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Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated as Ph.D., PhD, D.Phil., or DPhil in English-speaking countries and originally as Dr.Philos. (for the Latin philosophiae doctor or doctor philosophiae), is in many countries a postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities. The academic level known as a Doctorate of philosophy varies considerably according to the country, institution, and time period, from entry-level research degrees to higher doctorates. A person who attains a doctorate of philosophy is automatically awarded the academic title of doctor.

File:Dphil gown.jpg

A University of Oxford Doctor of Philosophy in full academic dress.

In the context of academic degrees, the term "philosophy" does not refer solely to the field of philosophy, but is used in a broader sense in accordance with its original Greek meaning, which is "love of wisdom". In most of Europe, all fields other than theology, law and medicine were traditionally known as philosophy, and in Germany and elsewhere in Europe the basic faculty of (liberal) arts was known as the faculty of philosophy. The doctorate of philosophy as it exists today thus originated as a doctorate in the liberal arts at the Friedrich-Wilhelms Universität, the buildings of which are today used by the Humboldt University of Berlin, becoming common in large parts of the world in the 20th century.[1] In many countries, the doctorate of philosophy is still awarded only in philosophy, i.e., liberal arts.


In the universities of Medieval Europe, study was organised in four faculties: the basic faculty of arts, and the three higher faculties of theology, medicine and law (canonical and civil). All of these faculties awarded intermediate degrees (bachelor of arts, of theology, of laws, of medicine) and final degrees. Initially, the titles of master and doctor were used interchangeably for the final degrees, but by the late Middle Ages the terms Master of Arts and Doctor of Theology/Divinity, Doctor of Law and Doctor of Medicine had become standard in most places (though in the German and Italian universities the term Doctor was used for all faculties). The doctorates in the higher faculties were quite different from the current Ph.D. degree in that they were awarded for advanced scholarship, not original research. No dissertation or original work was required, only lengthy residency requirements and examinations. Besides these degrees there was the licentiate. Originally this was a license to teach, awarded shortly before the award of the master or doctor degree by the diocese in which the university was located, but later it evolved into an academic degree in its own right, in particular in the continental universities. So in theory the full course of studies might lead in succession to the degrees of, e.g., Bachelor of Arts, Licentiate of Arts, Master of Arts, Bachelor of Medicine, Licentiate of Medicine, Doctor of Medicine. There were many exceptions to this however, e.g., most students left the university before becoming masters of arts, whereas regulars (members of monastic orders) could skip the arts faculty entirely.[2][3][4]

This situation changed in the early 19th century through the educational reforms in Germany, most strongly embodied in the model of the Humboldt University. The arts faculty, which in Germany was labelled the faculty of philosophy, started demanding contributions to research, attested by a dissertation, for the award of their final degree, which was labelled Doctor of Philosophy (abbreviated as Ph.D.) - originally this was just the German equivalent of the Master of Arts degree. Whereas in the Middle Ages the arts faculty had a set curriculum, based upon the trivium and the quadrivium, by the 19th century it had come to house all the courses of study in subjects now commonly referred to as sciences and humanities.[5]

These reforms proved extremely successful, and fairly quickly the German universities started attracting foreign students, notably from the United States. The American students would go to Germany to obtain a Ph.D. after having studied for a bachelor's degrees at an American college. So influential was this practice that it was imported to the United States, where in 1861 Yale University started granting the Ph.D. degree to younger students who, after having obtained the bachelor's degree, had completed a prescribed course of graduate study and successfully defended a thesis/dissertation containing original research in science or in the humanities.[6] This research degree of doctor of philosophy was the first to be given in North America.[7] The current triple structure of bachelor-master-doctor degrees in one discipline was therefore created on American soil by fusing two different European traditions - the medieval B.A. and M.A. degrees, awarded after a course of study and inherited from the British Universities, and the research based Ph.D. taken over from the early 19th century German educational reforms. Even though in Germany the name of the doctorate was adapted accordingly after the philosophy faculty started being split up - e.g. Dr. rer. nat. for doctorates in the faculty of natural sciences - in most of the Anglo-Saxon world the name of Doctor of Philosophy was retained for research doctorates in all disciplines.

From the United States, the Ph.D. degree spread to Canada in 1900, and then to the United Kingdom in 1917.[8] In particular in the English universities the introduction of the research doctorate largely happened to compete with Germany for American students, but the initiative was first halted by internal criticism. In first instance, in particular at the University of London (from about 1860 onwards), the degrees of Doctor of Science (DSc) and Doctor of Literature (DLit) were introduced, which could be awarded upon presentation of a thesis containing original work. This involved no research training however, and did not have the desired effect of attracting foreign research students. Finally in 1917 the current degree of Ph.D. (or D.Phil.) was introduced, along the lines of the American and German model, and quickly became popular with both British and foreign students.[9] The slightly older degrees of Doctor of Science and Doctor of Literature/Letters still exist in British universities; together with the much older degrees of Doctor of Divinity, Doctor of Music, Doctor of Law/Civil Law and Doctor of Medicine they form the higher doctorates, but apart from honorary degrees they are only infrequently awarded.

It should be noted that in the English (but not the Scottish) universities the Faculty of Arts had become dominant by the early 19th century. Indeed, the higher faculties had largely atrophied, since medical training had shifted to teaching hospitals,[10] the legal training for the common law system was provided by the Inns of Court (with some minor exceptions, see Doctors' Commons), and few students undertook formal study in theology. This is contrast with the situation in the continental European universities at the time, where the preparatory role of the Faculty of Philosophy or Arts was to a great extent taken over by secondary education, as is testified by the ongoing use to this day of the degree of Baccalaureat in France as the qualification obtained after secondary studies. The reforms at the Humboldt University transformed the Faculty of Philosophy or Arts (and its more recent successors such as the Faculty of Sciences) from a lower faculty into one on par with the Faculties of Law and Medicine. A similar evolution happened in many other continental European universities, and at least until reforms in the early 21st century many European countries (e.g. Belgium, Spain and the Scandinavian countries) had in all faculties triple degree structures of bachelor (or candidate) - licentiate - doctor as opposed to bachelor - master - doctor; the meaning of the different degrees varied a lot from country to country however. To this day this is also still the case for the pontifical degrees in theology and canon law: for instance, in Sacred theology the degrees are Bachelor of Sacred Theology (STB), Licentiate of Sacred Theology (STL), and Doctor of Sacred Theology (STD), and in Canon law: Bachelor of Canon Law (JCB), Licentiate of Canon Law(JCL), and Doctor of Canon Law (JCD).


