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Ph.D. – Grad

The Ph.D. Program

The Religion Department offers a Ph.D. in five areas of study: Buddhist Traditions, Global Islam, Hindu Traditions, Religion in the Americas and Religion and Nature.

The University of Florida requires 90 hours of course work for the Ph.D. These may include up to 30 hours from a completed M.A. degree. The number of hours credited toward the Ph.D. is at the discretion of department faculty. A minimum of 42 hours is devoted to course work at the doctoral level. The specific distribution of course work depends on the specialization, but will include intensive work in the major area of specialization, 6 hours of Method and Theory (If not taken at the M.A. level), 3 hours of the Interdisciplinary Seminar and at least 18 hours devoted to dissertation writing and research.

NOTE: in special circumstances, such as fulfilling an out of department environmental science credit or acquiring needed background training, undergraduate 4000 level courses can be taken for graduate credit.


The department does its best to secure teaching experience for its doctoral students and views such experience as integral to the professional education it offers. The department also encourages doctoral students to give lectures in appropriate undergraduate courses taught by members of the faculty. Qualified doctoral candidates may be able to offer their own courses.

Language requirements

All doctoral students must demonstrate proficiency in at least one and in many cases two languages other than English. The chosen language(s) as well as how and when the student’s competence will be judged must be approved by the student’s supervisory committee chair. Frequently language competence is met through (1) taking an appropriate course or courses in the language with a grade of “B’ or better or (2) Passing a language comprehension exam. This exam will usually consist of a timed translation of a text in the field with only the use of a dictionary. The test will be administered by a department member or a language department at the University. Students must earn a B or above in the translation to be able to pass the exam. Basic course work for scholarly languages will not count toward the required 90 credit hours. However, students studying a scholarly language connected to their research needs, above and beyond basic competence, can receive six (or more) credit hours for such specialized courses toward the required 90 total credit hours with approval of the student’s supervisory committee chair and graduate coordinator. Under special circumstances, and with the approval of the graduate coordinator, the language exam may be waived on the basis of course work, field experience, and/or native competence.

Supervisory committee

Each student admitted to doctoral study in religion will be assigned a mentor from his or her major field of interest. By the end of the second semester of study, a supervisory committee chair will be nominated by the student, in consultation with her/his advisor, to approve and monitor her or his program of study. By the end of the fourth semester of study, the student must establish a four member supervisory committee, including a chair and a member from outside the department. The chair and at least one additional member of the committee must be members of the religion graduate faculty. The Dean of the Graduate School is an additional ex officio member of all Ph.D. committees. The supervisory committee is formally nominated by the department chair, approved by the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School. Membership on supervisory committees may be altered through the mutual agreement of a faculty member and the student. Changes can be made in the final term only by petition to the Graduate School.

Duties and responsibilities of the supervisory committee:

  • Inform the student of all regulations governing the degree sought. This does not absolve the student from responsibility for being informed about these regulations. See General Regulations.
  • Meet immediately after appointment to review the student’s qualifications and discuss and approve a program of study.
  • Meet to discuss and approve the proposed dissertation project and the plans for carrying it out.
  • Give the student a yearly evaluation letter in addition to S/U grades earned for research courses 7979 and 7980. The chair writes this letter after consulting with the supervisory committee.
  • Conduct the qualifying examination (or participate in it, if administered by the academic unit).
  • Meet when at least half the work on the dissertation is complete, to review procedure, progress, and expected results; and to make suggestions for completion.
  • Meet with the student when the dissertation is completed and conduct the final oral examination to assure that the dissertation is a piece of original research and a contribution to knowledge. The supervisory committee chair or co-chair must be present with the candidate for the examination. All other committee members may attend remotely. Only the actual supervisory committee may sign the ETD Signature Page, and they must approve the dissertation unanimously.

External member:

  • Represents the interests of the Graduate School and UF
  • Knows Graduate Council policies
  • Serves as an advocate for the student at doctoral committee activities.

If the academic unit’s committee activity conflicts with broader University policies or practices, the external member is responsible for bringing such conflicts to the attention of the appropriate governing body. Therefore, the external member is prohibited from holding any official interest in the doctoral candidate’s major academic unit. Faculty holding joint, affiliate, courtesy, or adjunct appointments in the degree-granting academic unit cannot be external members on a student’s committee.

Qualifying examinations

Qualifying examinations form a bridge between course work and dissertation research. They are meant to assess the student’s familiarity with the essential works, authors, issues, methods, and theories that have defined the field. Further, students must demonstrate their capacity to think “on their feet,” being able to synthesize critically — and in a limited time span — the extant literature and take an informed position in relationship to this literature. Normally students take qualifying examinations during one of two specified periods in their third year in residence. Currently available comprehensive reading lists for each area of study can be found at HERE. The written portion of the qualifying examinations takes the following format:

Each exam is five hours long, except for students with disabilities and those whose native language is not English. With the proper documentation and permission from the graduate studies coordinator, foreign students and students with disabilities may have up to 8 hours to complete each written exam.

Under normal conditions, students write one exam per week over a period of four weeks.

Ideally, qualifying exams should take place in October (for the fall semester) or mid-February (for the spring semester).

Exams are “in-house,” taken on a computer provided by the department, and closed-book.

Students will have access to the specific questions on the day of the exam. These questions will be available through the department secretary when the office opens. In preparation for the exam, students may discuss with their mentors and examiners a list of potential topics or issues that may appear in the test. Such themes and topics will be congruent with the reading lists.

