PhD Theatre Studies

The Ph.D. program offers students the opportunity to pursue theatre studies through coursework, comprehensive examination preparations and a doctoral dissertation project. Students are expected to give primary attention to an area of expertise of their choice while training in the broader theoretical, critical, and historical contexts of the field. As a small program, the faculty are particularly interested to work with students whose academic interests relate to their own fields of expertise and/or the broader research strengths and resources of the Dept. Theatre and Film at UBC. All PhD. students will be given the opportunity to develop their academic teaching skills as teaching assistants in UBC’s undergraduate theatre studies classes.

Graduates of the PhD. program have been successful in a range of pursuits following the completion of their degrees. Some have taken up faculty positions at UBC and prestigious institutions elsewhere. Others have had found the program invaluable for enhancing their credentials and finding work as professional dramaturgs, actors, directors, college instructors, secondary school teachers and arts administrators.

Requirements for the Ph.D Degree in Theatre

Residence and Time Limits

  • There is no part-time Ph.D.
  • Candidates will normally be required to spend a minimum of two winter sessions at the University.
    • During this time, candidates will successfully complete their coursework
    • Language requirements exams may be taken off-site, provided the Graduate Committee is satisfied with the rigour of the examiner and the conditions in which the exam is taken
    • Students are strongly encouraged to complete their comprehensive exams within the first two or two and one-half years in the program. They must be completed by the end of the student’s third year.
  • Doctoral candidates must complete their programme within six years after their initial registration. (Under exceptional circumstances, leaves of absence and/or an extension of up to one year may be granted.)
  • All students are required to register in successive year of their candidacy. A student who fails to register as required will forfeit his or her candidacy.

Course Work

  • Students entering the PhD program with first-class MA degrees will normally take a minimum of 18 credits of course work at the 500 level, taken in Theatre, English, or any other Department that offers seminars on drama, theatre, or performance topics, or in topics related to the student’s area of specialization.
    • If the Graduate Committee deems it necessary, incoming graduate students who hold MA degrees in disciplines other than Theatre may be required to take up to 12 additional credits of course work in the field, some potentially at the undergraduate level, as designated by the Graduate Committee.
    • Incoming graduate students may be required to participate in a non-credit series of professionally relevant workshops or colloquia as organized by the Department.
    • Directed Reading Courses: A Directed Reading (Theatre 547) may be taken for either 3 or 6 credits. No more than 6 credits of Theatre 547 can be taken to satisfy the Ph.D. course requirement. Students are strongly encouraged to seek out courses that speak to their interests so that they may benefit from a group learning environment.
  • Student transferring from the MA to the PhD will be asked to take a number of credits determined by the Graduate Committee.
  • Ph.D. programs are planned in consultation with the Graduate Committee Chair. The students’ prior work is assessed in order to ensure respectable coverage of the field.
  • Courses outside the Department: Students are encouraged to take courses in related fields outside the Theatre Department. The Department provides a partial listing of courses potentially of interest to Theatre graduate students just before the Registration period commences. Students should also directly contact Departments of interest about their graduate course offerings (e.g., English, CENES, Classics, Canadian Studies, Anthropology/Sociology, Women’s Studies, etc.). Students interested in Canadian theatre are encouraged to take a course in the drama and/or literature of Francophone Canada in the original language (which would also satisfy one of the language requirements).
    • Students are permitted under the Western Deans’ Agreement to take 6 graduate credits at the universities covered by the Agreement (Alberta, Brandon, Calgary, Lethbridge, Manitoba, Northern British Columbia, Regina, Saskatchewan, Simon Fraser, and Victoria). Students interested in pursuing this option should consult with the Graduate Chair and obtain the necessary forms from Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (FoGS).

Standing

PhD students in Theatre must maintain a minimum average of 80%. Courses taken to satisfy the second-language requirements are excluded from this calculation. No mark below 68% will be credited toward the degree. A student who obtains a grade of less than 68% in an excessive number of courses will normally be required to withdraw. The student will be informed of unsatisfactory academic progress in writing before any action regarding withdrawal is taken. Any mark below 60% is considered a failing mark by Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. The Graduate Committee may recommend that a student who has failed to maintain the requisite average take a further 6 credits to satisfy the degree requirements.

Second Language Requirement

Doctoral candidates must demonstrate reading knowledge of one language (other than English) relevant to their research area and/or in which there exists a significant body of dramatic literature, performance history documents, or criticism. Where appropriate, this language may be a “language of the stage” including musical, choreographic, and gestural notation systems (e.g., Labanotation, American Sign Language). Special cases for examination in other language systems not covered here will be heard and evaluated individually. The language requirements must be fulfilled before submission of the dissertation proposal.

