For all those starting the program in fall 2014 and thereafter. Please see our FAQ page for more information about new doctoral program regulations.
In the fall of 1998, the Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture formally initiated its doctoral program, the first of its kind in North America, after approval by the New York State Board of Regents in September 1998. Doctoral diplomas granted indicate a doctorate in the history of decorative arts, design history, and material culture.
Requirements for the Doctoral Degree
The doctor of philosophy degree is open to full-time and part-time students. It is awarded upon successful completion of these requirements:
For all students:
Reading knowledge of two languages from among French, German, Spanish, and Italian. One of these may, upon successful petition to the faculty, be replaced by another language relevant to the dissertation area. Incoming PhD students are required to take a language exam during the first week of classes in August.
For doctoral students who enter with an MA in the history of the decorative arts, design history, material culture from the BGC:
|Courses (4 electives in the fall)||12 Credits|
|Directed Reading preparation for exams
|Doctoral Dissertation||6 Credits|
(27 credits plus the 48 credits transferred from the BGC MA equals the 75 credits required for the doctoral degree.)
Full-time doctoral students who must complete 27 credits at the BGC take four courses in the fall semester of their first year. By December of the first semester students identify three fields of study in which they will be examined. They prepare for qualifying exams by taking three Directed Reading courses in the spring semester. At the end of the first year, students must take and pass examinations in all three fields. The three exams are written and are held early in exam week of the spring semester. The written exams are followed by an oral exam covering all three areas held later in the same week. By October of the second year, students must have their dissertation proposal approved. Full-time students must complete the dissertation by the end of their fourth year. For an updated guide for satisfying all requirements, consult the Academic Programs Office. All entering students will be issued a new Student Handbook, with the latest revisions, at orientation in fall of 2014.
For doctoral students who enter with MA degrees from other institutions:
Note: Up to 24 credits will be transferred from another MA program, upon successful petition to the faculty. This is the maximum amount accepted from any other outside degree.
|Courses (Including Survey I and II and Approaches)||36 Credits|
|Directed Reading preparation for exams||9 Credits|
|Doctoral Dissertation||6 Credits|
(51 credits plus the 24 credits transferred from an external MA program equals 75 credits required for the doctoral degree.)
Full-time doctoral students who must complete 51 credits at BGC usually take eight courses (four each semester) in their first year, including the two-semester Survey of the Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture (500/501) and Approaches to the Object (502). (Incoming students with an equivalent course may petition the Faculty Committee for a waiver.) In their second year, students take four elective courses in the fall term, and three Directed Readings in preparation for the qualifying exams in the spring. At the end of the second year, students must take and pass examinations in all three fields. The three exams are written and are held early in exam week of spring semester. The written exams are followed by an oral exam covering all three areas held later in the same week. By October of the third year, students must have their dissertation proposal approved. Full-time students must complete the dissertation by the end of their fifth year. For an updated guide for satisfying all requirements, consult the Academic Programs Office. All entering students will be issued a new Student Handbook, with the latest revisions, at orientation in fall of 2014.
PhD Qualifying Examinations
The PhD qualifying examinations cover three fields of study, each examined in writing during exam week of the spring semester of years one or two, as above. In addition, there is one oral exam, held later in exam week that covers all three fields and is chaired by the combined examining committee. The field examinations are intended to ensure that the student has broad knowledge of three distinct areas of study relevant to his or her proposed work. The student may select all three fields from a BGC list of subject areas defined chronologically, geographically, by medium, by theme, or by other concepts determined by the Graduate Committee. Alternatively, the student may choose two fields from the BGC list and a third field from an area of individual interest, subject to review and approval by the Graduate Committee. The selected field must be a clearly defined area of scholarly inquiry, which may be related to the area in which the student’s dissertation topic is likely to be concentrated. The Directed Readings courses serve to define each area, including the bibliographies for the exam. The leader of the Directed Reading for each area, with the consultation of the Director of Doctoral Studies, is responsible for composing, administering, and evaluating the field examinations. The three examinations must all be taken during the designated exam week at the end of the spring semester. Check with Academic Programs for the exact dates each year. Students who do not pass the written portion of an exam may take it one additional time, if approved by the committee and the DDS. A student may not proceed to the oral exam unless all the written sections have been passed. All three examinations must be successfully completed by the end of the first year of full-time doctoral study if the student is an internal candidate for the PhD, or by the end of the second year of full-time study for students coming to the BGC with an MA from another institution.
Once qualifying examinations are passed, all doctoral students follow the same track: all dissertation proposals must be submitted by October following the spring exams. Once the topic is approved, all students (who must be full-time) have two and a half years to research, write, and complete the PhD. The total length of the doctoral program is thus four years for students entering with BGC MAs, and five years for students entering with MAs from elsewhere. For information about leaves of absence, extensions, etc. please consult both the PhD FAQ in this catalogue, and the Student Handbook, which will be available at orientation. Funding for doctoral students is for four years, subject to annual review for satisfactory progress. PhD students are also required to apply for outside funding the year after passing their qualifying exams. For details, consult the student handbook and the doctoral FAQ. We welcome student questions about any or all of these procedures as they go through the admissions process. In addition, more information for doctoral students about grant workshops, writing dissertation proposals, etc. will be available in the fall.
The doctoral dissertation should make a significant and substantial contribution to the understanding of the history of the decorative arts, design history, and material culture. The Bard Graduate Center assists students in seeking financial support for dissertation work, including funds for travel, archival research, and fellowships. The student is responsible for keeping the members of the Dissertation Committee informed of progress and for soliciting advice and guidance as needed.
Master of Philosophy
The Bard Graduate Center awards an MPhil degree to those doctoral students who have completed all course work, language requirements, and qualifying exams, and who have an approved doctoral dissertation proposal on file. The degree certifies that the student has completed all work except the dissertation. It is a degree received en route to the PhD. Students must apply for the MPhil degree in the Academic Programs Office by early March of the year they intend to receive the degree, and they must receive approval from the Director of Doctoral Studies to be cleared for the degree.
The process of selecting a dissertation topic and writing the dissertation proposal has three parts. The student begins the process by meeting with the Director of Doctoral Studies.
* The student nominates a dissertation committee consisting of three individuals, including a dissertation advisor who is a member of the full-time faculty.
* In many cases, the student travels to the site of objects, archives, and other resources needed for the dissertation, in order to determine whether adequate access will be possible. Competitive travel funds designated for feasibility studies of dissertation projects, as well as for research, are available to students who have completed their qualifying examinations. Doctoral students may apply for these funds at the announced time.
* The dissertation proposal must demonstrate that the student is familiar with the relevant literature and existing research, recognizes appropriate methodologies, will contribute to the scholarly discourse on the chosen topic, and will be able to produce the dissertation within a reasonable period of time. The proposal is submitted to the Graduate Committee for discussion. The Graduate Committee makes the final decision on approval of the dissertation proposal.
Presentation and Defense of Dissertation
All three members of the Dissertation Committee must approve the completed doctoral dissertation. The student presents and defends the dissertation orally.
Note: Enrolled doctoral students should consult the BGC Student Handbook for the most recent guidelines for the PhD program and defense procedures. For more specific information about the procedure for a defense, please consult with the Academic Programs Office and the Director of Doctoral Studies. All guidelines listed here are correct as of press time, but the Graduate Committee reserves the right to change a particular regulation as needed. A student should always consult with both the Director of Doctoral Studies and the Academic Programs Office before taking exams or presenting a dissertation proposal or defense.
Back to top
- Letter from the Director
- Letter from the Dean
- Applying to the BGC
- Application Requirements
- BGC Open Houses
- Graduate School Fairs
- Financial Aid
- Tuition + Fees
- Student Housing
- Request More Information
- Virtual Open House
- Degree Programs
- Course Listings
- Academic Calendar
- Forms + Handbook
- Faculty News
- Administrative Staff
- Blog: Learning from Things