Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Handbook

This handbook is your guide throughout your Doctoral program in Music for Musicology and Music Theory. Use this document with the School of Music online catalog, and the School of Music Academic Services Resources.

Student Responsibilities

You are expected to know the requirements of your program as found in this handbook and the online Academic Catalog for the year you begin your studies. You are responsible for knowing the policies and procedures that govern your advancement through the program. Not knowing about a requirement does not excuse you from meeting that requirement.

COVID-19 Information

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought new challenges for graduate students, faculty, and programs. While this handbook lays out the standard policies that govern your doctoral program, you can expect that some of these policies will be adapted to meet the realities of pursuing a graduate degree during a pandemic. You are also responsible for knowing the adapted policies and procedures. As policies change, you will be notified by email. In addition, adapted policies will be posted to the following pages, though you are encouraged to reach out to the Graduate Student Services Coordinator if you are ever in doubt:

Official Communication

Your KU email address is the official means of communication for all KU students. Check your “spam” or “junk” folder regularly to ensure you are receiving all important communications. For more email information see KU Information Technology: Email.

Table of Contents


Course enrollment is accomplished online. Enrollment instructions are found at KU Registrar: Enrollmnet. Check your Enroll and Pay Student Information Center for exact dates and times. They are posted in March for Summer and Fall continuing student enrollment and in October for Spring continuing student enrollment. Also use this link if you are a new student enrolling for the first time.

Courses at the 500 level or above are graduate level courses and will count toward your graduate GPA but may not count towards your degree. At least 50% of your credit hours must be earned in courses at the 700 level or above.

Your advisorYour major professor is the primary advisor for your degree program. The advising schedule, academic calendar, enrollment deadlines, fees, and additional information to assist you and your advisor can be found at Office of the Registrar and resources for academic services. Music Theory, Composition, and Musicology majors will be assigned an advisor by the area.
Full-time statusFull-time enrollment for Fall and Spring semesters is:
  • Enrollment in 9 credit hours,
  • Enrollment in 6 credit hours plus a GTA regardless of percentage of appointment.

Full-time enrollment for Summer semester is:

  • Enrollment in 6 credits hours,
  • Enrollment in 3 credit hours plus a GTA regardless of percentage of appointment.

Full-time status might be required by the rules and regulations governing student loan deferments, scholarships and fellowships, and foreign student visas (F-1 and J-1).

Maximum/Minimum number of creditsYou may enroll in a maximum of 16 credits in the fall and spring semesters and 8 credits during the summer session. If you must enroll in more than the maximum number of credits, a Schedule Change Form is required. If you are NOT required to have full-time status there is no required minimum number of credits. Doctoral Candidates should take note of the post-comprehensive enrollment requirements found in the Graduate Studies Policy Library. 
Late enrollment

To avoid late enrollment fees, you must enroll BEFORE the first day of classes. Enrollment information, including the enrollment schedule, is found on the registrar’s website, KU Registrar: Enrollment. Late enrollment begins at 12:00 a.m. on the first instructional day of the Fall, Spring and Summer semesters.

If you enroll AFTER the first week of classes, you must obtain a Petition to Late Enroll form from the Graduate Student Services office, 446 Murphy, complete it with appropriate signatures, and submit it to the Registrar’s office. Enrollment after the 20th day of classes is only permitted in rare cases, by completing a FacEx Appeal.

International student enrollmentInternational students must be particularly aware of the rules and regulations regarding their visa status. International students should contact the International Support Services (ISS) office when enrolling, dropping or adding classes, reducing full-time enrollment, changing their degree program, taking a leave of absence, or withdrawing from the university. U.S. (Federal) laws govern your student visa status, and you must be fully aware of them as you proceed through your degree program.
Leave of absenceYou may request a leave of absence in cases of illness, emergency, to pursue family responsibilities, or to pursue activities related to long-range professional goals. The time taken for a leave of absence does not count against your degree program time constraints (see Graduate Studies Policy). Taking a leave of absence is highly encouraged over not enrolling and being discontinued by the University. Students are allowed a maximum of three 1-year Leaves of Absence.
Updated Fall 2021

A leave of absence is granted for no more than 1 year at a time. To begin a leave of absence, you must submit the Leave of Absence (LOA) Request form to the Graduate Student Services Coordinator in 446 Murphy requesting a leave of absence, stating the reason for the leave, and for which semester(s). Your advisor must approve your request. The first request for a leave of absence is automatically granted. Subsequent requests must be submitted to the Committee on Graduate Studies in Music (COGSIM) for approval. Progress toward completing your degree will be considered in granting further Leaves of Absence.

International students must work with an ISS counselor if they are planning to request a leave of absence. Depending on your situation, there may be additional documents you must submit.

Retroactive withdrawal from coursesThe School of Music does not allow, under any circumstances, retroactive withdrawal by graduate students, either for a whole semester or for individual courses.
Degree checklist / Program of study

Degree Progress Check Sheets/Programs of Study are available online at Doctor of Philosophy Degree (PhD). The check sheet has the minimum required coursework and credits for your degree. Using this sheet with your advisor allows you to plan your entire program from beginning (Diagnostic Exams) to end (Doctoral Final Oral Exam). You may request an updated copy of the degree check sheet kept in your folder from the Graduate Student Services office, in 446 Murphy. Student check sheets are updated in your file annually using the advising report found in the myKU portal.

