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Degree Requirements

Once accepted to the program, each student is assigned a faculty advisor, whose aim is a thorough and close guidance in course selection, development of the thesis proposal and writing of the dissertation. During the first two semesters, the coursework is combined with the preparation of a thesis proposal. A DDes student must complete satisfactorily 32 units of course work in the first two semesters of study, of which no more than 8 units may be from independent study and no more than 8 units from non-GSD courses. DDes students are required to have their course selection approved by their advisors prior to registration.  

Before registering for his/her third semester of study, the student must pass his general examination. The examination consists of two parts. In the first, that must take place at the end of the course period, the student has to demonstrate his mastery of the field he has chosen for his doctoral thesis. In the second to be completed before the beginning of his/her third semester of study, he has to submit a detailed proposal for his doctoral studies. The examination committee evaluates the research proposal on: (1) originality, (2) contribution to the field, and (3) feasibility, as well as on the candidate’s preparation to conduct such research. The thesis committee, consisting of at least three members, two of whom must be GSD faculty, is formed after the student passes the second part of the general examination. Sixteen units of thesis work are required in each of the following semesters.

Once the general exam and prospectus is passed the student becomes "all but dissertation" and a doctoral candidate. From the second year on, the candidate prepares his/her doctoral dissertation under the direction of the thesis committee. He/she holds regular meetings with the committee and the dissertation is usually written in the third year. The completed dissertation must be defended publically and accepted unanimously by the thesis committee. A bound copy of the thesis will be stored in the Loeb Library following completion of the defense.

The DDes program  is an integrated part of Harvard GSD. DDes candidates may continue taking Harvard and MIT classes, they also participate as Teaching Fellows of the GSD departments, and are invited to be studio critics at reviews.

For more information, please visit the Office of Admissions.


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