The detailed requirements for award of a Ph.D. degree vary throughout the world and even from school to school. It is usually required for the student to hold an Honours degree or a Master's Degree with high academic standing, in order to be considered for a PhD programme. In some schools in the US, Canada and Denmark, for example, many universities require coursework in addition to research for Ph.D. degrees. In other countries (such as the UK) there is generally no such condition. Some individual universities or departments specify additional requirements for students not already in possession of a bachelor's degree or equivalent or higher.

A candidate must submit a project or thesis or dissertation often consisting of a body of original academic research, which is in principle worthy of publication in a peer-reviewed context.[11] In many countries a candidate must defend this work before a panel of expert examiners appointed by the university; in other countries, the dissertation is examined by a panel of expert examiners who stipulate whether the dissertation is in principle passable and the issues that need to be addressed before the dissertation can be passed.

Some universities in the non-English-speaking world have begun adopting similar standards to those of the Anglophone PhD degree for their research doctorates (see the Bologna process).[12]

A Ph.D. student or candidate (abbreviated to Ph.D.c)[13] is conventionally required to study on campus under close supervision. With the popularity of distance education and e-learning technologies, some universities now accept students enrolled into a distance education part-time mode.

In a "sandwich Ph.D." program, Ph.D. candidates do not spend their entire study period at the same university. Instead, the Ph.D. candidates spend the first and last periods of the program at their home universities, and in between conduct research at another institution or field research.[14] Occasionally a "sandwich Ph.D." will be awarded by two universities.[15]

Value and criticism[]

PhD students are often motivated to pursue the PhD by the desire for further education beyond the undergraduate level, scientific and humanistic curiosity, the desire to contribute to the academic community, service to others, or personal development. A career in academia generally requires a PhD, though in some countries, it is possible to reach relatively high positions without a doctorate. The motivation may also include increased salary, but in many cases this is not the result. Research by Casey suggests that, over all subjects, PhDs provide an earnings premium of 26%, but notes that masters degrees provide a premium of 23% already. While this is a small return to the individual (or even an overall deficit when lost earnings during training are accounted for), he claims there are significant benefits to society for the extra research training.[16] However, some research suggests that overqualified workers are often less satisfied and less productive at their jobs.[17] These difficulties are increasingly being felt by graduates of professional degrees, such as law school, looking to find employment. PhD students often have to take on debt to undertake their degree.

The Economist published an article citing various criticisms against the state of PhDs.[17] Richard B. Freeman explains that, based on pre-2000 data, at most only 20% of life science PhD students end up getting jobs specifically in research. In Canada, where the overflow of PhD degree holders is not as severe, 80% of postdoctoral research fellows earn less than or equal to the average construction worker (roughly $38,000 a year) during their postdoctoral research tenure.[17] Only in the fastest developing countries (e.g. China or Brazil) is there a shortage of PhDs. Higher education systems often offer little incentive to move students through PhD programs quickly (and may even provide incentive to slow them down). To counter this, the United States introduced the Doctor of Arts degree in 1970 with seed money from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The aim of the Doctor of Arts degree was to shorten the time needed to complete the degree by focusing on pedagogy over research, although the Doctor of Arts still contains a significant research component. Germany is one of the few nations engaging these issues, and it has been doing so by reconceptualizing PhD programs to be training for careers, outside of academia, but still at high-level positions. This development can be seen in the extensive number of PhD holders, typically from the fields of law, engineering and economics, at the very top corporate and administrative positions. To a lesser extent, the UK research councils have tackled the issue by introducing, since 1992, the EngD. Mark C. Taylor opines that total reform of PhD programs in almost every field is necessary in the U.S., and that pressure to make the necessary changes will need to come from many sources (students, administrators, public and private sectors, etc.). These issues and others are discussed in an April 2011 issue of the journal Nature.[18][19][20][21]

Within the research occupations in which a PhD is widely viewed as being necessary, career progression is typically aided by publication in peer-reviewed journals; yet many such journals print research papers without any reference to academic certificates in their author by-lines. The quality of a peer reviewed publication is expected to be self-evident, and letters after authors' names are therefore superfluous. In contrast, applicants for research grants may be required to disclose which academic certificates they hold, leading to the risk that a PhD qualification representing as little as three years' work will outweigh a rival applicant's superior publication record and thus leave academic reviewers (whose employers may have a financial stake in the PhD system) open to accusations of self-interest. Given the need for self-evident quality in research publications, the role played by PhD degrees in research occupations differs markedly from the quality assurance role played by professional qualifications in other fields, and is arguably a form of closed shop.

Doctor of Philosophy degrees across the globe[]

UNESCO states that "Programmes to be classified at ISCED level 8 are referred to in many ways across the world such as PhD, DPhil, D.Lit, D.Sc, LL.D, Doctorate or similar terms. However, it is important to note that programmes with a similar name to "doctor" should only be included in ISCED level 8 if they satisfy the criteria described in Paragraph 263. For international comparability purposes, the term "doctoral or equivalent" is used to label ISCED level 8".[22]


See also: Education in Argentina


In Argentina, the admission to a PhD program at public Argentinian University requires the full completion of a Master's degree or a Licentiate's degree. Non-Argentinian Master's titles are generally accepted into a PhD program when the degree comes from a recognized university.


While a significant portion of postgraduate students finance their tuition and living costs with teaching or research work at private and state-run institutions, international institutions, such as the Fulbright Program and the Organization of American States (OAS), have been known to grant full scholarships for tuition with apportions for housing.[23]

Requirements for completion[]

Upon completion of at least two years' research and course work as a graduate student, a candidate must demonstrate truthful and original contributions to his or her specific field of knowledge within a frame of academic excellence.[24] The doctoral candidate's work should be presented in a dissertation or thesis prepared under the supervision of a tutor or director, and reviewed by a Doctoral Committee. This Committee should be composed of examiners that are external to the program, and at least one of them should also be external to the institution. The academic degree of Doctor, respective to the correspondent field of science that the candidate has contributed with original and rigorous research, is received after a successful defense of the candidate's dissertation.[25]


See also: Education in Australia and Australian Qualifications Framework


Admission to a PhD program in Australia requires applicants to demonstrate capacity to undertake research in the proposed field of study. The standard requirement is a Bachelor's degree with either first-class or upper second-class honours. Research Master's degrees and coursework Master's degrees with a 25% research component are usually considered equivalent. It is also possible for research Master's degree students to 'upgrade' to PhD candidature after demonstrating sufficient progress.


