Overview of PhD Programs

Intercultural Open University Foundation (IOUF) aspires to create an academic environment grounded in interdisciplinary intellectual discovery and guided by rational discourse. Within its learning community, IOUF endeavours to act according to its basic values of respect for one another, cooperation, creative imagination, pride in a job well done, and intellectual and spiritual growth.

This Handbook is designed to be a resource for the PhD studies.

Learners in the Graduate Studies Program may concentrate on a variety of areas in social sciences and humanities consistent with the expertise of their PhD Committees which includes: the Core Faculty Advisor, the Second Core Reader, an External Scholar, two peers, and, if appropriate, one or more consultants.

The approved Areas of Concentration are the following:

  • Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
  • Development Studies
  • Health Sciences
  • Oriental Medicine
  • Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution
  • Anthropology, Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Political Science
  • Education
  • History
  • Comparative Religious Studies
  • International Business Management and Communication

Once admitted to the Intercultural Open University Foundation, you are called learners rather than students, reflecting the active rather than passive approach to the educational process. You engage in an intensely interactive process, as well as individual study and reflection. Interaction occurs in a variety of settings and modes: Discussion Forums, Peer Days, and formal and informal sessions with your Core Faculty Advisor and other committee members. 

Many of you are established professionals who possess a body of knowledge and an abundance of valuable life experiences. As peers and colleagues, you support one another’s  experiences, thereby enhancing the academic quality of everyone’s individual studies and the Foundation as a whole.

As PhD learners, you are engaged in self-directed learning with the guidance and support of your core faculty advisors and other members of your PhD Committee. Self-directed learning is described as “a process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others,” to diagnose their learning needs, formulate learning goals, identify resources for learning, select and implement learning strategies, and evaluate learning outcomes.

You will demonstrate your ability to conduct original research and present your findings in a Project Demonstrating Excellence or Dissertation that takes the form of a creative work, a social action project, or a traditional dissertation that makes a significant contribution to knowledge.

The Doctor of Philosophy degree is traditionally awarded in recognition of advanced research and demonstrated proficiency in a field of study.  Intercultural Open University Foundation is committed to individualized learning which requires the following:

You will participate in a developing tradition of thought, discussion, exploration, and inquiry in your fields of study. Achieving excellence in scholarship requires full and meaningful participation in this evolving, cooperative endeavor.

Over the course of each individualized program, Intercultural Open University Foundation expects you to do the following:

  • Acquire a coherent and sophisticated body of knowledge in your chosen field by undertaking new learning in the PhD Program and by building upon knowledge and skills brought forward from previous academic, professional, and experiential activity.
  • Demonstrate a thorough and comprehensive knowledge of the relevant history and present definition of your chosen field, including the major literature, theories, practices, problems, ethical issues, and methods of research and inquiry.
  • Present evidence of the ability to formulate research questions, to develop hypotheses, to assemble data, and to weigh evidence.
  • Present evidence of the capacity for sustained and significant scholarly intellectual inquiry in the form of original research.
  • Display clarity and sophistication in written and oral presentations characterized by logical coherence and consistency, by the proper use of evidence and citations, and by the development of your own unique point of view.

Be computer literate and able to conduct extensive research and communicate on the World Wide Web. You will be expected to maintain an email address, which will be the primary method of communication. You will need to review the IOUF web site often for program details, updates, and news.

Intercultural Open University Foundation recognizes that a scholarship typically:

  • Engages and reflects the range of information sources that provide the substantive knowledge for a field including, but not limited to, primary, secondary, and other literatures;
  • Engages the history of knowledge in relevant field(s);
  • In relationship to the relevant field(s), deals with questions of theory, theory making and the explanatory or exploratory philosophies of knowledge that inform those theoretical formations;
  • Conducts inquiry and/or describes knowledge regimes in a manner that is intellectually sophisticated, and employs or proposes sound methodologies to carry out an investigation or to arrive at a new knowledge regime. (By “intellectually sophisticated,” we mean inquiry that is critical and in-depth, uses appropriate analytical modes, evaluates diverse and competing viewpoints, acknowledges multiple perspectives, and is sensitive to current issues and debates in the field.)
  • Communicates clearly and persuasively to an expert audience and demonstrates proficiency in the use of the general and specialized lexicons of the relevant field(s). (By clear and persuasive communication, we mean effective writing, coherent argumentation, proficient use of evidence, appropriate referencing, and fluency in the discourse of the field.)

Intercultural Open University Foundation’s PhD Studies Program encourages you to include in your program the concept of interdisciplinary study. By examining the tensions and relations between disciplines, you have an opportunity to reorder or redefine existing constructions of knowledge and discover new meanings and relationships between facts, theories, and methods. By advancing the frontiers of knowledge, you can engage in new modes of inquiry while building upon the foundation of those long established.

It is important to note that while the PhD Program encourages interdisciplinary inquiry into problems, it does not discourage specialization in a particular discipline. Rather, we ask that one’s discipline be brought into conversation with others in fruitful ways. Research topics may be specific as long as they are placed within broader intellectual, social, and political contexts. Learners with highly specialized goals and research projects in any one discipline may enrich their findings within a framework that has examined interfaces with other disciplines, whether contiguous or encompassing. Interdisciplinary inquiry is a way of seeing, thinking, conversing about, and imagining how issues and problems cut across relevant fields.

The basic criteria for recognizing an area of learning as a discipline are threefold: first, a recognizable cluster of problems, concerns, and issues that define and limit content; second, accepted methodological and epistemological models that have explored and examined the content; and third, a cumulative history of critical discourse that the discipline consistently examines and builds upon. Study within a discipline, however diverse and wide-ranging, does not constitute interdisciplinary inquiry. Learners will be expected to reach beyond the sub-disciplines or interdisciplinary aspects of questions in order to engage in authentic interdisciplinary learning.

A distinct explanation of how your program satisfies interdisciplinary inquiry is required in the Learning Agreement for PhD Studies. You are expected to address the interdisciplinary nature of your program in that document and again in the Program Summary. The Project Demonstrating Excellence (PDE) may be within one discipline so long as it emerges from an interdisciplinary perspective and is set within the context of original disciplines.

Regardless of your areas of academic interest, scholarship always reflects and affects the interests, concerns, policy choices, and possibilities of the larger society. Intercultural Open University Foundation’s PhD.  Program aspires to help learners to understand and accept responsibility for their engagement within a shared society as learners, scholars, professionals, and citizens. Intercultural Open University Foundation believes that the many facets of an individual scholar are inseparable. Thus, it is vital that you think about how your work will matter to the world.

You will address questions of social meaning first in the Learning Agreement and subsequently in the Program Summary.

You might, for example, examine the basic knowledge constructions of your field to consider whether there are biases reflecting old prejudices in apparently neutral assumptions or conclusions. You might ask whether significant groups of people have been omitted as subject matter and/or as scholars and whether such omissions have had unrecognized effects. You might consider who is served by some prevalent theories and who, if anyone might be affected adversely.

A professional practice approach might lead you to pose specific questions. For example, does a certain set of practices benefit large numbers of people in significant ways? Does it do so in ways that exclude others? Are there environmental consequences of some practices? Is it possible that some professional practices have different effects on some groups than on others? Does that matter? If so, how?

A more personal perspective might lead you to reflect on how what you are learning is changing you and what those changes might mean for others. You might expand your inquiry to ask if such changes might also do the same for others and, if so, what these changes might mean for a broader community.

In the process of lifelong learning, there can be no clear distinction between the active life and the contemplative life. The majority of individual IOU Foundation PhD programs grow directly out of the life experiences of learners. The questions they address most often stem from issues that have arisen within the world of professional and/or personal action rather than the world of formal academic discourse. Practical applications and implications help to realize and ground theoretical or critical speculations. A contemplative, philosophical, theoretical viewpoint enriches practical activity. Accordingly, IOU Foundation expects a balance of theory and practice within each individual degree program.

As a dispersed community of learners, many of whom have interests that cross conventional academic boundaries and disciplines; the PhD Program participates in a tradition of communal scholarship in unique ways. Self-directed learning occurs when you – not the institution – control both the learning objectives and the means of learning. Thus, self-directed learning can easily become isolating. The Foundation encourages and supports ongoing dialogues between each learner and other members of the scholarly community. 

As convener of your own PhD Committee, you propose the learning agenda, chair the meetings, and communicate with all members on a regular basis to insure timely responses and evaluations. PhD Program-sponsored learning sessions such as Peer Days and Seminars foster dialogue among faculty, learners, and alumni. Moreover, the PhD degree process requires you to engage in extensive networking both inside and outside of the Foundation to discover and develop the learning resources necessary for a successful program. You become the center of an expanding community of scholars that spreads beyond IOU Foundation and, thus, can continue to sustain learning on a lifelong basis.

