PhD Program


The UCLA Department of Art History offers a two-stage graduate program toward the PhD. Students are not admitted for a terminal master’s (MA) degree. The MA is awarded in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the PhD and is granted with the successful completion of the first stage of the program, typically at the end of the second year, 6th quarter, in residence. Normative time to degree for the PhD is seven years from the term of admission. For students entering with a MA in hand, the normative time to degree is five years from the term of admission.

All students are required to complete the M.A. requirements in the department. The Graduate Review Committee may waive the M.A. requirements, at the time of admission, for students matriculating with a M.A. degree in Art History or adjacent discipline from another institution. Following Academic Senate policy on duplication of degrees, a student who enters the program with a M.A. degree in Art History from another institution is not eligible to receive a second M.A. degree in Art History from UCLA.

Please see here for the official UCLA Art History Graduate Program Requirements published on the Graduate Division website.


  • The student is assigned a faculty mentor upon admission to the program. The mentor is responsible for the student’s course of study and must be consulted at least once each quarter. A change of faculty supervision and/or change in field(s) must be approved by the Graduate Review Committee.
  • The Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) offers intellectual guidance, approves any exceptions to the program requirements, and adjudicates disputes between a student and his/her faculty mentor. The DGS further serves as Chair of the
    Graduate Review Committee, which governs the admissions process.
  • The Student Affairs Officer (SAO) assists students with all the administrative aspects
    of moving through the program.
  • Each spring quarter, the entire faculty reviews the status of each graduate student to
    ensure appropriate time-to-degree progress.

Toward the MA

Requirements for the MA

  1. Satisfaction of the first language requirement.
  2. Successful completion of AH 200 with a grade of “B+” or better.
  3. Nine graduate and upper division courses (36 units) completed while in the program. At least six of those courses (24 units) must be at the graduate level, including four graduate seminars. AH 200 may be counted towards the required six courses.
  4. Successful completion of a qualifying paper (approximately 30 pages) according to the standards and procedures outlined below.

* Typically the above requirements are completed within the first two years of study (6 quarters).

Distribution of Coursework

The nine required courses must include at least two courses from Group A and two courses from Group B noted below.

Group A
Greek and Roman
Latin American
Medieval & Byzantine
Renaissance & Baroque
Group B
Ancient Americas/ Pre-Columbian
South & Southeast Asian

Qualifying Paper for the MA

  • The qualifying paper is a revised and expanded version of a paper written for a class from the first year of coursework. It should be approximately 30 pages in length (excluding footnotes, images, and bibliography) and should demonstrate the student’s ability 1) to formulate a thesis, 2) to present an extended argument, and 3) to conduct original research. Quality of the writing will also be evaluated.
  • By the end of the fall quarter of the second year, student selects a class paper from the first year in consultation with his or her advisor to revise and expand as the qualifying paper.
  • In the following winter quarter, student enrolls for 4 units of 598 (RSRCH-MASTER THESIS) to work on the paper under the supervision of advisor.
  • Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) will contact each student during the winter quarter (usually early February) to appoint a committee of three faculty readers for the qualifying paper, one of which is the student’s advisor. At least one of the faculty readers will have had no classroom contact with the student. All students may suggest potential readers; however, the DGS will balance the student’s request against equity of faculty workload.
  • On the first day of instruction of the spring quarter, students submits three copies of the qualifying paper to the Student Affairs Officer (SAO) along with a list of the three readers assigned to review the paper.
  • The qualifying papers will be distributed to the three assigned faculty readers and each reader will complete an evaluation form and submit it to the SAO within three weeks of receipt of the paper.
  • By the fourth week of the spring quarter, the SAO will make available the papers with reader’s comments to the student and these papers will be added to the student’s permanent file.
  • The Graduate Review Committee, taking into consideration the faculty reader evaluations, will determine whether the student will be awarded the MA and permitted to proceed into the PhDprogram. In some cases, the Committee may recommend that the student receive the MA degree but discontinue further graduate study. It is also possible (although very rare) that the student’s work may not be judged adequate to receive the MA.