PhD students are sometimes offered a scholarship to study for their PhD degree. The most common of these are the government-funded Australian Postgraduate Award (APA), which provides a living stipend to students of approximately A$22,500 a year (tax free). APAs are paid for a duration of 3 years, while a 6 month extension is usually possible upon citing delays out of the control of the student.[26] Some universities also fund a similar scholarship that matches the APA amount. Due to a continual increase in living costs, many PhD students are forced to live under the poverty line.[27] In addition to the more common APA and university scholarships, Australian students have other sources of scholarship funding.


Australian citizens, permanent residents and New Zealand citizens are not charged course fees for their PhD or research Master's degree, with exception to the student services and amenities fee (SSAF) which is set by each university and typically involves the largest amount allowed by the Australian government. All fees are paid for by the Australian government, except for the SSAF, under the Research Training Scheme.[28] International students and coursework Master's degree students must pay course fees, unless they receive a scholarship to cover them.

Requirements for completion[]

Completion requirements vary. Most Australian PhD programs do not have a required coursework component. The credit points attached to the degree are all in the product of the research, which is usually an 80,000 word thesis that makes a significant new contribution to the field. The PhD thesis is sent to external examiners who are experts in the field of research and who have not been involved in the work. Examiners are nominated by the candidate's university and their identities are often not revealed to the candidate until the examination is complete. A formal oral defence is generally not part of the examination of the thesis, largely because of the distances that would need to be traveled by the overseas examiners.



Admission to a PhD program at a Canadian university usually requires completion of a Master's degree in a related field, with sufficiently high grades and proven research ability. In some cases, a student may progress directly from an Honours Bachelor's degree to a PhD program; other programs allow a student to fast-track to a doctoral program after one year of outstanding work in a Master's program (without having to complete the Master's).

An application package typically includes a research proposal, letters of reference, transcripts, and in some cases, a writing sample or Graduate Record Examination scores. A common criterion for prospective PhD students is the comprehensive or qualifying examination, a process that often commences in the second year of a graduate program. Generally, successful completion of the qualifying exam permits continuance in the graduate program. Formats for this examination include oral examination by the student's faculty committee (or a separate qualifying committee), or written tests designed to demonstrate the student's knowledge in a specialized area (see below) or both.

At English-speaking universities, a student may also be required to demonstrate English language abilities, usually by achieving an acceptable score on a standard examination (e.g., Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)). Depending on the field, the student may also be required to demonstrate ability in one or more additional languages. A prospective student applying to French-speaking universities may also have to demonstrate some English language ability.


While some students work outside the university (or at student jobs within the university), in some programs students are advised (or must agree) not to devote more than ten hours per week to activities (e.g., employment) outside of their studies, particularly if they have been given funding. For large and prestigious scholarships, such as those from NSERC, this is an absolute requirement.

At some Canadian universities, most PhD students receive an award equivalent to part or all of the tuition amount for the first four years (this is sometimes called a tuition deferral or tuition waiver). Other sources of funding include teaching assistantships and research assistantships; experience as a teaching assistant is encouraged but not requisite in many programs. Some programs may require all PhD candidates to teach, which may be done under the supervision of their supervisor or regular faculty. Besides these sources of funding, there are also various competitive scholarships, bursaries, and awards available, such as those offered by the federal government via NSERC, CIHR, or SSHRC.

Requirements for completion[]

In general, the first two years of study are devoted to completion of coursework and the comprehensive examinations. At this stage, the student is known as a "PhD student" or "doctoral student". It is usually expected that the student will have completed most of his or her required coursework by the end of this stage. Furthermore, it is usually required that by the end of eighteen to thirty-six months after the first registration, the student will have successfully completed the comprehensive exams.

Upon successful completion of the comprehensive exams, the student becomes known as a "PhD candidate". From this stage on, the bulk of the student's time will be devoted to his or her own research, culminating in the completion of a PhD thesis or dissertation. The final requirement is an oral defense of the thesis, which is open to the public in some, but not all, universities. At most Canadian universities, the time needed to complete a PhD degree typically ranges from four to six years[citation needed]. It is, however, not uncommon for students to be unable to complete all the requirements within six years, particularly given that funding packages often support students for only two to four years; many departments will allow program extensions at the discretion of the thesis supervisor and/or department chair. Alternate arrangements exist whereby a student is allowed to let their registration in the program lapse at the end of six years and re-register once the thesis is completed in draft form. The general rule is that graduate students are obligated to pay tuition until the initial thesis submission has been received by the thesis office. In other words, if a PhD student defers or delays the initial submission of their thesis they remain obligated to pay fees until such time that the thesis has been received in good standing.



Students pursuing the PhD degree must first complete a Master's degree program, which takes two years after graduation with a Bachelor's degree (five years in total). The candidate must find funding and a formal doctoral advisor (Directeur de thèse) with an habilitation throughout the doctoral program.

The Masters program is divided into two branches: "master professionnel", which orientates the students towards the working world, and Master of Research (Master-recherche), which is oriented towards research. The PhD admission is granted by a graduate school (in French, "école doctorale"). A PhD Student has to follow some courses offered by the graduate school while continuing his/her research at laboratory. His/her research may be carried out in a laboratory, at a university, or in a company. In the last case, the company hires the student as an engineer and the student is supervised by both the company's tutor and a labs' professor. The validation of the PhD degree requires generally 3 to 4 years after the Master degree.


The financing of PhD studies comes mainly from funds for research of the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research. The most common procedure is a short-term employment contract called doctoral contract: the institution of higher education is the employer and the PhD candidate the employee. However, the student can apply for funds from a company who can host him/her at its premises (as in the case where PhD students do their research in a company). Many other resources come from some regional/city projects, some associations, etc.



