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DU/Iliff Joint PhD Program in the Study of Religion

Prospective Requirements

Program Requirements

For students who enter the program after fall 2015

These are the common requirements for all students entering the JDP in fall 2015 and later:

Advising & Mentoring

All entering students meet with the program advisor quarterly to help navigate academic requirements. In the first quarter, students also identify a faculty mentor, who may ultimately become their dissertation advisor. Advisors and mentors are there to help, but students are ultimately responsible for knowing and fulfilling the requirements.

90 Quarter Hours of Academic Credit

This normally includes 82 hours of courses and 8 hours of dissertation credits. The academic year is divided into three quarters of 10 to 11 weeks each. Most classes receive 4-5 quarter hours of credit, meaning that they meet that many hours per week in the classroom and at least double that many hours of work is expected out of the classroom. Summer is a separate, optional term.

Within the 90 hours, students take 6 required classes (24 quarter hours):

  • RLGN 4000: Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion
  • RLGN 5010: Lived Religion Colloquium
  • RLGN 5020: Conceptual Approaches to Religion Colloquium
  • RLGN 5030: Text, Image, and Artifact Colloquium
  • RLGN 5000: Pedagogy and the Teaching of Religion
  • RLGN 6000: Dissertation Proposal Seminar

Within the 90 hours, students will choose at least 42 quarter hours of electives:

Students may take any graduate-level course that has an RGLN designator and any other graduate-level course approved for the JDP.  Most relevant courses are listed in the DU Course Catalog under the subjects: 

  • Religion
  • Religious Studies
  • Judaic Studies
  • Philosophy
  • Anthropology
  • Art History
  • Communication
  • Education
  • English
  • International Studies
  • Media, Film & Journalism Studies

For a 3-year sample schedule, click here.

Modern Language

Typically French, German, or Spanish, this language allows the student to read scholarship in the field of religious studies. To complete this requirement, all students take a reading comprehension and translation exam at a level equivalent to two years of college language. Courses taken to meet this requirement will not count toward the 90 credits needed for the PhD degree and are not covered by program-awarded financial aid. The Center for World Languages and Cultures provides independent-learning language software and administers the exam.

Students focusing in biblical studies must acquire additional languages such as Hebrew, Greek, and/or Aramaic, as primary content in their field.

Comprehensive Exams (16 Quarter hours)

Comprehensive exams are taken at the end of the course work. These written exams are designed to test the student’s knowledge of foundational concepts, methods, and bibliographies in religious studies as well as the student’s specific areas of focus. There are four exams, each administered within the context of a four-credit comprehensive review class.  Together, the exams comprise a major component of the program. Passing them will be recognized as a milestone in working toward the degree. One retake is allowed per exam and failure the second time on any exam means automatic termination from the program.

Advancement to Candidacy

Advancement to candidacy occurs after completion of course work, all comprehensive exams, all required languages, and successful public defense of the dissertation proposal.

Dissertation (8 Quarter Hours)

Normally researched and written within 2-5 years after advancement to candidacy under the guidance of the chosen dissertation advisor and committee. Upon completion of comprehensive exams and the dissertation proposal class in the third year, students begin registering for at least one dissertation credit per quarter until they have taken the required 8 credits to complete the 90-credit minimum for the degree.  If additional time is needed to write the dissertation, students will register for one additional dissertation credit each fall quarter until it is completed. An oral defense of the dissertation occurs no less than 3 weeks before graduation.

Residency and Time Limits

The JDP is a residential program. Although a few courses are offered online, this is not a distance learning program and all students must be in residence until advancement to candidacy. Full-time status requires enrollment in at least eight credit hours per quarter, and the completion of course work, including comprehensive exams and the dissertation proposal, within 3 years. The dissertation may take from 2 to 4 years. All students have a 7-year time limit from the start of course work. Extensions beyond this may not exceed 10 years.