I. Administrative Parameters

Academic Year

The academic year for IOU Foundation PhD programs comprises 12 months. Your academic year is based on your start date. You choose the pace of study each year and designate specific learning activities based on your proposed study plan prior to Certification and the approved Learning Agreement components after Certification.

Minimum/Maximum Program Length

Intercultural Open University Foundation defines the minimum amount of time for you to complete and earn a PhD as two academic years. The maximum amount of time allotted for you to earn a PhD is five years.

Satisfactory Academic Progress

You are expected to make satisfactory academic progress in your programs according to the qualitative/quantitative expectations and milestones described in the Learner Handbook. Learners who fail to make satisfactory progress will be counselled and encouraged to withdraw from the program if they cannot meet their educational goals in a timely manner.

II. Academic Components

Your PhD Program, which you will develop in consultation with your committee and describe in your Learning Agreement, contains five principal components:

  • Intercultural Open University Foundation-Sponsored PhD Learning Sessions
  • New Learning
  • Internship
  • Personal Development
  • Project Demonstrating Excellence (PDE)

Although these components are expected to be distinct elements, they clearly relate to one another as parts of a coherent program designed to meet your own needs and interests while satisfying IOU Foundation criteria for the PhD.

As a member of the PhD Program community, you have an important contribution to make to its growth. The Program is designed so that your knowledge and experience, as well as that of other learners, will be available to the community. Intercultural Open University Foundation-sponsored PhD events provide formal opportunities for you to interact with faculty and other learners in mutual sharing and learning. Networking, collaborative learning, and peer learning are essential features of the IOU Foundation educational process.

You attain this component by attending IOU Foundation-sponsored PhD learning events consisting of the following:

Entry Date: This may be a face-to-face or an on-line PhD orientation event led by IOU Foundation Core Faculty.

Seminars: Two required seminars may be face to face or on-line; may be led by any member of the IOU Foundation community.

Peer Days: Minimum of five required; on-line or face-to-face; may be led by other learners or graduates of IOU Foundation Foundation.

You may choose to attend additional Seminars or Peer Days as described in the Learning Agreement. 

While they provide rich resources for new learning and offer access to the expertise of many within the IOU Foundation community, Peer Days and Seminars need not be directly related to your field(s) of study. You may view them as important opportunities to explore new areas of intellectual curiosity. On the other hand, Seminars and Peer Days may also contribute significantly toward proficiency in the field(s) of study.

The Entry Date is a discussion group for the presentation and clarification of the IOU Foundation PhD process, critical analysis of program proposals, in-depth discussion with administrators, faculty and peers, and a review of research methodologies. Upon acceptance into the PhD. Program you receive a time for the PhD Entry Date. You may choose to participate in any Entry Date within six months of admission. Matriculation is effective the first day of the Entry Date.

Typically, two Core faculty members convene each Entry Date. Experienced in the process of group interaction, they seek to create an atmosphere of mutual respect and affirmation and to encourage overall participation in discussions of the history, philosophy, and expectations of IOU Foundation. There will be discussion of the important aspects of PhD work, such as methods of inquiry and criteria for excellence in scholarship in various fields of study. They share their own research, scholarship, artistic interests, and professional activities with you. They will discuss with you individually your plans for your degree and help you begin the process of selecting committee members and shaping your PhD Program. You will have an opportunity to answer any questions you may have about the PhD Program.

At the Entry Date, you make presentations on your plans for work including your proposed fields of study, interdisciplinary dimensions, new learning course work, internship, and PDE plans including guiding questions, methods of inquiry, and criteria for excellence in scholarship. You also share your personal background including research, scholarship, artistic interests, and professional experience.

As this experience unfolds, you will develop new ideas about how to meet your learning needs and will gain an understanding of how to select a permanent Core Faculty Advisor and other members of the PhD Committee.  You also will affirm your decision to enroll in the PhD Program and will be well on the way toward building a network of contacts with members of the Foundation community.

The Entry Date is not only your introduction to Intercultural Open University Foundation, but also serves as the primary vehicle to learn about its unique  process. By the end, you should have a working understanding of the following required outcomes, as elaborated by the faculty conveners, with particular reference to your individualized program. These include the following:

1. Core Values

  • Excellence in scholarship
  • Interdisciplinary inquiry
  • Analysis of social meaning
  • Self-directed learning in community

2. Academic Processes and Requirements

  • Gathering and managing a PhD Committee (learner as convener and meeting chair, core faculty advisor, second core reader, external scholars, peers, and consultants) including roles, qualifications, nomination procedures, and communications
  • Conceptualizing the individualized PhD Program according to the fundamental program components (Foundations of PhD, New Learning, Internship, PDE, Personal Development, Social Meaning and IOU Foundation sponsored activities)
  • Methods of research and inquiry, including use of library and Web-based resources, PDE guidelines, and ethical issues
  • The Learning Agreement
  • The Certification Process (faculty and administrative review and approval of PhD Program components)
  • Conduct, demonstration, assessment, and documentation of New Learning, Internship, and Personal Development activities
  • Preparing the PDE and Program Summary
  • Graduation

3. Administrative Parameters and Policies

  • Matriculation and registration
  • Satisfactory Academic Progress
  • Registration for IOU  Foundation sponsored learning activities
  • Transcripts and academic records

Within 30 days following the Entry Date, you are asked to prepare a reflective evaluation of your experience, sending one copy to each faculty convener.

Guidelines for the reflective evaluation:

  • Describes the initial objectives for participating in the Entry Date and any additional goals that developed and tell what was learned.
  • Describes your personal learning style and how your way of using the experience may have affected the outcome for yourself and other learners. Include, for example, participation in the group process, interactions with faculty and other learners, network building, feelings about the experience, how you made use of the various elements of the Entry Date, and any other pertinent aspects of your involvement.

You send the reflective evaluation to the faculty co-conveners and also attach it to your draft Learning Agreement.

Your written evaluation must include the following:

  • Your name
  • Date
  • Location (on-line or face-to-face)
  • Names of conveners, indicating which has been appointed as interim Core Faculty Advisor
  • Your initial objectives
  • How the elements of the experiences affected your personal expectations
  • Demonstration of proficiency and working knowledge of the PhD process

Successful completion of the Entry Date is determined by the conveners who affirm your readiness to proceed with the PhD Program.

PhD Program Seminars are learning events convened by Core Faculty members and other members of the IOU Foundation community, often with co-conveners, at which participants explore significant topics and issues from an interdisciplinary perspective. Seminars include dissemination and discussion of intellectual content, reflection, critique of old boundaries, creation of new modes of thought and action, and experiential activities. Seminars are open to all learners, on a space-available basis, regardless of your area of study. In order to reflect profitably on the central questions, participants are required to complete selected preparatory assignments. Seminars provide important opportunities for relating ideas and concepts from various fields to your personal and professional life as well as to the degree program. It is recommended that you schedule your Seminars at least six months apart in order to allow ample time for contact with the IOU Foundation community throughout the Program.

Seminar content is presented in a way that leaves room for divergent points of view with faculty conveners positioning the topic in its conceptual, historical, and methodological contexts. For example, a Seminar on phenomenological research would emphasize where it fits within the spectrum of qualitative research paradigms.

The schedule of Seminars with information about dates, locations, topics, learning goals, planned activities, and academic requirements, will be posted on the IOU Foundation web site with instructions for how to register.

To help in the design of an agenda that will assure optimal use of your resources and to meet your needs, conveners frequently send questionnaires to enrolees in advance of Seminars. This helps them gather information about the special knowledge, abilities, and interests of the participants. 

For face-to-face seminars you will be sent information, including a description of local travel arrangements and convenient accommodations.

Reflective evaluation of Seminars

Within 30 days following a Seminar, you prepare a reflective evaluation, sending one copy to each convener, one to your Core Faculty Advisor. Your analysis serves two purposes: It provides an opportunity to reflect on the experience in terms of your own learning and self-development; and it provides feedback to IOU Foundation about the substance and design of the experience and its usefulness to learners. 

The reflective evaluation of the Seminar should include:

  • Complete title of the Seminar
  • Your name
  • Date of Seminar
  • Location of Seminar
  • Names of conveners/participants
  • A summary of the breadth and depth of knowledge you developed during the Seminar
  • A statement describing the content of the Seminar
  • A statement describing the process of the Seminar

In summarizing the breadth and depth of knowledge developed during the Seminar, you should reflect upon both content and process. Content statements refer to the specific ideas and concepts that were most significant, as well as the authors and references that had most impact on you during the reading and preparation phase. Process statements refer to the quality and intensity of your involvement in the Seminar, reflecting the kinds of energy and focus that developed, as well as the quality of the group process itself.

