PhD Program

Admission Requirements

As a minimum, students have to meet the admission standards of the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) and have the equivalent of a Toronto Master’s degree, but the Admissions Committee of the Centre considers its applicants with more stringent requirements in mind: a student’s competence in languages, academic abilities, and performance in Latin are all very important. A possible supervisor and committee have to be available, and the research resources of Toronto must be sufficient. PhD students are offered admission on condition that they pass the MA Latin examination prior to or on arrival in September. Since the examination is not offered again until April, students who fail it in September must either enrol in the Centre’s MA program or pursue their studies elsewhere; there are no exceptions to this rule. PhD students must be full-time.

Admission from the CMS MA to the PhD Program

Students currently registered in the Centre’s MA program who wish to apply for the PhD program must submit a new application, including reference letters, transcripts, etc., and pay the application fee. They should be aware, however, that their applications are considered on the same terms as those of external applicants. Admission to our PhD program is selective and limited: the program cannot accommodate all our MA candidates.

Doctor of Philosophy Degree Requirements

There are three stages in the PhD program: coursework and completion of language requirements (Level Two Latin, French, and German), preparation for and taking of the Special Field Examination, and the writing of the dissertation. Every student’s program through the three stages is aided and monitored by a personal advisory committee, consisting of a supervisor and two other faculty members, established by the student in consultation with the PhD Coordinator.

Coursework

The minimum course requirement is three full courses (or a combination of full and half courses totalling the same); the equivalent of one full course must be in the student’s chosen minor subject. Some students, mindful of the appearance of their transcripts, take as many as three or four full courses in each of the first two years. PhD students at the Centre are free to select any courses from the annual list, provided that they have the necessary prerequisites. It is important to bear in mind that, although our program is interdisciplinary, most of our students eventually find jobs in a department such as English, History, Classics, Philosophy, Religion, etc.

A student wishing to take a directed reading course must make arrangements with the professor, and fill out the appropriate form (obtainable from the office). More than one directed reading course per degree program requires permission from the Centre.

Latin

The Level One Latin pass is prerequisite to initial registration in the PhD program. Since Latin is the foundation of our program, the most important thing for PhD students to do is to pass the Level Two Latin exam as quickly as possible. All students are urged to have a try at the Level Two Latin exam on arrival, and to take it again whenever the opportunity presents itself afterwards. Students who do not pass the Level Two Latin exam on arrival are enrolled in MST 1001Y, Intermediate Medieval Latin.

Modern Languages

Since all medievalists need to be able to read scholarship in French and German, students in CMS must pass reading examinations in those languages in the course of their PhD program. Other languages, such as Italian, Spanish, Old Norse or Greek, though they may be necessary to the thesis, may not be substituted. Non-credit reading courses are offered. The French and German exams take place at the same times in the year as the Latin exams with an additional German exam in January. Students are urged to integrate their language studies with their course work and research: working through short articles on relevant subjects with the aid of a dictionary is excellent preparation for the exams, which require comprehension only, not a mastery of idiom or style.

The Major Field

By December of the second year, students must assemble a full advisory committee, consisting of a supervisor and two other faculty members, to help them define the area of their major field of interest, produce their ‘major field proposal’ (comprising a description and brief bibliography), and prepare for their special field examination. The same advisory committee will conduct the examination and judge it on a pass/fail basis. Students are urged to take their major field exam as soon as possible after they have passed the Level Two Latin exam and the modern language exams. See Major Field Guidelines for more information on this requirement.

The Dissertation

The dissertation topic normally arises from the major field. The advisory committee assembled for the major field will remain available to advise the student on different aspects of the dissertation, though its membership may change in view of the precise topic chosen. A formal dissertation proposal should be worked out by the student in consultation with the advisory committee and submitted to the Centre for approval; details on this process are given in the Dissertation Proposal Guidelines. A dissertation must not exceed 90,000 words (i.e., approximately 300 double-spaced pages): students should think of it as the first step in a scholarly career – a demonstration of competence – not the final and exhaustive achievement of a lifetime.

