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MA and PhD Program Guidelines

The Islamic Studies Program offers the Master of Arts (MA) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)degrees in Islamic Studies.

MA and PhD Program Guidelines

The Islamic Studies Program offers the Master of Arts (MA) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees in Islamic Studies.

The MA Degree Program

Students are subject to the official Graduate Council-approved outline of program requirements for the year in which they matriculate, as published annually on the Graduate Division's Program Requirements webpage.

Advising

During the first year, students meet quarterly with their primary advisor and/or the program Chair, who also serves as the graduate advisor. By the end of the first quarter in residence students must secure and submit to the Chair an unequivocal and clear letter of commitment from an Islamic Studies faculty member stating that the faculty member agrees to serve as the student’s primary advisor.  An email letter of commitment will suffice.  Students who fail to submit the letter in a timely manner shall be granted one probationary quarter to seek and secure the letter before termination from the Program is recommended.   In this probationary period, students are strongly encouraged to consult the Chair for assistance in securing the letter of commitment.  In the event that the student is not terminated from the Program but does not have a primary advisor after the probationary period, the IDP Committee shall appoint a primary advisor for the student.  The student shall be terminated if he or she refuses to accept the appointed primary advisor. 

Students must select a primary advisor whose field of expertise aligns with their research interest. The student’s chosen primary advisor must be approved by the Chair; however, the IDP Committee may override the Chair’s refusal to approve the student’s selection.  If a student wishes to change his or her primary advisor after a letter of commitment has been submitted, the student must petition the Chair.  The petition must include a letter of commitment from the new proposed primary advisor.   

If students choose to submit three papers to fulfill the comprehensive exam requirement (see below), they must, in consultation with the Chair, choose three faculty supervisors (including the primary advisor) who represent their three fields of study. By the end of the first year, students secure the agreement of three faculty supervisors who represent their three fields of study to serve as supervisors and notify the Chair and Student Affairs Officer of this arrangement. Faculty supervisors must confirm their agreement in writing.  For the following terms of graduate study, students meet quarterly with their field supervisors and, as needed, with the Student Affairs Officer.

It is recommended that students use the MA Degree Worksheet to clarify coursework, fields and field supervisors.

Student progress is reviewed annually.  At the beginning of the Spring Quarter, students must meet with their primary advisor and provide him or her with a written summary of their progress toward the degree and their plans and goals for the coming year.  The advisor must submit to the IDP Committee a written report detailing and assessing the student’s progress and a copy of the student’s report.  The IDP Committee must receive both reports in order for the student to be considered to be in good standing.  The IDP Committee shall review student progress and advise each student in writing by the end of Spring Quarter as to whether his/her progress is sufficient and whether he/she is in good standing.

Fields of Study

Anthropology, architecture, art history, comparative literature, economics, education, ethnomusicology, film and television, geography, history, law, management, music, philosophy, political science, psychology, public health, public policy, religion, sociology, urban planning, world arts and cultures, and the literatures of the following languages: Arabic, Berber, Hausa, Indonesian, Iranian languages, Malay, Swahili, Turkic languages, Urdu, Wolof, and Yoruba.

Foreign Language Requirement

Other than the language proficiency required for admission to the program, there is no foreign language requirement for the Master's degree. Students who plan to go on for the PhD in Islamic Studies are encouraged to achieve the required levels of proficiency in their research languages early in their graduate study so that their language skills will be of maximum benefit. See the Foreign Language Requirement under PhD Degree Program below.

Course Requirements

Students are subject to the official Graduate Council-approved outline of program requirements for the year in which they matriculate, as published annually on the Graduate Division's Program Requirements webpage.

A minimum of twelve courses is required, divided among three categories:

Category 1: Three Required Courses

Midde Eastern Studies 201 (Study of Religion: Theory and Methods)
Islamic Studies 200 (Introduction to Islamic Studies)
History 200J (Islamic Historiography)
 
Category 2:
Three courses that present specific methodological approaches to the study of Islam, such as: Anthro 271, Anthro 273, Art History C214, History 201J, Political Science 245.  The student’s primary advisor must approve the courses selected, and certify that the courses meet the methodological specialization requirement.

 
Category 3: Six additional courses from at least three different disciplines (not including language courses), and at least two geographic regions, chosen in consultation with the student’s primary advisor.
 
