The M.A./Ph.D. and Ph.D.-only curriculum is comprised of two parts: a set of six core courses together with eleven (or five for the Ph.D.-only) supplemental/elective courses designed to make the program strongly disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and international. The graduate core courses focus on fundamental areas of competence in history, theory, analysis, and cultural studies. TA Practicum units are earned in addition to these core and elective courses. (Click for graduate courses.)

The six critical studies core courses are designed for in-depth study at the graduate level and are entirely separate from undergraduate course offerings. The core consists of the following six courses: 220 Textual Analysis; 230 The Philosophy of History; 231 Media Historiographies; 240 Film Theory; 241 Television and New Media Theory; and 250 Cultural Theory.

In lieu of a single research and methods course, the core curriculum distributes methodological training across a series of courses involved with concrete research topics in order to offer a working sense of how one approaches a media object of study from a variety of perspectives.

The curriculum has a unique design that encourages students to acquire professional experience in teaching, presenting research, as well as (through an innovative M.A. exam process and Ph.D. area exam process) developing a research plan for the dissertation.

The department offers a wide range of graduate electives. Under certain circumstances—if the topic is crucial to the student’s research or a course will not be offered when needed—credit is also available for two courses in the department’s upper-division undergraduate program (using the undergraduate course number). Furthermore, there are numerous opportunities to take graduate courses in other departments. With the approval of the student’s mentor, the department's Director of Graduate Studies, and the department’s Chair, up to five elective courses in the first three years of the M.A./Ph.D. may be taken in other departments; and up to three elective courses in the first two years of the Ph.D.-only.

In addition to the core curriculum and elective courses, there is a foreign language proficiency requirement. Other types of requirements are described below (in I. and II.).

Policy on Independent Studies Courses. Department policy is that only a total of THREE 596 courses can be taken as part of the 11 electives for the M.A./Ph.D. or else TWO 596 courses as part of the 5 electives for the Ph.D.-only. Beyond the elective courses, students may take whatever they choose, including more 596's. When a student is "abroad" doing research, he or she may arrange 596's with the approval of the student’s mentor, the Director of Graduate Studies and the Chair. The three-rule (or two-rule for Ph.D.-only) WILL APPLY ALSO to 596's, or similar independent study or directed reading courses, offered by faculty in OTHER departments on campus.


A. Master of Arts – Film and Media Studies

The department does NOT offer a terminal M.A. program. All applicants are admitted to a single M.A./Ph.D. (or Ph.D.-only) program. The M.A. degree in Film and Media Studies is treated as a valuable stage on the path to the doctorate. Although it is understood that some students may choose not to continue beyond the M.A., and that others may not be permitted to do so, the aim of the program is to provide students with research training leading to the doctoral degree.

The expected time for the M.A. is two years. Students who lack a background in the discipline may be required to complete one or more additional upper-division undergraduate courses in Film and Media Studies prior to conferral of the M.A. degree.

In the first two years, the student must complete six graduate core curriculum courses and five graduate elective courses for a total of eleven courses (out of the seventeen required for the Ph.D. degree).

By the end of the second year, the student must pass an oral M.A. exam administered by the student's M.A. Committee, based on two research papers written and revised by the student during the first two years of the program. M.A. committees are comprised of 3 members, of which 2 including the chair must be regular Senate faculty members of the Department of Film and Media Studies. (Click for more details on Masters Exam Policy Guidelines.)

B. Doctor of Philosophy – Film and Media Studies

The expected time to complete the Ph.D. is three years following the successful completion of the M.A. The student must, sometime between the end of his or her M.A. program and the first year of the Ph.D., investigate potential locations for off-campus research. In the first year of the Ph.D., the student must a) complete six graduate courses, some or all of which will contribute to the development of the student's emerging research program. By the end of the first year of the Ph.D. (i.e., the third year of the M.A./Ph.D.), each student will have taken and passed a total of seventeen courses.

By the time of Advancement to Candidacy, each student will have established a reading knowledge in at least one foreign language. The faculty believes that establishing a reading knowledge in at least one foreign language is an integral part of graduate training in a field that is international in scope and in a department that seeks to come to terms with the global nature of film and media production, distribution, and dissemination.

There are two kinds of requirements for the Ph.D. degree that involve the acquisition of a foreign language. These requirements are separate and independent.

1. If expertise in a specific foreign language is necessary or desirable for the purpose of conducting research for a Ph.D. dissertation, a student's Ph.D. Committee may require competency in that foreign language. This foreign language may, but need not, be the same language that is offered to fulfill the general requirement (see below).