Re-admission for returning graduate students

A student who has been actively enrolled in a degree-seeking graduate program but has not been enrolled for one academic year (three consecutive semesters, including summer) or less, may be eligible to use the Permit to Re-enroll form.

A student who has been actively enrolled in a degree-seeking program and has not enrolled for four or more consecutive semesters (including summer) without an approved Leave of Absence is not eligible to use the Permit to Re-enroll form and must re-apply for Graduate admission, including a possible audition. In this case, you would be admitted as a new student and additional requirements may be in effect.

If you were not enrolled during the Spring or Fall semester preceding your return, you must contact the Graduate Student Services Coordinator to determine the correct procedure for returning to your degree program.

Enrollment during your final semester

University policy states that you must be enrolled in at least 1 credit during the semester you are graduating or the semester prior if meeting the early deadline. This includes the summer term.

Enrollment grace periodThere is an enrollment “grace period.” If you meet all degree requirements, which includes passing your Final Exam and submitting written documents, by the end of the first two weeks of the Fall or Spring semester (or the end of the first week of the Summer semester), you do not have to enroll, but will graduate that semester. You must have been enrolled in at least one credit the previous semester.


Graduate Studies uses the “ABCDF” system of grading. The School of Music also uses a “+/-” system. For coursework in thesis, dissertation, lecture-recital with document, or document alone, the letter grade “P” (Progress) is used instead of “I” (Incomplete) to indicate acceptable progress until the document has been completed and a final grade of A-F is submitted. “P” grades are not included in the computation of your grade point average, and they cannot be changed to a letter grade after the semester they are taken.

A grade of B- or below in a course in your major area is not acceptable and will not meet degree requirements. For all other courses, a grade of C- or below is not considered a passing grade and will not carry graduate credit or fulfill a degree requirement but will be counted towards your graduate GPA unless students elect to enroll Credit/No Credit for the course.

Incomplete grade policy

The grades “W” and “I” may be given. The letter “I” indicates incomplete work that may be completed without re-enrollment in the course (generally within one year). The letter “W” indicates withdrawal for which no credit or grade point is assigned. “WG” is used when no grade has been given by the class instructor and means “waiting for grade.”

A student who has an “I” posted for a course must make up the work by the date determined by the instructor, in consultation with the student, which may not exceed 1 calendar year, or the last day of the term of graduation, whichever comes first. An “I” not removed within a year is automatically converted to a grade of “F” or to the lapse grade assigned by the course instructor. The grade of F or the lapse grade will be included in the transcripts and GPA.

Extensions to the time limit may be granted by the dean’s representative upon submission of a petition from the student containing the endorsement of the course instructor who assigned the “I” grade, or the area coordinator if the instructor is unavailable. After the “I” grade is converted to a grade of “F,” the grade may only be changed in accordance with USRR Article II, Section 3.

It is your responsibility to make certain that all Incompletes have been replaced with a letter grade by your final semester. You may not take your oral comprehensive exam with Incompletes on your academic record.

Credit/No creditYou may elect to be graded with Credit (CR) or No Credit (NC) instead of ABCDF under certain circumstances. For graduate students, the grade of CR will be recorded for a grade of C or above, a grade of NC for a grade of C- or below. Courses graded CR/NC will not satisfy degree requirements in School of Music graduate programs and still require tuition and fees be paid.
GPA and academic probation

You must maintain at least a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA) in all coursework in your major area and you must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 for all graduate-level courses. If your cumulative GPA falls below 3.0, you will be placed on academic probation. You must raise your GPA to 3.0 or above by the end of the following semester (probationary period) to be returned to regular status.

If you have not raised your GPA to 3.0 by the end of the semester of probation, you will not be allowed to re-enroll in coursework and will be dismissed, unless the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs acts favorably on a recommendation from the faculty members in your area that you continue in graduate study on continued probation.

Transfer credits

At the doctoral level, credits do not transfer per se. Prior coursework may be taken into consideration when developing a course of study with your advisor. The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs must approve any credits being considered.

Tuition and Fees

Graduate students are assessed the standard resident or non-resident graduate tuition rate for every credit in which they are enrolled, including undergraduate credits. Music classes carry an additional course fee which, like tuition, is assessed per credit hour. If you have a Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA), the tuition and course fees are waived at the percentage stated in your GTA contract.

All graduate students pay required campus fees. Lawrence campus fees are assessed per credit hour if you are enrolled in fewer than 6 credits. If you are enrolled in 6 or more credit hours, you will pay the flat rate. The School of Music GTA does not cover campus fees. Tuition and fee information, including the current rates, can be found at KU Financial Aid & Scholarships, and on the Registrar’s Comprehensive Fee Schedule.

Refunds for dropped classes

The longer you remain enrolled in a course, the lower your refund will be if you decide to drop the course. Check the Registrar’s Office website, for the academic calendar that provides deadlines for dropping classes and the refund rate. You may drop courses online up to the last day to drop. After that date, you may only drop if you complete a FacEx Appeal and it is approved.

