Graduate Student Handbook

Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations













About the Department

The Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations (NMC) came into existence on July 1, 1996 as a result of the merger of the formerly separate departments of Near Eastern Studies (NES) and Middle East and Islamic Studies (MEI). These departments, under various designations, have existed in the University of Toronto for over 150 years. Near East is generally understood to refer to the region at the eastern end of the Mediterranean and beyond, from ancient times up to the advent of Islam in the seventh century CE. Middle East refers to a much broader geographical area whose predominant Islamic culture in mediaeval and modern times has stretched to North Africa and Spain in the west and to Central Asia, India, and South Asia in the east.

The Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations is concerned with the interdisciplinary study of the civilizations and cultures of the Near and Middle East from neolithic times until present, including their languages and literatures (Akkadian [Assyro-Babylonian], Arabic, Aramaic and its closely-related dialect Syriac, ancient Egyptian, Hebrew [biblical, rabbinic, mediaeval and modern], Persian and Turkish), archaeology, history, art, material culture and religion. The Department’s programs are conceived in the broad tradition of the humanities and provide an opportunity to study non-western complex societies and civilizations. An understanding of these societies will reveal the ultimate roots and historical development of western civilizations.

As it happens, several world religions originated in this geographical region. The Department offers courses on the origins and earliest phases of Judaism, on mediaeval and modern Jewish culture and thought, even though such pursuits sometimes lead to Europe and other places beyond the Middle East. Although the Department deals with eastern (Syriac) Christianity, the study of Christianity as a religion falls within the purview of the Department of the Study of Religion. Courses are offered on the study of Islam as a religion and the development of Islamic thought, and their role in the creation of Islamic civilizations in NMC. We also offer courses in Zoroastrianism.


The Department offers programs leading to the degrees of Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy in the study of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations. The Department also participates in the following collaborative programs: Jewish Studies, Women and Gender Studies, and Sexual Diversity Studies, Diaspora and Transnational Studies. Upon successful completion of the requirements of the collaborative program, students receive the M.A. or Ph.D. degree in their department area with the notation “Completed Collaborative Program in Jewish/Women and Gender/Sexual Diversity/Diaspora and Transnational Studies” on their transcripts.

Research Resources

The University of Toronto library system is fully computerized. With over eight million volumes, it is the largest research library in Canada and one of the ten largest in North America, and for the study of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, the libraries’ books, journals, government documents, microfilms, electronic resources, and other resources are an extremely rich resource. The main collection is housed in Robarts Library, the University’s centrally located research library, and in the colleges attached to the University. Study space is provided in many of the libraries, and a limited number of carrels, desks, and book lockers are available.

The Fisher Rare Book Library’s manuscript holdings include a small collection of Graeco-Egyptian papyrus fragments, about 1176 Arabic manuscripts plus a few in Turkish and Persian, and an eighteenth-century Tikkun scroll. The Friedberg Collection of Hebraic books and manuscripts contains the most complete mediaeval manuscript of the Zohar in existence and important geonic manuscripts, and the Fisher Library now holds 21 Hebrew incunabula. The Library of the Royal Ontario Museum supplements the holdings of the Central Library in Near Eastern and Islamic archaeology and art history. The libraries of the theological colleges federated with the university are strong in fields related to the development of Christianity such as Septuagint studies and patristics. Library users also have access to a wide range of dissertations and other less-used material through UTL’s membership in the Center for Research Libraries (their catalogue is available online).

The Department houses a small collection of reference works for the field in its Resource Centre on the second floor of Bancroft Hall. Microfilm readers are also available for graduate students and faculty.

The RIM Archives are located on the fourth floor of Bancroft Hall. The Archives constitute a quite complete collection of academic journals and monographs, collected in connection with the RIM Project, for the study of the Ancient Near East in general and ancient Mesopotamia/Assyriology in particular. The collection is a rich research resource open to faculty and graduate students in the Department.

The Department provides computers for student use, including access to the on-line catalogue of the University library, in the Computer Room on the third floor of Bancroft Hall. Students in the Department may also use the computing facilities provided by Computing in the Humanities and Social Sciences (CHASS), located on the 1st floor of Robarts Library. A computer in the resource room on the second floor has access to the Bar Ilan Responsa Project with a disc available from Michael Godwin. The Department maintains computing laboratories, which provide access to various computer applications, including word-processing, the Internet, electronic mail, and electronic publishing. CHASS also offers tutorials and hands-on computer training sessions. Most of their services are offered free of charge. For further information, please visit the CHASS Website.