Out of the twelve courses, five must be at the graduate level (other than Category 1 courses), with only one of the five in the 500 series.  All courses applied toward the degree must be taken for a letter grade.

Note:  Courses offered by the School of Public Health in the 300 and 400 series can be applied to the MA degree only as Electives.  Courses at the School of Law that focus on Islamic Law may be applied to the degree within the appropriate category of courses above (they are not restricted to electives).  Courses numbered 375 (Teaching Apprentice Practicum) cannot be applied to the degree.

Comprehensive Exam

All students are required to submit a Comprehensive Exam.  Students must fulfill the Comprehensive Exam  requirement by either submitting a single paper (50-100 pages) that combines work in two or more fields of study, or by submitting one paper (minimum of 30 pages) in each of three fields.

The paper(s) are evaluated by the student's primary advisor (or primary advisor and field supervisors in the event that the student submits three separate papers).  The paper(s) should meet the highest academic standards in Islamic Studies.  Regardless of format, the advisor and supervisors must indicate whether the MA is (1) terminal, (2) non-terminal, or (3) fail.  Reexamination in exceptional cases will be determined by the IDP Committee.  Receiving a non-terminal MA does not guarantee admission to the PhD program.

Students are responsible for securing the agreement of their primary advisor or primary advisor and field supervisors to read and evaluate their comprehensive examination paper(s), as mentioned above. Students are responsible for delivering their paper(s) in a timely manner to their primary advisor and, if relevant, field supervisors.  Students must use the MA Comprehensive Examination Committee Nomination Form to notify the primary advisor, field supervisors (if applicable), the Chair, and the Student Affairs Officer of these arrangements. 

Continuation to the PhD

The Admissions Committee makes the final determination on non-terminal MAs and their admission to the PhD program.  The Admissions Committee shall not consider a request by an MA student for continuation to the PhD program until the student has complied with all of the requirements for the MA.  A non-terminal MA student shall not be admitted to the PhD program unless the Admissions Committee in its discretion approves the recommendation of the faculty for advancement to the PhD.  The student must also present an unequivocal and clear letter of commitment from an Islamic Studies faculty member stating a strong commitment by the faculty member to serve as the student’s primary advisor for the PhD.  If the faculty recommends a terminal MA such a recommendation will be upheld.

Time-to-Degree

Seven academic quarters is the expected time-to-degree for full-time students with no deficiencies upon admission; however up to three academic years will be accepted as a reasonable time-to-degree for all students.

The PhD Degree Program

Students are subject to the official Graduate Council-approved outline of program requirements for the year in which they matriculate, as published annually on the Graduate Division's Program Requirements webpage.

It is recommended that students use the PhD Degree Worksheet to track their progress to the degree.

Advising

No student will be admitted to the PhD program without a clear statement of support from a faculty member agreeing to serve as the student’s primary advisor.  During their first year, students meet quarterly with their primary advisor.  The primary advisor’s field of expertise must align with the student’s research topic.  The Chair has the power to disapprove of a primary advisor; however the Chair’s disapproval may be overridden by the IDP Committee.  By the end of the first year, students must choose three fields of study and the faculty with whom they will work in those fields, and receive the approval of their primary advisor.

Student progress is reviewed annually.  At the beginning of the Spring Quarter, students must meet with their primary advisor and provide him or her with a written summary of their progress toward the degree and their plans and goals for the coming year.  The advisor must submit to the IDP Committee a written report detailing and assessing the student’s progress and a copy of the student’s report.  The IDP Committee must receive both reports in order for the student to be considered to be in good standing.  The IDP Committee shall review student progress and advise each student in writing by the end of Spring Quarter as to whether his/her progress is sufficient and whether he/she is in good standing.

Major Fields or Subdisciplines

Anthropology, architecture, art history, comparative literature, economics, education, ethnomusicology, film and television, geography, history, law, management, music, philosophy, political science, psychology, public health, public policy, religion, sociology, urban planning, world arts and cultures, and the literatures of the following languages: Arabic, Berber, Hausa, Indonesian, Iranian languages, Malay, Swahili, Turkic languages, Urdu, Wolof, and Yoruba.

