Film and Digital Media Ph.D.


Focusing on a diverse range of cultural production that includes cinema, television, video art, and Internet-based media, Ph.D. students interrogate the historical, aesthetic, political, ideological, and technological aspects of these media forms across a range of international contexts, investigating their points of connection and convergence as well as their relationship to broader cultural and historical change. The program thus prepares students for intellectually informed creative practice as well as theoretical and critical production in a range of environments, not limited to traditional academic contexts.

Advancement to Candidacy

Course Requirements

  • A minimum of 108 units of study in coursework at UC Santa Cruz. Residence for a minimum of six quarters.
    • Applicants who already hold an M.A. or M.F.A. degree may petition to waive up to 30 credits of coursework; including up to two of the six required Film and Digital Media (FDM) Ph.D. electives; such a waiver is subject to the approval of the director of Graduate Studies. Such a waiver would advance the normative timeline described below; students will determine the exact timing of milestones with their advisors and the director of Graduate Studies.
  • Residence for a minimum of six quarters.
  • When in residence, students will take a minimum of 36 credits per year until advancement to candidacy.
  • First-year students will be required to take the three foundational courses (FILM 200A-FILM 200B-FILM 200C), FILM 202 (Pedagogy in Film and Digital Media, 2 credits), plus at least two film and digital media graduate elective courses.*
  • FILM 296F must be taken quarterly with the primary advisor until advancement to candidacy.
  • Second-year students must then take at least four film and digital media graduate elective courses.*
  • FILM 203 (Professional Development in Film and Digital Media) is a required course, to be taken after the first year.
  • Students are not permitted to enroll in FILM 295 (Directed Reading) classes during their first year and are limited to one during their second year, unless they enter the program with an M.A. or M.F.A.
  • Third-year students arrange three Directed Readings (FILM 295) to prepare for the three topic areas of their qualifying examination.
  • Prior to advancing to candidacy, students will continue to meet the minimum number of credits with other 2-5 credit elective courses as appropriate.
  • A student will thus take at least nine film and digital media graduate courses over the degree, not including FILM 295, FILM 297 and FILM 299 classes.
    • The remaining course units may be selected from film and digital media graduate courses or graduate courses other departments, subject to approval from the student’s faculty advisor.
    • Any course taken to fulfill the six-course Film and Digital Media (FDM) Ph.D. elective requirement may only count once toward satisfaction of this elective requirement.
  • Students must obtain permission from the director of Graduate Studies, their faculty advisor to take advanced undergraduate courses.
  • Students are expected to complete at least one year of supervised teaching as part of the degree requirements.

*Non-film and digital media graduate courses that are taught by film and digital media faculty can count as film and digital media graduate electives. Graduate electives in this category are listed in the annual and quarterly courses posted on the Programs page on department’s website, select Courses.

Foreign Language Requirements

Students must demonstrate proficiency in a language other than English. This may include a computer programming language instead of a natural language when such a language is integral to the student’s field of study. The language requirement may be satisfied in one of two ways:

  • by passing an upper-division course in a language related to the student’s research;
  • by passing a reading proficiency test administered by a qualified person approved by the director of Graduate Studies.

A student must pass the language requirement before taking Ph.D. qualifying examinations. There are three exceptions. (Documentation for the exception must be received and approved by the director of Graduate Studies at least two months before the qualifying examination.)

  • The “foreign” language requirement may be waived for a non-English native speaker who has passed the proficiency test in English required for admission.
  • The requirement may be waived for a student who is a native speaker of another language in addition to English. The student must submit a statement to the director of Graduate Studies attesting to their proficiency in the additional native language.
  • The requirement may be waived if a student has proof of proficiency in a language other than English in the form of a language major or minor from recent undergraduate or master’s level education or equivalent. This must have been completed within the past five years at an accredited institution.

Teaching Requirement

Students are expected to complete at least one year of supervised teaching as part of the degree requirements.

Pre-Qualifying Requirements

During the first year of study in FILM 200A-FILM 200B-FILM 200C classes, students will be introduced to the methodologies of developing a critical practice approach. This will occur while students simultaneously strengthen, with the appropriate elective classes, areas of theory or practice that pertain to their focus.

During the second year, the student will focus on selecting classes from the film and digital media elective series numbered FILM 200–FILM 289. Students will also be encouraged to take electives from other graduate programs on campus.

At the end of the second year, students undergo a second year review which functions as the master’s examination. Students will submit four to five coursework projects for the examination. One of these must be the final project from FILM 200C. Students will also submit a statement about that work and its contexts, which will form the basis for oral examination questions by faculty members.

Students may nominate faculty members to the committee. The student’s faculty advisor and the director of Graduate Studies will assemble the committee, taking into account the student’s nominations. The committee will have a minimum of three faculty members, at least two of whom must be from the film and digital media faculty. One of those two must be the faculty advisor, who will chair the meeting. The committee must also include the director of Graduate Studies. (The director of Graduate Studies will not necessarily sit on the student’s committee for future exams/reviews.) The examination is closed; only the student and the faculty committee will be present.

