PhD Program

Doctoral research is the highest level of training in humanities disciplines. Here in CENES, you’ll be accompanied throughout your journey by experienced scholars in a variety of fields.  

We care about your success and well-being as early-career scholars and teachers preparing to lead communities of learning around the world. Upon entering the PhD program, students will determine their course of study in consultation with the Graduate Director and other Graduate Faculty. 

Program Requirements

In order to complete the PhD in Germanic Studies program, students must complete a total of 18 credits under the following requirements:

  • GERM 500: Research Methods (3 credits)
  • GERM 501: Literary Theories (3 credits)
    • Or GERM 505: The Acquisition of German as an Additional Language (3 credits)
    • Or GERM 506: Intercultural Competence (3 credits)
  • Elective Courses (12 credits)
    • Electives must be approved Germanic Studies courses at the 500-level. Chosen electives must cover at least one course in literary or cultural history (any course GERM 510-520).
    • Also, one of your electives must have a methodological focus (any course GERM 500-510).
  • GERM 649: Doctoral Dissertation (0 credits)

Students coming from the UBC Germanic Studies MA program who have previously taken required courses must take a replacement course chosen in consultation with the Graduate Director. For example, if Student A took GERM 500 as an MA student and is now in the PhD program, Student A must take another 3-credit GERM course to replace 500 in the required 18 credits. 

With approval from the Graduate Director, students may enrol 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:

  • Send a request to the Graduate Director asking for the desired course to be counted for elective credit. Include a brief rationale as to why the course is related to your course of study/research interests.
  • If accepted, the Graduate Director 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.

GERM 547 – Guided Research (Directed Studies) Students who need help developing a research focus or a thesis topic are advised to take German 547 (3/6) in their second year, with approval from the Graduate Director. Students can take this course with a Graduate Faculty member who agrees to supervise them. Students may take a maximum of 6 credits of GERM 547 (i.e., two 3-credit courses).

Procedure: Students should approach a Graduate Faculty member with either 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 is a 3-credit course. If approved, the Graduate Director will ask the Graduate Program Assistant to proceed with the student’s registration.

Annual Progress Reports

Graduate students must submit an Annual Progress Report, which is due yearly on March 1. The report offers an opportunity for students to reflect on their progress and challenges within the past year, preferably in consultation with their supervisor, mentor, and/or the Graduate Director.

Language Competence

The student’s supervisor and/or the Graduate Director may recommend that additional work on German or English proficiency and/or competence in another area of expertise (e.g., a third language) is necessary for the student's program of research. With written notice from the Graduate Director, these additional stipulations can be considered criteria for a student’s satisfactory progress in the degree program. All graduate students are encouraged to dedicate effort toward maintaining and improving their language proficiencies.

Mandatory Presentations

In order to practice successfully presenting their research and professional work to varied audiences, Ph.D. students are required to present in the annual graduate student colloquium. Occasionally, the colloquium may be replaced by the graduate student conference. In this case, a presentation at the conference will satisfy the annual requirement. This requirement contributes to a student’s standing in the program and the assessment of satisfactory progress.

Mandatory Workshops

Graduate Students are encouraged to become Teaching Assistants (TAs) as part of their program. All TAs must successfully complete one of the Instructional Skills Workshops (ISW) or an equivalent pedagogy course (e.g., GERM 505). 

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 (normally at the end of the second year). The exams must be scheduled in consultation with the student’s committee members and the Graduate Director. Current students: consult the Ph.D. Candidacy Exams checklist for more guidance on the involved steps.

*Please note, a student who is not admitted to candidacy (i.e., has passed written and oral exams, assembled a thesis supervisory committee, and completed an approved thesis proposal) within 36 months from the date of initial registration must withdraw from the program.

There are three components of the exam:

  • Students will write two essays on negotiated areas of research, covered synchronically and diachronically,
  • One oral examination of approximately two hours based on questions raised in the written part of the examination.

The PhD reading list must include at least 100 substantial items. These are texts in the broad definition, including literary works, films, etc. Each student’s reading list will be individualized and different from those of previous students. You must develop this list in consultation with your supervisor and your committee! Reading lists will often have multiple themes that you wish to follow. You may also, for example, track genre development or specific artists’ work. We recommend starting to think about your reading lists by the start of your second year in the PhD program. Keep track of sources and topics you are interested in. Once your reading list has been finalized and approved by the committee, send a copy to and Your written exams may begin a minimum of 3 months from the date of approval.