Completion of the MA

  • Prior to the third week of the spring quarter in the second year, the student should complete the “Petition for Advancement to Candidacy for the Master’s Degree” (provided by and returned to the SAO).
  • Once the Department has accepted the qualifying paper, the student must file it with Graduate Division by the Monday of the tenth week of the spring quarter, formatted as a thesis.
  • Graduate Division guidelines for formatting MA theses are available here. Workshops on thesis formatting are offered at the beginning of each fall and winter quarters. See the Grad Division website for more information.
  • Following the Department’s annual spring review of graduate students, the student must submit a completed form for transfer from the MA to the PhD program (provided by and returned to the SAO).

Toward the PhD

Upon the completion of the MA or starting with a MA from another institution, the student begins the PhD program having chosen a major field of study within art history, often known at the time of application. By the end of the second quarter of residence at the PhD stage, the student also selects a minor field, which may be outside the department (e.g. Architecture, History, Anthropology, Comparative Literature, Archaeology, etc.). The major and minor advisors are responsible for the student’s course of study and completion of requirements within the selected field. Graduate Review Committee must approve any change of advisor(s) or the major and minor fields.

Requirements for the PhD

  1. Satisfaction of language requirements (minimum 2, including 1 from MA stage; more may be required depending on field of study)
  2. Completion of 8 graduate and upper division courses (32 units)
  3. Written comprehensive exams in major and minor fields
  4. Dissertation prospectus and oral qualifying exam
  5. Doctoral dissertation
Fields of Study for the PhD
Greek and Roman
Latin American
Medieval & Byzantine
Renaissance & BaroqueAfrican
Ancient Americas/Pre-Columbian
South & Southeast Asian

Distribution of Coursework

  • A total of 8 graduate and upper division courses are required, of which at least 4 must be art history courses at the graduate level.
  • Of the nine courses (36 units) required for the MA, students may use a maximum of two of these (8 units) to count towards Ph.D. coursework. Students may also apply courses taken in excess of MA requirements towards fulfilling Ph.D. course requirements. (This does not apply to students who received their MA from other institutions/departments.)
  • 5 courses in one field are required to claim it as the major field; 3 courses in one field are required to claim it as the minor field. The minor can also be from outside the department (e.g. Architecture, History, Anthropology, Comparative Literature, Archaeology, etc.).
  • Students entering the PhD stage deficient in Art History 200 (Art Historical Theories and Methodologies) or its equivalent must add this to the total requirements. In some cases, Art History 201 (Topics in Historiography of Art History) may be required by faculty/advisor recommendation. Any additional coursework required by the Graduate Review Committee at time of admission must be completed during the first two quarters of residence and may not count toward the minimum course requirements for either the MA or PhD degree.

Written Comprehensive Examinations

  • Upon completion of coursework and fulfillment of language requirements, the student takes the PhD written comprehensive examinations in the major and minor fields of study, designed and evaluated by the student’s major and minor advisors respectively.
  • The purpose of the examinations is to test the student’s breadth and depth of knowledge in his/her fields of study. If a student fails to pass the examination or part thereof, the failed portion may be repeated once no later than the subsequent quarter of residence. No further repetition will be allowed. The written comprehensive examinations may be taken during any two-week period of the Fall, Winter, and Spring quarters. Typically, students take these exams during the winter quarter of the second year in residence, 5th quarter, in the PhD program.
  • The Department offers two formats for the major and minor written exams, the details of which must be worked out in advance between the student and the examiner. Format A: Take-home. 2-3 essay questions to be completed in 1 week (for the minor exam, 1-2 questions to be completed in 3 days). Format B: Sit-down. 2-3 essay questions to be completed in 6 hours (for the minor exam, 1-2 questions to be completed in 3 hours). Many faculty incorporate designing of a syllabus as an exam question and the formats above do not preclude this possibility. Such an assignment would count as one question/essay.
  • The specific format and dates for the major and minor exams must be submitted to the Student Affairs Officer at least three weeks in advance using the appropriate departmental form.

