PhD Program

Purposes, Goals and Objectives

The purpose of the program is to offer doctoral-level education matching the highest international standards in the fields of Sociology and Social Anthropology for prospective scholars and teachers.

The Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology offers a doctoral program accredited by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York (US) for and on behalf of the New York State Education Department and on behalf of the Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation Austria (AQ Austria).

It does not have separate Sociology and Anthropology tracks; both disciplines are integrated in a common program. At admission all accepted candidates will be offer a four-year funding package. The time to completion should be four years, with a potential one year extension for fieldwork based dissertations.

The department encourages empirical research using a wide variety of methodologies but expects theoretically informed approaches which embrace a broad intellectual agenda. We especially welcome projects that promote the integration of sociological and anthropological perspectives as well as methodologies. The program encourages dissertation projects with comparative approaches.

The curriculum, the Handbook and the course schedule are available on the department webpage.

First Year of Doctoral Study:

The first year of the program focuses on coursework and preparation for the Comprehensive Exam to be passed at the beginning of the 2nd year. The examination covers the major fields of the proposed research, it is an oral discussion of the proposed research based on a 5000 words Dissertation Proposal and an 80 items bibliography (more on this below)-.

In the first year each student will take 6mandatory courses (Comparative Thinking, Place Making, PhD Colloquium/Research Seminar in two terms, the Advanced Methods, Seminar Series in two terms and in the spring term Proposal writing). The remaining 16 course-credits throughout the academic year are to be acquired through a selection of elective courses offered within the MA and/or PhD programs at the department. Students are encouraged to choose courses which relate to their broadly defined fields of interest.

When choosing an MA course the instructor will be responsible for assigning specific additional work for the PhD student, which may take the form of a longer paper or other specific assignment.


During their first months of study, until confirming a supervisor, candidates will work with a mentor from the departmental faculty who will assist with academic questions and individual issues around the program, together with the PhD director. Mentors are assigned to the candidates at the beginning of the academic year.  Students may consult with their mentor, the PhD Director or the Doctoral Committee on the selection of elective courses. Once deciding on a supervisor and receiving their agreement, students must request approval in writing (email) from the PhD director. They will work under his/her supervision over the entire course of their PhD studies receiving guidance on their study progress including coursework, comprehensive exam, and dissertation writing and defense; advice and feedback on the nature and development of their research project; and mentoring on their engagement with academic activities and preparation for the academic career.

Major Deadlines and Preparation for the Comprehensive Exam

 During the winter term first-year PhD students submit a 1000 words Comprehensive Exam Statement explaining the main themes of their research proposal and the corresponding fields of literature their Bibliography will cover. In consultation with their PhD Supervisors and members of their Examination Committee (see below), doctoral candidates will also compile their 80 items Bibliography. This Bibliography should be divided by the major themes and sub-fields of the proposed  research which will be discussed in the examination.

By the end of February doctoral candidates will be expected to choose a PhD Supervisor, consult with him or her on the selection of elective courses, and begin to assemble the faculty committee for their Comprehensive Exam. The PhD Supervisor will be the chair of the Comprehensive Exam Committee and direct the PhD dissertation. The PhD Supervisor must be a regular member (not visiting faculty) of the department. The other members consist of a faculty member from the department or if the topic requires, from the wider CEU community. An external member (to CEU) is encouraged but not mandatory.

During the winter term all first-year students will present a draft of their research proposal in at the PhD Colloquium/PhD Research Seminarin preparation for the submission of the material for the comprehensive exam.

In the spring term students will submit together with the Bibliography, a Draft Dissertation Proposal of their thesis, of 3000 words length.  Revisions will be made based on formals comments candidates receive from their advisors and the Doctoral Committee.

By mid-June (exact date will be announced around the end of May) a written take-home exam will be proposed to the students as part of their evaluation for the Comprehensive Exam. This exam will evaluate the knowledge they accumulated during the first year as pertaining to their research. For this purpose the take-home exam will include two questions and the students will have 48 hours to complete it. The first question will be common to all students, draw on the themes covered in the mandatory courses to assess their disciplinary grounding and analytical skills, and be evaluated by a blind reviewer, who is a member of the department faculty; the second question will be related to their own research and will be proposed and evaluated by the first supervisor. Both questions require a 1000-word answer. Grading scheme: pass with distinction/pass/fail.