Financial Support

Graduate Studies funding opportunities

The KU Office of Graduate Studies offers a limited number of fellowships, travel funds, and scholarships to assist academically superior students. Summer fellowships are available to currently enrolled Doctoral students. Only one or two students may be nominated for each award. Nominations are made by the area coordinator, who submits the nomination packet electronically to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. Let your area coordinator know if you are interested in being nominated. Application forms are available on the Graduate Studies website in late December or early January. Information on the application and nomination process is also on: KU Graduate Studies.

Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTAs)

Graduate teaching assistantships (GTAs) are offered in ensembles, musicology, music theory and composition, music education and therapy, and in many areas of performance. Normally, a GTA can be renewed for a maximum of 16 semesters while working on a Doctoral degree.

To be considered for a graduate teaching assistantship, complete a GTA application, available on the Student Academic Resources page, resources for academic services. Applications are due in the Graduate Student Services office, 446 Murphy, by March 1. Speak with your advisor or area coordinator about available GTAs or about seeking reappointment for your current GTA. Students seeking a GTA outside of the School of Music should work directly with the hiring department in that area.

Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA) tuition waivers

GTA tuition waivers are as follows:
• 40% appointment is 100% tuition and course fee waiver
• 30% appointment is 75% tuition and course fee waiver
• 20% appointment is 50% tuition and course fee waiver
• 10% appointment is 25% tuition and course fee waiver

There is complete information regarding GTAs and the benefits that come with them at this website: KU Policy: Benefits for Graduate Research Assistants, Graduate Teaching Assistants, and Graduate Assistants. It explains what is covered for each level of appointment.


A small number of music scholarships are available for graduate students. Please speak with your area coordinator about what is available to you.

School of Music Student Opportunity funds

The School of Music provides funds to support travel for the professional development of students and to increase the visibility of its academic programs. These funds are for students participating in national and regional conferences in which they perform, present papers, or hold workshops. The funds also support students invited to perform or present at other regional, national, or international venues. To request School of Music opportunity funds, please complete the School of Music Opportunity Fund - Student Travel Reimbursement Request form.

Graduate Diagnostic Examinations

First-year students in all MM (except MM-Opera), DMA, PhD-Theory, and PhD-Musicology programs are required to take the School’s graduate diagnostic exams immediately before the first semester of enrollment. A student who received a bachelor’s or master’s degree from KU within the last 4 years is exempt from this requirement. Students’ enrollment in School of Music coursework may be cancelled if the diagnostic exams are not taken.

Diagnostic exam gradingEach section is evaluated as Satisfactory (S), Review (R), or Deficient (D). If Satisfactory (S), no remedial work is required. If you receive a Review (R), you are strongly encouraged to review the material on your own before your oral exams. If Deficient (D), you must remediate the deficiency.
Diagnostic retakesDiagnostic exams that are failed can be retaken only once, and only immediately before the second semester of enrollment. Extenuating circumstances will be considered. A score of Deficient on a re-take requires that the student take the review class and pass with a grade of C or better.
Remediation of diagnostic deficiencies

If a student fails one or more of the diagnostic areas on the first administration of the diagnostic exam, the student either (a) passes the diagnostic exam in the failed areas on the second administration, or (b) earns a grade of C or better in the appropriate courses listed below to clear the deficiency.

Deficiencies must be remediated as soon as possible, preferably by the end of the second semester of enrollment and at the latest by the end of the third semester. If a student has not cleared all deficiencies by the end of the third semester of enrollment, enrollment in subsequent coursework will not be allowed.

The above is the only avenue for students to clear deficiencies. Independent study is not permissible, nor will diagnostic exams be made available to students outside of the opportunities scheduled before each fall and spring semester.

Musicology diagnostic exam and review courses

Musicology diagnostic exams will cover 6 historical periods:

  • Medieval
  • Classical
  • Renaissance
  • Romantic
  • Baroque
  • 20th-21st Century

The examination includes essay questions; identification of terms, titles and names, and identification of stylistic traits in recorded examples.

Six independent 400-level review courses will be offered each academic year. These courses do not count toward your degree and are for remediation of deficiencies only.

MUSC 474: Graduate Review: Medieval (1 credit; offered 1st third of the semester)
MUSC 475: Graduate Review: Renaissance (1 credit; offered 2nd third of the semester)
MUSC 476: Graduate Review: Baroque (1 credit; offered 3rd third of the semester)

MUSC 477: Graduate Review: Classic (1 credit; offered 1st third of the semester)
MUSC 478: Graduate Review: Romantic (1 credit; offered 2nd third of the semester)
MUSC 479: Graduate Review: 20th-21st Century (1 credit; offered 3rd third of the semester)

Textbooks appropriate for review include:

  • Mark Evan Bonds, A History of Music In Western Culture
  • Richard L. Crocker, A History of Musical Style
  • J. Peter Burkholder, Donald J. Grout, and Claude V. Palisca, A History of Western Music
  • David Poultney, Studying Music History: Learning, Reasoning, and Writing about Music History and Literature
  • Douglass Seaton, Ideas and Styles in the Western Musical Tradition
  • K. Marie Stolba, The Development of Western Music: A History
Music Theory diagnostic exam and review courses

Music Theory diagnostic exams will cover five areas:

  • Harmony
  • Aural Skills
  • Form
  • 20th Century
  • 18th Century Counterpoint (for Piano, Organ, Church Music, Music Theory, Musicology, and Composition majors only)

See Graduate Music Theory Diagnostic Exam Practice for a practice theory diagnostic exam.

