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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Submitted by Anonymous on Thu, 02/08/2007 - 1:46pm

My time as a graduate student at the University of Calgary was truly wonderful. I received excellent training in an extremely diverse range of philosophical areas; in my case this included the philosophy of science, ethics, and logic. My professors, and especially my advisor, always encouraged and supported me as a philosopher (and person too). Calgary is close to the Canadian Rockies where I was able to hike, climb, bike, and simply enjoy one of the most beautiful places in the world. My success in philosophy is in large part due to the education and experiences I had while at Calgary. — Jay Odenbaugh, PhD'01, Lewis & Clark College

Admission Requirements

Students applying for admission to the PhD program should have either a BA Honours degree or its equivalent in Philosophy or an MA degree in Philosophy. Generally, the Department admits students with a grade point average of 3.5 or higher on the University of Calgary's 4.0 scale. 

Stages in the Program

When a student first enrolls in the PhD program he or she is registered as a "PhD Student". Upon successful completion of all candidacy requirements, the student's status is changed to that of "PhD Candidate".

Students admitted to the PhD program will follow a course of study approved by his or her supervisor. Each program will be planned individually, taking into consideration the student's as well as his or her scholarly and professional objectives. Normally, within eight months of first registration, a permanent supervisor must be selected by mutual agreement. This supervisor will be responsible for giving academic advice and guidance, for aiding with the administrative aspects of the student's program, and for eventually giving assistance to the student in his or her preparation for PhD Field of Study Examinations (FoS), the Thesis Proposal and Thesis Proposal Oral Examination, and the PhD Thesis.

Within three months of selection of the permanent supervisor, a PhD Supervisory Committee must be selected by mutual agreement and is normally chaired by the permanent supervisor. The Supervisory Committee will consist of the permanent supervisor and two faculty members, either of whom may be from a department other than Philosophy. The Supervisory Committee will be responsible for providing ongoing critical evaluations to the student and for serving as a source of scholarly encouragement.

Course Requirements

Students entering the PhD program after completion of an MA or equivalent degree will normally be required to complete one year of coursework (6 one-term course equivalents) before their field of study examinations, thesis proposal and thesis proposal examination, and thesis work. A student entering directly from an undergraduate honours program will normally be required to complete two years of course work (12 one-term course equivalents) prior to completing other candidacy requirements and writing a thesis. Students are required to maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.6 throughout their coursework.

Logic Requirement

Students are also required to show competence in logic, which may be done by achieving a grade of B or better in Philosophy 379 (Logic II).

Field of Study Examinations

All PhD students must pass written field of study (FoS) examinations prior to the Faculty Candidacy Examination and within 20 months of first registration. PhD Field of Study Examinations (FoS) are admin­istered by the Department of Philosophy. Students must pass three FoS exams. The four major areas from which a student can choose are:

  • metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind;
  • ethics, social and political philosophy;
  • philosophy of language, philosophy of logic;
  • history of philosophy.

A FoS exam can be taken by a 3-hour or 72-hour written exam or by a paper submission. At least one exam must be a written exam. Exams are given four times yearly. Questions are drawn from set bibliographies available both from the Department’s Graduate Office and online at the Department’s website.

PhD FoS exams are intended to test the candidate’s knowledge of, and competence to work in, the main areas of philosophy. Candidates are expected to show an understanding of the central positions and important lines of debate in an area, and to demonstrate general intellectual and philosophical ability at the PhD level. Their submissions should display knowledge of these positions and ability to appraise them critically. In assessing exams and submitted essays, attention will be paid to the centrality of the issues discussed, the accuracy of the accounts given of existing views and arguments, and the philosophical quality of the submission.


Students entering in September should complete the above requirements by February of the second year of their program.

Thesis Proposal and Thesis Proposal Oral Examination

After required coursework and Field of Study exams are completed, PhDs students write a Thesis Proposal. Students must pass a Thesis Proposal Oral Examination.  The Examining Committee is composed of the student's Supervisory Committee plus two others. Thesis proposals must be examined before the end of the 28th month in the program, therefore PhD students are encouraged to begin work on their thesis proposal as early as possible. The thesis proposal must have a well-motivated research question and it should highlight the research’s potential contribution to the philosophical literature. It should formulate the question, situate the question in the philosophical literature, formulate a plan for answering the question, and outline the proposed structure of the dissertation. The length of the Thesis Proposal will depend on the nature of the research; they are normally about 5,000 to 7,500 words (approximately 20 to 30 pages) not including the bibliography. The student should consult with the members of their Supervisory Committee when preparing the Thesis Proposal. The Thesis Proposal must be submitted to all members of the Thesis Proposal examination committee at least two weeks before the examination.

The Thesis

After the student has successfully completed all candidacy requirements, they turn their full attention to preparation of the PhD thesis. The program includes research for a doctoral thesis, culminating in a written thesis and a final oral examination of that thesis. The Examining Committee is composed of the student's Supervisory Committee and at least two others, one of whom must be external to the student's program and the other external to the University.

Graduation Requirements

Students will be deemed eligible to graduate with a doctoral degree in philosophy upon receipt of the following by the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies:

  • a Notice of Completion form from the Graduate Director of Philosophy indicating that all program requirements have been met;
  • successful completion and submission of the written thesis and final oral examination.

Length of Program

PhD students are strongly encouraged to complete all program requirements within four years. All program requirements must be completed within six years from the time of a student's first registration in the program. Students are guaranteed financial support for four years, and normally do not receive departmental financial support for more than five years.


Denise Retzlaff
Graduate Program Administrator
SS 1248

Richard Zach
Graduate Program Director
SS 1248A

> Begin application procedure

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