Theatre PhD Degrees

  1. MA (earned as part of the PhD degree): Students who successfully complete the first-year requirements receive an MA in Theatre. (Note that Columbia does not offer a freestanding MA in Theatre: only students admitted to the Theatre PhD program are eligible for an MA in Theatre and Performance.)
  2. MPhil (earned as part of the PhD degree): Students who successfully complete the first three years of the program and pass their oral examinations receive an MPhil in Theatre and Performance Studies.
  3. PhD: Students receive a PhD upon successful completion of all of the requirements and successful defense of the doctoral dissertation.

GSAS Residence Unit Requirements

Columbia GSAS requires a full-time student to register for a full Residence Unit, Extended Residence, or Matriculation and Facilities each semester, whether or not the student is taking courses. Students in PhD programs may not register part-time. Two Residence Units are required for the MA earned as part of a PhD degree; four additional Residence Units, for a total of six overall, are required for conferral of the MPhil and PhD degrees. For further information, see the GSAS Student Guide

Theatre PhD Degree Requirements

Requirements for the PhD in Theatre are as follows. If in doubt about requirements, please consult one of the Theatre PhD Co-Chairs. (Note that while Theatre PhD students are on the same “clock” as English PhD students, their requirements diverge from those of English Department students in certain important respects. Nevertheless, students should also consult the English Department requirements, as these requirements describe the year-by year timetable in useful detail.)

First and Second Years


  1. Course load/points: Theatre PhD students must successfully pass four courses per semester in both years of coursework. Students must earn a minimum of 12 points per semester, though they usually earn more. (Note that GSAS charges tuition if students enroll in courses that add up to more than 20 points per semester.)
  2. Advising: Each semester, students discuss their intended programs with their advisors. The advisor signs the student’s Registration Worksheet, indicating approval of the final program. Students should speak to their advisors to discuss any potential issues (for instance, whether a course fulfills a given requirement, how to manage points, possible exceptions to the above distribution, etc).
  3. Required courses:
    1. First Year: ENGL GR5001 MA Seminar (fall); ENTA GR6005 MA Essay Tutorial (spring)
    2. Second Year: ENGL GR6913 Teaching of Writing (spring)
  4. Course selection requirements: Students may take courses in any department. There are no period or other “distribution” requirements. However, there are several content-neutral requirements. (Note that some courses will fulfill more than one of the requirements listed below.)
    1. First and second years:
      1. Graduate seminars: At least two courses per semester should be graduate seminars on academic topics (equivalent to 6000-levels in the English Department). The MA Seminar counts as a graduate seminar. Courses that do not count as graduate seminars include the following: lectures, mixed graduate-undergraduate seminars, ENTA GR6005 MA Essay Tutorial, practice courses such as playwriting, ENGL GR6910 Teaching Tutorial, and ENTA GR8999 Independent Study.
      2. Seminar-length papers: In two courses per semester, students should write seminar-length papers (a minimum of 20pp) on a topic related to drama, theatre, or performance. These courses need not be graduate seminars. Students should consult with their advisors in the first week of the semester to select the two courses in which they expect to write these papers (and discuss any change in plans with their advisors). Note that we strongly encourage students to take courses from Theatre doctoral program faculty and write seminar-length papers in those courses.
      3. Drama, theatre, or performance: At least two of these per semester should deal directly with the study of drama, theatre, or performance. (Students with little background in drama, theatre, or performance may be required to take specific courses.)
      4. Performance practice courses: No more than two courses per year may be performance practice courses (i.e. directing, playwriting, acting, etc).
      5. Grading: All courses must be graded except ENGL GR6910 Teaching Tutorial and ENGL GR6913 Teaching of Writing.
    1. Second year only
      1. Consortium: In the second year, students may take up to two courses offered through the consortium (two maximum per year. Note that Inter-university rules do not allow first-year students to take courses in the Consortium.)
      2. TA-ing: In the second year, students are required to TA for at least one course, and may TA for two courses (one per semester). Theatre students TA for one or sometimes two courses in the Department of Theatre at Barnard College, which delivers the undergraduate Theatre major to all Barnard and Columbia Students.
        1. ENGL GR6910 Teaching Tutorial:
        2. If a student leads a required weekly section of at least 10 students, the student may sign up for ENGL GR6910 Teaching Tutorial, for which the student will receive R credit. Students must take attendance and write a report at the end of the semester. Students may do this only once. (See the English Department website for details).
        3. ENTA GR8999 Independent Study: In consultation with the professor, students may instead enroll in ENTA GR8999 Independent Study. This is a graded option, in which students attend the lectures and serve as TA (for instance, grading papers), but also produce written work, in consultation with the professor. This written work may be a) one of the seminar-length papers; or b) shorter assignments of the kind students normally produce for 4000-level courses. Students who wish to write a seminar-length paper for a course for which they are TA-ing should enroll in ENTA GR8999, regardless of whether they are also leading sections.
        4. Not-for-credit TA-ing
        5. Note: Students who wish to TA without leading sections or fulfilling writing requirements may do so without enrolling in either ENGL GR6910 or GR8999. They must then enroll in four additional courses.
      3. Language courses: The required four courses per semester do not include language courses. Any students interested in taking a language class should discuss it with their advisor.
      4. Transfer credit: The Theatre PhD Program does not grant transfer credit (except under very exceptional circumstances).

