The program structure of the Specialization consists of four required components: 1) coursework and workshop, 2) languages and specialized training, 3) examinations, and 4) the dissertation or thesis.

1) Coursework and Workshop Students must fulfill all coursework and program requirements of their home programs, including methodologies, languages and distribution requirements. It is understood that a student's coursework will include intensive training in their chosen discipline related to premodern Iran. To fulfill the interdisciplinary specialization, students must take four courses offered by the program (seminar, lecture or independent study) that deal with the art and archaeology, history, or religions of ancient Iran and the premodern Persian world, its legacy, or methodological or theoretical issues related to its study (e.g. field methods, historical linguistics, critical theory, art law, ethics, museology). These can also include language courses that provide the training necessary to conduct advanced research in the study of premodern Iran (e.g. Avestan, Old Persian, Bactrian, Pahlavi, Aramaic, ancient Greek, Arabic, New Persian etc.). Topics-vary courses will be offered under, or be crosslisted with, the specialization’s designator (“IRAN”) while others will be provided through their normal departmental designators and approved by the program director. All approved courses will be advertised on the program’s webpage. When a student counts a theoretically focused seminar towards the specialization, the topic of the seminar paper is expected to involve some aspect of the premodern Iranian or Persianate world. In order to encourage interdisciplinarity, students will be expected to take at least one course from a program other than their own offered under or crosslisted with the specialization’s course designator. In addition, students are expected to participate in the Premodern Iranian Studies Workshop, Conference and Speaker Series. This is a collaborative faculty-student initiative whose content and discussions are focused, in part, on the lectures, conferences and symposia organized by the Jordan Center that year. Faculty and students may also present papers or works in progress. All graduate students in the specialization are expected to participate when in residency.

2) Languages and Specialized Training Beyond the modern languages required by students’ home program, doctoral students will be expected to gain competency in at least two premodern languages relevant for conducting research in the Iranian world. MA students will be expected to prove competence in at least one premodern language. This can take the form of a reading exam administered by the Director of the Specialization or the completion of coursework at UCI or another institution equivalent to that needed to gain intermediate competency, including summer intensives. Depending on a student’s objectives and needs, languages may include any Old or Middle Iranian language (e.g. Avestan, Old Persian, Middle Persian, Bactrian, Sogdian etc.), relevant Mesopotamian, Mediterranean or Caucasian languages (e.g. Akkadian, Aramaic, Syriac, Old Armenian, ancient Greek and Latin, etc.), and any language with a substantial corpus of texts relevant to the study of the medieval or early modern Persianate world (e.g. Classical New Persian, Arabic, Urdu, Ottoman Turkish, etc.). According to their focus and in consultation with their advisor, a student may elect to count one of the following in lieu of a second premodern language: a summer of archaeological fieldwork, a course in numismatics or digital archaeological methods, or a curatorial internship at a museum or specialized collection. Students always have the option to do these in addition to a second language and the program will endeavor to find opportunities and (if possible) funding to make it feasible for them to do so.

3) Examinations For doctoral students, the director must approve that at least one area of the qualifying examination incorporates premodern Iran or wider Persian world as a central concern. One member of the candidate's qualifying examination committee is normally core or affiliated faculty of the specialization. Plan II M.A. students must have significant premodern Iranian Studies content in their examination. There are no requirements concerning qualifying examinations for Plan I M.A. students.

4) Dissertation or Thesis Doctoral students must complete a dissertation that engages the study of the premodern Iranian world as part of their broader project. This can either be the sole focus of the project, the most common scenario, or an important subcomponent informing earlier, later or coeval developments (e.g. a study of ancient or medieval Iranian art and architecture informing the study of modern or contemporary visual arts or literature). After advising and before advancement to candidacy, the program director will confirm their approval of the proposed topic through email. Ph.D. students writing an in-process M.A. thesis en route to the Ph.D. and Plan I M.A. students will similarly gain approval of their M.A. thesis topic. Alternatively, a research or seminar paper written under the guidance of one or more of the specialization faculty will be submitted to the director. There are no requirements concerning theses for Plan II M.A. students (see examination requirements).


Students are required to contact and meet with the director of the specialization: 1) when they apply to map out their plan of study and as needed throughout coursework to ensure seminars, languages etc. fulfill requirements, 2) prior to setting their examination areas to ensure one area sufficiently addresses premodern Iranian content, and 3) before formal approval of their dissertation/thesis proposal to ensure the dissertation/thesis adequately involves premodern Iran.

Students who satisfactorily complete the specialization will be provided for their dossier an official letter signed by the Director of the Specialization and Director of the Jordan Center of Persian Studies and Culture detailing and certifying their interdisciplinary training.


Prospective students who wish to pursue a Ph.D. in Iranian Studies at UCI must first apply and be admitted to the doctoral program through which their potential advisor accepts students, for example, the Ph.D. Program in History or the Ph.D. Program in Visual Studies. Students are encouraged to contact their potential advisors and the Director of the Specialization before they apply. Once they have accepted UCI’s offer of admission and enrolled, students join the interdisciplinary graduate specialization by submitting a summary of degrees earned and prior undergraduate and graduate coursework taken related to Iranian Studies, together with a brief statement of purpose that details their degree program, interest in the field, current or potential advisor, and potential dissertation research. This should be submitted via email to the Director of the Specialization at the start of their first quarter at UCI.

In addition to Ph.D. students whose doctoral work focuses on premodern Iran, the specialization is open to any student currently enrolled in a Ph.D. or M.A. program at UCI whose career goals would benefit from a deeper historical perspective and whose program provides sufficient flexibility to fulfill the requirements of the specialization. Applications to the specialization are reviewed on a rolling basis, although students are encouraged to apply as soon as they decide they wish to pursue it. All students accepted into the specialization are eligible to be affiliates of the Samuel Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture.