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PhD in Art History

The PhD program involves three semesters of seminar coursework, as well as qualifying exams on four topics and competency tests in two foreign languages. Students then apply for PhD candidacy and begin work on their dissertation. PhD students also have opportunities to gain teaching experience as Teaching Assistants and Assistant Instructors, the latter of whom design and independently lead lower-division courses in Art History.


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Learn more about faculty, students, and alumni in the annual Art History Newsletter.


Coursework Requirements

  • Art History graduate seminars, taken in at least two of the department’s chronological groupings of Western and non-Western Art: Ancient, Medieval to Early Modern, and Modern (15 credit hours)
  • Approved courses outside department: two graduate courses in areas related to the major field and one graduate readings course taken in preparation for the qualifying examination (9)
  • Dissertation Research (3)
  • Dissertation Writing (3–6)

Total: 30–33 hours

Language Requirement

Students in the PhD program are required to have reading/translation competency in at least one contemporary language in addition to English prior to beginning the dissertation. (Language competency is not a requirement of the application process.) The additional language will be relevant to the areas of study and will allow the student to read and understand the scholarship of his/her field. The choice of language is flexible, but must be decided in consultation with one’s advisor.

Dissertation Colloquium

The Dissertation Colloquium, held during the third or fourth term of the student’s residence and after the completion of at least 18 hours of coursework, is a discussion of the proposed dissertation, in which the faculty presents the student with recommendations and permission to proceed. The topics for the Qualifying Examinations are also finalized at the Colloquium, and the Examining Committee is determined.

Qualifying Examinations

Qualifying Examinations are usually taken during the next long semester after presentation of the Dissertation Colloquium. The student will be examined in four areas: at least two broad areas of expertise and one or two focused areas with the possibility of one area being directed by a faculty member outside the department. Three hours are allowed for each exam, and all four exams must be completed within one week. A one-hour oral exam on the same topics will follow. At this time, the examining committee will question the student about the answers on his or her written exams. The student’s performance on these exams will be ranked Pass or Fail. Once this requirement has been completed, the student files for doctoral candidacy, and must enroll in dissertation hours every fall and spring semester until the degree is completed.


The dissertation must make an original contribution to scholarship. It normally requires fieldwork of at least a year’s duration. The Dissertation Committee directs the student during the completion of the dissertation. Following successful completion of the dissertation defense, the Graduate Studies Committee in Art History certifies that all requirements have been met and recommends award of the doctoral degree.

Portfolio Programs

Students may also wish to apply to one of the university’s graduate portfolio programs, an opportunity to obtain credentials in a cross-disciplinary academic area of inquiry while completing the requirements for a master’s or doctoral degree in a particular discipline.


File the FAFSA ASAP!

Graduate students from the U.S. (citizens and permanent residents) are automatically eligible for Federal Plus loans as independent students and must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). However, you should complete the FAFSA even if you don’t intend to take out student loans because doing so may qualify you for need-based funding such as grants and scholarships. Applicants must file the FAFSA by the March 15 priority deadline to be considered for need-based funding.

Applicants should complete the FAFSA as soon as you have submitted your admission application and have filed your federal tax return. You are strongly urged not to wait for notification of admission before filing the FAFSA.

Tuition and Fees

Current tuition and fees for Texas residents and out-of-state and international non-residents may be figured using the Graduate Tuition Calculator.

A limited number of Tuition Waivers are offered to out-of-state and international students that forgive the non-resident portion of tuition.


The faculty’s goal is to support all admitted PhD students with a combination of Teaching Assistantships, Assistant Instructor positions, Graduate Research Assistant positions and scholarship funds so they can earn their degree with as little outside cost as possible. All applicants are considered for financial support; it is not necessary to apply separately for fellowships.

Information about other sources of funding is available from the Graduate School.

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