Curriculum and Degree Information

The Ph.D. Program in English offers a large number of seminars each semester in both established and emerging fields of study. The diversity of the CUNY-wide doctoral consortium allows for a wide range of expertise amongst faculty members in the English program. The program, which enrolls approximately 20 new students each year, also provides opportunities for professional development, including workshops, seminars, mock interviews, and lectures; and has set forth Professional Development and Ethics Learning Goals. See sample paths to degree.

The English Program is headed by an Executive Officer, two Deputy EOs, and a Student Progress Officer. The Assistant Program Officer (APO) runs the Program office and is the academic program coordinator.

Students in the English Program complete the following requirements in earning their doctoral degrees:

  • 60 credits of course work (with grades of B or better), no more than 25 of which may be transferred from another graduate institution
  • Completion of ENGL 70000 Introduction to Doctoral Study in English  (prior to Fall 2013, ENGL 79500 Theory & Practice of Literary Scholarship) with a grade of B or better
  • Evidence of a reading knowledge of two languages other than English
  • The First ("Comprehensive") Exam
  • The Second ("Orals") Examination
  • A dissertation prospectus, acceptable to an officially constituted faculty review committee and formally approved by the English Program
  • A dissertation, acceptable to an officially constituted faculty review committee and so certified by them after a successful defense


The First ("Comprehensive") Examination is taken by all students before the beginning of the second year of study in the Program.  This Exam tests student reading skills, as well as the extent and particularity of students' knowledge about the range of literature and criticism in English.

The Second ("Orals") Examination Students requires students to demonstrate their powers of discernment, analysis, and eloquence in three fields, administered by a committee of three professors.

More information about Exams and tips on how to prepare for it is available under Resources.

Language Requirements

Students must demonstrate language reading proficiency in two languages besides English in any of four ways.

  1. Students may take and pass one of the English Program's regularly administered examinations in French, German, Ancient Greek, Italian, Classical Latin, Medieval Latin, and Spanish.
  2. Students may enroll in the Graduate Center Language Reading Program (LRP), taking an intensive reading course - either Level One or Two - and earning a course grade of a B or better. There is a separate tuition fee for the LRP.
  3. Students may demonstrate that they have passed a foreign language reading requirement in another graduate program within five years of matriculating in the English Program;  appropriate documentation - such as a transcript - must be presented to the Assistant Program Officer (APO).
  4. For one of the foreign languages, students may demonstrate proficiency in a specialized language or symbol system, the study of which would be outside the usual parameters of English literary scholarship. Examples of such a language might include coding, musicology, or neuroscientific discourse.

Stages of Degree

Tuition charges are based on a student's level of study within the Program.

  • Level I students have completed fewer than 45 credits of graduate work, including approved transfer credits.
  • Level II students have completed at least 45 credits and have passed the Comprehensive Examination but have not yet advanced to candidacy. Level II students may work toward an en route Master's Degree.
  • Level III students have passed the Comprehensive Examination, completed  the required 60 credits of course work (including English 79500 or 70000), passed the Oral Examination, and met the language requirement. This constitutes "Advancement to Candidacy," which can occur only in a semester during which a student is registered, and requires the student to provide the APO with a tentative title of the dissertation, expected date of completion, supervisor's name, and tentative committee. Certificate programs must be completed prior to becoming a level III student. Level III students may apply for an M.Phill degree.

Satisfactory Progress

The English Program takes very seriously each student's steady movement toward the doctorate. One member of the Program's administrative team is the Student Progress Officer, who pays close attention to the following impediments to a successful completion of the degree:

  • Failure to pass the First ("Comprehensive") Examination after the first year of study in the Program and before the completion of 45 credits of coursework (including transfer credits);
  • Failure to maintain a B average in coursework;
  • Failure to pass the Second ("Orals") Examination within one year after completing all course work and before the end of 10 semesters of matriculation;
  • Accumulation of three or more grades of incomplete ("INC") or two grades of no record of progress ("NRP"); and
  • Exceeding the established time limits for completing the Ph.D. (eight years from the time of first registration for students who enter with a baccalaureate degree alone, or seven years from the time of first registration for students who matriculate after completing a master's degree).

Working with the student and appropriate graduate faculty members, the Student Progress Officer attempts to establish reasonable time limits for the individual to move through the Program.

The Graduate Center makes every effort to provide financial support for its students. All of our students are afforded the opportunity to be considered for Graduate Center fellowships and/or to apply for sufficient aid to finance their graduate education. This may involve a combination of support that is provided directly from the Graduate Center's financial resources, from federal aid programs, and from additional sources.

For more information visit the Financial Assistance Page.

Certificate Programs

In addition to fulfilling the requirements of the English program, students can choose to complete a Certificate Program. The Graduate Center’s Interdisciplinary Certificate Programs include: Africana Studies, American Studies, Demography, Film Studies, Interactive Technology and Pedagogy, Medieval Studies, Renaissance Studies, and Women’s Studies.  Students who fulfill the requirements of a certificate program have this noted on their transcripts when they graduate.

Visit the Graduate Center Interdisciplinary Certificate Programs page for more information.