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Programs in International and Comparative Education
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College
Columbia University
Description of Program Requirements > Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) [Comparative International Education Only]

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) [Comparative International Education Only]

Description of the Doctorate in Philosophy (Ph.D.) Program Requirements

Comparative and International Education (CIE – code: COMP)

Download IED/CIE 2009-2010 General Student Course Guide (PDF)
Download IED/CIE Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree including the Course Planning Worksheet for Ph.D. students (PDF)


1. Coursework (at least 75 graduate level points, including up to 30 transferred credits). Students are encouraged to use the “Course Planning Worksheet for Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Students” to plan out all coursework.

  • Ph.D. coursework falls into four broad areas:
    • Area 1: Core Courses (9 credits)
      • ITSF 6580: Advanced Seminar in Comparative Education
      • ITSF 6581: Advanced Seminar in International Educational Development
      • Choose 1 other ITSF course (approved by the advisor)
    • Area 2: Concentration in an Academic Discipline (at least 30 credits)
      • Courses counting towards the concentration must be advisor-approved.
      • Many of these courses may be taken at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS).
      • This area may include discipline-based research methods (note that Ph.D. students must have at least 12 credits of research methods courses).
      • In some cases, transferred credits may be applied in this area.
    • Area 3: Comparative Education/Transcultural/Area Studies (at least 18 credits)
      • The majority of these course will come from the ITS department
      • This area may include research methods (note that Ph.D. students must have at least 12 credits of research methods courses).
      • Transferred credits may be applied in this area.
    • Area 4: Non-Major Foundations/Electives (at least 18 credits)
      • This includes courses taken outside the primary program of study.
      • Transferred credits may be applied in this area.
  •  Advisement: It is the student’s responsibility to meet with his/her main advisor and have all coursework approved. It is recommended that students meet with the advisor at least once at the beginning of each semester to discuss course offerings and receive approval of all study plans.
  • Choosing courses: It is recommended that students sit in on different courses during the first two weeks of any semester. For suggestions of courses, students may ask the main advisor or the IED/CIE Program Assistant. Also, speaking with fellow students is a good way to learn about courses being offered.
  • Registering for courses: Students may add or drop courses until the date posted by the Registrar (refer to the TC Academic Calendar) through the online Student Information System using the PIN number. Students can obtain the PIN from the IED/CIE Program Assistant at Orientation or from the Registrar.
  • Courses Outside of TC: All courses taken outside TC are subject to the tuition rates of the school offering the course. Consult the Registrar for current rates and for instruction on how to register for courses outside TC but within CU. Please see the TC Catalogue for information about taking courses through the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium.
  • Transfer credit: A maximum of 30 credits may be transferred from other recognized institutions. Only graduate courses which have been (1) completed with grades of B or higher, (2) submitted on an official transcript from a regionally accredited institution, and (3) granted/assigned credit on the transcript of that institution, may be considered for transfer credit. Transfer credit is awarded at the discretion of the faculty advisor. After registering for the first semester, students should obtain and fill out an Advanced Standing Review (ASR) application from the Admissions Office and return it to the Admissions Office. Transcripts will be evaluated and sent to the IED/CIE Program Assistant, who will then contact the student with further instructions to pick it up from the IED/CIE Program Assistant, meet with the advisor, and return the ASR to the IED/CIE Program Assistant. The entire process can take several months.
  • Full v. part-time status and Certificates of Equivalency (COE): Part-time status is the equivalent of 6-11 credits. Full-time status is the equivalent of 12 or more credits. Part-time students who require full-time certification (for such reasons as funding/financial aid, international student status, dissertation fieldwork) may file a Certificate of Equivalency form. This must be signed by the student’s advisor and may be obtained online or in person from the Registrar.
  • Languages: Only graduate-level language courses at an advanced level of proficiency count towards the degree. These require approval from the advisor and from the Registrar. No more than six credits of language courses can be used towards a graduate degree.

2. Departmental certification examination

  • Students must register for the exam with ODS during the first week of the semester. The exam is offered twice per year, in October and February. Students have two chances to pass the exam and may refer to the “Ed.D/Ph.D” page on the IED/CIE website for more information. 

3. Specialization examination

  • Each discipline has different examination requirements. Students must register for the exam with ODS during the first week of the semester and should consult the main advisor for more information.

4. Defense of a dissertation proposal

  • The dissertation proposal requires two readers. The advisor/sponsor is the first reader, and students are responsible for finding a second reader appropriate for the concentration.
  • Students should register for ITSF 7500 during the semester of the proposal hearing. Please note that students are liable for dissertation advisement fees (ITSF 8900) in every semester following registration for ITSF 7500.
  • Students are responsible for making arrangements with the two readers for the proposal hearing. Students should fill out the “Dissertation Proposal Hearing Report,” available from the ODS website. After a successful hearing, this form needs to be signed by both readers and the department chair. A copy should be submitted to the IED/CIE program office and the original should be turned in to ODS.
  • After a successful proposal hearing, students must submit an application to TC’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) for the research project. Please refer to the TC IRB website for more information. Once approved, copies of the IRB approval letter must be filed with the IED/CIE program office and ODS.

5. Foreign Language Examinations

  • Ph.D. students are required to pass two proficiency exams in foreign languages. Examinations are usually arranged through the appropriate language department at Columbia University.
  • One of these examinations may be replaced by receiving a passing grade for two of the following statistics courses offered at TC: HUDM 4122 (Probability and Statistical Inference), HUDM 5122 (Applied Regression Analysis), HUDM 5123 (Experimental Design).

6. Program Plan and Statement of Total Program

  • Download the documents, "Instructions for Completing the Ph.D. Course Program Plan" and "Ph.D. Course Program Plan Form" from the ODS website. Students should complete the Program Plan and obtain the advisor's signature on the form. This should be done by the time of the proposal hearing.
  • Download the document, "Statement of Total Program for Ph.D. students" from the ODS website. Students should complete a written statement of the total program. Students should obtain the advisor's signature on the Statement and submit it to ODS together with the completed and signed Program Plan.

7. M.Phil. Certification

  • Once students have 1) completed most of the required coursework, 2) passed the department exam, the specialization exam, and the proposal hearing, 3) passed the foreign language examinations, 4) received IRB approval for the dissertation research, and 5) submitted the approved program plan and statement of total program, students are eligible for M.Phil. certification. This process must be completed through the IED/CIE program office with the assistance of the IED/CIE program assistant.

8. Fieldwork Outside of the United States

  • Students who are conducting fieldwork outside of the United States may register for ITSF 6200 for one or two semesters. This is a 0-credit, no fee course.

9. Preparation and defense of a research dissertation

  • After taking ITSF 7500, all Ph.D. candidates are required to register continuously for ITSF 8900 and pay a fee in the term in which the dissertation is defended. Students who are not going to receive advisement may submit a “Waiver for Dissertation Advisement” to ODS. Students may instead register for 6000 and file a Certificate of Equivalency with the Registrar.
  • Students may also refer to the document "General Instructions for the Preparation of Dissertations for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy" downloadable from the ODS website for more information on dissertation preparation.