PhD in Germanic Studies

The PhD program focuses on the application of the major critical theories and the development of discipline-related expertise. The methods by which the students develop this expertise may vary from one-on-one discussions and small tutorial groups to formal seminars and lectures. Students are expected to attend the departmental lecture series and participate in the Graduate Student Colloquium.

Upon entering the PhD program, students will determine their course of study in consultation with the Graduate Advisor. Students are encouraged to think about and select their area of specialization as early as possible.

Students have also the option of proceeding directly to the PhD after only one year of our M.A. program in Germanic Studies (without completion) if they obtain high, first-class marks and if all other requirements for the PhD program, as outlined in the Academic Calendar, are met.

Please see Admissions Requirements for a full list of application procedures, required documents and requirements for admission to our program.

A minimum of 18 credits of course work is required after the M.A. Additional course work will be required for those deemed deficient. The course of study will be determined by the graduate student in consultation with the Graduate Advisor. The course of study should aim to meet the student's needs and research interests within the framework of the PhD program.

The Department strongly supports interdisciplinary research projects and therefore recommends that one or more of the electives be taken from other departments or programs, provided they are pre-approved by the Graduate Advisor.

Understanding that the process of second language acquisition is a valuable asset for those who are planning an academic career, students are strongly advised to take advantage of related course offerings by the department (e.g., GERM 505, 506), and training programs offered by the CTLT.

Course Work

Total amount of credits of coursework: 18 credits

Mandatory Courses (6 credits)

  • GERM 501A  - Literary Theories: Introduction to Literary Theories (3); or, in consultation with the Graduate Advisor if Germ 501A is not offered, GERM 500 - Research Methods (3)
  • GERM 501B - Literary Theories: Introduction to Intercultural and Interdisciplinary Studies (3), or GERM 505 The Acquisition of German as an Additional Language (3), or GERM 506 Intercultural Competence.

Mandatory Workshops
All TAs must successfully complete one of the CTLT Instructional Skills Workshops (ISW). It is recommended that German language TAs complete the workshop which is specifically designed for Teaching Assistants of language classes.

Elective Courses (12 credits)

Electives are to be chosen from the graduate course list (literary and cultural studies). They have to cover at least one course in literary history (GERM 510–520) and one course with a methodological focus (GERM 500–509, 521–532).

If offered, GERM 505 (The Acquisition of German as an Additional  Language) or GERM 506 (Intercultural Competence) is strongly recommended for all Teaching Assistants.

OPTIONAL Coursework in Addition to Mandatory and Elective Courses

[1] In consultation with the Graduate Advisor students are encouraged to enroll in courses offered by other academic units on campus.

Procedure: Students wishing to be granted credit toward their degree for courses taken outside of the program must do the following:

a) Send a request to the Graduate Advisor asking for the desired course to be counted as an elective credit. Include a brief rationale as to why the course is related to your course of study/research interests.

b) If accepted, the Graduate Advisor will send the student an email indicating official approval of the substitute course.  A copy of the approval will also be sent to the Graduate Program Assistant for the student’s file.

[2] GERM 547 – Guided Research (Directed Studies): Students who need help with developing a focus, finding a dissertation topic and preparing a dissertation proposal (see below) are advised to take German 547 (3/6) in the second year. Students have the opportunity to take this course with any Graduate Faculty member of their choice.

Procedure: Students should approach a Graduate Faculty member with a research proposal or syllabus including a reading list, and seek approval for a feasible project. A timetable for completion should also be agreed upon. Guided Research can be worth (3) or (6) credits. If approved, the Graduate Advisor will ask the Graduate Program Assistant to proceed with the student’s registration.
A typical program of study for a PhD student would look like this:

Year 1 Year 2
GERM 501A or 500 (3) Electives (3/6)
GERM 501B, 505 or 506 (3) GERM 547 Guided Research or coursework outside the department (3/6)
Electives (3/6) Candidacy Examination (see below)


The Graduate Admissions Committee may decide that competence in another area of expertise (e.g. a third language) is necessary for the student's program of research.


All PhD students are required to give a colloquium presentation at least once in each academic year. This non-credit requirement is meant to enhance the students' presentation and discussion skills in relation to their dissertation topics. This helps to maintain an ongoing academic discourse in the field of Germanic Studies.

Graduate students are encouraged to conceptualize and organize a CENES Graduate Conference at UBC in consultation with the Graduate Advisor and the Chair of the Ziegler Visiting Speaker Series.

