Frequently Asked Questions: Doctor of Philosophy (Biblical Studies)

  • Do I have time for a PhD(Bib. Studies)?
  • Is there a time limit for the program?
  • When do I commence my PhD(Bib. Studies)?
  • Are there any campus residential requirements?
  • Who will encourage me through my program?
  • Is there a program trial period and reviews?
  • Do I have to sit any comprehensive exams?
  • How original does my PhD(Bib. Studies) research need to be?
  • How will I get my languages up to the required level?
  • Can I write in a language other than English?
  • Where will I get resources for my program?
  • Do I need my own computer?
  • Do I need broadband internet access?
  • How much will my program cost?
  • ‘Do I have to pay my fees in full up front?’
  • Are scholarships available?
  • Do I need a student visa for my program?

Do I have time for a PhD(Bib. Studies)?

Our PhD(Bib. Studies) may be undertaken full-time or part-time.

  • A full-time student with the entrance pre-requisites may complete the program in about three years.
  • A part-time student is more likely to take 5-6 years to complete the program.

You will need to work out how much time you are able to give to your PhD(Bib. Studies) study.

Good time management is essential. You will need to restructure your workload/ministry responsibilities for the duration of the program.

  • Some participants have study leave provisions in their church/organisation.
  • Others arrange to scale down their work/ministry load substantially.
  • Others take unpaid leave.

Is there a time limit for the program?

Seven years is the maximum time limit to complete the program.

When do I commence my PhD(Bib. Studies)?

You may commence your PhD(Bib. Studies) program at any time during the year.

For ease of administration, however, we will set the official date of commencement on either January 1 (for participants commencing between September-February), or July 1 (for participants commencing between March-August).

Are there any campus residential requirements?

There is no set requirement to stay on a campus for a fixed time, except for the annual doctoral colloquium. You continue to live at home, and may continue with your ministry, although scaled down significantly. You won’t need to relocate your family.

But during the program you may need to plan for significant blocks of time away from home. We encourage candidates to

  • spend significant time with their supervisors – annually if possible;
  • plan for at least 3 months at an appropriate international study centre during their program.

Who will encourage me through my program?

Completing a PhD by research requires a good deal of discipline and stamina. Non-residential doctoral programs are a special challenge to complete.

AGST Alliance will encourage you as much as we can – and we have three specific encouragement strategies for you:

1. Student support Memorandum of Understanding

You and the major stakeholders in your program – your family, ministry organisation/seminary and/or local church leaders – recognise the potential pressures, and may make a commitment to help you have adequate time and energy for your program.

Click here to download the Student Support Memorandum of Understanding guidelines and form.

2. Supervisors

You will be assigned 1-2 supervisors to journey with you through your program.

Your supervisors are selected in close consultation between you and the Biblical Studies Programs Director. One supervisor will be chosen to provide expertise in your specific field of research. A co-supervisor (or adviser) may be appointed if your research topic is interdisciplinary.

It is likely that the most suitable expert supervisor(s) will live out of our region. In this case, a local supervisor will also be appointed to provide you with handy doctoral-level oversight.

How often you meet with your supervisor(s) will be mutually agreed. If you have an international supervisor, e-mail, Skype and telephone calls will be used extensively. But we recommend at least one face-to-face contact with your supervisors per year.

3. Annual colloquium

All AGST Alliance doctoral candidates participate in the annual 3 day/2 night colloquium (preceded by a 2 day/1 night orientation for new candidates).

The purpose of the colloquium is primarily to provide a setting for encouraging you and your peers to ‘keep on keeping on’, and so bring your research to a successful conclusion sooner rather than later. The focus of the colloquium is thus threefold:

  • To enable you to talk through the direction and progress of your research with ‘critical friends’ (PhD peers and faculty) – you will be required to make a presentation of your work to date, followed by discussion.
  • To enhance your research ability, with skills training in areas in which you and your peers sense you need further help.
  • For new PhD candidates: To be oriented to your program, and to review required doctoral level research skills.

Is there a program trial period and reviews?

Yes. You are ‘on probation’ in the PhD(Bib. Studies) program until your research proposal is approved (usually 1-2 years into your program). Continuation in the program will depend upon satisfactory progress to that point.

Each year, satisfactory annual reviews are required in order for you to continue.

Do I have to sit any comprehensive exams?

No. When you apply to enter the PhD(Bib. Studies) program, you briefly outline the area you wish to explore. This is the starting point for your research.

You spend the first year or so reading widely and developing your research proposal – a detailed, informed plan for your further research focus.

Then, your research proposal needs to be approved by the AGST Alliance Biblical Studies Programs Committee. They may also seek comments from an external expert in your general field of research.

