PhD in Urban and Regional Planning

A doctoral degree is offered to students with a master’s degree in planning or a related field. This offers advanced students the opportunity to specialize in one of the sub-fields of planning. PhD students are expected to take a minimum of 21 credit hours beyond the master’s degree, pass a comprehensive exam, and prepare and defend a dissertation. Students without a master’s degree in planning may be required to take additional courses from the MURP curriculum.

The program provides training in advanced research in urban and regional planning. Graduates are expected to pursue academic appointments at institutions of higher education and to achieve higher levels of professional practice in the public and private sectors.

A student pursuing the PhD degree is required to complete at least 21 credits in advanced courses (in addition to any remedial courses designated at the time of admission). The following core courses are required:

  • PLAN 602: Advanced Planning Theory
  • PLAN 655: Planning Research Methods

In addition to these two core courses, PhD students are required to take nine credits in an allied field (to be selected in consultation with the student’s advisor), a three-credit additional research methods course, and a three-credit research design course. Prior to taking their comprehensive exams, students submit a 6,000-word major field paper. Prior to starting the dissertation, PhD candidates must pass a comprehensive examination in their chosen/described major and minor fields.

For additional PhD program details, please refer to the PhD Guidelines.

First year — Completing basic requirements

  1. Take PLAN 602.
  2. Take courses in allied fields.
  3. Prepare Study Plan with your advisor outlining proposed courses and schedule.
  4. Prepare draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

Second year — MOU, Preparing for comprehensive examination

  1. Identify three DURP committee members.
  2. Finalize MOU consisting of (a) a brief statement on the proposed dissertation topic, (b) names and descriptions of major and minor fields and proposed bibliography for the comprehensive exam, and (c) calendar of study, research and writing to completion of the dissertation. Signed agreement on the MOU by all committee members is required by the end of the second year.
  3. Prepare major field paper.

Second-third year – Completing courses and comprehensive exam

  1. Take research design/proposal course
  2. Complete all course requirements
  3. Prepare exam reading list for major and minor fields of study and successfully take comprehensive examination in consultation with Ph.D. committee members. The practice at DURP is that only three committee members will be responsible for setting and assessing the comprehensive exam. Students are free to have more than three committee members on the comprehensive examination.
  4. Identify five dissertation committee members, with at least one member from another department or program at UH (or, if approved, off campus)
  5. Draft complete dissertation research proposal in consultation with committee members.

Third year and after — Advancing to candidacy, field research and completing the Ph.D.

  1. Present dissertation proposal at a department colloquium. Having already completed all course requirements and successfully passing the comprehensive exam, upon acceptance of the proposal by the committee the student is advanced to candidacy for a Ph.D., also known as ABD (all but dissertation).
  2. Field research, writing of Ph.D. dissertation, and final defense.

Students are subject to all relevant requirements of the department and the graduate division. They must demonstrate sufficient progress in order to advance to candidacy.

Upon completion of the Ph.D., students will be able to:

  1. Evaluate, synthesize, and conduct independent research relevant to building knowledge in the field of urban and regional planning;
  2. Demonstrate mastery of rigorous research design and an application of research method within the field of planning; and
  3. Present, discuss, and defend research findings through effective oral and written communication.

Admission to the PhD program requires a master’s degree in planning. In exceptional circumstances, candidates with either an advanced research background or exceptional professional experience, but who do not have a master’s degree in planning, may be admitted. Admission may be granted with the understanding that some background courses or examinations may be required.

Consideration for admission requires a GPA of at least a 3.5 in previous graduate work. Applicants are also required to submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores for verbal, math and analytic sections, with a minimum combined score of 300. Non-native speakers of English are also required to submit a TOEFL or IELTS Academic score of 100 iBT and 7.5 respectively. Applicants are also expected to submit evidence of advanced work such as a research report or sole-authored plan.

Admission of non-MURP students

Students without a master’s degree in planning must take either 18 or 24 credits, distributed as follow, with exceptions granted by both the Graduate Chair/Department Chair:

  • 18 credits of MURP core requirements (PLAN 600, 601, 603, 620, 640, and 678); and
  • 6 credits of MURP planning practicum (PLAN 751) if they lack professional planning experience or have not taken a similar planning practicum.

As is the case with the MURP degree, applicants to the PhD program submit some materials directly to the department and some directly to the Graduate Division. The Graduate Division reviews all graduate study applications and sends those meeting basic criteria to the appropriate academic departments. Once the department receives official documents from the Graduate Division and has received all materials from the applicant, department faculty meet to consider the application.

PhD applicants submit the following directly to the Graduate Division:

  1. The Application for Graduate Admission and fee
  2. One transcript from each post-secondary institution attended. Applicants may submit unofficial copies of transcripts while applying for admission through the upload website linked below. However, admitted students are required to submit official transcripts in order to enroll at UHM. Official transcripts must be sent to Office of Graduate Education Student Services directly from the issuing institution(s), or in sealed institutional envelopes if submitted with the application.
  3. Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores and TOEFL scores for those who are non-native speakers of English

The following supplemental materials are to be submitted directly to the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at idurp@hawaii.edu or through the Graduate Application Supplemental Documents Upload Website.

  1. Two letters of reference from persons well-acquainted with the applicant’s academic or professional work
  2. An example of the applicant’s professional work
  3. Completed Express Information Form
  4. Completed Statement of Objectives
  5. Completed Admissions Assessment Form

For a list of application forms and deadlines, please refer to UHM’s Graduate Division page for the Department of Urban and Regional Planning.

Application Deadlines

The deadline for receipt of application materials is January 1 for admission for the following fall semester (GRE scores and letters of recommendation will be accepted after this deadline, but no action will be taken on the application until all relevant application materials have been received).

The admissions committee is responsible for evaluating a student’s objectives, letters of recommendation, GRE, TOEFL, and/or IELTS scores, academic record, and prior experience. The statement of objectives is reviewed especially carefully by the DURP admissions committee to determine alignment of research interests with faculty expertise.

The committee may request additional materials/information from an applicant and/or request an interview. If applicants are in Hawai‘i prior to applying, they are encouraged to schedule a visit and meet members of the faculty with whom they share research interests.