The University of Chicago | Graduate Admissions

East Asian Languages and Civilizations - PhD

Division: Humanities
Degree Type: PhD

Program Description

The Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations is a multidisciplinary department, with faculty specialists in history, art, philosophy, languages, linguistics, literature, and religions, that offers a program of advanced study of the traditional and modern cultures of China, Japan, and Korea. At the same time, students are encouraged to pursue their interests across traditional disciplinary lines by taking courses in other departments in the Divisions of the Social Sciences and the Humanities.

The Department offers both MA and PhD degrees, though the MA degree is usually viewed as preparatory to doctoral studies. In other words, graduate education is primarily geared toward the PhD degree, and the Department does not have an independent Masters Degree program. Students who arrive with a master's degree will be expected to fulfill the requirement outlined for Scholastic Residence. Students interested in a terminal MA degree should contact the University of Chicago Master of Arts Program in the Humanities or the Master of Arts Program in Social Sciences.

During the first two years, students take nine courses each year. Depending on students' interests and preparation, some of the coursework may take place outside the Department. It may also include work in language, either the primary language of study or a secondary one, whether East Asian or not, as well as in a second East Asian civilization. Many students may also wish to spend one or more years in Japan, China, Taiwan, or Korea to achieve language mastery or do research for their dissertation. Teaching opportunities for students are also available.

After the PhD qualifying exam, which consists of both an oral and written component, acceptance of a dissertation proposal admits a student to candidacy. Students are expected to write and defend dissertations that make original contributions to knowledge. The degree is conferred upon the successful defense of the completed dissertation.



  • Wieboldt Hall, Room 301
  • 1050 East 58th Street
  • Chicago, IL 60637
  • Phone: 773.702.1255
  • Website:

Application Method

Applications should be initiated through the online application.


Deadline for admissions and financial aid: December 15

The Department of EALC admits applicants once a year for the following Autumn Quarter. Applications received after the deadline cannot be considered for financial aid.

Campus Visits

Interviews are not required; however, admitted applicants are invited to visit campus, sit in on classes, and meet with current students. You may contact faculty with questions, but there is no expectation that you do so.

Degree Objective

The Department of EALC admits applicants only for the PhD degree, and does not offer a stand-along MA program. WIf you are interested in pursuing an MA focusing in East Asian Languages and Civilizations, we encourage you to explore the Master of Arts Program in Humanities (MAPH) or Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences (MAPSS).

Application Requirements

  1. Online Application Form and Supplemental Form
  2. References:Three letters of reference should be included with your application.
  3. Graduate Record Examinations: GRE scores (general test only; a high verbal score) are required of all applicants, including those with previous MAs. The University's GRE code is 1832.
  4. International Applicants: For information on additional examinations required of some international applications, see the Test Requirements page on the divisional website. To meet the English proficiency requirement, all applicants who are not U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the test administered by the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Domestic applicants whose native language is not English who have not attended schools where instruction is in English also may be required to submit TOEFL or IELTS scores. Students who have studied in English (e.g., in India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, African countries) are not exempt from this requirement. The only exceptions are students from Australia, the English-speaking provinces of Canada, New Zealand, English medium universities in South Africa, or the United Kingdom. Exceptions may be granted as well to foreign applicants who have completed more than one year of full-time study in a U.S. college or university. Non-native English speakers must meet the following requirements:
    1. TOEFL (internet-based)--Total: 104 with no subsection lower than 26.
    2. IELTS--Total: 7 with no subsection lower than 7.
  5. Statement of Academic Purpose: Applicants should carefully state their purpose in pursuing a graduate degree. This statement is given considerable weight in the final decision regarding admission.
  6. Writing Sample: Applicants should submit a sample of their scholarly writing that is between 15 and 20 pages in length. The content should be related to your proposed area of study in East Asian Languages and Civilizations.
  7. Transcripts: Official transcripts from all post-secondary educational institutions should be submitted with your application.

