Art History PhD Policies and Procedures

General Graduate Requirements for the PhD

A. Administration of the Ph.D. Program

The Ph.D. program in art history is the responsibility of the Graduate Program Committee (GPC) and is administered by the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). All questions or problems should first be directed to the DGS. If there are unresolved problems these may be taken to the chairperson of the department.

B. Advising

Graduate students taking courses must meet with their advisor before registering each semester to discuss the available offerings and their progress toward the degree. Students are also encouraged to consult with other members of the department.

C. Registration

Students normally register continuously until all course requirements for the degree have been completed. Those students on full-time status must register for 9 semester hours or more each semester.

D. Minimum Grade Point Average

Required GPA: 3.00/4.00 or higher. Students whose GPA drops below this average must meet this requirement in the following semester of enrollment or be placed on academic probation. While on probation, students will not receive financial aid or fellowships. After two semesters on probation, the student will be dismissed from the program.

E. Time Limitation

Students admitted to the PhD program with an approved MA, must complete the requirements for the degree within 7 consecutive years after initial registration as a doctoral student. Students entering the program with a BA must complete the requirements for the degree within 9 years after the initial registration. Exceptions to this requirement will be granted only upon application and then only if the justification is sufficient in the judgment of the GPC, the DGS, and the Graduate College.

F. Leave of Absence

Except for international students whose visas require continuous registration and doctoral students who have passed their preliminary exams, graduate degree-seeking students may take one semester (fall or spring) plus the summer session off without formal leave approval from the Graduate College. Degree students who desire to take an additional consecutive semester off, for a total maximum of 3 consecutive terms, must file a Graduate Petition for Leave of Absence by the tenth day of the third term for which leave is requested. For exceptions to this policy, please consult the Graduate College catalog
NOTE: Time spent on leave formally approved by the department and the Graduate College does not count towards the time to complete the degree.
Departmental Requirements for the PhD Degree

A. Coursework

1. Semester Hours Required: The candidate must complete 96 semester hours beyond the baccalaureate degree, and 64 credits beyond the MA degree. Of these hours, 32 semester hours must be in 500-level graduate seminars, of which 18 semester hours must be taken in the department. Of the 64 semester hours required beyond the masters degree, a maximum of 24 semester hours of dissertation research is allowed.

2. Transfer Credit: Students may petition to receive credit for courses taken at other universities.  

3. Course Work: Candidates must complete at least 64 semester hours of course work beyond the master’s degree. Of this amount, 32 semester hours must be in graduate seminars, of which 16 semester hoursmust be taken in the department. At least 32 semester hours of credit beyond the MA degree must be at the 500-level. Of the 64 semester hours required beyond the master’s degree, a maximum of 24 semester hours of dissertation research is allowed.

Required Core Courses: AH 510 and 511; AH 513 

The PhD program has two major areas of focus:

  • Art of the Americas
  • Architecture, Design and Urbanism 

Students may also pursue topics that cross both areas of focus or expand beyond them. Each student will select 16 hours from seminars AH 441, 460, 463, 464, 465, 470, 471, 513, 522, 530, 540, 550, 560, 561, 562, 563, 570, and directed readings courses in the area of focus, as approved by the director of graduate studies. 

Students who have taken equivalent course work as part of an MA degree may petition the director of graduate studies for a waiver of specific requirements; no course credit is given for a waived course. 

4. Dissertation Research: AH 599. Ph.D. Thesis Research. May be taken for 0–16 hours on pass/fail option only. Prerequisites: Consent of advisor and the DGS.


B. Language Requirement

Students must present evidence of advanced knowledge of a language other than English as it relates to the student’s chosen area of research. Evidence of the ability to pursue research in additional languages may be necessary, depending on the availability of literature in the field selected, and the selection of those languages must be approved by the student’s advisor or the DGS if the student does not have an advisor. 

1. Selection of Language: Reading knowledge of a foreign language relevant to the student’s plan of study is required. The Director of Graduate Studies or faculty advisor will approve the selection of a language. French and German are the languages most frequently selected for those pursuing the degree, but the study of any language important to the student’s area of research interest willbe considered.