Life in the University

School of Graduate Studies Resources & Supports Website

Life in the NMC Department

Resources and Support for Domestic and International Students Website


Both the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) and the Department hold Graduate Student Orientations. The SGS Orientation will be held in early-September. The Department and the NMC Graduate Student Association will hold their orientation followed by a reception as well in mid-September. Dates, times, and locations will be provided to students via their utoronto email account.

Student Services

Graduate student life in the Department, outside of class and library, is focused on the Graduate Student Common Rooms (NMC Graduate Lounge:BF202) housed in an older house attached to and accessed from the second and third floors of Bancroft Hall. The Common Rooms provide study space and other facilities for Graduate Students.

The department Seminar Room (200B), located on the second floor of Bancroft Hall, is used for many department seminars, lectures, and other gatherings.

All graduate students in the Department are members of the Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations Graduate Students’ Association (NMCGSA). The Association is run by elected student officers and offers various services and social occasions for students. For more information please visit the NMCGSA website. The NMCGSA organizes an Annual Symposium normally held in the spring, which attracts participants from other nearby universities and internationally. The Symposium provides graduate students with an opportunity to present their work in the setting of an academic conference and to engage in discussions with student and faculty colleagues regarding their research interests. The Symposium is one of the highlights of the academic year in the Department and is well attended by all members of the Department. The NMCGSA has to date published the proceedings of the past three symposia.

Graduate Program Administrative Organization

The Chair of the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Professor Paul-Alain Beaulieu, is responsible for the overall operation of the Department and is accountable with regard to its graduate program to the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies.

The Associate Chair, Graduate of the Department, with the help of the Graduate Administrator, assists the Chair by administering the Department's academic programs on a day-to-day basis. The Associate Chair, Graduate, Professor Jeannie Miller, is responsible for the academic aspects of the program chairs, the Graduate Affairs Committee of the Department, and sits on the Graduate Education Council and various committees at the School of Graduate Studies. Any issue of academic concern on the part of the students, including major and minor requirements, fields, language requirements, supervisors/advisors, comprehensive examinations, supervision committee, and concerns about courses should be brought to the Associate Chair, Graduate.

The Graduate Administrator, Michael Godwin,, considers student and program matters and the daily operation of the Graduate Program in the Department. Michael is the first contact person for information concerning all aspects of the Graduate Program.

The Graduate Affairs Committee is concerned with Department policies affecting the Graduate Program, academic issues, admissions to the graduate program, and student funding recommendations and decisions. Issues of an academic or administrative nature affecting the entire graduate program are brought to Department faculty meetings for discussion and approval. The Committee is composed of six to eight faculty members representing the Department's areas of concern and meets several times a year as needed. The Associate Chair, Graduate serves as the committee chair. The Chair and Graduate Administrator of the Department are members of the Committee ex officio. The members normally serve one-year terms, which may be renewed. Although there are no student representatives on the Committee, students are invited to present their views on issues of concern and to discuss them with members of the Graduate Affairs Committee at scheduled meetings.

The role of Academic Advisors, Thesis Supervisors, and Thesis Advisory Committees is discussed below.

The Graduate Program of the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations undergoes a Review every 5 years. The Review ensures the maintenance of a high standard of graduate education in this Department.

Faculty of Arts & Science, Graduate webpage.

NMC Graduate Faculty webpage.

Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations Program Overview webpage.




The Collaborative Program in Jewish Studies offers both broad and intensive exposure to the constituent fields within Jewish Studies. Because of Jewish civilization’s vast chronological and geographical range, as well as its constant interaction and cross-fertilization with other cultures, graduate work within Jewish Studies demands intensive exposure to a wide variety of languages, textual traditions, and scholarly disciplines.

The collaborative program involves the graduate master's and doctoral programs listed above. Upon successful completion of the master’s requirements of the home department and the program, students receive the designation “Completed Collaborative Program in Jewish Studies” on their transcript. Upon successful completion of the doctoral requirements of the home department and the program, students receive, in addition to the doctoral degree in their home department, the notation “Completed Collaborative Program in Jewish Studies.” Please note that the required Jewish Studies Core Methods Seminar and the Core Research Colloquium are in addition to the three or six FCEs required for the MA or PhD program in NMC. Some funding is available for both MA and PhD students in the Collaborative Program in Jewish Studies.