Peer Days provide opportunities for you to design and participate in communal learning ventures of value to your own program and colleagues. Peer Days are carried out with at least two other learners or graduates and include provision for assimilation and reflection upon the skills and knowledge you gained from the event. Whereas faculty convene Seminars, Peer Days are designed, convened, and evaluated by learners themselves. Graduates may participate in Peer Days and are counted as peers. Faculty also may attend but are not counted as peers. 

Peer Days are expected to be varied, both in terms of the learners assembled and the nature of the subject matter discussed. Intercultural Open University Foundation recognizes that this is especially difficult if you live in an area where there are not large numbers of peers. Intercultural Open University Foundation will maintain a peer day site on the university web site to facilitate finding peers with whom to meet both face to face and on-line.

Before convening or participating in a Peer Day, you should obtain the advice and consent of their Core Faculty Advisors, who will require a written proposal. The proposal should include the names of the conveners and expected participants, topics, location and date, a description of the intended learning activities, the expected responsibilities and contributions of each participant, and a statement of what you expect to gain toward your program goals.

It also is possible to participate in online Peer Days using Web-based discussion boards offered by IOU Foundation  or via email.

As with Seminars, Peer Days may be used as opportunities to broaden your horizons and need not be directly related to your major field(s) of study. They also may be devoted to understanding and facilitating your progress through various aspects of the IOU Foundation process, such as Certification and the development of the PDE.

Reflective evaluation of Peer Days

Following each Peer Day, you must prepare a reflective evaluation and send a copy to your Core Faculty Advisor as well as attach a copy to your program summary. 
The Peer Day analysis must include the following:

  • Complete title of the Peer Day
  • Your name
  • Date of Peer Day
  • Location of Peer Day
  • Names of conveners and other peer participants
  • A summary of the breadth and depth of knowledge the learner developed during the Peer Day
  • A statement describing the content of the Peer Day
  • A statement describing the process of the Peer Day
  • Peer Day agenda (attached to the analysis)

Successful completion is demonstrated by your reflective evaluation of the peer day and confirmed by your core’s evaluation and approval on the learning completion form.

At the time of matriculation, you begin the process of developing your individual Learning Agreement. This is an intense and complex process that involves considerable research and exploration into various aspects of the field(s) of study. This part of your doctoral studies asks that you consider Field Construction, Curriculum Development, PDE Conceptualization, and PDE Research Design.

This activity typically extends beyond the first six-month term but must be concluded within 18 months of matriculation as evidenced by achieving Certification. Certification within 18 months is a requirement of Satisfactory Academic Progress.

Assessment of prior learning: A description of how your prior learning has prepared you for PhD studies at IOU Foundation.

Curriculum Development: Organization and development of an individualized program of PhD study, including new learning, learning goals and strategies, design and methodology of the Internship, means of demonstrating learning, and bibliographies.

PDE Conceptualization: Background research and development of topic, guiding questions, preliminary review of the literature, and analysis of interdisciplinary nature of the program and its social meaning.

PDE Research Design: Development of appropriate techniques of inquiry and analysis, social intervention, or artistic creation, including methodology, ethical considerations, evaluative criteria, format, contextual essay (for artistic or social action projects), and working bibliography.

Assessment: the above areas will be evaluated by your Core Faculty Advisor and other committee members.

You must plan a program that will provide scholarly, comprehensive knowledge of the issues, texts, theories, methods, and ethical considerations pertinent to your field of study. You pursue your new learning in a variety of ways, building upon, but going significantly beyond, your prior learning.

Intercultural Open University Foundation does not grant credit for work earned elsewhere, yet we attempt to assess the worth of prior learning gained from your academic, professional, and/or life experience as they may relate to gaining proficiency in your field. In other words, you will not be asked to repeat course equivalents of prior learning. We recognize that typical learners bring to their work rich and strong backgrounds that allow them not only to grasp bodies of knowledge, but also to work between and beyond them. When the PhD Program accepts the proposal you present in the Learning Agreement, it does so based on considerations of all that you bring to your work, in addition to what you plan. 

The new learning may include individual reading programs, workshops and conferences, presentations at professional meetings, or fieldwork, plans to attend classes, IOU Foundation-sponsored Seminars, laboratory sessions, supervised practice.


Your PhD Committee members are responsible for the evaluative process. Through consultations with your committee members you will determine who among them is primarily responsible for evaluating work in particular areas of your program. Your Core Faculty Advisor is responsible for overseeing the ongoing evaluation of your work.

The Internship is an extended new learning activity that gives you an opportunity to balance theory with practice. It allows you to work in a professional field and to gain practical work experience related to your area of concentration. Whatever its form or venue, the internship goes beyond “business as usual.” Designing and arranging the Internship is your responsibility, subject to approval by your Core Faculty Advisor in consultation with your PhD Committee. Documentation consists of your analysis of the internship and a report by the evaluator of the internship.

Questions to be asked when creating an Internship:

  1. What is the purpose of the Internship, and how will it enhance your area of concentration?
  2. What will the intern’s responsibilities be?
  3. What are the goals of the Internship?
  4. Who will supervisor/mentor and evaluate the intern?
  5. How will the intern’s progress be measured?

However long it actually takes, the Internship represents the equivalent of three months’ full-time involvement (500 hours). The Internship may take one or more of the following forms, but need not be limited to these alone:

  • Traditional – practice in a professional capacity in a work setting or field in which you would eventually like to be employed.
  • Exploratory – test your abilities, interests, and expectations in a field or job setting with which you are not familiar in order to determine whether you are interested in it for the future.
  • Redefinition – redefine your current professional work and try it out in your present situation.
  • Mentorship – work with and learn from a scholar, administrator, practitioner, or other person who has knowledge and skills you wish to develop.
  • Action-oriented – devise and implement a project that has an intended social impact.

You may participate in more than one Internship, integrating all such activity into your overall program. You will designate an Internship advisor who will assist with and verify your learning. The advisor may be a member of your PhD Committee or a non-member with appropriate credentials. Because he or she will be involved in evaluating a significant component of the program, you should be sure to choose someone with whom you have not had a prior personal or financial relationship that might cast doubt on the integrity of the evaluation.

Each IOU Foundation PhD learner makes a significant, original contribution to human knowledge by preparing a Project Demonstrating Excellence (PDE) – a major effort of scholarship, artistic creativity, or social action. The PDE addresses the appropriate intellectual, cultural, and/or artistic traditions of your field(s) and signifies grounding in the relevant theoretical, creative and critical scholarship. It allows you to exercise your originality and creativity, so that your work provides new knowledge and approaches to the larger scholarly community.

A traditional dissertation is based on the collection and analysis of relevant data in the investigation of an empirical question, the exploration of a phenomenon of scholarly interest, the testing of a hypothesis, and /or the examination of a generalization or theoretical proposition. It presents both new knowledge and new approaches to the scholarly community; it addresses the intellectual traditions of your field(s), and it demonstrates your knowledge of the crucial theoretical and critical scholarship. Your dissertation must make an original contribution to human knowledge and demonstrate excellence in scholarship. 

Your research methods must be appropriate to the nature of the scholarly inquiry, whether those methods are experimental, naturalistic, phenomenological, laboratory-based, art-based, field-based, and ethnological/enthographical or some other scientific or social scientific approach, including combinations of methods. 

A traditional dissertation may also be conceptual, philosophical, critical, or theoretical. Not only will it demonstrate your knowledge of what your predecessors in the field have written, it will incorporate a demonstrably original concept, system or application. Dissertations of this type include theory and knowledge construction, intellectual histories, and studies of the history of ideas.

In a dissertation in the form of a biography or other historical, critical, or analytical inquiry, you will build upon earlier scholarship and explore new territory. If you choose to do a dissertation of this type, you will be expected to properly document and to critically appraise source materials; to use both primary and secondary sources; and to interpret individuals and events within suitable theoretical, historical, cultural or other contexts. Your work must have implications for understanding the past and the present.

If you choose to create an artistic/creative project, the project will explore something new, demonstrate seriousness of purpose, convey a sense of depth, and communicate your discoveries and insights. Your project should provide clear evidence of your contribution to the chosen genre, furthering the work of other artists, past or present. 

When you choose to do a creative/artistic project, you become a scholar-artist. A scholarly contextual essay must accompany your artistic/creative project. As an example, a project based on poetry will include a contextual, scholarly component placing your poetry into a historical, literary, and/or theoretical context. The Contextual Essay will show how your work relates to relevant literature. It may take the form of a research project in the arts related to the same genre as the artistic project itself. It may incorporate research methods related to the arts, such as historical methods, content analysis, theoretical and critical methods, or arts-based research. A project of this type does not automatically exclude quantitative methods. 