2. Proof of Language Competence: The student must do one of the following:

a) Receive a grade of B or better in a UIC foreign language reading course for graduate students (or its equivalent at another institution, with the approval of the DGS). These courses will not count toward the 36 credit hours required for the MA or PhD degree.  

b) Pass a language exam administered by a language department at UIC. The department recommends that students take the language exam during their first year of graduate study. In case of failure, the student may repeat the examination until it is passed. The foreign language requirement must be satisfied before the student registers for thesis research.   

c) A test administered by or through the Department of Art History of no more than two hours. The language test usually consists of a translation of a passage into English with the aid of a dictionary.    

d) 4 semesters of college/university language study, with a grade of B or better. Courses where readings are in translation may not be used. The last semester of study can be no more than 5 years prior to the student’s first year of graduate study.    

e) The equivalent of the above (determined by the Director of Graduate Studies) in workshops, summer programs, fieldwork or research in a foreign language, or other language-learning activities. 

f) A degree from a foreign university where English is not the primary language of instruction. In cases of languages, such as some Native American languages, where there is not a significant body of written material in the language, courses focusing on grammar and conversation, or spoken fluency as demonstrated by testing, may be used.                    

g) Native speakers with advanced reading skills as determined by the Director of Graduate Studies are exempt from the language requirement as are those students who have completed: 1) study in a foreign language at a foreign university, 2) field work conducted in a second language, or 3) summer intensive second language programs at an advanced level. 

h)  A test of language proficiency from the MA degree (must be noted on transcript).   


C. Preliminary Examination

The purpose of the doctoral exam is to determine the candidate’s readiness to undertake dissertation research and passing it constitutes formal Admission to Candidacy.  

1. Examination Committee: The student forms an Examination Committee when coursework and the language requirement are completed. The committee will be composed of at least five members of whom at least three are UIC graduate faculty with full membership, and two of whom must be tenured. It is recommended but not required that one member be from outside the Department of Art History, either from another UIC department or from outside the university. The chair of the committee must be a full member of the UIC graduate faculty. Committee members must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate College who will appoint them. The committee recommendation form is located here

2. Exam Areas of Specialization: Each student will propose two areas of specialization for the preliminary examination. In most cases, one will be chronological or geographic such as Renaissance art, or American art, and one will be thematic such as gender and art, or landscape or furniture design. The student will also give an indication of the proposed dissertation subject matter. The suggested areas of specialization and subject matter for the dissertation will be submitted to the Examination Committee at least three months prior to the potential date of the preliminary exam so that the committee and the student can negotiate the areas to be covered by the exam.

The Examination Committee will meet (part of the time with the student), elect a chair, set up the test schedule and approve the two fields of concentration and the reading list. Students are expected to prepare for the exam on their own and cannot assume that courses taken in the department will necessarily prepare them for it. They are strongly encouraged to consult those members of the graduate faculty who are responsible for their examination fields in order to become familiar with the expectations of those individuals. They are also encouraged to consult previous doctoral exams, which are available from the DGS. Doctoral candidates are expected to have a reading period of three to six months to prepare for the examination.               

3. Written Exam: Prepared by the Examination Committee, the Ph.D. exam format is a 72 hour take home-exam. Questions and answers can be delivered by e-mail with the consent of both faculty and student. Candidates will answer two questions in total, with one question pertaining to each of their subject areas. The committee will provide the student with at least two, but not more than three questions per subject area. Questions in both subject areas are distributed at the same time, however, to allow for flexibility and planning on the part of the student.
4. Oral Exam: The written exam will be followed by an oral defense of the exam one to two weeks later. The oral component is intended to address issues/weaknesses in the exam that could cause complications for candidates as they approach the dissertation process.
5. Exam Grading: The committee shall meet approximately half an hour before the oral exam to determine a “pass” or “fail” grade for the written component of the exam, and to briefly discuss each member’s questions for the student. After the oral exam, each member will assign a final grade of “pass” or “fail”, and the chair will inform the student of the committee’s decision immediately after the oral exam. A candidate cannot be passed with more than one “fail” vote. The examination report must be signed by all members of the committee. The results of the examination must be submitted to the Graduate College within two weeks of the completion of the exam.
6. Admission to Candidacy: Students who have passed the exam will be notified of their Admission to Candidacy by the Dean of the Graduate College.
7. Retaking the Exam: If the student does not pass the exam, on the recommendation of the committee, the chair may permit a second examination, which must be taken within one year. A third examination is not permitted. Students who do not complete the degree requirements within five years of passing the preliminary examination must retake the examination.

