Ph.D. Program in Persian & Iranian Studies

About the Program

The Persian and Iranian Studies Ph.D. program focuses specifically on either modern or classical Persian literature and culture, or Iranian (or other Persian speaking societies’) history, religion, social organization, and politics.

Program Requirements

The Ph.D. in Persian and Iranian Studies consists of 21 units of core courses, 21 units of elective courses, and 3 units of a research methods course, and 18 dissertation units. The completion of a minor is also required. In addition, fourth-year proficiency in Persian is required, and reading knowledge of French, German, or another relevant language is required.

See all degree requirements

Student Outcomes

After completing a Ph.D. in Persian and Iranian Studies student will be able to:

  • Speak, read, and write with superior proficiency in the Persian language.
  • Analyze the historical, artistic, and political debates most relevant to Persian and Iranian culture.
  • Articulate clear and critical distinctions between certain historical, cultural, and literary practices in Persian and Iranian studies and their implications for current and future debates on the region.
  • Apply various methodologies to study the regional and global implications of Persian and Iranian history, culture, and language.
  • Formulate and pursue research projects of scholarly importance to the field of Persian and Iranian studies.
  • Contribute through presentations, publications, and scholarly projects to knowledge-making in Persian and Iranian studies.

Qualifying Examination

A qualifying examination or diagnostic evaluation may be required to demonstrate acceptability to pursue the doctorate as well as to determine areas of study where further course work is necessary. This examination is waived if the candidate has completed a master’s degree at the University of Arizona in Persian and Iranian Studies or MENAS. The examination should be taken during the first semester of residence and preferably during the first two weeks of residence.

Satisfactory Academic Progress

We have developed a set of criteria for monitoring student progress through the program. These standards assist faculty in their annual evaluations of student progress toward degree completion and, equally important, they help students assess their own progress.

Criteria for satisfactory academic progress towards the completion of your post-baccalaureate degrees include the following:

  1. Submission of an annual self-evaluation;
  2. Regular meetings with your advisor(s) on a schedule negotiated between you and your advisors;
  3. Adherence to appropriate schedules (outlined below), including completion of MA thesis and written and oral exams, and timely filing of plans of study and dissertation proposals; and
  4. Fulfillment of all formal Graduate College requirements (GPA, etc.) as specified in the Graduate Catalog.

Student Assessment

Following the practices in MENAS for graduate student evaluation, each semester Ph.D. students will complete a self-evaluation. Students will meet for a face-to-face evaluation with the student’s faculty advisor and each student is ranked on a 1-4 scale. The evaluation ranking and justifications are then communicated to the student.

Annual Self-Evaluation

The faculty in the Persian and Iranian Studies GIDP will meet yearly to consider the progress of students. Students are informed of the results of these discussions by email. Students must submit a self-evaluation in advance of this meeting each year so that the faculty has the necessary information to reach a fair evaluation of each student’s progress.

Submission of the annual self-evaluation by the deadline announced by the advising office is one of the criteria defining Satisfactory Academic Progress. Student records do not reveal extenuating circumstances that may have resulted in a grade of ‘Incomplete,’ nor do they include information on awards, papers published, delivered at meetings, etc.

Forms needed for the self-evaluations will be provided online. First year students are not expected to fill out the form as completely as more advanced students do.

You should meet with your principal advisor to discuss your progress after receiving the evaluation result.

Time Limitation

All requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy must be completed within 5 years of passing the Comprehensive Exam. Should a student not finish within that time period, he or she may be allowed to re-take the Comprehensive Exam with permission of the program, and then proceed to complete other requirements, e.g., the dissertation.

Comprehensive Examination

Each student must select a Ph.D. committee of tenured or tenure-track faculty members, three in major field (GIDP in Iranian and Persian Studies) and one in the minor field. One of the members may be a specially approved member, who must be pre-approved by the student’s committee and the Dean of the Graduate College.

Students must register for up to 6 credits of PRS 799, Independent Reading for the Comprehensive Exam, in the semester after completion of other coursework or the semester in which the Comprehensive Exam will be taken.

Before admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree, the student must pass a written and an oral Doctoral Comprehensive Examination. This examination is intended to test the student’s comprehensive knowledge of the major and minor subjects of study, both in breadth across the general field of study and in depth within the area of specialization.

The Comprehensive Examination consists of written and oral parts. The written part consists of four fields:

  • two in the student’s major field as defined in consultation with the committee
  • one in Middle Eastern History
  • one in the minor field

A student will pass the written portion before sitting for the oral portion, and the oral portion should come early enough to allow the student to advance to candidacy in a timely fashion. The written and oral portions of the comprehensive examination must take place at least three months prior to the Final Oral Examination (i.e., the dissertation defense).

Upon successful completion of the written examinations in the major and minor(s), the Oral Comprehensive Examination is conducted before the examining committee of the faculty. This is the occasion when faculty committee members have both the opportunity and obligation to require the student to display a broad knowledge of the chosen field of study and sufficient depth of understanding in areas of specialization. Discussion of proposed dissertation research may be included. The examining committee must attest that the student has demonstrated the professional level of knowledge expected of a junior academic colleague.

Students who do not pass a portion of their comprehensive examination may retake that portion within six months of the initial exam.  Students who do not pass the failed portion of the exam a second time will not be admitted to PhD candidacy and will have the opportunity to fulfill the requirements for an MA in Persian and Iranian Studies or MENAS if they have not done so already.


The student’s dissertation advisor will approve the subject matter of his or her dissertation. The dissertation must engage theoretically and methodologically primary sources in one or more Middle Eastern languages and the relevant secondary literature. Primary sources include, but are not limited to, texts, media outlets, internet sources, survey data, and interviews. Dissertations typically are 200-400 pages long.

Final Oral Examination

The Final Oral Examination, more popularly known as the dissertation defense, is the forum at which the doctoral candidate must demonstrate his or her dissertation’s contribution to scholarship and respond to the examining committee’s questions concerning its contents and implications.

All dissertation committee members are expected to attend the final defense. All members of the student’s PhD committee must be present at the Final Oral Examination.

The exact time and place of the Final Oral Examination must be scheduled with the Graduate Degree Certification and the GIDP Director at least 7 working days in advance.

After completion of the Final Oral Examination, students must formally defend a dissertation proposal before their dissertation committee to qualify for ABD (All But Dissertation) status.

With the Ph.D., we anticipate that many of our graduates will find work as faculty in institutions of higher education. With thanks to UNC-Chapel Hill, we can see that over a dozen higher education positions have been advertised since 2015. We also expect our graduates to be ready to fill critical employment positions in international diplomacy, public interest research and writing, public or non-profit service, cultural or historical organizations, and government and NGO consulting and advising.

Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.