In India, generally a Masters degree is required to gain admission to a doctoral program. Direct admission to a Ph.D programme after bachelors is also offered by the IITs, the NITs and the ACSIR. In some subjects, doing a Masters in Philosophy (M.Phil.) is a prerequisite to starting a Ph.D. For funding/fellowship, it is required to qualify for the National Eligibility Test for Lectureship and Junior Research fellowship (NET for LS and JRF) [29] conducted by the federal research organisation Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and University Grants Commission (UGC).

In the last few years, there have been many changes in the rules relating to a Ph.D in India [citation needed]. According to the new rules, most universities conduct entrance exams in general ability and the selected subject. After clearing these tests, the shortlisted candidates need to appear for an interview by the available supervisor/guide. The students are required to give presentations of the research proposal at the beginning, submit progress reports, give a pre-submission presentation and finally defend the thesis in an open defence viva-voce.


See also: Education in Germany


In Germany, admission to a doctoral program is generally on the basis of having an advanced degree (i.e., a master's degree, diploma, magister, or staatsexamen), more often than not in a related field, and above-average grades. A candidate must also find a tenured professor or Privatdozent to serve as the formal advisor and supervisor (Betreuer) of the dissertation throughout the doctoral program. This supervisor is informally referred to as Doktorvater or Doktormutter, which literally translate as "doctor's father" or "doctor's mother", respectively.


Doctoral candidates (Doktorand/-in), or doctoral students, are generally not required to attend formal classes or lectures; instead, under the tutelage of a single professor or advisory committee, they are expected to conduct independent research. In addition to doctoral studies, many doctoral candidates work as teaching assistants (TAs) or research assistants (RAs).

Many universities have established research-intensive Graduiertenkollegs ("graduate colleges"), which are graduate schools that provide funding for doctoral studies.


The usual duration of a doctoral program largely depends on the subject and area of research; but, often three to five years of full-time research work are required.

As of 2012, the average age of new Ph.D. graduates is 32.7 years of age.[30]

Other nations[]

In German-speaking nations; most Eastern European nations; successor states of the former Soviet Union; most parts of Africa, Asia, and many Spanish-speaking countries, the corresponding degree to a Doctor of Philosophy is simply called "Doctor" (Doktor), and the subject area is distinguished by with a Latin suffix (e.g., "Dr. med." for Doctor medicinae, Doctor of Medicine; "Dr. rer. nat." for Doctor rerum naturalium, Doctor of the Natural Sciences; "Dr. phil." for Doctor philosophiae, Doctor of Philosophy; "Dr. iur." for Doctor iuris, Doctor of Laws).

USSR, Russian Federation and former Soviet Republics[]

Template:Over coverage The degree of Candidate of Sciences (Russian: кандидат наук

- Kandidat Nauk) was the first advanced research qualification in the former USSR and some Eastern Bloc countries (Czechoslovakia, Hungary) and is still awarded in some post-Soviet states (Russian Federation, Ukraine, Belarus and others). According to "Guidelines for the recognition of Russian qualifications in the other countries", in countries with a two-tier system of doctoral degrees (like Russian Federation, some post-Soviet states, Germany, Poland, Austria and Switzerland), should be considered for recognition at the level of the first doctoral degree, and in countries with only one doctoral degree, the degree of Kandidat Nauk should be considered for recognition as equivalent to this degree. As most education systems only have one advanced research qualification granting doctoral degrees or equivalent qualifications (ISCED 2011,[31] par.270), the degree of Candidate of Sciences (Kandidat Nauk) of the former USSR counties is usually considered at the same level as the doctorate or PhD degrees of those countries.[32][33] According to the Joint Statement by the Permanent Conference of the Ministers for Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder of the Federal Republic of Germany (Kultusministerkonferenz, KMK), German Rectors' Conference (HRK) and the Ministry of General and Professional Education of the Russian Federation, the degree of Kandidat Nauk is recognised in Germany at the level of the German degree of Doktor and the degree of Doktor Nauk at the level of German Habilitation.[34][35] The Russian degree of Kandidat Nauk is also officially recognised by the Government of the French Republic as equivalent to French doctorate.[36][37] In Ukraine, the Supreme Certifying Commission (official English self-denomination, also known as Higher Attestation Commission or "VAK", Template:Lang-ua), before it was merged into the Ministry of Education and Science, Youth and Sport of Ukraine, would issue official international diploma supplements to holders of Ukrainian degrees of Kandydat Nauk (Candidate of Sciences, Template:Lang-ua)[38] stating that the degree was "comparable to the academic degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Ph.D.".[39][40][41] In several former Eastern Bloc countries (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary), in which the Candidate of Sciences degrees used to be modeled after the Soviet ones, those degrees have been replaced with Ph.D. or equivalent doctoral degrees, with the recognition of the essential equivalency between the old and the new degrees.[42][43]

According to the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 2011, for purposes of international educational statistics, Kandidat Nauk (Candidate of Sciences) belongs to ISCED level 8, or "doctoral or equivalent", together with PhD, DPhil, D.Lit, D.Sc, LL.D, Doctorate or similar. It is mentioned in the Russian version of ISCED 2011 (par.262) on the UNESCO website as an equivalent to PhD belonging to this level.[31] In the same way as PhD degrees awarded in many English-speaking countries, Kandidat Nauk (Candidate of Sciences) allows its holders to reach the level of the Docent.[41][42] The second doctorate[32] (or post-doctoral degree[40][44]) in some post-Soviet states called Doctor of Sciences (Russian: доктор наук

- Doktor Nauk) is given as an example of second advanced research qualifications or higher doctorates in ISCED 2011[31] (par.270) and is similar to Habilitation in Germany, Poland and several other countries.[32][44][45] It constitutes a higher qualification compared to PhD as against the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) or Dublin Descriptors.[44]

About 88% of Russian students studying at state universities study at the expense of budget funds.[46] The average stipend in Russia (as of August 2011) is $430 a year ($35/month).[47] The average tuition fee in graduate school is $2,000 per year.[48]


The Dottorato di ricerca (research doctorate), abbreviated to "Dott. Ric." or "Ph.D.", is an academic title awarded at the end of a course of not less than three years, admission to which is based on entrance examinations and academic rankings in the Bachelor of Arts ("Laurea Triennale") and Master of Arts ("Laurea Magistrale" or "Laurea Specialistica"). While the standard Ph.D. follows the Bologna process, the MD/PhD programme may be completed in two years.