Graduate Program Requirements for MA

  • CJS1000H: Completion of the core methods seminar in Jewish Studies.
  • This seminar will introduce students to the different disciplines, methods, and approaches within Jewish Studies. One half-course in Jewish Studies taken within the student's home department or in another department (may count towards the course requirements of the student's home department).
  • A comprehensive exam in Jewish Studies, supervised by a faculty member chosen from Jewish Studies and in consultation with the graduate chair from the student's home department, in which the student will be asked to show knowledge of areas of Jewish Studies relevant to his or her disciplinary focus.
  • If the student's home program requires a major research paper or thesis, the focus of the paper must pertain to Jewish Studies and the topic must be approved by the Director of the Collaborative Master's Program.

Graduate Program Requirements for PhD

  • CJS2000H: Core Research colloquium in Jewish Studies that runs biweekly throughout the year.
  • Two half-courses, one within and one outside of the student's home department, taught by a member of the CJS faculty (may count towards the course requirements of the student's home department).
  • Paper presentation in the Graduate Student Conference before completion of the program.
  • A doctoral dissertation that deals substantively with topics in Jewish Studies and is supervised or co-supervised by a CJS graduate faculty member.
  • A program of study should be planned in consultation with the Director of the Jewish Studies Collaborative Doctoral Program, e-mail:, as well as with the NMC Associate Chair, Graduate.

Jewish Studies Website

Graduate units from the humanities, social sciences, and life sciences participate in the Graduate Collaborative Program in Women and Gender Studies (CWGS) at the University of Toronto. The collaborating units contribute courses and provide facilities and supervision for graduate research. This program, offered at the master’s and doctoral levels, is administered by the Women and Gender Studies Institute. CWGS provides a formal educational opportunity for qualification in the field of women’s studies through the pursuit of original interdisciplinary research in Women and Gender Studies and advanced feminist scholarship. It provides a central coordinating structure to facilitate and disseminate women’s studies research through student and faculty research seminars, colloquia, circulation of work in progress, study groups, conferences, and publications. CWGS contributes to the development of an integrated research community in women’s studies at the University of Toronto. Applicants to the program are expected to meet the admission and degree requirements of both the home department and CWGS.

Normally, both Master’s and PhD applicants to CWGS should have at least one course (and preferably more) in Women’s Studies, Feminist Studies, and/or Gender Studies. This course may be in Women’s Studies/Gender Studies, or it may be a course on gender and women in another discipline. In exceptional cases, extensive work or activist experience, which also requires academic knowledge of research on women and/or gender, will also be considered.

In order to qualify for admission to Women and Gender Studies, applicants must be offered admission to the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations. Applicants may apply concurrently to the CWGS and are encouraged to do so in the interest of expediency. Please note that applicants cannot be admitted to CWGS until they have been officially admitted to the Department of NMC.

The collaborative requirements can be met concurrently with, or in addition to, home unit requirements. Upon successful completion of the requirements, students receive the M.A. or Ph.D. degree in their department area with the notation “Completed Collaborative Program in Women’s Studies” on their transcripts. For further information, please contact the NMC Associate Chair, Graduate or the Graduate Coordinator of the Graduate Collaborative Program in Women and Gender Studies, Room 2036, 40 Willcocks Street, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 1C6; Tel: (416) 978-3668, Fax: (416) 946-5561, E-mail:, WGSI Website.

A program of study should be planned in consultation with the Graduate Collaborative Program Coordinator as well as the NMC Associate Chair, Graduate. Courses are selected from an established list of core courses approved by CWGS for the Collaborative Program. Each year these are available on the Women and Gender Studies Institute’s website.

The Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations participates in the M.A. and Ph.D. Graduate Collaborative Program with the Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies. For the M.A. and Ph.D. Programs students must take the core course offered by SDS (SDS1000H). This requirement must be supplemented by at least another half-course in the area of sexuality. Course selections must be approved by the director of the Collaborative Program. Doctoral students who have completed the Collaborative Program at the Master’s level will not be required to take SDS1000H a second time, so that they will be required to take only another half-course in the area of sexuality. Students must pursue a dissertation topic related to sexual diversity, and include on the thesis committee at least one faculty member associated with SDS. The director of the Collaborative Program must approve the topic as compatible with the requirements of the program. Doctoral students are expected to participate in a variety of other activities programmed by the Bonham Centre, including a monthly colloquium series, and in an annual one-day student conference envisaged for the Centre, and regular "brown-bag" talks. The Collaborative Program director is responsible for certifying the completion of the Collaborative Program requirements. The home graduate unit, in this case the NMC Department, is solely responsible for the approval of the student’s home degree requirements. Upon the completion of requirements of the home program and the Collaborative Program, student transcripts will indicate that they have completed all the requirements for the "Collaborative Program in Sexual Diversity Studies." Detailed information on the Program and its requirements can be found on the Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies website. Please note that the required SDS1000H is in addition to the three or six FCEs required for the MA or PhD program in NMC.

The Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations participates in the M.A. and Ph.D. Graduate Collaborative Program with Diaspora and Transnational Studies. Diaspora in contemporary thought involves the shifting relations between homelands and host nations from the perspective of those who have moved, whether voluntarily or not. Diaspora emphasizes the inescapable lived translocal experiences of many migrant communities that exceed the boundaries of the nation-state. Questions of nostalgia, of the dynamics of co-ethnic identification, of the politics of homeland and host nation, and of the inter-generational shifts in responses to all these are central to studies of diaspora. Transnationalism, on the other hand, focuses on flows and counterflows and the multi-striated connections to which they give rise. It encompasses in its ambit not just the movement of people but also concepts of citizenship and multinational governance, the resources of information technology, and the realities of the global marketplace, among others. Taken together, the two concepts of diaspora and transnationalism enable our understanding of the complex realities of vast movements of people, goods, ideas, images, technologies, and finance in the world today. This collaborative program is designed to bring together both social science and humanities perspectives to augment our existing tri-campus undergraduate program and to contribute to increased research collaboration between participants in the program. At the MA level there is a required seminar in Comparative Research Methods in Diaspora and Transnational Studies (DTS). As part of the Research Methods Seminar, students are required to submit an ethnographic, archival, or documentary paper on a diasporic community in Toronto or elsewhere. A half course, (DTS 2000H) is required but with the approval of the Program Director, a student may substitute a course from their home department for the DTS topics course. The same requirements hold for doctoral students but one cannot participate in both the M.A. and the Ph.D. Program. Please note that the required DTS 2000H is in addition to the three or six FCEs required for the MA or PhD program in NMC. A major paper or MA thesis or PhD thesis must be on a topic in Diaspora and Transnational Studies. Detailed information on the Program and its requirements can be found on the Diaspora and Transnational Studies website.




Please note that all graduate students are strongly advised to read the School of Graduate Studies Calendar carefully with respect to the Department but also with regard to University policies and guidelines, including the Code of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity (i.e. plagiarism).  

Academic Advisor

Upon admission to the Department all students will be assigned an Academic Advisor in a field related to the student’s stated area of interest. The role of the Advisor will be to counsel the student with regards to their selection of courses and language requirements, keeping in mind the student’s academic goals, program requirements, and other academic concerns.  This should occur in the early phases of their graduate program. Eventually, for thesis-based degree programs, the advisor will be replaced by the Thesis Supervisor (see below), who will be chosen in consultation with the Associate Chair, Graduate when the thesis topic has been selected. Students are required to meet with the Associate Chair, Graduate at the start of the academic year (September).

Proficiency Exams in Languages of Modern Scholarship

Doctoral students are required to demonstrate reading comprehension in two languages of modern scholarship (typically French and German), the first by the end of their first year in residence, and the second by the end of their second year of residence. A language other than French or German may be substituted with approval of the Academic Advisor and the Associate Chair, Graduate. In addition to the languages of modern scholarship, the department requires competence in a source language relevant to the student's program. The choice of languages must be approved by the department.

The Department will administer two-hour language proficiency exams three times only during the academic year. In 2023-2024 the proficiency exams in French and German will be offered on:

  • October 19, 2023
  • January 18, 2024
  • April 17, 2024

A student who fails to achieve a minimum passing grade of 70% on a language proficiency exam may retake the exam no earlier than the next scheduled exam date.

