PhD in Religious Studies

Our PhD in Religious Studies provides you with training in Early Judaism, Christian origins, and religions of the late antique Mediterranean.

Our PhD in Religious Studies will also provide you with the professional equipment to conduct original research in your chosen fields, and you will be equipped to teach at the college or university level.

Program requirements

The official requirements for graduation are published in the UBC Calendar. You must meet the specific requirements 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.

You must complete 18 credits of coursework before writing your comprehensive exams. You should complete most of your coursework in year one, with additional coursework in year two if required. Up to six credits may come from the graduate offerings of another department. Additionally, you must maintain continuous registration in LATN 649, GREK 649, or RELG 649 (zero credits), the doctoral dissertation.

You may choose courses freely and are strongly encouraged to do so in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and/or your supervisor. You should consult the Graduate Program Advisor to meet all program requirements.

As a doctoral student, you 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 additional language, with the approval of the graduate program.

Your available choices are French, German, Italian, and Spanish. You will select the language(s) in consultation with your intended supervisor and/or the Director of Graduate Studies. The selected language(s) will be reported to the Graduate 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 six 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 toward 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 be relevant as a language of scholarship key to the student’s intended program of research.

At the Department of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies, we strongly urge 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 and further their career development.

You must satisfy the modern language requirement before you complete your comprehensive examinations.

Reading lists and comprehensive examinations

Reading lists constitute the best way to prepare you 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 in 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 periods. The process results in an identifiable and useful body of knowledge that is objectively examinable and fills the gaps in the student'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 student's coursework, there is no expectation that they will be: students should have the ability to work through all of the texts on their own, in addition to coursework. Students lacking overview courses in their chosen fields are advised to speak to the Graduate 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. In consultation with their prospective supervisor, students identify the subjects on which they wish to write by April 15th of their first year and report this to the Graduate Program Advisor. Lists for the following academic year are available from July 1st.

Students in the PhD Religious Studies write two essay exams.

First, you write a general comprehensive exam on the ancient Near East and Mediterranean religious traditions, beginning with Gilgamesh, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

The second essay exam is in a special field. In consultation with the Religious Studies Committee, your prospective supervisor is responsible for devising a reading list for the special field examination no later than July 1st of your first year of study.

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 written comps.

PhD supervisory committees

Between January and May of the second year of study, you 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 may be from outside the department) and the supervisor, who serves as chair.

Once the supervisory committee is formed (to be done within one month of completing written and oral comprehensive examinations), you may proceed to the dissertation prospectus.

PhD dissertation prospectus and colloquium

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

PhD dissertation policies and guidelines

According to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies policies, you must prepare and defend your dissertations. The suggested length of the doctoral dissertation is 60,000 to 80,000 words.

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