Language requirement

Students must demonstrate reading proficiency in two languages other than English relevant to their scholarly work. Early in the first year, students should discuss with their advisors how they plan to fulfill the language requirement.

  1. First language: By the end of the first year, students must demonstrate reading proficiency in one language (other than English) relevant to their scholarly work.
  2. Second language: Before scheduling oral exams, students must demonstrate proficiency in an additional language (other than English) relevant to their scholarly work.
  3. Demonstration of proficiency Students may demonstrate proficiency in one of three ways:
    1. by passing a language proficiency exam;
    2. by taking a language course while enrolled in a Columbia graduate program (Intermediate II level or higher) and earning at least a B+ in the course;
    3. by showing that they have received a degree (B.A., MA, or equivalent) from a university in which instruction is in the relevant language.
    4. For further details, see the English Department website.

Theatre Colloquium

In addition to fulfilling the requirements listed above, all students in the Theatre PhD program are required to participate in the year-long, non-credit, monthly Theatre Colloquium, in which Theatre faculty and students convene to discuss work-in-progress and professional concerns.

Orals list preparation

  1. Preparatory discussions: In the second semester of the second year, students should begin discussing potential orals fields and examiners with one of the Co-Chairs. Using these discussions as a general framework, students should then approach potential individual examiners, who will help them formulate field topics more precisely and begin to shape their lists.
  2. Submitting lists: Students must submit tentative orals lists to a Co-Chair and all four examiners for approval in May of the second year. (See English Department website for the precise date. Note that some students may be asked to revise and resubmit for approval before the end of the semester.) This submission must include:
    1. statement: a statement of the overall logic of the three fields and their relationship to the student’s scholarly interests (1-2 paragraphs);
    2. three lists: a major list (for a one-hour exam with two examiners); and two minor lists (for half-hour exams, each with one examiner). Each list should have:
      1. a core list of texts and/or media;
      2. a short rationale (1-3 paragraphs, inevitably tentative, suggesting a questions for exploration and advancing hypotheses rather than conclusions;
      3. and a short secondary bibliography.
  3. Suggestions for formulating fields / lists:
    1. Work in theatre and performance is interdisciplinary, and often draws on multiple academic and artistic disciplines. Students are strongly encouraged to consider the nature of the field today, in which a range of objects (drama, theatre, performance), periods, and critical orientations are assumed to be within the teaching purview of a successful candidate for a position.
    2. Students should conceive of each field as a possible teaching field, reflecting areas in which they expect to teach, and representing the range of a student’s potential teaching interests. Some fields might be more theoretical, some more textual, some more concerned with contemporary performance or performance history. Some may be as broad as “Modern Drama”; others might reflect more specific field interests.
    3. In the course of exam preparation, students generally begin to formulate a dissertation topic. While fields often bear on and illuminate dissertation topics, none should be as narrow as a dissertation topic.
    4. For sample Theatre Program orals lists, see the English Department graduate administrator.

Third Year/MPhil Degree

Teaching University Writing

All students teach sections of University Writing in the third and fourth years. See English Department website for details.

Orals preparation and exam:

  1. Note that before proceeding to orals and candidacy for MPhil degree, students must first successfully complete all course and language requirements.
  2. Submissions of final lists: Students must submit final orals lists to the Co-Chairs and all four examiners for approval in September of the third year. (See English English Department website for precise date.) Note that students may be asked to revise and resubmit for approval.
  3. Meeting with examiners:
    1. Students meet with each examiner at least twice, often more, over the course of the year.
    2. We recommend that students prepare a short piece of writing for each meeting (examiners may specify its nature).
    3. While examiners offer guidance and assess progress, students are expected to work largely independently.
  4. Setting the date:
    1. The exam is normally taken in March or April. Students are responsible for setting the date for the exam (in consultation with their examiners), and communicating this date to all concerned, including the graduate administrator.
    2. The examiners communicate with one another prior to the exam, considering strengths and/or areas of concern. In rare cases, examiners will decide that a student should postpone or not proceed to orals.
  5. The exam: The exam is two hours long:
    1. c.55 min for the major field;
    2. c.25 min for each of the minor fields;
    3. c. and c.15 min for discussion of results and the student’s future plans.
  6. Exam outcomes: There are three possible exam outcomes:
    1. pass: student passes and continues to dissertation (the outcome of most exams).
    2. low pass: student receives a low pass, and while the student will not continue to a dissertation, the student will receive the MPhil for having successfully completed the requirements of our demanding program.
    3. fail: student fails the exam and is not granted the MPhil; retake is not normally permitted. In very rare circumstances, and only with a unanimous recommendation, the committee may authorize the student to retake the exam (with the same faculty covering the same fields). The student must retake the exam by the end of the following semester and only one retake is allowed.

