Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Theological Studies

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Theological Studies program distinguishes itself by its attention to methodological rigour within an interdisciplinary framework, and by the unique ecumenical context provided by TST.

The PhD in Theological Studies is conferred conjointly by the University of Toronto and the student's college of registration. Six of TST's seven member colleges offer the conjoint PhD program (St. Augustine's Seminary offers basic degree programs only). See Choosing a College.

General Purpose 

  • The conjoint PhD 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 edge of their area of specialization.
  • The main 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. 
  • The secondary purpose of the program includes equipping persons for positions of leadership in ecclesiastical and related organizations, or for academically enhanced ministerial practice.

Program Features 

  • 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. 


  • The PhD program is a full-time program, normally completed in four (4) years, to a maximum of six (6) years.

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

  • Sacred and canonical texts specifically, the Old Testament (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. 
  • Articulated structures of belief such as structures, contents, premises, and implications of Christian belief and practice (foundational theology; systematic theology; historical theology; theological ethics; and philosophical theology). 
  • History of Christianity understood in the broadest sense to include the variety of Christian traditions over the ages and throughout the world. 
  • Ecclesiastical practices such as liturgy, homiletics, education and formation, pastoral care, and spirituality; and 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. 
  • 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). 
  • Other: 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. 

  • 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.
  • 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. 
General Examinations and Thesis
  • 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. 

Also refer to the Graduate Conjoint Degree Handbook for detailed program and admissions information. 

The following provides an overview of the admission requirements for the PhD program. For more detailed admission requirements, see Applying to the PhD Program, Step 1 - Meet Admission Requirements and the Graduate Conjoint Degree Handbook for admission and program information. 

The Admissions Committee will take into consideration:
  • grades in all previous post-secondary education with particular weight accorded to performance in the prerequisite degree(s) and in other recent programs;
  • the applicant's academic background in the stated area of interest;
  • the potential of the applicant for graduate study, as attested in the letters of reference;
  • the quality of the applicant's statement of intent;
  • the availability of qualified faculty resources in the applicant's proposed area of research;
  • evidence that the applicant is likely to complete the program.
Prerequisite Education
  • An applicant to the PhD program is required to have an appropriate masters degree in theology from an accredited institution*, with at least A- (3.7/4.0 GPA) standing, or equivalent. The following are recognized academic master's degrees: Master of Arts, Master of Religion, Master of Theology, Master of Theological Studies, Master of Divinity
  • If a student’s program included a research component (research paper, thesis), a grade of at least A- (3.7/4.0 GPA), or equivalent, is also required for the paper or thesis.
  • Students must possess a baccalaureate degree or equivalent.
  • Students from educational systems outside of North America must give evidence of equivalent standing.

*All theological schools fully accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada are deemed to be recognized institutions.

Fluency in English
  • An applicant whose first language is other than English must provide evidence of the ability to comprehend, speak and write English at the graduate level.
Research Language Requirements 
  • 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.
  • Students are required to provide evidence of reading competence in one ancient or modern language necessary for their research.
  • Additional language preparation is required for admission in cases where the primary sources for the proposed area of study are in a language other than English. In such cases, applicants may be required to provide evidence of competence in more than one language and/or reading proficiency in one language.
  • Once admitted, all PhD students may need to give current evidence of their facility in their research language(s) by taking a TST Language Exam or by passing a TST Language Course (prior to registration in September).
  • TST students who have fulfilled language requirements in TST’s other degree programs may be exempted from further examination in these languages by the Admissions Committee.