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 in decorative arts, design history, and material culture is open to full-time and part-time students. It is awarded upon successful completion of these requirements:
Reading knowledge of two languages from among French, German, or Italian is required. One of these may, by petition and with the approval of 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 students entering the doctoral program who hold an MA in decorative arts from the BGC:
|Qualifying Examinations||no credit|
|Doctoral Dissertation||3 Credits|
Full-time first-year students in the program usually take eight courses (four each semester). In the second year, students identify three fields of study in which they will be examined. By the end of the second year, students must take and pass examinations in all three fields; by the end of the third year, they must have their dissertation proposal accepted. Full-time students must complete the dissertation by the end of their 10th year; part-time students must complete the dissertation by the end of their 12th year.
For students entering the doctoral program who hold MA degrees from other institutions and from other backgrounds:
|Qualifying Examinations||no credit|
|Doctoral Dissertation||3 Credits|
Full-time students who must complete 45 credits usually take eight courses (four each semester) in their first year. In their second year, students take three courses each semester. In the third year, they identify the fields in which they will be examined. By the end of the third year, students should have taken and passed qualifying examinations in three fields; by the end of the fourth year, they must have had their dissertation proposal accepted. Full-time students must complete the dissertation by the end of the 10th year; part-time students by the end of their 12th year. Doctoral students from other fields are required to take the Survey of the Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture in their first year of study.
PhD Qualifying Examinations
The PhD qualifying examinations cover three fields of study and have both oral and written components. The three examinations may be taken at separate times; students who do not pass the written portion of an exam may take it one additional time. A student may not take the oral section of an exam unless the written section has been passed. All three examinations must be successfully completed by the end of the second year of full-time doctoral study if the student has a 27-credit requirement for the degree, or by the end of the third year of full-time study for students with a 45-credit requirement.
The field examinations are intended to ensure that the student has broad knowledge of three distinct areas of study. The student may select three fields from a list of subject areas drawn up by the BGC. Fields are defined chronologically, by geography, by medium, by theme, or by other concepts that the Graduate Committee approves.
Alternatively, the student may choose two fields from the BGC list and a third field from an area of individual interest. This is 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. Once field topics are approved, the student, with the assistance of an adviser, prepares reading lists to serve as the basis for study. The adviser, together with one other faculty member selected by the Graduate Committee (with the assistance of an outside scholar, if necessary), is responsible for composing, administering, and evaluating the field examinations.
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 dissertation should be completed and defended within two years of the approval of the dissertation proposal by the Graduate Committee. 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. The BGC has an annual competetive award for the first year of dissertation research, and for the "writing up" year for those in their final year of dissertation writing.
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 meant to be 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.
1. The student nominates a Dissertation Committee consisting of three individuals, including a dissertation adviser who is a member of the full-time faculty.
2. 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. Travel funds designated for feasibility studies of dissertation projects, as well as for research, may be available to students who have completed their qualifying examinations. Doctoral students may apply for these funds at the announced time.
3. The dissertation proposal must demonstrate that the student is familiar with the relevant literature, recognizes appropriate methods to be followed, is prepared to 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 the 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 faculty reserves the right to change a particular regulation as needed. A student should always consult with both the director of doctoral study 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 a Catalogue
- Graduate Degree Programs
- Course Listings
- Academic Calendar
- Forms + Handbook
- BGC Faculty On the Road
- Administrative Staff
- Blog: Learning from Things