The two-hour exam will consist of texts that are directly related to the student's field of interest and which the student would be expected to use in the normal course of their research. The student should be able to translate into good English a passage of at least 450-500 words within the two-hour period. The student should demonstrate that they have correctly understood the text. The Academic Advisor will email Michael Godwin, Graduate Administrator,, the passage in advance of the exam.

Students are strongly encouraged to adhere to the Timetable for Fulfilling Language Requirements.

Students may also take the French and German reading proficiency courses outside of our Department. The following courses would fulfill the language requirements:

Languages of Primary Sources

Students seeking admission to the Ph.D. program shall have already gained facility in one of the primary source languages. The Academic Advisor may deem that additional languages are required, depending on the field of thesis research.

Proficiency Exams in Primary Source Languages

A candidate for the Ph.D. degree will either take a separate minor area examination in a primary source language or be examined in it in the context of a major area examination taken as one of the General Examinations. In this examination the student shall demonstrate facility in using primary resources for research purposes.

Timetable for Language Requirements (Languages of Modern Scholarship and Primary Sources)

Candidates for the Ph.D. degree may not proceed to their General Examinations unless and until they have satisfied their language requirements. Therefore, the Department requires students in the Ph.D. stream to adhere to the timetable below:

Ph.D. Year 1 Exam: First language of modern scholarship passed by end of year 1 or earlier
Ph.D. Year 2 Exam: Second language of modern scholarship passed by end of year 2 or earlier
Ph.D. Year 3 - December Comprehensive Examinations, including examination in a primary source language as one of the examinations or part of an examination.


Ancient Near East Studies

Students are expected to demonstrate the ability to read two pertinent languages of scholarship, typically French and German.  However, other languages, such as Latin, Arabic, and Modern Hebrew, may be substituted for one of these with the agreement of the supervisor and Associate Chair, Graduate.

Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies

Students in this area are not normally admitted to the program unless they have already gained facility in one of the languages of research (e.g. Arabic, Persian, or Turkish). Students in this area are required to demonstrate evidence of ability to read two pertinent languages of scholarship, typically French and German, prior to taking their General Examinations, and will be examined in a research language (e.g. Arabic, Persian, Hebrew or Turkish) at the time of their general exams.

Comprehensive Examinations

The comprehensive examination requirements should be met by the end of the first term (by December) of the third year.

Comprehensive Examinations Guidelines

The student should discuss the configuration of the examinations first with their Advisor and then with the Associate Chair, Graduate.

The areas examined correspond to the major (two examinations), first minor, and second minor areas of concentration. Thus the student will write at least four examinations.

The Program Memorandum form should be helpful in determining the areas to be examined. The primary source language exam may also be given as part of the Comprehensive Examinations.

