Program and Curriculum Requirements

Admission Requirements

Applicants to the Graduate Program must possess the Bachelor of Arts degree or its equivalent and submit GRE (Aptitude) results. Application is made directly to the Graduate School. The Department requires a writing sample to be submitted with your application. We also strongly recommend that applicants set up an on-campus or telephone interview with faculty members in your field(s) of interest.

Program Overview

While time-to-completion of the PhD degree varies, the Graduate School does not automatically provide funding beyond the five year guarantee. Therefore, students ideally spend the first and second years taking courses, a third year preparing for and taking General Exams and Colloquium Exam, a year of dissertation research and a year to write the dissertation and apply for jobs. Dissertation work that extends beyond the fifth year is funded by awards from the Graduate School (obtained by application through the Department) and by external grants and fellowships. The following requirements apply to all graduate students in the Department. You should confer with the DGS and with your advisor about crafting your individual course of study.

Academic Requirements

MA Course Requirements

Students admitted to the graduate program must first complete the requirements for the MA degree. We do not admit students to do a terminal MA; however, the MA/equivalent must be obtained in order to advance to the PhD phase of program. A minimum of 10 course credits is required for the MA. This includes no fewer than 6 departmental seminars, among them two 2000-level seminars. In addition to the two 2000-level seminars, all students must take HIAA 2920 (Methods) and HIAA 2930 (Practicum) during the first two years. HIAA 2920 and HIAA 2930 are offered in alternating years (so you will take one course in your first year, and the remaining course in your second year). Although graduate credit for language courses will be given (undergraduate courses need special graduate credit), those courses cannot be part of the required 10 course core requirement. In individual cases and after consultation with the student’s advisor or the DGS, a departmental seminar can be replaced with a seminar outside of the Department, or with HIAA 2980 or 2981 (individual reading courses conducted in consultation with a faculty member). Up to four undergraduate lecture courses or seminars within and outside of the department can be taken for graduate credit, if the DGS and the instructor of that particular course agree.

Transfer Credits

Students entering the program with an MA in art/architectural history may receive up to 8 credits (the equivalent of one year towards the PhD residency requirement) for art/architectural history courses taken in their previous graduate program. During the first two years of residence, they must fulfill all language requirements and must complete the sequence HIAA 2920, HIAA 2930. Students will not, under normal circumstances, receive a second MA degree in art history from Brown.

Distribution Requirements

Before they apply to be formally admitted to the PhD program, students must complete coursework in at least three periods or areas of the history of art and architecture. These areas are: Ancient, Medieval, Early Modern (ca. 1400-1800), Modern, East Asian, or other areas of non-Western art. Students must take one course in an area distant in time or place from the area in which they intend to specialize. Practicum and Methods courses may be counted towards the distribution requirements. Students entering with the MA may request that courses taken at the granting institution may be counted towards distribution requirement.

Language Requirements

All students are required to have a reading knowledge of at least two foreign languages in order to receive their MA/equivalent. For Ancient, European and American art and architecture, the typical language requirement is a reading knowledge of German and French. For Asian art and architecture, the minimum requirement is one European language and Chinese. Exceptions can be granted by the faculty in special cases, where, for example, a reading knowledge of Spanish and Dutch would best complement a student’s research interest. The exams can be held any time and are arranged by appointment with Prof. Bonde, Prof. Zerner or Prof. Vanel (French) and Prof. Neumann (German). As only your reading knowledge is tested, you are usually asked to translate a part of a mid-level text with the help of your dictionary. You will be given one hour. Both speed and quality of the translation will be judged. Unsuccessful exams are graded, and suggestions made for improvement. All students must take examinations to verify non-native language competency. This applies to students coming to the Department with MAs from other programs, who may have passed language exams as part of their MA. There is no limit to the number of times that students may retake the exams.

Master's Qualifying Paper

Students will typically submit a revised and expanded seminar paper to a departmental committee for approval as an MA/equivalent Qualifying Paper. The Qualifying Paper is both a requirement for the MA/equivalent and a gateway exercise for formal acceptance to the PhD program. Students who have already written an MA thesis in art or architectural history may submit this for approval. It may be accepted, accepted with revisions, or rejected. (See subsequent section of handbook for further description.)

Research Roundtable Seminar

All first year graduate students must attend the Research Roundtable (no course credit); all others are strongly encouraged to attend.

