PhD in Religious Studies

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 Religious Studies

The PhD program in Religious Studies at present provides training in Early Judaism, Christian Origins, and Religions of the Late Antique Mediterranean. The level of achievement reached will provide the successful candidates with the professional equipment to conduct original research in their chosen fields and to teach at the college or university 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.

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.


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 Religious Studies

Students in the PhD Religious Studies write two essay exams. All PhD Religious Studies students write a general comprehensive exam on the religious traditions of the ancient Near East and Mediterranean, beginning with Gilgamesh, and including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The second essay exam is on a Special Field. Students’ prospective supervisors, in consultation with the Religious Studies Committee, are responsible for devising a reading list for the Special Field examination no later than 1 July of the students’ first year of study.

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.