  • In consultation with the Advisor and the Associate Chair, Graduate the student should set up an examination schedule.
  • The written examinations are normally scheduled every other day.
  • The oral examination should follow the written examinations by a week or so and be scheduled at a time convenient to the student, the examiners, and the Associate Chair, Graduate, who will serve as the exam Chair, all of whom must be present.
  • The Advisor should coordinate the examinations with the other examiners.
  • The Advisor must notify the Graduate Administrator by email of the examination schedule, including dates and titles of exams. The Graduate Administrator will reserve an examination room.
  • The student may wish to discuss the nature of the examination (e.g., length, closed or open book or aids allowed, anticipated number of questions, location) with the examiner in each field.
  • If the student passes the Comprehensive Examinations, they will be expected to present their thesis proposal within two months of the Comprehensive Examinations to the committee. Please see guidelines for thesis proposal contents below.
  1. The Comprehensive Examination comprises both the written exams and the oral exam.
  2. Typically, the Major Exam is an eight-hour exam (i.e. 10:00am to 6:00pm), which is normally spread over two days (4 hours each day, e.g. 10:00am to 2:00pm), but may also be written in one day.
  3. The Minor Exams are four hours long (e.g. 10:00am – 2:00pm).
  4. Examining Professors: the examining committee should be constituted from professors who have taught the students at least one course. Any professor who has not taught the student will not be allowed to take part in the exams. The Chair can give exemption from this rule. No professor can administer more than one part of the exam, unless with the approval of the Associate Chair, Graduate/Chair.
  5. All exams must be handed in to the Graduate Administrator before 6:00pm.
  6. The Oral exam is based on material covered by or closely related to the written exams and is normally scheduled one week after the final written exam. If the student has passed their Comprehensive Exam, the thesis proposal will need to be discussed by the Thesis Advisory Committee (see section E).
  7. Location: The Comprehensive Examination, both written and oral, take place at The Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations in a room assigned by the Graduate Administrator.
  8. Exam Questions are provided to the student on paper, and the student writes responses directly into a file on the computer or into an exam book, if by hand.
  9. Answers: At the exam’s conclusion, the Graduate Administrator copies the answers to a USB key, if exams are written on the computer. The answers are emailed to all examiners including the student. If written by hand, a scan of the original is made and distributed electronically.
  10. Material Covered: The written examinations cover material based on courses the student has taken in relation to their Major and Minor fields (see Program Memorandum form), material relevant to the student’s intended research and in relation to reading lists that have been agreed on by the student and the members of their examining committee. The oral examination questions are normally based on the student’s written answers, but questions may extend to other matters contained in the reading lists agreed upon or questions not selected from the written exams.
  11. Final Grade: Following the Oral exam, the comprehensive examination committee members are asked to deliberate and record a final grade of either “pass” or “fail” (i.e. pass = 70% or above). A grade of CR appears on the transcript, when a student is successful. (Please see section D should a student be unsuccessful).
  1. Examination Papers: Please provide the Comprehensive Examination questions for the written portion of the exam to the Graduate Administrator at least one day before the date on which the exam is to be written. The questions can be submitted via email to Michael Godwin,
  2. Questions: Where two professors are submitting questions for the same exam, they will need to confer about that exam and decide on the questions. Only the finally agreed-upon questions need be forwarded to the Graduate Administrator.
  3. Assists: Please indicate whether the student is to be allowed assists, such as dictionaries or reference materials, during the examination.
  4. Grading: The examining professor will mark the written answer as either “pass” or “fail” (i.e. pass = 70% or above) and inform the Comprehensive Committee Members, with a copy to the Associate Chair, Graduate and Graduate Administrator.
  5. The Oral Exam: All graded written comprehensive exams must be returned to the Examination Chair, normally the Associate Chair, Graduate, directly following the oral comprehensive examination.
  1. Exam start time: Please check in with the Graduate Administrator prior to the exam.
  2. Materials: Unless specifically advised, no materials or assists will be allowed in the examination room. The student may bring food and drink.
  3. Writing the Exam: Please indicate in advance of the examination date if you would prefer to write the examination by hand.
  4. The Exam Room: To be determined by the Graduate Administrator.
  5. The Oral Exam: The Oral Examination Committee will establish the Thesis Advisory Committee in part or in whole in consultation with the student in the context of the thesis proposal discussion.

A student receiving ‘fail’ for a part or for the whole of the examination may be re‑examined once, provided the examination takes place not later than nine months after the date of the first examination. Any examiner, or the student in consultation with the Associate Chair, Graduate, may request a further reader/examiner for part or all of the written examination, when there is reason to think this would be helpful.

