UC Irvine’s PhD program in Film and Media Studies offers students the opportunity to study and develop original research on film, television, and digital media. Rooted in the Humanities, we focus on interpreting the histories and theories of media and their cultural contexts.
Our curriculum provides a broad foundation in Film and Media Studies while also centering questions of media and power. Our course offerings emphasize post-colonial and decolonial approaches to film and media, queer theory and histories of gender and sexuality, critical race studies, video game studies, and archival research. We seek students who are deeply invested in understanding the perspectives of those who have been pushed to the margins of media technology, industries, and texts and in exploring the relationships between culture, identity, history, and power.
Located near Los Angeles, UC Irvine offers access to the rich cultural offerings and research institutions of Southern California. Students may choose to supplement their Film and Media Studies degree with interdisciplinary graduate certificates in Asian American Studies, Chicano/Latino Studies, Critical Theory, Feminist Studies, Latin American Studies, and/or Visual Studies.
We admit all students, with BAs or MAs, directly into the PhD program in small cohorts with multi-year funding packages. We encourage prospective students to review our faculty profiles and contact the faculty members who work in their potential areas of interest before applying to learn more about their research, teaching, and advising.
Prospective students interested in the Ph.D. Program in Visual Studies, administered by the Department of Art History, can find more information here.
The annual admissions deadline is December 1.
Complete applications will include:
• A Statement of Purpose that describes your research interests and reasons for seeking a PhD. The Statement of Purpose should indicate how your proposed research correlates to our program's emphases and how you will benefit from working with our core faculty.
• A Personal History Statement that describes your educational accomplishments and goals. It is important to communicate whether you have experienced unique or significant opportunities, challenges, and/or obstacles in your pursuit of an education. Please also describe the career paths you plan to pursue after graduation.
• A sample of academic writing, approximately 20 pages in length, that demonstrates original thinking and clear writing.
• Three letters of recommendation, preferably from faculty with whom you have studied.
• Results of the TOEFL or IELTS exam for international applicants for whom English is not their primary language.
To apply, click here.
Prospective students interested in the Ph.D. Program in Visual Studies, administered by the Department of Art History, can find more information here.
Required Core Courses (6 courses)
FLM&MDA 285A: Film Studies: Theory and Methods.
FLM&MDA 285B: Television Studies: Theory and Methods.
FLM&MDA 285C: Digital Media and Game Studies: Theory and Methods.
FLM&MDA 286A: Film and Media Studies Historiography.
FLM&MDA 286B: Media/Power/Culture.
FLM&MDA 286C: Critical Approaches to Film and Media Studies.
Elective Courses (7 courses)
FLM&MDA 291: Graduate Seminar in Film and Media Studies. Repeatable as topics vary.
FLM&MDA 292: Graduate Seminar in Film & Media Critical Practice. Repeatable as topics vary.
FLM&MDA 295: Directed Reading. Repeatable as topics vary.
Required Practicums in Film and Media Studies (4 courses)
FLM&MDA 287: Practicum in Pedagogy.
FLM&MDA 288A: Practicum in Professionalization I.
FLM&MDA 288B: Practicum in Professionalization II.
FLM&MDA 288C: Practicum in Professionalization III.
Required Supporting Course (1 course)
FLM&MDA 298: Prospectus Writing Practicum.
Students must take three elective courses from within the Department of Film and Media Studies and two outside Film and Media Studies. The remaining two electives can be taken within or outside the department.
Students entering with a MA may petition to have up to three elective courses waived, subject to the approval of Graduate Division. Students who have had three courses waived must take two elective courses from within the Department of Film and Media Studies and one outside Film and Media Studies. The remaining elective can be taken within or outside the department.
During the third through sixth years in the program, students normally enroll in variable-unit courses as follows:
FLM&MDA 296: Reading for the Preliminary Examination.
FLM&MDA 297: Prospectus Research.
FLM&MDA 299: Dissertation Research.
Students are required to select and confirm their Primary Advisor by the end of the first year.
At the end of the Spring quarter, the Film and Media Studies faculty will review the performance and progress of each first-year student and provide written evaluation of their work. This evaluation will include an assessment of the student’s ability to complete independent research.
