Doctor of Liberal Arts (DLA)


We live today in a rich and varied culture. Every moral, social, political, and cultural question we face demands the broadest consideration we can give it, drawing from the multiplicity of methods and perspectives nurtured and cultivated in the many disciplines of a great university.

The Doctor of Liberal Arts (DLA) program is designed for the experienced adult learner who wishes to pursue rigorous interdisciplinary study along with independent, scholarly reading and research. The degree is designed to cultivate interdisciplinary skills, intellectual habits, analytical and critical reasoning, effective writing, and broad-based decision making. This degree neither constitutes a professional credential nor provides training for an academic career.

Part-time DLA students typically complete all course work within four to five years, followed by comprehensive exams, and an additional two years to complete the thesis.

required course work

36 units: graduate course work

Course work includes two required DLA seminars, five concentration courses, and five elective courses.* Students choose among four interdisciplinary concentrations to focus their studies: Textual Traditions, Historical Context, Visual Culture, or Global Perspectives.

Students will be required to take a comprehensive exam that tests the student's ability to synthesize the knowledge he/she has gained in individual DLA courses. The exam consists of written and oral questions. The student must pass the written exam as a prerequisite for taking the oral exam.

*The DLA Proseminars (U96 605 DLA Interdisciplinary Proseminar, U96 620 DLA Counterpoints and Flashpoints) are gateway courses to the DLA Program, providing training in analytic thinking and writing through critical examination, discussion, research, and progressive writing on interdisciplinary topics such as historical narrative, text and image, the life of the mind, the creative impulse, the good life, and other major themes that have guided scholarly investigation and research in many fields. In the Proseminars students will analyze works from at least four disciplines (e.g. literature, art history, film, history, philosophy, women and gender studies, religion, political science, anthropology, history of science) and write a progressive research paper, submitted and reviewed incrementally, that demonstrates comparative, analytic, and critical thinking. The topics of the Proseminars will vary by semester.

9 units: thesis research and writing

The DLA thesis emphasizes original interpretation and synthesis. A faculty advisor, appointed to each student early in the program, works closely with the student at all stages of the thesis.

admissions requirements

Candidates will be selected by faculty members of the DLA Faculty Steering Committee and recommended to the dean of the graduate school for approval. A maximum of 6 units of graduate credit may be transferred to the DLA program.

Strong Academic Record

Candidates must have an exceptionally strong undergraduate and graduate academic record, and they must demonstrate superior writing and, preferably, research skills. Normally, the minimum undergraduate and graduate GPA will be 3.7.

Master's Degree

Candidates for the Doctor of Liberal Arts program must already hold a master’s degree in a relevant subject from an accredited institution of higher learning.

Transferring Credit

A maximum of 6 units of graduate credit may be transferred to the DLA program.

application requirements

Completed application form

The online application is available online on our Apply page. Applications are ready for review when all fields on the application form are completed, required documents have been received, and the application fee is paid.

Official transcripts from all previous college work

Contact the registrar at each previous college or university attended to request an official transcript. Official transcripts must be sent directly from the registrar to University College.

TOEFL scores (if applicable)

If you are not a U.S. citizen, official TOEFL scores must be forwarded to University College.

Graduates of a U.S. university or college or Canada, Australia, and U.K. residents are exempt if they have earned a bachelor’s degree or a graduate degree from such college or university.

$35 application fee

You may pay by credit card online, or via check or money order payable to Washington University in St. Louis. You may also pay the fee by cash at the University College office. 

This fee is waived for all WashU staff.

Writing Sample

Please submit a recent, research-based academic writing sample that is 10-15 pages long. If one is not available, other writing samples of comparable length may be substituted with approval from University College.

Three Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation should be completed by teachers or professional associates. They can be submitted as part of your online application or mailed to University College.

Current Resume
Personal Statement

In a three-page essay, discuss the ideas and questions you would like to read, write, and think about, and how doing so through this program will enrich your life. Please include prior inquiry or experiences, formal or informal, which have influenced your decision to apply to the program.

Back to All
Claire Martin

"My professors have a keen ability to be flexible with working professionals. The culture of professionalism at University College extends to the classroom."

―Claire MartinMaster of Liberal Arts

Still have questions?

Program Coordinator: Harriet Stone | (314) 935-5175 |

Director of Advising and Student Services: Elizabeth Fogt | (314) 935-6778 |

Administrative Assistant for Academic Programs: Holly Schroeder | (314) 935-6759 |