Painting Study

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Art History

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The Doctor of Philosophy program in art history requires a minimum of 72 s.h. of graduate credit. Ph.D. students are expected to acquire great breadth and depth of knowledge in the discipline of art history, achieve a high level of expertise in a specialized field, and demonstrate professional speaking and writing skills. The program provides them with scholarly challenges, research skills, and mentoring necessary for professional development and successful careers.

Ph.D. students must maintain a g.p.a. of at least 3.50. They may count a maximum of 38 s.h. of work completed for the M.A. toward the Ph.D. Students are allowed only one semester of academic probation.

To establish academic residency, doctoral students must be enrolled full-time (at least 9 s.h.) at The University of Iowa for two semesters beyond their first 24 s.h. of graduate study; or they must enroll for at least 6 s.h. in each of three semesters during which they hold an assistantship of one-quarter-time or more. Resident tuition is assessed for assistantship semesters and adjacent summer sessions.

Ph.D. students major in one of the following distribution fields: Asian, Ancient Mediterranean, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque, 18th- and 19th-century European, American, and Modern/Contemporary. In addition, candidates minor in two fields; any of the above plus African.  One minor must be in an art history distribution field that is non-contiguous with the major field.  The second minor amy be in any art history distribution field, OR it may be in a relevant discipline outside the Division of Art History, subject to approval of the Art History faculty.

Ph.D. students must complete a publishable dissertation that makes an original contribution to the art history discipline and demonstrates evidence of superior understanding of critical issues in the student's chosen specialization field.

For more detailed information, consult the Art History Graduate Bulletin.

Overview: University of Iowa Graduate Program in Art History


Applications to the Ph.D. program in art history, with all supporting materials and requests for financial aid, must be received by December 15 for fall admission in the following year.  Please see Apply Now link for complete application information. Applicants must hold an M.A. in art history or a related graduate degree and must be able to demonstrate proficiency in French or German. Proficiency in a second non-English language relevant to the student's research area is required by the end of the third semester of Ph.D. work; see "Language Requirement" below.

Although exceptions may be made when other components of the application are strong, applicants should have a graduate g.p.a. of at least 3.50 on a 4.00 scale.

Students who completed an M.A. at The University of Iowa and who wish to apply for entrance into the Ph.D. program must make a formal application to the program.  (Please see Graduate Program Coordinator for procedures.)  Applications are evaluated in the context of the entire applicant pool.

Required Courses

Ph.D. students must satisfactorily complete ARTH:4999 History and Methods, even if they have completed a similar course at another institution (students who have completed the course for a master's degree or other previous work at Iowa are exempt). They must register for an art history seminar in their first three semesters of Ph.D. course work (or in their fifth, sixth, and seventh semesters of graduate study), before the Ph.D. readings course and comprehensive exam. They also must satisfactorily complete ARTH:6020 Art History Colloquium every semester that they are enrolled for 9 s.h. or more or are serving as teaching or research assistants.  Students who are not employed as teaching or research assistants or are registered for less than 9 s.h. are strongly encouraged to attend the colloquium.

Up to 6 s.h. of credit for dissertation research may be applied toward the 72 s.h. required for the degree. Courses outside the curriculum of the School of Art & Art History's art history division do not carry art history credit.

Directed Studies

Normally, a maximum of 6 s.h. earned in ARTH:6040 Directed Studies may be applied toward the semester-hour requirement for the Ph.D., although doctoral students may petition the art history faculty for permission to apply up to 9 s.h.

Language Requirement

Ph.D. students must demonstrate proficiency in French or German for admission to the Ph.D. program in art history. They must demonstrate proficiency in a second non-English language, generally one relevant to the chosen area of research, by the end of the third semester in the PhD program. Students may demonstrate proficiency by a) two years of university-level coursework, b) earning a grade of B or better in a 3000-level advanced language course, c) achieving at least an 80% proficiency score on the level 5 milestone of the relevant Rosetta Stone language program, or d) in exceptional circumstances, making a direct petition to the faculty after receiving the recommendation of their advisor. Language courses do not carry degree credit.

Ph.D. Committee

The Ph.D. committee consists of the student's dissertation adviser, who is responsible for the major field, two members responsible for the two minor fields, and at least two additional members. Of these five, four must be tenured or tenure-track faculty members from the art history division. One must be from outside the division and must be a member of the Graduate College faculty. When appropriate, committees may include additional members.

Comprehensive Examination

Upon completion of course requirements, the Ph.D. candidate takes three written comprehensive examinations. The major exam consists of six questions and lasts six hours; the two minor exams each consist of three questions and last three hours. The exams normally are taken on any three days within one week (Monday through Friday).

The scope of the comprehensive exams is determined in consultation with the candidate's degree committee supervisor and the committee members responsible for the two minor fields.

Oral Comprehensive Examination

Within approximately two weeks of completing the three written exams, the candidate meets with his or her degree committee for the oral comprehensive examination, which concentrates on questions that arise from the written comprehensive exams.

Dissertation Proposal

As soon as possible after completing the comprehensive examinations, the candidate submits a dissertation proposal to his or her degree committee supervisor and subsequently to the degree committee. The committee meets as a group with the candidate to discuss the dissertation proposal and to offer comments and suggestions. (The proposal must be submitted to the committee at least two weeks before the approval meeting.) The proposal includes a 1-2 page abstract, a 10-15 page précis (including a review of the state of the field), and a bibliography.

After the proposal has been approved by the committee, the candidate circulates an abstract to the entire art history faculty. The candidate must give a public presentation on the dissertation topic no later than the end of the semester following the degree committee's approval. The presentation is scheduled with the head of art history.

Final Examination

Upon completing a dissertation, which constitutes an original scholarly contribution to the field, the candidate meets with the Ph.D. committee for an oral defense of the dissertation. The oral defense constitutes the final examination for the Ph.D. The successful completion of this examination normally marks the last stage in the candidate's fulfillment of requirements for the degree.