Four independent 400-level review courses will be offered each academic year. These courses do not count toward your degree and are for remediation only.

MTHC 400: Graduate Review: Written Theory (1 credit; offered first 8 weeks)
MTHC 402: Graduate Review: Aural Skills (1 credit; offered second 8 weeks)

MTHC 404: Graduate Review: Form (1 credit; offered first 8 weeks)
MTHC 406: Graduate Review: 20th Century (1 credit; offered second 8 weeks)

Textbooks appropriate for review include:
Aural Skills

  • Joe Phillips, Paul Murphy, Jane Piper Clendinning, and Elizabeth West Marvin, The Musician’s Guide to Aural Skills, Volumes 1 & 2
  • Free website: has ear training practice tests

Tonal Theory

  • Jane Piper Clendinning and Elizabeth West Marvin, The Musician’s Guide to Theory and Analysis

Post-tonal Theory

  • Stefan Kostka, Materials and Techniques of Twentieth-Century Music
  • Joseph Straus, Introduction to Post-Tonal Theory


  • William Caplin, William, Classical Form: A Theory of Formal Functions for the Instrumental Music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven

18th Century Counterpoint

  • Robert Gauldin, A Practical Approach to 18th Century Counterpoint

Literature diagnostic exam for piano students

(Updated fall 2020)

All new piano graduate students must take a piano literature diagnostic exam assessing knowledge of keyboard literature from 1300 to the present day. A student who received a bachelor’s or master’s degree in piano from KU within the last 4 years is exempt from this requirement. Students who do not pass this exam are required to satisfy the deficiency by enrolling in PIAN 743, PIAN 744, PIAN 746, and/or PIAN 747, as recommended by the Piano Area Coordinator. If you have questions regarding the Piano Literature Diagnostic Exam or want further information, contact the Piano Area Coordinator.

Degree Requirements

YOU are responsible for knowing your degree requirements. The faculty and staff of the School of Music are here to assist you in any way they can, but the timely completion of your degree depends on you.

Residency RequirementAccording to Graduate Studies policy, doctoral students must complete a minimum program engagement equivalent to two full-time semesters. This may be accomplished through either of the following:

Summer enrollment is not required to maintain registration, but summer enrollments may be counted toward the 18 part-time pre-comprehensive hours. The time spent in attaining the master’s degree at KU may also count toward this enrollment requirement, at the program’s discretion. The various programs of study for the school’s doctoral degrees prescribe a minimum number of coursework credits and other degree requirements. Relevant prior graduate coursework may be taken into consideration when developing programs of study.

The course of study in each major field is found in the online catalog at KU Academic Catalog: School of Music. Please obtain an updated copy of your degree sheet from the Graduate Student Services Coordinator to complete your Plan of Study.

New Fall 2021

NOTE: Any requested change to a faculty-approved degree program must come before the Committee on Graduate Studies in Music (COGSIM) as a student petition. This includes, but is not limited to, changes in required credits, courses, or policies.

Adding a master’s degree while pursuing a PhD


New Fall 2021

If a PhD student chooses to add on an additional Master’s degree while pursuing their doctorate, they should complete the Internal Graduate Application (for multiple Graduate Degrees) form (no additional fee) and be aware of the following:

  1. The student will be required to complete 18 new credits toward the added Master’s degree while pursuing a Doctoral degree.
  2. Credits taken for the optional Doctoral cognate may be used for the added Master’s degree if these credits are not already being used to fulfill a Doctoral degree requirement (e.g., MTHC credits for a theory cognate).
  3. The Master’s advisor has the prerogative to assign elective credits to the two degrees as they see fit.
  4. 6 of the 12 MTHC or MUSC credits required for the Doctoral degree can be used to meet the requirements for the added Master’s degree. An additional 3 credits must be taken to complete the 9 credits of MTHC or MUSC required for any of the School’s Master’s degrees.
  5. If the 3 credits for MUSC 801: Music Bibliography and Research have been waived for the Doctoral degree, they are waived for the added Master’s degree.
Doctoral degree program time constraint:

All Doctoral degrees must be completed by 8 years from the time of enrollment in doctoral coursework. Students may petition for a one-year extension beyond the 8-year requirement. Petitions for extensions go to the Committee on Graduate Studies in Music (COGSIM).

Language requirements:

Some music degree programs have a language requirement. Examine your Program of Study sheet for the specific language requirements and discuss them with your advisor.

ElectivesElective hours can be selected from any music or non-music courses. Elective courses must be at the graduate level (500 or above) to count toward the degree and approved by your advisor.
MUSC 801: Research and Bibliography

MUSC 801, Music Bibliography and Research, is required for all graduate students in music and satisfies the Graduate Studies “Research Skills and Responsible Scholarship” (RSRS) requirement for doctoral students. All doctoral students must meet the RSRS requirement before proceeding to the oral comprehensive exam.

Waiver for MUSC 801

If you have taken a comparable Research and Bibliography graduate course at another university, you may request a waiver of MUSC 801. To request a waiver, provide the Musicology Area Coordinator with a syllabus of the course you wish to use in place of MUSC 801.