Upon completion of the written exams, the examiners will convey their assessment as either PASS, CONDITIONAL, or FAIL. The oral defense can only proceed if the student has passed ALL the written exams. Ideally and normally, the oral part of the qualifying examinations should take place within two weeks after the completion of the last written examination. CONDITIONAL signifies that a part or parts of the written examination require a second written examination. FAIL is defined as work at the C level or below. If the student fails a written qualifying examination, a re-examination may be requested, but it must be recommended by the supervisory committee and approved by the Graduate School. Under normal circumstances, at least one semester of additional preparation is considered essential before re-examination. Failure in two qualifying exams, or a second failure in a single, previously-failed qualifying exam area constitutes grounds for dismissal from the program. In that case, if the supervisory committee considers the qualifying exams of sufficient quality for a student at the Master’s level, they will count as the final written and oral examinations for the non-thesis Master’s option and the candidate will receive a terminal MA. In accordance with Graduate School procedures, in case of failure, students have the right to grieve the decision of the committee. The graduate coordinator (or the department chair if the grad coordinator is on the committee) will designate a second, properly qualified reader not in the original committee to assess the examination. The second reader will report his/her assessment in writing to the supervisory committee who will make the final determination on the matter. If the student is not satisfied, then the grievance goes to the college. Again, if the student is not satisfied with the outcome, an appointment with the Ombudsman can be made. S/he will go over the details of the process, talk to the student and the program, and mediate a resolution.

The final component is an oral examination normally taken within two weeks of the last written examination. The oral examination will be based on answers to the written examinations. The entire supervisory committee must attend the oral portion of the examination (student and chair or co-chair must be physically present; all others may attend remotely). Under normal conditions, the oral part of the examination lasts between an hour and a half and two hours. The supervisory committee has the responsibility at this time of deciding whether the student is qualified to continue work toward the Ph.D. degree. A candidate passes the orals if at least 75% of the faculty members present vote “pass.” The committee may ask questions related to the written exams or connected with reading list. The results of the qualifying examination, successful or unsuccessful, must be filed with the Graduate School.

In order to receive distinction in the qualifying examinations, students must receive outstanding in ALL parts of the exams (written and oral). The decision to award distinction must be unanimous. Outstanding designates work at an A level, with the student presenting himself/herself as a full-fledged junior scholar in the field.

Dissertation prospectus

After successfully completing the oral examination, doctoral students must, by the end of the semester following their oral examination, submit a formal dissertation proposal to the faculty chair of their supervisory committee and arrange an open meeting with their supervisory committee and area faculty to discuss the proposal. If the proposal is accepted, the candidate is permitted to complete the project in consultation with the supervisory committee.

Admission to candidacy

Admission to candidacy is awarded to the doctoral student upon successful completion of the qualifying examinations, the dissertation prospectus, and all other course and language requirements, and with the approval of the supervisory committee, the department chair, the college dean, and the Dean of the Graduate School. The approval is based on (1) written and oral qualifying examinations, (2) the academic records of the student, (3) the opinion of the supervisory committee concerning overall fitness for candidacy, and (4) an approved dissertation topic. Once approved for candidacy, the secretary of the Department makes a formal application to the Department and Graduate School for admission to Ph.D. candidacy through GIMS (Graduate Information Management System, the UF Graduate School’s information bank website for keeping, looking up and updating graduate student and faculty records online). It is the responsibility of the student to confirm that all Graduate School deadlines for completion of all requirements are met. Candidacy signals the completion of all requirements except the dissertation and its defense. Through conferring the status of candidacy, the department and Graduate School officially confirm that a student is qualified to conduct the dissertation project she or he has proposed.

The Dissertation and its defense

The final years of the program are devoted to dissertation research and writing. It is crucial at this stage that the student set up a timetable for the completion of the dissertation and maintain regular communication with the supervisory committee chair. The student is expected to present the completed dissertation to the members of the supervisory committee at least four weeks prior to its public oral defense conducted by the supervisory committee. It is the student’s responsibility to obtain information on deadlines and format questions from the Graduate School well in advance of the defense. Note: The Graduate Council requires that doctoral students must complete all of their work within five calendar years after the qualifying examinations or else those examinations must be repeated.

Research Credits

REL 6910: Supervised Research. This is for research projects, especially at the MA level, not for library study exclusively. The supervisor should be a professor who oversees the research.

REL 7979: Advanced Research. This is for pre-qualifying exam research. Students may register for as few as three credits, and up to 9 credits, if this is necessary to maintain their assistantship requirement of taking 9 credits. (Alternatively, if they are taking a three credit course while studying for qualifying exams, they could register for six credits of this course when studying for qualifying exams, and so on.)

REL 7980: Doctoral Research. This is exclusively for students engaged in post-qualifying exam dissertation research. A student can take as many of these up to the maximum in a semester as required by assistantships, fellowships, or other stipends. Many students use these while they are on fellowship and need to fill up hours. Normally students will register for more than three credit hours given the intense time commitment required.

Professional Development Seminar

The Department of Religion views our graduate students as colleagues-in-training. Through a non-credit bi-weekly Professional Development Seminar, we offer an ongoing forum for investigating and receiving guidance about all aspects of professional development.

Teaching, attending conferences, writing a thesis, publishing, getting a job and similar topics are regularly discussed among faculty and students and students are encouraged to present their individual wor