Foreign Language Requirement

All students must achieve at least intermediate proficiency in Arabic.  Students must attain advanced proficiency in a native or original source language relevant to their research from among the languages listed under the fields above.  Arabic qualifies as a native or original source language.  Reading proficiency in a European language other than English that is relevant to the student's research is also required prior to advancement to doctoral candidacy.  Students are encouraged to achieve required levels of proficiency in their research languages early in their graduate study so that language skills will be of maximum benefit.

Intermediate proficiency in Arabic, where it is not the native or original source language for a student, and reading proficiency in a European language may be demonstrated by (1) passing a Program-administered examination; (2) completing three intermediate-level courses with a grade of B or better (courses are not counted toward the degree); (3) submitting evidence of completion of equivalent coursework elsewhere; or (4) providing evidence of being a native speaker, subject to approval by the relevant faculty.

Language proficiency in the native or original source language may be demonstrated by (1) passing a Program-administered examination; (2) completing two intermediate-level courses and one advanced-level course with a grade of B or better (courses are not counted toward the degree); (3) submitting evidence of completion of equivalent coursework elsewhere; or (4) providing evidence of being a native speaker, subject to approval by the relevant faculty.              

Exceptions to the language requirements may be approved in special cases. This is done through submission of a petition that must be approved by the student's primary advisor, the Chair, and the Graduate Division.

Course Requirements

  • A minimum of 12 courses is required for the PhD degree, including a minimum of three graduate seminars. Students must take at least four graduate and upper-division courses, including one graduate seminar, in each of three fields chosen by the student in consultation with his or her advisor. One 500-level course in each of three fields may be applied toward PhD course requirements. The three fields must be distributed across more than one division, college or school.
  • Students must complete the three category 1 courses listed under the MA degree requirements.
  • Students must take three courses that present specific methodological approaches to the study of Islam, such as: Anthro 271, Anthro 273, Art History C214, History 201J, Political Science 245.  The student’s primary advisor, who must be within the student’s main chosen field, must certify that a student’s concentration is within a particular methodological discipline, approve the courses selected, and certify that the courses meet the methodological specialization requirement. 
  • All courses counted towards the degree must be taken for a letter grade.

The Doctoral Committee

After students complete all coursework and foreign language requirements, the student’s primary advisor, in consultation with the student and the Chair, nominates a doctoral committee that meets University and Program requirements, for formal approval by the Chair and appointment by the Graduate Division. The committee must include faculty from the student's three fields and the primary advisor. 

The primary advisor serves as the committee chair and must be Islamic Studies faculty. The doctoral committee must be comprised of no fewer than 3 Islamic Studies faculty and one “outside” faculty member (defined as a faculty member who is not Islamic Studies faculty).  The doctoral committee members’ fields of expertise must align with the research interests of the student.  Students are permitted to include a faculty member outside of UCLA on their doctoral committee if faculty with similar qualifications or specialty is not available at UCLA.  Inclusion of an outside faculty member requires the approval of the student’s primary advisor and the Chair. 

The proposed committee list must be submitted to the Chair.  The Chair may recommend approval of the committee to the Graduate Division or disapprove of the committee.  The Chair’s disapproval may be overridden by the IDP Committee.

Students should consult the brochure entitled Standards and Procedures for Graduate Study at UCLA for the year in which they matriculate, as published annually on the Graduate Division's Publications webpage.

Written and Oral Qualifying Examinations

The doctoral committee conducts four separate written examinations, one in each of the student's three fields and one in a methodology appropriate to the student's dissertation. The methodology exam must be administered by the student’s primary advisor, who may also administer one of the field exams.  The exams must be in writing.  Copies of the exam questions and the student’s written responses must be submitted to the Chair and the Student Affairs Officer.  The committee members shall certify to the Chair in writing the outcome of the examinations.  Reexamination in any field is at the discretion of the IDP Committee in consultation with the doctoral committee and the Chair. 

Following the written examinations, the committee conducts the University Oral Qualifying Examination, which covers the three fields, the methodology and the basis of the dissertation prospectus. The student must notify the Chair no later than two weeks in advance of the date, time, and place of the Oral Qualifying Examination for approval.  The doctoral committee chair shall certify to the IDP Chair in writing the outcome of the Examination.  Reexamination in any field is at the discretion of the IDP Committee in consultation with the doctoral committee and the IDP Chair.