Graduate Advisory Committee:
5 members required

Your Graduate Advisory Committee administers your Oral Comprehensive Examination and the Doctoral Final Examination/Defense. Members of your committee from the performance faculty are also responsible for grading your doctoral recitals.

Your Graduate Advisory Committee is a 5-member committee. PhD students must submit the Advisory Committee form (.pdf), before the first degree recital can be scheduled. Members of your committee must be on the Graduate Faculty. Discuss the membership of your committee with your advisor and personally ask each faculty member to serve and sign the Advisory Committee form (.pdf).

Only faculty members with privileges to serve or chair a doctoral committee may be selected. A member without those privileges may not serve on a doctoral committee.

Advisory committees for PhD students in Musicology are comprised of:

  • two members from Musicology,
  • one from Theory,
  • one Graduate Studies Representative, and
  • a fifth member from the School of Music Graduate Faculty.

Advisory committees for PhD students in Theory are comprised of:

  • two members from Theory,
  • one from Musicology,
  • one Graduate Studies Representative, and
  • a fifth member from the School of Music Graduate Faculty.
Graduate Studies Representative (formerly Outside Member)

The Graduate Studies Representative is a graduate faculty member outside of the MUSIC department. This member is not required to attend your degree recitals or to grade them. The Graduate Studies Representative must be a member of the Graduate Faculty. As the Graduate Studies Representative, they are a voting member of the committee and may or may not participate in questioning you during your Oral Comprehensive and Doctoral Final Exams. The role of the Graduate Studies Representative is to report any unsatisfactory or unusual aspects of the examination to the Chair of your advisory committee, the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in Music, the School of Music Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and the Dean of Graduate Studies.

Committee Oral Exam/Defense attendance:

All five members of your advisory committee must participate in the Oral Comprehensive Exam and the Doctoral Final Exam/Defense. For doctoral oral examinations, all members of your committee must be physically present for the Oral Comprehensive Examination or Final Oral Examination/Defense to commence (see oral exam attendance policy).

The student, the committee chair, and the Graduate Studies Representative must all be physically present at the examination. Mediated attendance by any of these three is prohibited without special permission from the Graduate Studies Office.

When a situation arises in which a committee member cannot be physically present, attendance via mediated means is acceptable at the discretion of the committee chair. In cases where the student prefers an examination in which all committee members are physically present, the student’s preference shall be honored.

Graduate progress toward degreeGraduate students in the School of Music must maintain an expected level of academic performance throughout their program to maintain good academic standing. Criteria for evaluating satisfactory performance include:
  1. a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher and a GPA of 3.0 or higher in the major area;
  2. academic and scholarly integrity;
  3. compliance with academic policies at the University, School, and Area level; and
  4. satisfactory progress toward completion of the degree, to be evaluated yearly as determined by the following:
  • satisfaction of diagnostic deficiencies in the first 3 semesters of enrollment;
  • satisfactory completion of at least 1 credit that meets degree requirements each semester of enrollment.

Students who are unable to complete degree requirements during any semester due to injuries, illness, financial difficulties, or family emergencies should submit a request for a Leave of Absence. Failure to request a Leave of Absence will not relieve the student of the requirements to continue to make progress toward the degree as defined above.

Failure to make progress toward the degree as defined above will result in a student not being in good academic standing and the student will be put on probation or dismissed from the program. The School will evaluate graduate students pursuing more than one degree program based on their progress toward meeting the requirements of each program individually.

Qualifying, Oral, and Final Exams

At some point you will have completed most, if not all, of your degree requirements and will be preparing to graduate. Understanding the policies and timing of the Written Qualifying Exams, Oral Comprehensive Exam, and the Doctoral Final Exam/Defense will ensure that you graduate when you want to graduate.

Written Qualifying Examinations

The Written Qualifying Examinations are School of Music exams that must be passed before taking the Oral Comprehensive Examination. You must have satisfied all diagnostic examination deficiencies and the bulk of your coursework before you are eligible to sit for these exams. Please work with your advisor and the Graduate Student Services Coordinator on timing for these exams. Scheduled dates for the Written Qualifying Exams are on the School of Music Graduate Calendar. When you are ready to take the examinations, notify the Musicology and Music Theory Area Coordinators that you intend to participate in the next scheduled exam.

The Written Qualifying Examinations have three components:

  1. Music History – will assess student knowledge of representative literature and composers of each major period of music history, as well as general bibliographic resources in music. This exam will be prepared and graded by the Musicology Area.
  2. Music Theory – will assess broad knowledge of music theory as it relates to music performers. The exam will be prepared and graded by the Theory Area. 
  3. Major field – will assess aspects of the student’s major field, including but not necessarily limited to, applied literature/repertoire, pedagogy, and specialization-specific sources and resources. Faculty in the major area are responsible for preparing and grading this exam.

PhD-Musicology, PhD-Theory, and DMA-Composition students should discuss the components of their Written Qualifying Exams with their advisors.