The first institution in Italy to create a doctoral program (Ph.D.) was Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa in 1927 under the historic name "Diploma di Perfezionamento".[49][50] Further, the research doctorates or PhD (Italian: Dottorato di ricerca) in Italy were introduced by law and Presidential Decree in 1980,[51][52] referring to the reform of academic teaching, training and experimentation in organisation and teaching methods.[53][54]

Hence, the Superior Graduate Schools in Italy (Grandes écoles)[55] (Italian: Scuola Superiore Universitaria),[56] also called Schools of Excellence (Italian: Scuole di Eccellenza)[55][57] such as Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa and Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies still keep their reputed historical "Diploma di Perfezionamento" PhD title by law[50][58] and MIUR Decree.[59][60]

Doctorate courses are open, without age or citizenship limits, to all those who already hold a "laurea magistrale" (master degree) or similar academic title awarded abroad which has been recognised as equivalent to an Italian degree by the Committee responsible for the entrance examinations.

The number of places on offer each year and details of the entrance examinations are set out in the examination announcement.


A doctoral degree (Pol. doktor), abbreviated to PhD (Pol. dr) is an advanced academic degree awarded by universities in most fields [61][62][63][64][65] as well as by the Polish Academy of Sciences,[66] regulated by the Polish parliament acts[67] and the government orders, in particular by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Republic of Poland. Commonly, students with a master's degree or equivalent are accepted to a doctoral entrance exam. The title of PhD is awarded to a scientist who 1) completed a minimum of 3 years of PhD studies (Pol. studia doktoranckie), 2) finished his/her theoretical and/or laboratory's scientific work, 3) passed all PhD examinations, 4) submitted his/her dissertation- a document presenting the author's research and findings,[68] 5) successfully defended his/her doctoral thesis. Typically, upon completion, the candidate undergoes an oral examination, always public, by his/her supervisory committee with expertise in the given discipline.


The doctorate was introduced in Sweden in 1477 and in Denmark-Norway in 1479 and awarded in theology, law and medicine, while the magister's degree was the highest degree at the Faculty of Philosophy, equivalent to the doctorate.

Scandinavian countries were among the early adopters of a degree known as a doctorate of philosophy, based upon the German model. Denmark and Norway both introduced the Dr.Phil(os). degree in 1824, replacing the Magister's degree as the highest degree, while Uppsala University of Sweden renamed its Magister's degree Filosofie Doktor (Fil.Dr.) in 1863. These degrees, however, became comparable to the German Habilitation rather than the doctorate, as Scandinavian countries did not have a separate Habilitation.[69] The degrees were uncommon and not a prerequisite for employment as a professor; rather, they were seen as distinctions similar to the British (higher) doctorates (D.Litt., D.Sc.). Denmark introduced an American-style PhD in 1989; it formally replaced the Licentiate degree, and is considered a lower degree than the dr. phil. degree; officially, the PhD is not considered a doctorate, but unofficially, it is referred to as "the smaller doctorate", as opposed to the dr. phil., "the grand doctorate".[70] Currently Denmark and Norway are both awarding the traditional (higher) dr. phil(os). degree, and American-style PhDs.

In Sweden, the doctorate of philosophy was introduced at Uppsala University's Faculty of Philosophy in 1863. In Sweden, the Latin term is widely translated into Swedish filosofie doktor. The degree represents the traditional Faculty of Philosophy and encompases subjects from biology, physics and chemistry, to languages, history and social sciences. Sweden currently has two research-level degree, the Licentiate's degree, which is comparable to the Danish degree formerly known as the Licentiate's degree and now as the PhD, and the higher doctorate of philosophy, Filosofie Doktor. Some universities in Sweden also use the term teknologie doktor for PhDs rewarded from institutes of technology (for PhDs in engineering or natural science related subjects such as materials science, molecular biology, computer science etc.) which, in relation to teknologie magister being translated as Master of Science, would be translated as Doctor of Science. In general, however, these degrees are also referred to as PhDs in English.


Doctoral degrees are regulated by Royal Decree (R.D. 778/1998),[71] Real Decreto (in Spanish). They are granted by a university on behalf of the King, and its diploma has the force of a public document. The Ministry of Science keeps a National Registry of Theses called TESEO.[72]

All doctoral programs are of a research nature. A minimum of four years of study are required, divided into two stages:

  1. A 2-year-long period of studies, which concludes with a public dissertation presented to a panel of 3 professors. If the project receives approval from the university, he/she will receive a Diploma de Estudios Avanzados (part qualified doctor, literally: "Diploma of Advanced Studies").
  2. A 2-year (or longer) period of research. Extensions may be requested for up to 10 years. The student must write his thesis presenting a new discovery or original contribution to science. If approved by his "thesis director", the study will be presented to a panel of 5 distinguished scholars. Any doctor attending the public presentations is allowed to challenge the candidate with questions on his research. If approved, he will receive the doctorate. Four marks can be granted (Unsatisfactory, Pass, "Cum laude", and "Summa cum laude"). From 2007 the mark "Cum laude" is the highest one, applicable only to the candidates who get the highest score by unanimity of the members of the tribunal.[73]

A doctoral degree is required to apply to a long-term teaching position at a university.

The social standing of doctors in Spain is evidenced by the fact that only Ph.D. holders, Grandees and Dukes can take seat and cover their heads in the presence of the King.[74] All Doctor Degree holders are reciprocally recognized as equivalent in Germany and Spain ("Bonn Agreement of November 14, 1994").[75]

United Kingdom[]

Note: The term PhD can refer to a specific type of Doctorate (a PhD), and the term is also often used generically to cover all doctorates.


Universities admit applicants to PhD programmes on a case-by-case basis; depending on the university, admission is typically conditional on the prospective student having successfully completed an undergraduate degree with at least upper second-class honours, or a postgraduate master's degree, but requirements can vary.

In the case of the University of Oxford, for example, "The one essential condition of being accepted ... is evidence of previous academic excellence, and of future potential."[76] Commonly, students are first accepted on to an MPhil programme and may transfer to PhD regulations upon satisfactory progress and is referred to as APG (Advanced Postgraduate) status. This is typically done after one or two years, and the research work done may count towards the PhD degree. If a student fails to make satisfactory progress, he or she may be offered the opportunity to write up and submit for an MPhil degree.

