6.11 Doctor of Philosophy
6.11.1 Admission to the
Program
6.11.2 Registration
6.11.3 Degree...
6.11.4 Hermeneutics and
Biblical Interpretation
6.11.5 Historical and
Theological Studies

6.11.3 Degree Requirements


  1. Competency examinations: Entering Ph.D. students in the Hermeneutics and Biblical Interpretation field must demonstrate knowledge of grammar and reading proficiency at an advanced M.Div. level in both Greek and Hebrew. Such expertise must be demonstrated by means of competency exams taken upon initial matriculation in the PhD program. Commencement of Ph.D. studies is dependent upon successfully passing the competency exams. See section 6.1 for more information.

  2. Preliminary examinations in Old Testament (including Biblical Hebrew), New Testament (including New Testament Greek), Church History, Systematic Theology (and Ethics), and Apologetics are set by the particular departments. In each case, the examinations may be oral or written or both, as determined by the department coordinator. These examinations must be sustained within one year after initial registration in the Ph.D. program, except for Hebrew and Greek proficiency, which must be demonstrated upon entry into the program. (International students on F-1 or J-1 visas should consult the regulations concerning full-time status for international students (section 5.1.2) and preparation for preliminary examinations.)
    Sustaining these examinations admits the student to the status of prospective candidacy.

  3. Language Exams: The student must demonstrate a reading knowledge of two languages designated by the Field Committee in consultation with the student. International students on F-1 or J-1 visas should consult the regulations concerning full-time status for international students (section 5.1.2) and preparation for language examinations.

    All Ph.D. students will be urged strongly to enter the program with reading proficiency in one modern language, normally either German or French (exceptions can be made for another language if deemed appropriate by the Field Committee). An examination will be administered in late September each year. The first modern language examination must be sustained no later than September of the second academic year. The second modern language examination must be sustained by the following September (the beginning of the third academic year).

    Those who fail or decline to take their first examination in September of their second academic year will have until November 15 of that same year to notify the Coordinator of the Field Committee that they have begun learning a language. They will write a letter to the Coordinator informing him specifically of what steps they are taking. A second examination for that language will be administered in May of that same academic year. If the examination is still not sustained, they will be placed on probationary status and given one final attempt at passing the examination by the end of September of the following year. If the examination is not sustained by then, the student will be removed from the program. Analogous rules apply to the examination in the second modern language.

  4. Course Work: In addition to the course work indicated for either field, each candidate must complete PT 421P Theological Bibliography and Research Methodology in the first year after the student enrolls. Candidates for advanced degrees (Th.M. and Ph.D.) take this course on a pass-fail basis and without tuition charge.

    For any required external courses at another school, the student should consult his or her academic advisor, make arrangements for enrollment at the other school, and submit to the Westminster Registrar a Request for External Course Form before enrolling at the other school. Failure to conform to these stipulations may result in removal of the student from the program and in the refusal of Westminster to count these courses toward degree requirements. If no Westminster course is taken the semester a student is enrolled elsewhere, the student will not pay a continuation fee to Westminster.

  5. Comprehensive examinations are set by the particular Field Committee and are to be sustained within five years after initial registration in the Ph.D. program for the Hermeneutics and Biblical Interpretation field, four years for the Historical and Theological Studies field. An oral examination of two hours on the basis of earlier written examinations shall complete the series of comprehensive examinations. The comprehensive exams may only be taken after all other residency requirements are fulfilled. International students on F-1 or J-1 visas should consult the regulations concerning full-time status for international students (section 5.1.2) and the deadline for comprehensive examinations.

  6. Dissertation Proposal: The academic advisor shall encourage the student to give thought to the choice of a dissertation topic from the very beginning of his or her residency. Approval of the dissertation proposal can only be granted when the student has successfully completed both written and oral comprehensive examinations. The dissertation proposal must be approved within a year of sustaining comprehensive exams in the Hermeneutics and Biblical Interpretation field; within a semester of sustaining comprehensive exams in the Historical and Theological Studies field. Sustaining these examinations and approval of the dissertation proposal admits the student to the status of full candidacy. International students on F-1 or J-1 visas should consult the regulations concerning full-time status for international students (section 5.1.2) and the deadline for submitting a dissertation proposal.

  7. Dissertation: The student must submit a dissertation. After approval of the dissertation proposal, the student has three years to write the dissertation. Upon admission to full candidacy, the Field Committee will appoint a dissertation advisor and one additional member of the Dissertation Committee. In making their plans, students should be aware that faculty will not ordinarily supervise dissertations while on professional advancement leaves. A schedule of faculty leaves can be obtained from the Academic Affairs Office. At least one member of a graduate school faculty other than Westminster will be added later as an external reader upon the recommendation of the Dissertation Committee. International students on F-1 or J-1 visas should consult the regulations concerning full-time status for international students (section 5.1.2) and the deadline for submitting dissertations.

    One copy of the completed dissertation ("submission copy")  is to be submitted for the advisor's approval by the December 15 deadline that follows this three-year period. (See the Academic Calendar if the 15th falls on a weekend.) If the advisor approves, the student inserts any small changes recommended by the advisor and presents three copies of the completed dissertation ("presentation copy") to the Academic Affairs Office by the January 30 deadline. (See below for the January 30 procedure for submission.)

    Explanation: The copy submitted on December 15 ("submission copy") should include all appropriate grammatical and typographical editing, and should be checked for clarity of expression and conformity to Format Guidelines for WTS Theses, Dissertations, and Projects. Dissertations that still have problems in any of these areas will not be approved, but will be returned to the student for further work. (Students who are less skillful in written expression in English should consider employing a professional editor in preparing this copy. Since many students are seeking editing help at just this time of year, students must be prepared for a correspondingly long turn-around time on editing jobs.)

    The dissertation must be a contribution to the knowledge of the subject worthy of publication and must show the candidate’s ability to conduct independent research, to deal constructively with theological problems, and to communicate clearly and effectively in written English. The Ph.D. dissertation specific word limit is100,000 (excluding bibliography).

    The dissertation must conform to the format and bibliographic style requirements in the Format Guidelines for WTS Theses, Dissertations, and Projects, available from the Library and online. Three copies of the completed dissertation,three copies of an abstract of 350 words or less, and the external reader fee must be submitted to the Academic Affairs Office by January 30 for the following May graduation (see the Academic Calendar if the 30th falls on a weekend).

    The dissertation will be submitted for review to an individual who is unaffiliated with Westminster but who is an expert in the field addressed in the dissertation and, in most circumstances, presently teaches in a Ph.D. program. Taking into account the evaluation provided by this individual, the appropriate Field Committee will make a final decision regarding approval of the dissertation by April 1 for May graduation. If approved, some minor corrections may be required.

    The student must submit the two copies of the approved dissertation, including the abstract, to the Academic Affairs Office by May 1 (see the Academic Calendar if the 1st falls on a weekend). One copy must be printed on 20 lb., 100 percent cotton paper. The other may be printed on white multipurpose paper. No holes are to be punched in the pages, and the dissertation should be submitted flat in a box that is well protected so that the pages do not bend.

    One copy of the dissertation will be submitted to the Library to be bound and shelved with the bound periodicals. The second copy will be sent to UMI/ProQuest to be published. The publication requirement will not be satisfied by any other form of publication, although microfilming does not preclude later publication by other methods, such as the mandatory publication of the abstract in the Westminster Theological Journal. Forms for UMI Dissertation Publishing and the Survey of Earned Doctorates, previously distributed by the Academic Affairs Office, must be returned with the approved dissertation by May 1.
  8. Dissertation Defense: Upon approving the dissertation, the Dissertation Committee will set the time for a final examination both on the dissertation and on areas of knowledge cognate with it. This examination shall be conducted by faculty members meeting as a committee for this purpose, and the external reader may be invited to participate. To be sustained, this examination must be approved by a majority of the faculty members present.

6.11.3.a Program Time Limit

All work for the Ph.D. must be completed within three years after admission to full candidacy. International students must be full-time each semester and are allowed 12 semesters from the date of matriculation for the completion of the PhD (section 5.1.2).

For all other students, the maximum length of time allowed to complete all work for the Ph.D. degree is eight years from the date of matriculation (including any leave of absence or withdrawal period).  For a comparison of the number of semesters required to complete the degree based on enrollment status, please refer to the Program Length table. If the student has transferred from the Th.M. program, the student’s matriculation into the Th.M. program will be used to determine the time limit. Students who do not expect to graduate within the program time limit must petition for a program extension by contacting their advisor, who will bring the petition before the Field Committee for approval/denial. International students on F/J VISA must first contact the International Student Advisor about obtaining an Extension of Stay Request form. Deadline to submit the petition is January 15. 

The Ph.D. degree shall be granted only to persons enrolled at Westminster at the time of the completion of their program of study.

6.11.3.b Regulations Concerning Full-time Status for International Students

For international students to maintain full-time status and complete their work in 12 semesters, the following deadlines are in effect:

Full-time status during coursework phase means a student must be enrolled in three courses per semester. Preparation for preliminary examinations and language examinations are not calculated for the purposes of full-time status.

Deadlines for various requirements of the program are as follows:

  • For requirements regarding the first and second language examinations, see Degree Requirements section 3.

  • Preliminary exams must be sustained within 3 months of the end of coursework (no later than three months after the end of the first semester of the third year). 

  • Course work must be completed two and a half years after matriculation. 

  • Comprehensive exams must be sustained by the end of the second semester following completion of coursework (no later than the end of the fall of the fourth year after matriculation).

  • The dissertation proposal must be submitted by the end of the semester following comps (no later than the spring of the fourth year after matriculation). 

  • The dissertation should be completed within two years of sustaining the comprehensive exams (submission of the dissertation by January 30 of the sixth year after matriculation).

Please see section 6.12 Th.M./Ph.D. Program Length Table.

Explanation: The copy submitted on December 15 ("submission copy") should include all appropriate grammatical and typographical editing, and should be checked for clarity of expression and conformity to WTS formatting guidelines for dissertations. Dissertations that still have problems in any of these areas will not be approved, but will be returned to the student for further work. (Students for whom English is a second language or who are less skillful in written expression in English should employ a professional editor in preparing this copy. Since many students are seeking editing help at just this time of year, students must be prepared for a correspondingly long turn-around time on editing jobs.)