• Home
  • Academics
  • Degrees
  • Graduate
  • PHD Program
  • Core Course Requirements

Core Course Requirements

The required core courses common to all Ph.D. students are the two courses listed in each of the following subjects.
       • Probability and Statistics: Math 727 and Math 728;   
       • Optimization Techniques: Econ 800 and Econ 809;
       • Microeconomics Theory: Econ 801 and Econ 802;
       • Macroeconomics Theory: Econ 810 and Econ 811; and
       • Econometrics: Econ 817 and Econ 818.  

Students entering the program who have successfully completed one or more of these core courses in another graduate program may be exempted from taking them. The student should consult with the Graduate Director for advice and further information. 

Written Qualifying Examinations

At the beginning of the Spring semester, students entering their fourth semester are required to pass qualifying examinations in microeconomics and in macroeconomics. These examinations test the student’s understanding and knowledge of the core theory courses (Econ 801 and 802, Econ 810 and 811). Examination questions are typically based on, though are not limited to, the material covered in these courses. Traditionally, the exams are given from 8:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. on separate days in January. Students must pass both exams. 

A student who fails one or both of the exams will be permitted to retake the failed exam(s) by the end of the same (Spring) semester. A student who has not passed both exams after the retake will be dismissed from the Ph.D. program. Please be advised that not taking the qualifying exam(s) when required or permitted to do so is considered failing the exam(s). Any student who fails to pass the qualifying exams by the end of the Spring semester may upon written request to the Graduate Director be awarded the M.A. degree in economics, provided that she/he has passed 30 credit hours as required for this degree. 

Competency in Econometrics

In order to demonstrate competency in econometrics, students must complete Econ 817 and Econ 818, with a combined grade point average of 3.0. A student who does not achieve the 3.0 combined grade point average is required to pass, without retake, a written comprehensive examination in econometrics. The exam is administered by an ad hoc committee consisting of faculty members who teach the econometrics core sequence. The exam must be taken at the beginning of the Fall semester immediately following the student’s enrollment in Econ 818. Students who fail the written comprehensive exam in econometrics will be dismissed from the program. Any student who fails the written comprehensive exam in econometrics may upon written request to the Graduate Director be awarded the M.A. degree in economics, provided that he/she has passed 30 credit hours as required for this degree.    

Seminar Workshops and Responsible Scholarship

The Economics Department has two seminar series:  The Guest Speaker Series and the Department Seminar. After passing their qualifying exam, students are required to enroll in 1-3 hours of Econ 910 (Seminar Workshop) for six continuous semesters (i.e., up to the fall semester of their fifth year) and each student is required to attend a minimum of six guest speaker and/or department seminars including dissertation defenses each semester.  In order to get a satisfactory grade in Econ 910, students need to complete the seminar attendance form and submit the form to the graduate secretary by the last day of class for the semester. 

Every doctoral student is required to have training in responsible scholarship pertinent to economics research, which includes:

  • (1) data acquisition, management, sharing and ownership; including as well the welfare of human subjects;
  • (2) conflicts of interest and commitment;
  • (3) publication practices, responsible authorship;
  • (4) peer review among others.

Each semester there will be one 90 minute seminar that will include one or more of the above topics. The session will be led by either a faculty member or a visiting speaker. The topics will be covered once every two years. Attendance at this seminar will count toward the six seminars required for Econ 910.

Third Year Paper Requirements (effective for students admitted Fall 2013 and after)

Students are required to write a research paper in their third year under the supervision of a faculty advisor. In most cases the third year paper would become part of the student’s dissertation. Students are strongly encouraged to look for an advisor immediately after passing the qualifying exams.  Students are encouraged to start the paper as soon as possible.

  • Students are required to submit the Advisor Endorsement Form prior to stop day of the Spring semester in which their Written Qualifying Exam is taken.

In the following Fall semester students are required to:

  • Enroll in Econ 940 with his/her advisor.
    The grade for Econ 940 will be based on the third year paper and its presentation.
    This class is graded with Pass/Fail, any student who receives a failure grade will be dismissed from the program.
  • Present their papers to a faculty committee consisting of the advisor and two other faculty members.
    The Presentation Endorsement Form must be sign and turn into the graduate secretary immediately following the presentation.
    In most cases the committee would form the basis of a student’s dissertation committee.
  • The presentation should be made no later than December 1st, and the final version of the paper should be submitted before the Friday of Finals week.

Under extraordinary circumstances, a student may appeal to the graduate program committee by written request for an extension of the deadline for the third year paper. 