2. All candidates for the Ph.D. degree, prior to Advancement to Candidacy, must demonstrate reading "proficiency" or "competency," not necessarily "fluency," in a foreign language. This is a general requirement for the Ph.D. degree; thus any language courses that a student takes must be in addition to the required seventeen Film and Media Studies core and elective courses for the MA/Ph.D. degree or the required eleven Film and Media Studies core and elective courses for the Ph.D.-only degree. The standard is “reading knowledge.” There are three ways in which to achieve this level of ability (these units do not count towards the degree):

1) Completion of a language course at Level 6 (i.e., 6 quarters of study) with a minimum grade of B+; or,

2) Completion of an upper-division literature course conducted in the foreign language with a minimum grade of B+; or,

3) Completion of a reading course for graduate students (e.g. French 6 or 11A-B, German 2G or 6 and Spanish 6) with a minimum grade of B+.

Students whose native language is not English will be deemed to be at least bilingual and thus to have satisfied the foreign language requirement. (Click here for additional information on Language Evaluation Exams)

Formation of Ph.D. Committee and Prospectus.

A Ph.D. committee must have four or five members. At least three members must be regular Senate faculty in the Department of Film and Media Studies. At least one member must be from outside the Department. Affliliated faculty, for this purpose, are considered to be outside the home department. A fifth member is optional. The prospectus must consist of an original topic, contributing new knowledge to the field and offer a solid blueprint for the dissertation research. It should include an extensive rationale for the project, a discussion of methodology, a survey of relevant literature, a bibliography (including reference to relevant film and media works), a descriptive table of contents, and a firm, realistic timeline. The prospectus should be from 3750 - 5000 words in length (15 - 20 pages) not including the bibliography.

Timeline for Ph.D. Committee and Ph.D. Qualifying Exam.

The Ph.D. Qualifying Exam consists of written and oral portions. By the end of week four of Spring quarter of the third year of the M.A./Ph.D., a student must form a dissertation committee by the end of week ten of Spring quarter, he or she must choose three areas of specialization, together with appropriate reading lists as well as film and media works, relating to the dissertation topic and prospectus developed in consultation with the committee; by the end of week three of the fall quarter of the fourth year, the student must pass a written examination administered by the doctoral committee covering the three areas of specialization, and by the end of week seven pass an oral defense of the of the written exams and prospectus. Upon successful completion of the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam, the student will file for Advancement to Candidacy.

Ph.D. Written Exam.

The exam will focus on broad questions and the important texts within the three chosen areas of specialization. It consists of a take-home exam, administered over the course of three consecutive days, beginning Monday or Tuesday. Prior to the exam, the student will arrange the time for pick up and drop off of the questions and responses with the student’s Dissertation Committee Chair and the Graduate Program Assistant. Questions will be given out day by day and the student writes a response over a 24-hour period. The typewritten response will be twelve to twenty double-spaced pages in a 12-point font for each question. A choice of two questions for each area will be given, from which the student chooses one. Each student may choose the order of his or her area exams.

Ph.D. Qualifying Oral Exam.

The oral portion of the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam takes place over a two-hour period and covers the student’s Written Exam and dissertation prospectus. The format of the exam—that is, the allocation of time to presentation by the student, questions from the Committee Chair and members, and group discussion—is determined by the Dissertation Committee Chair in consultation with committee members. The student may be asked about Written Exam questions (answered or unanswered) and any matters related to the three areas of study of the prospectus.

Following the end of the Oral Exam, the designation of Pass or Fail will be given to each of the three Written Exam questions and the prospectus. .

Nota Bene:

Since faculty are employed on a nine-month year, they are normally unavailable for teaching, mentoring, or consultation responsibilities during the summer.

Ph.D. Dissertation Defense.

During the remainder of the fourth year the student will be encouraged to study at a research site abroad or in the U.S. for a period of between three and six months. In the fifth, sixth, and, if necessary, the seventh year, the student will complete the writing of the dissertation based on original research, and then successfully defend it orally before the dissertation committee at a forum open to the public.


The Ph.D.-only degree is for those students who hold an M.A. or M.F.A. degree in Film and Media Studies or a closely-related discipline. Forty-four (44) units of coursework are required (eleven 4-unit courses), including the six graduate core courses. In addition, there is a foreign language proficiency requirement that must be satisfied before advancement to candidacy (see above for details on both requirements). Expected time for advancement to Ph.D. candidacy is seven quarters (two years plus one quarter).

The procedures governing the Ph.D Committee, Prospectus, Written Exam, Oral Exam, and Oral Dissertation Defense are indicated above (but occur one year sooner than in the M.A./Ph.D.).

Graduate Program
Department of Film and Media Studies
University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-4010
Graduate Program Assistant: Catherine Cox
phone: 805-893-8535 fax: 805-893-8630