Ph.D. Program Overview


    Doctor of Philosophy

    The first year of the PhD program is the sequential MA program. Click here for more information on the sequential MA. 

    The M.Phil. is a prerequisite for official acceptance into the doctoral program, and is a terminal degree for students who do not proceed to write a dissertation. Click here for a brief description of the M.Phil., (years two and three).

    • Registration: Two (2) ER Units
    • Teaching:
      One section of University Writing per semester; OR,
      One section of Literature Humanities per semester; OR, one section of other teaching per semester 
    • Dissertation Prospectus: Submitted by November 1
    • First chapter of Dissertation: Submitted by March 24 to qualify for dissertation fellowship in the fifth year
    • Participation in one conference recommended
      Submission of one essay for publication recommended
    • Participation in a relevant doctoral seminar or dissertation group
    • Teaching Fellows, teaching one undergraduate writing course each semester.  Students are encouraged to apply for an external fellowship.
    • Registration: Two (2) ER Units; or, M&F
      • Teaching or Dissertation Fellowship:
        one (1) section of University Writing per semester; OR,
        one (1) section of Literature Humanities; OR, one (1) section of other teaching per semester; OR,
        Dissertation Fellowship
    • Satisfactory Progress on Dissertation:
      • For students who failed to complete a chapter in year 4, at least two chapters: first chapter submitted and chapter meeting scheduled by September 15th; a second chapter submitted and chapter meeting scheduled by April 1st. Submission of two chapters will constitute the academic progress needed to qualify for a dissertation fellowship in year 6.
      • Students who complete a draft dissertation chapter by February 15 of the fourth year may elect to take a dissertation fellowship in the fifth year, without service requirements. All other students serve as Teaching Fellows, teaching one course each semester in the Undergraduate Writing Program or in another teaching assignment. Application to external sources for sixth-year funding. Applying for an external fellowship is required.
      • Students on dissertation fellowship in year 5, who already completed at least one chapter in year 4, are expected to draft two additional chapters by the end of year 5, for a total of three drafted chapters by the end of year 5. Drafts should be completed and chapter meetings scheduled by Nov. 1 in the fall and April 1 in the spring.
    • Registration: Two (2) ER Units; or, M&F
    • Teaching or Dissertation Fellowship:
      One (1) section of University Writing per semester; OR,
      One (1) section of Literature Humanities; OR,
      One (1) section of Literary Texts, Critical Methods (ENGL W3011), or other reading in one semester; OR
      Dissertation Fellowship
    • In year 6, the department expects continued progress on the dissertation, which should be substantially completed by the end of
      year 6.
    • Participation in a national conference
      Submission of an essay for publication
    • Participation in a relevant doctoral seminar or dissertation group
    • Dissertation Defense
      Note: for those not defending their dissertation in the sixth year, a Dean's Progress Report must be filed by May 30
    • Students who received the fifth-year dissertation fellowship serve as Teaching Fellows (one course each semester in the Undergraduate Writing Program or in Literature Humanities or in another teaching assignment). Students who taught in their fifth year and have completed drafts (40 pages minimum) of at least two dissertation chapters receive fellowships without service requirements to complete the dissertation.
    • No departmental fellowships are available after the sixth year, though there may be teaching opportunities or extra-departmental dissertation awards.

    After having completed six (6) "Residence Units" (RU), i.e., two semesters of full tuition for three years, Ph.D. students may then register for either an "extended residence unit" (ER) each semester or a unit of "matriculation and facilities" (M&F) each semester. These registration units are defined as:

    Extended Residence Unit

    M.Phil/Ph.D. students who have completed six residence units and either hold a teaching appointment or plan to take courses register for extended residence (ER). ER confers "full-time" status to students, and allows them to take unlimited classes. The cost is covered for students on teaching appointment. If you have questions about what to apply for, please contact the Department Administrator.

    Matriculation and Facilities

    Advanced M.Phil./Ph.D. students who are neither on a teaching appointment nor are planning to take courses should register for Matriculation and Fees (M&F). Students who are dissertation fellows, for instance, should register for M&F. If questions arise about what to apply for, please contact the Department Administrator.
    —  M&F F/T: "Full-time" status, no classes.
    —  M&F P/T: "Part-time" status, no classes, loans may become payable

    Tuition for Coursework

    Graduate fellowships include tuition for strictly limited coursework after orals. If doctoral Teaching Fellows need more coursework, for example, to improve on languages needed for the dissertation, a letter from the DGS may be required to explain why coursework is continuing during the doctoral years. In the summer before taking the Dissertation Fellowship and in the year of the Dissertation Fellowship, tuition for coursework is not provided.

    There are several options for teaching after students have completed the M.Phil. requirements:

    University Writing

    The Writing Program is associated with the Department of English and Comparative Literature, but is run separately. Consult the University Writing Program webpage for a more detailed description of the program. For 8-10 students in their third year, one semester of University Writing will be replaced with a seminar section of the department's introductory course, Literary Texts and Critical Methods.

    Literary Texts and Critical Methods

    This one-semester course is a required introduction to the undergraduate major. Students meet once a week in a seminar session following a single weekly lecture from a faculty member on points of fundamental importance of literary study such as genres and forms, narrative and poetic techniques, and critical traditions. Close attention is paid to developing students' abilities to write papers on literary issues.

    Columbia College Core Curriculum

    M.Phil. students frequently apply for two-year appointments as preceptors in Literature Humanities (Lit Hum), or Contemporary Civilization (CC), two-semester course sequences in which Columbia College students undertake intensive study and discussion of some of the most significant texts of Western culture. Core Preceptors, the title given to students who teach Lit Hum and CC sections, must hold the M.Phil. before beginning to teach, but may apply for the Core's two-year commitments in anticipation of holding the M.Phil. in time to take up an appointment if it is offered. Please consult the Core Curriculum website for more details:

    Summer Session Courses

    M.Phil. students can propose courses to be offered in the Columbia Summer Session. See the Summer Session website for dates and kinds of courses offered: For questions about the application procedure, watch for the fall semester workshop on proposing courses, or ask the Director of Graduate Studies or Department Administrator for more information.

    The Teaching Scholar designation is awarded through departmental competition and nomination to GSAS. Through this program, advanced graduate students can be appointed to teach an undergraduate seminar (3000 level) of their own design. Apply in fall for the following academic year.