​​​​​​Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are suspending applications for the Joint PhD program for the 2021-2022 academic year. If you have questions, please contact History Graduate Director, Dr. Kathleen Donohue at donoh1k@cmich.edu.

Image of five graduate students smiling and walking on campus


The Joint MA/PhD in History at Central Michigan University is an innovative doctoral program focusing on transnational and comparative history. The “Joint” part of the program’s title refers to the fact that students pursue both coursework and research not only at CMU but also at one of our international partner institutions in Germany, Scotland, ​and France. Faculty from CMU and partner institutions also serve on jointly advised committees for doctoral dissertations.

A central feature of the Joint Program is the requirement that students spend a minimum of one academic year at a partner institution. Ordinarily taken in the second year of a student’s course of study, this year abroad offers the chance to take coursework in an international setting, work closely with international faculty and colleagues, and begin the pursuit of dissertation research.

In keeping with the program’s focus, doctoral dissertations produced by our students are required to address transnational and/or comparative history. Recognizing that both “transnational” and “comparative” cover diverse approaches to the past, the department offers advanced training in a wide range of both major and minor fields, including all periods of human history around the globe and a variety of thematic specializations. (For a full list of major and minor fields available for the comprehensive examination, see CMU’s graduate bulletin.)

Partner Institutions

Admission Standards and Program Requirements

For a complete list of admission standards, program requirements, and other details, please consult CMU’s Graduate Bulletin. If you’re not already familiar with the structure of the Joint Program, however, we recommend that you read the explanation below before reading the bulletin.

What is “the Joint Program,” exactly?

The graduate bulletin and other official sources generally refer to the Joint MA and the Joint PhD as separate programs. History department materials, on the other hand, usually talk about the Joint PhD, the Joint MA/PhD, or “the Joint Program” as if it were a single program. To complicate matters further, the department also offers a (non-joint) MA in history, also known as the “traditional MA.” What does all this mean?

The short answer to this common question is that the Joint MA/PhD in history at CMU—together known as “the Joint Program”—is fundamentally a doctoral program. Apart from the exceptions described below, the program is designed to culminate in the PhD. The program’s structure and coursework, featuring the year abroad as well as milestones such as the comprehensive exams, the doctoral prospectus, and achieving doctoral candidacy, are geared toward the training of professional scholars and university teachers, as evidenced above all by success in comprehensive examinations and the doctoral dissertation.

There are two main reasons why the Joint MA has been established as a separate program, and is therefore listed as a separate program in the graduate bulletin.

  1. After completing the requirements for the first two years of study, Joint PhD students are eligible to receive the MA. Under current university procedures, this requires the Joint MA to be listed as an independent program. A further consequence of this policy is that students admitted to the Joint PhD program are also enrolled, for administrative purposes, in the Joint MA. After completing Joint MA requirements (identical to the first two years of the PhD program) and receiving the master’s degree, they will be enrolled solely in the Joint PhD).

  2. International students from partner institutions pursuing a joint degree from both CMU and their home university ordinarily enroll in the Joint MA at CMU, for a variety of reasons.

The practical implications of these considerations can be summarized as follows:

  • With the exception of international students from partner institutions, all students who wish to begin PhD studies in History at CMU should apply for the Joint PhD (sometimes called the Joint MA/PhD), not the Joint MA on its own.

  • Students who plan to pursue a master’s degree at CMU should apply for the (traditional) MA in history, which is not part of the Joint Program.


Language Exams

Photo of a street in Germany with shops, sidewalk vendors, people walking, and a bicyclist

Students in the Joint Ph.D. Program must demonstrate reading ability in languages other than English. The number of languages and the level of reading ability depend on the fields of research. 

Each academic year, language exams will be offered on two dates: once on the Friday before fall semester classes begin, and once on the Monday of the first week of spring semester classes.

Doctoral students who lack the required level of skill in either French or German may opt to acquire those skills by participating in the language portion of the Semester Abroad Track in the Masters.