Grading and Evaluation

Students must take all academic credit courses “ABC/No Credit” unless it is impossible to do so. At the end of each semester, each student will receive written evaluations of his/her performance from all instructors in the department. These evaluations will take into account the participation in each seminar, performance as a proctor or TA, and/or progress towards the dissertation. Evaluations are given in order to provide fuller feedback than a simple grade can provide. Students are urged to discuss evaluations with faculty members, and to identify areas for improvement. We also urge students to be in close contact with their advisors, with the DGS, with their instructors and with the professor in whose course they serve as TA.


Students are not permitted to hold more than one grade of “Incomplete” at any given time. Be aware that an Incomplete makes it difficult for the faculty to evaluate and rank you. Students should make every effort to complete work on time, and to discuss their progress with faculty. A pattern of Incompletes will be considered in evaluation of student standing and rankings.

Reduced Course Loads

Students holding TAships or proctorships may register for only three courses per semester under University regulations. You are still considered a full-time student in this case.

Requirements for the PhD

The doctoral program prepares students for specialized research in one of the fields regularly taught on the graduate level by the Department. After completing requirements for the MA, students must apply in writing for formal admission to the PhD program. Students must then satisfactorily complete the General Examination and Colloquium Examination (both described below) in order to progress to the status of PhD candidacy and the dissertation writing stage. The program does not have a formal dissertation defense exercise, however PhD candidates are expected to present their work to the Department at a Research Roundtable.

Residency Requirement

The normal residency requirement is the equivalent of three years of full-time study beyond the bachelor’s degree; at least two semesters beyond the MA must be spent exclusively in full-time study at Brown. Graduate work done at other institutions and not used in fulfillment of the requirements for the PhD degree elsewhere may, on the recommendation of the Department, and with the approval of the Registrar, be counted in fulfillment of the degree requirement. However, no more than the equivalent of one full year of study may be counted in this manner. A student who desires credit for work done elsewhere should file an application after completing at least on semester at Brown. Forms are available from the Office of the Registrar.

The schedule of courses beyond the MA is up to the discretion of the student and his/her advisor. Typically, students who are in the process of preparing for their General Exam and Colloquium, or doing research for their dissertation, will sign up for individual reading/research units for single, double, or triple credit. When you have completed your academic credit and tuition unit requirements, there are also course codes which allow you to maintain your status as an active student but which do not bear academic credit or tuition fees. (Please see Appendix D for a summary of course codes for advanced students.)

Financial Requirements

Tuition Requirement

Brown counts "tuition units" as well as academic credits: a full year's tuition equals 8 tuition units. It is important to note that tuition units are not the same as academic units. As a PhD student, you are required to enroll in and complete 13 courses for academic credit, but you must pay for 24 tuition units whether you take further formal courses or individual reading/research credits. As soon as you have completed 24 tuition units, you will register using non-credit-bearing course codes and pay only an enrollment fee, a health insurance fee, and a health services fee. If you are within your period of guaranteed funding, all of these fees should fall within your funding package. You must continue to pay these fees after you have fulfilled your 24 tuition credits if you are no longer taking academic courses but still want to be considered as working toward your PhD. Please see the Graduate School website for tuition requirement details.

Changes in Student Status

Traveling Scholar Status

Traveling Scholars are active students who engage in full-time research away from Brown. There is a fee for this status (equal to the cost of enrollment), but you do not have to pay health services or activities fees, and you may apply for a health insurance waiver or subsidy. Brown facilities are not available to traveling scholars. Further information and forms are available on the Graduate School website.

Leaves of Absence

Leaves of Absence are granted for a variety of professional, educational, medical, psychological and personal reasons. They are granted for one semester or for one year, and may be extended to two years if necessary. On leave of absence, no student may take examinations, use any of the facilities of the University (including the services of a dissertation or thesis advisor), submit a thesis or dissertation, or be a candidate for an advanced degree unless properly enrolled. Students who re-enroll after an approved leave of absence may be charged a readmission fee in addition to the appropriate tuition or enrollment fee. Library borrowing privileges can be purchased (inquire at the Rockefeller Library Circulation desk). If you are an alumnus, such as a Master’s degree holder, you may use the library under that status. Further information and forms are available on the Graduate School website.