No later than two weeks prior to the University Oral Qualifying Examination, students must prepare and submit a dissertation prospectus that contains (1) a full statement of the dissertation topic, including any fieldwork that may be required; (2) a historiographical discussion of the literature related to the topic; (3) a statement of the methods to be employed; and (4) a proposed bibliography to be consulted in the course of research and writing.  The prospectus must be submitted to all members of the student’s doctoral committee and to the Chair.

Advancement to Candidacy

Upon application by the student, if the Chair in consultation with the dissertation committee is satisfied that the student has successfully completed the written and oral qualifying exams, the student advances to candidacy and is awarded the degree of Candidate in Philosophy.

Dissertation and Final Oral Examination (Defense of Dissertation)

Students must file their written dissertation with the Chair and provide every member of their committee with a copy at least one month prior to the Final Oral Examination.  The acceptable page count for the dissertation is 200-600 pages unless the student receives specific permission from both the committee chair and Program Chair otherwise. 

Written dissertations must meet the highest standards of scholarship in Islamic Studies.  They must demonstrate a mastery of primary source material, sound reasoning, organization, mastery of methodology, and original thought.  After consultation with the doctoral committee, the doctoral committee chair must provide a written letter to the Chair stating whether the dissertation meets the highest standards of scholarship in Islamic Studies and the Graduate Division. 

The Final Oral Examination (also known as the Defense of Dissertation) is required for all students.  The Final Oral Examination may not be scheduled unless the Chair has received a letter from the doctoral committee chair stating whether the committee chair believes that the dissertation meets the highest standards of scholarship in Islamic Studies and that the student is prepared to make an oral defense. 

The Final Oral Examination is conducted by all of the members of the student’s doctoral committee.  The student must notify the Chair no later than four weeks in advance of the date, time, and place of the Oral Qualifying Examination, and the Chair must approve. 

After consultation with the dissertation committee, the dissertation committee chair must provide a written letter to the Chair stating whether the student’s performance in the Final Oral Examination meets the scholarly standards of Islamic Studies and the Graduate Division, whether the student passed the Final Oral Examination, and what the vote count was in favor of or against a candidate.

MA Degree En Route to PhD

Students may apply to the Chair for an MA en route to the PhD upon completion of 12 courses (meeting the MA degree course requirements) and submission of the MA Comprehensive Exam (see above for provisions regarding the MA Comprehensive Exam).  The student must complete 9 additional credits (meeting the PhD degree course requirements), beyond the usual 12-course requirement, to fulfill the coursework component of the PhD.  If the Chair does not approve the student’s application, the student may appeal to the IDP Committee to make a final determination.  Application for an MA must be made within 4 years of admittance to the Program. 

Time-to-Degree

For full-time students with no deficiencies upon admission or advancement to the PhD program, the normative time from admission to approval of the dissertation prospectus, completion of the written and oral qualifying examinations, and advancement to candidacy, is two years. The normative time from advancement to candidacy to the final oral examination (defense of the dissertation), and filing of the dissertation, is three years. Overall, the normative time from graduate admission to award of the PhD degree is five years (but six is permissible). Students who undertake field research abroad may require an additional one to two years to complete the program, for a maximum total of six or seven years.

Termination of Graduate Study and Appeal of Termination - University Policy

A student who fails to meet the above requirements may be recommended for termination of graduate study. A graduate student may be disqualified from continuing in the graduate program for a variety of reasons. The most common is failure to maintain the minimum cumulative grade point average (3.00) required by the Academic Senate to remain in good standing (some programs require a higher grade point average). Other examples include failure of examinations, lack of timely progress toward the degree, and poor performance in core courses. Probationary students (those with cumulative grade point averages below 3.00) are subject to immediate dismissal upon the recommendation of their department. University guidelines governing termination of graduate students, including the appeal procedure, are outlined in Standards and Procedures for Graduate Study at UCLA

Special Program Policy

A recommendation for termination is made by the Chair of the program upon consultation with the student's primary faculty advisor and the student's doctoral committee (if a PhD student). A student may appeal a recommendation for termination to the IDP Committee.

NOTE: The updated course requirements apply only to students admitted in 2011 and after.  All other requirements apply to all students. 

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