Before the dissertation can be submitted for examination, it must be read by the supervisor and all members of the advisory committee; each member must confirm in writing (with the PhD Coordinator) that he/she has read the dissertation and has approved it to go forward for examination. When the advisory committee has judged that the dissertation is fit to be submitted, the student must deliver five unbound copies to the Centre at least twelve weeks before the intended date of the oral examination. The PhD Coordinator of the Centre will then find a suitable external examiner (i.e. someone from outside the University of Toronto), and three or four other persons willing to serve on the examining board. This can sometimes be a lengthy and complicated process. The date of the oral examination depends chiefly on the convenience of the external examiner. Members of the student’s advisory committee usually serve on the dissertation examination committee, but there is often at least one other person from outside that group. Students should not under any circumstances attempt to influence the selection of their examination committee themselves; it is the supervisor’s job to advise the PhD Coordinator on suitable choices.

The Advisory Committee

Students are expected to seek out a supervisor for their doctoral dissertation themselves: the Centre provides a list of faculty members and their areas of interest. Retired faculty members, while they are often happy to serve as formal or informal advisors, do not take on new supervisions except under special circumstances and with departmental and SGS permission. Associate faculty members may co-supervise a dissertation together with a full member, and very often serve on advisory committees. SGS requires students to have a supervisor by the beginning of the second year; in cases where a supervisor has not been confirmed by that time, the Centre will provide a nominal or provisional supervisor until the student finds someone appropriate. The student and supervisor together work out arrangements for meetings and work.

The Advisory Committee shall consist of the supervisor and two other faculty members. The annual meeting of the advisory committee (organised by the student) must take place no later than 30 April of each year, with all members present; the meeting cannot be held by email, Skype or telephone consultation, unless warranted by extraordinary circumstances. At the meeting, the supervisor will complete the report form, show it to the student, and give it to the student to allow the student the opportunity to make a written reply if necessary. Students who do not have a current advisory committee report on file will not be permitted to register for the following year.

PhD Timeline

First Year (and course load)

  • During the first two years, PhD students must take at least three full-year courses or equivalent half-courses, plus MST 1001Y.  The latter must be taken during Year One.
  • Of the three courses, two full-year courses (or four half-courses) must be in the chosen major area (Art History, History, Literature, Musicology, Philosophy or Religious Studies) and one full year course (or two half courses) must be in the chosen minor area (fields such as those listed above, plus Palaeography or Philology).
  • The student is required to maintain an average grade of A-.
  • During the first year the student should begin to consider possible academic advisors who might become members of the thesis Advisory Committee.

Second Year (Advisory committee and Special Field Proposal)

  • By December of P2 the student should have a full Advisory Committee, consisting of a supervisor and two other members.
  • In this year and subsequent years, the student must meet formally with the members of the Advisory Committee at least once per year and submit an annual report, signed by the Supervisor and all members of the Advisory Committee, before the end of April.  This annual meeting is organized by the student.  The student should also prepare a CV and a time-line to be shown to the Advisory Committee at the annual meeting and submit them with the report.
  • Ideally, the Special Field proposal (prepared in consultation with the Advisory Committee) should be submitted between the end of the spring term and the beginning of the Fall term of Year Three. The ultimate deadline is January of the Third Year.  There is no need to wait to have passed all the language requirements to have the proposal approved (first by one’s Advisory Committee and then by the Centre’s Executive Committee).  However, all language requirements must be fulfilled prior to taking the Special Field Examination. In exceptional cases a student may petition to replace one of the modern languages (French and German) with another language in their area of research.  A written request, with a signed confirmation of support for the petition from the Supervisor, must be submitted as early as possible, and no later than December of P2 for consideration by the Centre’s Executive Committee.

