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MA in Social & Political Thought


   Degree Requirements

The Master’s degree normally takes two years of full-time study, although students may be able to complete all degree requirements within one year of entering the Program . Students must complete all requirements within two years to remain in full time studies and thus be eligible to hold a Graduate Assistantship or Teaching Assistantship, as well as receive government student loans.
The sequence for the satisfactory completion of M.A. requirements is as follows:

  1. The equivalent of three full graduate courses (18 credits in total*), of which:
    (a) at least one must be a formal SPTH course;
    (b) only one may be a reading course (Social and Political Thought 6001.06 or 6001.03)

  2. The Major Research Paper.

  3. An oral examination.

*  A full course is a 6 credit course and is usually offered over two terms. 

    A half course is a 3 credit course and is usually offered over one term.

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   Course Work

Students create their own, unique, study program choosing from a number of interdisciplinary courses that are often cross listed by graduate programs in English, History, Philosophy, Political Science, Sociology, Humanities, and other relevant disciplines. In addition, reading courses are given by SPTH faculty members to meet students’ specialized interests and needs. All courses offered by SPTH are open to MA and doctoral students. Social and Political Thought does not offer any core courses. Course calendar

Language Competence

Competence in a language other than English is sometimes required for the MRP or PhD dissertation. In general the greater the importance placed on the interpretation of texts, the greater the linguistic competence required. Students requiring undergraduate language courses are encouraged to investigate the courses and their requirements through the Faculty of Arts, Department of Language, Linguistics and Literature. A placement test may be required if the student requires a language course at the intermediate or advanced levels. In addition, students will require the signed permission of the Social and Political Thought Director to register in an undergraduate language course. Forms are available at, course related section. Students interested in language courses should inform the Director, who may be able to advise on upcoming opportunities.

Availability of places in undergraduate language courses is determined by the Undergraduate offices; therefore, students are highly encouraged to investigate language courses at the earliest possible date and to ensure that all paperwork is submitted promptly to both the undergraduate and graduate offices.

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   the major research paper


See Major Research Paper Guidelines

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   MA oral exams

The MA Oral Examination is a comprehensive exam that is held once all other degree requirements have been completed. It is a verbal examination based on 3 books that the student and the two readers have agreed upon. Generally the books are drawn from the MRP (Major Research Paper) bibliography.  The Comprehensive exam may be booked only after all coursework is complete and grades submitted, and the MRP has been read and passed by both readers.  The earliest date it can be booked after all other work is completed is 3 weeks from the date all other degree requirements have been finalized, and in order to book the date, the student must notify the Graduate program director and program assistant in writing of the names of the two readers, the three books to be examined on, any potential Director's reps the student and supervisor wish to have considered and the date and time when the student and two readers are available.

Once the director reviews and approved the books, the program assistant will be asked to set up the exam by the GPD.

Exams cannot be held over the holidays when the University is closed, nor does that time count as three weeks should the student notify the program just as the University is closing for the holidays.

An MA oral is booked for a 2 hour period, but may take less time.

The student is asked questions directly and indirectly related to the works that have been selected. Some aspect of the MRP that relates to the texts can be asked at the comps. Students need to demonstrate a clear understanding of the texts and an ability to explain the main arguments and concepts.

The Examination Committee

The MA oral examination committee consists of three faculty members – the supervisor (first MRP reader) the second reader and either the Director or a Director's Rep. All faculty members must be appointed to the Faculty of Graduate Studies in order to be on the committee.

The Director's Rep

It is more common to have a Director's Rep, than to have the Director due to the time commitments of the Director.

The student and the supervisor may make recommendations for a Director’s Rep, but the Director makes the final selection. Usually the student and Director will develop a list of two or three faculty member names and rank the list.  The Director generally - but not always - selects a director's rep from the names provided by the supervisor.  Once the Graduate Program Director identifies the director's rep preference, the Program Assistant will ascertain the faculty members’ availability, and will set up the exam and notifiy all participants.  The exam must occur on the York (or Glendon) campus.  Off campus exams are not an option.  

The Director’s Rep attends the exam, is responsible for handling the paperwork at the exam, ensuring all the committee members are present, explaining the process to other members that may never have sat on an SPTH comps exam (comps procedures vary from program to program at York), and aids in mediating the committee's questions, The Director’s Rep ensures that the signed paperwork is returned back to the SPTH Program Office.

The student is requested to provide the Director or Director's Rep with a copy of the MRP at least three weeks prior to the date of the Oral Exam (this copy does not have to be bound).

