PhD Program

Graduate Handbook


Concentrations at the doctoral level are available in the fields of:

For more information about the Middle Eastern Studies program at The University of Arizona, please contact us by e-mail:

General Requirements for all Ph.D. Tracks

Credit and Transfer Units

A minimum of 54-57 units of coursework are required for the Ph.D.: 45 units in the major track and 9-12 units in the minor. While most of the courses in the major track will be MENAS courses, a student may, in consultation with his/her advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies, apply an appropriate number of courses from other departments, such as Anthropology, History, and Linguistics, to the major track.

 In addition, a minimum of 18 units of dissertation credits are required and no more than 9 units of dissertation credit may be taken in any given semester. Dissertation units are not included in the 54-57 units of required graduate course work.

Graduate coursework in Middle Eastern Studies earned at the University of Arizona as part of an MA, and up to 12 units earned in Non-Degree status, may be applied to the Ph.D. coursework requirement. Students who have completed graduate coursework in Middle Eastern Studies at another institution may petition to transfer up to 30 units towards the Ph.D. requirements by submitting a request to the Graduate College (in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies) prior to the end of their first year of study.

Students who have completed graduate coursework in a field other than Middle Eastern Studies may be able to transfer some units towards MENAS Ph.D. requirements, depending on their applicability as determined by the departmental Graduate Studies Committee. Once advised to do so by this committee, such students should submit a request to the Graduate College (in consultation with the Graduate Advisor) prior to the end of their first year of study.

The University of Arizona’s MENAS graduate program invites highly qualified BA students to apply directly to the Ph.D. program. Applicants accepted into the Ph.D. program without an MA will be awarded an MA in MENAS after successfully completing the MENAS MA requirements, which are included in their course of doctoral study. These requirements comprise 33 units of graduate MENAS coursework.

Core Major Course Requirements

MENAS Ph.D. students are required to take:


The MENAS minor requires 12 units of coursework, 9 of which must be graded. MENA 595D is the only required course for the minor and is offered every fall semester. No more than 6 units of this coursework may consist of advanced language classes. Only an Independent Study with MENAS core faculty will count for credit.

PhD students in MENAS usually pursue a minor in a department outside of MENAS, although they may minor in one of the MENAS PhD tracks outside of their major. For example, a student majoring in the Critical Studies Track can minor in Middle Eastern Linguistics, Middle Eastern Literature, or Islamic Studies. They would be expected to complete 12 units of MENAS coursework for this minor.

Doctoral Plan of Study
In conjunction with his/her major professor or advisor, each student is responsible for developing a Plan of Study during their first year in residence, to be filed with the Graduate College no later than the student’s third semester in residence. The Plan of Study identifies (1) courses the student intends to transfer from other institutions; (2) courses already completed at The University of Arizona which the student intends to apply toward the graduate degree; and (3) additional course work to be completed in order to fulfill degree requirements. The Plan of Study must have the approval of the student’s major professor (Committee Chair) and department head (or Director of Graduate Studies) before it is submitted to the Graduate College.

Two-Year Review
Students entering the program with a BA only will be reviewed at the end of their second year, after completing the MA thesis or Linguistics-track qualifying paper. The Graduate Committee and the student’s Major advisor will review the student’s performance in coursework and in the thesis or paper and make a recommendation as to whether the student should be awarded a terminal M.A. or continue with the Ph.D. program.

Two Middle Eastern languages and one European language are required for the doctorate. Students must attain a high level of proficiency in one Middle Eastern language, sufficient for advanced research in that language. An intermediate level reading knowledge is required in the second Middle Eastern language. Reading proficiency in the European language must be demonstrated by transcripts verifying completion of intermediate-level coursework in French or German (or other language of scholarship approved by the Graduate Advisor), or by completing German 500 or French 502. All foreign language requirements must be satisfied before taking the Comprehensive Examination.

To meet the minimum Graduate College residence requirement, the student must complete a minimum of 30 units of graduate credit in residence at the University of Arizona, (18 units of dissertation plus 12 units of regular graded coursework taken The University of Arizona). “In residence” is defined as units offered by The University of Arizona, whether or not they are offered on campus.