A positive assessment indicates that the student is making good progress.
A cautionary assessment will be accompanied by a description of specific improvements that a student must make in order to advance to candidacy in the third year.
A negative overall assessment will place the student on Academic Conditional Status. Faculty will give written feedback with specific areas for improvement and a timeline for future expectations of academic progress. Students who fail to demonstrate improvement may be recommended for dismissal from the program without a degree.
All students apply for and are accepted into the doctoral program.
Students who enter the PhD program with a prior graduate degree (MA or beyond) in Film and Media Studies or a related discipline may petition to waive up to three electives, subject to the approval of Graduate Division. These students may also petition to waive the MA exam requirement in recognition of their prior degree; normatively, this will be approved. In these cases, students will not complete the MA exam requirement nor earn a second MA en route to the PhD. Film and Media Studies faculty will determine what graduate degree fields qualify as related disciplines. Students entering with an MFA will typically be required to complete the MA exam unless the Graduate Committee determines that the degree is equivalent to an MA.
Students who have not earned an MA in a relevant field prior to matriculating in the Film and Media Studies PhD program must earn an MA degree as part of the PhD program. The program does not offer a stand-alone or terminal MA, except in instances when a student does not continue in the program toward earning the PhD.
In order to earn the MA degree, the student must
1. Satisfactorily complete six foundational courses (FLM&MDA 285A, FLM&MDA 285B, FLM&MDA 285C, FLM&MDA 286A, FLM&MDA 286B, and FLM&MDA 286C);
2. Satisfactorily compete FLM&MDA 287;
3. Satisfactorily complete seven electives, three of which must be within the Department of Film and Media Studies and two outside the Department of Film and Media Studies;
4. Pass the MA Exam; and
5. File the necessary paperwork for conferral of degree with Graduate Division.
For the MA exam, the student will revise one seminar paper written while in the program and submit the revised paper before the start of the Spring quarter in their second year of study.
The requirements for passing the MA exam are as follows:
• The revised paper must present a substantial and original argument;
• It must reflect substantive revision from the original paper, demonstrating additional research and/or reconceptualization and responsiveness to feedback;
• It must demonstrate a command of the relevant literature;
• It must present adequate evidence to support its claims;
• It must be clearly written in an appropriate academic style; and
• It must be formatted according to MLA or Chicago Manual of Style guidelines with proper citation and bibliography.
Ideally, this revised paper will demonstrate promise toward publication and toward the ability to develop a dissertation; however this is not a requirement at the MA stage.
This paper will be evaluated by a 3-person MA committee, which consists of the student’s primary advisor as chair and two additional department faculty members appointed by the Program Director in consultation with the student and the advisor. The MA committee will evaluate the student’s ability to identify a suitable research project and methodology, develop an argument, respond to faculty feedback, and make revisions. The committee will respond with feedback within three weeks of receiving the paper and may ask for a second round of reasonable revisions, to be completed before the end of the term.
The committee will unanimously decide whether the student has passed the MA exam and if they are eligible to proceed toward the PhD, taking into holistic account the exam (revised paper) results, input from the core Film and Media Studies faculty during the First-Year Review, and the student’s progress during the second year of course work. There are four possible determinations:
Positive: The student will earn the MA degree and qualifies to continue toward the PhD exams. This should be the outcome in the majority of cases.
Cautionary: The student will earn the MA degree and qualifies to continue toward the PhD exams but with areas for improvement communicated in writing to the student and advisor. This occurs when the student’s holistic performance and promise outweigh a borderline exam or vice versa. This should be the outcome only in rare or extenuating circumstances.
MA Only: The student will earn the MA degree but is disqualified from continuing toward the PhD exams. This occurs when the student’s holistic performance and promise do not outweigh a borderline exam.
Negative: The exam is unacceptable. The student will not earn the MA degree and is disqualified from continuing toward the PhD exams.
Students may revise and resubmit the MA paper one additional time in case of a failure to pass.
