J.S.D. Degree

Since 1992, Notre Dame Law School has admitted a small number of students to candidacy for the degree of Doctor of Juridical Science (J.S.D.). This program is designed especially for people who wish to pursue an academic career in law and who seek additional education beyond the LL.M. degree level.

The J.S.D. involves two semesters of residency beyond that required for the LL.M. degree and requires that individuals admitted to the program demonstrate substantial potential for writing a thesis of publishable quality that will be a significant scholarly contribution to the field in which it is written.

J.S.D. candidates may be accepted in any field of legal studies. For applicants who have an interest in pursuing a J.S.D. degree specifically in International Human Rights Law, additional information can be found at the Center for Civil and Human Rights.

The application opens Sept. 1. 

J.S.D. in International Human Rights Law

Unlike the LL.M. program, which is designed for human rights practitioners, the J.S.D. Program in International Human Rights Law at Notre Dame Law School is designed for those who want to teach and pursue research at the university level.  Admission to our J.S.D. program is highly competitive. Typically, only one or two of the 15 applicants each year are accepted.  This selectivity allows our faculty to provide individualized support to our doctoral students during their three to five years of study.

This approach has produced a very successful alumni network of over 20 J.S.D. graduates from 14 different countries who now serve as faculty, deans and high ranking government officials.

For questions about the J.S.D. program or application process, please contact the Center for Civil & Human Rights at cchr@nd.edu.

JSD Tuition

Tuition for the first year of residency is the same as the Law School & LL.M. tuition rate. (This rate changes each year.) Tuition for the 2017-2018 academic year is $55,802. In addition to tuition, there are fees of approximately $490 for the year. After the first year of residency, J.S.D. candidates must enroll each semester for one unit of credit, for which they will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” from their advisor. This one unit course is $500 per semester. After completing two years of residency, J.S.D. candidates may remain at Notre Dame to complete researching and writing their dissertation, or they may work at their home institution or another place that provides the research materials most useful to them. It typically takes three to five years to complete our J.S.D. degree requirements. In additional to tuition and fees, the University’s Graduate School estimates that an unmarried student needs a minimum of $18,700 to cover basic living expenses

Typically, one J.S.D. student per year will receive a full-tuition scholarship and living stipend for the two years of required residency. The Center may also admit other students who have their own or other external sources of funds.


Completion of the J.S.D. degree requirements ordinarily takes three to five years. J.S.D. candidates are required to spend their first two years in residence.  During the first year, students must successfully complete at least 12 credit hours of course work. After the first year, J.S.D. candidates are expected to devote their time to progressing on their dissertation and must enroll each semester for one unit of credit, for which they will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” from their advisor. After the required two years of residency, candidates continue to work on their dissertation under the direction of a member of the Law School faculty, either in residence at Notre Dame or elsewhere.


Applicants to the J.S.D. in International Human Rights law MUST possess a J.D. degree from an American law school approved by the ABA Section of Legal Education or an LL.B. (or equivalent degree) from an accredited law school in a foreign country AND an LL.M. degree or its equivalent from an approved or accredited law school or evidence that you are in the process of satisfactorily completing the requirements for the LL.M. degree or its equivalent.

The Center for Civil and Human Rights (CCHR) uses the online Graduate School Application. Online applications and accompanying materials are due by February 15. Decisions will be transmitted to applicants as soon as they are available. Acceptances will normally be sent out by April 15. All decisions will be transmitted by email.

A complete application will include:

  1. University of Notre Dame Graduate School Application
  2. TOEFL or IELTS (for non-native speakers of English only)
  3. Transcripts with proof of J.D. or LL.B. or equivalent degree (and English translations if necessary) AND transcripts with proof of LL.M. degree (and English translations if necessary)
  4. Statement of Intent
  5. Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  6. CCHR Supplemental Application
  7. Proposed Program of Study for the J.S.D. degree
  8. Writing Sample
  9. 3 letters of recommendation
  10. Application fee (online by credit card or check by mail)

Note: CCHR does NOT require the GRE.

Submission procedure instructions

Important: Your name should be entered as it appears on your passport. Please capitalize your Last Name (family name or surname) when completing the application forms.

All documents to be uploaded must be no larger than 2500 KB or 2.5 MB. Acceptable formats include .doc, .docx, .wpd, .rtf, .xls, .xlsx, .pdf, .txt, .jpg, .pict, .gif, .bmp, .tif or .png.

1) University of Notre Dame Graduate School Application
All applicants must complete the online application. When completing the online application, if a required field does not apply to you, enter the word “none” in the field. Required fields cannot be left empty, but any text you enter in the field will be accepted by the system. The online application can only be submitted once. However, you do not have to complete the application in one sitting. You may access your application and change your responses as many times as you like with your PIN and password from any computer with Internet access.

