Why do your MA in Classics at Dal?

Whether as a preparation for doctoral studies or as a terminal degree, the MA program in Dalhousie's Department of Classics offers an intimate, collegial, and intellectually rigourous environment to carry out graduate-level work on some aspect of the ancient, late-ancient, or medieval world. 

Dalhousie's MA program generally has between 8 and 16 students. Graduate seminars are small, treating ancient texts seriously and in their original language in high-level discussions of literature, history and philosophy. Our MA students also have the opportunity to serve as teaching assistants for undergraduate classes and are carefully mentored by faculty in their development as scholars.

In addition to our offerings in literature and history, the Classics Department has a long tradition of advanced graduate work in ancient, late-ancient and medieval philosophy which distinguishes it from most other Classics programs in North America. With four faculty members who focus on philosophy, Dalhousie’s Department of Classics is an excellent place to work on the Platonic and Aristotelian traditions broadly conceived.

Our MA in Classics program is an excellent choice if you are interested in going on to do a PhD. Our students are extremely successful in securing external funding for their studies, and we have an excellent record of placing graduates of our MA program into first-rate PhD programs in several disciplines (Classics, philosophy, religious studies, medieval studies, to name a few). 

Our MA program is not only for students looking to take the academic route through taking a PhD to become a university professor. It is also an excellent capstone for an academic career, if you would like to solidifying your ancient languages and carry out an independent research project before embarking on a non-academic career.

Explore the wide scope of research carried out by our graduate students—see our list of recent MA theses.

Program details

Master of Arts in Classics (MA Classics)

Program structure

First year:

  • Successfully complete three graduate seminars.
  • Serve as a teaching assistant (TA) for an undergraduate class.
  • Begin to develop ideas for the MA thesis.
  • Choose your supervisor before the year’s end and determine the plan for the MA thesis.
  • Work on ancient and modern languages.

Year two:

  • Submit your thesis proposal (early fall).
  • Continue and complete research.
  • Audit one graduate seminar.
  • Serve as a teaching assistant (TA) for an undergraduate class.
  • Complete your master's thesis.

Areas of study

You may choose to focus your MA thesis on the traditional subdisciplines of Greek and Latin literature and history, as well as on ancient philosophy. Alternatively, you may opt to explore classical culture and its legacy in several other areas of interest distinctively cultivated by members of the Classics faculty, along with colleagues in the Religious Studies and Arabic Studies programs. Such areas include late antique, patristic, Byzantine and medieval philosophy, theology and religion.

The following indicates faculty expertise in the several broad areas in which graduate students may focus (for further particulars, candidates should consult individual faculty profiles):

Greek and Roman history

  • E. Varto
  • P. O’Brien
  • J. Mitchell

Greek and Roman literature

  • E. Varto
  • L. MacLeod
  • P. O’Brien
  • J. Mitchell

Greek, Roman, and Hellenistic philosophy

  • E. Diamond
  • M. Fournier

Late-ancient, patristic, Byzantine & medieval philosophy, theology & religion

  • M. Fournier
  • P. O’Brien
  • G. Thorne
  • A. Treiger

MA students may concentrate in any of the above fields.

Degree requirements

In addition to completing three full-year graduate seminars and writing an MA thesis, MA students in the Department of Classics must fulfill ancient and modern language requirements:

Ancient languages

Ideally, students are admitted to the MA program having completed the language requirements of a BA (Honours) in Classics at Dalhousie – i.e., two full years of either Greek or Latin, in addition to three full years of the language not studied to the second year. In practice, many students are admitted from joint-honours degrees or even degrees in cognate fields and do not meet the 2 to 3 requirement. It is highly desirable that all students meet this level of language training by the end of the first year of their MA studies. Language requirements beyond that level are to some extent dictated by the student’s choice of subdiscipline and plans for further study, and will be discussed and determined in individual meetings with the student’s supervisor and the graduate co-ordinator.

Greek and Latin are taught at all levels, and competency in both languages is required for theses in the traditional areas of classical studies. Students focusing on the intersections of classical and later thought in the Mediterranean world and the Middle East may, in consultation with the graduate co-ordinator and supervising faculty member, substitute Classical Arabic for either or Latin or Greek. Students focusing mainly on ancient philosophy, Greek patristics, Byzantine philosophy and theology, Latin patristics, and Latin medieval philosophy and who are planning to continue their studies or pursue an academic career in these areas may, as appropriate and in consultation with the graduate co-ordinator and supervising faculty member, limit their language study to ancient and Byzantine Greek or ancient and medieval Latin, or either of these in combination with Arabic.

Modern Languages

Graduate students in the department must conduct research in modern languages besides English that is essential to their particular research and appropriate to Canada as a bilingual country. Doctoral students will be required to do this in at least two; but this rule does not limit what may be required for a particular thesis. All graduate students must be able to deal with secondary literature in French and this will generally be necessary for graduate seminars and for thesis research. Decisions about which other languages are needed are made in consultation with the supervisor or supervisory committee. Likely other languages include German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Hebrew, and Arabic.

Classics graduate advisor

Once you decide that you are interested in studying in the Dalhousie University Classics Department, it is important to establish contact with the graduate advisor as soon as possible. The graduate advisor can help guide you through the application process, both for funding from SSHRC and for your application to the department, and put you into contact with faculty specializing in your area of interest.

If you live in Halifax or plan to pass through Halifax, set up a time with the graduate advisor to visit the Classics Department. We can also add your email address to our distribution list so you can be informed about upcoming departmental lectures and events.

Contact the graduate advisor.

Choosing a thesis supervisor

Generally, students approach faculty members about supervising their theses at the end of the first year after completing all course work. Students can nonetheless feel free to contact a faculty member to discuss ideas for the thesis at any point.

*Note: If you do not meet the language requirement as outlined above should consult earlier with the graduate co-ordinator and/or the potential supervisor.

Important dates

Application timeline


  • Start working on the SSHRC application. Ask for guidance from the graduate advisor, who can show you examples of recent successful proposals and provide feedback on your application.

October 31

  • Application deadline for January admission* for Canadian applicants not needing to be considered for external or Dalhousie funding.

November 1

  • Submit a final draft of your SSHRC application, if applying, to the graduate advisor for review.

January 1

  • Deadline to submit complete Dalhousie application, to be considered for external funding (SSHRC and Killam scholarships).

March 1

  • Deadline to submit complete Dalhousie application, to be considered for Dalhousie Graduate Studies funding.

April 1

  • Deadline to submit complete Dalhousie application for non-Canadian applicants not needing to be considered for external or Dalhousie funding.

June 1

  • Deadline to submit complete Dalhousie application for Canadian applicants not needing to be considered for external or Dalhousie funding.

August 31

  • Application deadline for January admission* for non-Canadian applicants not needing to be considered for external or Dalhousie funding.

For a list of other internal Dalhousie scholarships and fellowships, please visit http://www.dal.ca/faculty/gradstudies/funding/scholarships.html

* Please note: Most students start in September (fall term). If for some reason this is not possible for you, please consult the graduate advisor about the possibility of starting in January (winter term).