PhD in Classics

Note: AMNE is in the process of updating the name and requirements of our PhD Program. Students should continue to plan their degree for 2021/22 using the current program requirements. 

The official requirements for graduation are always those published in the UBC Calendar entry for the year of your program start date.

All PhD degrees require:

  1. The completion of 18 credits of coursework at the 500-level.
  2. Subject-specific comprehensive exams.
  3. Demonstrated competence in two modern languages.

PhD in Classics

Our program is designed to develop candidates’ skills to the highest level by developing competence in Greek and Latin and the relevant modern languages and by exposing candidates to a very wide range of academic approaches to the ancient world, thus taking advantage of the unique combination of disciplines in this department. Students’ progress is monitored constantly stage by stage to ensure that no aspect of their development is neglected. Up until the Comprehensive Examination the emphasis is on range and breadth; after that, students will be encouraged and enabled to narrow their focus so that they become world experts in their chosen dissertation topic. Our aim is to equip our graduating PhD students with all the professional skills they may need to attain a tenure-track teaching position and to carry out the varied responsibilities which such a position brings.

Students in the program must meet additional requirements:

  • Pass an unprepared translation exam in Latin and Greek.
  • Satisfy the archaeology coursework requirement, if not fulfilled by previous study.

PhD in Classics (Ancient History)

This program gives candidates an opportunity to build a PhD in Ancient History that is multidisciplinary with its sister-fields of Archaeology and Philology, taking maximum advantage of the range of expertise available in and beyond AMNE. While the candidates will focus their various course projects on historical topics, it is envisaged that as much as half of this work will be undertaken in courses that are primarily archaeological or philological in nature. The faculty teaching those courses will make every effort to support the candidates’ selection of historically focused research projects.

The Ancient History option provides students with a unique opportunity to combine the study of Ancient history with a second historical field. The Department of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies envisages that those who successfully complete this program will be able to enter the job-market confident in their ability to teach both Greek and Roman history, an additional field complementary to their major field (determined by the student early in the program), either Greek or Latin at an advanced level, with graduate-level proficiency in the other. The department believes that this program will make graduates attractive to History departments as well as those teaching Classics.

Students in the program must meet additional requirements:

  • Pass an unprepared translation exam in Latin and Greek.
  • Satisfy the archaeology coursework requirement, if not fulfilled by previous study.

PhD in Classics (Classical Archaeology)

This program gives candidates an opportunity to build a PhD in Classical Archaeology that is multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary, and taking maximum advantage of the range of expertise available in and beyond AMNE. Candidates will focus their various course projects on archaeological topics, but it is envisaged that courses may be also undertaken in areas that are primarily historical or philological in nature; cognate courses in Near Eastern archaeology and Egyptology may also be taken. The teaching faculty will make every effort to support the candidates’ selection of archaeologically focused research projects.

The Classical Archaeology option provides students with an opportunity to combine the study of Classical Archaeology with other branches of Classical and Near Eastern studies, not only to contextualize their own archaeological work, but also to equip them to enter the job-market confident of their ability to teach both Greek and Roman archaeology as well as a related field in ancient studies and Greek or Latin to at least entry level.

Coursework Requirements

Students must complete 18 credits of coursework before writing comprehensive exams. Most coursework should be completed in Year 1, with additional coursework in Year 2 if required. Up to 6 credits may come from the graduate offerings of another department. Additionally, all students must maintain continued registration in LATN 649, GREK 649, or RELG 649 (zero credits), the doctoral dissertation.

Students may choose courses freely and are strongly encouraged to do so in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and/or their supervisor. Students should consult with the program advisor to ensure all program requirements are met.

Students in the programs specified below must meet additional coursework requirements.

Archaeology Requirement

In addition to the above, students in the PhD in Classics and the PhD in Classics (Ancient History) must have completed, before the end of their second year of study, at least six credits’ undergraduate study (at the 300 level or above) in Classical art or archaeology, such as CLST 331 and 332 or their equivalent (minimum grade: B-/68%). Courses taken to satisfy this requirement do not count toward the 18 credits of coursework required by the program. This requirement may be met by coursework completed prior to admission.

Second Field Requirement

Students in the PhD in Classics (Ancient History) must additionally complete “Second Field” requirements. Candidates must show proficiency through coursework in a marketable second field. This competence shall be demonstrated by the successful completion, during the first two years of their program, of an 6 additional credits at the graduate level, and is completed in lieu of one written comprehensive examination. Given the department’s strengths, and those of the Department of History, the following fields are suggested: Religious Studies, Near Eastern Studies, Medieval History, European History, Canadian History, Asian History.

Modern Language Requirement

All doctoral students are required to attain minimal reading knowledge of at least two foreign modern languages in addition to English. Doctoral students who have demonstrated competence in an approved modern language as a requirement of a previous degree only test in one more language, with the approval of the Graduate Program. Available choices are French, German, Italian, and Spanish. The student will select the language(s) in consultation with their intended supervisor and/or the Director of Graduate Studies. The selected language(s) will be reported to the program advisor.

