Intercultural Studies, Ph.D.

Program Description

The purpose of the Doctor of Philosophy degree in the Talbot School of Theology is to equip scholars to be competent in research, writing, and reflective action from a holistically integrated Christian worldview in order to contribute to new understandings of cross-cultural and multicultural issues. The program prepares graduates for roles in higher education, cross-cultural leadership, and intercultural praxis.

Program Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the Doctor of Philosophy in Intercultural Studies, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a mastery of relevant theories in intercultural studies and related disciplines associated with one's research area and/or ministry context (ULO 1).
  2. Engage in and publish independent research in intercultural studies (ULO 1).
  3. Generate new understandings and explanations (e.g., theoretical constructs) and apply them in culturally appropriate ways to the improvement of vocational outcomes in diverse contexts (ULO 2).
  4. Discuss and analyze the integration of one's faith commitments, and theological understandings, within the discipline of intercultural studies (ULO 3).
  5. Exemplify rigorous scholarship accompanied by Christ-honoring professionalism in all scholarly activities (ULO 3).

Each Program Learning Outcome (PLO) listed above references at least one of the University Learning Outcomes (ULO 1, 2, 3), which may be found in the General Information section of this catalog.

Program Requirements

The Talbot School of Theology offers Ph.D. degrees in Intercultural Education and in Intercultural Studies. Each program requires a minimum of 60 credits past the appropriate master's degree.

The Ph.D. programs include five foundational courses (13 credits), four specialized courses (12 credits), three electives or tutorials (9 credits), three Bible/theology courses (9 credits), and two research methods courses (6 credits). The dissertation portion of the program includes two taught courses (6 credits) and allows students to devote a minimum of 5 additional dissertation credits to dissertation field research and writing. There is wide latitude for students to pursue their individual interests in elective courses (or tutorials) and ultimately in research for their doctoral dissertations.

If a student has completed a master's degree that does not contain the background necessary for the Ph.D. program, the total program will be longer than 60 credits, as determined by the program director. If a student enters the Ph.D. program having completed a graduate degree in a field similar to intercultural studies and has been involved in extensive experience work, they may be eligible to receive up to 9 competency credits toward the Foundational Core classes. Additionally, students with advanced work in Bible and theology may also be eligible for up to 9 credits of Bible/theology reductions for work completed as part of a D.Min. or D.I.S. degree and up to 6 credits of reduction for students with a Th.M. degree. Requests for course reductions from other students with extensive coursework in Bible and theology will be considered on a case-by-case basis and will not normally exceed 6 credits of course reductions. At the recommendation of the Ph.D. academic advisor and with the approval of the doctoral committee, students with a previous doctoral degree may be granted course reductions of up to 24 credits but must complete at least 36 additional credits at Biola University. A faculty advisor will guide students in planning a program of study that serves their vocational aspirations.

Time Limit for Degree Completion

All course and academic requirements for the Ph.D. degree should be completed within seven years, beginning on the date of the student's first registration. Petitions for extension beyond seven years will be considered on a case-by-case basis for students. At times, students may need to interrupt their programs for a semester or more for a variety of personal or work-related reasons. See a full description of the policies regarding leave of absences below.  

Withdrawal and Re-Admission Procedures

A student who must drop out of school must go through the formal withdrawal process. To return to active status, the student should contact the program director and file a readmission form with the Office of Admissions.

Leave of Absence

Inactive students are those who have requested and been granted Leave of Absence from the program. A Leave of Absence may be granted upon petition for change of status if there is deemed sufficient reason for interrupting the program and intention to return to the program.

A Leave of Absence must be renewed by petition each semester and may not exceed two consecutive semesters. A Leave of Absence longer than two semesters will require withdrawal from the program and a petition for readmission if the student later wishes to regain active status. Each leave of absence must receive the approval of the student's program advisor and the Dean of the school. Students on leave are required to register for ISCL 893 Leave of Absence each term.


Talbot School of Theology has chosen to utilize a Portfolio Assessment System for its Ph.D. programs. This system is designed as a means to help monitor student progress toward development as a scholar. A variety of course materials will be collected periodically throughout the duration of the doctoral program. For further information, please consult the current Doctoral Programs Handbook.

Qualifying Examinations

Doctoral students are required to demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of their field of study by examination. The content of the written qualifying exam includes material from the core areas of the curriculum and the student's particular specialization. These exams are normally taken at the conclusion of all the coursework.