For students entering without a master's degree, the committee will recommend one of three grades for the M.A. examination: fail, pass, or pass with permission to proceed. Students who fail may retake the oral component of the examination one time. A student with a pass only may leave the program with the degree of master of arts. Students who pass with permission to proceed may enter the third year of coursework toward the Ph.D. For students entering with a master's degree, the committee will discuss the result of the review and its recommendations for further progress in the program, including the timeline to the Ph.D. qualifying examination (QE).

Qualifying Examination

The third year will be spent developing three qualifying examination topics that will lead to the dissertation in close consultation with the student’s faculty advisor. (This may occur earlier for students who enter with a master’s degree.) Students work with three faculty members to develop three distinct topic areas with a corresponding bibliography/mediagraphy in FILM 295 (Directed Reading). Topic areas must be pre-approved by the director of Graduate Studies who will ensure that the breadth requirement is met.

Students will also begin assembling a qualifying examination (QE) committee. The QE committee will be comprised of three faculty members, at least one of whom must be from another discipline at UC Santa Cruz or from another campus. Students will also nominate a faculty member to chair the examination committee. The chair should be a tenured faculty member from the Film and Digital Media Department, holding a Ph.D., but should not be the student’s primary faculty advisor or the person who will chair the dissertation. The composition of the QE committee must be approved by the Graduate Division and must be submitted to the director of Graduate Studies at least five weeks prior to the written examination.

The qualifying examination will typically be scheduled for the fall of the fourth year and no later than the end of the fourth year. (Students who enter with a master’s degree may be eligible to take the qualifying examination before their fourth year.) The QE will consist of a written examination and an oral examination. A student who fails the Ph.D. qualifying examination will be permitted to re-take it one time. During the qualifying examination quarter, students may enroll in up to two FILM 299 (Thesis Research) classes with members of their committee.

Post-Qualifying Examination Requirements

No later than two academic quarters after successfully passing the qualifying examination, students must submit and defend a Dissertation Prospectus. The candidate’s dissertation committee must approve this prospectus. After the dissertation prospectus has been approved, the student will schedule a dissertation colloquium open to all film and digital media faculty and graduate students. The colloquium can be scheduled before or shortly after the official advancement to candidacy.

Students will advance to candidacy once they have successfully:

  • completed all required coursework with satisfactory grade;
  • satisfied the language requirement;
  • passed the Ph.D. qualifying examination;
  • organized an approved dissertation committee, through the dissertation nomination form; and
  • defended a dissertation prospectus and had it approved by their dissertation committee.



Completion of the Degree

Upon successful advancement to candidacy, students must then complete the following requirements for the Ph.D.

The dissertation, or Ph.D. thesis, is to be an original contribution of high quality to the field of film and digital media. If a student’s thesis contains a substantial creative component, the thesis project must also include a written component of no less than 75 pages. The dissertation must be approved by a committee consisting of a minimum of three faculty members. The dissertation chair must be a film and digital media faculty member and at least two committee members must be from the film and digital media faculty. If the dissertation chair does not hold a Ph.D. degree, then the majority of the remaining committee members must hold Ph.D.s. Also, the majority of the dissertation committee membership shall be members of the Santa Cruz Division of the Academic Senate.

The Ph.D. candidate shall submit the dissertation providing a minimum of 45 days for the committee members to review it. Once the committee has deemed it ready to defend, the candidate will work with the department and committee to schedule the oral dissertation defense.

Dissertation Defense

The oral defense will be comprised of a brief introduction of the dissertation’s form and content, and an articulation of the scholarly and artistic intervention it forges; the student will then answer questions posed by their dissertation committee. Invited members of the academic community may attend the defense, but the discussion will remain among the candidate and the committee.

Once the student has passed the oral dissertation defense, responds to any questions or suggestions for revisions, and has the dissertation approved by the committee, they will be eligible to “Announce Candidacy for Ph.D.” by submitting the dissertation and required documents to the Division of Graduate Studies.

Academic Progress

Normative time for completion of the program is six years. The first two years of the program are primarily devoted to coursework. Preliminary exams for the master’s degree occur in the spring of the second year. By the end of the third year, students should have formulated a dissertation topic and proposal deriving from their work in that year and should have nominated a Ph.D. qualifying examination committee and dissertation committee. Qualifying examinations for advancement to Ph.D. candidacy typically occur in the fall of the fourth year. These are approximate timelines, subject to variation depending on previous degree(s), transfer credits, substitutions, progress in program, leaves and/or other factors.

Applying for Graduation

You must submit an application for the Ph.D. to your graduate coordinator for review by the end of the second week of the quarter in which you intend to receive the certificate. The graduate coordinator will forward your application to the Graduate Division.

Please see Registration Requirements for all Graduate Degrees for details about registration requirement the quarter you intend to graduate.

For additonal forms and information please visit the UCSC Graduate Division website.