Timeline for MRP and Comprehensive exam


The MRP must be read and passed by both readers (the to program office needs to have both “passes” )before we can begin booking the comprehensive exam.

The student must then email the director (and copy the program assistant),

1) the booklist (Title and author) of the three books

2) the date and time that the comps is tentatively planned for (both the student and the committee members have agreed on the time, and are available for that time and date)

and – if a preference has been indicated by the student or committee members –

3) any suggestions for the director’s rep.

The student does not select or contact the director’s rep.  Once the director has approved the books and ranked the list of any director’s rep, and program assistant will contact the first name on the list, and see if that faculty member is willing and able to participate in the exam. 

The reason that three weeks advance notice is needed is that the office needs time to arrange for a director’s rep, and the director’s rep may need time to review the books that are to be examined.  Three weeks time in the minimum time to book the exam once the MRP has been passed.

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   transition from the spth ma to phd

Students currently in Social & Political Thought MA, and wishing to be considered for Advancement internally for the SPTH PHD must submit their application on-line by January 7th, 2015, and upload their documents for consideration by January 21st, 2015. 

Incomplete files will be at a distinct disadvantage. 


SPTH MA students who are continuing to the PhD level must complete all the MA degree requirements by the end of the academic year if they are to be accorded PhD status. Students who have not completed these requirements on time will have to register as MA students. (Exceptions can be made if all course work and the Major Research Paper are completed and only the oral exam remains with the written approval of the Director.)

Students advance for a September start date. 

Students are asked to note that their advancement to PhD is conditional on the successful completion of all MA degree requirement by the date agreed upon in writing when advanced to the PhD. Failure to successfully complete MA degree requirement by the stipulated date may require the student to withdraw from the PhD program, and return to the MA program as either a full time or part time student.

 SPTH Advancing Policy

  •  Normally, one third of Ph.D spots will be reserved for advancing MA’s.  If not enough files are submitted, or the files are considered by the committee to be unacceptable, these spots can be allocated to external applicants.
  • All interested MAs apply for advancement with (a) statement of interest, (b) two letters of reference*, (c) a plan for completion signed off on by their supervisor, and (d) a writing sample (grades will be sprinted by the SPT administrative assistant and attached to the files under consideration).  In other words, advancing MA’s will submit a complete “application” package minus transcripts.  “Applications” will be submitted through the SPT administrative assistant.
  • The deadline for advancing MA’s will be at least two weeks before the admissions meeting and all unsuccessful transfer applications will be put into the general pool. (see above for the deadline for 2014 Admission)
  • The advancing files are to be considered first by the Ph.D. admissions committee, and considered as a separate pool.
  • The director, at her discretion, may submit a letter in addition to the letters of reference to identify and support personal or academic reasons for special consideration by the committee.
  •  Only MA1 and MA2’s are eligible for advancement.  It is up to the director to advise students to take a leave if there are circumstances which require the student to take more than 2 years to complete.
  • Students may apply for advancement only once.

          All current (by email) and incoming (in acceptance packages) students will be made aware of these conditions


       * As the on-line application system will expect 3 letters of reference, internal candicates may list the third name as the Graduate Program director who will insert a blank letter that will indicate:  this applicant is an candidate seeking internal advancement, and as per the admissions policy sest March 2013, only 2 references are required from internal candidates.   (If the director is already one of the referees, alternative arrangements can be made by request just to ensure Admissions receives a thrid reference document and identifies electronically that all documents are received.)


      This policy established by the SPTH Executive, March 20, 2013


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What should the student have completed, and by when:



MA – if completing degree in one year

MA – if completing degree in two years


Year 1

All coursework should be done by end of winter term

Coursework. Students should have completed at least the equivalent of 12 credits, preferably the full 18 credits within the first three terms.

What courses have you completed:



Are any courses INC?

Summer of year 1

MRP should be completed and passed by end of summer term


Pages completed in MRP?

Summer of year 1 – Plus

Comprehensive exam either should be done be end of summer term, or booked for early in the fall term



Year 2

Only register if there is outstanding coursework or the MRP will not be completed by the end of September.

Supervisor must be in place.


Student MUST meet with the director in September to discuss a plan to finish.


Pages completed in MRP?

Year 2 - summer


Student MUST meet with the director before May 1st to discuss progress.

Status of work?

Year 3


**Student must be part time, and therefore not eligible to hold TAships as Unit 1, or receive other financial support..


Note:  If student is advanced at the end of year 2 to PhD, all degree requirements must be completed by September 30th or the student will be moved back to part time.