  1. If the student passes the General Examinations, they will be expected to submit their thesis proposal within two months of the Oral Comprehensive Examination to the thesis advisory committee. Note, the thesis committee can have different membership than the comprehensive examination committee. Written copies of the proposal, even if in preliminary form, must be distributed to all examiners and to the Associate Chair, Graduate.
  2. Your Thesis Advisory Committee will review your 10 page thesis proposal plus bibliography. Revisions may be required. Please adhere to the following five instructions when submitting your thesis proposal:
    • student emails the thesis proposal to the thesis advisory committee (up to 3 members, including the thesis supervisor). The Thesis Advisory Committee would not need to include the internal external member (this member is only required at a SGS final oral examination);
    • thesis advisory committee members emails the student with comments;
    • student adjusts the thesis proposal;
    • student emails a final copy of the thesis proposal to the thesis advisory committee;
    • the student’s thesis supervisor emails the final thesis proposal to the Associate Chair, Graduate, with a copy to all thesis advisory committee members, and to the NMC Graduate Office, Michael Godwin,, indicating whether or not the thesis proposal is approved. Michael Godwin will archive the approved thesis proposal in the student’s official student file. Once the approval email is received by the NMC Graduate Office, and there are no outstanding program requirements, the student will have achieved candidacy.
  3. Thesis Proposal Contents:
  • Title - Give the tentative title you intend to use. It should be concise and precise, (i.e., it should give the reader an exact idea of your research proposal in the fewest possible words).
  • The Thesis Statement - State clearly and fully the problem that you intend to investigate.
  • Review of Previous Scholarship - Discuss the relationship of your research topic to current and previous scholarship. Others have contributed to your field historically and philosophically. What closely related problems have been solved and by whom? Who treated the problem and to what extent? Where does the unsolved portion of the problem begin? What are the principal sources? Discuss the ways in which this thesis will "constitute a significant contribution to the knowledge of the field." (SGS Calendar)
  • Methodology - Describe in detail how you plan to investigate the problem; what methods of analysis will aid your investigation of your primary source material.
  • Proposed Table of Contents -To the extent possible, state the probable chapter headings as they will appear in your Table of Contents.
  • Bibliography -List the most important original sources and scholarly works to be consulted, including those discussed in your Review of Previous Scholarship. In composing thesis proposals, students are advised to consult with their Supervisor and potential Thesis Advisory Committee members, normally faculty members in related fields.

The Master’s Thesis

Students will work with their Thesis Supervisor to develop and conduct a thesis project (record “RST9999Y” on the course add form) that will result in a substantive body of original research, and make a significant contribution to knowledge in the field. In consultation with your Thesis Supervisor, the length of an MA thesis is required to be between 40-80 pages excluding images and bibliography. For formatting requirements, please visit the School of Graduate Studies website. Note: once an MA thesis is prepared for review, the thesis is required to be evaluated by a Second Reader. Your MA Thesis Supervisor will assist in identifying an adequate Second Reader. This Reader must have an NMC Graduate Faculty Membership. An MA thesis defense is optional based on the preference of the student and supervisor. At this point, your MA Thesis Supervisor will collaborate with the Second Reader to determine a final grade for your MA thesis. Your MA Thesis Supervisor will then send the final grade to the NMC Graduate Administrator, Michael Godwin, with an email carbon-copy sent to the Second Reader.

The Doctoral Thesis or Dissertation

Upon successful completion of course work, language requirements, the Comprehensive Examinations, and approval of their thesis proposal, the student will proceed to their preparation of doctoral thesis research. The thesis must embody the results of original investigation and constitute a significant contribution to knowledge in the field. It must be based on research conducted while registered for the Ph.D. program. The thesis must be successfully defended at a Final Oral Examination. For further details see the SGS Calendar.

The thesis should be as concise as possible and should be formatted according to the guidelines of the School of Graduate Studies. The guidelines are available on the School of Graduate Studies’ website. Thesis research that involves the use of human subjects, for instance, in the case of informants, interview subjects, survey respondents, and other uses, must conform to University policy.

Thesis research that involves archaeological fieldwork must respect the regulations of the country involved.

The Supervisor is responsible for the direction of the thesis and is the principal member of the Thesis Advisory Committee (see below). The Supervisor determines whether additional course work, languages, or other preparation is necessary in order for the student to complete the thesis successfully. The Supervisor shall call a meeting of the Thesis Advisory Committee at least once a year by May 15 or more often as required.

When the Supervisor and the other members of the student's Thesis Advisory Committee have read the thesis in its entirety and agree that the thesis is defensible and ready to go to examination, the Supervisor will notify the Associate Chair, Graduate of this in writing. The student will then send an electronic copy of the completed thesis, including an abstract of the thesis, a brief biographical sketch, and a list of scholarly publications, if any, to Michael Godwin, Graduate Administrator,

The Supervisor will nominate three potential external examiners to the Associate Chair, Graduate. The Supervisor will consult with all members of the final oral examination committee, including the Student, and the External Examiner, to set a convenient date for the examination. The Supervisor must allow at least eight weeks from submission of the thesis to the date of the oral defense.

Students are required to meet with their Thesis Advisory Committee at least once a year, normally in early May. The composition of the Thesis Advisory Committee usually emerges as the thesis proposal develops. The Thesis Advisory Committee is composed of the Supervisor who directs the thesis and two or three other faculty members who are able to offer expert advice in fields related to the thesis topic but whose role is secondary to that of the Supervisor. Faculty from outside the Department may be invited to sit on the Committee.

