MA Program Requirements and Policies

Requirements and policies for our MA degree programs including comprehensive examinations, the thesis and supervision, and requirements for modern languages and archaeological fieldwork.

The official requirements for graduation are always those published in the UBC Calendar entry for the year of your program start date.

All MA degrees require:

  1. The completion of 30 credits, including CNRS 500 and CNRS 549 (a six-credit thesis).
  2. Demonstrated competence in one modern language;
  3. Two subject-specific comprehensive exams.

DOWNLOAD: Progress Worksheets

Coursework Requirement

All students must complete 24 credits of coursework (8 courses). All courses are normally at the 500 level, but up to 6 credits may come from 300- and 400- level undergraduate offerings within the Department or graduate offerings from other departments, but not both.

Students may choose courses according to the following regulations, and are strongly encouraged to do so in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies, to ensure all program requirements are met.

MA in Ancient Culture, Religion and Ethnicity: courses may come from any of the department’s course codes.

MA in Classics: at least 12 credits at the 500 level must be in courses in GREK and LATN.

MA in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology: at least 12 credits at the 500 level must be in courses in CLST, NEST and/or CNRS. Additionally, MA CNAR students must complete the archaeological fieldwork requirement.

MA in Religious Studies: at least 12 credits at the 500 level must be in courses in RELG, HEBR, and/or ARBC. For students wishing to specialize in Asian religions, up to 6 of these credits may come from relevant courses in Asian Studies (ASIA). Such courses must be approved in advance of registration by the Religious Studies Committee.

Ancient Language Requirement

All MA programs require the completion, before the end of the program, of at least two years’ study (12 credits or equivalent) in one of the following ancient languages: Ancient Greek, Biblical Hebrew, Latin, or Classical Arabic (minimum grade: B-/68%). Any courses taken to satisfy this requirement do not count toward the 30 credits of coursework required by the program. Students intending to pursue doctoral degrees are advised that more languages are typically required for admission, and that these minimum standards may not be sufficient.

Students in the MA in Ancient Culture, Religion and Ethnicity, the MA in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology and the MA in Religious Studies are strongly encouraged to take courses in Akkadian, Egyptian hieroglyphs, Coptic and/or other relevant ancient Near Eastern languages, particularly if they wish to pursue doctoral degrees. Senior undergraduate courses in ancient Near Eastern and Egyptian languages can be counted among the 6 upper-level undergraduate courses which the university allows to count towards the 30-credit MA program minimum.

Modern Language Requirement

All MA students are required to attain minimal reading knowledge of at least one  foreign modern languages in addition to English. Available choices are French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Students select the language in consultation with the DGS and/or their supervisor. The selected language will be reported to the Director of Graduate Studies.

Competence in a language can be established by any of four means:

  1. Being a native speaker of the language.
  2. The successful completion of an examination administered by the department’s Graduate Committee or, when available, by another department.
  3. The successful completion of 6 credits (one year) in the language. This is may be fulfilled with any paired language courses (e.g. GERM 100 and 110, GERM 433 and 434, ITAL 101 and 102, SPAN 101 and 102, SPAN 206 and 207, FREN 101 and 102, FREN 342 and 343). These two courses must be taken for academic credit while registered in the graduate program, must meet minimum grades for G&PS, and do not count towards the credits required for the degree.
  4. The completion of a modern language requirement as part of another graduate degree.

The Department strongly urges students to consider early on in their program how they will fulfill the language requirements in order to further their career development.

The modern language requirement must be satisfied before the student completes comprehensive examinations. The examination may be re-attempted until passed.

DOWNLOAD: Modern Language Examination Logistics


Archaeological Fieldwork

All students in the MA in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology must have fulfilled this requirement by the end of their MA program.  All MA students may include CNRS 535 (to a maximum of 3 credits) as part of their program, as long as other degree requirements are met. Students applying for entry to the PhD program in Classics (Classical Archaeology) must have fulfilled this requirement prior to entry.

