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Marine Policy Ph.D.

Highly qualified students who already hold an advanced degree in marine policy or a related subject and who generally have some experience in policy research or management may be admitted to pursue a PhD degree in Marine Studies with a concentration in Marine Policy. The Marine Policy concentration in the Ph.D. program trains graduate students to achieve the highest level of proficiency in policy research. Policy analysis, social science theory, environmental science, and applied methods such as GIS or survey design are combined to provide a personalized program of study and research. All graduate students work in close cooperation with the faculty on their dissertation area.

Requirements for the PhD degree are similar to those for the master's degree, but are more intensive. Students in the PhD in Marine Studies with a concentration in Marine Policy are required to complete a minimum of 42 graduate credits.  The Ph.D. requires a minimum of 36 course credit hours and a minimum of 9 research credits and 9 dissertation credits. In total, a student’s doctoral program must include a total minimum of 42 credits. Students must meet a campus residency requirement of at least one continuous academic year. If a student has earned a Master's degree at the University of Delaware, this can be used to fulfill the residency requirement. Written and oral qualifying examinations are required before students are admitted to candidacy for the PhD degree. A written dissertation and oral defense of it are also required for the PhD.

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Required Courses

Required Courses

  • MAST 660 International and National Ocean Policy
  • MAST 663 Decision Tools for Policy Analysis
  • MAST 675 Economics of Natural Resources
  • MAST 676 Environmental Economics
  • MAST 873 Marine Policy Seminar (3 semesters)
  • Research Methods: 6 or more credits in statistics, survey research and/or case study methods
  • Science Elective: One 3 credit course in an SMSP Science Program
  • Elective Credits: 9 or more credits in policy/science/economics/law (PSEL) electives
  • MAST 969 Doctoral Dissertation (9 credits)

At least 3 of the required credits should be taken in another SMSP program area and other electives may include significant components from other departments. Required courses include courses in advanced research methods and quantitative analysis designed to insure that Ph.D. candidates have advanced skills needed to design and lead original Marine Policy research.

The course work provides a solid foundation for original research in the fields of study and extends the student’s knowledge beyond mastering a primary set of knowledge and skills. Students will work with their advisors to determine what additional coursework must be completed and how many research credits must be taken to account for the remaining credit hours needed for a minimum total of 42 credits. All courses in the program are selected with the approval of the student's advisor.

Students matriculating from other universities may petition to have these courses waived if their course of study included equivalent courses. For students holding a Master's degree in an appropriate field of study, the coursework from the Master's degree will be taken into account in the design of the doctoral program. Outstanding MMP students may petition to bypass to the Ph.D. program within the first two semesters, subject to recommendation by their advisor and approval by the School Directors. 

Doctoral Committee Schedule

Each doctoral committee shall consist of not less than four and or more than six members. The selection of members of the doctoral committee is made by the student and the advisor. This is forwarded via the School Director (or Marine Policy program director) and respective college deans to the Office of Graduate Studies. The doctoral committee is composed of the student's advisor, who is also the chair of the committee, members from the SMSP faculties, and one member from an outside academic or research unit. At least two committee members, one of which is the committee's chairperson, represent the major field of interest.

There are two milestone requirements for a student to be entered into candidacy for the terminal degree.  First, a dissertation proposal is required to obtain admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. Satisfactory completion of dissertation proposal is at the discretion of the advisor in consultation with the student’s advisory committee.  Second, a qualifying examination must be successfully completed. 

Qualifying Examination

A qualifying examination is required to obtain admission to candidacy for the Ph.D.  In order to take the examination, each student must be in good academic standing and have approval of the advisory committee. This examination is usually taken near the completion of the required credits of course work beyond the bachelor's degree. Doctoral students must demonstrate to their doctoral committee that they have acquired a comprehensive grasp of their field of study through a qualifying examination (written and oral) before they are admitted to formal candidacy.  A research proposal is ordinarily required before a student takes the qualifying examination.      

The qualifying examination must include both oral and written parts. The examination is prepared and administered by the advisor in consultation with the student’s advisory committee.  At least 60 days prior to the examination, the advisor must inform the student of the areas to be examined and the format of the written and oral parts of the examination.  If the student is not notified with at least 60 days’ notice, the student has the option to petition the School Director for a postponement of the qualifying examination.  

The student must be informed of success or failure of the written portion of the qualifying examination within two weeks of completion and if the written component is not successfully satisfied the oral may not be administered.  Once the written component is satisfied, the oral component may be administered.  The student must be informed of success or failure of the oral portion of the qualifying exam within two weeks of completion.  

A student who fails either part of the qualifying examination is entitled to only one re-examination, which must be taken within six months of the first examination.  A student who fails either part of the second qualifying examination may be considered for reclassification as a Master’s student only after advisory committee consultation with the School Director.  If a student is reclassified in this situation, the Master’s thesis must follow the same rigor outlined in 6.b. of this policy statement.  In some cases, if recommended by the committee and the School Director, the student may be terminated from the program.

Dissertation Defense

Upon completion of the dissertation research and documentation, a final oral examination must be passed, consisting of a public defense of the dissertation and a test of the candidate's mastery of the fields covered in the program. It is conducted by the dissertation committee Chair with assistance from the student's committee. To permit adequate time for the committee to review the dissertation, all copies of the tentatively completed dissertation (subject to revisions required by the examining committee) must be deposited with the Program Director and the respective college offices at least two weeks before the date of the final oral examination. The committee Chair shall submit certification of a successful defense to the Office of Graduate Studies through the respective college deans.


All full-time graduate students are required to attend departmental or college seminars in their fields of study. Students will also make presentations at departmental or college seminars. Students are encouraged to attend other University seminars that may be pertinent to their research.  Individuals matriculated as regular SMSP students in the Marine Policy must register for MAST 873 (Marine Policy Seminar) in three semesters; for students matriculating into the Ph.D. after the MMP, the semesters completed for the MMP will satisfy this requirement. Individuals matriculated as sustaining students are exempt from the seminar requirement.

MP Ph.D. Sample Schedule

Fall Semester I

SMSP Integrative Course (3 cr.)

MAST 660 (National and International Ocean Policy (3 cr.)

MAST 675 or MAST 633 (3 cr.)

Spring Semester I

MAST 672 Benefit Cost Analysis or MAST 676 (3 cr.)

SMSP Grad Seminar (1 cr.)

MAST 802 Case Study in Environmental Decision Making or Elective (3 cr.)

Research Design (Ph.D.) (3 cr.)

PSEL Elective

Fall Semester II

SMSP Grad Seminar (1 cr.)

PSEL Elecive or MAST 675, MAST 663 (3 cr.)

PSEL Elecive or MAST 675, MAST 663 (3 cr.)

Advanced Research Methods (3 cr.)

Spring Semester II


SMSP Grad Seminar (1 cr.)

PSEL Elective or Research credits (3 cr.)

MAST 969 (6 cr.)

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School of Marine Science & Policy

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