Course Work

PhD students take a total of nine courses, at least four of which are research seminars (900-level), plus a final course, ARTH 994 (Dissertation Registration). Two of the nine courses may be taken in other departments as electives for supplementary and complementary studies.

Electing to pursue an External Minor: PhD students may choose to complete a formal External Minor, which consists of at least three (but may be as many as five) additional courses in a field related to her/his area of specialized study (such as, communication studies, women’s studies, history, or medieval studies). The student must secure prior approval of the minor department, and a copy of the proposed courses to be taken must be signed by both departments and entered in the student’s permanent record in the Department of Art and the UNC-Chapel Hill Graduate School.

Language Requirement

PhD students are required to demonstrate proficiency in 2 languages (other than English). The first language will be the language that fulfilled the M.A. language requirement. The second language should be appropriate to the area of study, and will be determined in consultation with the student’s advisor, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the graduate committee. Some fields require additional languages and students should study these languages as necessary. Competency in the second language will be determined following the same guidelines as those of the M.A. language requirement.

Preliminary Doctoral Exams

PhD students take both the written and the oral Preliminary Exams during the semester after the PhD course work is completed. Most PhD students will take the Preliminary Exams during the spring semester of their second year in the PhD program. Those students pursuing an External Minor will take the Preliminary Exams during the fall semester of their third year.

  • Written Exams. Students take the written exams over the course of a one-week period. Students who fail the written exams may repeat them only once. These exams are taken in three parts: first (major) area of study (six hours), second area of study (six hours), and methodological/thematic area of study (six hours).
  • Preliminary Oral Exam. An oral exam will take place within two weeks of the written exam. The oral will be on the content of the written exam and may also include a defense of the dissertation prospectus. The examining committee will consist of at least three members who must be full-time active graduate faculty or adjunct teaching faculty  in art history.
  • Dissertation Prospectus. Ph.D. students defend their dissertation prospectus orally. If the dissertation prospectus is not defended in the oral exam, this defense should take place within four months of the written exams. At least two weeks before the prospectus defense, the student submits a dissertation prospectus to his or her dissertation committee, which should consist of five faculty members, three of whom must be permanent members of the UNC-CH art history faculty.

Guidelines for the PhD exams and prospectus can be found here.

Dissertation and Final Oral Exam

After passing the preliminary doctoral exams, the student begins work on the dissertation. Once the dissertation is completed and approved by the advisor and dissertation committee, the student defends the finished dissertation. Doctoral students have eight calendar years from the date of first registration in the PhD Graduate School to complete the PhD. For doctoral students, there is a minimum residence credit requirement of four semesters, and at least two semesters must be earned through continuous full-time registration on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus.

Program details, including a sample timetable for progress through the degree, can be found here.

For further information the applicant should write to the director of graduate studies for art history.


The precise deadlines are set every year, and can be found on the Graduate School’s ‘Graduation Deadlines’ page here.

Mid-February: Deadline to apply to graduate in ConnectCarolina

March  – Last month in which to schedule the defense. The oral defense must be scheduled no later than 2 weeks prior to the mid-April final submission deadline

Mid- April – deadline, final submission of electronic doctoral dissertations and master’s theses

May (generally 2nd weekend)
Doctoral Hooding Ceremony
University Commencement Ceremony
Degree Award Date for May graduates