Once you have completed the application, click the “Submit” button at the top. This will take you through the steps to pay the application fee and submit your application electronically to the CCHR. Remember: Each online application can only be submitted once. After you submit your application, you will not be able to go back and make changes or additions using the online application system. However, you will be able to access your online application in order to check which materials have been received.

2) TOEFL or IELTS score
All applicants must submit TOEFL or IELTS score unless:
the applicant is a native speaker of English or
the applicant has completed a degree in which English was the medium of instruction (i.e. all classes were taught in English).

If you have your TOEFL or IELTS scores, enter the scores and upload your report in the section labeled “English Proficiency Exam”.

To have your TOEFL scores sent directly to the University, use institution code 1841. TOEFL scores are valid for up to two years after the test date. The IELTS (International English Language Testing System) does not have or use institution codes.

The CCHR does not have a minimum requirement for TOEFL or IELTS scores; however, successful candidates typically score 600 (paper-based), 250 (computer-based) or 100 (Internet-based) on the TOEFL or 7.0 on the IELTS.

Remember: If the test is taken after your application is submitted, please email your self-reported TOEFL or IELTS score to cchr@nd.edu as soon as it is available.

3) Transcripts
Unofficial copies of all your (university level) transcripts should be uploaded to your online application in the “Academic History” section. Applicants should upload their J.D. or LL.B. transcript under the “Baccalaureate Institution”. LL.M. transcripts should be uploaded in the “Graduate Institution” section. There are 3 additional “other” institution sections where additional transcripts may be uploaded.

(Please include a certified English translation, if necessary.) If your LL.M. is currently in progress, upload transcripts for all coursework completed. If an undergraduate transcript does not show proof of degree and date earned, a diploma showing award of the degree should also be uploaded. Your unofficial transcript copies will suffice for the purposes of the Admissions Committee. The university only requires official transcripts from accepted students.

4) Statement of Intent
Submit a statement of intent (3 double-spaced pages/approximately 1500 words) that outlines your reasons for wishing to pursue the J.S.D. The statement of intent plays a critical part in the evaluation of applicants, so we encourage you to dedicate sufficient time to prepare a clear, well-written and informative personal statement. Submit your statement of intent in the “Uploads” section of the online application.

5) Résumé or CV
Submit a document showing the chronological progression of your work and studies via the “Uploads” section of the online application.

6) CCHR Supplemental Application
Download the form from the CCHR website, complete, save and submit in the “Uploads” area of the online application under “Program Upload” located directly after the Curriculum Vitae section.

7) Proposed Program of Study for the J.S.D. degree
Submit, in the “Additional Documents” section, a 5-10 page “Proposed Program of Study for the J.S.D. degree,” identifying the subject area in which you propose to write a dissertation along with an indicative bibliography.

8) Writing Sample
Submit a writing sample of your choosing in the “Writing Sample” area located at the very end of the “Uploads” section of the online application.

9) Three letters of recommendation
Recommendations play a critical role in evaluating applications. Your recommendations should come from faculty members, professors, lecturers or others who can substantively comment on your academic performance, intellectual capacity and personal character.

Your recommenders should submit their letters electronically through the online application system. Please enter the full name, email address and complete contact information for each provider in the “Recommendation” section of the online application.

Once the recommendation provider information is saved, an e-mail will be sent to each recommender with instructions on how to proceed with the online recommendation.
When the recommendation provider submits the form online, it will become a part of your application.
You can view the status of your online recommendations each time you log into your application account.

The online system contains a set of questions for your recommenders to answer and a method by which the recommenders can upload a letter. The CCHR prefers letters on letterhead from your recommenders.

10) Application fee of $75
Applicants may pay the fee online by credit card after completing the online application, or by sending a check to: Office of Graduate Admissions, Attention: Center for Civil and Human Rights, University of Notre Dame, 502 Main Building, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA. Checks should be made payable to the “University of Notre Dame”. If the check is not written by the applicant, or is mailed separately, the name of the applicant must be included with the check. International applicants who do not have access to a credit card or a U.S. checking account may pay using an International Postal Money Order or a bank draft on a U.S. bank. It is not possible to pay by bank transfer.

Applicants who are not able to pay the application fee may request a fee waiver from the CCHR. To do so, email a letter outlining your circumstances to cchr@nd.edu prior to submitting your application. If you request for a fee waiver is granted, the CCHR will provide you with a code to enter during the fee payment stage of your application.

Once you have submitted your online application, you will receive a confirmation email listing the materials received. After the initial notice, you will be able to log back into your online application to check the status of recommendations received, etc.