Graduate Program

Ph.D. Requirements

Academic Advisor and Mentoring Committee
Each student entering the Ph.D. program will select an Academic Advisor before classes begin. The Advisor must be a member of the Group in Buddhist Studies. In addition, at least one other faculty member from the Group in Buddhist Studies is selected to constitute, along with the Advisor, the student's "Mentoring Committee." The Mentoring Committee is responsible for overseeing the student's program of coursework, course of language study, selection of cognate areas, timing of preliminary exams, and so on. Membership in the Mentoring Committee can be changed at any time with the agreement of the student, the student's Advisor, the Buddhist Studies Head Graduate Advisor, and the Director of Buddhist Studies. The Mentoring Committee is replaced by the "Dissertation Committee" (see below) once candidacy is achieved.

A minimum of 8 graduate seminars or upper division courses are required, all of which are chosen in consultation with the Academic Advisor. At least one seminar must be taken in the field of Buddhist art history. In addition, at least one seminar must be taken in each of the two cognate fields (see under Qualifying Exams). The art history course requirement can simultaneously fulfill the course requirement for the cognate disciplinary field in the event that said field is art history.

All pre-candidates are required to enroll for 1 credit in the Buddhist Studies Proseminar (BS200) each term they are registered, provided that the seminar is being offered. This seminar does not count toward the 8 course requirement. This seminar focuses on recent scholarship in the field, particularly interdisciplinary and cross-regional scholarship. It involves all Buddhist Studies faculty and students, and typically meets four times or so each semester.

All courses taken to fulfill the degree requirements, including the art history seminar, seminars taken to fulfill cognate field requirements, and the Buddhist Studies Proseminar, must be taken for a letter grade.

Language Study
Advanced facility in at least two Asian languages is considered a fundamental component of the Ph.D. program in Buddhist Studies at Berkeley, but it is not an end in and of itself. Students are required to master the range of classical and modern languages required to pursue advanced research in their chosen field. Each student selects a primary language area. Determination of which additional languages are necessary for the student's course of study, and the procedures for the evaluation of proficiency in those languages, is determined by the Mentoring Committee in accordance with Graduate Division regulations. The following table is provided as a guideline.

  • Chinese: Classical and modern Chinese, as well as modern Japanese (as a research language), and a modern European research language (typically French).
  • Japanese: Classical (Bungo) and modern Japanese, as well as Classical Chinese/Kanbun, and a modern European research language.
  • Newari: Sanskrit and a modern research language.
  • Pali: Sanskrit and a modern research language (Sinhala or a Southeast Asian language recommended)
  • Sanskrit: Literary Tibetan and/or Classical Chinese, and a modern research language (Japanese, German, or French)
  • Tibetan: Sanskrit and/or Classical Chinese, as well as a modern research language (modern Chinese, Japanese, German, or French)
  • Southeast Asian Languages: Sanskrit and Pali, as well as a modern research language

Annual Review
The Mentoring Committee conducts an annual review of the student's academic performance and progress toward the degree in the spring of each year, before the end of the Spring term (see F4.2 of the Graduate Studies Handbook). Students should fill out the Graduate Division Annual Review Form and provide the Mentoring Committee with all seminar papers written that year, as well as any other documentation deemed pertinent and requested by the Committee. Should a student's performance be considered unsatisfactory, following consultation with the Head Graduate Advisor and Director of the Program, the student will be placed on probation for one year and given the opportunity to improve his or her performance. If a student's performance is still considered unsatisfactory at the end of the probationary year, the student will be dismissed from the program.

Qualifying Examination and Dissertation Prospectus
F3.3 of the Graduate Studies Handbook states: "The intent of the Qualifying Examination is to ascertain the breadth of the student's comprehension of fundamental facts and principles that apply in their major fields of study and whether the student has the ability to think incisively and critically about the theoretical and the practical aspects of these fields."

The Qualifying Examination process consists of five stages: (1) constituting the Qualifying Examination Committee and convening the Qualifying Examination Colloquium, (2) taking the written examination in the Cognate Regional Field, (3) taking the written examination in the Cognate Disciplinary Field, (4) submission of the Dissertation Prospectus, (5) the Qualifying Oral Examination.

Qualifying Examination Committee and Colloquium
The Qualifying Examination process in Buddhist Studies begins with a colloquium in which the student meets with his or her Qualifying Examination Committee. This Committee consists of four persons, namely the two or three members of the Mentoring Committee and one or two additional members selected for their expertise in the cognate fields. Three members of the Examination Committee must be members of the Group in Buddhist Studies. (See Graduate Studies Handbook F3.3 and F5.7 for further regulations governing membership on the Committee.) The colloquium is an opportunity to discuss the academic fields, content, structure and timing of the exams.

Cognate Fields
The cognate exams consist of two written take-home examinations--one in each of the two "cognate fields."

  • 1. Cognate Regional Field: this exam is intended to reinforce breadth of knowledge in the Buddhist traditions of Asia. Students of East Asian Buddhism will normally do this in the areas of South and/or Southeast Asian Buddhism, and vice versa.
  • 2. Cognate Disciplinary Field: this exam focuses on the student's primary region of study, but in a disciplinary field outside that of Buddhist Studies. Appropriate cognate disciplines include anthropology, art history, history, literature, philosophy, and so on. Thus a student of Chinese Buddhism might select Chinese art history, a student of Tibetan Buddhism might select the anthropology of Tibet, and so on.

Preparation for these exams should begin early in the student's coursework. In consultation with the Mentoring Committee the students will select their two cognate areas and take at least one upper division course or graduate seminar in each area. Preparation for the qualifying exam continues with supplementary readings based on a bibliography prepared by the student in conjunction with the Qualifying Examination Committee. This Committee is responsible for setting the exam questions for the cognate written exams. The student is given 24 hours to write on a total of three questions for each exam. Each of the written exams is evaluated by all members of the Examination Committee.

Dissertation Prospectus
The prospectus should begin with a general review of the scholarship in the field, and situate the thesis within that field. It should clearly articulate the thesis and program of research, identifying the available source material to be consulted. In framing their subject matter and thesis, students are expected to demonstrate their ability to synthesize philological, historical, and theoretical perspectives. The prospectus must include a chapter outline, and a full bibliography of primary and secondary sources.

Oral Qualifying Exam
The oral examination will occur shortly after the submission of the dissertation prospectus. It will focus on the content of the written cognate exams, the basic literature in the student's primary field, as well as the content and cogency of the prospectus.

The first written cognate exam is held no more than two months following the preparatory exam colloquium, and the second cognate exam is normally taken no more than two months after the first. The dissertation prospectus is normally submitted no more than two months following the second written exam. The oral exam is scheduled within two weeks of the submission of the dissertation prospectus. The entire process of qualifying cognate exams, prospectus, and oral should take about six months, and should be completed by the end of the sixth term in the program.

Teaching Experience
Teaching experience is central to a student's intellectual and professional formation, and critical for success on the job market. Every student in the Buddhist Studies program is expected to serve as a Graduate Student Instructor for a minimum of two semesters during the course of their studies.

Constitution of the Dissertation Committee
The Dissertation Committee, consisting of three faculty members, is formed immediately following advancement to candidacy, following provisions set forth in the Graduate Studies Handbook F5.7ff.

Dissertation Defense
All dissertations in the Buddhist Studies program must be defended orally, following "plan A" outlined in the Graduate Studies Handbook F3.8. The defense committee consists of five members, namely the existing three member dissertation committee and two additional members. The defense must be scheduled for no less than two hours, and must be open to the public.