Show The Graduate Center Menu

Exams & Dissertation

First Examination

Upon completion of the five courses students will be expected to pass the First Examination. They must take all parts of the examination before completing 30 credits in the program (excluding transfer credits) and may not continue in the program beyond 45 credits until they have passed all parts of the First Exam. The First Examination covers the same general topics as the required core courses, including an announced list of specific readings drawn from the core course bibliographies.

Second Examination

The second examination will consist of: 1) a two hour oral examination taken during the final semester of course work and 2) a second evaluation activity prior to the oral examination consisting of either a written assignment and/or formal scheduled meetings with the faculty sponsor. Under special conditions, by request of both student and sponsor, and approved by the Executive Committee, the Second Examination may be scheduled up to two semesters following the completion of the student’s course work.

Procedurally, the student names a faculty sponsor by the end of the first month of the semester preceding the last semester of course work. The faculty sponsor and the student negotiate the choice of two other members for the examination committee, develop reading lists in concert with those faculty members, and agree on a procedure for administering and meeting the requirements of the examination. They also set a tentative date for the oral examination and any other deadlines and conditions. A written plan for the examination, the reading lists, and list of faculty committee members should be submitted to the Executive Officer by November 15 or April 15 of the semester before taking the examination.

Second Examination Committee  

Sponsor (tentative dissertation advisor) must be an appointed Urban Education faculty member. One additional member of the committee must be an appointed Urban Education faculty member. The third member of the committee need not be a member of the Urban Education faculty, though he or she must be an appointed member of the doctoral faculty. According to Graduate Center rules, “…at least three members of the dissertation defense committee must be members of The Graduate Center doctoral faculty” (p.34). Additional members beyond the first three may come from faculty not appointed to the Graduate Center or who teach outside CUNY, but they must possess a Ph.D. and submit a c.v. for approval. Approval of committee rests with the EO with questionable cases brought to Executive Committee for a vote.


The student is advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree after completing:

  • all  program requirements
  • passing all parts of the Second Examination

Examples of anticipated areas of research for student dissertations include: 1) systemic renewal of urban education, 2) including teacher education, 3) new information and communication technologies in education, 4) issues of language, representational media, and cultural diversity in urban education, and 5) mobilization of urban resources to prepare all students for full participation in global society.

Dissertation Oral Examination

The Ph.D. is awarded after the dissertation has been approved by the committee and has been successfully defended by the student in an oral examination.