Admissions Decisions

Admissions decisions typically are released in early March. No decisions will ever be given by phone, and no decisions will be given to those who inquire by email before early March. Direct all questions about your application directly to the admissions office.

Program Requirements

Students must fulfill all requirements to obtain a degree from the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations. In the event that the requirements change between the date of matriculation and the graduation date, the student may choose which set of requirements he or she will fulfill. The student must completely fulfill one set of requirements for the degree.

The requirements are filled in three stages: Masters Degree Requirements (for students entering with or without an MA in East Asian Studies), PhD Candidacy Requirements, and PhD Degree Requirements.

Master's Degree Requirements

  1. Complete 18 courses
    1. 1 course must be Directed Translation
    2. No more than 3 courses taken for an "R" or "P" grade
    3. 2 non-specialization East Asian Civilization courses
  2. No outstanding incompletes
  3. Courses or Placement at the 3rd year level of one East Asian Language.
  4. A supervised translation

Course Requirement

All full-time students must take 18 courses (9 per year) during their first two years of scholastic residence, 1 of which must be EALC 650 (Directed Translation); no more than 3 courses may be taken for an "R" or "P" grade. 
Students must take at least two courses in an East Asian civilization other than that in which they are specializing. 
All work for incompletes must be submitted to the relevant instructor(s) by September 1 prior to the subsequent academic year. In other words, incompletes may not be carried from one academic year into the next. Failure to comply may result in denial of permission to register.

Language Requirement

The mastery of languages is the first, essential step toward the understanding of civilizations. The minimum language requirement for the MA is three years of modern Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, which may be fulfilled by completing coursework with a grade of "B" or better or by passing with a grade of "high pass" a language exam administered by the Department. Students entering with prior training must take this placement exam, the results of which will either ensure their enrollment at an appropriate level or allow them to pass out of additional language coursework. Students whose native language is an East Asian Language may be exempt from this requirement. They must, however, fulfill the translation requirement.

Translation Requirement

All students must satisfy a translation requirement during their first two years of scholastic residence. The translation must be approved by an EALC faculty member. The student should fulfill this requirement by enrolling in EALC 65000 (Directed Translation), and earning a grade of B or better. The translation and faculty approval will be submitted to the Department for the student's file.

Additional Master's Degree Requirements for Students Entering without an MA in East Asian Studies

Students entering without a master's degree in East Asian languages can earn an AM from the Division of the Humanities. After the student has fulfilled the AM requirements, the Department will certify to the Division of Humanities that all requirements have been met and will recommend the awarding of the degree of Master of Arts.

  1. Fulfill all MA Requirements listed above
  2. Submit MA paper(s) or thesis

MA Paper(s)

This requirement may be satisfied in one of two ways.

  1. The student may choose to use two papers that had previously been submitted for coursework. Each paper must be approved by at least two different faculty members, at least one of whom must belong to EALC, and at least one paper must demonstrate the ability to use primary materials in Chinese, Japanese, or Korean.
  2. The student may, in consultation with her or his advisor, write a single, longer paper, of the sort more traditionally construed as an "MA thesis." This paper too must be read and approved by two faculty members, at least one of whom must belong to EALC. Students who choose to write such a thesis may register for 2 Thesis Research courses and apply them toward their 18 required courses. Papers will be kept in the student's file.

PhD Candidacy Requirements

  1. 2nd East Asian Language
  2. Mastery of Languages required for primary research
  3. Proficiency in any additional languages required for research
  4. Pass PhD Qualifying Exams
  5. Approval of Dissertation Proposal

Language Requirement

Students will be expected to demonstrate mastery of the language of the civilization they are studying. At a minimum, this will normally entail completion of all language courses the Department offers in that language or their equivalent.

All students will be expected to acquire or demonstrate competence in a second language, normally an East Asian language, chosen in consultation with their advisor(s) as best suited to their research interests. At a minimum, this will normally entail satisfactory completion (with a grade of "B" or higher) of two years' study of a modern language or one year of a classical language, although students are encouraged to take more where possible. If an East Asian or European language is acquired elsewhere, the student must pass an examination designed by the relevant program with a "high pass" or its equivalent.

