History and Classics

MA in Ancient Societies and Cultures

This degree is designed for students who wish to develop their personal research interests and critical skills within the general area of ancient societies and cultures. Students are particularly encouraged to take inter-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary approaches as part of their education and research. For example, the program provides the possibility to pursue advanced comparative studies in Greek, Roman, and ancient Israelite historiography; cross-linguistic studies; Indian and Hellenic contacts; ancient China; ancient religions, societies, polities, built spaces, and visual cultures.

Entrance Requirements

In addition to the general Departmental admission requirements, students should hold a BA degree either in Classics or History or a suitable related field (for example, Religious Studies, Philosophy, Anthropology) and must demonstrate appropriate preparation for the desired program of study. This preparation includes a level of language proficiency to conduct research in the primary sources, as applicable to the student’s program (for example, suitable training in Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and/or Sanskrit).

Students admitted to the MA in Ancient Societies and Cultures who later wish to modify their topic so that it falls under the rubric of Classical Archaeology, Classical Languages, or History may do so only with the approval of the Graduate Committee.


The minimum residence requirement for a thesis-based MA is two four-month terms of full-time attendance at the University of Alberta. Time spent as a qualifying graduate student does not count towards the residence requirement.

NOTE: Beginning September 2003, students who are admitted to a thesis-based program and who initially register as full-time students in that program must continue to register full-time until the completion of their degree.

Program Time Limits

University regulations set out the maximum period of time, calculated from the start of the first term in which the student registers, allowed for the completion of graduate degrees. A thesis-based MA degree must be completed within four years of the start of the student’s program. Time spent as a qualifying graduate student or, as of 2009-10, on an approved leave of absence is not counted in the time for completion.

The MA in Ancient Societies and Cultures is designed to be completed in three or four terms, depending on preparation and course selection.


From the time of entering the program, every candidate for the MA will have a supervisor. The student’s thesis topic will be defined in consultation with the supervisor and the thesis will be written under the supervisor’s direction. Supervisors (and co-supervisors where applicable) must be approved by the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research. Any change of supervisor or fields must be approved by the Graduate Committee.

NOTE: Qualifying students will be under the supervision of the Associate Chair (Graduate Studies) until qualifications for entry are met.

Program Requirements

Students must:

  • take and pass CLASS 501 (*1), graded pass/fail.
  • take and pass a minimum of six (*18) graduate-level courses, at least two (*6) of which must be courses related to the student’s chosen area of specialization.
  • fulfill the Departmental language requirement in a modern language with French, German, or Italian, or another language appropriate to the area of specialization.
  • write a thesis, the text of which should normally be no more than 100 pages in length. This thesis must be original and consist of substantially new research.
  • fulfill the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research ethics training requirement. NOTE: This requirement applies to all University of Alberta graduate students who started their program on or after 1 September 2004; it does not apply to those who started their program prior to that date.

NOTE: Depending on the student’s preparation and chosen area of specialization, an intermediate-level language examination in a second ancient language or *6 at the senior undergraduate level with a minimum grade of B or equivalent in that language may be required.

Preparing for the Oral Defense of the Thesis

The completed thesis must be defended in an oral examination conducted by a committee consisting of the supervisor and two other members of the faculty, one of whom (known as the “internal/external”) must be from a Department other than History and Classics. The examination is chaired by the Associate Chair (Graduate Studies) or his/her delegate appointed from within the Department.

Before the date for the defense can be set, the supervisor must assure the Associate Chair (Graduate Studies) in writing that he/she has seen and approved the full final draft of the thesis. At least three weeks before the date of the oral examination, the Department must notify FGSR in writing of the composition of the committee, and all members of the committee (including the chair) are to receive paper copies of the thesis. Accordingly, students have to ensure that the supervisor has the finished thesis well in advance of this three-week period.

The Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research instructions for formatting the thesis are available online. This site also contains the “Thesis Approval/Program Completion” form; students are to bring a printed copy of this form, with Part I completed, to the oral thesis defense in case of acceptance of the thesis.

Final Oral Examination (Defense of the Thesis)

The purpose of the oral examination is to test the candidate’s knowledge of the thesis subject and of related fields. It normally lasts ninety minutes to two hours and may not exceed three hours. There are two rounds of questioning, in each of which the two examiners from within the Department are allotted fifteen minutes and the “internal/external” twenty. The chair may participate in questioning but does not vote.

