Conjoint Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Theological Studies


The Toronto School of Theology (TST) is pleased to announce the opening of a new conjoint PhD in Theological Studies, which will welcome its first cohort of students in the 2015-2016 academic year.

The new PhD is being offered by the six TST member colleges and administered by TST’s Graduate Centre for Theological Studies. The term "conjoint" means that the degree will be conferred conjointly by the University of Toronto and a TST Member College.

To apply to the new PhD program, please visit How to Apply to an Advanced Degree Program.

General Description

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 will distinguish itself by its attention to methodological rigour within an interdisciplinary framework and by the unique ecumenical context provided by the Toronto School of Theology.

Program Features

The distinctive features of the new PhD program include the following:

  • It will support 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.
  • The program will stress collaborative education among each entering cohort of students, with scholarly interchange across the traditional sub-disciplines of theological studies (Bible, history, theology, pastoral studies).
  • Courses and research projects will intentionally consider interdisciplinary, ecumenical, and global perspectives. Interdisciplinary research projects are encouraged.
  • The program will give focused attention to issues of method in research and interpretation.
  • The program will incorporate 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:

1. 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).

2. 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).

3. 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.

4. 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).

5. 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. The Graduate Coordinator will assist applicants in this process. 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 two general examinations, each of them having a time-limited written component and an oral component. One of the qualifying examinations will focus on the student’s proposed research topic, and the other 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.


Admission Requirements

Statement of Intent.

Applicants will be required to identify the nature of the research topic they would like to explore at TST, along with their methodological and theoretical approach(es). Applicants must identify graduate TST faculty members who could support their research. Applicants should also indicate how their previous academic studies and language preparation have prepared them for this research area. The statement of intent should not exceed 750 words. A brief 2-3 page curriculum vitae may also be submitted.

Prerequisite degrees.

An applicant is required to have an appropriate master’s degree in theology from an accredited institution, with at least A- (80% or 3.7/4.0 GPA) standing, or equivalent. If a student’s program included a research component (research paper, thesis), a grade of at least A- will be required. Students must also possess a baccalaureate degree in related areas of study. Certified transcripts are required for all previous university or college-level degrees and must be sent directly to TST. Actively registered TST students in the MA or ThM programs are only required to submit copies of their current ROSI transcript. Actively registered TST students in other programs must submit an official copy of their current TST transcript but may request that their college of registration send certified copies of all previous transcripts to the GCTS office.


Students applying to the program will be required to provide evidence of reading competence in one ancient or modern language necessary for their research. (Competence is normally demonstrated by the satisfactory completion of a two-semester course at the university level within the last four years). Additional language preparation will be 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. (Proficiency in a language is a higher level of reading ability, consistent with that which is normally acquired by the satisfactory completion of a four-semester course in the language at the university level within the last four years.) Applicants proposing to focus their research on a biblical text, for example, would be required to demonstrate proficiency in the language of the text (Greek or Hebrew), and competence in the other biblical language, in addition to a modern research language.

Once admitted, all PhD students will 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 MA or ThM may be exempted from further examination in these languages.

English Fluency.

All incoming graduate students must have a good command of English. Facility in the English language must be demonstrated by all applicants educated outside Canada whose primary language is not English. This requirement of admission must be met at application and may be satisfied in any of the ways indicated in How to Apply to an Advanced Degree Program.

Test results that are older than two years at the time of application are not accepted. TST will not consider applications without evidence of English fluency.

Letters of reference.

All applicants must submit two letters of reference from academic referees, which should be sent directly by the referees to the GCTS Office.

Writing Sample.

All students must submit an academic writing sample (between 20 – 50 pages) as part of their application. This should be e-mailed as a PDF or MS Word file to the GCTS Office after the application form has been submitted.


Program Policies & Procedures

More detailed policies and procedures for the program are currently being developed, and will be posted on the TST website in the near future.

To apply to the new PhD program, please visit How to Apply to an Advanced Degree Program.


Application Timeline

January 7, 2015: Application deadline for September 2015 admission.

January to late February: TST Admissions Committee and colleges review applications.

Late February to early March: First round of offers of admission sent to applicants.

March 31: Deadline for response to first round of offers of admission; deadline for the second round of applications.

Early April: Second round of offers of admission sent out.

Late April: Deadline for response to second round of offers of admission.


To apply to the new PhD program, please visit How to Apply to an Advanced Degree Program.

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