D. Doctoral Dissertation

The dissertation should be a book-length study in which the candidate demonstrates a full range of scholarly skills. It should show insight and originality in the questions it proposes to answer. It should also present evidence of thorough research in primary and secondary sources. Arguments should be clear, well-written and persuasive both to specialists and to other scholars outside the field. The dissertation will make a contribution to knowledge in art history and will be publicly defended before the scholarly community.
1. Advisor: The advisor will be the candidate’s dissertation director. He or she must be a member of the UIC graduate faculty and is considered the primary reader of the dissertation. The student will submit the name of the proposed advisor at the time he or she submits the prospectus.
2. Dissertation Committee: The student forms a Dissertation Committee after Admission to Candidacy (the committee recommendation form is located here). The committee will be composed of at least five members of whom at least three are UIC graduate faculty with full membership and two of whom must be tenured. At least one member must be from outside the Department of Art History, either from another UIC department or from outside the university. The chair of the committee, who will be elected by the committee members, must be a full member of the UIC graduate faculty. Committee members must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate College who will appoint them. 
Members of the Dissertation Committee may or may not be the same as those on the Examination Committee, depending on the student’s choice. If, as the work progresses, the chair or any committee member no longer wishes to supervise a candidate’s dissertation, he or she must inform both the candidate and the DGS in writing. If the advisor or a member of the committee is, for any reason, unable to supervise the candidate, the candidate, in consultation with the DGS, will suggest an appropriate alternate. Candidates who wish to change chairpersons or committee members must secure the consent of another member of the graduate faculty to join the committee, notify the current chair, and submit the name to the DGS in writing. In all cases, any changes in committee membership must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate College.
3. Prospectus: It is expected that no later than the end of the semester following the completion of the preliminary examination, the doctoral candidate will submit a written prospectus of approximately 10 pages, prepared with the help of the dissertation advisor, to the Dissertation Committee. The prospectus will include the following:
a) a clear statement of the problem to be investigated in the dissertation and a working thesis.
b) a critical review of the state of the research on the topic.
c) the initial expected archival sources.
d) an outline showing how the topic will be developed.
e) a working bibliography.
4. Prospectus Defense: The student will meet with the advisor and at least two members of the Dissertation Committee to discuss and defend the prospectus. The prospectus defense provides an opportunity for the committee and the student to discuss the intellectual and methodological aspects of the dissertation and to formulate research plans and strategies. If the committee deems the defense has been satisfactory, the student will file a copy of the approved prospectus with the DGS within two weeks. If the defense is deemed unsatisfactory, the student may petition to have another defense.
5. Change of Plans: If any substantive changes are made to the plans for the dissertation as outlined in the approved prospectus (which might include a change in direction, focus, methodology, or material covered), the candidate must write a revised prospectus and arrange a further defense.
6. Monitoring the Dissertation: It is the advisor’s responsibility to decide when the candidate needs to submit all or part of the work-in-progress to other members of the committee for review. The committee members will give comments to the advisor who will convey them to the candidate. The director may call a meeting of the committee at any time that he or she deems appropriate.
7. Dissertation Defense: A defense is scheduled after the Dissertation Committee members have tentatively approved the dissertation. The committee may accept the dissertation as it stands, accept it conditionally pending certain revisions, or reject it. Revisions can range from minor editorial changes to a major recasting of a substantial portion of the text. Normally the committee delegates to the chairperson of the committee the responsibility for ensuring that these revisions are made. All dissertations must meet the format and stylistic requirements of the Graduate College. There will be an oral defense of the dissertation attended by the doctoral candidate and the members of the dissertation committee, advertised and open to the academic community of the university and announced at least one week prior to its occurrence. The committee vote is pass or fail. A candidate cannot be passed if more than one vote of fail is reported.