Your Contextual Essay incorporates the elements of a traditional dissertation not addressed in the creative component of the project. The essay clearly addresses the scholarly aspects of the work, including sections on methodology, the epistemological framework for the creative choices, and the method, within the conventions of the craft used to bring their project to fruition. The essay describes the process of conceptualizing and creating within the internal context of your creativity and the external context of understanding the larger world. 

Each Contextual Essay incorporates a literature review that places your work within the tradition, influences, and scholarly contexts of the chosen genre. The literature review creates the bridge from artist to scholar. It should demonstrate the interplay or dialogue between your work and the work of earlier and contemporary artists and theorists. The essay must include an analytic section in which you reflect, as scholar-artist, on the relationship of the newly created work to contemporary and past theory in the field.

As with artistic/creative projects, when you choose a PDE that takes the form of a social action project, you must plan to explore something new, to demonstrate seriousness of purpose, to convey a sense of depth, and to communicate discoveries and insights. The project should further the understanding and social effort of others while clearly bearing your stamp. 

For a social action project, you will develop and assess the impact of social structures, actions, or interventions in actual operation on the topics studied. An evaluation of the project or program will include documentation of the results achieved. If the study will result in a product, such as a handbook or training program, the product must be field-tested and evaluated and the results must be documented.

The most commonly chosen research designs for social action projects are action research, action advocacy research, case studies, and evaluation research. Learners may incorporate qualitative and quantitative research methods or other methods appropriate to the research problem and the discipline(s) involved.

A social action project describes both the development and institution of the project and also its scholarly context, addressing its methodological, historical, critical, and theoretical implications. Depending on the design of your project, you may be able to incorporate both components in a single document. In other instances, a second text — a Contextual Essay — may be necessary. 

The Contextual Essay incorporates elements of a traditional dissertation that are not addressed in the presentation of the social action project. Your Contextual Essay will include scholarly components which are related to the social action project.

Within the Contextual Essay, your literature review places the work in a context of scholarship associated with the project, showing the relationship between your project, those studies that preceded it, and the work of contemporary practitioners, activists, and theorists. Theoretical underpinnings of the work might include, for example, history, policy, and strategies for collective action, issues of culture and identity, psychology, and/or communication. It is important that the learner creates the bridge from practitioner to scholar-practitioner toward a more critical and effective social engagement. 

Research Design and Methodology 

In order to develop a sound proposal for the PDE, you will become conversant with both general research methods and the research methods that characterize the field of study. When appropriate to the PDE topic, you should also achieve and document knowledge of statistics.

A thorough grounding in research methods, both quantitative and qualitative, and in the literature related to the area of inquiry, will prepare you to read and evaluate the research of others in order to conduct your own PhD level research.

To achieve proficiency in research design and methodology, you are expected to complete significant reading in research before you engage in your own research. Two areas are suggested below:

A survey of research methods that familiarizes you with different types of qualitative and quantitative research including the skills needed to read and critique the research of others.

One or more reading areas focusing on the specific research method(s) you intend to use.

You may meet this expectation through Directed Studies on research methods, and/or through knowledge gained prior to enrolling in the doctoral program. Proficiency is determined by recent scholarly study, demonstrable competence, and familiarity with prevailing applied research methodologies.

Many types of research methods are available to you at Intercultural Open University Foundation. The Foundation recognizes that scholarship on the interdisciplinary margins may lead to new research concepts. Qualitative and quantitative research methods may include, but are not limited to the following:

Case studies

  • Heuristic, phenomenological, and hermeneutic research methods
  • Content analysis
  • Field studies
  • Ethnographic studies
  • Participant observation
  • Action and action-advocacy research
  • Evaluation research
  • Biographical, literary and historical research
  • Theoretical and conceptual bibliographic research
  • Feminist research methods
  • Arts-based research methods
  • Critical methods research (used in the arts)
  • Exploratory research

Regardless of which research design and methods you may choose, the PDE proposal in the Learning Agreement is expected to include an explicit, detailed discussion of the proposed research methods and a rationale for the selection of methods. Discussion of methods should be framed in such a way that other scholars will understand the methods discussed and can critically evaluate them. 

If your project will involve human participants/subjects, you must ensure the safety of their participants/subjects by designing a project in accordance with international standards, and the standards of the discipline. If you propose to conduct research involving human subjects, you are expected to follow International standards for research on human subjects.


All members of the PhD Committee evaluate the PDE, which must be completed before the Pre-Graduation Meeting (PhD Program Review Meeting).

Self-knowledge is one common goal that helps everyone to achieve personal development. Realizing what is truly important is a major step toward achieving that goal. The Personal Development component of the PhD Program, which reflects and embodies your unique personality and needs, invites you to pay attention to dimensions – who you are, where you are going, what you want, and what you ought to do – that are significantly involved in your learning. You are expected to articulate specific objectives and strategies for Personal Development and to describe how your accomplishments will be evaluated. In the Learning Agreement you need to distinguish clearly between your professional and Personal Development. Learning new skills is acceptable if these skills are important not just to your academic or professional life, but also to your overall development as a person. Personal Development activities also should be addressed in the Program Summary. 

This component integrates professional knowledge and competency with self-awareness and growth. You are encouraged to use it as a way of moving toward increased emotional maturity and wisdom, social responsiveness, spiritual insight, and/or other avenues of meaningful personal learning and reflection that will complement your academic program.

I. The PhD Committee

The PhD Committee is the formal decision-making body whose purpose is to guide your learning and progress toward the degree. 

The PhD Committee is charged with advising, mentoring, assisting, and evaluating your academic work. Committee members are nominated by you, but must be reviewed and approved by your Core Faculty Advisor based upon your rationale for each nominee. The committee members work with you throughout the program, evaluating your work and facilitating your own evaluations at important points in the process. 

Following the Entry Date, you will begin to form the committee, which consists of a Core Faculty Advisor, a Second Core Reader, at least one External Scholar, and two peers from among IOU Foundation earners or alumni. Formal appointment of committee members requires signature approval of your Core Faculty Advisor. Consultants may be added if needed.

Committee decisions are made by consensus. Intercultural Open University Foundation encourages the Committee to exchange ideas, to explore differences, and to seek agreement on all aspects of your program. 

The Committee has two formal meetings: a Certification meeting and a Pre-Graduation Meeting (PhD Program Review Meeting). In the event that the Pre-Graduation Meeting (PhD Program Review Meeting) does not become a Final Degree meeting, a third meeting may be held. Following Certification and Final Degree meetings, the committee’s recommendations are conveyed by your Core Faculty Advisor to the appropriate IOU Foundation administrator.

Your first step in choosing a Core Faculty Advisor is to establish a relationship with a member of the Core faculty of the PhD Program. This individual must be someone with whom you feel comfortable; who can challenge you to do excellent work and to make full use of available learning resources, and who serves as mentor, guide, advisor, supporter, and evaluator. Geographic proximity may be beneficial, but it should not be the determining factor. 

The Core Faculty Advisor helps you to maintain an administrative link with IOU Foundation. As keeper of the process, he or she is responsible for seeing that Foundation procedures are understood and respected in order to assure quality throughout your PhD Program.

You make appointments to the PhD Committee with the advice and consent of the Core Faculty Advisor, who is responsible for overseeing the evaluation of your work and for assisting you throughout the program.

The Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy standards for PhD learners include three milestone requirements, the first of which is the following:

  • Nomination and approval of a Core Faculty Advisor within six months of the Entry Date.
  • The Learner as Convener and Meeting Chair

One of the most significant features of the IOU Foundation program is that you, the learner, are the convener of your PhD Committee and chair its meetings or discussions. This title is actual and functional. It is basic to the IOU Foundation’s respect for learners and belief in the empowerment of the individual. Intercultural Open University Foundation believes that the learner exercises important rights, responsibilities, and challenges attendant to this role.

The PhD Program recognizes that you are the convener and manager of a committee that has the primary purpose of evaluating your work. There is a consequent tension between the discretion of the learner and the evaluative role of the rest of the committee. The architects of IOU Foundation’s individualized PhD Program wanted to move away from the authoritarian model of traditional schools in which the major advisor serves as chair of the PhD Committee, with substantial control over the learning agenda. In IOU Foundation’s PhD Program, the learner is the primary initiator of learning choices, including selection of the members of his/her committee. This empowerment of, and respect for, learners is one of the central philosophical tenets of IOU Foundation PhD Studies.

The Committee is the essential facilitator and evaluator of your work, empowered to have a significant role in guiding the development of your program, even as you are empowered to take the lead in shaping it. You have the challenging responsibility of coordinating this complicated set of relationships as part of your role as convener and meeting chair.