This requirement can be fulfilled by any of three means:

  1. The completion of CNRS 535 or another UBC-run field school.
  2. Participation in another field project undertaken during the program, provided that it has been approved in advance by the CNAR Committee. This includes but is not limited to excavation, museum work or conservation, archaeological survey, or geophysical work. For outside (non-UBC) projects to qualify for credit as CNRS 535, they must involve a minimum of 4 weeks of fieldwork and must be demonstrated to fulfill the specific learning objectives that are described in the CNRS 535 Syllabus. Student must seek approval for these projects as soon as possible and no later than 2 months in advance of the project start.
  3. The completion of previous field experience as defined above, subject to approval by the CNAR Committee. Field programs that are not completed as CNRS 535 can fulfill the field requirement, but do not count for course credit toward the MA program. To count for credit toward the MA program, field experience must be fulfilled in the form of CNRS 535 during the degree.

DOWNLOAD: CNRS 535 Syllabus


Reading Lists & Comprehensive Exams

The Department believes that Reading Lists constitute the best way to prepare students with the general background of the field, by reading seminal primary and secondary works. Familiarity with these lists is examined by written comprehensive examinations or comps.

Lists for translation exams represent a prescribed set of primary texts in the original language. The works represent a canon of original authors (literary, historical, and philosophical) that draws from many genres and time periods. The process results in an identifiable and useful body of knowledge that is objectively examinable and fills the gaps in the candidate’s reading of central authors.

Lists for essay exams consist of 25-30 recent and substantial contributions to the relevant field and/or selections of key primary sources.

While some works on these lists may be covered as part of the candidate’s coursework, there is no expectation that they will be: students should have the ability to work through all these texts on their own in addition to coursework. Students who are lacking overview courses in their chosen fields are advised to speak to the DGS about auditing or enrolling in relevant undergraduate courses.

Reading lists are the same across the cohort and are not tailored to individuals; the content may vary from year to year. Students identify the subjects on which they wish to write by 15 April of their first year to the program administrator. Lists for the following academic year are available from 1 July.

Ancient Culture, Religion and Ethnicity

Students in the MA in Ancient Culture, Religion, and Ethnicity write essay exams based on reading lists. Students choose two lists on which to be examined from the following:


Students in the MA Classics write two translation and commentary exams in each of Greek and Latin.

Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology

Students in the MA in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology write essay exams based on reading lists. Students choose two lists on which to be examined from the following:

Religious Studies

Students in the MA in Religious Studies write essay exams based on reading lists. Students choose two lists on which to be examined from the following:

Students wishing to write a comprehensive exam on Asian Religions may do so with the approval of the Religious Studies Committee, if suitable examiners can be secured.

DOWNLOAD: MA Comprehensive Exam Policies and Procedures

MA Thesis (CNRS 549)

As part of their degree, students in the CNERS MA programs write a thesis. Research should commence in the summer of Year 1 and a defense typically takes place in the second term of Year 2. Students undertake to produce a lengthy piece of academic work (15 000 to 18 000 words) at an advanced level demonstrating their mastery of core methods and primary materials. This thesis should be the best piece of academic writing that students have done, and consequently requires a commitment of at least 312 hours’ work over 8 to 12 months.

DOWNLOAD: CNERS MA Thesis Guidelines

MA Supervisory Committees

MA students select their thesis advisor at the end of their first academic year (before May, year 1), with the expectation that work begins that summer. Once the Director of Graduate Studies is informed of the selection, the thesis advisor becomes chair of the MA supervisory committee. In consultation with the student, the thesis advisor selects a second member for the committee, and upon submission the two must agree upon a final grade for the thesis (CNRS 549). The Director of Graduate Studies serves as a member of each committee ex officio to ensure fairness across the cohort. In cases where the Director of Graduate Studies is one of the two markers for the thesis, a third suitable person is to be selected as a member of the committee. All MA supervisory committees must include at least two faculty who are members of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at UBC.

See also the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies guidelines for Supervisory Committees.

CNERS MA Program Transfers

The department recognizes that graduate students may wish to change programs within the department mid-stream, in order to realize their academic goals better. To change programs, the student must make a written request to the Director of Graduate Studies, providing a rationale for the transfer. The transfer will be decided by a majority vote of the Graduate Committee. Application will be made before April in the second year of study, and will not be approved if the student has failed any necessary component of his or her current program, including comprehensive examinations.