Plan of Study Interview
A plan of study interview or diagnostic evaluation may be required to demonstrate acceptability to pursue the doctorate as well as to determine areas of study where further course work is necessary. This interview is waived if the candidate has completed a master’s degree at The University of Arizona in Near Eastern Studies. The interview should be taken during the first semester of residence and preferably during the first two weeks of residence.

Time Limitation
All requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy must be completed within 5 years of passing the Comprehensive Exam. Should a student not finish within that time period, he or she may be allowed to re-take the Comprehensive Exam with permission of the program, and then proceed to complete other requirements, e.g., the dissertation.

Cross-Listed Courses
All cross-listed courses are accepted as MENAS courses. Non-cross-listed courses cannot be included in the major requirement without the approval of the student’s major advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies.

Comprehensive Examination
Each student must select a Ph.D. committee of tenured or tenure-track faculty members, three in major field (MENAS) and one in the minor field. One of the members may be a specially approved member, who must be pre-approved by the student’s committee and the Dean of the Graduate College. Students must register for up to 6 credits of MENAS 799, Independent Reading for the Comprehensive Exam, in the semester after completion of other coursework and/or  the semester in which the Comprehensive Exam will be taken.

Before admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree, the student must pass a written and an oral Doctoral Comprehensive Examination. This examination is intended to test the student’s comprehensive knowledge of the major and minor subjects of study, both in breadth across the general field of study and in depth within the area of specialization. The Comprehensive Examination consists of written and oral parts. The written part consists of four fields: two in the student’s major field (MENAS)- defined in consultation with the committee; one in Middle Eastern History, and one in the minor field. A student will pass the written portion before sitting for the oral portion, and the oral portion should come early enough to allow the student to advance to candidacy in a timely fashion. The written and oral portions of the comprehensive examination must take place at least three months prior to the Final Oral Examination (i.e., the dissertation defense).

Upon successful completion of the written examinations in the major and minor(s), the Oral Comprehensive Examination is conducted before the examining committee of the faculty. This is the occasion when faculty committee members have both the opportunity and obligation to require the student to display a broad knowledge of the chosen field of study and sufficient depth of understanding in areas of specialization. Discussion of proposed dissertation research may be included. The examining committee must attest that the student has demonstrated the professional level of knowledge expected of a junior academic colleague.

Students who do not pass a portion of their comprehensive examination may retake that portion within six months of the initial exam. Students who do not pass the failed portion of the exam a second time will not be admitted to Ph.D. candidacy and will have the opportunity to fulfill the requirements for an MA in MENAS if they have not done so already.


The student’s dissertation advisor will approve the subject matter of his or her dissertation. The dissertation must engage theoretically and methodologically primary sources in one or more Middle Eastern languages and the relevant secondary literature. Primary sources include, but are not limited to, texts, media outlets, internet sources, survey data, and interviews. Dissertations typically are 200-400 pages long.

Final Oral Examination
The Final Oral Examination, more popularly known as the dissertation defense, is the forum at which the doctoral candidate must demonstrate his or her dissertation’s contribution to scholarship and respond to the examining committee’s questions concerning its contents and implications.

All dissertation committee members are expected to attend the final defense. All members of the student’s Ph.D. committee must be present at the Final Oral Examination.

The exact time and place of the Final Oral Examination must be scheduled with the Graduate Degree Certification and the MENAS Department Office at least 7 working days in advance.

After completion of the Final Oral Examination, students must formally defend a dissertation proposal before their dissertation committee to qualify for ABD (All But DIssertation) status.

Additional Information Concerning Transfer Units
Graduate credit earned with a grade of A or B at other approved institutions, if accepted by MENAS and the Graduate College, may count toward the requirements of the MENAS Ph.D. but will not be calculated in The University of Arizona GPA All required units of credit must be at the 500-level or above at The University of Arizona (or, in the case of transfer units, their equivalent at other institutions). Six units of 400-level credit taken at The University of Arizona may be used in the minor but will not receive graduate credit or be calculated in the graduate grade-point average. A minimum of 12 units of regular grades taken at The University of Arizona are required to establish a University of Arizona GPA Credit for correspondence courses or extension work obtained at other institutions will not be accepted for graduate credit.

Students who wish transfer credit must submit a request prior to the end of their first year of study.

Students who have completed non-degree coursework and would like that coursework to count toward a degree should be aware of certain restrictions. Please consult the Non-Degree Enrollment page for more details.