Over the years, the vast majority of IOU Foundation learners have found this to be one of the most rewarding experiences of their PhD Program. The list of rights, responsibilities, and challenges that follows is intended to provide further guidance about the meaning and functions of this unique role.

As convener and meeting chair, you have the right to the following:

  • nominate the members of your PhD Committee;
  • design the committee so that it will both respect and challenge the parameters of your degree program;
  • define the tasks of each committee member;
  • request changes in committee membership, if you believe it to be necessary;
  • schedule and conduct meetings of the committee; and
  • design and carry out your PhD Program with the advice and consent of the committee.

Expect Committee members to the following:

1. Support your learning and be true to the philosophy and practice of learner-centered education.
2. Be open to divergent opinions in the committee and evaluate them based on what will promote your learning objectives.
3. Be responsible for managing their own roles and perform them with the same high standards expected of you.
4. Return program material to you in a timely fashion.
5. Share in the responsibility for helping make the committee an effectively functioning, helpful body.

As convener and meeting chair you have the responsibility to:

  • Design and carry out your program in a manner that respects the educational process, values, and criteria for excellence of IOU Foundation.
  • Facilitate your committee’s efforts to carry out its task of guiding and assessing your work.
  • Communicate productively and regularly with your committee and the Foundation concerning your program.
  • Submit program materials to your readers in a timely manner and work within the time frames outlined in this Handbook.
  • Meet all PhD Program requirements.
  • Provide all necessary information to your core faculty advisor whenever an important decision concerning your program must be made.
  • Receive and consider seriously the comments concerning your work that you receive from your committee members and the dean.

As convener and meeting chair, you are challenged to:

  • Search for and select a PhD Committee of competent individuals.
  • Enable your committee to become a well-functioning team that is able to reach consensus at all points in your program.
  • Handle the complex logistics of scheduling.
  • Integrate the critical suggestions of committee members into the design and implementation of your program.

The Second Core Reader is a External Scholar qualified to assess the quality of your PhD work through a review of the Learning Agreement), the PDE, the Program Summary, and the Draft Narrative Transcript. These documents represent the products of your PhD Program. Because these documents result from discussion, revision, and consultation with your PhD Committee, the committee members and you may develop shared assumptions and understandings about your material that are not evident to an outsider. The Second Core Reader stays, by design, distant from the committee and does not participate in meetings. From this outside perspective, she or he is expected to judge whether you are functioning at the PhD level in planning and fulfilling a program of studies and experiences relevant to the specified degree area.

Although the primary function of the Second Core Reader is to ensure a doctoral standard of high achievement and not to assume authority in shaping your program and products according to her or his preference, she or he may make recommendations for improving the quality of your work. The Second Core Reader must have appropriate expertise, skill, knowledge, and experience in order to fulfill responsibilities as content specialist in your field(s) of study, including a PhD or other terminal degree or evidence of substantial scholarly research or activity in a field closely related to the area of concentration.

The Second Core Reader is responsible for critically reading the Learning Agreement, the PDE and the Program Summary. The Second Core Reader provides a written evaluation and submits it to you and to your First Core Faculty Advisor with a copy to the appropriate Foundation administrator. Be sure to allow the Second Core Reader ample time to review the documents. The standard timetable for faculty reviews is 30 days. This means that you must send the materials to the Second Core Reader at least 60 days in advance of scheduled meetings.

The Second Core Reader’s report describes both the strengths and the limitations of your work, with reference not only to matters of scholarly or artistic substance, but also to details of the PhD process, policies, degree parameters, and criteria for program excellence. Finally, the report indicates whether the Second Core Reader approves the scheduling of your Certification or Pre-Graduation Meeting (PhD Program Review Meeting). You will respond to the Second Core Reader in writing.

If the Second Core Reader does not approve the scheduling of the meeting because of inadequate development of material, you must make the necessary changes in consultation with your Core Faculty Advisor. If the revised material is acceptable to the Second Core Reader, he or she approves the scheduling of the meeting by writing to the Core Faculty. Then the meeting may be held and the revised materials forwarded to the appropriate doctoral program administrator along with the committee’s recommendation and the Second Core Reader’s written evaluation.

The Second Core Reader’s report is shared with all the other PhD Committee members who must concur in the recommendation for Certification and for the granting of the PhD. 

The Second Core Reader is selected by the mutual agreement of you and your Core Faculty Advisor. When agreement is reached on which faculty scholar would be appropriate, you contact the prospective Second Core Reader to explore her or his willingness and availability. Your Core Faculty Advisor must approve your choice of the Second Core Reader as with the appointment of any member of a PhD Committee.

You also choose at least one External Scholar from inside or outside IOU Foundation for your Committee, who are recognized authorities in their major areas of study and who must hold the PhD or other appropriate terminal degree. They may be chosen from the active or retired faculty of any accredited college or university or from other professions and occupational settings. PhD alumnae/of the IOU Foundation becomes eligible to serve as adjuncts five years after completion of their programs. These members of your PhD Committee must have scholarly credentials indicating currency in their field(s) of study pertinent to your program.

External Scholars ensure that you have achieved a high level of scholarship and that your contributions to the body of knowledge will be acceptable to others. Although professors who live in your geographical area offer the advantage of frequent face-to-face contact, it is more important to consider their expertise, their commitment to creative, learner-centered education, and their readiness to demand high quality work regardless of geographic location. 

The task of recruiting an external scholar is one of your major challenges. Thousands of distinguished experts from all spheres of professional life have served on IOU Foundation committees over the years. You are encouraged to seek out and to approach the best authorities in your field(s). You can begin developing a list of potential committee members by reading works by scholars in your field(s); by consulting journals; by conferring with professors and students at other universities, normally nearby, and, most importantly, by generating information through your own developing network of contacts both inside and outside the IOU Foundation PhD Program.

External Scholars operate under contract to the IOU Foundation PhD Program. Their contractual responsibilities are to read and evaluate your major program documents and to attend your meetings. Such individuals may also provide evaluations of course work and the scope and sequence of the curriculum, depending upon the arrangement negotiated between you and your adjunct. You may not, however, reimburse your adjuncts for any services rendered to you, as this jeopardizes the integrity of your degree program. Payment for services (where necessary) may be undertaken with the IOU Foundation  business office with the advice of your Core Faculty.

Your committee also will include peers, who must be IOU Foundation learners or IOU Foundation alumni. Peers are expected to make substantive, scholarly contributions to your overall program and empower you by adding the valuable dimension of shared expertise as fellow learners. They actively support, encourage, and constructively assess your work. Because the integrity of the IOU Foundation diploma is important to all learners and graduates, peer members must have a specific interest in the quality of your work. 

You may serve as a peer member on the committee of any learner who is not serving on your committee, but you may serve on no more than three committees at one time.

Your PhD Committee may include one or more consultants, whom you may add to the committee as needed to offer expertise not otherwise available in areas critical to your program. While they do not have voting privileges, consultants must contribute significantly to your work. Consultants are nominated and appointed to your committee in the same fashion as external scholars and peers. Consultants do not work under contract to Intercultural Open University Foundation and receive no stipends. However, you should recognize contributions by consultants in the acknowledgements in the Learning Agreement, PDE, and Program Summary.

After the Entry Date, you will begin the process of selecting your Core Faculty Advisor in consultation with the convenors. Because the IOU Foundation faculty is diverse, you should contact several faculty members before making your selection.

After choosing a Core Faculty Advisor, you must consult with him or her concerning other prospective committee members.  In each case, you must prepare a written nomination that includes a PhD Committee Rationale/Approval statement, a current vita or resume for each external scholar, peer, and consultant, and a statement that describes the nominee’s scholarly and professional background and her or his expected committee role. The vita or resume for external scholars, peers, and consultants provides information regarding their backgrounds and interdisciplinary perspectives that will be called upon in your program.

You and your Core Faculty Advisor need to consider the makeup of your PhD Committee as a whole in order to help ensure that you have the resources you need to complete the degree. It is important for you to indicate in each rationale statement not only the role you expect each member to play, but also how each member will complement the others in supporting your program. 

In reviewing your nominations, your Core Faculty Advisor will be guided by such parameters as interdisciplinary study, excellence in scholarship, and the balance between theory and practice. The committee is expected to be heterogeneous by training and in expertise. In the nominations, you should be careful to guard against possible conflicts of interest that might jeopardize the credibility of your committee. For example, you would not want to have a professor from your master’s program on the committee unless he or she was a recognized expert in a relevant field. You should be careful to provide information about any relevant prior relationship between yourself and the nominee.

After the appointment of the Core Faculty Advisor, you work in consultation with her or him to choose and appoint your external scholars, peers, and Second Core Reader to the committee. After you and the Core Faculty Advisor have reached agreement on your choices, required paperwork for each member is submitted by you to your Core Faculty Advisor.

