Student Guideline Overview


At the University of Pittsburgh, the University Honors College (UHC) provides the opportunity for qualified undergraduates to pursue a unique research-based degree.

Designed by faculty from throughout the University and designated the Bachelor of Philosophy (BPhil) by the University Board of Trustees, this University-wide degree combines (i) General Degree Requirements for an individually approved Program of Study with (ii) Special Degree Requirements for concentration and evaluation following upper-level research and independent scholarship that culminates in a thesis. Through the BPhil it is possible for undergraduate students any time after the freshman year to begin research and scholarly work toward a rigorous baccalaureate degree in a manner usually reserved for the graduate level. Simultaneously, the BPhil degree includes an element of intellectual scope. 

General Degree Requirements

Each BPhil degree candidate must:

  • Complete the degree requirements (e.g., major requirements) of his or her home school (Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, Swanson School of Engineering, School of Nursing, College of Business Administration, etc.)
  • Complete a Program of Study approved by the UHC (samples of previously approved Programs of Study are available for review)
  • Maintain a 3.50 cumulative GPA

An approved Program of Study will demonstrate that the student has exceeded the requirements for a standard undergraduate departmental degree. In some cases existing curricular options my fulfill the Program of Study requirements, or in other cases an approved Program of Study may be highly individualized. In general, it is expected that a student’s curriculum will reflect the breadth and/or depth. Curricula that are built around an intellectual theme (i.e., those that reflect focus) are also acceptable. It is incumbent upon each candidate to demonstrate the scholarly merits of the proposed curriculum as it relates to his or her own work.

Special Degree Requirements

The special degree requirement is met through the preparation and defense of a thesis. There will be an individualized examination conducted by a UHC-appointed Examining Committee no later than during the candidate’s last term at the University of Pittsburgh. One member of the Examining Committee must be from outside the University of Pittsburgh.

Each BPhil degree candidate must:

  • Select a thesis advisor from the faculty in his or her major department of study (students should review these guidelines for choosing a thesis advisor)
  • Submit a synopsis of the proposed research, the Thesis Prospectus (which has been accepted by the thesis advisor) to the Honors College (samples of previously approved Thesis Prospectuses are available for review)
  • Be evaluated by the Examining Committee; this evaluation consists of a public presentation and discussion of the thesis or project, followed by a private oral examination conducted by the Examining Committee, similar to a master's thesis defense

Admission to Degree Candidacy

Students who wish to pursue the University Honors College degree, the Bachelor of Philosophy (BPhil), should have completed two terms of work at the University of Pittsburgh prior to application for degree candidacy. Admission to candidacy will be based on academic promise, demonstrated achievement in university-level work, and potential for independent scholarship. Upon recommendation by the UHC Director of Advising, application for admission will be made through the UHC Dean.

Ordinarily, students admitted to degree candidacy should have at least a 3.50 GPA and have taken University Honors College courses. However, inasmuch as purely numerical or quantitative criteria are absolute indicators neither of academic excellence nor of potential for intellectual attainment, students with a serious interest in pursuing a UHC degree are urged to discuss their particular circumstances with the UHC Dean and Director of Advising.

Students should be advised that completing the requirements for the UHC degree generally takes about two years. As a result, students are encouraged to begin planning and consultation with the UHC as early as possible.

Application for candidacy must include:

  • A description of the student’s intended Program of Study, part of which is a statement of progress toward the graduation requirements of the candidate’s home school (or schools), including the student’s most recent transcript
  • A preliminary plan for the fulfillment of the Special Degree Requirement (the Thesis Prospectus)

Upon approval of the above documents by the UHC, admission to degree candidacy will be granted.

Apply for admission to BPhil degree candidacy »

Guide for faculty asked to serve as BPhil thesis advisors »