The decision of the examining committee will be based both on the content of the thesis and on the candidate’s ability to defend it. Normally, if all but one member of the committee agree on a decision, the decision shall be that of the majority. The dissenting committee member does not have to sign. If two or more dissenting votes are recorded, the Department will refer the matter to the Associate Dean, FGSR, who will determine an appropriate course of action. One of the following outcomes of the final oral examination is appropriate:

  • Pass
  • Pass subject to revisions. NOTE: There is no provision for a final oral examination to be “passed subject to major revisions.”
  • Adjourned
  • Fail

Pass: If the student passes the examination, the Department shall complete the Thesis Approval/Program Completion form and submit it to the FGSR.

Pass subject to revisions: The student has satisfactorily defended the thesis but the revisions to the thesis are sufficiently minor that it will not require a reconvening of the examining committee. “Minor revisions” are taken to be those that do not substantially change the argument of the thesis (for example, the addition of a few paragraphs of “sign posting” or some details of limited significance). The Department shall complete the Thesis Approval/Program Completion form and submit it to the FGSR indicating “pass subject to revisions.” It is expected that the student will make the changes in time to submit the thesis to the FGSR on or before the deadline for the next convocation. These changes should be checked and approved by the committee chair or supervisor, who does not sign until the required changes are satisfactorily completed. Other committee members may also wish to withhold their signature until they can verify that their required revisions have been made to their satisfaction.

Adjourned: The final oral examination should be adjourned in the following situations:

  • The revisions to the thesis are sufficiently substantial (if further research or experimentation or major reworking of sections is required, or if the committee is not satisfied with the general presentation of the thesis) that it will require a reconvening of the examining committee. The committee should not propose that the candidate has passed, rather the committee shall adjourn the examination.
  • The committee is dissatisfied with the candidate’s oral presentation and defense of the thesis, even if the thesis itself is acceptable with or without minor revisions.
  • Compelling, extraordinary circumstances such as a sudden medical emergency during the examination.

If the examination is adjourned (other than for compelling, extraordinary circumstances such as a sudden medical emergency during the examination) the committee should:

  • Specify in writing to the student, with as much precision as possible, the nature of the deficiencies and, in the case of revisions to the thesis, the extent of the revisions required. Where the oral defense is unsatisfactory, it may be necessary to arrange some discussion periods with the candidate prior to reconvening the examination.
  • Decide upon a date to reconvene. If the date of the reconvened oral examination depends upon the completion of a research task or a series of discussions, it should be made clear which committee members will decide on the appropriate date to reconvene. The final date set for reconvening shall be no later than six months from the date of the examination. A final decision of the examining committee must be made within six months of the initial examination. (FGSR Council, 1988/04/15)
  • Make it clear to the student what will be required by way of approval before the examination is reconvened (eg, approval of the committee chair or supervisor, approval of the entire committee, or of select members of the committee).
  • Specify the supervision and assistance the student may expect from the committee members in meeting the necessary revisions.
  • Advise the FGSR in writing of the adjournment and the conditions.
  • When the date is set for the adjourned final oral examination, the Department will notify the FGSR. Normally the Dean, Associate Dean or Pro Dean attends the examination.

Fail: If the final examination committee agrees that the student has failed, the committee chair shall provide the reasons for this recommendation and the Department’s recommendation for the student’s program in writing to the Associate Dean, FGSR, and to the student. The Associate Dean, FGSR, will arrange to meet with the candidate and with Department representatives before acting upon any Department recommendation. A decision of the FGSR which affects a student’s academic standing (ie, he/she is required to withdraw) is appealable.

Submission of the Completed Thesis

Following completion of the final oral examination at which the thesis is passed or passed subject to revisions, the candidate shall make the appropriate revisions where necessary and submit the approved thesis to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research within six months of the date of the final oral examination. If the final oral examination is adjourned, the six-month time limit will take effect from the date of completion of the examination where the thesis was passed with or without revisions. There are also submission deadlines for each convocation period and registration requirements when submitting the thesis.

Graduate students may submit their thesis to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research in one of two ways:

  • Electronically – involves converting the thesis to a single PDF file and submitting it to FGSR
  • Paper (hard-copy) – involves submitting two hard copies of the thesis (one to be bound for U of A Libraries)

The complete Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research instructions for submitting the thesis are available online.
NOTE: Regardless of the method of submission to the FGSR that is chosen, students must provide the Department of History and Classics with two bound hard copies of the thesis (three in the case of co-supervision). 

Submission and binding instructions