By the end of their second year, students will work with their advisor to plan their Examination fields for the following year. No later than the end of Winter in the third year of study, students will establish a 5-person Qualifying Exam Committee, at least 51% of whose members, including the Dissertation Advisor, must be core faculty in the Department of Film and Media Studies. At least one committee member must be external to the department.
The student will receive one standardized bibliography and select two specialty field bibliographies on which they will be examined. In the Fall and Winter quarters of the third year, the student will enroll in FLM&MDA 296: Reading for the Preliminary Examination and complete reading the works on these three bibliographies. The three exam areas should serve to help the student define general areas of specialized competence that will aid them in establishing a broad base for the dissertation and in developing college-level courses. Students may not enroll in FLM&MDA 296 until all their other course requirements (with the exception of FLM&MDA 298: Prospectus Writing Practicum) have been completed.
The Qualifying Examination will be administered by the Qualifying Exam Committee and will include both a written and an oral component. The written component will consist of at least one question for each Exam bibliography for which the student has completed readings. Students will write at least one essay for each respective Exam. Faculty may offer a range of questions for each bibliography, giving the student a choice of which question(s) to answer. The written component will be offered as a series of three remote exams to be completed within three respective 24-hour periods; questions and responses will be delivered electronically. The oral component of the exam will take place in conjunction with the Prospectus Defense during the Spring quarter of the student’s third year.
Students will consult with the program Director and their principal advisor(s) to determine whether they must demonstrate or develop proficiency in a second language for their research. If the program Director and principal advisor(s) determine that proficiency in a second language is required, the student must demonstrate this proficiency prior to advancing to candidacy. In the event a student does not need a second language to conduct doctoral research, they will not be required to demonstrate proficiency in a second language.
If determined to be required, the language requirement may be satisfied by one of the following means:
1. By passing the Film and Media Studies translation exam. A request must be made to the Film and Media Studies Staff within the first two weeks of the quarter the student wishes to take the exam.
2. By completing, with a grade of B or better, a language course at the 2C level or equivalent, with the exception of Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, which must be completed at the 3C level or equivalent.
3. By attaining a proficiency level of 2C on the Russian Exemption Exam or a proficiency level of 3C on the Chinese Exemption Exam offered by UCI's Academic Testing Center.
4. By petitioning the program. Grounds for a petition might include the student’s being a native speaker in a language other than English or having completed an equivalent language requirement at a different institution. The granting of this petition will remain at the discretion of the Graduate Director, although students dissatisfied with this determination may request the petition be considered by the full faculty. Students who have completed the language requirement at a different institution will need to submit transcripts with the petition. Students will inquire with the Graduate Coordinator to complete a petition.
Dissertation Prospectus and Advancement to Ph.D. Candidacy
In the Spring of the student’s third year, the student will enroll in FLM&MDA 298: Prospectus Writing Practicum and complete a prospectus that identifies the scope, approach, and rationale for their proposed dissertation. The student will present an oral defense of the prospectus to the Qualifying Exam Committee. When the prospectus has been unanimously approved by the Qualifying Exam Committee, the student will be advanced to doctoral candidacy. Students should have taken their preliminary examination, defended their dissertation prospectus, and advanced to doctoral candidacy no later than the end of Spring quarter of their third year. If a student will exceed the 3-year normative time to candidacy, they must petition by Spring quarter of their third year for an exception, presenting an approved plan for timely progress to candidacy.
In the event that a student does not pass the qualifying examination, consistent with UCI policy (Academic Senate Regulation 467) the student will be allowed one repeat attempt of the examination. This repeat examination will occur during the quarter following the initial examination.
The dissertation shall be an original research project of substantial length approved by the Doctoral Committee. Members of the student’s Doctoral Committee are noted on the PhD Form I: Advancement to Candidacy PhD Degree. The committee shall typically consist of the Doctoral Advisor and two additional faculty. At least 51% of the Doctoral Committee, including the Doctoral Advisor, must be core faculty in the Department of Film and Media Studies. The remaining members of the Doctoral Committee must satisfy Academic Senate requirements.
A final examination in the form of an oral defense of the dissertation is required for the PhD. This examination will be supervised by the Doctoral Committee and will be given just prior to the completion of the dissertation. The defense will be open to all members of the academic community. Faculty and graduate students of Film and Media Studies and the Graduate Dean will be given written notice of the date, time, and place of the examination at least five days in advance of the examination.
