PhD in Theology

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  • Program requirements

By virtue of the federation of Saint Paul University with the University of Ottawa, the Faculty of Theology of Saint Paul University offers graduate programs leading to the degrees conferred jointly by the senates of both universities.

Other graduate theology programs within the sole jurisdiction of the Senate of Saint Paul University are also offered; their description and requirements can be found in the calendar of the Faculty of Theology.

The Faculty of Theology offers the following programs whose degrees are conferred jointly by the senates of the University of Ottawa and Saint Paul University:

  • Master of Arts in Theology;
  • PhD in Theology;
  • Master of Pastoral Theology;
  • Doctor of Ministry;
  • Master of Religious Education.

The doctoral program is intended to promote the acquisition of a high level of intellectual autonomy and expertise in an area of research. As well, applicants are expected to contribute to the progress of knowledge in their discipline or area of studies by presenting original research in the form of a doctoral dissertation. Moreover, the program aims to form qualified persons for university research and teaching or for other activities that require advanced specialization in our disciplines and area of studies.

Doctoral candidates can best benefit from the resources of the faculty by defining their thesis projects in view of the areas of competence of faculty members.

To be admitted to the PhD program:

  • The candidate must hold a MA(Th) degree of the University of Ottawa/Saint Paul with a minimum 75 per cent (B+) average, or its equivalent.
  • Among the applicants who meet this requirement, only those whose academic record gives assurance that they are able to succeed and to make a personal contribution to the field of theological studies will be accepted as candidates to the doctorate.
  • The candidate must master either English or French and have a passive knowledge (ability to follow lectures and to read) of the other language.
  • To be admitted in the biblical studies stream, candidates must have a basic knowledge (Level 1 - Introduction) of Hebrew and of Greek. They must acquire an intermediate level (level 2) of competence in Hebrew and Greek before presentation of the thesis project.
  • The Faculty may require a candidate to acquire certain skills deemed necessary for the achievement of the research project (for example, knowledge of a language, basic knowledge of other disciplines).
  • Provide two confidential letters of recommendation from professors who have know the applicant and are familiar with the student work.
  • Provide a detailed draft of their proposed research project.

Scholarships and Fellowships

Saint Paul University has established a number of fellowships for doctoral students. More information concerning these as well as other forms of financial assistance can be obtained from the Registrar of Saint Paul University.

Graduate Courses and Seminars in Theology

The annual program consists of three courses and one continuous seminar.

Student Transfers From Other Universities

Students who transfer from other universities may receive credit for work already done, but are normally expected to complete the major part of the requirements for the degree at Saint Paul University. Doctoral candidates transferring from another university to complete their degree at Saint Paul University may be given advanced standing for work and residence already completed elsewhere. However, in all such cases, doctoral candidates must complete at least one year of full-time residence, complete 12 credits in their area of study and pass a preliminary examination at Saint Paul University.

Transfer from Master’s to PhD

Program Students enrolled in the MA program may be allowed to transfer to the PhD program without being required to write a master’s thesis provided they meet the following conditions:

  • Achievement of an A- average in the last two years of undergraduate studies;
  • Completion of at least four graduate courses (12 credits) with a grade of A- or better in each;
  • Satisfactory progress in the thesis program;
  • Written recommendation by the supervisor;
  • Approval by the graduate studies committee.

The student must request permission to fast-track during the fourth session of registration or earlier and must register in the PhD in the fifth session at the latest. Following the transfer, all of the requirements of the doctoral program must be met.  

Some additional documents, and in some cases specific forms, are required. For more information, please see the page Step 4: Gather the documents needed for the assessment of your application.

Requirements for the PhD program:

  • two regular courses (three credits each) directly related to the thesis topic or to be chosen in consultation with the director of Graduate Studies;
  • directed reading course (3 credits);
  • comprehensive exam;
  • the seminar (3 credits);
  • submission and defence of a thesis.

Research Director

The research director is appointed by the Faculty of Theology before the end of the second session upon consultation with the student.

Comprehensive Examination

  • The comprehensive examination is intended to verify that candidates have developed a theological culture enabling them to acquire a knowledge and critical judgment in reference to the major questions, the most significant debates and the principal authors, past and present, in their area of study and, more particularly, in the area of their own research.
  • THO 9998 is a credited activity which is evaluated upon completion of both a written exam and an oral presentation.
  • This examination should take place sometime between the beginning of the third session and the end of the fourth session. It takes place before the presentation of the thesis project.