The second milestone for Satisfactory Academic Progress is the following:

Approval by the Core Faculty Advisor and the Faculty Quality Assurance Committee of the other members of the PhD Committee (the Second Core Reader, the external scholar, and the two peer members) within 12 months of the Entry Date.

Careful selection normally will enable your PhD Committee to retain the same membership throughout your program. Replacement of a member may become necessary, however, for such extreme reasons as illness, resignation, personal conflict, or change in the direction of your program. Any such changes must be discussed with your Core Faculty Advisor and the members of the PhD Committee prior to circulation of the Learning Agreement (Comprehensive Degree Plan) in preparation for your Certification meeting.

If you wish to replace your Core Faculty Advisor and/or the Second Core Reader, you must first discuss the issues with her or him. If this fails, a written request must be made to the Faculty Quality Assurance Committee stating the name of the committee member, the rationale for new nominees, and the reasons for the change.

The Learning Agreement provides a thorough, detailed, written description of your plans for achieving a PhD through the PhD Program process. It is designed and composed in consultation with your Core Faculty Advisor and committee. Following its approval by your Committee and the Dean, it becomes the explicit, signed agreement between you, your Committee, and Intercultural Open University Foundation that will guide your PhD Program from Certification to graduation.

The Learning Agreement presents your individualized plan for achieving a PhD in a manner that reflects excellence in scholarship, proficiency in your chosen field, an original contribution to human knowledge, an interdisciplinary orientation, social meaning analysis, and a balance of theory and practice. You are encouraged to plan innovative and experiential learning strategies,  independent study, supervised readings, mentoring, audiotapes and videotapes, library and museum research, private consultations and interviews with experts, meetings of professional associations, communications media, industrial laboratories, site visits and other fieldwork, private collections, and other appropriate resources. Travel, conferences, workshops, and constructive social action may also be part of your program. Whatever approaches to learning you plan, you should insure that you present a PhD Program that is integrated, balanced, and comprehensive and meets the accepted standards for a terminal research degree.

During and immediately after the PhD Entry Date, a major portion of your effort and attention should be directed to the development of the Learning Agreement through the accomplishment of Foundation learning under the supervision of your Core Faculty Advisor. All committee resources should be utilized by you to enrich and define the degree program. Continuous dialogue between you and your PhD Committee members is encouraged to plan the content as you develop and clarify your goals and the specific learning activities to be completed. It is the role of your Core Faculty Advisor to review your Learning agreement in regard to content, language, and structure. The Core Faculty Advisor will advise you when the Learning Agreement is ready to be circulated to the other members of the committee.

Learners seeking licensure from an external agency, such as in psychology, need to construct their programs in accordance with state requirements and with the assistance of their Core Faculty Advisor and Committee. 

Remember that two audiences will read the Learning Agreement: those who are intimately involved with your program and how it has evolved (i.e., Core Faculty Advisor, External scholars, and Peers), and those who remain outside the active work of the Committee (i.e., Second Core Reader, and occasionally, external agencies). Therefore, specificity and clarity of the document must communicate the PhD Program for both your needs and those of the external readers. Learning Agreements may vary in length and style but all must follow a basic format with required components.

The Learning Agreement provides a statement concerning your plan of study, its personal and professional significance, its interdisciplinary character, its social implications, and its connection of theory to practice. The Learning Agreement is articulated in the following ten sections:

  1. A title page and Table of Contents, followed by a one or two-page summary of all learning activities proposed for your program.
  2. An introduction that explains the personal and professional significance of your proposed program of study.
  3. A statement concerning your area of specialization. It specifies the major field(s) and subfield(s) and explains how you have defined them.  It discusses the construction of your area of specialization with reference to existing programs or models as appropriate. Designated subsections explain the interdisciplinary nature of your program and the relevant prior learning you have gained through experiential, academic, or professional activities completed prior to matriculation. You may include appropriate documentation in an appendix, but it is your committee’s responsibility to verify that you have accomplished all prior learning as described.
  4. A detailed description of your plans for new learning in order to acquire and/or demonstrate proficiency in the defined field(s). Each new learning activity is indicated with a title and full description keyed to the field and program goals. The methods and resources you will employ to gain the learning. Indicate those written, oral, or visual productions that will demonstrate or document the learning for the committee (papers, journals, annotated bibliographies, tutorial conversations, examination, completed art works, audiotapes and videotapes, or similar productions). Discuss how and by whom your outcomes and products will be evaluated. For each field, subfield, or area of proficiency, the Learning Agreement) must provide at least a preliminary bibliography of works to be consulted or studied. You will have new learning appropriate to your unique programs.
  5. Describes your plans for the internship, including activities, location, duration, supervision, and documentation. It explains the relationship between the internship and other program objectives with respect to academic goals and makes it clear the internship will not be business as usual but will incorporate significant new theoretical and practical learning into the PhD Program.
  6. Offers a proposal for your PDE. It describes the topic and explains why it was chosen. It states the research problem, artistic challenge, or social action goal, and explains the nature of the intended contribution to knowledge with respect to the state of scholarly discussion in the relevant disciplines, known as a preliminary literature review. The PDE proposal describes and justifies the methods which will be used to gather and to interpret research data, create artwork, or accomplish the social action project. If you are not yet sufficiently familiar with the proposed research methodologies, this section explains how research competency will be acquired. It describes the basic content and form of the PDE, including the manner of presentation and the intended audience. For artistic works and social action projects, it includes a description of the required scholarly contextual essay keyed to the artistic or social action discipline. Finally, this section includes a preliminary working bibliography for the PDE. (If you will use human subjects in planned research, your PDE proposal needs to include a designated section addressing the issue of informed consent.
  7. Makes explicit your goals and plans for pursuing personal development during the PhD Program. The method for documentation of personal development, including assessment of results for the committee, must be described.
  8. Provides a statement concerning your PhD Committee, including each member’s name and credentials and rationale for selection and what specific academic role each is expected to play in the program within the framework committee descriptions as described by IOU Foundation. This section also specifies the nature and frequency of the communication you intend to maintain with committee members. Because timely and productive communication is crucial to the success of the PhD Program process, and because committee members tend to lead complex and demanding professional lives, you should be sure to specify communication details in the Learning Agreement so that everyone will know what is expected.
  9. Describes peer days and seminars to date and how these fit into the degree plan.
  10. A statement concerning the social meaning of your proposed program of study.

Recognizing that PhD study at IOU Foundation is an evolutionary process, you are encouraged to make alterations to the Learning Agreement as needed. The Learning Agreement must be amended for major substantive changes and requires approval by your full PhD Committee. Amendments to the Learning Agreement will specify the learning activities for which proficiency areas are added or increased. It is not necessary for you to amend your Learning Agreement for minor modifications. Minor modifications to the Learning Agreement can be approved in writing by your core faculty. Minor modifications are those that do not result in a substantial change of focus in the PDE or the choice of field(s) of study.

Certification is the point when IOU  Foundation officially accepts your proposed program of study. At the time of your Certification, the Learning Agreement sets forth the plan that you will complete in your proposed program.

You are responsible for scheduling the Certification meeting. You must have nominated a PhD Committee, secured the appointments of its members via your Core Faculty Advisor, and drafted a suitable Learning Agreement. After reviewing the initial drafts, your Core Faculty Advisor will advise you when the document is ready to circulate to the rest of your committee. When the other committee members have read the plan and have agreed that it provides a suitable basis for a meeting, you may schedule the meeting. Because committee members have busy schedules, you are advised to allow committee members at least 30 days to review the Learning Agreement. Because IOU Foundation requires notice of the approval of the entire Committee at least 30 days prior to the meeting, the learner should plan to submit the Learning Agreement to your Core Faculty Advisor to the Second Core Reader with adequate time for a careful review of the document.

The other members of your committee then have 30 days to review the Degree Plan, including revisions made in response to your Second Core Reader’s report. 

All Committee members must concur before a meeting may be officially scheduled. After you and the PhD Committee have agreed on a date for the Certification meeting. You can send out the agenda for the meeting.

You must obtain certification within 18 months after the Entry Date, which is a critical academic milestone. Periods of time needed to prepare for Certification vary greatly from learner to learner, depending upon such factors as prior background and learning style. Still, you should plan to hold the Certification meeting no later than 16 months into the program to allow time for revisions and the review by the faculty Quality Assurance Committee.

All Committee members must concur before a meeting may be officially scheduled, and all but the Second Core Reader must agree to attend. If, because of illness or other grave emergency, one Committee member other than the Core Faculty Advisor cannot attend, the meeting may still be held, if there is prior approval by the Core Faculty Advisor. If the Core Faculty Advisor or two other members cannot attend, the meeting must be rescheduled.

