More About the PhD Program

Application Deadline

The deadline for applications to be received in the Department of English, complete with all supporting documentation, is:

  • January 5th for Canadian applicants
  • November 1st for International applicants.

Late applications will not be considered.

Application Procedures

Students are required to submit the following materials in support of their online application for graduate studies at the University of Manitoba:

  • A complete Application For Admission Form and Application Fee ($100); 
  • All official transcripts;
  • Copy of birth certificate or passport;
  • Notarized copy of marriage certificate or of other official evidence indicating name change (if applicable);
  • Two confidential letters of recommendation, preferably from professors under whom the student has previously worked (to be submitted directly to the Faculty of Graduate Studies by the letter writer);
  • A sample of the student's scholarly writing;
  • A detailed proposal (approximately 1,000 words) explaining the student's intended research focus.

Applications are considered by the Graduate Selection Board on an individual basis.

PhD Program Requirements Course Work

The PhD program is designed to enable completion in four years. In the first year of full-time PhD study, a student normally will complete 18 credit hours of course work, as follows:

1) a minimum of 12 credit hours at the 7000-level in English, with (if possible) at least one course in the student's area of specialization; and
2) six ancillary credit hours that may be taken from the 7000-level offerings in the English Department or, if appropriate to the student’s program, courses offered by another department (excluding 1000 or 2000 level courses).

Depending on the student's progress and demonstrated knowledge and ability in the first year of PhD study, a total of 18 credit hours may be deemed sufficient, or a further course or courses may be required as the Graduate Committee directs.

Language Requirement

Graduate students are required to have some knowledge of a language other than English. For a PhD degree, a grade of C+ or better in 6 credit hours of language course(s) (second year or higher) satisfies the requirement. Such courses may be taken at the University of Manitoba or at other universities. Students who have a reading knowledge of a second language but who have not taken a university-level course in it may satisfy the requirement by demonstrating competence in that language, which, in most cases, will be done by taking a reading test. These tests are administered and marked by the members of the department in which that language is taught. While some programs of research may require reading knowledge of a particular language, in most cases students may choose, subject to the approval of their advisors, the language best suited to their interests. Students who enter the program with English as a second language will have their language requirement waived unless they are carrying out research that requires reading knowledge of a third language. If there is any question about which language would be appropriate in a given program of study or about the level of competence demanded, students must discuss the matter with their advisors, who will advise them in consultation with the Graduate Chair (on the advice of the Graduate Committee) and, when necessary, the Head of the appropriate language department. All language courses/reading tests will be classified as X (Auxiliary) and the grade will not be included in the student’s G.P.A.

Exploratory Conference

Normally one week before classes begin, the Chair and at least two other members of the Graduate Committee will meet with the student for an Exploratory Conference. The student is advised to contact the Department of English, Film, and Theatre Graduate Program Assistant during the first week of August for the date and time of the appointment. In cases where a student has completed graduate courses beyond the MA degree before entering the PhD program, credit may be transferred towards a PhD degree only after the student has undertaken the Exploratory Conference and only if the course or courses fits into an approved program of study. The regulations governing this Conference are as follows:

1. The student should begin the interview with a statement of his/her knowledge by reference to prior study, assessing both his/her strengths and weaknesses, and should be prepared to make a brief statement about the findings of the Master's thesis or previous graduate work.

2. The student should, in preparation for the interview, review some aspects of literary history or theory important to his/her prior or prospective study, and should come prepared to initiate discussion of this area with the Exploratory Committee.

3. The Committee, in turn, will be prepared to discuss widely the student's interests and concerns, and those areas in which it feels the student would benefit from additional course work required for completion of the doctoral degree.

4. The Committee will write an assessment of the interview incorporating its requirements for the first year of study and its recommendations to the Graduate Chair for the areas of further study.

Subject to the approval of the Graduate Chair, the Exploratory Committee, after consultation with the student, will establish a long-term course program, including language requirements, and will advise the student until he/she has declared an advisor. It is in the student's best interest to select an advisor promptly to ensure efficient programming (normally, by the end of April of the first year). Midway through a student’s first year, the Graduate Chair will meet with the instructors of graduate classes and the student’s Exploratory Committee members to discuss the performance of each first-year student, referring also to the Exploratory Conference. Students whose performance at the end of first term is found to be unsatisfactory will be so advised by the Graduate Chair, in detail, and will be warned that lack of improvement by the end of second term may result in their being required to withdraw from the PhD program. After being so warned, a student who fails to reach minimum departmental standards by the end of the second term of the first year will be informed in writing of recommendation to the Faculty of Graduate Studies that he/she be required to withdraw and, where found appropriate, be advised of the conditions for readmission. Students whose performance in the first year has been found satisfactory will be advised in writing that they have qualified to continue in the PhD program. Students who under special circumstances enter in January will receive evaluations in both April and the following January, with the final evaluation taking place in April, sixteen months after their initial registration.

Satisfactory progress by a full-time PhD student in the Graduate Studies program in English is defined as the completion of 18 credit hours of course work by the end of the first year of study, completed candidacy examinations by the end of the second/third year of study, and a successfully defended thesis by the end of the fourth year of study. Exceptions to this timetable must be approved, in writing, by the advisor, the Graduate Chair, and the Head of the Department of English. In addition, a minimum Grade Point Average of 3.00 with no grade below “C+” must be maintained for continuance.

The PhD Candidacy Examinations

The candidacy examinations are designed to test the student's knowledge and ability. Candidacy Exams are divided into two parts: the Period Examination and the Special Area Examination. As soon as possible after completion of coursework, students should consult with the Graduate Chair about selecting an Advisor. Once an Advisor has been decided on, the student should consult with the Advisor regarding selection of a Period and determination of a Special Area. Both of these examinations consist of a four-hour written exam and a one-hour oral exam. The oral exam takes place during the week following the written examination. Students are strongly encouraged to discuss these examinations with the Graduate Chair well in advance of writing them.

An Examining Committee will be struck for each Candidacy Exam. The Committee, which will be appointed by the Graduate Chair, will consist of the Advisor and two other members of the Department with expertise in relevant fields. This Committee will be responsible for approving the student’s reading list and for the creation and assessment of the examination. Reading lists are submitted to the Graduate Assistant, with the Advisor’s written approval. Examination papers are also submitted to the Graduate Assistant, who formats the examination.

Students are permitted to attempt the Candidacy Examination twice. Students who fail twice in either component (Period or Special Area) will be recommended, by the Department, to the Faculty of Graduate Studies for withdrawal from the program.

The Period Examination: The Period Examination deals with one of the following periods (please click to link to the core reading list for each period):

Old and/or Middle English
Early Modern
Restoration and 18th-Century
19th Century
1900- Present: Literature
1900- Present: Film

In cases where the period chosen is Old and/or Middle English or Early Modern, the Examining Committee should meet with the candidate as soon as possible after being formed to draw up a list that the Committee deems appropriate in terms of both length and scope.

In cases where the period chosen is the Restoration and 18th Century, the 19th Century, 1900-Present: Film or 1900-Present: Literature, the Examining Committee should meet with the candidate as soon as possible after being formed to draw up a list which should consist of between fifty and sixty works by between twenty and thirty authors or filmmakers, at least fifteen of whom should be chosen from the core list. Core lists are available in the Graduate Office. A "work" consists of a novel or a collection of poetry, drama or fictional or non-fictional prose or a film by a given author or filmmaker or a substantial selection of thematically linked poetry or prose.

For all periods, the Examining Committee is responsible for ensuring that the list includes some balance in genres and a chronological range across the period. The list must be approved by the Examining Committee and the Graduate Chair or designate (if the Graduate Chair is a member of the examining committee). Period exams should be written within six months of the completion of coursework.

The Special Area Examination: The Special Area exam is intended to provide the student with the historical or contextual background necessary for writing the doctoral thesis. The reading list should consist of between fifty and sixty works by between twenty and thirty authors. A "work" consists of a novel or a collection of poetry, drama or fictional or non-fictional prose or film by a given author or filmmaker or a substantial selection of thematically linked poetry or prose. Topics should be formulated to ensure that they are manageable within these limits. Each student will develop the list and a brief (one- to two-page) rationale in consultation with his or her advisor; it must then be approved by the Examining Committee and the Graduate Chair or designate (if the Graduate Chair is a member of the examining committee). The range of chronological coverage will be left to the discretion of the Examining Committee. This list should be drawn up and approved by or as soon as possible after the completion of the Period Examination, and the Special Area Examination should be written within six months of the successful completion of the Period Examination.

The Special Area Examination is intended as a formal antithesis to the Period in as much as it requires historical breadth of knowledge, as well as specialized knowledge of a genre (e.g. the long poem), or mode (e.g. parody), or theme (e.g. quest narratives), or theory (e.g. mimesis). Its scope should not be restricted to the literature, film or representational practices of any nation or culture, but should be broadly comparative in its reading of both literary/film history and theory.

Please note: The Special Area list should not overlap by more than 25 % with the Period list. While the two lists will normally be related, they represent two distinct areas and differing types of literary knowledge.

PhD Thesis Proposal 

After successful completion of the candidacy examinations, the PhD candidate, with the advisor's approval, prepares a thesis proposal which the Graduate Chair circulates among the Graduate Committee. The proposal will typically be 8 - 10 pages in length, double-spaced (excluding bibliography). A breakdown of methodology by chapters is also expected.

After receiving written evaluations from the Graduate Committee, the Graduate Chair writes to the advisor, conveying the Committee's views as well as his/her own. Any matters of concern thus conveyed must be resolved before the student is allowed to proceed with the thesis.

PhD Thesis and Oral Defense 

The nature of the PhD thesis should be fully explored in conferences with the advisor and other members of the student's committee. Technical standards are high, and the finished thesis should represent a substantial contribution to scholarship, a condition which lends emphasis to the need for consultation between the student and the committee. In brief, it is important that the candidate be assured, from the start, of the concurrence of the advisor in the suitability of the subject chosen and the mode of research.

The actual research on the thesis is done by the student in consultation with the advisor and any other faculty members to whom the student may be referred. The acquisition of rare research materials, travel for purposes of research, and other unusual situations relating to the project will be matters for discussion with the advisor. In every case, the candidate should remain in continuing contact with the advisor to avoid the possibility of fruitless labour.

Generally, the thesis is completed through the first draft in consultation with the advisor, after which other members of the committe will be requested to read and offer comments on the draft.  Distribution of the thesis by the student is done electronically through JUMP. Internal committee members will be requested to read and offer comments to the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Every thesis must also be read, and approved, by one person who is considered to be a professional authority in the subject and who is not a member of the faculty of the University of Manitoba . This outside reader is considered an official member of the candidate's examining committee.  The candidate's advisor, in consultation with the advisory committee, will recommend the names of three distinguished scholars from outside the University of Manitoba with particular experience in the field of the thesis research and Ph.D. student advisory/examination experience to serve as the external examiner to the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies for approval. These recommendations are submitted via the Thesis Submission Portal on JUMP.  Each recommendation should, if possible, include a brief CV of each of the prospective external examiners and a short statement detailing the rationale behind the recommendations, the prospective external examiner's qulifications, including a current list of his/her scholarly publications and research activities and, importantly, their experience with graduate student education.  No contact should be made with any of the prospective external examiners.  The Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies will choose the external examiner from the list provided by the candidate's advisor and will make the formal invitation to the external examiner.  The Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies shall ensure the anonymity of the external examiner until it has been determined that the student can proceed to oral defence.

PhD thesis distribution instructions:

Deadlines for distribution:

Internal examiners will have 3 weeks to submit a detailed written report of the thesis to the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.  Prior to external distribution, the candidate shall have the opportunity to incorporate changes suggested by the internal members of the examining committee. The Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies will then request the external examiner to give, within 3 weeks, a detailed written report of the thesis.  If advancement of the oral examination is approved, the Dean of the Faculty of Gradaute Studies shall provide electronic copies of all reports to each of the advisors, examiners and Head of the unit.  Units cannot proceed with scheduling the oral defence prior to receiving the approved examiner's reports from the Faculty of Graduate Studies.  Upon tentative approval of the thesis by the candidate's committee, and following the completion of all required changes to its satisfaction, an oral defense of the thesis will be scheduled. It is the responsibility of the unit to ensure that all room booking arrangements are made for a PhD defence.  In addition, the candidate must submit, in electronic format, biographical information and an abstract of the thesis to the Faculty of Graduate Studies.  Notice of the oral defense is published by the Faculty of Graduate Studies, and it is open to any member of the academic community. Specific details of the University requirements in this respect are available from the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

After a successful defense and corrections to the thesis are complete, the candidate must submit an electronic copy of the thesis to MSpace, and 2 bound copies to the Department of English, Film, and Theatre (instructions on binding format to be obtained from the Department of English, Film, and Theatre Graduate Program Assistant). Thesis/Practicum Information and Guidelines can be obtained from the Faculty of Graduate Studies website:

Students convocating in October do not need to reregister; all others must register in GRAD 8000 PhD Thesis in September for any later convocation after the first year of PhD Thesis registration.

The maximum time allowed for the completion of the PhD requirements is six years.

More information regarding Graduate Studies at the University of Manitoba can be found at the Faculty of Graduate Studies web site.

E-mail inquiries regarding graduate studies in English may be directed to

Click here for detailed information on Faculty of Graduate Studies Regulations, and Department of English, Film, and Theatre Supplemental Regulations (revised/approved by FGS July 2016)