In addition, PhD students from countries outside the EU/EFTA area are required to comply with the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS), which involves undergoing a security clearance process with the Foreign Office for certain courses in medicine, mathematics, engineering and material sciences.[77][78] This requirement was introduced in 2007 due to concerns about terrorism and weapons proliferation.[78]


In the United Kingdom, funding for PhD students is sometimes provided by government-funded Research Councils or the European Social Fund, usually in the form of a tax-free bursary which consists of tuition fees together with a stipend of around £13,000 per year for three years (higher in London),[79] whether or not the degree continues for longer. Scientific studentships are usually paid at a higher rate, for example, in London, Cancer Research UK, the ICR and the Wellcome Trust stipend rates start at around £19,000 and progress annually to around £23,000 a year; an amount that is tax and national insurance free. Research Council funding is sometimes 'earmarked' for a particular department or research group, who then allocate it to a chosen student, although in doing so they are generally expected to abide by the usual minimum entry requirements (typically a first degree with upper second class honours, although successful completion of a postgraduate master's degree is usually counted as raising the class of the first degree by one division for these purposes). However, the availability of funding in many disciplines (especially humanities, social studies, and pure science[citation needed] subjects) means that in practice only those with the best research proposals, references and backgrounds are likely to be awarded a studentship. The ESRC (Economic and Social Science Research Council) explicitly state that a 2.1 minimum (or 2.2 plus additional masters degree) is required – no additional marks are given for students with a first class honours or a distinction at masters level. Since 2002, there has been a move by research councils to fund interdisciplinary doctoral training centres which concentrate resources on fewer higher quality centres.

Many students who are not in receipt of external funding may choose to undertake the degree part-time, thus reducing the tuition fees, as well as creating free time in which to earn money for subsistence. Students may also take part in tutoring, work as research assistants, or (occasionally) deliver lectures, at a rate of typically £25–30 per hour, either to supplement existing low income or as a sole means of funding.[80]


There is usually a preliminary assessment to remain in the programme and the thesis is submitted at the end of a 3- to 4-year programme. These periods are usually extended pro rata for part-time students. With special dispensation, the final date for the thesis can be extended for up to four additional years, for a total of seven, but this is rare.[81] For full-time PhDs, a 4 year time limit has now been fixed and students cannot submit a thesis past this point. Since the early 1990s, British funding councils have adopted a policy of penalising departments where large proportions of students fail to submit their theses in four years after achieving PhD-student status (or pro rata equivalent) by reducing the number of funded places in subsequent years.[82]

There has recently been an increase in the number of Integrated PhD programs available, such as at the University of Southampton. These courses include a Master of Research (MRes) in the first year, which consists of a taught component as well as laboratory rotation projects. The PhD must then be completed within the next 3 years. As this includes the MRes all deadlines and timeframes are brought forward to encourage completion of both MRes and PhD within 4 years from commencement. These programmes are designed to provide students with a greater range of skills than a standard PhD; and for the university they are a means of gaining an extra years' fees from public sources.

Other doctorates[]

In the United Kingdom PhD degrees are distinct from other doctorates, most notably the higher doctorates such as D.Litt. (Doctor of Letters) or D.Sc. (Doctor of Science), which may be granted on the recommendation of a committee of examiners on the basis of a substantial portfolio of submitted (and usually published) research. However, most UK universities still maintain the option of submitting a thesis for the award of a higher doctorate.

Recent years have seen the introduction of professional doctorates (D.Prof or ProfD), which are the same level as PhDs but more specific in their field.[83] These tend not to be solely academic, but combine academic research, a taught component and a professional qualification. These are most notably in the fields of engineering (Eng.D.), education (Ed.D.), educational psychology (D.Ed.Psych), occupational psychology (D.Occ Psych.) clinical psychology (D.Clin.Psych.), social work (D.S.W), nursing (D.N.P), public administration (D.P.A.), business administration (D.B.A.), and music (D.M.A.). These typically have a more formal taught component consisting of smaller research projects, as well as a 40,000–60,000 word thesis component, which collectively is equivalent to that of a PhD degree.

United States[]


Further information: Doctorate#United States

In the United States, the Ph.D. degree is the highest academic degree awarded by universities in most fields of study. American students typically undergo a series of three phases in the course of their work toward the Ph.D. degree. The first phase consists of coursework in the student's field of study and requires one to three years to complete. This often is followed by a preliminary, a comprehensive examination, or a series of cumulative examinations where the emphasis is on breadth rather than depth of knowledge. The student is often later required to pass oral and written examinations in the field of specialization within the discipline, and here, depth is emphasized. Some Ph.D. programs require the candidate to successfully complete requirements in pedagogy (taking courses on higher level teaching and teaching undergraduate courses) or applied science (e.g., clinical practice and predoctoral clinical internship in Ph.D. programs in clinical, counseling, or school psychology). [citation needed]

Another two to four years are usually required for the composition of a substantial and original contribution to human knowledge in the form of a written dissertation, which in the social sciences and humanities typically ranges from 50 to 450 pages. In many cases, depending on the discipline, a dissertation consists of a comprehensive literature review, an outline of methodology, and several chapters of scientific, social, historical, philosophical, or literary analysis. Typically, upon completion, the candidate undergoes an oral examination, sometimes public, by his or her supervisory committee with expertise in the given discipline.


There are 282 universities in the United States that award the PhD degree, and those universities vary widely in their criteria for admission, as well as the rigor of their academic programs.[84] Typically, PhD programs require applicants to have a Bachelor's degree in a relevant field (and, in many cases in the humanities, a master's degree), reasonably high grades, several letters of recommendation, relevant academic coursework, a cogent statement of interest in the field of study, and satisfactory performance on a graduate-level exam specified by the respective program (e.g., GRE, GMAT).[85][86] Specific admissions criteria differ substantially according to university admissions policies and fields of study. Some programs in well-regarded research universities may have very low acceptance rates and require excellent performances on the GRE and in undergraduate work, strong support in letters of recommendation, substantial research experience, and academically sophisticated samples of their writing. [citation needed]

Master's degree "en route"[]

