HMNSS Building

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 Ph.D. program — this includes dissertation titles and each person’s current position
  • Recent publications by students in our Ph.D. 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. Current students may find more detail in the Graduate Protocols, on the Graduate Program in English iLearn site.


We offer a Ph.D. 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

Seminar descriptions covering a range of topics are listed on the website every quarter. To fulfill the course requirements, students entering with a B.A. are required to take 13 seminars; students entering with an M.A. are required to take 9 seminars. A normal course load is taking at least 2 seminars per quarter. Students may take seminars outside of English, and they may work with a select number of outside faculty in their exams and dissertations. Students are encouraged to take additional coursework, as necessary, based on their field of study.

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

Advanced students also take seminars in the 410 series. This sequence of two-hour seminars centers on pedagogy, publication, fellowship applications, and job market preparation. Students are required to take one 410 course and are welcome to take more.

Language Requirement

Students are expected to establish proficiency in one language other than English before they pass Qualifying Exam II. Proficiency is defined in our Graduate Program Protocols and is usually demonstrated through coursework or a written translation exam. If a student’s previous MA program required proficiency in one language, evidence of passing that requirement can be used to fulfill our requirement.

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.

At the end of every academic year, the Director of Graduate Studies sends each student an annual report marking that student’s progress.

Designated Emphasis

Several programs are available to doctoral students interested in undertaking extra coursework and research as a way of adding to their specialized expertise. These require working with a department outside English, and they include the Designated Emphasis in Speculative Fictions and Cultures of Science (SFCS); in Southeast Asian Studies (SEAS); and in Archive, Museum, Manuscript, and Print Studies (AMMP). A full list of Designated Emphasis application forms can be found on the Graduate Division website here.


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., and the student usually applies for their MA degree after passing it. The portfolio includes two 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 over a period of roughly nine to twelve months after all their coursework is completed. This portfolio is centered on an article, a dissertation prospectus, comprehensive readings lists in three fields of expertise, 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 Ph.D. committee and advances to candidacy. At this point, one becomes eligible for ABD (“all-but-degree”) dissertation fellowships. (See Funding, below, for more on this.)

Dissertation Defense, Time-to-Degree

The dissertation is the final piece of doctoral work in our program and generally consists of 4 chapters and an introduction, written over the period of approximately 12-18 months. Our department marks the completion of the dissertation with an oral defense. This is a public presentation and discussion of one’s research with departmental faculty, students, and select outside experts.

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. In their final year, we work closely with advanced students to prepare them for the academic job market.


All of our Ph.D. 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).

Ph.D. students entering with a BA do not teach in their first year. Ph.D. 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 of campus-based and UC-system awards, including the Graduate Research Mentoring Fellowship and Dissertation Year Program Fellowships. For more details on graduate funding at UCR, see the Graduate Division website.

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

For more information see “Funding Opportunities” on the Graduate Division Website.

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. Depending on the departmental budget, advanced students are also often eligible to teach upper-level undergraduate lectures in their fields of expertise.

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

Graduate student instructors are unionized and represented by UAW 2685.