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PhD Program

Graduate Program Timeline

PhD Program

Graduate Program Timeline

Areas of Concentration

The Art History Department offers the PhD in American art; Early Modern art; East Asian art; art and archaeology of Ancient Iran; early Byzantine art; Islamic art and architecture; Greek and Roman art and archaeology; Modern/Contemporary art (including 19th, 20th and 21st century art, film, and photography) Latin American art, and South Asian art and architecture.

It is the intent of the Department that all course work and preliminary exam preparation will be completed within two years after commencing the PhD program. The Graduate School imposes a five-year time limit for finishing the PhD following the successful completion of the preliminary written and oral exams. While the Graduate School has established this five-year deadline, Departmental funding is a separate issue determined by each student's funding package. For further details, see the Graduate School Catalog. Information on petitioning for an extension of the time is contained in Appendix B.

Foreign Language Requirements

PhD students are required to attain a reading knowledge of a minimum of two languages appropriate to the student's research. The final choice and number of languages is to be determined in consultation with the primary advisor. The language requirements can be satisfied in the following two ways:

  1. Students successfully complete a course such as “Reading French in the Arts and Sciences” or “Reading Italian for Graduate Students” and the department offering the course certifies that the student has completed the requirement. To do this, a Language Department Certification Form (PDF) must be submitted to the graduate school from the language department in which the course was taken.
  2. The Department of Art History certifies that the language requirement has been met by one of the following: the successful completion of appropriate Continuing Education and Extension courses; the successful completion of the Second Language Requirement of the College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota (equivalent of four semesters of course work); successful completion of language exam administered by the department (when available); or the successful completion of language courses at another institution. To do this, a Graduate Department Certification Form (PDF) must be submitted to the graduate school from the Art History Department.

In either case, the student is allowed three attempts to pass the exam in any one language.

The second language requirement must be fulfilled by the end of the student’s second semester in the PhD program. If unsuccessful in meeting any aspect of this requirement, the student will not be allowed to take any courses other than relevant language courses until the requirement is fulfilled. During this time, the student is not eligible for financial support. If a third language is required, the time frame for demonstrating proficiency in it is determined in consultation with the major advisor.

A student who has passed a required foreign language exam at another institution must nonetheless take and pass the relevant University of Minnesota departmental foreign language exam. Exceptions will be granted only when the exam taken at another institution (1) has been passed within the last two years and (2) can be demonstrated to have been equivalent in nature to that of the University of Minnesota departmental foreign language examination.

Departmental Foreign Language Examination

In the event that a student cannot satisfy the language requirement by the above means, it may be possible under certain circumstances for him/her to take a language examination administered by the department. The departmental language exam tests basic competence in a research language. Students should find out from the Graduate Studies Committee the availability of a particular language exam, and when available, such exams are administered on an ad hoc basis. Students should expect to translate a 700-750 word passage within three hours. The use of a non-electronic dictionary is allowed. The translation should be accurate and idiomatic, that is, in Standard English. If a literal translation does not read as English, it cannot be considered correct. If the translation does not make sense, it cannot be considered correct. The student should not leave gaps, in the translation.

Exam results will be sent out by mail within three weeks of the exam date.

Evaluation Guidelines

Cut-off score



B and higher


C and below





Clear, with few errors. Grammatical structures are properly deconstructed and translated into English.


Comprehensible, some errors.


Substantial and significant errors.


Largely unintelligible.





Competent, accurate translation. Elegant English.


Comprehensible translation using English constructions.


Literal translation, attempts at using English constructions.


Literal translation without attempts to use English constructions.


Overall Research Competence



Solid competence. Although the student occasionally uses the dictionary, he/she is sufficiently skilled in the vocabulary and grammar of the research language to easily read a text and understand all or nearly all of it.


Competent. Despite some gaps in vocabulary (specifically specialized jargon), the student is sufficiently proficient in the basic vocabulary and grammar to derive the pertinent meaning of a text.


