a written appeal results in an automatic withdrawal from the program by the start of the next academic year.

You are given two opportunities to pass the preliminary examinations. An appeal for a third attempt can be made by following the procedure described in the Wharton School Doctoral Programs: Policies and Procedures, a supplementary publication for matriculated students. Individual departmental graduate programs may impose more stringent requirements.

Time Limits

The Doctor of Philosophy degree normally requires 3 to 5 years of full-time study. Entry into the program is only possible in the fall semester. After entry, you take course work as necessary to prepare for admission to candidacy. You are admitted to candidacy upon the successful completion of course requirements, your preliminary examinations, and a seminar in communication and teaching skills. In all of the School’s programs, the preliminary examinations must be completed at least one year prior to the defense of the dissertation.

You must complete all the requirements for admission to candidacy within 5 years of the date of admission into the program (excluding leaves of absence). Once admitted to candidacy, you must complete your dissertation requirement within the 5 years following. After admission to a program, you must either be registered for courses or dissertation work or be on an approved leave of absence. Leaves of absence are granted, under extenuating circumstances, only to students in good academic standing who have not yet been admitted to candidacy. Those who are not on an approved leave and who have not registered for any one semester will be considered to have withdrawn from the program.

Wharton Authorship Policy for Doctoral Student-Faculty Collaboration

At the Wharton School, all students work with faculty on research. Before initiating joint research activities, the faculty member and the student should have a clear understanding of how authorship credit on any papers that arise from their research will be determined. The disciplinary standards, styles, and procedures for credit, for the order of authors’ names, and for acknowledgment footnotes vary across Wharton’s doctoral programs and across the research centers and schools in which its faculty and students participate. Therefore, there cannot be a single set of rules or procedures.

The key element of the policy is a statement of expectations by the faculty member and agreement by the student at the start of the research. The actual expectations and policies must be mutually agreeable and, if they are not, the student or faculty member should decline collaboration. When roles and expectations change over the course of collaboration, the understanding concerning authorship should be discussed again and altered if necessary. If disputes arise, the process for resolution outlined in the Graduate School rules and procedures should be followed.

Teacher Development Program (TDP)

All PhD candidates in the Wharton Doctoral Programs are required to participate in a Teacher Development Program (TDP). The TDP is made up of two parts.

The first part, conducted in the first semester of classes in the student’s first year, is a ½ day work shop on communication skills that is meant to both educate the doctoral student and make him/her aware of areas needed improvement. This workshop is mandatory and is part of the introduction to the Wharton Doctoral Programs.

The second part, a four-module TDP workshop, enables doctoral students to improve their presentation skills, with the intent of improving academic job placement. In particular, most students will use TDP to help improve their academic job talks when going on the job market.

Doctoral students are encouraged to participate in the four-module workshop in their 3rd year or later, but in some cases departments may wish to have their second year students take it. Occasionally, waivers for the four-module workshop may be granted by a doctoral program coordinator under the following conditions:

  • Significant prior college-level teaching experience (does not include current TA experience)
  • Recognized teaching awards
  • Accredited courses in pedagogy

The department waiver, if granted must be registered in writing with the Wharton Doctoral office.

SPEAK Test

International students who are accepted into the program and whose first language is not English may be required to take the SPEAK test offered through the English Language Programs office.

This test is used to determine/confirm a student’s fluency in English. If test results indicate a student would benefit from additional language instruction, arrangements will be made for summer class work and tutoring. Students will be expected to complete this additional work to ensure their proficiency in written and spoken English in professional settings.

Policies and Procedures in Detail

Download the Wharton School Doctoral Programs: Policies and Procedures (PDF) for a more detailed explanation of course requirements, academic standards, the Teacher Development Program, time limits, and dissertation procedures and requirements.