Columbia     Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures

MEALAC Graduate Student Handbook

Revised Graduate Program Requirements

(Effective December 1, 2006)

The following comprises the major revisions of the MEALAC Graduate program requirements and is effective immediately. Students admitted prior to autumn, 2006, may choose whether or not they are to be covered by these requirements or by those under which they were admitted. If they choose the new requirements, they must notify the department in writing by the beginning of spring term, 2007.

Students are expected to familiarize themselves with the general rules and regulations of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University (see "Publications" at )

1. Course requirements

MA students are required to take a minimum of 24 points of 4000 level and above courses. This includes the required departmental core course (MDES G4000 Theory and Methods in Middle East and Asia).

PhD students are required to take at least five additional MEALAC (or advisor-approved) courses at or above the 4000 level, beyond the completion of the 24 points of coursework required for the MA.

PhD candidates who have completed graduate coursework or earned a Master's Degree from another institution should apply for Advanced Standing in the first term of registration. See the Academic Departmental Administrator for details and the application for Advanced Standing.

MA course requirements are designed to be completed by the end of the first year.

2. Language requirements

MA students are required to demonstrate proficiency in one MEALAC language.

Ph.D. students are required to demonstrate high proficiency in one MEALAC language, proficiency in a second MEALAC language, and reading competence in a third (the supporting language).

"Proficiency" is normally considered to be achieved by a minimum of two years of Columbia coursework through the intermediate level, or the equivalent; "high proficiency" by a minimum of four years or the equivalent. Modifications to this general definition may, however, be made on the recommendation of the senior faculty in the relevant language area. The supporting language requirement is satisfied by passing a Columbia University examination.

3. MA Thesis

All students are required to submit and defend an MA thesis. It is to be approximately 30 to 40 pages in length, and will typically emerge from a seminar paper. An MA thesis course, in the form of an independent study, may be taken with the advisor. The course may count as one of the five necessary for fulfilling the MA requirement. The thesis is to be submitted no later than the twelfth week of the student's third semester. The thesis is defended before two faculty readers before the end of the semester in which it has been submitted. For PhD students, grades are High Pass with permission to continue on to the M.Phil.; Pass with permission to continue on to the M.Phil.; Pass without permission to continue on to M.Phil.; Fail (no degree awarded). For MAO students, grades are High Pass, Pass, Fail.

4. MPhil Oral Examinations

Ph.D. students take three oral examinations. Examination areas are determined by the student in consultation with the three-member M.Phil. committee. Reading lists are prepared by the student and each normally covers about 20-25 books or commensurate number of articles. All three examinations are administered on the same occasion; all together, they typically last two hours. The M.Phil. is awarded once the student has completed six residence units, taken the departmental core course and 10 graded courses with a grade of B or higher, satisfied the language requirements, and passed the three oral examinations. M.Phil. requirements are designed to be completed within three years.

5. Dissertation Proposal

Prior to beginning the dissertation research the student is required to submit a dissertation proposal. The proposal should be approximately 20 pages in length. It should provide a clear statement of the scholarly problem to be addressed; a review of previous scholarship; a discussion of the student's theoretical and methodological orientation to the problem; a provisional outline of the dissertation as a whole; a plan of research, including discussion of the texts and/or archives to be consulted, research sites chosen, and a timetable; and a bibliography of two-three pages.

The proposal is orally defended before the candidate's committee; the proposal defense is open to all MEALAC faculty and students. With the acceptance of the proposal the student becomes ABD, and may commence research. Students must hand in their prospectus to the Academic Departmental Administrator two weeks prior to the defense.

6. The Dissertation

Upon completion of the dissertation, the student defends it before the candidate's five-member committee.

Ph.D. defenses at Columbia are closed.

7. Committees and Advisors/Sponsors

The Director of Graduate Studies is the advisor for all graduate students upon entry. Students choose a sponsor by the end of the first year.

Students choose their committee members in consultation with their sponsor. The sponsor must be a member of MEALAC (faculty with joint appointments in MEALAC may serve as sponsors); the committee members need not have appointments in MEALAC.

Committees of two, three and five members are responsible for MA, M.Phil. and Ph.D. examinations respectively. Rules governing their constitution are set out in the GSAS Handbook.

Students must submit an application for their Masters Thesis/MPhil Oral exam one month prior to scheduling their exam. The applications are available in the "Forms" section of the handbook (section 9 below) and in the Departmental Office.

8. Registration

A student who has finished residence unit requirements and who will not complete a degree requirement during a term may register for Matriculation and Facilities (M&F) which allows the use of the university facilities. Students may register for M&F part-time or full-time.

Exception to this requirement is as follows: Students may deposit a thesis or defend a dissertation while registered for M&F if they were registered for Extended Residence or another residence category the immediately preceding term.

9. Defense Application Form Downloads

MA Application Form; MPhil Defense Application Form; Dissertation Proposal Application Form