Admission to Candidacy

Official Ph.D. candidacy indicates that students have completed all of the preliminary requirements and are now qualified to undertake original research contributing to scholarship in their respective fields through their doctoral dissertations.

To achieve candidacy, students must successfully complete the following:

  1. Required coursework and the Graduation Procedures Check (or grad check)
  2. Portfolio, approved by the doctoral committee
  3. Qualifying examinations
  4. Successful defense of the dissertation proposal

It is the responsibility of students to contact their advisors in order to ensure all candidacy requirements have been met. Upon completion of the requirements, students will be notified of their acceptance to candidacy. Candidates will select a chairperson from the graduate faculty to guide their dissertation research. Upon achieving candidacy, students may implement their proposed research plans under the supervision of the approved doctoral chairperson.

Students enrolled in ISCL 890 or ISCL 891 are considered full-time students. During the dissertation phase, doctoral students are considered full time for a maximum of four semesters. If doctoral candidates have not defended their dissertations by the time all required dissertation credits are completed, they must enroll continuously in ISCL 890 for 1 credit each semester until the successful defense of the dissertation.

Students who fail to achieve candidacy may be offered a terminal M.A. degree and dropped from the Ph.D. program.


The dissertation process officially begins with the successful defense of a candidate's proposal before one's doctoral committee prior to beginning the student's field research.

The doctoral dissertation contributes to theory relevant to the candidate's concentration and must be conducted in some aspect of intercultural studies.

Dissertation Defense

The final examination is an oral defense of the dissertation before the doctoral committee and other invited professionals. Successful defense of the dissertation completes the candidate's responsibilities for the degree, which is conferred in the scheduled graduation ceremony immediately following the defense.

Graduation Requirements

All students must present an acceptable dissertation, have satisfactorily passed their qualifying exam and completed all required course work with a minimum 3.3 GPA to qualify for graduation. Students must meet with their department advisor and contact a graduate academic records and degree specialist in the Office of the Registrar one year prior to graduation to declare intent to graduate. (See Graduate Graduation Check description in the Admission, Enrollment and Graduation Requirements section).

Program Specific Objectives

The Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies allows the student to engage in the study of issues and processes associated with cultural change, culture contact and transformation. This track equips graduates to critically analyze the practice and theory of intercultural and cross-cultural programs and processes that have contributed to contemporary globalization trends.

Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies

Prerequisites: M.A. degree with a strong emphasis in intercultural studies, the social sciences or a related field. Minimum of three years of cross-cultural experience.

Requirements: The program consists of a minimum of 60 credits.

Curriculum Requirements

Ph.D. students may take hybrid courses, which includes both on-campus courses and online courses, to complete their program. 

Foundational Courses
ISAN 761Culture and Transformation3
ISCL 700Orientation to Graduate Intercultural Studies1
ISCL 709Intercultural Communication3
Select two courses from the following:6
History of the World Christian Movement
Cross-Cultural Leadership
Curriculum Design for Intercultural Contexts
Intercultural Research Program Courses
ISAN 751Social Anthropology3
ISCL 711Dynamics of the Religious Experience3
ISCL 801Method and Theory in Cross-Cultural Studies3
ISCL 853Theoretical Issues in Cross-Cultural Engagement3
Specialization Courses
A total of 9 credits must be taken in:
Education/ICS electives3
Education/ICS electives or Tutorial3
ISCL 873Tutorial3
Research Courses
ISCL 803Qualitative Research3
ISCL 879Research Design3
Bible/Theology Courses
Students may select Bible/Theology courses from a wide range of courses taught by the faculty at Talbot School of Theology. Students with no formal biblical/theological training prior to entering the program must have the selection approved by the program director. Students may also select:9
Contemporary Theology of Mission
Theology of Culture
Spiritual Conflicts in Cross-Cultural Context
Issues in Spiritual Warfare
Narrative in Scripture and Teaching
Issues in Contextualization/Cross-Cultural Theology
Theology of Mission
Acts: Biblical and Missiological
Topics in Biblical Theology from a Missiological Perspective
Dissertation Writing
ISCL 872Foundations of Doctoral Research3
ISCL 890Ph.D. Dissertation Field Research5
ISCL 891Ph.D. Dissertation Proposal3
Total Credits60