Doctoral Program

PhD Program

The Ph.D. program in religion at Harvard dates from 1934, when the Faculty of Arts and Sciences established a degree of Ph.D. in "The History and Philosophy of Religion". Its purpose, as stated by the Faculty, was "to make possible a course of studies which shall enable the candidate both to lay a broad and sufficient foundation for teaching and study within the field of religion, and to do individual research at some point in that field". In accordance with that expressed intention, the Faculty voted in 1963 to name the program The Study of Religion. This program as of 2015, is jointly offered by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Divinity School. It is administered by the Committee on the Study of Religion in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Faculty from both schools advise Ph.D. students and offer courses in the program. Applicants to the Ph.D. program apply to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University.

From 1914 to 2014 students were admitted to the Th.D. program, with the degree conferred by the Harvard Divinity School. The program came to be administered by the Committee on the Study of Religion (FAS) beginning in 1982. In 2015 Harvard Divinity School merged its doctoral designation into the Ph.D. program. Those students previously admitted into the Th.D. program in the Study of Religion continue to be candidates for the Th.D., however no new students will be admitted to earn the Th.D.

At Harvard, advanced programs of study involving religion may be arranged under many auspices. The Ph.D. under the Committee on the Study of Religion, in "The Study of Religion", is one among various possibilities. Some candidates will find that they can best pursue their interests by becoming a candidate for the Ph.D. in such departments as Anthropology, Classics, History, East Asian or Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Philosophy, or South Asian Studies.

Resources for the study of religion at Harvard are vast. We offer courses in the range of religious traditions from the ancient Zoroastrian tradition to modern Christian liberation movements, Islamic and Jewish philosophies, Buddhist social movements, and Hindu arts and culture. Some of us work primarily as historians, others as scholars of texts, others as anthropologists, although the boundaries of these methodologies are never firm. Some of us are adherents of a religious tradition; others are not at all religious. The Study of Religion is exciting and challenging precisely because of the conversations that take place across the complexities of disciplines, traditions, and intellectual commitments.

Courses in religion are offered in many departments – Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Anthropology, South Asian Studies, and Medieval Studies, among others. Faculty members in these and other departments are affiliated with the Study of Religion. In addition, Harvard Divinity School has a wide-ranging faculty many of whose courses are available to students for cross-registration.

To review the areas of study in which students may pursue doctoral work, please see: Research.

Doctoral Program Calendar