Some knowledge of research language, but student relies heavily on dictionary to understand even basic vocabulary. He/she fails to deconstruct grammatical structures to the extent that intelligibility of text is frequently undermined.


Low competence. Errors in vocabulary and grammar are so significant that the student does not appear to grasp the general meaning of the text.


Graduate Degree Plan

After the first year in the PhD program, the student files the Graduate Degree Plan form with the College. The Degree Plan form must be processed before students can submit their preliminary examination committee for approval. It is recommended that it be turned in three months prior to exams.


Degree Plan forms can be obtained online. Degree Plan forms are completed with the guidance of the DGS, in consultation with the student's adviser(s).


Course Work: The Degree Plan form lists all course work that will count toward the 54 credit degree requirement. It reflects completed course work with grades and proposed course work for the remaining terms of registration. The form also details the fulfillment of the language requirement. (To apply transfer course work from other institutions or CCE, consult the Graduate Education Catalog.)


The Degree Plan Form must be approved by the student’s adviser(s) and DGS.  After making a copy for the Department, the student submits the original form to the CLA Office of Research and Graduate Programs (113 Johnston Hall) along with an with an unofficial transcript.


Any change in the Degree Plan form (such as a change in the list of courses taken) must be requested on a Graduate School Petition Form.


Advisers/Examining Committee

Graduate student adviser and committee assignments for the Preliminary Examination must be completed at least one month prior to each of the exam.  Assignments are made online.  To update an advisor or committee member, consult with the Director of Graduate Studies, who will complete a special on-line form.

Students should contact proposed advisers and committee members to obtain their commitment to participate on the Examining Committee. Members of the Committee should be familiar with the student and his/her work. The Examining Committee consists of a minimum of four members: three faculty members from Art History and one or two from the outside minor or supporting program. One member from Art History must reflect the area of primary concentration and one must reflect the area of secondary concentration. The student's adviser cannot serve as the chair of the Final Oral Examination Committee; however, the adviser can chair the preliminary examinations. The adviser from the secondary concentration serves as one of the two remaining art history members. Instructors whose courses are art historical in content may not serve as examiners from the minor or supporting program.

The Committee is the same for the written and oral preliminary examinations.

Course Requirements

Credits and Distribution

The student, in consultation with the adviser and other relevant faculty members, designs a program that incorporates the following requirements:

  • 54 credits of course work—a cohesive selection related to the student's primary and secondary concentrations.
    • Primary Concentration: at least 18 credits of course work must be completed in one area of Art History.
    • Secondary Concentration: at least 9 credits of course work must be completed in another area of Art History.
  • Minor or Supporting Program: at least 6 credits (of the 54) must be taken outside the Department of Art History.
    • Minor: a doctoral level minor is comprised of a minimum of 12 credits, with the specific terms specified by the minor program. At least 6 credits of the minor must be taken in a single field outside the Department of Art History. The field must be related to Art History, but cannot be art historical in content.
    • Supporting Program: a supporting program consists of a minimum of 12 credits, which may be from more than one discipline outside the Department and which represent a coherent area of work. 6 credits may be art historical in content; however, they must be outside the student's primary area of concentration. The other 6 credits of the supporting program must not be art historical in content.
  • Thesis Credits: a student is required by the Graduate School to enroll for at least 24 thesis credits (8888) while writing the dissertation.
  • Graduate course work from the MA program may be applied to PhD requirements. Students arrange for courses to be listed on the PhD Degree Program Form in consultation with their adviser and the DGS. All credits applied must be approved by the DGS. Consult the Graduate School Catalog for additional details on credit transfer to the PhD program.

The Graduate School requires five semesters of full-time registration for PhD students.

Preliminary Exams

The student must pass preliminary written and preliminary oral examinations in order to proceed with work on the dissertation. There are at least four goals of the examinations: 1. they allow the student to show comprehensive knowledge of issues in his/her fields of interest; 2. they should demonstrate critical thinking about important issues in the history of art and relevant fields; 3. they should demonstrate the student's capacity to think critically in relation to the prevailing literature, to find the limitations and strengths of particular texts, to place different texts in conversation, and to take up and support positions relative to the views of other scholars; 4. they offer the opportunity for students to take stock of what they have studied and to think systematically about what they have learned so that they can fill in gaps and intellectually organize ideas and issues.