In the event that specialization requires the working knowledge of a third language (Asian or non-Asian); the student will be asked to certify proficiency through classes and/or examinations.

Qualifying Examination

After consulting the faculty advisor, and clearing all incompletes, the student should consult with the desired examination committee. After selection of the committee, the student should notify the Department of his or her wish to take the PhD qualifying examination. The Department Chair, in consultation with student and advisor, will approve a committee of three faculty members (one of whom may be from another unit of the University) who will conduct and grade the examination. The PhD qualifying examination will consist of two sections, one written and one oral, testing the student's knowledge of the field, both specific (usually the field that will be the topic of the student's doctoral dissertation) and general (covering two topics, differentiated either by time period or by discipline).

In consultation with the examination committee, the student will submit, at least two months prior to the date of the examination, three bibliographies of works studied in preparation for these fields. It is expected that these bibliographies will contain some works in the primary language of research.

For the examination, each member of the examination committee will examine the student in one field; the student will have four hours per field (usually on consecutive days). After the examination committee has had a chance to read the written responses (a period usually not to exceed one week), the candidate and committee will meet for a two-hour oral examination based upon the completed written examination. Grades in either section will be "High Pass," "Pass," or "Fail.

A student who fails in either section may retake it only once, within the next two quarters (Summer Quarter excepted), and must pass it on the second try in order to continue work in the Department.

The qualifying examination may not be taken later than the ninth quarter of residence after the MA has been awarded (or, for those with advanced degrees other than the Department's MA, the ninth quarter after they have been admitted into the PhD program).

Dissertation Proposal

After successful completion of the qualifying examination, the student may proceed to invite faculty members of his or her choice to form a dissertation committee. Typically, the membership of the committee consists of an advisor and two readers, but the composition need not be identical to the qualifying examination committee. Occasionally, the student may choose to work with two co-advisors and one reader. As in the case of the qualifying examination, at least two members of the dissertation committee should be from EALC, while the third member may be a faculty member from another unit of the University. 

The student will present to the Department a short essay (about 7 to 15 pages in length) that describes his or her dissertation project, its purpose and its method, and its expected contribution to scholarship in the field. To this should be appended a bibliography of relevant materials. This proposal should be written in close consultation with the members of the student's PhD dissertation committee.
 The proposal will be evaluated in a meeting of the student and the committee, open to all departmental faculty and graduate students, that is scheduled at least two weeks after submission.

Admission to Candidacy

Once the student has passed the dissertation proposal defense, the Department will certify that the student has met all the requirements for Admission to Candidacy (all requirements for degree with the exception of the dissertation). The Department will submit paperwork to the Office of the Dean of Student that recommends that the student be admitted to candidacy for the PhD degree. This status is sometimes known at All But Dissertation (ABD).

  1. Admission to Candidacy
  2. Defense of the Dissertation

PhD Degree Requirements

Admission to Candidacy

Admission to Candidacy certifies that all requirements for degree, with the exception of the Dissertation, have been met by the student. This certification is required before a student can acquire the PhD degree.

Defense of the Dissertation

With agreement of the dissertation committee, the Department Chair will set a date for the oral defense of the dissertation in an open examination. An abstract of the dissertation will be sent to all Department members, and a complete copy of the draft must be filed with the Department coordinator and made available for inspection by faculty members at least three weeks in advance of the oral defense. In addition to the dissertation committee, a Dean's representative from outside the Department will normally attend and will report on the examination to the Dean of the Division of the Humanities. Upon successful completion of this examination (open to all departmental faculty and graduate students), the Department Chair will certify to the Division that all Departmental requirements have been met, and will recommend the awarding of the PhD degree.

Costs & Financial Aid

The Office of the Dean of Students works to assist graduate students at all stages of their studies who seek funding to support their scholarly work. Visit the Dean of Students website for an overview on funding support for pre-dissertation research, language study, conference travel, dissertation research, and post-doctoral fellowships.