Conjoint - Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Theological Studies

The conjoint Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Theological Studies program is intended to provide students with the analytical skills, methodological rigour and knowledge base that will enable them to carry out innovative research at the leading edges of their areas of specialization. In practical terms, the purpose of the program is to produce graduates who will be qualified to teach theological (and related) subjects in universities, liberal arts colleges and theological schools. Secondary purposes include equipping persons for positions of leadership in ecclesiastical and related organizations, or for academically enhanced ministerial practice. The program distinguishes itself by its attention to methodological rigour within an interdisciplinary framework and by the unique ecumenical context provided by TST.

The Doctoral of Philosophy (PhD) in Theological Studies is conferred jointly by the student's college of registration and the University of Toronto.

Program Features

The distinctive features of the PhD program include the following:

  • Research projects supporting the Church’s reflection on God and the Church’s self-reflection. The theological inquiry of other faith communities can also be supported in some areas.
  • Stressing collaborative education among each entering cohort of students, with scholarly interchange across the traditional sub-disciplines of theological studies (Bible, history, theology, pastoral studies).
  • Exploring courses and research projects that intentionally consider interdisciplinary, ecumenical, and global perspectives. Interdisciplinary research projects are encouraged.
  • Focusing attention on issues of method in research and interpretation.
  • Incorporating learning goals in educational theory, course design and instructional practice.

General Areas of Study

TST’s graduate faculty have specializations in a wide variety of areas of study. Prospective students are invited to identify topics that connect with faculty in specializations within or across these areas:

  • The study of sacred and canonical texts, specifically, the Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible) or the New Testament (both involving languages; historical contexts and processes of development; related literature; subsequent theological interpretation, pastoral function and social effects).
  • The study of articulated structures of belief—the structures, contents, premises, and implications of Christian belief and practice (foundational theology; systematic theology; historical theology; theological ethics; and philosophical theology).
  • The study of the history of Christianity, understood in the broadest sense to include the variety of Christian traditions over the ages and throughout the world.
  • The study of ecclesiastical practices (liturgy, homiletics, education and formation, pastoral care, spirituality), pastoral and other religious leadership, and the social organizations in which these occur (such as congregations, faith-based organizations, ecclesial bodies, and ecumenical and interfaith organizations).
  • The study of the Christian faith in its relations with wider social and cultural contexts (social ethics; aesthetics; cultural studies; contextual theology; religion in the public sphere; comparative theology; and inter-faith dialogue).

Although Christian studies are at the core of TST’s mission, prospective students may choose to frame research topics in the context of other faiths.

Program Structure

  • Applicants for admission will be asked to formulate a research topic and identify a prospective supervisor as part of the application. Students will have the benefit of having a supervisory committee of three faculty experts.
  • Entering students will have to provide evidence of competence in at least one research language other than English. Within a year of entrance, they must provide evidence of competence in a second research language other than English. Additional languages may be required for some research areas.
  • Eight (8) semester courses will be required of all students (three courses per semester are considered a normal academic load). (Some additional work in Biblical languages and exegesis may be indicated for some students, depending on their research topic.)
  • Among these eight courses, students are required to take a cohort course in "Research and Scholarship" and a course focusing on methodology relevant to their studies.
  • Also among these courses, students will take a cohort course in "Area Studies and Course Design”, which will assist them in preparing course syllabi and lectures, and provide them with experience in teaching pedagogies.
  • Students will begin their preparation for the general examinations and thesis by producing a brief pre-thesis proposal.
  • Students must complete general examinations, each of them having a written component and an oral component. One of the qualifying examinations will focus on the student’s proposed research topic, and another on a cognate area.
  • Students will later write and defend a research thesis that makes an original contribution to scholarship.
  • The normal program length is 4 years; the maximum length is 6 years.

Program Components at a Glance (Flow Charts)

The various components of the PhD program are described in detail in the official Graduate Conjoint Degree Handbook. However, they can be summarized and mapped in the following sequence:

1.  Inquiry through Registration (view PDF chart, download PPSX narrated slide)

2.  Coursework (view PDF chart, download PPSX narrated slide)

3.  Comprehensive Examination

3a.  Writing the Thesis Prospectus, Preparing for General Examination (view PDF chart, download PPSX narrated slide)

3b.  Process for the General Examination (view PDF chart, download PPSX narrated slide)

4.  Thesis Proposal (view PDF chart, download PPSX narrated slide)

5.  Thesis Writing (view PDF chart, download PPSX narrated slide)

6.  Thesis Submission (view PDF chart, download PPSX narrated slide)

7.  Final Oral Examination (view PDF chart, download PPSX narrated slide)

8.  Appendix: Leaves of Absence, Extensions, Delays, Halts, Failures

8a.  Leaves of Absence, Extensions and Delays (view PDF chart, download PPSX narrated slide)

8b.  Halts and Failures (view PDF chart, download PPSX narrated slide)

Admission Requirements and Program Policies and Procedures

For admissions requirements and program policies and procedures, see the Conjoint Degree Handbook.

To apply to the PhD program, visit How to Apply to a Graduate Degree Program.