Third Year (Language requirements, special Field examination and PhD proposal)

  • The Centre’s language requirements in Level Two Latin, French, and German (all pre-requisites for the Special Field exam) should be passed by September, but no later than April, of Year Three.
  • Ideally, the student should take the Special Field examination by the end of the Fall term of Year Three.  If progress is delayed by failure to pass the language examinations in the Fall, then the student may sit them in January (French and German only) or April of the same year.  Upon completion of the language requirements, the student will proceed to the Special Field examination; it must be passed prior to Year Four.
  • During the spring term of Year Three (and once the Special Field Examination is passed), the Ph.D. dissertation proposal should also be developed and submitted.
  • Since courses will be completed by then, the evaluation of the Advisory Committee will be based on the student’s submission of written work: Special Field State of the Literature, Dissertation Proposal, and other writings related to the thesis. The minimum requirement is normally 20 pages per term (Fall and Spring).  The Supervisory Committee determines if the submitted material meets the minimum requirements for quality and quantity.

Fourth and Fifth Years (Writing the PhD thesis)

  • These years should be devoted to the writing of the dissertation. Students who need more time to finish may continue in the program through a maximum of six years (beyond which a formal extension is needed).

Extensions Beyond the Sixth Year

Students Entering after September 2010

For each of the four years that ensue after the completion of the sixth year, a student must petition for an extension, during which he or she will be required to pay one-half of the regular Canadian fees (plus the whole fee for incidentals); such students will continue to work on their dissertations. After these four years are completed, the student’s program is terminated absolutely, the dissertation will never be examined, and the ten year’s work will go for nothing. These four years will, for all students enrolled in Sept 2010 onwards, be the only kind of extensions allowed to the length of the PhD program. They will not be automatic: students must apply for them, and there will be rules, imposed by both the Centre and the School of Graduate Studies, for the conditions of granting them.

Students who Entered before September 2010

Students who entered the PhD program before September 2010 may opt to follow the new rules, or may be grandfathered into the previous regulations. Under these, students who have not completed the dissertation within the 6-year limit of the PhD program have two options: “going external” (lapsing) or petitioning for an extension. “Going external” means that no more fees need be paid, and the university has no further responsibilities towards the student. The student, may, however, work independently to complete the dissertation and then petition for reinstatement. This means that, upon presentation of five copies of the completed dissertation, and at the discretion of the Centre’s Executive committee, the Centre may ask SGS to reinstate the student for the purposes of setting up a defence. The student would then be required to pay appropriate fees. Since such a reinstatement can be awarded only once, the Centre will request it from SGS only when the dissertation is submitted. There is no time limit imposed: a student can bring in a thesis after any number of years.

The second option for students who have not finished within the six-year limit is to petition the Centre for an ‘old style’ extension of their program. This means that the student would continue paying full fees and consulting the advisory committee according to the rules of the program. Such a petition would be approved by the Centre only if the supervisor supports it, the student’s progress has been deemed satisfactory, and there has been substantial progress toward completion of the dissertation. The student will be asked to provide a detailed plan of the timetable for completion.

After such an ‘old-style’ extension, during which the student would have all the advantages of ‘student status’ (residency for Visas, student loans, etc), if the student had not finished, he or she would still have the option of ‘going external’ and of having no time limit set for completion. There would seem to be considerable financial disadvantage in this option, but it offers limitless time for completion.

The School of Graduate Studies has made it clear that switching from the old rules to the new ones is a one-way choice: by accepting the reduced fees, the student must also accept the time limit. Students who enrolled before September 2010 must make their choice clear the year before they take up the option. All students who have not completed their theses before the end of the sixth year of the program should take care to consult the administrators about the course of action they intend to pursue.

Termination of Registration in the PhD Program

The advisory committee has the authority to recommend termination of a student’s program if insufficient progress or scholarly achievement is observed. The student will be adequately warned of problems and given a chance to correct deficiencies. Every effort will be made to identify problems early in a student’s program so as to avoid termination late in the program. The final decision on termination of registration rests with the PhD Coordinator in consultation with the Centre’s Executive Committee.