The PhD program is a five-year curriculum that comprises a language requirement and three basic components: coursework, a Comprehensive Examination, and a dissertation.

The PhD program in English at the University of Colorado Boulder has suspended admissions for Fall 2021, for this year only.  We will resume admissions next year for Fall 2022.  We’ve decided to take this pause in order to support our current PhD students to the best of our abilities during challenging times. We will continue to admit students to our MA and MFA programs. Applicants who have either begun or submitted applications will be contacted directly.

PhD students receive five years of funding to complete the curriculum. In years one and five, students hold a Research Assistantship (RA) appointment which does not require any teaching. In years two through four, students hold a Graduate Part-Time Instructor (GPTI) appointment and teach undergraduate English literature courses each Fall and Spring semester. In year two, GPTIs teach one section of an undergraduate literature course in each semester. In years three and four GPTIs teach two sections of an undergraduate course in each semester. Both the RA and the GPTI appointments provide a monthly stipend, full tuition remission, and a 90% contribution toward the premium cost of the Student Gold Health Insurance Plan. A summer stipend is also provided every summer for four consecutive summers following the completion of the first year.

Years 1 & 2

Coursework prepares PhD students to write a successful dissertation and to teach effectively in their area of specialty. You should enroll in graduate seminars serving those ends in English or related fields. The sole requirement for coursework for the PhD is that students take a minimum of 30 credits of graduate study. All courses must be at the 5000 level or above. As a PhD student, you should plan your coursework in close consultation with your Dissertation Director or the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies. The first and second years in the PhD program are usually dedicated to coursework.

Students with a Master's degree can transfer up to 15 credit hours of coursework from their Master's toward the 30 credit hours required for the PhD. Please direct questons about transfer credits to the Graduate Program Assistant.

Year 3: Comprehensive Examination

The Comprehensive Examination is a two-hour oral exam. The exam will be conducted by your Director and the rest of your Examining Committee. You will be tested on the Reading Lists and the dissertation Prospectus. Typically, one hour of the exam is devoted to the Prospectus and one to the reading lists. The order will be decided by your Examining Committee prior to the exam.

For additional inforamtion about the Comprehensive Exam, please see the English Department Graduate Student Handbook.

Years 4 & 5: Dissertation

The dissertation, which should be work of professionally viable scholarship, will typically take the form of a monograph. It is a work of original scholarship that makes a significant contribution to a given field and may contain such elements as practice-based research, curatorial or Internet exhibition, fieldwork, etc. The dissertation is written in close consultation with your Director and Dissertation Committee.

For additional information about the Dissertation, please see the English Department Graduate Student Handbook.

Students earning the PhD in Literature must complete a foreign language requirement demonstrating proficiency in one foreign language. There are three ways in which they may meet this requirement:

  1. by taking a language proficiency exam in the language of their choice,
  2. by taking two semesters of a 2000-level language course for credit and completing it with a grade of B or better. In the second instance, courses would be in excess of the thirty hours required for the degree. Summer language intensive programs at other universities can be substituted for the 2000-level course with the approval of the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies,
  3. by transferring two language courses taken at another college or university. In order to qualify, the courses (i) must have been taken within the last three years, (ii) must be equivalent to a 2000-level language course at the University of Colorado Boulder, and (iii) must have been passed with a grade of B or better.                         

For additional information about satisfying the language requirement, see the English Department Graduate Student Handbook.

For additional information about the language exam, see the FAQ for the Language Proficiency Exam.

PhD students are expected to complete all degree requirements within five years from the semester in which they are admitted and begin coursework in the doctoral program. The Graduate School allows for up to six years of study for the completion of doctoral degrees. To continue beyond six years, the student must file a petition for an extension of the time limit with the Dean of the Graduate School. The Dissertation Director and the English Department Associate Chair for Graduate Studies must endorse such petitions. Extensions may be granted for up to one year. For additional time, you must file another petition for extension. Please note that there is no guarantee of department funding after the fifth year.