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M.A., M.S. and Ph.D. with a Major in Interdisciplinary Studies


To articulate preadmission procedures for the M.A., M.S. and Ph.D. with a major in Interdisciplinary Studies

Applies to: 

Graduate students

Policy Statement: 

Only superior students admitted and enrolled in a graduate program at KU whose proposed studies require direction not available in any single department are considered for admission to an Interdisciplinary Studies program. Before seeking acceptance, an applicant must assemble a graduate faculty advisory committee headed by a faculty member authorized to direct master’s research (for MA or MS in Interdisciplinary Studies), doctoral research and dissertations (for Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies). The applicant, in conjunction with the committee, must prepare a proposal for the course of study. The proposal must provide a rationale for the particular mix of disciplines, demonstrating how each contributes to a central theme or focus. It must also show that the proposed program cannot be achieved through an established master’s or doctoral program at KU.


The student seeking to enter the Interdisciplinary Studies program must have an outstanding academic record (a grade-point average of 3.75 or higher on a 4.0 scale for graduate courses or a grade-point average of 3.5 or higher on a 4.0 scale for undergraduate courses if no graduate courses have been taken) and must be admitted to and enrolled in a graduate program at KU at the time of application. A graduate student who has failed to maintain the required grade-point average is not eligible for the Interdisciplinary Studies program. A student is not eligible for this program if the student has tried and failed to achieve candidacy in a regular graduate department or program at KU.

The student is expected to assume the initiative in determining potential eligibility through consultation with graduate advisors and, if deemed eligible, in forming an advisory committee and preparing documentation to support the application.


Preadmission Procedures. To enter the program, a student should

  1. Determine that KU offers courses and research in the areas appropriate to the student’s interest(s).
  2. Prepare a tentative study plan based on those offerings to serve as a basis for initial discussion.
  3. Approach a professor whose interests are comparable to those of the student and request that the professor acts as an advisor. Normally this professor is a faculty member of the program of principal interest to the student. To grant an MA or MS in Interdisciplinary Studies, it is essential that the school has the authority to grant master’s degrees. To grant a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies, it is essential that the school has the authority to grant doctoral degrees. The selected professor must be a full member of the graduate faculty and authorized to chair doctoral dissertation committees for Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies.
  4. After a professor agrees to serve as advisor, the student should assemble an advisory committee of at least three additional professors representing the disciplines covered in the Interdisciplinary program. At least two disciplines or departments must be represented.
  5. In conjunction with the advisor and the committee, the student prepares a proposal for study, including
    • A statement, with supporting documentation, that the proposed Interdisciplinary Studies program cannot be accomplished through established programs.
    • A statement of the interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary nature of the proposed area of study.
    • A definition of the field of study incorporating in a consistent way a description of the contribution of each included discipline to the broader field.
    • An outline of the course of study, indicating substantive work in the fields represented. Readings courses and independent study do not substitute for regular courses.
    • A description of the method for satisfying research skills and responsible scholarship requirements.
    • A description of the comprehensive examination procedures for the Ph.D. (nature of the examinations and possible examining committee) or final examination for the M.A./M.S.
    • A description, to the extent possible, of the nature of the field in which a dissertation or master’s thesis might be written, indicating the respective contributions of the selected disciplines to the final product.
    • Attach the following: (i) complete transcripts of all previous work, a cover sheet, signed by committee members, indicating their support of the proposal, (iii) letters of recommendation and other appropriate supporting documents.


Note: The diploma indicates the degree awarded as “M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies” “M.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies” or “Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies”, and does not specify the area of specialization.

The transcript notes area of specialization as determined by the admissions committee.


Admission and Review Procedure. Upon completion of the above, the student must submit the application for admission into the Interdisciplinary Studies program to the Vice Provost of Graduate Studies in Research and Graduate Studies. The Vice Provost of Graduate Studies appoints an admission committee consisting of (a) the Associate Vice Provost of Graduate Studies or Associate Vice Provost’s designate for the school most involved in the interdisciplinary undertaking (the school in which the major advisor resides), (b) two or more doctoral chairing faculty members from unrelated fields, including at least one member of the Executive Council of the Graduate Faculty, and (c) the chair or director of graduate studies of the department in which the student resides at time of application. The Vice Provost of Graduate Studies serves as ex officio chair of the Interdisciplinary Studies admissions committee. The committee reviews the documents and may, if necessary, interview the student and the advisor for clarification and additional information or to discuss suggested revisions to the proposal.


Approved Program Implementation. Upon acceptance of the proposal and admission to the Interdisciplinary Studies program, the student is admitted to the school of the major advisor to facilitate record keeping and to provide a central administrative office. The Associate Vice Provost or Director of Graduate Studies of that school must enroll the student and monitor the program and, along with the major advisor, must make annual reports to Graduate Studies on the student’s progress. These reports are distributed to the directors of other involved programs along with a request to supply any additional information regarding the student’s performance. Proposals for major deviations from the approved course of study must be submitted for review by Graduate Studies and by the graduate studies office of the school in which the student resides. It is understood that no additional requirements unique to traditional graduate programs of the school(s) or departments may be imposed unless stated explicitly in the approved study plan.


Once approved, changes to the program plan must be approved by a Graduate Studies committee, appointed by the Vice Provost of Graduate Studies. Significant curricular changes may require a new proposal and admissions process.


All basic rules and requirements for the Master of Arts, Master of Science, and Doctor of Philosophy degree apply to Interdisciplinary Studies programs. These include program time constraints, residence requirement, post-comprehensive enrollment, final examinations, research skills and responsible scholarship requirements, dissertation submission and publication, grade-point average, etc. Also see Graduate Studies’ policies on Master’s Degree Requirements and Doctoral Degree Requirements.


Office of Graduate Studies


Approved by: 
Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
Approved on: 
Friday, March 18, 2011
Effective on: 
Friday, April 1, 2011
Review Cycle: 
Annual (As Needed)
Interdisciplinary Studies, Graduate Studies
Change History: 

06/25/2020: Changed Dean of Graduate Studies to Vice Provost of Graduate Studies.
07/20/2016: Updated to remove gendered pronouns.
01/30/2015: Updated formatting.
06/10/2013: Policy uploaded into Policy Library.

Academic Categories: 
Academic Programs
Graduation & Degrees

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