A primary goal of the Certification meeting is to achieve agreement among your committee members regarding the Learning Agreement. The Committee may decide to accept the document as is or it may require that changes or additions be made before it is forwarded to the Dean.

  1. Here are questions to consider as you plan the Certification meeting:
  2. Have you developed a way for committee members to communicate and begin to get to know one another before they get down to the task at hand?
  3. Does your agenda provide for a full discussion of each component of the program as described in the Learning Agreement?
  4. How may you utilize having your committee together to facilitate the progress of the learning and/or to address program issues?
  5. Have you made adequate arrangements for documenting or taping the meeting so as to ensure a complete and accurate record of the proceedings for their review following the meeting, for review by any member who may be unable to attend because of an emergency, or for review by your Core Faculty Advisor if verification of Certification agreements should ever be necessary?
  6. Have you provided enough time for lively, relaxed, and profitable discussion?

The Certification meeting usually is the first opportunity for PhD Committee members to meet and to begin working together as a group. Often, lively collegial exchanges occur as members explore alternative viewpoints and begin to generate new ideas and approaches. Successful Certification meetings are filled with intellectual excitement and mutual affirmation. The Committee truly begins to function as a team, working together to help you clarify program goals and the strategies for achieving them.

At the end of the meeting, if the PhD Committee is ready to recommend Certification, each member will send and email approving the document to your core faculty advisor. If the Committee desires additions or changes to the Learning Agreement they must decide on how the final draft will be reviewed. If the changes are relatively minor, they can choose to delegate responsibility for review of the modifications to your Core Faculty Advisor. 

Following the meeting, you write a report for your files, including the agenda of the meeting, your Second Core Reader’s report and your written point-by-point response to it, major decisions that were made, the process adopted by the Committee for reviewing the changes, what you have learned from the experience, and any unusual circumstances that should be considered in reviewing the Learning Agreement. The written evaluation and one copy of the Learning Agreement must be submitted by your core faculty within 45 days following the Certification meeting.

Following the committee’s recommendation for Certification and the receipt of required documents, the Quality Assurance Committee will review the Learning Agreement and will either accept it or request that additional information be added to the plan. The Certification process is complete when the Committee accepts the Learning Agreement on behalf of IOU Foundation and signs the Certification Recommendation and Approval Form.

The Quality Assurance review provides an institutional affirmation that the requirements, processes, and principles, as articulated in the PhD Learner Handbook, are manifest in the program as described in the Learning Agreement). The Review supports and supplements the work of the PhD Committee and is intended to provide balance when a difference in the interpretation of PhD Program policy arises.

The Quality Assurance Committee will convey the results of the review to the PhD Committee in writing within 60 days after all certification documents have been received.

The Certification date is the date the Quality Assurance Committee approves your Learning Agreement.

The third milestone for Satisfactory Academic Progress is the following:

Development and approval of the Learning Agreement and Certification within 18 months of the Colloquium.

To remain in the PhD Program, you must maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress.

Intercultural Open University Foundation does not compute a grade point average (GPA) for PhD learners because a GPA system would not accurately reflect the primarily qualitative evaluative processes of the program.

Evaluations of each PhD learner’s course work and other learning activities are made every six months by their Core Faculty Advisor or other designated faculty evaluator. Evaluations of completed learning activities will result in the assignment of a “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” rating for each learning component. A rating of “satisfactory” will be the equivalent of a “B” or better.

A learner will be determined to have not met the qualitative standard for satisfactory academic progress if he or she deemed to have done so by the Core Faculty Advisor.

The quantitative standard for satisfactory academic progress contains three components: (1) maximum time frame for completion of the PhD Program, (2) milestone requirements. In addition to meeting the qualitative standard of satisfactory completion of learning activities, you must meet all components of the quantitative standard to remain in good standing.

You must satisfactorily complete your PhD Program within five (5) years of matriculation. Calculations begin with the Entry Date and is exclusive of periods of official withdrawal and/or official leaves of absence.

A PhD learner must satisfactorily complete each of the milestone requirements within the enrollment time periods exclusive of official interim or withdrawal periods.

The PDE is the most significant academic outcome you will produce during your PhD Program. It demonstrates that you have achieved excellence in scholarship and proficiency in your chosen field(s) and have made original and significant contributions to knowledge. All PDEs are published digitally and on microfilm by UMI Dissertation Publishing. Many learners have subsequently published PDEs in book form.

Because all PDEs include a major portion of text, IOU Foundation recommends that you observe the following guidelines to produce a document suitable for electronic format:

  • Use an established publication manual appropriate for your discipline, such as the Manual of the American Psychological Association (www.apastyle.org) or the Modern Language Association guidelines. Copy edits thoroughly and has the PDE proofread by at least one other person.
  • The PDE, whether it is in the form of a traditional dissertation or a contextual essay, must be submitted in electronic format (or on plain white paper in letter-quality print if requested by a committee member.).
  • Double-space the text and leave a one-and-one-half-inch margin on the left side and one inch margins on the other three sides, numbering each page.
  • Begin with the title page followed by the Committee approval page.
  • The Committee signature page will include the approved degree, concentration, and area of specialization.
  • Follow the Committee signature page with a 350-word abstract.
  • Follow the abstract with a table of contents.
  • Place references and bibliographies at the end of the PDE in the form dictated by the style manual appropriate for your major field. For footnotes and bibliographic citations, use the same style manual.
  • In the text, use Standard English whenever possible. The Intercultural Open University Foundation has adopted a policy that requires the use of non-sexist language.

PDE Guidelines have been developed to assist in preparing the document. Learners can consult the IOU Foundation website www.ioufoundation.org for some additional assistance with PDE format.

The PhD Program Summary affords the opportunity to look back on your PhD Program in order to examine how it contributed to your intellectual and personal development. Completed before scheduling the Pre-Graduation Meeting (PhD Program Review Meeting), this document is an integral component of the process and becomes a part of your educational record, summarizing all learning completed during the program. Because it provides the basis for the narrative transcript that you will prepare, be sure it refers to all learning completed in the PhD Program. It is imperative that the Program Summary and narrative transcript be consistent with each other.

The Program Summary is divided into two parts. The first part, the Program Description, provides concise information about you as the learner and your program. The second part, Reflection and Analysis, provides a detailed statement of what the program has meant to you. Both parts cover the same program components, but each looks at the components from a different perspective.

  • Name, address, and present employment.
  • Degrees held, dates awarded, academic achievements and honors, and institutions where earned.
  • Dates of matriculation in IOU Foundation, Certification meeting, Pre-graduation meeting, and proposed final meeting.
  • Name of the field of study of the PhD and area of specialization.
  • Dates, sites, and conveners of entry colloquium, seminars, and peer days. Also include titles for seminar and peer days.

The Program Summary also provides the following information for each area of proficiency in your program. In each case, differentiate between prior learning and learning gained during your time in the PhD Program.

  • Workshops, conferences, and other related experiences (title, sponsoring institution or agency, dates).
  • Independent reading courses (areas of study, tutor or mentor, and dates).
  • Relevant interviews (persons interviewed, subject matter covered, and dates).
  • Other PhD-related learning experiences, such as job experience, media events, travel, independent research, teaching, social action projects.
  • Bibliography (list of works not included in the PDE).
  • Publications, video or audio productions, works of art.
  • Methods for demonstrating, documenting, and evaluating learning in each field with a summary of each evaluation (include supporting documents in an appendix).

The PhD Program Summary also includes the following information about the other components of your PhD Program:

  • A brief description of the internship, including purpose, activities, dates, advisor, and procedures for evaluation.
  • The title and a 350-word abstract of the project demonstrating excellence.
  • A description of the personal development component, including your objectives, your ways of working toward them, and how you went about assessing your progress.
  • Information about your PhD Committee members (names, credentials, and roles on the Committee).
  • Any other basic information about aspects of your program that you may wish to include.

The Reflection and Analysis section includes your thoughts about the PhD Program process as you experienced it. Reflect on the academic, personal, and societal significance of your Program. In this light, discuss:

  • Learning plan–the design and implementation of your overall program.
  • Proficiency in the fields–the means whereby you achieved it.
  • The quality of your Internship in terms of personal and professional goals.

In the Reflection and Analysis section you should also discuss how the people with whom you worked and the processes and procedures of the PhD Program influenced your experience from an academic, personal, and societal viewpoint. Some considerations are as follows:

  • What it was like for you to assume the role of convener and meeting chair of your PhD Committee.
  • The role and influence of  committee members and other significant individuals on the content, process, style, and quality of your work.
  • How IOU Foundation-sponsored learning sessions contributed to your learning.
  • What the outcomes of your personal development activities were and what their significance was to you and your overall Program.
  • How your plans and future expectations have developed as a result of your program.