The Written Exam

The written exam is a two week, take-home exam, which consists of three essay questions to be given to the student at the beginning of the exam period. One of these should be written by the student's adviser, the other two questions may be written by a combination of other faculty members from the student's committee. For example, a student in consultation with his or her adviser might find it most useful to have questions from all three of the committee members in the art history department, or s/he may want to have the outside member write one of the questions. This should be determined by the adviser in consultation with the student. The content of the exam should be focused on the student's coursework, and the questions should allow the student to show a comprehensive knowledge of issues appropriate to his/her field(s) of study. Each essay should be approximately 10 pages double spaced in 12 type font, and should include footnotes/endnotes and/or a bibliography.

The Examining Committee consists of a minimum of four members. At least three members are drawn from the Faculty of the Art History Graduate program; two of the members should be professors with whom the student has taken courses; one member of these should represent the secondary field in art history. The remaining one or two members are drawn from Graduate faculty outside the Department of Art History. Any faculty member who is an affiliate member of the art history department may serve as an inside member or an outside member, but not both at once. The role that an affiliate member may serve on PhD committees is determined by the specific nature of their graduate appointment. For more information about affiliate faculty, contact the DGS.

Preparing for the Written Exam

The student should first discuss with the adviser the intent to take the examinations approximately one semester in advance.

At least 8 weeks before the exam is scheduled the student should personally contact each member of the committee and discuss the material for which the student will be responsible on the exam. The student and faculty collaboratively produce a bibliography for each of the areas of the exam from which questions may be drawn.

About 6 weeks before the proposed exam date the adviser should contact the other committee members about whether they will need to prepare questions.

About 4 weeks in advance of the exam date, the advisor should collect questions from the other members of the committee and compose the examination, which s/he must then submit to the Graduate Studies Committee, via the DGS, for approval.

Taking the Written Exam

Following the completion of the written exam, the answers will be given (either in hard copy or digital form) to all of the members of the Examining Committee for review. A hard copy must be placed in the student's permanent file in the art history office.

The Chair of the Examining Committee must give the entire committee at least seven working days to read the written exam; once all the committee members have read the exam and deemed it passable, the advisor and DGS sign the Preliminary Written Examination Report. Once this form is filed in the Graduate School (and a photocopy kept in the student's permanent file), the student may take the oral exam.

Preparing for the Oral Examination

In order to schedule the oral examination, students must demonstrate to the Graduate School that they have passed the written examination by filing the Preliminary Written Examination Report. Once the student files this form, s/he must officially schedule the oral by submitting the Preliminary Oral Examination Scheduling form to the Graduate School. Once the oral is scheduled, the student will be issued the Preliminary Oral Examination Report from the Graduate School. This form lists the official members of the Examining Committee, and each member signs the form at the conclusion of the oral examination. Once the form is signed, a copy is kept in the student's permanent file in the art history office, and the original is sent to the Graduate School as evidence that the student has passed both the written and oral portions of the preliminary examination.

In advance of the oral examination, which can be held anytime from one week to one year after the written exam, students must prepare a dissertation prospectus. The exact format of the prospectus may vary, but it should be about 15 pages in length and contain the following: 1. a literature review in which the student lays out the current literature on his/her topic; 2. a statement on methodology in which the student explains the primary methods s/he will use in researching and writing the dissertation; 3. a brief summary of the project, which positions its goals in relation to the current literature and situates the project intellectually; 4. chapter summaries, which sketch out the form that the dissertation will take and indicate how it will be organized; 5. a plan of work, in which the student provides a proposed timeline for researching and writing the dissertation, including what archives, libraries, museums, or archaeological sites, s/he plans to visit(or has already visited).