As applicants to many Ph.D. programs are not required to have master's degrees, many programs award a Master of Arts or Master of Science degree "en route", "in passing", or "in course" based on the graduate work done in the course of achieving the Ph.D. Students who receive such master's degrees are usually required to complete a certain amount of coursework and a master's thesis or field examination. Not all Ph.D. programs require additional work to obtain a master's en route to the Ph.D. (e.g., a master's thesis). Depending on the specific program, masters-in-passing degrees can be either mandatory or optional. Not all Ph.D. students choose to complete the additional requirements necessary for the Master of Arts or the Master of Science if such requirements are not mandated by their programs. Those students will simply obtain the Ph.D. degree at the end of their graduate study. [citation needed]


Depending on the specific field of study, completion of a PhD program usually takes four to eight years of study after the Bachelor's Degree; those students who begin a PhD program with a master's degree may complete their PhD degree a year or two sooner.[87] As PhD programs typically lack the formal structure of undergraduate education, there are significant individual differences in the time taken to complete the degree. Many U.S. universities have set a ten-year limit for students in PhD programs, or refuse to consider graduate credit older than ten years as counting towards a PhD degree. Similarly, students may be required to re-take the comprehensive exam if they do not defend their dissertations within five years after submitting it to their self-chosen dissertation advisors. [citation needed] Overall, 57% of students who begin a PhD program in the US will complete their degree within ten years, approximately 30% will drop out or be dismissed, and the remaining 13% of students will continue on past ten years.[88]


PhD students are usually discouraged from engaging in external employment during the course of their graduate training. As a result, PhD students at U.S. universities typically receive a tuition waiver and some form of annual stipend. [citation needed] The source and amount of funding varies from field to field and university to university. Many U.S. PhD students work as teaching assistants or research assistants. Graduate schools increasingly[citation needed] encourage their students to seek outside funding; many are supported by fellowships they obtain for themselves or by their advisers' research grants from government agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Many Ivy League and other well-endowed universities provide funding for the entire duration of the degree program (if it is short) or for most of it. [citation needed]Funding, availability of graduate/teaching assistantships, tuition waivers, grants, scholarships etc. will vary greatly based on their classification (see Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education). Smaller private universities that grant doctoral degrees may not provide any source of funding to doctoral students. The same is true for many online doctoral programs.

PhD candidacy[]

Candidate of Philosophy is a certification or a status, rather than a separate degree, that a postgraduate student achieves en route to a doctorate. It is abbreviated PhD (cand), PhDc, or simply PhC. Postgraduate programs vary in their requirements for completion of a doctorate, but most follow a pattern: completion of class requirements, a lower level exam, an upper level exam, and a final exam.

Candidacy is conferred or certified when the student has successfully satisfied specific requirements towards a doctorate, pending the completion of research projects and defense of a written dissertation. The completion of research, however, might or might not be necessary for candidacy. Rather, it depends on requirements that are specific to the program of study. The term "ABD" (All But Dissertation or All But Defended) usually means that a candidate has only to complete the writing and defense of the dissertation.

Although it is a minor distinction in postgraduate study, candidacy occasionally provides some benefits. It might mean an increase in the student's stipend and/or make the student eligible for employment opportunities. Neither of these, however, is guaranteed by candidacy. The primary benefit of PhD candidacy is that completion of the doctorate is nominally imminent so long as the student completes the final defense. This is, of course, not a given because a written dissertation and an oral defense of the student's work are typically not treated lightly by the faculty.

It is worth noting that the Candidate of Philosophy is not to be confused with Candidate of Sciences, an academic degree that has been used in certain countries in place of a PhD.

Some programs also include a Master of Philosophy degree as part of the PhD program.[89] The MPhil, in those universities that offer it, is usually awarded after the appropriate MA or MS (as above) is awarded, and the degree candidate has completed all further requirements for the PhD degree (which may include additional language requirements, course credits, teaching experiences, and comprehensive exams) aside from the writing and defense of the dissertation itself. [citation needed] This formalizes the "all but dissertation" (ABD) status used informally by some students, and represents that the student has achieved a higher level of scholarship than the MA/MS would indicate – as such, the MPhil is sometimes a helpful credential for those applying for teaching or research posts while completing their dissertation work for the PhD degree itself.[90]

Models of supervision[]

At some universities, there may be training for those wishing to supervise PhD studies. There is now a lot of literature published for academics who wish to do this, such as Delamont, Atkinson and Parry (1997). Indeed, Dinham and Scott (2001) have argued that the worldwide growth in research students has been matched by increase in a number of what they term "how-to" texts for both students and supervisors, citing examples such as Pugh and Phillips (1987). These authors report empirical data on the benefits that a PhDc may gain if he or she publishes work, and note that PhD students are more likely to do this with adequate encouragement from their supervisors.

Wisker (2005) has noticed how research into this field has distinguished between two models of supervision: The technical-rationality model of supervision, emphasising technique; The negotiated order model, being less mechanistic and emphasising fluid and dynamic change in the PhD process. These two models were first distinguished by Acker, Hill and Black (1994; cited in Wisker, 2005). Considerable literature exists on the expectations that supervisors may have of their students (Phillips & Pugh, 1987) and the expectations that students may have of their supervisors (Phillips & Pugh, 1987; Wilkinson, 2005) in the course of PhD supervision. Similar expectations are implied by the Quality Assurance Agency's Code for Supervision (Quality Assurance Agency, 1999; cited in Wilkinson, 2005).

International PhD equivalent degrees[]

