The University of Utah
College of Architecture + Planning

PhD in Metropolitan Planning, Policy, and Design

The doctoral degree in Metropolitan Planning, Policy and Design helps meet society’s need for researchers, scholars, teachers, and leaders to make our metropolitan areas sustainable and resilient. The planning challenge is to anticipate change and learn how best to manage it; the policy challenge is how to craft and implement policies needed to facilitate desired change; and the design challenge is how to shape the built environment to achieve desired outcomes. The degree is managed by the Department of City & Metropolitan Planning and is designed to facilitate the interdisciplinary culture of the University of Utah.

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Curriculum Overview

The doctoral degree includes core, electives, qualifying examination, proposal and dissertation benchmarks. The following outlines the degree requirements for students entering the program fall semester 2016 or later. The total number of credits needed to graduate is 57 with master’s degree in planning or 78 without. The entire program takes between 5 to 7 years, depending on prior graduate work.

Planning Foundation (21)

For students with an accredited planning master’s degree from Utah or elsewhere, the graduate planning core is waived. For those without this degree, the graduate planning core is required although individual courses may be waived by the Supervisory Committee based on comparable graduate work at Utah or elsewhere. For most students without an accredited planning degree, completing the core planning courses will require the equivalent of about one full academic year of study.

CMP6010 – Community & Regional Analysis (3)

CMP6100 – Urban & Planning Theory (3)

CMP6160 – Plan Making (3)

CMP6260 – Land Use Law (3)

CMP6322 – City & Metropolitan Economics (3)

CMP6430 – Community Engagement in Planning (3)

CMP6450 – Geographic Information Systems in Planning (3)

CMP6610 – Urban Ecology (3)

Doctoral Foundation (18)

The doctoral foundation is composed of six semester-long doctoral seminars in quantitative methods, qualitative methods, article writing and publishing, research design, pedagogy, and urban and planning theory. Students taken an additional 12 credits of electives.

CMP7100 – Urban & Planning Theory (3)

CMP7401 – Research Design for Metropolitan Planning, Policy and Design (3)

CMP7302 – Qualitative Methods for Planners and Designers (3)

CMP7022 – Quantitative Methods in Planning (3)

CMP7201 – Article Writing & Publishing (3)

CMP7502 – Topics in City & Metropolitan Planning Pedagogy (3)

Electives (12)

Elective courses are selected in consultation with the supervisory committee. Typically, these electives are taken outside of the CMP department. While a minimum number of credits are expected, this may vary depending on the level of preparation by the student as determined by the supervisory committee.

Qualifying Examination (6)

The purpose of the qualifying examination is to demonstrate the ability to undertake independent research through the preparation of a paper sufficient for submission to a scholarly journal; the paper itself will include literature review, theory, research design, research execution, findings, and conclusions. After oral review it is anticipated that students will refine their qualifying examination product and submit it to an appropriate peer-reviewed journal for its consideration.

CMP7930 – Qualifying Exam (1-6)

Dissertation Research Proposal (3)

Candidates will prepare and defend their proposal for a dissertation based on the plan and format negotiated with the Supervisory Committee

CMP7940 – Dissertation Research Proposal (3)

Dissertation (18)

Students are required to write and defend their dissertation in order to graduate from the program. Typically, dissertations are a written work on a singular topic, but a three discrete paper dissertation is also option.

Time to Completion

It is important to progress through the doctoral programs in a timely way. CMP has limited funds to support students, and the admission of new students are based on the numbers continuing in the program.

Students must advance to candidacy by the end of four years without as master’s degree in planning or 5 years without a master’s degree in planning. Advancing to candidacy includes completing all required course work, completing the qualifying paper and having an approved dissertation proposal. A PhD student with or without a master’s degree in planning has seven calendar years from the date of first registration to complete the doctoral degree with an approved dissertation. This timeline applies to both full- and part-time students.

If a student takes an approved leave of absence (maximum of two semesters) the approved leave will not count towards the student’s time to program completion.

Forming a Supervisory Committee

Each supervisory committee consists of five faculty members. The committee chair and the majority of the committee must be tenure-line faculty in the student’s department. One member of the committee must be appointed from outside the student’s major department. The outside member is normally from another University of Utah department. However, the dean of The Graduate School may approve requests to appoint a committee member from another university where appropriate justification and supporting documentation is provided. The supervisory committee is responsible for approving the student’s academic program, preparing and judging the qualifying examinations, approving the dissertation subject and final dissertation, and administering and judging the final oral examination (dissertation defense).

All University of Utah faculty members including tenure-line, career-line, adjunct, visiting and emeritus are eligible to serve as supervisory committee members. The faculty member must hold an academic or professional doctorate, the terminal degree in the relevant field, and/or must have demonstrated competence to do research and scholarly or artistic work in the student’s general field. Committee chairs must be selected from tenure-line faculty.

The supervisory committee is usually formed in the first year of graduate work. It is the responsibility of the student to approach prospective committee members with a view to their willingness and availability to serve in such a capacity. Faculty have the right, however, for justifiable academic reasons, to refuse to serve on a student’s supervisory committee.

Exceptions to these guidelines must be recommended and justified by the director of graduate studies of the department or the department chair and approved by the dean of The Graduate School.

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Qualifying Exam and Proposal

The qualifying (or preliminary) examination requires the student to produce a scholarly piece of work that is of publishable quality. This work is reviewed orally by the supervisory committee. After the oral review it is anticipated that the student will submit it to an appropriate peer-reviewed journal. The scholarly work will include a review of relevant theory, discussion of the research design, application of selected research method, findings, conclusion and implications for metropolitan planning, policy and design.

After the student completes the qualifying exam the student is considered “ABD” and has advanced to candidacy.

Ph.D. students will prepare and defend their proposal for a dissertation based on the plan and format negotiated with the supervisory committee. The design for the proposal may begin at any time. The dissertation research proposal and the qualifying exam can be completed in any order.


Students are required to write and defend their dissertation in order to graduate from the program. Typically, dissertations are a written work on a singular topic including multiple chapters, such as an introduction, literature review, research methods, results, discussion and conclusion.

The doctoral committee will also consider a three discrete paper dissertation (with an introduction and conclusion). The three papers must be deemed publishable in peer-reviewed journals by a majority of the committee. Co-authorship of the papers in the dissertation is permitted, provided that the student is the first author on all papers and is responsible for the full writing of all of the papers. If it is found that any significant portion of a paper was not written by the student, the committee may prohibit that paper from being included in the dissertation.

All dissertations must conform to the formatting requirements outlined by the Graduate School Handbook for Theses and Dissertations. According to the policies of the University of Utah Graduate School, students must submit the  defended dissertation to the Thesis Office.