Requirements for students admitted Prior to Fall 2013

Students are required to write a research paper in their third year under the supervision of a faculty mentor.  In most cases the third year paper would become part of the student’s dissertation. Students are encouraged to start the paper as soon as possible, after passing the Qualifying Exams.

The following deadlines are mandatory: (i) Students should submit the title of the paper and the name of the faculty mentor to the Graduate Secretary no later than the last day of class in the Fall of Third Year; (ii) A draft of the paper should be submitted by the first day of class in the summer semester of Third Year; and (iii) a final version of the paper (hard copy or .pdf) by the first day of class in the fall semester (i.e., fall semester of their fourth year).  The abstract needs to be submitted to the Graduate Secretary for the department web page. All the submitted documents should have the endorsement of the faculty mentor.  

Students are also required to present their papers either during the third year or in the fall semester in their fourth year at a Department Seminar. In addition, students are encouraged to present their papers at academic conferences outside the department. 

Competency in Fields

Students are required to demonstrate competency in at least two fields of specialization. Competency in a field is demonstrated by passing at least two courses in the field with a combined grade point average of 3.0 or higher. The courses and specializations listed below have been approved by the Graduate Program Committee. No course may be counted toward fulfilling the field requirement in more than one area of specialization. No course outside of economics may be counted toward fulfilling any field of specialization, though courses outside of economics may be recommended for a particular field (e.g. mathematics courses for a specialization in economic theory). Due to the small size of the Ph.D. program, specific courses approved for a field of specialization may not be offered very frequently, so students are strongly advised to enroll in the course when it is offered.

It should be noted that new fields of specialization may be approved in the future by the Graduate Program Committee as new faculty are recruited and new courses are introduced. The decision to add a new field of specialization depends, in part, on the level of faculty commitment to teach the new courses on a regular basis and, in part, on the level of student interest in taking the new courses when offered. The following list of approved fields of specialization include courses that are regularly offered, i.e. at least once over a two year cycle, and require that the student take at least two of the three courses listed in each area. 

Fields of Specialization

Regularly Offered Economics Courses

  • Econometrics: Econ 915, Econ 916, Econ 917, Econ 918
  • Economic Development: Econ 740, Econ 840, Econ 844
  • Industrial Organization: Econ 730, Econ 830, Econ 831
  • International Economics: Econ 750, Econ 850, Econ 851
  • Macroeconomics: Econ 911, Econ 912, Econ 913
  • Financial Economics: Econ 769, Econ 869, Econ 918
  • Economic Theory: Econ 830, Econ 869, Econ 880
  • Labor Economics: Econ 770, Econ 870
  • International Development: Econ 840 or Econ 844, Econ 850 or Econ 851

Elective Courses

Every student is required to take a minimum of 9 additional credit hours in economics as electives. These must be numbered at the 700 level or higher, but they may not include the M.A. core theory courses (Econ 700 and Econ 701) or the M.A. econometrics courses (Econ 715 or Econ 716). A student may choose to replace two courses of electives with two specialization courses in order to obtain a third field of specialization. A student may choose to take a readings course (Econ 950) as an elective, subject to the approval of the faculty member in charge and the Graduate Director. Seminar workshops (Econ 920, Econ 930, or Econ 940) do not count toward the electives course requirement. 

Doctoral Dissertation

• Comprehensive Oral Examination
• Intermediate Oral Examination
• Final Oral Examination
• Submission of the Dissertation

Comprehensive Oral Examination

After passing the qualifying exams and completing the third year paper, the student formally proposes a dissertation topic in the form of a comprehensive oral examination.

  • This may (and often does) occur before the fields and electives requirements are fully met.

The comprehensive oral exam is a requirement of the Graduate School, and is intended to ensure that at a minimum the following three conditions are satisfied:

  • (a) the student demonstrates in a written proposal that the dissertation research is an important and significant contribution to the literature of economics;
  • (b) the student demonstrates in the oral defense of the written proposal sufficient competency to undertake and complete the dissertation research;
  • (c) the student demonstrates both in the written proposal and in the oral defense a thorough knowledge of related literature pertinent to the dissertation research.

Students should expected to pass the oral exam by the end of the Fall semester of their fourth year in the doctoral program to insure they are making significant progress towards their degree. However, in order to minimize the possibility that the dissertation will not be finished in a timely manner, students are strongly encouraged to pass their comprehensive oral exams as soon after passing their written qualifying exams as feasibly possible. 