Doctoral Committee

  • Upon passing the written comprehensive examinations in major and minor fields of study, the student selects a dissertation topic and nominates the members of his/her Doctoral Committee in consultation with his/her advisor.
  • This committee minimally consists of the major advisor, now serving as committee chair, two additional members of the art history faculty (normally, but not necessarily, including the student’s minor advisor), and one member from another UCLA department. For details on the acceptable status of these members and for minimum university standards of the doctoral committee, please see page 14-17 in the Standards and Procedures for Graduate Study manual.
  • The student and committee chair must agree on all committee members. Any changes in committee constitution after formal nomination must be reported to and approved by the Graduate Division; replacing the committee chair can only occur by consent or if the faculty member leaves UCLA.
  • Please note that the Graduate Division generally approves Committee nominations within 2-3 weeks, and the oral qualifying exam may not be taken before official approval has been received.

Dissertation Prospectus and Oral Qualifying Examination

  • The dissertation topic should be identified in discussions with the advisor. These discussions usually evolve organically through the course of study and are highly individualized. Typically, the oral examination is scheduled during the quarter following the successful completion of the written examinations.
  • Once the Doctoral Committee has been officially approved by Graduate Division, and after having conducted considerable exploratory research and preparation for his/her dissertation, the student submits to each member of the Doctoral Committee a dissertation prospectus. The prospectus should not be distributed to the full committee without the approval of the student’s committee chair.
  • The dissertation prospectus should not exceed 20 pages and include a statement of purpose regarding the art historical topic/problem being addressed (what is at stake in the study), tentative chapter outlines, working bibliography, research plan, methodological strategies, and preliminary schedule for completion.
  • Students should submit the prospectus to committee members 2-3 weeks before the oral examination date to allow sufficient time for the prospectus to be reviewed. If any member of the Doctoral Committee finds the prospectus inadequate, he or she must notify the committee chair at least one week prior to the oral examination date. In some cases, the prospectus must be revised and/or the examination date postponed.
  • The student is responsible for scheduling the oral exam, consulting with committee members well in advance regarding the date and time of availability of each faculty member. The SAO helps the student reserve an appropriate space for the exam.
  • The purpose of the oral examination is to assess the validity and feasibility of the proposed dissertation topic and its methodologies, as well as the soundness of the student’s projected approach to completing the project.
  • At the end of the examination, each committee member reports the examination as “passed” or “not passed.” A student may not pass and may not be advanced to candidacy if more than one member votes “not passed” regardless of the size of the committee, or if the major advisor so votes. Upon majority vote of the committee, the oral qualifying examination may be repeated once. Students upon passing the oral examination are formally advanced to candidacy by the Graduate Division.
  • At the time of the exam, the Doctoral Committee decides, by unanimous agreement, whether or not to waive the final oral examination (not normally required) and selects, again by unanimous agreement, a minimum of three members, two from the art history faculty and one from an outside department, who will read, approve, and certify the final draft of the dissertation. For details regarding the acceptable status of these certifying members, consult the publication, Standards and Procedures for Graduate Study at UCLA.
  • Upon passing the oral examination, the student is officially Advanced to Candidacy (ATC).

Dissertation and Final Oral Examination (if required)