Comprehensive Examinations

Goals:

Comprehensive exams allow the graduate student to synthesize the discipline of Theatre Studies, defining its contours and engaging critically with its chief voices, both historical and contemporary. The comprehensive examination process asks the student to:

  • generate tailored bibliographies that persuasively delineate the field of study in its current state and in its historical development;
  • demonstrate their range of knowledge;
  • demonstrate their ability to deploy that knowledge effectively through argumentation and appropriate and specific documentation and analysis of primary and secondary sources;
  • articulate areas of theatre history, theory, dramatic literature, and theatre arts in an integrated fashion.

Timetable:

Comprehensive examinations will be administered twice yearly: during a 4-week period in September and a second 4-week period in April. All comprehensive exams shall be written during these examination periods and then evaluated collectively upon their completion. Students must notify the Graduate Chair in writing of their intention to take the comprehensive exams and submit their area reading lists by August 1 in the fall semester and by March 1 in the spring semester. These will normally be completed by the end of the second year of residency. Failure to complete the comprehensive exams by the end of the third year of full-time study may result in student dismissal from the program.

  • Stage One: on a day selected by the Graduate Committee within the first week of the Department’s examination period
  • Stage Two / Special fields: Monday and Friday of second exam period week
  • Stage Two / Syllabus: due on Monday of second exam period week
  • Stage Three: on a day selected by the Graduate Committee within the final week of the examination period in which the student sat the first two stages of the comprehensive exam.

Format:

The comprehensive examination will be taken in three stages.

Stage One: a six-hour, on-site comprehensive examination of the major works in Theatre Studies, as determined by a common reading list devised by the Graduate Committee and circulated to Ph.D. students upon their entrance into the program. Students will write on two questions.

Stage Two: Two special fields examinations, which ask the student to demonstrate their specialized knowledge in more tightly defined areas within Theatre Studies. In each field, the candidate should demonstrate a depth and breadth of understanding sufficient for teaching an upper level undergraduate course. These special fields should also help establish some of the background needed to write their Thesis prospectus. However, the fields may not simply duplicate or substantively crossover into the student’s Thesis area. For example, a student whose thesis topic concerned Sharon Pollock could not simply create a list of her plays, critical works and critical works about her. Rather, the student might be expected to work with and develop lists concerned with Canadian theatre practice, 21st century Canadian playwrights and/or theories of representing history on stage. One of the special fields will take the form of a course outline (see specifications below); the other two will be taken on-site in four-hour examinations during the designated Departmental examination periods.

The special fields will be developed by the student, in consultation with the area experts and approval of the Graduate Committee. Each of these fields will have a reading list of 25 books and articles. These fields should exhibit a balance of specialist and generalist knowledge in the field, and a range of methodological inquiry (i.e., ethnography, critical analysis, dramaturgy, teaching, etc.) Example fields could include: popular entertainments with a focus on the 19th and 20th centuries; multi- and mixed-media performance; acting theories and practices; 20th century feminist performance; and the like.

Course Outline: One of the special fields examinations will be in the form of a course outline for a senior undergraduate or graduate level class. It will include: a rationale for the course (2-3 pages); course learning objectives and goals, an introduction to the course that specifies its purpose and intended audience; comments on pedagogical activities and approach; detailed description of assignments and evaluations; an outline of all classes with the themes or problems and assigned readings (full bibliographic details). The syllabus’s total page count should number approximately 15 pages. Please include all of the assigned readings with the syllabus.

Evaluation:
In the third week of the exam period, the candidate’s responses are circulated to the Graduate Committee. Each candidate will be assessed and graded with one of the following terms:

  • Failure
  • Adjourned
  • Pass
  • Pass with distinction

Failures and Adjournment: If the candidate fails one or more of the comprehensive examinations, the candidate will not move forward to viva. The committee will assess whether the student fails, necessitating the student’s immediate withdrawal from the program, or adjourns to re-write all papers. A student may repeat exams no more than once. Failure to pass all comprehensive examinations will result in dismissal from the Theatre program.

N.B. To be admitted to viva, candidates must pass all fields at the same time; candidates may not pass the examination on a field-by-field basis.

Pass/Pass with Distinction: If the candidate passes all examinations, they will be admitted to the viva

Stage Three: Viva
Upon successful completion of the first two stages of the comprehensive exam, the student will sit an oral defence of her/his work. The oral is intended allow the student to expand on their comprehensive examination answers and to give the Graduate Committee a chance to engage specifically with the student’s work as demonstrated in the exams. The Committee may raise questions pertaining to the papers, to the scope of the fields as represented by the reading lists, and to the particular research that the student expects to develop in their Thesis prospectus from this broad beginning.