Comprehensive Oral Exam Committee

  • Comprehensive oral examining committee will consist of at least five (5) members, all of whom must be members of the University's Graduate Faculty.  The student with the advice of the thesis advisor invites specific faculty members to serve on her/his committee.​
    • At least three (3 or a majority) must be members of the Department of Economics.
    • At least one of the members must be the student’s dissertation chair (thesis advisor) from the Department of Economics;
      • No committee member outside the Department of Economics can serve as the sole chair of the dissertation but may serve as a co-chair together with a faculty member from economics.
    • At least one of the members must be a member from another academic unit at the university who serves to represent the Graduate Studies, as required by the Graduate Studies
    • An individual who is not affiliated with the University of Kansas (e.g. a faculty member at another university) may be appointed as an ad hoc member of the Graduate Faculty in order to serve on the dissertation committee.
      • Every individual listed as a committee member must be able to participate in the administration of the comprehensive oral exam. Faculty members who are on academic leave, for example, must be available through teleconferencing in order to serve on the examining committee. 

Exam Procedures

The following procedure for taking the comprehensive oral exam must be strictly adhered to. 

  • At least 14 days prior to the scheduling of the comprehensive oral exam, the student submits the written dissertation proposal to every member of the committee (including the outside member). Members of the examining committee MUST be given ample time to read the dissertation draft.
  • At least 14 days prior to the date of the comprehensive oral exam the student should notify department’s graduate secretary in writing:  the names of the members of the examining committee, the date and the time of the proposed exam.
    • The department's graduate secretary then prepares and submits the university's required paperwork requesting approval for the students comprehensive oral exam
    • the department's graduate secretary also submits a room request for the exam to be held in.
    • The date, time, and location of the comprehensive oral examination are announced by the graduate secretary to all faculty members and graduate students, and interested parties are permitted to attend if they desire. 

The oral exam typically begins with the student providing a brief overview of the dissertation proposal. The student should stress the importance of the dissertation topic and her/his contribution to the extant literature on the topic.

  • During the oral exam, committee members are free to ask questions or make comments in order to evaluate the significance of the proposed research as well as to assess the student’s competence to undertake the proposed research and to complete it in a timely fashion.
  • At the end of the oral exam, the examining committee decides either to approve the proposed research with a grade of satisfactory or honors, or to disapprove the proposed research with a grade of unsatisfactory. The grade of satisfactory is customary, with the grade of honors being very rarely given for exceptionally meritorious proposals.
    • If a student receives a grade of unsatisfactory, she/he may be permitted to repeat the comprehensive oral examination upon the recommendation of the Graduate Director. The recommendation will depend heavily on the advice and opinions of the oral examining committee.
    • The Graduate School disallows a comprehensive oral exam to be repeated until at least 90 days have elapsed.
    • If the student receives an unsatisfactory grade on the retake of the comprehensive oral examination, she/he will be dismissed from the graduate program.
  • A written summary of the suggestions and comments made by the examining committee members is subsequently prepared by the chair of the dissertation committee and given to the student and the Graduate Director (who serves as an ex officio member of every dissertation committee). 

Please Note:  Students are required to be continuously enrolled after the competition of the Comprehensive Oral Exam.  Please meet with the department's graduate secretary for detailed information regarding this requirement.

Intermediate Oral Examination

Within six (6) to nine (9) months after passing the comprehensive oral exam, the student will take an intermediate oral examination on the status and progress of the dissertation research.

  • This exam takes the form of an oral presentation before the student’s dissertation committee. Since the intermediate oral exam is not a requirement of the Graduate School, the outside member of the committee need not be present.
  • At least two (2) weeks before the intermediate oral a written draft of the student’s dissertation should be made available to committee members. 
  • Intermediate oral exams should be arranged through the graduate secretary so a room can be reserved ahead of time, and are announced in the department so that all interested faculty and graduate students may attend.
  • Upon completion of the student’s presentation the examining committee evaluates the student’s accomplishments and progress to date and determines what remains to be done for the final draft of the thesis. This evaluation and determination are communicated in writing by the thesis advisor to the student and to the Graduate Director. 

Final Oral Examination

To complete the requirements for the Ph.D. degree a candidate must present and successfully defend a final draft of the dissertation before the members of her/his dissertation committee.