Time to Degree
The normative time to degree is six years (18 quarters). The first nine quarters are spent in pre-candidacy, the last 9 quarters in candidacy. Normatively, students will complete their course work within the first two years and prepare for and pass the Qualifying Examination and advance to candidacy in the third year. The maximum time to degree is seven years.
 Examples of when a second language would likely be necessary include Spanish proficiency for the study of Spanish-language media, Mandarin proficiency for study of media in Mainland China, or the relevant language for a project on non-English language transnational/diasporic media.
All students receive a five-year funding guarantee at admissions. This typically includes a combination of at least one fellowship year and multiple years of Teaching Assistantships. Additional competitive scholarships, fellowships, and summer stipends may also be available.
Students also receive tuition and fee remission, including non-resident (out-of-state or international) tuition during this period. Domestic students coming from outside of California will be expected to establish state residency during their first year; otherwise, they will need to cover their non-resident tuition fees.
TAships may be in Film and Media Studies undergraduate courses or for courses in other Departments or Programs.
Funding beyond the fifth year is not guaranteed, but TAships or other opportunities are often available.
Visual Studies students who have entered the program in Fall 2022 or prior may petition to transfer to the Film and Media Studies Ph.D. Program in Fall 2023.
Students should begin by conferring with their advisors about whether transferring to the Film and Media Studies program and earning a Film and Media Studies degree makes sense for them. Film and Media Studies faculty mentors will continue to serve as mentors to their current students who remain in the Visual Studies program. No student should be pressured to transfer; the decision whether to transfer is ultimately up to the student.
In order to transfer, the student’s advisor must be core faculty in Film and Media Studies. Their exam and dissertation committees will need to be 51% or more Film and Media Studies faculty.
Students must submit a formal declaration of their intent to transfer to the FMS program to the Visual Studies graduate director, the Visual Studies graduate coordinator, and the Film and Media Studies graduate director.
For current Visual Studies students who advanced to candidacy before Fall 2023:
As stated above, students must complete three FMS field exams in order to advance to candidacy in Film and Media Studies. For students who advanced to candidacy in Visual Studies before Fall 2023, Film and Media Studies will recognize students’ two VS exams as FMS field exams as long as the faculty supervisors were FMS faculty. For the third exam area, students will submit a 10-20-page paper demonstrating PhD-level proficiency in FMS research. Students advancing in Spring 2022 may elect to write a third exam based upon the newly established Film and Media Studies exam bibliographies.
Students will need to reconvene a 5-person advancement committee with a Film and Media Studies faculty majority to review the third exam paper, previous written exams, and prospectus. Students do not need to sit for a second oral defense. Upon committee approval, students complete and sign the PhD I form.
Students who have not advanced to candidacy before Fall 2023 will follow the Film and Media Studies exam process explained in the Program Requirements section above.
The graduate emphasis in Film and Media Studies prepares students in any M.A., Ph.D., or M.F.A. program to analyze film and media texts, contexts, and industries. The emphasis requires that students complete four seminars, two of which are in the Film and Media Studies PhD core series (FMS 285A-C, FMS 286A-C) and two of which may be Film and Media Studies core or elective seminars (FMS 291, FMS 292, FMS 295).
Students who are currently enrolled in any MA, Ph.D., or M.F.A. program at UCI are eligible for admission to the Graduate Emphasis in Film and Media Studies.
Students who are interested in pursuing the graduate emphasis should contact the Graduate Director to indicate their interest in applying for the emphasis. Application materials include:
- one-page statement of purpose that describes any courses (graduate or undergraduate) that the student has taken in film and media studies (if applicable) and an explanation of how their research and/or teaching will benefit from completing the Film and Media Studies Graduate Emphasis;
- current CV;
- brief letter of approval from the student’s primary advisor or program director;
- copy of their unofficial transcript; and
- names of Film and Media Studies core faculty with whom they have worked or plan to work. Applicants who are not yet acquainted with Film and Media Studies core faculty may name the Graduate Director.