Ziegler Lecture Series – The Department invites guest speakers throughout the academic year. Graduate students are expected to attend these presentations.

Doctoral Candidacy Examinations will test the student's ability to deal with acquired information critically. Examinations are taken after the course requirements have been met, i.e. normally at the end of the second year. In a given year, the designated periods for students to take the examinations are during the months of April and September.

There are three components of the exam:
• Students will write two essays on negotiated areas of research, covered synchronically and diachronically,
• An oral examination of approximately two hours based on questions raised in the written part of the examination.

Questions in both the oral and written examinations will be based on a reading list drawn up by the candidate in consultation with the examination committee. The list should contain no less then 100 titles of primary and secondary sources and theoretical texts (MLA style). The list should be provided by the candidate at least three months prior to the date of the oral examination.

Students are offered two different formats of the written examination, from which they can choose:
• two take-home papers of at least 15 typescript pages each to be written within one month of each other. For each of these papers, the candidate is given two weeks to propose three essay topics to the examination committee. At the end of the two weeks, the candidate will be given three days to write a paper on one of these three topics.
• two in-camera examinations of three hours each, written within a week from each other. In each of the two examinations, the student will write an essay on one of three topics from the list submitted to the committee.

The topics may be altered by the exam committee if necessary.

In exceptional cases, one of the two papers may be replaced by an appropriate article, published or accepted for publication in a refereed scholarly journal. Students who wish to propose a publication to be accepted in lieu of one of the written exams, should consult the Graduate Advisor.

The oral exam takes approximately two hours to complete and is based on the questions raised in the essays, and the reading list.

If not appointed otherwise, the Graduate Advisor will chair the exam. The student will select three other exam committee members from the CENES Graduate Faculty who are close to the negotiated areas of research. If the graduate advisor or exam committee chair has been involved with the candidate in mentoring, thesis or research supervision, another graduate faculty member at arm’s length has to replace them. The exam committee chair will only oversee the exam procedures without a vote and without passing capabilities. For each essay as well as for the oral examination, all examining members must agree on a pass before the next step can be taken. The chair will communicate the exam guidelines and results to the student and the exam committee members, as well as inform the graduate program office about the outcome of the oral exam in writing.

The basic requirements for a doctoral student to be admitted to candidacy are:

• All required course work (18 credits) has been successfully completed
• The candidacy examination has been passed
• The research supervisor has certified that the thesis proposal has been approved by the supervisory committee.

Additional criteria for students to be admitted to candidacy, such as a foreign language requirement, or proof of knowledge of the literary canon in a third language may apply. Students are normally expected to complete their candidacy examination within 24 months from the date of initial registration. Once the student has passed the candidacy examination, the Head will appoint, after consultation with the candidate, a supervisor and committee for the doctoral dissertation.

The student will write a detailed thesis proposal, which consists of a detailed statement of intent (about 20-25 pages including bibliography). The proposal must be submitted within three months of the successful completion of the candidacy examination.

The thesis proposal should state a working title and provide an account of the scope and objectives of the thesis. The proposal should include a preliminary structure and a general outline of the theoretical basis. The methodological approach, the research plan and sources of research material, as well as an assessment of the relationship to existing literature and research should also be regarded. Based on this, the supervisor and the members of the committee will make an informed judgment on whether or not to accept the proposal.

As soon as the thesis proposal has been approved by the supervisor and the committee, the Graduate Advisor shall recommend to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies that the student be admitted to candidacy. This status is then entered on the University's Student Information System.

Please note: A student who is not admitted to candidacy within 36 months from date of initial registration must withdraw from the program and award payments will be suspended.

Based on the detailed proposal, the doctoral dissertation is normally written after the student has been admitted to candidacy. The dissertation is understood to be a research project representing an original contribution to the field.

Because the university offers only four years of major scholarship support, students should aim to complete their thesis in a period of two years. The writing of a doctoral dissertation requires close and continuous cooperation between candidate and supervisor. Regular consultation with members of the supervising committee, including at least one committee meeting annually is also necessary. Students are expected to organize these meetings and to document the progress of their research projects annually. Progress reports are due by June 15.

After a complete version of the thesis has been approved by the examiners and the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (see Dissertation & Thesis Preparation), the supervisor will schedule a date for the final oral examination (public defense) at the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, in accordance with the regulations for final doctoral examinations.

The final version of the thesis, including all changes required by the defense committee, has to be submitted electronically to cIRcle.

Contact the graduate program