  • Afghanistan: ډاکټر
  • Algeria : Doctorat, دكتوراه
  • Argentina: Doctorado (Dr.)
  • Azerbaijan: Doktorantura (Dr.)
  • Armenia: գիտությունների թեկնածու, դոցենտ
  • Austria: Doktor (Dr., plural: DDr.)
  • Belarus: by: кандидат наук
  • Belgium (Dutch-speaking): Doctor
  • Belgium (French-speaking): Doctorat
  • Brazil: Doutorado
  • Bulgaria: Доктор
  • China: 博士
  • Chile: Doctorado
  • Colombia: Doctorado
  • Croatia: Doktor
  • Czech Republic: CSc. and DrSc. was used till 1998, since 1998 PhD written as Ph.D. is used
  • Denmark: Licentiate, Magister, PhD (the doctorates are higher degrees)
  • Dominican Republic: Doctorado
  • Ecuador: Doctorado
  • El Salvador: Doctorado
  • Egypt: Doctorat
  • Estonia: Doktor
  • Finland: Tohtori
  • France: Doctorat
  • Germany: Doktor
  • Greece: Διδακτορικό
  • Hong Kong: 博士 (Doctor)
  • India: Doctorate
  • Indonesia: Doktor
  • Iran: دکترا(Doctora)
  • Iraq: دكتوراه (Duktorah)
  • Ireland: an Doctúireacht
  • Israel: דוקטורט ("doctorat")
  • Italy: Dottorato di ricerca
  • Japan: 博士
  • Korea: 박사
  • Kuwait: دكتوراه (Dektoraah)
  • Latin America: Doctorado/Doctorate
  • Latvia: Zinātņu doktors
  • Lebanon: دكتوراه (doktorah)
  • Lithuania: Daktaras
  • Macau: 博士 (Doutoramento)
  • Macedonia: Докторат
  • Malaysia: Doktor Falsafah
  • Mexico: Doctorado
  • Mongolia: Эрдэмтэн
  • Morocco: Doctorat
  • Netherlands: Doctor
  • Norway: Magister, Licentiate, doctorates (traditionally considered higher degrees), PhD
  • Pakistan: Doctor
  • Paraguay: PhD or Doctorado (Dr.)
  • Peru: Doctorado
  • Philippines: Doktor
  • Poland: Doktor
  • Portugal: Doutoramento
  • Romania: Doctorat
  • Russia: ru: кандидат наук
  • Singapore: Doctor
  • Serbia: Доктор
  • Slovakia: Doktor, PhD
  • Slovenia: Doktor
  • Spain: Doctorado
  • Syria: دكتوراه (doktorah)
  • Taiwan: 博士
  • Thailand: ดุษฎีบัณฑิต
  • Tunisia: دكتوراه (doktorah)
  • Turkey: Doktora
  • Ukraine: uk: кандидат наук (CSc.)
  • Uzbekistan: Fan nomzodi (CSc.)
  • Venezuela: Doctorado
  • Vietnam: Tiến sĩ

See also[]

Related terminology:

  • Doctor of Arts—Preparation for academic position in the arts.
  • Doctor of Education—Preparation for academic, administrative, clinical, or research positions in the field of education.
  • PhD in Management—A program designed for students interested in becoming university professors in the field of business.
  • Doctorate—A general term describing a set of degrees analogous to the PhD.
  • Magister (degree)—A degree awarded in Argentina and Uruguay.
  • Terminal degree—The highest degree awarded in a field, usually a PhD.
  • Graduate student—A student pursuing education past the bachelor's degree, such as a master's degree or a PhD.
  • C.Phil. (also ABD)—Term, usually used unofficially, for a graduate student who has completed all PhD coursework but has yet to defend his or her dissertation.
  • Кандидат наук (Kandidat nauk)—Degree awarded by the USSR and some post-Soviet states (e.g., Russia, Ukraine).
  • Доктор наук (Doktor nauk)—Degree awarded by the USSR and some post-Soviet states (e.g., Russia, Ukraine).
  • Licentiate – Degree awarded in various countries, including Portugal, Belgium, the UK, Argentina, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and Poland.
  • Postdoctoral research
  • Sandwich PhD Programme

PhD in popular culture:

  • Piled Higher and Deeper – Life (or the lack thereof) in Academia, a comic strip by Jorge Cham
  • Humor - Nicholas does a PhD or PhD explained to everyone.


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  • Delamont, S., Atkinson, P. & Parry, O. (1997). Supervising the Ph.D.: A guide to success. Buckingham: Open University Press. ISBN 0-335-19516-4
  • Dinham, S. & Scott, C. (2001). The experience of the results of disseminating the results of doctoral research. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 25 (1) 45–55. ISSN: 1469-9486
  • Drury, V., Francis, K., & Chapman, Y. (2006). Walking the void – being a rural PhD student. Australian Journal of Rural Health, 14, p233.
  • MacGillivray, Alex; Potts, Gareth; Raymond, Polly. Secrets of Their Success (London: New Economics Foundation, 2002).
  • Phillips, E. & Pugh, D.S. (1987). How to get a PhD : managing the peaks and troughs of research / Estelle M. Phillips and D.S. Pugh. Milton Keynes: Open University Press ISBN 0-335-15537-5
  • Simpson, Renate. How the PhD came to Britain: A century of struggle for postgraduate education, Society for Research into Higher Education, Guildford (1983).
  • Wellington, J. Bathmaker, A._M., Hunt, C., McCullough, G. & Sikes, P. (2005). Succeeding with your doctorate. London: Sage. ISBN 1-4129-0116-2
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Academic degrees
Associate's degrees (U.S.) AA, ABA, ABS, AS
Foundation degrees (U.K.) FdA, FdEd, FdEng, FdMus, FdBus, FdSc, FdTech
Bachelor's degrees B.Accty, AB or BA, BSc or SB, BBus, BCom or BComm, BCS, BEc, BEng or BE, BS or BSc, BFA, BD, BHE, BJ, BPharm, BPE, BHK, BCL, LL.B., MB ChB or MB BS or BM BS or MB BChir or MB BCh BAO, BMus, B.Math, BTech, BBA, BAdm, MA (Oxon.), MA (Cantab.), MA (Dubl.), MA (Hons)
Master's degrees MA, MS or MSc, MSt, MALD, MApol, MPhil, MRes, MFA, MTh, MTS, M.Div., MBA, MPA, MJ, MSW, MPAff, MLIS, MLitt, MPH, MPM, MPP, MPT, MRE, MTheol, LLM, MEng, MSci, MBio, MChem, MPhys, MMath, MMus, MESci, MGeol, MTCM, MSSc, BCL (Oxon), BPhil (Oxon), ThM
Specialist degrees Ed.S., SSP, B.Acc., C.A.S.
Doctoral degrees PhD, EdD, EngD, DNursSci, DBA, DC, DD, DSc, DLitt, DA, MD, DDS, DMD, DMA, DMus, DCL, ThD, JD, OD, DO, PharmD, DrPH, DPT, DPhil, DOM, OMD, DPM, PsyD, DSW, LL.D., J.S.D., S.J.D. S.T.D

es:Doctorado ml:ഡോക്ടർ (വിദ്യാഭ്യാസം) fi:Tohtori fi:Filosofian tohtori

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