Procedures: After the oral examination, the student will be asked to sit outside the room while the committee assesses the candidate’s performance. In the case of adjournment, the committee will determine the amount of preparation time available for a second sitting. This period will not go beyond the Department’s next Comprehensive Exam period.

Thesis Prospectus

The Thesis prospectus proposes the direction in which the student expects her/his research to develop by outlining the Thesis’s arguments, features, methods, field, and process of development. As discourse, the Prospectus is closer to the grant application or book proposal than to the research essay. As such it does not make an argument so much as gesture to the argument that will be made and the bases and methods by which it becomes persuasive. This prospectus of 15-20 double-spaced pages, not including bibliography, must be submitted to the Graduate Committee for approval within six months of the successful completion of one’s comprehensive examinations. At this point, you may ask a field expert who does not normally sit on the Graduate Committee to join the Committee as it evaluates your prospectus. The Thesis prospectus should:

  • Survey the literature in the proposed field and define the field through engagement with its major works. This activity lays the groundwork for assessing how your Thesis will expand or revise existing scholarship on the subject.
  • Describe the research project in narrative prose, including the research focus and argument of the proposed Thesis. You should articulate the “why” as well as the “what” of the Thesis by indicating how it will contribute to knowledge and advance the field’s discussion of the questions/objects/problems your Thesis will analyse. Precise conclusions need not be anticipated. However the prospectus should clarify the overall organization of the Thesis as envisaged at this point in terms of its main stages of inquiry and the chief texts/topics to be addressed. When describing the stages of inquiry for the project, you might identify the central research sites (archives, theatres, etc.).
  • Outline each chapter by summarizing its individual arguments and source material/objects of analysis. Each chapter’s argument will be articulated with the overarching argument of the Thesis and its original contribution.
  • Discuss the methodology to be used and outline specific approaches to the analysis of evidence. Provide reasons for the pertinence of your selected approach and articulate the stages of research you anticipate. Research ethics must also be addressed at this time.
  • Annotated Bibliography of twenty major works with which your research engages. You might think of these texts (books and articles, primary and secondary sources) as those that define the field into which your Thesis projects itself and with whom it must engage in order to be persuasive.

The Graduate Committee may accept the proposal, request revisions, or reject it. If the faculty judges the proposal unsatisfactory, after initial revisions, the student may be permitted a second chance to submit a satisfactory proposal. No more than two attempts are allowed.

Upon completion of all of the above requirements, the student is admitted to candidacy. It is expected that a doctoral student will be admitted to candidacy within two years from the date of initial registration. A student who is not admitted to candidacy will be required to withdraw from the program. Extensions may be granted with the permission of the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

Thesis

A thesis is an original and independent research project that makes a contribution to knowledge in an area selected by the candidate.

Timelines

If candidates have not completed the thesis within three years from the date of their dissertation proposal’s acceptance, the Graduate Committee will review their progress. The Committee may recommend that the student meet new requirements that may have been adopted in the interim, or may require the student to take additional courses. The committee might recommend that the student’s candidacy be extended one or two semesters, or that the student’s candidacy be terminated. After three years have passed in candidacy without completing the degree, the candidate will be reviewed annually.

The dissertation committee needs to review the dissertation at least three months prior to the oral defence date, at which point the Thesis Supervisor submits Appointment of External Examiner form to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. A final oral examination date must be set that conforms to the FOGS deadlines. For full information on doctoral examinations deadlines please refer to: http://www.grad.ubc.ca/prospective-students/resources-links/deadlines?=doctoral

At least six weeks prior to the defence date, the candidate submits two copies of the doctoral thesis to FOGS with a departmental memo confirming: Department requirements have been met; student is registered with fees paid; supervisory committee has approved thesis for submission to External Examiner; Department speed chart number. Deadlines apply only when external examiners are confirmed for thesis review. If the External Examiner is not confirmed, the student is not eligible for the deadline.

For full details about the doctoral process timelines, please visit: http://www.grad.ubc.ca/prospective-students/resources-links/deadlines?=doctoral

Committee

Each candidate must select a dissertation supervisor and at least two committee members. The dissertation supervisor should be selected with guidance from the Graduate Chair. Candidates normally work with their supervisor until the dissertation research and writing has reached an advanced stage. Candidates should clarify with each member of their committee when they’d like to engage in the process of reviewing the dissertation writing.

Thesis Preparation

The final form of the thesis should be prepared in accordance with the regulations set down in the brochure entitled Instructions for the Preparation of Graduate Theses available from the Graduate Office of FOGS. Documentation should follow the style sheet recommended by the supervisor. The candidate should submit seven copies of the thesis: two for FOGS (one for the External Examiner, one for the appointed Chair of the Ph.D. oral examination); two for the university examiners, and three for the candidate’s thesis committee members.