Once your proposal is approved, you may continue with your research and writing, hopefully leading to a successful outcome.

How original does my PhD(Bib. Studies) research need to be?

A successful PhD(Bib. Studies) dissertation reflects original research.

‘Making an original contribution’ may seem a daunting prospect! But several writers have suggested what this means in practice for doctoral level research. Think about these two lists, and relate them to your likely area of research.

Possible areas of originality:a new product/theorya development of – or improvement on – an existing product/theorya reinterpretation of an existing theorya new research tool or techniquea new model/paradigm/perspectivean in-depth study of a previously less-studied areaa critical analysisa portfolio of work based on researcha collection of generalizable findings or conclusions
(Pat Cryer, The research student’s guide to success. Buckingham: Open University Press, 1996, p. 149.)
These examples of originality were collected from supervisors, examiners and research students by Estelle Phillips:Carrying out empirical work that hasn’t been done before.Making a synthesis that hasn’t been made before.Using already known material but with a new interpretation.Trying out something in [one] country that has previously only been done in other countries.Taking a particular technique and applying it to a new area.Bringing new evidence to bear on an old issue.Being cross-disciplinary and using different methodologies.Looking at areas that people in the discipline haven’t looked at before.Adding to knowledge in a way that hasn’t been done before.
(Zuber-Skerritt & Ryan, cited in Cryer, 1996, p. 154)

[See also PhD(Bib. Studies) academic expectations]

How will I get my languages up to the required level?

AGST Alliance doesn’t offer courses specifically for this purpose. We encourage you to meet the requirements through other channels (to be approved by the Biblical Studies Program Director). This may be through another seminary and/or an on-line program or course.

Can I write in a language other than English?

Usually, the research and writing of a PhD(Bib. Studies) will be bi-lingual (or multi-lingual) – because of the research topic and the need to cite resources in both English and non-English languages. Most often, candidates will write the main text of their dissertation in English.

However, sometimes the main language of candidates may not be English. In these cases, they may be granted permission by the Biblical Studies Programs Committee to research/write their main dissertation text in a language other than English ( Chinese, Indonesian, etc.).

Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. Generally, these conditions will apply:

  • A competent supervisor(s) who is conversant in the non-English language is available.
  • There are sufficient resources relating to the research topic in the non-English language to warrant allowing non-English research and writing.
  • A copy of the dissertation will need to be available in English.
  • The dissertation examiners will usually receive the English copy.
  • An oral examination will be routinely expected.

Where will I get resources for my program?

AGST Alliance students have access to the libraries of a number of seminaries – those in our consortium and others. Students also draw on the resources of universities and public libraries. You should register with at least one seminary library. A list is available.

At the doctoral level you will need to access resources not readily available locally or even in our region. So you will need to be prepared to travel to where the resources are overseas, for example for a 2-4 month sojourn at an appropriate international study centre.

A growing number of research resources are accessible on the internet. We will help you find these. And we encourage you to share your discoveries with fellow-students, too.

Do I need my own computer?

A reliable computer is an indispensable resource for your AGST Alliance program. If your current computer is not very reliable, or you need to share it with too many other people, or it is placed in a noisy environment, then it may be well worth budgeting to acquire another one at the start of the your study program.

We advise you to revise/enhance your computing/word-processing skills; and make sure you apply common-sense computer security practices (like backing up your data regularly, and installing reputable anti-virus software and keeping the virus definitions up to date).

Do I need broadband internet access?

We strongly recommend it.

  • Soft copy email attachments are the preferred means of sending material to your supervisors.
  • Research and access to databases is increasingly common via the internet.

How much will my program cost?

Click here to see the program fees and other costs of the PhD(Bib. Studies) program.

We try to keep the program fees affordable for students, taking into account their home country standard of living.

Note that there are significant costs beside the program fees. In fact, these could almost double the overall cost of your program. The fees schedule indicates what these extra costs include.

Do I have to pay my fees in full up front?

No. Program fees may be paid in instalments rather than as one lump sum.

Click here to see the payment schedule.

Are scholarships available?

No scholarship money is directly available from AGST Alliance. However, we support student applications to trusts/foundations for financial assistance.

Enquire further from the Biblical Studies Program Director.

Do I need a student visa for my program?

No. When you travel to another country from your own to visit your supervisor or research facilities, a social visit pass is usually adequate.

But it is still essential that you check carefully about immigration regulations well in advance of any travel you plan as part of your PhD program, e.g. to spend time at a study centre, to visit your supervisor, to do field research, etc. This is your responsibility.

AGST Alliance is able to provide official letters if required for immigration purposes.