The first job of the Thesis Advisory Committee is to consider the thesis proposal and, when it has been finalized, to approve the final version of the thesis proposal. The Committee should notify the Associate Chair, Graduate of the approval and file a copy of the final proposal with the office of the Graduate Administrator. The Thesis Advisory Committee shall meet with the candidate at least once a year to consider progress made, next steps, revisions of material, etc. A meeting at which all members are present is most desirable so that the student does not receive contradictory advice. If this is not possible, other arrangements should be made (e.g., a conference call or Skype). The meeting might begin with a brief presentation of work by the student, followed by discussion and recommendations. The results of the meeting should be summarized in detail on the Thesis Advisory Committee Assessment form, which can be obtained from the office of the Graduate Administrator and then filed with the Associate Chair, Graduate. A Thesis Advisory Committee Assessment (report) must be filed each year before May 31 and submitted to Michael Godwin, Graduate Administrator,



Supervision of Doctoral Students

SGS Supervision Guidelines for Students website

Timeline for the Doctoral Program

The doctoral program requires a student to spend at least two whole academic years on campus in full-time study, normally those of the first two academic years of the program residence. Here is a typical timetable for students required to complete two years of Ph.D. course work.

Typical two-year Ph.D. Course Work Program

Year 1 Sept - May Course work in progress
  May First modern language requirement met by the end of the academic year
Year 2 Sept - May Course work in progress
  May Second modern language requirement met by the end of the academic year
Year 3 Sept – Dec Comprehensive Examinations
  February Final version of Thesis Proposal submitted no later than 2 months following successful completion of General Examinations
Years 4 & 5   Thesis Preparation


A Thesis Advisory Committee Assessment (report) must be filed each year by May 30 to Michael Godwin, Graduate Administrator,

Submission of Thesis

Final Oral Examination/Defense

Department policy requires that all the Ph.D. program requirements, with the exception of the thesis, be completed by February of Ph.D. Year 3. Failure to meet these requirements in timely manner can result in termination of the program

All program requirements for the doctorate, including submission of the thesis, must be completed within five years.

For more information on producing your thesis, please refer to the following SGS website.



Please visit the School of Graduate Studies Awards and Funding website.

Teaching Assistantships (TAships)

The Department aims to provide a number of Teaching Assistantship opportunities to doctoral students each year. Teaching Assistantships will be included in funding packages for students who are in Ph.D. years 1-5 and will be allocated by the Department according to its needs.  Doctoral students once hired, are entitled to six additional contracts under the terms of the CUPE 3902 Unit 1 Collective Agreement. Students beyond Ph.D. year 5 are also eligible for TAships.

The number and kind of Teaching Assistantships available depend on the needs of the Department, the availability of qualified applicants, the number of entitlements that are open, and funding.

Potential candidates should submit a curriculum vitae (c.v.) along with a covering letter addressed to the Chair of the Department. Decisions regarding TAships are made by the Chair in consultation with faculty members in the Department but are dependent on available positions and funding. TAships available in other departments for which NMC students are invited to apply will also be posted. The Collective Agreement between the Governing Council of the University of Toronto and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 3902 governs the hiring of Teaching Assistants. Decisions are communicated to the candidate by the Chair.

Please note that your pay statement is available online through the Online Pay Statement System.



The following is a list of courses offered in the Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations. Note not all courses will be offered in a given academic year. Please visit the Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations website for the current courses of instruction.

Graduate students must take graduate courses (course code level 1000+) to meet the graduate degree course requirements. In consultation with your academic advisor, undergraduate courses may be taken as a part of your degree program, however, graduate credit will not be granted for undergraduate courses.

Cross-listed undergraduate and graduate courses are acceptable as a part of your program and will count towards your graduate degree course requirements. Note, ensure you enrol in the cross-listed graduate level course (e.g. NMC1001Y is cross-listed with NML305Y; therefore, ensure you enrol in NMC1001Y to receive graduate credit on your academic record).

Note: A number of graduate courses in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations demand ability to handle primary sources in the original language or languages.

To see the list of all graduate courses, visit the Browse All Graduate Courses webpage.