Dissertation preparation / pre-prospectus

  1. Successful completion of all MPhil requirements (including the oral examination) and approval by the Co-Chairs are conditions of entry into the PhD program.
  2. Formulating a dissertation topic:
    1. Preparatory discussions: Students who successfully pass the oral exam should begin discussing their dissertation topic with potential dissertation advisors and refining their topic.
    2. Selecting advisors: Students should invite three faculty members to serve as advisors. Members of the committee may be drawn from the Theatre faculty or from the graduate faculty at large, and may include a member of the Consortium faculty. The faculty member who serves as “sponsor” must be eligible to direct dissertations in the doctoral program in Theatre.
    3. Pre-prospectus: Within four weeks of passing the orals, the student must submit to the Co-Chairs and potential dissertation advisers a short (2-4pp) pre-prospectus, describing the prospective dissertation topic and its rationale. Advisers will confer, offering suggestions for reformulation, clarification, etc. Advisers may ask for several versions of the pre-prospectus before suggesting that a student moves on to the prospectus.

Fourth to Sixth Year/PhD Degree


  1. Dissertation fellowship year: All students in good standing are granted a year-long fully-funded dissertation fellowship with no teaching obligations after the fourth year. Most students opt to take this in the fifth year, though some take it in the sixth year.
  2. University Writing: Students generally teach University Writing in the fourth and sixth years. However, there are several alternatives.
  3. Teaching Scholars Program: Students who have completed the MPhil requirements are eligible for Teaching Scholars fellowships. Fellowships are competitive. Those selected teach an undergraduate seminar (generally in the English Department but cross-listed with the Barnard-Columbia Theatre Department) instead of University Writing. For more information, see the Teaching Scholars website.
  4. Teaching in the Core Students who have completed the MPhil requirements are eligible for Core Preceptorships. Preceptorships are competitive. Those selected teach either Literature Humanities or Contemporary Civilizations instead of University Writing. For more information, see the Core Preceptorship website.


  1. Prospectus: Within six months of passing the oral examination, students are required to submit a dissertation prospectus. In the course of developing the prospectus, students should discuss it with the members of the committee.
    1. Prospectus contents:
      1. The prospectus is typically 15-20pp. in length. It should include:
        1. a sustained discussion of the scholarly context from which the dissertation emerges, the issues it will explore, its potential significance, and its methodology;
        2. a description of projected chapters;
        3. a working bibliography.
  2. Prospectus approval:
    1. Students should submit the prospectus to the entire committee, and arrange a date for discussion of the prospectus. Committee members often ask for a revision before final approval.
    2. The prospectus must be approved by the three members of the committee and the Theatre PhD Co-Chairs.
  3. Chapter submission and meetings:
    1. Students must follow the timetable for chapter submission to continue to be eligible for their fellowships. For details, see the English Department website.
    2. Students submit each completed chapter to the committee, and arrange a chapter meeting in which the whole committee participates (generally about a month after the submission of each chapter). Note that committee members often ask for chapter revisions.
  4. Theatre Colloquium:
    1. Students are required to continue to attend the Theatre Colloquium, and are strongly encouraged to present their chapters at the Colloquium.
  5. Dissertation defense: To earn the PhD degree, students must defend and deposit a dissertation in accordance with GSAS regulations.
    1. Defense date: Students are generally defend their dissertations at the end of the sixth year (or during the summer that follows).
    2. Committee composition Students put together a 5-member defense committee, in consultation with the dissertation committee. The committee consists of the three advisors and two additional scholars (from Columbia or area universities). At least three members of the defense committee must be Columbia Theatre PhD faculty members. At least one member of the defense committee must be someone not on the Columbia Theatre PhD faculty.
    3. GSAS regulations For further details, see the GSAS Student Guide.

Funding/Financial Aid

The program provides full funding (which include the prevailing stipend and appropriate tuition and health fees) to all MA, MPhil, and PhD students. Support is renewed annually as long as satisfactory progress is maintained, through the sixth year. Students complete an annual progress report which is reviewed by the Committee on Guidance and Evaluation. Teaching is considered an important part of graduate training, and so financial support normally includes teaching in the third, fourth, and fifth (or sixth) year. A dissertation fellowship free of teaching obligations is available to qualified students in the fifth or sixth year of study. All students are, additionally, required to seek external fellowships.