Written Music History Qualifying ExamPlease take note of the following rules and suggestions for the Written Music History Qualifying Exam.
  • There are old versions of the exam available in the Music Library that you can consult for study purposes.
  • No notes, either handwritten or saved on a computer or similar device, may be consulted in the examination room. All information that students provide in answering questions must be supplied from the knowledge that they possess when they enter the room. The exam will be proctored by Musicology faculty and graduate teaching assistants.
  • A laptop may be used for the bibliography section, which requires access to the internet, but it is possible that all other sections of the exam will be taken on paper. Laptops will only be allowed on other sections of the test if an effective lockdown browser can be found.
  • Phones may be in the room, but may not be on the desk where the student is working on the exam. Phones must be turned off and may not be consulted at any point while taking the exam.
  • You will not be allowed to work outside of the exam room except during the bibliography section.
Written Theory Qualifying Exam

The Written Theory Qualifying Exam is proctored online through Blackboard (PRAC000-256: Doctoral Music Theory Qualifying Exam). Students interested in sitting for the Written Theory Qualifying Exam should email the Graduate Coordinator at to be enrolled in the Blackboard section. Students may take the Written Theory Qualifying Exam once per semester during the academic year. Exemptions would need to be justified on exceptional grounds and at the discretion of the Music Theory Area. Students may take the Written Theory Qualifying Exam as many times as necessary to pass the exam.

Students should use the free online source Open Music Theory in preparing for the exam. The site is intended to facilitate the review of material that has already been studied in one form or another. If students would like to find more in-depth sources, they can feel free to contact someone on the Music Theory faculty for recommendations. The exam will not have any questions about Galant Schemata or Pop/Rock Music but everything else covered in the online source is a possibility.

Exam Authorization Form for Oral Comps and Doctoral Final Exam


*Exam Authorization form required 2 weeks in advance*

The Doctoral Oral Comprehensive Exam and the Doctoral Final Exam/Defense are University-level exams. The Graduate Studies Office is notified of the School-approved exam by the submission of the Exam Authorization PtD (Progress to Degree) form, found at resources for academic services. This form must be completed by you, signed by your committee chair, and submitted to the Graduate Student Services Coordinator, 446 Murphy, no later than 2 weeks before your scheduled Oral Comprehensive Exam or your scheduled Doctoral Final Exam.

The form is submitted before the Oral Comprehensive Exam to verify that you have completed the RSRS requirement, are in good academic standing, have completed the residency requirement, and that you have successfully passed all Written Qualifying Exams. The same form is used before the Doctoral Final Examination/Defense to submit the topic of your final DMA Document or PhD Dissertation to the KU Office of Graduate Studies.
Failure to submit this form 2 weeks in advance of the exam will result in the rescheduling of your exam.

Scheduling your Oral Comprehensive Examination and your Doctoral Final Examination


*Exam Authorization form required 2 weeks in advance*

When you are ready to schedule your Oral Comprehensive Exam or Doctoral Final Exam/Defense with the members of your Graduate Advisory Committee, you must

  • find a date and time that all committee members can meet.
  • find and reserve a location. The Music Library Seminar Room is a popular site.
  • complete the Exam Authorization PtD form, following the directions at the top of that form. The Exam Authorization form must be submitted to the Graduate Student Services Coordinator AT LEAST 2 WEEKS in advance of the exam date. The form is used for pre-approval of your final exam and as a report of your exam results by your committee when you complete the exam.

At least one month must elapse between the successful completion of the Oral Comprehensive Exam and the date of the Doctoral Final Exam/Defense.

Oral Comprehensive Examination



*Exam Authorization form required 2 weeks in advance*

The Oral Comprehensive Examination is required of all KU doctoral students. Once passed, it confers All But Dissertation (ABD) status and you become a doctoral candidate. Although this is a university-level exam, it is administered by your Graduate Advisory Committee.
You may schedule your Oral Comprehensive Exam
  • when you have cleared all diagnostic deficiencies;
  • when you have passed your Written Qualifying Exams;
  • when you have given at least two of your required degree recitals;
  • when you have no incompletes on your transcript in any classes; and
  • if you are in good academic standing.

Under no circumstances will students be allowed to schedule and take the Oral Comprehensive Exam until all of these criteria have been met.

The Oral Comprehensive Exam will cover all aspects of your major field of study and serve as a synthesis of your academic training as a whole. Questions will be asked by each member of your committee to assess the professional level and depth of your knowledge of theory, musicology, pedagogy, repertoire, and any other specific questions deemed pertinent to your major area. Doctoral students are expected to have developed the capacity for individual study and inquiry; therefore, the subject matter of the examination is not necessarily limited to courses in which the student has enrolled.

Exam Grading

For both the Oral Comprehensive Exam and the Doctoral Final Exam/Defense, the committee reports a grade of Honors, Satisfactory, or Fail. If you receive a “Fail” on the exam, you may repeat it on the recommendation of your Graduate Advisory Committee, but under no circumstances will you be allowed to take it more than three times. You may not retake the Oral Comprehensive Exam until at least 90 days have elapsed since the previous attempt.

Post-comprehensive enrollment
“Continuous Enrollment”

Beginning with the semester after passing the Oral Comprehensive Exam until all requirements for your degree are completed OR until 18 post-comprehensive hours have been completed, all Doctoral candidates must enroll in a minimum of 6 credits during the fall and spring semesters. The credits taken during the semester you pass your Oral Comprehensive Exam will count toward the 18 post-comprehensive credit requirements.

