Ph.D. Program

Ph.D. Program

We are a dynamic and interdisciplinary English Department — the best way to learn about us is to explore what we do. Please see:

  • The department’s mission statement (on our home page)
  • Graduate seminar offerings
  • Faculty profiles
  • Recently graduates from our PhD program — this includes dissertation titles and each person’s current position
  • Recent publications by students in our PhD program
  • Graduate Students in English Association

Below you will find general information written for people who want to learn about our program’s structure and our department’s graduate funding.

Note: Our graduate program’s protocols describe requirements and procedures in much more detail: all current students can find the protocols on the department’s ilearn site. The information below is mean to outline the basics.


We offer a PhD in English. We do not offer a terminal M.A. Students pursue slightly different tracks depending on their degree (BA/MA) on admission. See “How to Apply” to learn about applying to our program. That page also describes the spirit of our program, while this page is focused more on the program’s structure.

Graduate Seminars

Students normally take 2 seminars per quarter. Students entering with a B.A. will take a total of 16 seminars. Those who enter with an M.A. will take at least 9 seminars. Students with an M.A. in another field may take additional coursework, as necessary.

All students take English 200 (an introductory seminar) in the fall of their first year.

Graduate students can also take seminars outside the department, and work with faculty outside the department.

Advanced students also take seminars in our 400-series. This sequence of two-hour seminars center on pedagogy, publication and job market preparation. Students are required to take one, and are welcome to take more.

The Quarter System

UCR is on the quarter system: our academic calendar consists of three sessions (Fall, Winter, Spring). Each quarter consists of ten weeks of instruction, followed by one week of exams. The academic year usually starts at the end of September and runs through mid-June with breaks between the quarters.

Advising and Mentoring

Students work in close consultation with faculty in their areas of interest and with the Director of Graduate Studies. Working together, we map out students’ seminar work, fulfillment of the department’s language requirements, examinations, the development and completion of dissertations. We also support the development of work for publication, and professionalization.

In addition to the above, the department assigned each new student an out-of-field faculty advisor to support new students in their transition into our program.

At the end of every academic year, the Director of Graduate Students writes each student a letter marking that student’s progress.

Examinations, Time-to-Degree

Qualifying Exam I is a portfolio-based exam taken by students entering with a BA. This exam is normally taken in the spring of one’s second year. This is the equivalent of an MA exam, taken on the way to getting a Ph.D. The portfolio includes three (rewritten/revised) seminar essays and an introductory essay. This is the basis for a one-hour oral examination with two faculty.

Qualifying Exam II is also a portfolio-based exam. Students prepare this portfolio when all their coursework is completed. This portfolio is centered on an article, a dissertation prospectus, readings lists, and pedagogical materials. This exam culminates in an oral examination with three primary committee members and two additional faculty (including one from outside the department). On passing this exam, the student submits a dissertation prospectus to the designated PhD committee and advances to candidacy. At this point, one becomes eligible for ABD (“all-but-degree”) dissertation fellowships. (See funding for more on this.)

Dissertation Defense, Time-to-Degree

Our department marks the completion of the dissertation with an oral defense. This is a public defense.

The standard/expected time to the Ph.D. degree is 18 quarters (6 years). We work with students to make sure they access TAships and/or fellowship support which carries them through to the completion of their dissertation.


All of our PhD students receive a commitment of five years of financial support, and are eligible to apply for support in their sixth year. Support, here, means tuition and a stipend (fellowship) and (more often) a teaching award (through which one receives a salary and tuition).

PhD students entering with a BA do not teach in their first year. PhD students entering with an MA and with teaching experience may be offered a mix of fellowship and TAship support in their first year.

Students admitted to our program are sometimes, on admission, awarded campus-wide fellowships, such as the Eugene Cota Robles Award, or the Provost’s Award. These awards blend fellowship and TAship support, and may include additional funding.

Students may apply for a range campus-based and UC-system awards, including the Graduate Research Mentoring Fellowship and Dissertation Year Fellowships. For more details on graduate funding at UCR, see this page on our Graduate Division website.

Renewal of support from year to year requires making adequate progress in one’s work (maitaining good standing through a full program of study) and, in the case of TAships, meeting established minimum requirements with regards one’s work in the classroom.

For more information see “Funding Opportunities.”

Teaching as a Graduate Student in English

Our graduate students work as Teaching Assistants (TAs) supporting a wide range of classes in the department (leading sections in large lectures, and collaborating with faculty in smaller courses for majors). Nearly all of our students teach for the University Writing Program at some point during their time at UCR; for many students, this is the mainstay of their TAship support. Students with interests in developing their work in writing instruction have a range of opportunities to do so through mentoring, administrative and leadership positions within UWP.

Students also work at TAs supporting Media and Cultural Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies (usually leading sections for large lectures), and sometimes win competitive TAships from the college.

Graduate student instructors are unionized, and represented by UAW 2685.

Language Requirement

Students are expected to establish proficiency in one language by the time they reach the MA level, and to then either deepen their command with that language or develop proficiency in another before they pass Qualifying Exam II. Instead of working with a second language or acquiring advanced knowledge of the first, students may substitute coursework outside the department in a field related to their interests. More details about our language requirement can be found in the department protocols.

Current students should direct questions to the Director of Graduate Studies, Andrea Denny-Brown, ( and/or the department’s Graduate Student Advisor, Perla Fabelo (

Prospective students are encouraged to reach out to the Director of Graduate Admissions, Susan Zieger (