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 necessary breadth and depth of knowledge and conceptual approaches to complete their 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 & Postdoctoral Studies (GPS).


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 Student Advisor in HADVC, and the Director of Graduate Programs 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 has an oral and three written components:

  • a dissertation proposal, created in consultation with the supervisory committee, of approximately 10,000 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.


During the third and fourth years students research and write their dissertations, consulting regularly with their supervisory committee of at least three professors. This dissertation is 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 & Postdoctoral Studies (GPS). No student may proceed to the final oral examination until all other requirements for the degree have been satisfied.

A student typically is 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 archival and museum research is required of most doctoral candidates.

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

Ethics Training

Current students who completed the eight hour ethics requirement through a combination of the GET Online Course (5 hours ethics credit), workshops, online courses, or departmental offerings do not need to do additional training.  Academic Integrity and Ethics Training Requirement Resources website.

Beginning in Fall 2022, the NEW Ethics and Academic Citizenship Requirement will replace the current Academic Integrity and Ethics Training Requirement. The new Ethics and Academic Citizenship Requirement will consist of two zero-credit, self-paced online courses: INT D 710: Ethics and Academic Citizenship (for both master’s and doctoral students) and INT D 720: Advanced Ethics and Academic Citizenship (for doctoral students only). There are no instructional fees associated with these courses. New students will be automatically registered in INT D 710 and must complete the course by the end of the forst term of their program.

The courses cover principles in Academic Citizenship, including topics such as academic integrity, research and workplace ethics, Indigenizing and decolonizing the academy, equity, diversity, and inclusivity, health and academic productivity, and ethical principles in university teaching.

Important Note: The Ethics and Academic Citizenship Requirement provides foundational ethics education. Depending on your program of study, these foundational courses may need to be supplemented by other specialized training, such as animal user training, human research ethics training, safety courses related to field research, or professional ethics training. Ask your Supervisor if the research you are doing will require additional research ethics training.

General questions regarding the Academic Integrity and Ethics Training Requirement can be directed to:

Professional Development Requirement

Doctoral students must undertake a minimum of 8 hours of professional development over the course of their degree as required by the Faculty of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies.

There are two components. Students cannot graduate without meeting both:

  1. Doctoral students must complete an Individual Development Plan (IDP) in the first 18 months of their program.
  2. A minimum of eight hours of professional development activities inspired by your career plan.

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

To meet GPS' 8 hours of professional development requirements (link), professional development hours may be counted in each of the broad areas of:

  • Career development,
  • Entrepreneurship,
  • Internship,
  • Mentorship,
  • Professional practice,
  • Skills training,
  • Teaching

To be counted, professional development activities must be trackable and verifiable. It is the responsibility of the student to ensure that professional development documentation meets these requirements.

TRACK your hours with the Individual Development Plan & Professional Development Completion Form

Activities should ideally focus on developing extra-disciplinary skills:

  • comprises of formal training or active learning with an assessment component (self-assessment, reflection, quiz, write-pair-share, evidence of knowledge application)\
  • falls outside of research methods training, capstone project, thesis or equivalent, and required practicum
  • supports the career goals and/or seven skills/competencies identified in the individual development plan

Art & Design Department Proseminars are organized by the Director of Graduate Programs. These typically take place on Friday mornings during the fall and winter terms. Some of these sessions will count toward the professional development requirement as well as the ethics requirement. Attendance is optional, though highly encouraged. Here are some examples of topics discussed in the proseminar:

  • "How to Construct a Killer C. V. and Artist Biography" 
  • "How to Write a Successful Grant Application" 
  • "How to Get Your First Publication, Art Exhibition, Poster Display, Conference Paper Accepted" 
  • "How to Present Research and Creative Work to New Audiences" 

The following list of acceptable professional development activities has been pre-approved by the Department of Art & Design, to be amended from time to time. Any students requesting professional development credit for activities not included in this list are required to obtain approval by their Department's Director of Graduate Programs in order to have it counted and added to the list.

  • Three minute thesis (3MT) workshop [1 hour PD credit]
  • Graduate Teaching and Learning levels 1, 2, 3 [maximum 4 hours PD credit]
  • Career development activities as elected graduate student association executive or as elected members of University, Faculty or Department committees [ 2 hours PD credit]
  • Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) with the Fine Arts Building Gallery [2 to 4 hours PD credit]
  • Internships as defined by GPS (maximum 8 hours PD credit)
  • For the student's convenience, GPS has also purchased online seminars through and Mitacs.