At the end of the summer students submit their final Research Proposal of 5000 words in length, their Review Essay (5000 words) and Bibliography (80 substantive titles). The review essay should be written in conversation with the proposal and the bibliography and conceptualized as a critical review of state-of-the-art research in the candidate’s main fields. preferably at their intersection. The purpose of this document is for the candidate to present these fields in depth and show in what ways their projects intervene in them. The review, therefore, s is not geared towards the candidate’s main research question, which is ideally done in the proposal, but rather toward existing literature.

Students will sit for their Comprehensive Exam at the beginning of the fall term of their second year (usually during the zero week or the first week of class).The student is examined on the basis of a set of themes or problem areas outlined in the Research Proposal, the Review Essay, and the Bibliography. In developing this set of themes, the student may consider the more immediate fields relevant to the dissertation topic (ideally 3) and scale up from closely related themes to one of the fundamental problem areas in sociology/socio-cultural anthropology. Taken together the Proposal, the Review Essay and the Bibliography should cover relevant theoretical debates and show awareness of both methodological approaches as well as research findings in the thematic fields which are indispensable for the pursuit of the PhD project. The student should be able to relate developments in the chosen fields to larger scholarly debates in the discipline and be able to demonstrate competence in dealing with thematic issues in a broad comparative perspective. The design of the Comprehensive Exam is to be developed in close consultation with the PhD Supervisor and the Director of Doctoral Studies. Students must be prepared to answer questions on the Proposal and the other exam materials during the Comprehensive Exam and the Committee must formally approve the Proposal at the end or ask for revisions in writing. Satisfactory completion of all requirements in the probationary year will formerly admit the student to PhD candidacy in Sociology and Social Anthropology. 

Second year of Doctoral Study (Research period)

The period following the acceptance of formal doctoral candidacy should be devoted to research. Students have several options in carrying out their research, depending upon the specificity of their study. They may choose to spend the entire year collecting data, undertaking intensive fieldwork, survey research and/or working in archives and libraries.  In conformity with the research profile of the department candidates are strongly encouraged to pursue empirical, archival or field based research and will therefore be granted exemption from the principal requirement of residency in Vienna. For this they can apply for a field research grant in the second year. The department coordinator informs students about the criteria, procedure and deadlines in the beginning of the academic year, and they have to submit their application well before the research period starts (usually in the October grant application period).

For the duration of their research period candidates are required to maintain regular contact with and report on their work in progress to their PhD supervisor and the department. They are expected to consult with their supervisors as agreed in advance and submit a formal report on work in progress at the end of each academic year spent away from CEU (before the end of the AY, see annex). While in the field students are encouraged to be affiliated with an academic institution of higher education in the respective country and visit it periodically during their absence from Vienna. During the second year, students take Research and for Consultation with the Supervisor non-classroom courses to earn their course credits.

Third year of Doctoral Study:

After completing their research, doctoral students are required to return to campus, primarily to write their PhD dissertation in close consultation with their supervisor. In the third year, students will participate in the mandatory courses (the PhD Colloquium/Research seminars, the PhD Writing- up seminar and the Teaching assistance). Students are required to serve as teaching assistants in a master's level course in order to acquire teaching experience (mandatory TA-ship). Teaching assistance consists of regular participation in the course, independent teaching of at least one unit of the course in agreement with the professor or leading discussion or discussion groups within the course. Teaching assistants may be asked to present aspects of their own work that is relevant to the course, to help students with first drafts of class papers or the class work in general, or other possible assignments depending upon the needs of the course, the PhD candidate and the teaching faculty.

Besides the two seminars students receive credits for Dissertation writing non-classroom courses.

When resident in Vienna, all doctoral students are requested to regularly participate in the Seminar Series. The Seminar focuses on the discussion of topics and literature of interest to faculty and doctoral students.

Fourth Year of Doctoral Studies (only for CEU PU students)

Students in the fourth year focus on dissertation writing in residence or abroad if they received CEU or external support for a study abroad period. Throughout this period, they are requested to maintain regular (monthly) contact with their supervisor and inform the department about their progress at least once a year in the annual progress report. They will receive coursecredits for Dissertation writing and for Submission and defense.

 Over the course of four years the program requires a total of 240 credits.

The student who successfully completes the program will be awarded a Doctorate in Sociology and Social Anthropology.  The degree is accredited by the New York State Board of Regents of the State of New York (US) as well as in Austria for the CEU PU students.