Competence in a language can be established by any of four means:

  1. Being a native speaker of the language.
  2. The successful completion of an examination administered by the department’s Graduate Committee (procedure below) or (when available) by another department.
  3. The successful completion of 6 credits (one year) in the language. This is may be fulfilled with any paired language courses (e.g. GERM 100 and 110, ITAL 101 and 102, SPAN 101 and 102, SPAN 206 and 207, FREN 101 and 102, FREN 342 and 343). These two courses must be taken for academic credit while registered in the graduate program, must meet minimum grades for G&PS, and do not count towards the credits required for the degree.
  4. The completion of a modern language requirement as part of another graduate degree.

In exceptional circumstances, when an intended dissertation project requires access to a significant body of scholarship in another language, doctoral students may substitute that language for one of the two required languages, with the approval of the Graduate Program. The selected language must clearly be relevant as a language of scholarship key to the student’s intended program of research.

The Department strongly urges students, in consultation with their intended supervisor and/or the Director of Graduate Studies, to consider early on in their program how they will fulfill the language requirements in order to further their career development.

The modern language requirement must be satisfied before the student completes comprehensive examinations.


Unprepared Examination from Latin and Greek

In addition to written comprehensive exams, PhD Classics and PhD Classics (Ancient History) students must take a two-hour unprepared (sight) translation examination from Greek and Latin. The exam consists of 4 passages: one Greek prose, one Greek verse, one Latin prose and one Latin verse, taken from authors on Part I of the Reading Lists but not from texts on the Reading Lists. Passages will be c. 10-15 lines in length and will have a sentence or two providing general context. Candidates will translate all four passages.  Both Greek and Latin sections must be passed for the exam to pass. There are five opportunities to pass the exam in Year 1 and 2.

Reading Lists & Comprehensive Examinations 

The Department of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies believes that Reading Lists constitute the best way to prepare students with the general background of the field, by reading seminal primary and secondary works. Familiarity with these lists is examined by written comprehensive examinations or comps. Comprehensive exams are written in the first two weeks of April of the second year of study.

Lists for translation exams represent a prescribed set of primary texts in the original language. These works represent a canon of original authors (literary, historical, and philosophical) that draws from many genres and time periods. The process results in an identifiable and useful body of knowledge that is objectively examinable and fills the gaps in the candidate’s reading of central authors.

Lists for essay exams consist of 50-60 recent and substantial contributions to the relevant field, and are intended to familiarize the student with a core of scholarship and an understanding of major scholarly approaches.

While some works on these lists may be covered as part of the candidate’s coursework, there is no expectation that they will be: students should have the ability to work through all these texts on their own in addition to coursework. Students who are lacking overview courses in their chosen fields are advised to speak to the program advisor about auditing or enrolling in relevant undergraduate courses.

Reading lists are the same across the cohort and are not tailored to individuals; the content may vary from year to year. Students, in consultation with their prospective supervisor, identify the subjects on which they wish to write by 15 April of their first year to the program advisor. Lists for the following academic year are available from 1 July.

PhD Classics

Students in the PhD Classics and the PhD Classics (Ancient History) write translation exams in Greek and Latin. All doctoral candidates should prepare the works on Part I of the list, and the list of additional texts specific to their stream (either Classics or Ancient History). Students in the Ancient History stream write only one of Greek or Latin. Students must attempt 6 of 8 possible passages (4 verse, 4 prose), for a total of 6 answers.

Students the PhD in Classics: Classical Archaeology choose two lists on which to be examined from the following:

Bronze Age Mediterranean and Near East (c. 3000-1000 BCE)
Iron Age Greece, Europe, and Near East (c. 1000 BCE-331 BCE)
Hellenistic Mediterranean & Early Imperial Rome (c. 331 BCE-50 CE)
High Roman Imperial & Late Antiquity (c. 50-400 CE)

Oral Comprehensive Examination

Within two weeks of sitting the written comprehensive exams, all PhD students complete an oral examination (2 hours) consisting of questions on the material in each of the written comps.

PhD Supervisory Committees

Between January and May of the student’s second year of study, the student will select a PhD Supervisor in consultation with the Area Chair and Director of Graduate Studies. The Supervisory Committee will normally consist of two faculty members (one of whom may be from outside the department) and the Supervisor, who serves as chair.

Once the student’s Supervisory Committee is formed (to be done within one month of completing written and oral comprehensive examinations), the student may proceed to the dissertation prospectus.

See also the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies guidelines for Supervisory Committees.

PhD Dissertation Prospectus and Colloquium

Within 5 months of successful completion of the comprehensive examinations, the student must submit the final draft of the dissertation prospectus. Once approved by the Supervisory Committee, the student will present the prospectus at an oral colloquium. The program advisor then recommends to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies that the student be admitted to ABD status.

PhD Dissertation Policies and Guidelines

Doctoral students must prepare and defend their dissertations according to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies policies. The suggested length of the doctoral dissertation is 60 000 to 80 000 words.