Ph.D. Requirements

To earn your doctoral degree, you must complete all course requirements, comprehensive examinations, and successfully defend your dissertation. See the Graduate Handbook for full details.

Unit Requirements

The Ph.D. in MENAS consists of 45 units of coursework and 18 dissertation units. The completion of a minor, which is usually 9-12 units, is also required.

While most of the courses in the major track will be MENAS courses, you may, in consultation with your 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. All cross-listed courses are accepted as MENAS courses.

MENAS Ph.D. students usually pursue a minor in a department outside of MENAS, although they may minor in one of the MENAS Ph.D. tracks outside of their major.


Students choose from one of the following tracks:  

Transfer Credit

Graduate coursework in Middle Eastern Studies earned at the University of Arizona as part of an M.A., 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.

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 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.

Core Requirements for All Tracks

All Ph.D. students are required to take the following 12 units:

  • MENA 595D: Middle East (3 units)
  • One graduate course in gender or culture in the Middle East (3 units)
  • One graduate course in Islamic Studies (3 units)
  • One graduate course in Middle Eastern History (3 units)


Two Middle Eastern languages and one European language are required for the doctorate. You 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.

Plan of Study

In your first semester, a plan of study interview with your major advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies is required. In conjunction with your major advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies, you are responsible for developing a plan of study. The plan of study identifies: (1) courses you intend to transfer from other institutions; (2) courses already completed at the University of Arizona which the you intend to apply toward the graduate degree; and (3) additional course work to be completed in order to fulfill degree requirements. The plan of study should be submitted on GradPath during your first year in residence, and no later than the your third semester in residence.

Comprehensive Examination

You must select a Ph.D. committee of tenured or tenure-track faculty members, three in your major field (MENAS) and one in your minor field. One of the members may be a specially approved member, who must be pre-approved by your committee and the Dean of the Graduate College. You 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, you must pass a written and an oral Doctoral Comprehensive Examination. This examination is intended to test your 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 your major field (MENAS) – defined in consultation with the committee; one in Middle Eastern History, and one in the minor field. You will pass the written portion before sitting for the oral portion, and the oral portion should come early enough to allow you 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 you 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 you have 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 M.A. in MENAS if they have not done so already.


18 dissertation units (MENA 920) are required. No more than 9 dissertation units may be taken in any given semester.

Your dissertation advisor will approve the subject matter of your 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 you must demonstrate your 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 your 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.

Two-Year Review

Students entering the program with a B.A. only will be reviewed at the end of their second year, after completing the M.A. thesis or Linguistics-track qualifying paper. The Graduate Committee and your major advisor will review the you performance in coursework and in the thesis or paper and make a recommendation as to whether you should be awarded a terminal M.A. or continue with the Ph.D. program.


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

Time Limitation

All requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy must be completed within 5 years of passing the Comprehensive Exam. Should you not finish within that time period, you may be allowed to retake the Comprehensive Exam with permission of the program, and then proceed to complete other requirements (e.g. the dissertation).

MENAS Ph.D. Minor

The MENAS minor requires 12 units of coursework, 9 of which must be graded.

MENA 595D: Middle East is the only required course for the minor and is offered every fall semester.

No more than 6 units of advanced language courses can count toward the minor.

Independent Study with MENAS core faculty can also count toward the minor.