When planning your Program Summary, be sure to give considerable attention to making an assessment of how the PhD Program experience as a whole has influenced your development as a scholar, practitioner, and socially conscious human being. Also discuss in what ways your professional skills, knowledge, understanding, and future plans have been extended or changed as a consequence of your PhD studies.

When writing the Program Summary, follow the same stylistic and formal guidelines used for the PDE. Be sure that the Program Summary is both complete and accurate. Also be sure that the name of your degree field is the same on the Program Summary as it appears on the graduation recommendation documents. Finally, be sure that your transcript and the Program Summary are in complete agreement.

The purpose of the meeting is to bring the PhD Committee together to discuss your program and your graduation documents. It is a working meeting, scheduled near the end of your program so that you can benefit from your committee’s collective wisdom as you prepare the final version of your program documents. Your committee’s charge is to review your entire program according to IOU Foundation degree criteria for the following:

  • Fulfilling satisfactorily all terms of the Learning Agreement
  • Achieving excellence in scholarship and proficiency in the stated field
  • Making an original contribution to the body of knowledge

As with the Certification meeting, you must schedule their Pre-Graduation Meeting (PhD Program Review Meeting) at a time when all members other than the Second Core Reader can be present. All Pre-Graduation Meetings are tape-recorded. If one person is unexpectedly absent, you can send the tape of the meeting to that person for review and approval before the Pre-Graduation Meeting (Ph.D. Program Review Meeting) can become official. A copy of the tapes may be requested by your Core Faculty Advisor or the Dean if review and verification of the Pre-Graduation Meeting (PhD Program Review Meeting) agreements are necessary. Non-attendance of any external scholar or peer must have prior approval of your Core Faculty Advisor. If more than one member cannot attend, or if the Core Faculty Advisor cannot be present, the meeting is not official and must be rescheduled.

Prior to or at the Pre-Graduation Meeting (PhD Program Review Meeting), your Second Core Reader’s report is distributed to your committee for consideration. Following the meeting, you are expected to respond to your Second Core Reader’s report in writing, either in a separate document or in your report of the meeting. Your committee may make recommendations for additional study or research, revisions of the PDE or the Program Summary, or any other adjustments believed necessary before the degree is granted.

The process for scheduling the Pre-Graduation Meeting (PhD Program Review Meeting) is listed below. You must:

  • Arrange a date with the committee members.
  • Send a copy of the draft transcript and the Program Summary page to your core faculty Advisor before the meeting.
  • Be sure the Second Core Reader’s written report is received by your core faculty and committee members before the meeting.
  • Be sure that 30 days before the meeting date your financial balance is clear with the Business Office through the month in which the meeting is to be held.

Conditions specific to the Pre-Graduation Meeting are the following:

  • At least six months must have elapsed since Certification.
  • All Peer Days and Seminars must have been completed and written evaluations filed with your core advisor at least 30 days prior to the scheduled meeting.

It is advisable to schedule the Pre-Graduation Meeting only after you are reasonably certain that any revisions requested by your committee will not be extensive. To do so, requires close contact with your Core Faculty Advisor and other members of your committee throughout the program in order to work as a team.

When your committee is satisfied with your work and has no or only minor changes to recommend, your Pre-Graduation Meeting may become the Final Degree meeting. If the committee members are not satisfied with your work, they will recommend changes and/or additions to the documents. Upon completion of the required revisions, you will schedule a Final Degree meeting, to be held by conference call. At the Final Degree meeting, your committee must be satisfied that you have made additions and changes, fulfilled the Learning Agreement, and met all PhD Program criteria for the PhD Degree. 

The signatures of PhD Committee members on the Graduation Recommendation and Approval Form indicate that, in their view, your work has provided evidence of the following:

  • Excellence in scholarship and proficiency in the field of knowledge specified in the Learning Agreement.
  • Ability to conduct a coherent, unified, original inquiry or creative project.
  • Originality of approach in the research and application aspects of your PDE.
  • Understanding of the historical and theoretical foundations of your PDE.
  • Ability to identify the social implications of academic aspects and/or the theoretical implications of the social action aspects of your program.
  • Development through the Internship of skills and understandings needed to apply your knowledge in practical situations.
  • Coherence within and clear relationships among the various components of your program.

At the Final Degree Meeting, your committee approves your area of concentration and related areas of emphasis presented in the Program Summary and the narrative transcript. When all committee members agree, your Committee recommends that the degree be awarded. Each member signs and dates the Graduation Recommendation and Approval Form, which your Core Faculty Advisor then forwards to IOU Foundation.

A minimum of two (2) years (24 months) of active enrollment in the program is required between matriculation and graduation. Completion of the PhD Program must come within five years of matriculation.

Once you have held your Final Degree meeting, you must submit the following materials to IOU Foundation:

  • An electronic copy of the PDE and Program Summary in MS Word format.
  • Your report of the meeting, including your written point-by-point response to the report of your Second Core Reader.

Concurrently, your Core Faculty Advisor will submit the Graduation Recommendation and Approval documents signed and dated by each member of the PhD Committee to IOU Foundation.

Upon receipt of all the materials, the Quality Assurance Committee (QAC) conducts a review similar to the one carried out at Certification, a process that usually is completed in 30 days. The QAC may accept the PhD Committee’s recommendation for graduation or may determine that additional work is needed. The official date of your graduation will be the last day of the month in which the QAC recommends graduation.

Following the QAC review, the business office will check to see that all fees have been paid.

The final transcript and diploma will be released when all clearances of the administrative review have been completed by the Business Office and Academic Records.

Following approval of your documents by the QAC, you must submit a copy of the PDE for be shipment to University Microfilms Inc./ProQuest where it becomes the original version that UMI will use to create both a microfilm archival copy as well as the digitized PDF version that is added to IOU Foundation’s online dissertation database. UMI stores the microfilm version of each dissertation at their production facility in Michigan for archival purposes on IOU’s behalf. Details, including fee and form, are included in the PhD Program Review packet.

Commencement is held once a year, typically in the fall, at the Foundation’s headquarters in Spain or the United States. Learners who are eligible to participate in commencement will receive information in advance. Academic regalia may be ordered at that time. Questions regarding commencement should be directed to the President’s Office.

Upon completion of the program, you automatically become a member of the Graduate Alumni Association and an important part of the Foundation’s alumnae/initiatives.

Requests for exceptions to academic policy may be made to IOU Foundation through the Waiver Committee. To initiate a request, submit the Waiver Request Form (available on the IOU Foundation Web site www.ioufoundation.org) and a written statement to the committee via your core faculty advisor, giving all pertinent information and a supporting letter from the Core Faculty Advisor. The Waiver Committee will advise you of the decision.

If a learner or member of the learner’s PhD Committee disagrees with a decision made by a member of the committee or the QAC, an attempt should be made to settle the dispute at the lowest level possible. If no resolution appears forthcoming, the matter should be referred to the, the Academic Appeals Committee or to the President.

Learners are selected for their maturity, for their creativity, and for their sound judgment about their capacity and motivation for undertaking PhD-level work. However, a faculty member or other member of the IOU Foundation community at any time may initiate a review of a learner’s program and such a review may lead to withdrawal. The review is done by the Program Assessment Committee (PAC), which makes its recommendation to the President.

A PAC will be established to review a learner’s program in the following situations:

  • When a request for assessment is made based upon a recommendation from a learner’s committee in advance of the Certification meeting that the learner not continue in the program.
  • When the Core Faculty Advisor, or the Second Core Reader request an assessment.

A Core Faculty Advisor or other committee member may request an evaluation because of dissatisfaction with the learner’s progress or overall program quality; because the 18-month milestone for Certification has expired, because of lack of productive communication among learner and Committee members, or because of dissension among committee members. 

The members of a PAC are the following:

  • The Chair of the Quality Assurance Committee, serving as chair.
  • Two Core faculty members, one chosen by the learner and one chosen by the QAC.
  • Two current learners, one chosen by the learner and one chosen by the Core faculty.

The process of assessment is the following:

  • The learner will receive written notice of the review, including a description of the problem.
  • Committee members are similarly informed prior to the meeting.
  • The learner is asked to send the chair written support for his/her continuation in the program from Core Faculty Advisor faculty, other learners, internship advisors, and others knowledgeable about the IOU Foundation program and the areas of the learner’s work.
  • Members of the learner’s committee will be asked to provide the PAC with their assessments of the learner’s work as well as information regarding how the PhD Committee may have contributed to the situation.
  • The person(s) initiating the review will be requested to give written reasons for their actions to the PAC.

The learner’s PhD Committee will receive notice of the review and outcome, and the Pac’s recommendation will be forwarded to the President.

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