If you have reached the 18-credit maximum and have not completed your degree requirements, you must continue to be enrolled every Fall and Spring semester in at least 1 credit until you graduate.

Doctoral Final Oral Exam/DefenseFor doctoral candidates in Composition, Musicology, and Music Theory, the Doctoral Final Exam/Defense is devoted primarily to the defense of your dissertation. For candidates in conducting and performance, the examination will deal primarily with the research reported in the dissertation document.

Written Final Documents

All doctoral students in the School of Music have a written document that they will defend at their Doctoral Final Exam/Defense. PhD students in Musicology and Music Theory will defend a dissertation. PhD students in Musicology and Music Theory will defend a dissertation. All documents are submitted online for publication after they have been defended and approved.

Dissertation/Document proposalALL doctoral-level students must submit a dissertation/document proposal to their committee members. You will find guidance for writing an effective proposal in to DMA Document Guidelines; although this attachment was drafted with the DMA document in mind, the advice is still practical for PhD dissertations. Students should submit their proposals to their committee members for approval via email and obtain physical signatures on the Graduate Research Proposal Approval Form (.pdf). These signatures confirm that you have provided your topic to your committee members and that they approve of the topic. After obtaining signatures from each committee member, return the completed form to the Graduate Student Services Coordinator. Your advisor and committee members will work with you on the content and scope of your proposal.
Musicology, Music Theory, and Composition major timelinePhD and DMA-Composition students must submit a proposal to all members of their committee no later than the end of the semester in which the Oral Exam is completed.
Formatting requirements for dissertations and documents

The Graduate Studies Office has formatting requirements for all PhD dissertations. These formatting requirements can be found on this webpage: KU Libraries: Thesis and Dissertation Formatting. The page also has information on Multimedia Files, Copyright and Issues of Responsible Research, Preparing Your Manuscript and services available for writing and preparing your manuscript for publication.

Submission of dissertation and document for publishing

All School of Music doctoral students must submit the final draft of the DMA document or PhD dissertation to UMI (ProQuest) publishing. The instructions for submission can be found at the Graduate Studies website, KU Graduate Studies: Submitting. Submitting your dissertation or document to UMI for publication is a graduation requirement. The final document must be submitted for school approval no later than the semester deadline for meeting degree requirements for graduation. The deadline can be found on the Graduate Studies calendar, KU Graduate Studies: Graduation.

Signed title page, signed approval page, and abstract for your fileTo complete requirements for graduation, all doctoral students, PhD and DMA, who have defended a final document must submit to the Graduate Student Services Coordinator, 446 Murphy:
  • a signed title page and
  • signed approval page

You are advised to take the signature pages with you to the Doctoral Final Exam/Defense to get the necessary signatures while your committee is convened.


The Graduate Studies Office has deadlines each semester for meeting all degree requirements including exams passed, completion of the dissertation or document and applying to graduate in Enroll & Pay. Those dates are on the Graduate Studies Graduate Calendar at KU Graduate Studies: Graduation under Students. Extensions will not be granted. Your submitted Program of Study should include the approximate times you have planned for these events. You are strongly encouraged to meet with the Graduate Student Services Coordinator or the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in Music when you have completed your Written Qualifying Examinations to review the timing of the remainder of your degree requirements.

Application for graduation

You are urged to complete an application for graduation at the beginning of the semester you plan to graduate or the semester prior if meeting the early graduation deadline (without enrollment). This is done in Enroll and Pay. You must have submitted your application to graduate by the Graduate Studies completion deadline. If you do not graduate the semester you apply, your application to graduate will be rescinded and you will need to reapply for the future semester you plan to graduate.

Are you finished?

Doctoral students must be especially focused on the timing of the final semesters of their degree program. You are strongly encouraged to meet with the Graduate Student Services Coordinator or Associate Dean for Academic Affairs well before you plan to graduate to make certain you are meeting all requirements, that you know what remains, and that you will be approved to graduate.

Graduation information

Degrees are awarded three times a year to graduate students who have met the requirements specified by the Graduate School as found in the Academic Catalog. The KU Commencement events occur only once a year at the end of the Spring semester for Spring graduates and those who graduated in the preceding Summer and Fall.

Hooding ceremony

The School of Music graduation Special Recognition Ceremony takes place on the Saturday immediately after finals week and includes the hooding of graduating School of Music Doctoral students. Only those students who have successfully passed the final defense are eligible to participate in the doctoral hooding. A student whose defense has been scheduled during the summer semester may petition the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs for permission to participate in the School of Music hooding ceremony.

The KU Graduate Studies office holds a doctoral hooding ceremony at the Lied Center for all KU graduating doctoral students. Information on the Graduate Studies Doctoral Hooding Ceremony can be found on the Graduate Studies website, KU Doctoral Hooding Ceremony. Please check this site for requirements, tickets, date, and time.

Information on the University commencement can be found at KU Commencement. To order your diploma, refer to KU Registrar: Diplomas.

