STH Converts the ThD to the PhD

in News
December 20th, 2013

On December 18, 2013, Boston University approved the proposal of the faculty of the School of Theology to convert its ThD (Doctor of Theology) degree to a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) degree effective January 1, 2014. The current ThD degree will be merged with the present PhD in Practical Theology to produce a single PhD with three tracks: History and Hermeneutics (including Biblical Studies, Church History, Mission Studies, and Liturgical Studies), Constructive Theology and Theological Ethics, and Practical Theology (including Congregation and Community, Evangelism and Missiology, Homiletics, Leadership and Administration, Pastoral Theology and Psychology, Religious Education, Spirituality Studies, and Worship). Students presently in the ThD program will be allowed to transfer into the new PhD program after January 1.

As with the ThD and the present PhD in Practical Theology, the converted PhD will consist of 48 credits, teaching and research internships and assistantships, two language requirements, three qualifying examinations, and a dissertation (including prospectus and defense). At least 36 of those 48 credits (9 courses) must be in coursework related to the track and concentration while up to 12 additional credits (3 courses) may be taken in elective coursework drawn from cognate disciplines or courses that support the research agenda of the individual student. The major/minor structure of the ThD will give way to a single concentration. While this change is largely one of nomenclature, the conversion also requires eliminating overlap with existing theological PhD degrees in the Division of Religious and Theological Studies (DRTS), which is now being renamed the Graduate Division in Religious Studies (GDRS).

The ThD is a longstanding and venerable degree, but one whose nomenclature is less and less understood beyond Boston University and other select universities that offer the degree. There will be no retroactive conversion to the PhD degree for those who have already graduated with the ThD. Boston University does not allow such retroactive conversions. The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at STH, however, will provide a letter to any ThD graduate who requests it affirming the equivalency of the two degrees and their only substantial difference being one of nomenclature.

The rationale for converting the STH ThD to a PhD arose out of a two-year study of all advanced degrees conducted by STH faculty, though conversations about the conversion of the ThD to a PhD have taken place throughout the last two decades. The faculty has enthusiastically embraced this new consolidation of programs, together with a continuing excellent relationship with the GDRS.