External Examiner

A field specialist from outside the University will evaluate the complete thesis. At least three months before the candidate expects to take the formal oral examination, the supervisor forwards to the Graduate Committee the names of three specialists who might serve as external examiner. The Graduate Committee recommends at least two names to the Dean of Graduate Studies, who makes the final choice.

Oral Defence of Ph.D Thesis

A satisfactory oral examination is required for the approval of the dissertation. A request to hold the final oral exam must be formally submitted to FOGS at least six weeks in advance of the proposed exam date. The request indicates the acceptance of the dissertation for the purpose of giving the exam. The committee’s decision to examine a dissertation must be unanimous.

When the thesis has been approved, the candidate will sit the final defence. This is a formal, public examination, chaired by an appointee of the Dean of Graduate Studies and attended by the candidate’s supervisory thesis committee, the external examiner (wherever possible), two University examiners (one from the Theatre, Film and Creative Writing Department and one from another department), and other interested people.

The examination will cover the dissertation and its general field, and such other parts of the student’s program of study as the committee determines. The final oral may be held at any time of the year, provided the thesis committee can be assembled. Please note that FOGS imposes a blackout period for oral examinations during the month of August and mid-December to mid-January. Candidates on extensions expiring August 31 or December 31 must complete their examinations before the applicable blackout period.

If all the examiners are satisfied that the student passed all examinations required by the Department, including the final oral; completed a dissertation that is an independent investigation in the major field, and that constitutes a contribution to knowledge; and submitted for publication in Dissertation Abstracts International an abstract which meets the approval of the committee, then the committee approves the doctoral dissertation and makes an official recommendation to the Graduate School.

Successful completion of the oral exam and the committee’s certification are the final steps in the degree program. In addition to the dissertation copies required by the Graduate School, one copy, unbound, will be submitted to the Department’s Graduate Advisor.

Annual Review

All MA and Ph.D. students shall prepare an annual review of their progress through the degree program at the end of the spring term.

The Annual Review is intended to:

  • Monitor a student’s progress
  • Evaluate that progress
  • Establish an agenda for subsequent work
  • Provide an opportunity for student feedback on the program

Procedures are as follows:

Review Process

  1. Graduate Chair shall circulate a memo to all Theatre Program Masters and Doctoral candidates requesting that they prepare for their annual review. Normally, the annual review will take place at the end of the second term, on a date designated by the Graduate Committee, except in cases where review is necessary before the annual date.
    • Students will prepare for the review. They shall:
    • prepare the necessary statement (see below)
    • meet with the Graduate Advisor to discuss the Review, if necessary
  2. circulate that statement to the Graduate Committee one week in advance of the Review
  3. The Review shall take place, using the categories of the Review statement as an agenda. Upon completion of the Review, the student will be asked to withdraw.
  4. The Graduate Committee members will discuss the Review and charge the Graduate Chair to write a report outlining the points discussed and actions agreed upon.
  5. The report shall be circulated to the student, the Graduate Committee, and the Head of Department, and will be deposited in the student’s program file.

Review Agenda

Any grounds for concern about the student’s work should be explored carefully and constructively. The following specific matters shall be addressed:

  1. Courses Completed or In Progress: Review of course results and performance; firm dates for completion of incompletes; contribution of course work programme to personal intellectual development; courses completed; and programme requirements.
  2. Courses Planned: Rationale for the list of courses planned for the summer and ensuing year(s); programme requirements and necessary training (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, comprehensives, archival or fieldwork plans); and work load.
  3. Thesis: Outline of Thesis research plans; relation of Thesis to a field within theatre studies; potential committee members; feasibility of thesis plans; timetable for proposal/chapters.
  4. Financial Support: Assistantship, fellowship, etc. for summer and following year; special needs for field or archival work; sources of support; and adequacy of support.
  5. Language Requirement: Status report; which language(s); opportunities for study
  6. Oral Defence: Masters students: internal oral defence of Masters Thesis Doctoral students: public defence of Doctoral thesis
  7. Any Other Business (after which student withdraws)

Graduate Funding Opportunities

All domestic and international students who are accepted and registered full-time in our department’s graduate programs (Ph.D., M.F.A., M.A.) will be eligible for financial assistance from teaching assistantships, research assistantships and Graduate Support Initiative (GSI) funding allocated as entrance awards, multi-year funding awards, tuition awards and/or scholarship top-up awards.

Please visit our Graduate Funding Opportunities page for details.

Online Resources

Academic Advisor

If you have any further questions about the Ph.D Degree in Theatre program, please contact the appropriate Academic Advisor for the program.