COGSIM (Committee on Graduate Studies in Music)

The Committee on Graduate Studies in Music consists of 5 faculty members elected by the School of Music faculty and 2 graduate student representatives selected early in the fall semester by the COGSIM faculty members from a list of graduate student volunteers. The committee shall:

  • monitor artistic and academic requirements and standards of graduate programs in cooperation with the areas;
  • consider requests for curricular changes and changes in degree requirements from the areas and make recommendations to the faculty;
  • act on petitions from graduate students. Any requested change to a faculty approved program of study must come before COGSIM as a student petition.
Graduate Student PetitionsFor exceptions to degree requirements or other policies and regulations within each degree program, students must submit a petition to COGSIM. Committee decisions will be communicated by the Graduate Student Services Coordinator.
Appealing a Final Grade

For a grade appeal, the student must first attempt to resolve the issue by contacting the instructor within six months. If the grade conflict remains unresolved, a student may initiate an appeal of a final course grade if, but only if, he or she believes that there has been an improper application of the grading procedure the instructor has announced for the course.

A graduate student may initiate their appeal to COGSIM by completing a Graduate Student Petition form. A student may appeal the decision made by COGSIM to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and, ultimately, to the University Judicial Board.

If the student’s appeal is sustained at any level, the final course grade shall be assigned in accordance with Section 2.3.5 of the University Senate Rules and Regulations. The Association Dean for Academic Affairs may be consulted at any time for advice on any aspect of the process.

Academic Misconduct

See the University Senate Rules & Regulations for the complete University policy on Academic Misconduct including definitions and examples.

KU Information

Both the official KU website and KU School of Music website contain a wealth of information. You can find information on the KU website about parking, student health services, recreation services, KU ID cards, email, and enrollment.

International Support Services

If you are an International Student, please become familiar with International Support Services (ISS). There are often variations in each situation; the ISS advisors can best advise you on how academic decisions, such as taking a leave of absence, dropping below full-time status, or changing majors, can affect your visa status.

Grievance Policy and Procedures

Grievances arising within the School of Music must be heard under the School’s Grievance Procedure. The School of Music grievance procedure applies to the faculty members, unclassified professional staff, and students.

School of Music Directory

All School of Music faculty (including each area coordinator) and staff can be found at People Directory.

Musicology Written Qualifying Examination

There are old versions of the exam available in the Music Library upon request. These can be used for study purposes.

  1. No notes, either handwritten or saved on a computer or similar device, may be consulted in the examination room. All information that students provide in answering questions must be supplied from knowledge that they possess when they enter the room. The exam will be proctored by Musicology faculty and graduate teaching assistants.
  2. A laptop may be used for the bibliography section, which requires access to the internet, and the afternoon essays may be written on computer, but without access to the internet. Any student found accessing the internet or other material on their computer while taking the essays will be asked to leave the exam. The morning segment of the exam will be written on paper.
  3. Phones may be in the room but may not be on the student’s desk. Phones must be turned off and may not be consulted at any point while taking the exam.
  4. You will not be allowed work outside of the examination room except during the bibliography section.
  5. The exam will include the following sections:
    • Six listening examples for which the student supplies a possible composer, approximate date of composition, and brief musical description.
    • Three score identification examples for which the student supplies a possible composer, approximate date of composition, and brief musical description.
    • Ten composers/people that the student will identify and briefly account for their musical importance.
    • Ten terms that the student will define and briefly contextualize.
    • A bibliography section in which the student will be provided with the name of a composer and a genre, and through the use of standard electronic databases the student will provide ten worthy sources for each topic from the last twenty years.
    • An essay section that includes three pairs of questions drawn from the Middle Ages/Renaissance, Baroque/Classic, and Romantic/Modern eras, from which the student will choose three essays to write, one from each pair of eras.
  6. Two versions of the exam will be administered: one for DMA students and PhD students in theory, and the other for PhD students in Musicology.
  7. Students will have the opportunity to make up sections that they do not pass the first time. All make-ups, except the bibliography section, will be administered in a proctored environment and under most circumstances only two make-ups of each section will be possible.
  8. The exam has eight sections, counting the essays as three sections. The student must pass at least four of them to qualify for make-up procedures; otherwise, the student will be required to take the entire exam the next time it is administered.

Musicology Portion of the Oral Comprehensive Exam

For all students, a general knowledge of the history of music, including the ability to discuss representative examples of music. Suggested topics:

  • Developments in the periods of music history and how music changed between the periods
  • Regional or national developments in music
  • Developments of musical forms, compositional procedures, and genres
  • Performance practices, performance media, and musical instruments
  • Important composers, theorists, and treatises

For students in music theory and composition, a knowledge of the history of music theory and composition from ancient Greece to the present. The student should know specific theorists and treatises, important developments in music theory, how theorists at different times described certain techniques and stylistic aspects of their time, and how theory related to actual music. Suggested topics:

  • The history and theories of counterpoint, harmony, modes, forms, tonality, rhythm, and tunings and techniques
  • Twentieth-century notation and techniques

For students in performance, a specialized knowledge of:

  • The history of music written for the performer’s medium, with an understanding of important stylistic changes within and between the various historical periods, major composers, and their most significant compositions in the performer’s medium.
  • Knowledge of the history of the instrument and related instruments and performing groups.
  • The performance practices of the various historical periods, with knowledge of primary and secondary sources that describe these practices.