Essay/ Written-Examination Details

Written exams may be in the form of two 3-day take-home essays OR two 3-hour in-camera exams. Either option must be completed within a 3-week period. Confer with your committee members to get the approval of the timing of the written exams and to check their availability for the oral exam if you pass the written stage. When you are ready to start the exam period, email your supervisor and committee 2–3 suggestions for topics and/or questions related to your exam topics. The committee will confer and decide upon exam topics. The committee will not communicate the content of the exam to the student in advance. Each written exam prompt will be emailed to you (for take-home exams) at the start of the day you choose. The exam prompts will be presented to you (for in-camera exams) at the start of each exam session. This process will be repeated twice, once for each written exam prompt. After the written exams are over, the committee must have at least 1 week to read and assess the materials. If the committee determines the student has passed the written portion, the student will be invited to an oral examination.

Oral Examination Details

The oral exam lasts approximately 2 hours; it begins with an optional presentation by the student (up to 10 minutes), followed by rounds of questioning by the committee members. Present will be the student, at least 2 of the committee members (including the supervisor), and an exam chair (usually the Graduate Director). If the Graduate Director is on the committee, an impartial arm’s-length exam chair will be appointed.  

Exceptions to the committee structure (e.g., inclusion of Graduate Faculty from other programs) may be approved by the Graduate Director on a case-by-case basis. If the Graduate Director or exam committee chair has been involved with the candidate in mentoring, thesis or research supervision, another Graduate Faculty member at arm’s length must replace them. The exam committee chair will only oversee the exam procedures (without a vote).

Following the discussion, the student is asked to leave the room. The exam chair (either the Graduate Director or an arm’s-length Graduate Faculty member) will moderate the in-camera discussion about the student’s performance in the exam. The committee must evaluate the student’s performance in both the written and oral portions of the exam, assigning an outcome of Unconditional Pass, Conditional Pass, or Fail.

For a Conditional Pass, the committee may require the student, e.g., to write a paper or address some aspect of their preparation before advancing fully to candidacy. If the committee finds that the student has failed the oral exam, a re-examination must be scheduled. Upon passing the oral exam, the student’s exam committee is dissolved. Committee members may join the eventual thesis supervisory committee, but there is no obligation to do so. There is no grade assigned for the exams. The exam chair will communicate the exam results to the student and will inform the graduate program office about the outcome of the oral exam in writing. At the end of the exams, the exam committee is dissolved. A new committee (sometimes with overlapping faculty members) must be formed for the thesis supervision.

Once the student has passed the written and oral exams, they may begin work on their thesis proposal in consultation with their supervisor and committee members. The thesis must be approved by the committee within three months of passing the oral exam. Once approved, notify the Graduate Program Office, who will then submit a Recommendation for Advancement to Candidacy Form to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. After being processed by G+PS, the date on which candidacy was reached will be listed on the student’s UBC transcript. 

Example of the above:

Fatima has conferred with her exam committee, who has approved her final reading list as of January 31, which she emails to the CENES Graduate Office. Her written exams can take place as of April 30, at the earliest. She decides to schedule her take-home written exams for May 15–17 and May 20–22. On May 2, Fatima emails her committee the ideas she has for topics and questions for the two written exams. The committee gets until at least May 29 to read and evaluate the materials. Fatima passes the written exams! An oral exam is scheduled for June 2. 

A doctoral student will be admitted to candidacy when they meet the following basic requirements:

  • All required coursework (18 credits) has been successfully completed
  • The candidacy examinations have 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 language proficiency, or proof of additional knowledge may apply. Students should aim to take their candidacy examinations within 24 months of the date of initial registration. 

*Please note, a student who is not admitted to candidacy within 36 months from the date of initial registration must withdraw from the program.

Thesis proposal

The student must write a detailed thesis proposal (about 20-25 pages including bibliography). The proposal must be submitted within three months of the successful completion of the candidacy examination. The supervisory committee's approval of the proposal is required before the student may advance to candidacy.

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 process includes the official appointment of the supervisory committee. This status is then entered in the University's Student Information System and will be visible on the student’s transcript.

Based on the detailed proposal, the doctoral dissertation is 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 department guarantees only four years of major scholarship support, students should try to complete as much of their thesis as possible 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 is also necessary. At least one supervisory committee meeting is required annually. Students are expected to organize these meetings and to document the progress of their research projects annually. Progress reports are due by March 1 each year.

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 defence) 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, must be submitted electronically to cIRcle.

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