  • After advancing to candidacy, the student works on the dissertation in consultation with his/her advisor, committee chair, as well as Doctoral Committee certifying members according to the rules laid out in the above named publication. Upon completion of the dissertation or individual chapters thereof, and with approval of the committee chair, the student circulates a copy of the dissertation in Week 1 of the quarter for comments and suggestions from the certifying members of the Doctoral Committee. Each reader is allowed four weeks in which to read it and make corrections and comments, and the student is allowed three weeks in which to respond and revise the dissertation. It is incumbent upon the student to communicate in a timely manner with all certifying members of the Doctoral Committee to ensure adequate time for review. Committee members must be consulted as each reader may require more time. PLEASE REVIEW the timeline for dissertation completion which clearly outlines the schedule for submission during the student’s final quarter.
  • After incorporating into the final draft of the dissertation the recommended changes, the student will circulate the dissertation again among the certifying members of the Doctoral Committee. This draft should be circulated sufficiently in advance of the deadline for filing the dissertation so that each reader is allowed at least two weeks in which to reread it (see quarterly Schedule of Classes for filing deadlines).
  • Each certifying member of the committee then decides whether or not to approve the dissertation. In cases where less than the entire committee acts as certifying members, approval of the dissertation must be unanimous. If the entire committee acts as certifying members, the dissertation is considered approved with one negative decision so long as that negative decision is not that of the committee chair. After final approval by the Dean of the Graduate Division, the student files the required number of copies of the dissertation with the Manuscript Advisor of the Office of University Archives. Deadlines for filing the dissertation fall approximately two weeks before the date the degree is to be awarded.
  • Note: A final oral examination is not normally required for Art History, but in some cases it may be requested by the Doctoral Committee (determined at the oral qualifying exam), and is held prior to filing the dissertation. All members of the committee must attend and vote. A student may pass with one negative vote so long as that vote is not that of the committee chair. In case of failure, the Doctoral Committee decides, by unanimous agreement, whether or not the candidate may be re-examined.
  • Upon filing the dissertation, the student receives the Ph.D.

Language Requirements

The completion of the PhD requires reading knowledge of a minimum of two foreign languages relevant to the student’s field of study (more than two may be required in some cases and must be determined in consultation with the faculty advisor). Applicants are expected to already possess reading proficiency in at least one of the two languages for which they will be responsible. New students shall sit for at least one language exam upon arrival at UCLA.

Students at the MA stage are expected to satisfy their first foreign language requirement by the end of the 3rd quarter in residence. It is highly recommended that they complete the second language requirement by the end of the 6th quarter in residence.

Students at the PhD stage are expected to satisfy their second foreign language requirement by the end of the 1st quarter and any additional languages by the end of the 3rd quarter in residence (or in consultation with the major advisor).

Fulfilling the Language Requirement

Option 1: Pass the Departmental Foreign Language Exam.

The language exam consists of translation of a text of 300-700 words chosen by the examiner to be translated into English in three hours (use of a non-electronic dictionary is allowed). Specific qualities of the language and expected level of proficiency in the field will impact the choice and length of the selected text. The Department expects accurate rendition in English rather than a strict translation, word for word, and values the quality of the translation over the completion of the exam.

Language exams are scheduled four times a year, approximately three weeks prior to finals week during the regular academic quarters. Entering students must sit for the first language exam in the first week of the fall quarter. Exam results will be sent out by email within three weeks of the exam date. If feedback on the exam is desired after the results have been announced, students are welcome to contact the examiner. If a student fails the exam and wants to appeal, he or she should contact the Chair of the Language Committee or Director of Graduate Studies.

Option 2: Complete UCLA courses French 6, German 6, Italian 6, Spanish 25, or other relevant language classes with a minimum grade of “B”.

The following is a general guideline for language requirements in relation to specific fields of study. The final selection and number of languages is to be determined in consultation with the primary advisor.

Indigenous African languages, Arabic, French, German, Portuguese
Ancient/Mediterranean/Near East
Akkadian, Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Latin
Two East Asian languages, for pre-modern studies additionally literary Chinese or Japanese
Byzantine/Western Medieval
French, German, Greek, Latin, Italian, Slavic Languages, Turkish, Spanish
Indigenous Americas
One European language, one indigenous language (e.g., Quechua, Nahuatl, Maya), one other language (depending on topic)
Arabic, Turkish/Ottoman, Persian, French, German
Latin America
Spanish (mandatory), French, German, Portuguese
Modern & Contemporary Europe & America
French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian
Renaissance/Baroque/Early Modern
Italian, French, Spanish, German, Latin, Dutch, Slavic Languages, Latin and/or Greek (depending on topic)
South Asia
Sanskrit, Hindi/Urdu, Persian
Southeast Asia
Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian