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Ph.D in Classical Studies

Michigan's Department of Classical Studies has roots that reach back to the founding of the Ann Arbor campus in 1841. During the twentieth century, it emerged as one of the outstanding classics departments in the United States, and it has preserved this reputation particularly in the area of graduate education. The Michigan department is known for the quality and breadth of the training that it offers not only in traditional areas of language and literature, but also in related and comparative disciplines.

For more information about the Ph.D progam, please contact: 

Professor Francesca Schironi, Director of Graduate Studies: or 734-647-3290

Sarah Kandell, Graduate Program Coordinator: or 734-615-3181

Program Overview

The Ph.D. in Classical Studies is a five to six year program designed to prepare students for teaching and research in colleges and universities. This program is particularly broad and challenging. Its special feature is coordination of the requirements for the degree with a carefully thought-out sequence of courses and other activities through which students prepare to meet the requirements. It is designed to make it possible to gain a balanced knowledge of the classical world and the ability and desire to teach the classical languages and literatures at the college and university level and to do professional work in a particular field of classical scholarship.

Greek and Latin language and literature are at the heart of the program, but it also offers the student an introduction to one or more other areas pertinent to classical studies (such as history, archaeology, ancient philosophy, epigraphy, papyrology, linguistics, law, literary theory, and Near Eastern studies), and an opportunity for some specialization in one of these fields. In addition, the Department participates in the Interdepartmental Program in Greek and Roman History and the Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology.

The University's collections of Greek papyri, Greek and Latin inscriptions, Greek and Roman coins, and other ancient artifacts, together with the special scholarly competence of members of the teaching staff in each of these fields (see our Faculty here) are departmental assets which are not easily duplicated in graduate programs elsewhere. Students encounter genuine documents and ancient objects at first hand; this lends a sense of immediacy and directness to the study of antiquity.

The Department believes it is important that students develop into effective, lively, and well-organized teachers, as well as scholars, and works to achieve this objective in two principal ways. First, the ability to express ideas clearly is stressed. Students are expected to prepare frequent oral reports in graduate classes and in seminars, and there are oral components to both preliminary and dissertation examinations. Second and more important, students are required to teach for a minimum of two terms, under staff supervision, in the Elementary Latin or Classical Civilization programs. The Department places great importance on preparing students to be confident and effective classroom teachers. Within the limitations of available funding, research assistantships are also offered which provide an opportunity for close collaboration in research with one of the department faculty.


The program presupposes a minimum of three years of college Latin and two years of college Greek, with honor grades (A or B.) Students with less than this amount or quality of preparation will need to make up their deficiencies before entrance. The Chair or the Director of Graduate Studies will be glad to counsel such students, either in person or by correspondence. Command of French and German, while not actually required for admission, is so important from the very beginning for advanced work in classical studies that prospective students are encouraged to equip themselves with at least one of these languages before entering. (Command of Italian is recommended.) A writing sample (limit 20 pages,) 3 recommendation letters and official transcripts are also required (in addition to Rackham requirements.)

Application Process and Requirements


The following materials are required for consideration to the Ph.D in Classical Studies program. You should submit all materials by uploading them into your online application. All materials are due on December 15.

1.     Completed Rackham application

2.    Three letters of recommendation.  Please make sure that you register three recommenders when you fill out the online application even if you don’t yet know who the third will be.  If you only enter one or two and click submit you will be unable to go in the ApplyWeb system and enter a third later.  We recommend that you enter a placeholder name which you will be able to go in and change in ApplyWeb under Review Your Activity.  If you or your recommenders will be submitting letters of recommendation by paper, include this Letter of Recommendation form with your submission.  Please have these letters sent directly to the department via US Mail.

3.     Statement of Purpose - Briefly explain the nature of your study in Classics or related fields, your primary areas of interest (if known), what studies you would like to pursue in graduate school, and whether there are any Michigan faculty with whom you would especially like to work. Upload at the Statement of Purpose page.

4.     Personal Statement - Please use this statement to help us understand how you have come to be interested in Classics, what special challenges you might have faced, what relevant experiences you might have had, and what aspirations you have for the future. Upload at the Personal Statement page.

5.     Resume or CV. Upload at the Resume or CV page.

6.     Scholarly writing sample - Preferably a paper or thesis that you have submitted in a pertinent course (20 page limit).  Upload at the Writing Sample page.

7.     Transcripts – Please scan your official or unofficial transcripts and upload them with your online application.  This will be sufficient for the Department’s admissions file and is our preferred method of receiving your transcripts. Please include transcripts from institutions from which you received a degree or from which you took courses relevant to your application. (If you decide to have your transcripts mailed to the department rather than upload them, we must receive them by the due date of December 15.  Please order them well ahead of time to make sure they reach us by the deadline.)

In addition to uploading your transcript to the online application, all applicants are required to mail one set of official academic records/transcripts from the institution awarding a Bachelor’s, Master’s, Professional and/or Doctoral degree to the Rackham Graduate School. If you attended a non-U.S. institution submit this form with the academic records/transcripts.

International Students Only: If you received a degree from a non-US institution, be prepared to send:

-Transcripts/official records from each undergraduate or postgraduate institution attended

-Official certification of degrees and dates awarded, issued in the original language.

If your first language is not English AND you do not qualify for a Rackham English Proficiency Exemption, please send one of these scores:





Degree Requirements


It should be emphasized that students’ training is not expected to come entirely from formal courses. Their own readings and explorations in classical literature and scholarship are at least as important; in fact one purpose of the program is to equip and encourage students to make such explorations on their own. However, a good part of the time will be spent in courses, especially during the first two years. Several kinds of courses are included in the program. All will contribute to the student’s progress. The Department offers many reading courses in Greek and Roman authors or in periods or types of literature.

Required Courses


One course in the first year; introduction to documents, introduction to transmision, methods of bibliography, and exercises in research.

Greek and Latin Composition

One course in each, normally to be completed during the first two years.

History of Greek and Roman Literature Courses

Three courses, at least one in each language. Grades for these courses are recorded as the third part of the Preliminary Examination component (see below). The survey courses include GREEK 571, 572, and 573 and LATIN 571, 572, and 574.

Upper Level Courses in the Specialized Disciplines

At some point before students present themselves for the preliminary examination they must have taken one 600-level course in the methods and problems of a particular sub-discipline such as linguistics, textual criticism, paleography, papyrology, numismatics, epigraphy, law, archaeology, textual criticism, metrics, or religion.


Involve advanced and intensive exegesis, in collaboration with the professor, of a classical author or subject, with particular emphasis on the independent research of the student in the form of reports and papers. One or more seminars will be offered each semester, either in literary or in non-literary fields. Two seminars are required.


At least two courses must be taken outside the student’s primary area of interest. These can be courses in other departments or cross-listed with other departments (i.e., History, Linguistics, History of Art), or courses in ancillary disciplines within the Department (i.e., papyrology, Roman law).

Required Examinations

SIGHT-READING EXAMS in Greek and Latin are administered at entrance; these tests are diagnostic, to alert the Department and the student to weaknesses in command of the languages.

MODERN LANGUAGE EXAMS (French/Italian and German) are offered twice each year. Students must take one each year until both are passed.

GREEK AND ROMAN HISTORY EXAMINATIONS are to be taken at the beginning of the second year of study. These are written examinations of four hours which require general competency in the larger movements of history (for further information).

QUALIFYING EXAMINATIONS in the translation of Greek and Latin must be passed not later than the end of the second year. The Department expects a holder of the Ph.D. in Classical Studies to have read a considerable amount of Greek and Roman literature in the original language, whether in high school, college, or graduate school. The special reading courses taken in the first year are particularly designed to help the student make progress toward completing the Ph.D reading list that forms the basis for these examinations.

PRELIMINARY EXAMINATIONS are to be taken after all course work is completed and the student is ready to begin work on the dissertation. After successful completion of the preliminary examinations, formal admission to candidacy for the degree is granted.

There are three categories of preliminary examination:

1. The Latin/Greek examinations test the student on authors/periods/genres. The examination often takes the form of a discussion of three or four questions or topics agreen upon by the student and advisor in advance of the exam.

2. The topic of the special field examination is typically chosen by the student from areas pertinent to classics: archaeology, metrics, history, philosophy, papyrology, religion, linguistics, numismatics, epigraphy, law, Medieval Latin, or literary theory. By agreement of the student and the examiner, this requirement is fulfilled by either a written or oral examination, or by a substantial research paper

3. Greek and Roman literature: The grades in the three required survey courses in the history of the literatures are used to fulfill this requirement. The lowest grade considered to be passing in a graduate course or examination is B–.

DISSERTATION DEFENSE. Having achieved candidacy for the degree, the student undertakes a dissertation under the supervision of an advisor and a committee. The usual time required for its completion is one to two years. The final oral examination is on the dissertation and related topics.

Financial Support

The Department offers five year support packages to incoming graduate students, providing full tuition and a stipend in the first year, with equivalent support from a combination of fellowship and graduate student instructorships in subsequent years. Qualified students will be nominated for Rackham Merit Fellowships, which also guarantee a five-year support package. These also provide a stipend plus full tuition in the first year, and equivalent support from a combination of fellowship and graduate student instructorships in subsequent years. Healthcare is included, and summer support is available.

Ordinarily, first year Ph.D. students are not expected to hold graduate student instructorships, but this is a common form of support in subsequent years. Indeed, at least two terms of work experience, in the form of a graduate student instructorship, are required for the Ph.D. A typical pattern of support would be a fellowship in the first year, graduate student instructorships during the second and third years, and part fellowship, part graduate student instructorships in the fourth and fifth years when the student is writing the dissertation.