Doctor of liberal arts offered through University College

Degree designed for adult learners interested in interdisciplinary study

University College, the adult, evening and continuing education division in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has developed a new degree, the doctor of liberal arts (DLA), created 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 is a very exciting new opportunity for adult learners in the St. Louis region, and one of only two such programs in the country,” says Robert E. Wiltenburg, PhD, dean of University College. “In contrast to a PhD, which constitutes a professional credential and training for an academic career, the DLA provides an opportunity for adult students to earn an interdisciplinary doctoral degree, working with Washington University faculty.”

“Over more than 30 years, we have seen students in our interdisciplinary master’s programs in liberal arts, international affairs and American culture studies, who — whatever their professional careers — are able to do interdisciplinary and synthetic inquiry and research at the highest level. We are eager to see such students in the DLA program,” Wiltenburg says.

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

To earn the DLA, a student must complete 45 credit hours after earning a relevant master’s degree, pass a written and oral comprehensive examination and write and defend a thesis.

Program highlights include:

  • 36 units of graduate coursework and 9 units of thesis research and writing;
  • two required DLA seminars, five concentration courses and five elective courses;
  • four interdisciplinary concentrations — textual traditions, historical context, visual culture or global perspectives;
  • a thesis that emphasizes original interpretation and synthesis;
  • a faculty adviser, appointed to each student early in the program, who works closely with the student at all stages; and
  • part-time flexibility, in which students complete all DLA coursework within four to five years, followed by comprehensive exams and an additional two years to complete the thesis.

For more information, visit or call (314) 935-6700.

About University College:

Originally founded in 1853 to serve the diverse educational needs of the St. Louis area, Washington University continues to grow and thrive more than 150 years later. The first educational step of the fledgling university, on Oct. 22, 1854, was to establish an evening program.

Washington University Extension, addressing the needs of local teachers, was begun in 1908, and, after much expansion and diversification, became University College in 1931.

Then and since, people of all ages attend Washington University through University College, earning associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees, or certificates, or taking courses for personal enrichment.