Refer to the graduate studies procedures manual of the Faculty of Theology for further details on the comprehensive examinations.

Thesis Project Presentation

The thesis topic must be submitted to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies for registration after the successful completion of the comprehensive examination.

After the comprehensive examination, upon completion of all course and seminar requirements, and with the approval of the research director, the candidates present their thesis project to professors and graduate students. At this meeting, the candidates present the original hypothesis they have formulated and explain how their project attempts to prove it. The presentation is not perceived as an examination but as an exchange between the participants which may elicit suggestions for improving the project.


The candidate must write, submit and successfully defend a thesis of at least 200 pages. The thesis must be a significant contribution to the advancement of knowledge, embody the results of original research and analysis and be of such quality as to be worthy of publication.

At least six copies of the thesis and of a summary not exceeding 350 words must be submitted to the Faculty of Theology.

The thesis is submitted to an examining board of four to seven examiners, at least one of these being chosen outside the University. If the thesis is accepted by this board, the candidate will be called to defend it. The University community and the general public are invited to attend the defence.

Minimum Standards

The passing grade in all courses is C+. Students who fail two courses (equivalent to 6 credits), the thesis proposal, or whose research progress is deemed unsatisfactory are required to withdraw.


All students must complete a minimum of six sessions of full-time registration at the beginning of the program.

Duration of the Program

Students are expected to complete all requirements within four years. The maximum time permitted is six years from the date of initial registration in the program.

Thesis Advisory Committee

During the first session of the program, a thesis advisory committee (TAC) is formed for the candidate. The Committee’s membership will be determined by the specific interests of the candidate. It will be composed of the supervisor and 2-3 additional professors. At least one member of the thesis committee, in addition to the supervisor, must be from the Faculty of Theology of Saint Paul University. The TAC is responsible for guiding the student throughout the program, including course selection, the comprehensive examination, thesis proposal, and thesis defense.

A meeting between the student and the Thesis Advisory Committee will take place at least once per session. The thesis examining board may include members who are not part of the TAC. 

























Interaction between theology and psychology with reference to pastoral ministry, the experience of the believer, the development of faith and of religious attitudes. The pastoral implications of psychological theories of the individual and his/her social relations: impact on cognitive processes, emotion, behaviour, competence, values. Psychological perspectives on the pastoral minister's practice, role and identity.


Interaction between theology and sociology with reference to pastoral ministry. A study of the pastoral implications of socio-historical structures, and of social and cultural change. Analysis of how the social milieu forms the way people think, feel and act, and the reflection on the importance of this formation for values and beliefs. Sociological perspectives on Christian communities' practice, role and identity.


The Christian community as a social reality embodying beliefs and values. Its relationship to and responsibility toward contemporary society and church: local, national, international. Present social questions and the Christian social tradition.


Study of a specific topic or issue in pastoral theology.


Principles and history of interpretation in theology. Recent developments and debates. The role of classic texts and the question of historical consciousness.

THO 6317 - Formation of Biblical Text

Transmission of the text. Inspiration. Canonicity. The authority of the text and the believing community.

THO 6318 - Interpretation of the Biblical Text

Principles and methods of interpretation. History of interpretation: the Church Fathers, Middle Ages, the Reformation, 19th and 20th centuries.


Hermeneutical questions and methodological foundations of contemporary ethical reflection analysed from a theological perspective.


Exploring in depth the basic concepts of theological tradition with regard to Christian ethics, as well as the main questions related to ethical research in a contemporary context. Reflection on what is at stake with regard to the public relevance of the Christian ethical discourse in a pluralist and multicultural society.


Faith and experience. The Mystery of God. Interpretations and expressions of the experience of God.


The relationship between faith and culture; contemporary issues, questions and challenges. The contextual nature of theology.


Analysis of the methods used in the theological study of spirituality. Spirituality in relation to the human sciences.


Comparative theological study of one or more Christian spiritual traditions and one or more spiritual traditions within other religions to highlight their views of the world, human reality and salvation.


Various methodologies used in the main fields of theological research. Theoretical and practical aspects of writing a paper or a thesis: matters of research, defining the problem, a working hypothesis, choosing a method, bibliographical research, writing up the status questiones, etc.


Organization and composition of a thesis proposal acceptable to the Faculty of theology and the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. (Graded: S or N/S)

THO 9998 - Comprehensive Examination

THO 9999 - Doctoral Thesis

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Information for future students

Saint Paul University

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K1S 1C4


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