Image courtesy of Emily Hammer.


The Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC) has trained graduate students for more than 100 years and is recognized among the finest doctoral programs in the world. PhD students in NELC approach the study of the languages, literatures, civilizations, religions, material culture or history of the ancient, medieval or modern Near East through a variety of disciplinary approaches, choosing a focus on one of the department’s fields of study.

Key Information

Time to Degree

7 years for those who begin the program in Academic Year 2022-2023 or later

Courses per Quarter

Normally 3 courses per quarter.

Size of Cohort

The maximum number of students enrolled in the program at any given time is 55, with the typical cohort size being 5-8 students.

Degree Milestones

Minimum 27 courses (some fields of study will require coursework beyond this minimum)


Grade of high pass in 2 modern language reading examinations


MA paper (written in the second year)


Comprehensive examinations


Dissertation proposal and defense

Teaching Requirement

Students will complete a series of teaching assistant assignments in years 3 and 4. These assignments may be in content focused courses or language courses. Typically, the total number of assignments in these years will not exceed three, however, students who train to teach languages may benefit from additional assignments within a language sequence. 


Students will also teach their own standalone course as capstone pedagogical training experience, typically in year 5 or 6. If appropriate to a student’s training goals and interests, students can serve as a BA Preceptor instead of teaching their own course. 


Graduates of NELC have for decades been among the leading international experts in their fields. Recent NELC alumni have gained academic positions at prestigious institutions such as the American University of Beirut, Brandeis, Brown, Cambridge, Columbia University, Harvard, Indiana University, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Ohio State, Oxford, Princeton, UC Berkeley, University of Michigan, UNC Chapel Hill, Notre Dame, Sabanci University, University of Tübingen, and Yale, among others. Other alumni have taken non-academic positions in universities, in industry, the arts, and museums.

Apply for Admission

Application Requirements

Additional Department Specific Requirements

  • A statement of purpose, which should describe the intellectual issues and historical/linguistic/archaeological questions you hope to explore, as well as your skills and preparation for undertaking graduate studies at the University of Chicago.
  • A writing sample of approximately 20 pages. This could be an undergraduate thesis, a research paper, or a section of an MA thesis that best demonstrates your critical thinking and scholarly writing. Please include correctly formatted footnotes and bibliographies.

Financial Aid for Prospective Students

  • All admitted PhD students are guaranteed to have full funding support from the University and external sources, or a combination of the two for the duration of their program.
  • Applicants do not need to apply separately for funding.