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Institute for the Study of the Ancient World


Graduate Studies

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Degree Requirements

The core of the curriculum is directed study, in which individual students (or, where interest warrants, small groups of students with common needs) meet each week with a faculty adviser. This tutorial process centers on a program of independent reading, investigation, and learning of technical disciplines, set by the faculty adviser, and discussion of the reading and other work in the weekly meetings. The material of these tutorials is extremely varied; it might, for example, involve research in a museum collection or an archive. Such resources are exceptionally abundant in the Boston to Washington corridor centered on New York. Faculty members determine what writing requirements to set for students working with them.

Each student is assigned a principal faculty adviser, who chairs a committee of (usually) three faculty members chosen to supervise the student’s graduate work. This committee is the main source of advising and counseling up to the completion of the doctoral comprehensive examinations. At that time, a dissertation committee is appointed.

Students also, as indicated below, participate in research seminars. These seminars are led by one or more faculty members, are centered around a theme, and normally last for a semester, although year-long seminars are possible and shorter modules may be used where appropriate to accommodate fieldwork. The seminars involve faculty, graduate students, visiting research scholars, and faculty (and sometimes graduate students) at other universities in the metropolitan area. Each active member presents research in progress to the seminar during the course of the term. Seminars vary considerably in organization, format, and thematic unity.

The formal requirements for the Ph.D. are the following:

    • 72 required credits beyond the B.A. degree. These points include research seminars (see below), supervised independent study, supervised fieldwork, and courses taken in NYU departments or other universities. (Graduate credits transferred from M.A. programs elsewhere may be counted toward this requirement. A maximum of 24 credits may be transferred from another institution.)
    • No specific courses required of all students, but each student is required to participate in one research seminar (4 points each) each semester during the first three years, for a total of 24 points. After the third year, such participation is strongly encouraged whenever the student is in residence in New York.
    • 30 credits in each of the first two years and 12 in the third year are the normal distribution of the 72 credits, but the student’s supervising committee has the authority to vary this distribution. Apart from the research seminars, these credits come from the supervised independent study described above plus graduate courses or seminars. Only graduate-level language classes can be counted toward this point total.
    • 4 appropriate foreign research languages are the minimum degree requirement; it is expected that most students will learn more, and additional languages will be specified in the “contract” for individual students. The supervising committee for a student may where appropriate (for example, in the case of a student working mainly on pre-literate societies) permit the substitution of a comparably demanding scholarly technical skill for one of the languages. Satisfaction of the language requirement is demonstrated by examination.
    • Comprehensive doctoral examinations, to be taken during the third year of study; these will consist of an initial written component, followed by an oral examination; the examinations will cover three subject areas to be discussed between the student and his or her committee and specified in the “contract” for the individual student.
    • A dissertation.
    • Fieldwork as required by the dissertation. It is expected that most dissertations will require either archaeological fieldwork or research in archives and museums abroad.
    • Teaching experience: a minimum of two semesters, the nature of which will be individually determined. Normally this experience will be gained in NYU core curriculum or departmental courses, but in some cases teaching experience at other institutions may be counted.

The minimum time to degree is three years, of which a minimum of two years must be spent in residence at ISAW; one year of previous advanced study (with minimum of 18 credit hours and maximum of 23) may be credited toward this minimum. The total length of the course of study will depend on individual factors like needed fieldwork; the normal length is anticipated to be six years. The M.Phil. degree is awarded at the completion of all requirements for the doctorate except the dissertation.