PhD Degree Requirements

The doctoral program consists of three elements: coursework, candidacy examination, and dissertation. After completion of coursework, students are required to take candidacy examinations to determine that they have adequate knowledge to complete the required doctoral dissertation. The dissertation is expected to contribute significantly to the body of knowledge in the candidate’s area of study and to merit publication. Candidates are required to defend the dissertation in an oral examination, in accordance with requirements established by the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research.


Coursework is expected to take one year to complete and to provide students with transferable critical thinking, research, communication and organizational skills. It consists of 18 graduate-level credits: one required 3-credit course (HADVC 677 or HADVC 600), one 3-credit 500- or 600-level course in the area of focus, and 12 credits, typically four 3-credit classes, in other graduate-level courses, which may include approved ones from other departments or faculties, or a museum apprenticeship; the latter would be organized as a 3-credit independent study graduate course requiring both project-based and written work, supervised by a faculty member in HADVC in collaboration with approved partners at a local institution, such as the Art Gallery of Alberta, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, or with internal units in the University of Alberta Department of Museums and Collections Services.

Students will also be required to take HADVC 600 “Theories and Methods in the History of Art, Design, and Visual Culture” if they have not already undertaken a comparable course at the graduate level. In addition, as is standard for all art history degrees, students must display competence in at least one language other than English, notably in the language most necessary for completion of their research. Students may fulfill this requirement by passing a proficiency test administered by the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta, or may elect to take an approved language reading course or approved equivalent, achieving a minimum grade of C+.

Coursework is selected by the student in consultation with the supervisor, the Graduate Advisor in HADVC, and the Associate Chair of Graduate Studies in the Department of Art & Design.

In addition to the required coursework, graduate students are strongly encouraged to participate in the non-credit Pro-Seminar Series organized by the Department of Art & Design. These pro-seminars provide graduate students with training in the more practical aspects of becoming a professional. Sessions, which may include invited experts from both within and outside the University of Alberta, offering advice about such topics as: grant writing; constructing a curriculum vitae; research ethics; using digital images and questions of copyright; pedagogical theories and practices; constructing a syllabus in visual culture courses (a skill that will be useful for future employment), and practical methods of course preparation and delivery.

Candidacy Examination

During their second year students will prepare for and undertake their candidacy examination, in keeping with standard practice within the field. This examination will have an oral and three written components:

  • a dissertation proposal, created in consultation with the supervisory committee, of approximately 5,000 words. All written components will be discussed by the candidate and evaluated by the committee during the oral candidacy examination itself;
  • a critical discussion of the historiography and current directions of the student’s chosen field, including an extensive bibliography and written essay of approximately 12,000 words;
  • a syllabus or exhibition proposal related to a secondary topic of specialization.

Ethics Training

Ethics and academic integrity training is mandatory for all newly-admitted U of A graduate students. Each student is expected to complete the equivalent of at least eight (8) hours of structured academic activity to meet this requirement:

Art & Design Department Ethics Training Requirements.

Professional Development Requirement

There are 2 components to this requirement:

1.   Individual Development Plan (IDP): Doctoral students must complete this component in the first 18 months of their program

2.   Eight hours of Professional Development (PD) activities

FAQs for Faculty/Staff and Students are also available for your information.


During the third and fourth years students will research and write their dissertation, consulting regularly with their supervisory committee of at least three professors. This dissertation will be founded on high scholastic achievement, original research and firm theoretical grounding. It must be defended before an examining committee, in accordance with the regulations established by the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research. No student may proceed to the final oral examination until all other requirements for the degree have been satisfied.

A student is normally expected to complete the PhD program in four years of full-time study. While it is expected that students will reside in Edmonton for the first two years of their program, once admitted to candidacy it may well be that residence elsewhere is more appropriate to the successful completion of their research. Substantial fieldwork is required of most PhD candidates.

View the Graduate Program Manual from the Faculty of Graduate Studies.