  • The membership of the final oral examining committee is generally the same as the membership of the comprehensive oral examining committee but this is not a requirement. No member of the oral examining committee can be replaced without the prior knowledge of the faculty member and the prior approval of the Graduate Director. The student and thesis advisor are cautioned that the justification for replacing a committee member should be compelling (e.g. the committee member is unable to participate in the final defense under any reasonable set of circumstances; the committee member has an insurmountable problem with the direction taken in the student’s thesis and has requested to be removed; etc.).
  • It is required that every member of the dissertation committee participate in the final oral examination, either by means of physical presence or by means of teleconferencing arrangements.
  • The final oral exam cannot proceed until and unless such direct participation and teleconferencing arrangements satisfy the expectations of every member of the final examining committee in attendance, as well as the Graduate Director who attends as an ex officio member of the committee. 

Final Oral Exam Procedures:

  • The student should submit a written draft of the thesis to her/his dissertation committee at least two (2) to four (4) weeks before the planned final defense. Committee members have a right to expect that the written draft is free of errors in syntax and grammar as well as errors in punctuation and spelling, so that they may properly focus on substantive issues in the dissertation. Students are encouraged to have one or more of their cohorts critically review the draft for such errors. In situations where one or more members are simultaneously participating on several other dissertation committees, the student is advised to allow even more time for the reading of the written draft. 
    • After reading the student’s draft the members of the committee are expected to provide the student and thesis advisor with critical suggestions and comments for revising the draft. These comments may include editorial suggestions as well as substantive criticisms.
    • Though a single iteration is usually sufficient, this process should be repeated as often as may be necessary before scheduling a final oral examination. The process is intended to minimize the possibility of any unforeseen or embarrassing objections to portions of the dissertation during the final defense.
    • The student should always confirm with his/her thesis advisor when the dissertation is ready to defend. It is strongly recommended that the final draft conform to the style guidelines set out by the Office of Graduate Studies, in order to avoid unnecessary delays in submitting the completed dissertation after its acceptance by the dissertation committee.  The department does not require any specific formatting or style guidelines beyond that of Graduate Studies.
  • The final oral examination typically begins with the student providing a brief summary of the entire dissertation. The student should stress the main results of the research and, most importantly, the contribution the dissertation makes to the extant literature on the subject.
    • During the exam committee members are free to ask questions or to make comments in order to clarify obscure points, recommend alternative interpretations of results, and so forth.
  • At the end of the exam the dissertation committee decides either to approve the dissertation with a grade of satisfactory or honors, or to disapprove the dissertation with a grade of unsatisfactory. The grade of satisfactory is customary, with the grade of honors being rarely given in exceptional cases.
    • A grade of unsatisfactory is virtually unprecedented and would most likely result from one of the following situations: the student simply refuses to make revisions in the final draft that one or more committee members feel are imperative and must be made; the student fails to include in the final draft additional research that one or more committee members feel is crucial and must be included; the student fails to remedy to the satisfaction of one or more committee members serious flaws in the methodology or theoretical development that remain in the thesis.
    • These situations can and should be avoided by means of strict and close supervision of the writing of the final draft by the student’s thesis advisor PRIOR to the scheduling of the final oral exam. A student that receives an unsatisfactory grade on his/her final oral exam may be allowed one repeat of the exam upon the recommendation of the student’s dissertation committee and the Graduate Director. 
  • Once the final oral exam is passed the student is expected to correct as promptly as possible, usually within one or two weeks following the exam, any remaining errors and typos. These corrections should be made before the committee signs the dissertation to certify its approval by the Department of Economics. 


Submission of the Dissertation

Prior to the final defense, the student should carefully read the Graduate Studies policy for electronically submitting dissertations and related fees.  The University no longer provides binding services; the above link has a list of private companies that provide binding services. 

  • When the final oral examination has been passed and the dissertation has been signed by the members of the dissertation committee,
    • two hard copies of the title page and acceptance page with original signatures are to be delivered to the Graduate Studies so that completion of degree requirements may be officially certified.
    • The Department of Economics also requires the student to provide a bound copy of the approved dissertation to the graduate secretary for departmental use.

Students are advised that if all requirements for the Ph.D. degree are completed by the end of the Spring semester, the official date of graduation is considered to be May of that year; otherwise, the official date of graduation is December of that year. 

Early Semester Completion

For a student to be considered for "Early Semester Completion" and for the student to avoid mandatory post-comprehensive enrollment, all materials relative to the completion of the doctoral degree must be delivered to the Graduate Studies no later than the second week of a Fall or Spring semester or no later than the end of the first week of a Summer semester.

News / Events
Dr. Shu Wu, 1966 - 2018

Dr. Shu Wu, Professor of Economics and Associate Chair, Department of Economics at University of Kansas, and a resident of Overland Park, KS, passed away Thursday, May 31, 2018.
More info »

Economics Jobs
One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
23rd nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets," Military Times
KU Today