Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

The purpose of the Ph.D. program is to engage students in advanced academic studies, normally in preparation for an academic career.

Admission requirements

Entry into the doctoral program is limited to applicants who have earned an academic Master’s degree in Religious Studies or Theology in a recognized graduate program, or those who have finished the course requirements of such a program with a minimum CGPA of 3.5/4.0.

Advanced standing (Ph.D.2) may be granted if the completed Master’s level work included a thesis in the same area as that of the intended doctoral specialization and involved not less than six (6) courses (18 credits).

It is recommended that French and/or German be included in the bachelor’s or master’s work preceding doctoral study. For Asian Religions, students intending to enter the Ph.D. program must have preparation in the appropriate languages, normally Sanskrit or Pali for South Asian religion, Tibetan for Tibetan Buddhism, Chinese and/or Japanese for East Asian religion. For Biblical Studies, students intending to enter the Ph.D. program must have preparation in the appropriate languages, normally Hebrew and Greek.

Applicants for doctoral programs are requested to submit a substantial sample of their scholarly writing (15–20 pages) with their application.


One of the professors in the area of specialization acts as program advisor of each candidate in that area until a thesis supervisor is selected. Each candidate must meet with his or her advisor or supervisor prior to registration to select courses and to obtain advice concerning the requirements.

Residency requirements

Refers to the number of terms (or years) students must be registered on a full-time basis to complete their program. Students are not permitted to graduate until they have fulfilled the residence requirement (or paid the corresponding fees) in their program.

Candidates admitted to Ph.D. 1 must be registered on a full-time basis for four consecutive years (8 terms) and candidates admitted to Ph.D. 2 must be registered on a full-time basis for three consecutive years (6 terms), after which they will continue as additional session students until completion of the program. Half-time study may be permitted upon request.

Course requirements

Candidates admitted to Ph.D. 1 take a minimum of six graduate seminars during their first year and four seminars during their Ph.D. 2 year: those admitted to Ph.D. 2 must take a minimum of four graduate seminars. If possible, two seminars should be in their area of specialization, and at least one should be at the RELG 700-level. RELG 745 is a required course.

For a full list of available courses, please refer to Course Offerings. 

Language requirements

The School of Religious Studies offers courses in primary text source languages, such as Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, Biblical Greek, Sanskrit, Pali, Tamil and classical literary Tibetan. The School does not guarantee instruction in any languages other than those mentioned above. Therefore, if a student wishes to have a language such as French, German or Japanese counted as a second language, instruction may have to be sought outside the School.

The successful completion of at least twelve credits at the post-secondary level in a language course, or successful completion of a language examination administered by the appropriate member of the School, will constitute evidence of the student’s having the required reading knowledge of the language in question.

Students are required to give their area committee evidence of reading knowledge of two languages other than English. These languages must be chosen from modern languages in which there is a significant amount of scholarship relevant to the student’s area of research or from classical languages relevant to the student’s area of research (see also the Area requirements).

Research in some disciplines, or on certain thesis topics, may require proficiency in more than two languages besides English. In that case, additional language requirements may be stipulated by the supervisor.

Doctoral colloquium

As one of their requirements, all Ph.D. students in residence shall attend the monthly graduate colloquium, at which time a student's thesis project is formally presented and discussed. Each student is required to present an aspect of his or her thesis research to a meeting of the Doktorklub before the thesis is submitted.

Named after a more famous Doktorklub in 19th century Berlin, of which Karl Marx was a member, this Doktorklub is intended to debate theses and discuss dissertations. It serves two purposes:

  • to allow doctoral students to present their theses at the stage when the outline is settled and work well in hand – usually the year following acceptance of the thesis proposal. Consultation with the supervisor is necessary to confirm readiness to present.
  • to foster general discussion as to dissertation goals and method. Faculty members, or invited speakers on occasion, may present their own research as example.

Deferral of admission

Under exceptional circumstances, an admission for a particular semester can be considered for a deferral. This can be considered only if the student has not registered. If the student has already registered, no deferral can be granted. The student must withdraw from the University and apply for admission to a later term.

Tracking progress and Program time limits

By annual registration, all doctoral candidates may maintain their connection with the University for four years after completing their residence requirements. The object of these regulations is to encourage candidates to complete their theses and qualify for their degree without undue delay. Ph.D. Candidates must complete the degree by Ph.D. year 7.

For more information, including details on policy compliance and extensions, please refer to the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website on time limitations.

For details on required documentation to track research progress for graduate students, click here.