Oral Examination

The preliminary oral examination allows the Examining Committee to evaluate the student's readiness to proceed with writing the PhD thesis. The exam may address the written exam and its relation to the area(s) of specialization, or the minor or supporting program; however, the focus is primarily on the subject of the dissertation. The oral exam is taken after the successful completion of the written examination.

Students preparing to take the oral exam must schedule it with the Graduate School (316 Johnston Hall) at least one week in advance of the exam date. This is done by filing the Preliminary Written Examination Report and the Preliminary Oral Examination Scheduling form. The student is also responsible for scheduling the oral exam with members of the Examining Committee. All assigned members of the Examining Committee must be present for the exam to be considered valid. If special circumstances arise, immediately consult the Department and the Graduate School (see the Graduate Education Catalog). For further details on the exam, particularly on committee voting and passing requirements, consult the Graduate Education Catalog or see the Graduate School website.

Upon the successful completion of the oral examination (pass, or pass with reservations), the student is considered an official candidate for the doctoral degree.

The Preliminary Oral Examination Report must be filed with the Graduate School within 24 hours after the oral takes place.

PhD Thesis

The thesis must demonstrate originality and ability to conduct independent investigation. The results of the research must embody a contribution to knowledge in the field and must be presented with a satisfactory degree of literary skill.

Graduate School specifications on the preparation and format of the Doctoral Thesis can be found on the Preparing the Doctoral Dissertation (PDF).

Due to the ongoing restructuring of the Graduate School, some of the requirements for formatting and filing may have changed. For the latest information on the Degree Plan guidelines, please review the Degree Completion Steps on the Graduate School website at:

Thesis Review

Refer to the Graduate Education Catalog for information on procedures for review of the PhD thesis by Final Oral Examination Committee members. The thesis must be certified as ready for defense prior to the Final Oral Examination.

Thesis Reviewers must be notified at least two weeks in advance that the thesis will be ready for review on a certain date. Additionally, the reviewers must be given two weeks to review the thesis before the final oral examination.

The thesis title page is to be filed with the Graduate School at least two weeks prior to the final oral examination. Filing the title page consists of submitting a copy of the title page as it will appear in the final copy of the PhD thesis. When the title page is filed, the student will receive the Thesis Reviewer's Report.

The Thesis Reviewer's Report is filed with the Graduate School at least one week prior to the final oral examination. Further information on the faculty who may serve as Thesis Reviewer is contained in the Graduate Education Catalog.

When the Thesis Reviewer's Form is picked up from Johnston Hall the student should also obtain: A Survey of Earned Doctorates, a Microfilm Agreement, the Application for Degree, and additional graduation information.

Two copies of the bound thesis and the Thesis Abstract are submitted to the Graduate School on the last working day of the month to graduate in that month. The student's adviser signs the Thesis Abstract Form.

Questions? Call the Graduate School at 612-625-0168.

Final Oral Examination (Thesis Defense)

The final oral examination by the student is scheduled with the Graduate School at least one week in advance.

The final oral examination will cover the thesis topic.

The Final Oral Examining Committee consists of a minimum of four members. The committee includes three thesis readers, one of whom must be outside the Art History Graduate faculty, and one examiner. The student's adviser cannot function as the chair of the Final Oral Examination Committee.

All members of the committee must read the dissertation; those officially designated as "Readers" are simply those whose signatures must appear on the Reviewer's Report, which must be filed before the student is allowed to schedule the final defense.

The Final Examination Report Form should be received by the Graduate School on the last working day of the month in order to be able to graduate in that month. Exam forms and reviewers report forms, graduation checklists, graduate application for degree, and formatting and submission guidelines are all included in the Graduation Packet, which students must download from the Graduate School website.

Questions can be answered by the Graduate School staff at 612-625-0168.

Public Presentation

At the commencement of the thesis defense, the student is required to give a 20-minute oral presentation on the thesis. This presentation is open to the public. Announcements should be posted in Heller Hall and in other relevant places at least one week in advance.


Contact Information

Graduate Studies Secretary
338 Heller Hall

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