The Graduate Program in English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln offers the Ph.D. for students interested in Literary and Cultural Studies, Creative Writing, and Composition and Rhetoric. Competitive assistantships at the Ph.D. level give students the opportunity to work with the Prairie Schooner, The Walt Whitman Archive, or The Cather Project, or to assist faculty who are planning national conferences or working on research projects. Teaching Assistantships, which are available to Ph.D. and 2nd-year M.A. students, give students the opportunity to teach first-year and other classes. See Financial Aid section below for information on assistantships.

Program Details

The Ph.D. program offers a highly individualized program of study. Early in their studies, students choose a Supervisory Committee of four Graduate Faculty Fellows to advise them and help them shape their programs. With their committee members, students develop a program of coursework, two reading lists for their comprehensive exams, and plans to meet foreign language requirements. The Supervisory Committee also guides students in choosing and developing a dissertation topic and writing the dissertation. The Ph.D. program consists of 90 hours beyond the B.A. The usual program is 24-30 hours of coursework beyond the M.A., plus a maximum of 30 hours of dissertation credit. The department accepts up to 36 hours of M.A. credit as part of the Ph.D. degree.

Ph.D. with a Specialization in Creative Writing

As is true of all Ph.D. students, those specializing in Creative Writing develop a program of coursework, reading lists for two comprehensive exams, and plans to meet foreign language requirements in consultation with a self-selected Supervisory Committee. Students in Creative Writing do a creative dissertation which can be a book of poetry, a collection of short stories, a novel, a collection of essays, or a multi-genre work.

For more detailed information about the Ph.D. Program, download the Ph.D. Handbook.

The Department of English also offers interdisciplinary graduate specializations in the following areas: Ethnic Studies, Great Plains Studies, Nineteenth-Century StudiesMedieval and Renaissance Studiesand Women’s and Gender Studies.  The English Department also has two graduate certificates in Teaching of Writing and Digital Humanities.

Financial Aid Deadline

December 1 is the deadline for admission and assistantship consideration for the following academic year (August through May).

There are no additional materials required to apply for departmental assistantships. Simply check the box on the admissions application! All of our assistantships provide tuition remission, access to health insurance benefits, and a competitive stipend.


Teaching & Assistantships

Department Assistantships

Students who are admitted directly into the Ph.D. program with a B.A. are eligible for up to 6 years of funding. The funding for the first year will normally be a Reading Assistantship as described above on the M.A. page of the website. The second and succeeding years of funding will be a Teaching Assistantship.

Students who enter the Ph.D. program with an M.A. or M.F.A. are eligible for up to 5 years of funding as Teaching Assistants. Teaching Assistants teach 2 sections of first-year composition each semester during their first year of teaching. We support new TAs with a required weeklong teaching workshop the week before classes begin, and a seminar in Composition Theory and Practice during the fall semester. After their first year, some TAs also get the opportunity to tutor in the Writing Center, while others are eligible to teach literature or creative writing courses. There are some opportunities for summer teaching as well.

Ph.D. students also have the opportunity for special assistantships with the Walt Whitman Archive, the monograph series Studies in Writing and Rhetoric, or as Associate Coordinator of the Writing Center.

Students who do not receive department assistantships on admission can compete for Renewable Teaching Assistantships after their first year in the program. Many students are supported on Renewable TAs for the remainder of their academic programs. Stipends and benefits are the same as for other TAs. Please note that the number of Renewable Teaching Assistantships we are able to award varies from year to year and that in a typical year not all Ph.D. students who apply for Renewable Teaching Assistantships are awarded them.

Assistantship Package

For 2020-2021, the stipend for Research Assistants was $13,155.00 plus tuition remission (either out-of-state or in-state) for 12 hours each semester and 6 hours in the summer. For 2020-2021, the stipend for Teaching Assistants was $17,640.00 plus tuition remission (either out-of-state or in-state) for the regular academic year and summer. The assistantships cover a large portion of the student health insurance premium, but do not cover books and student fees. We expect our 2021-2022 stipends to be at these levels with possibilities for slight increases.

Other Assistantships and Fellowships

Each year the English Department awards several fellowships to graduate students. Ph.D. students are eligible for the following recruitment fellowships: Othmer Fellowships, Chancellor’s Doctoral Fellowships, Centennial Fellowships, Card Fellowships, Pulos Fellowships (awarded to students in nineteenth-century literature), Stuff Fellowships, McPhee Fellowships, and Edgren Tuition Fellowships. Ph.D. students are also eligible for the Van Sickle Fellowship in creative writing, Stuff Retention Fellowships, and Stuff Dissertation Fellowships (which award the student a one course release from their TA duties). In their second year Ph.D. students are eligible for fellowships through Graduate Studies.

Our Ph.D. students have also obtained assistantships that provide tuition remission plus a stipend in Women’s and Gender Studies, Graduate Studies, Student Involvement, the Great Plains Quarterly, and the journal Great Plains Research. Others teach at local community and 4-year colleges.

Ph.D. Timeline

General recommendations for Ph.D. programs in English

Specialization Timelines: Composition and Rhetoric  |  Creative Writing

First Semester Second Semester
First Year Plan your Committee
Second Year Continue coursework as outlined on Program of Studies form
  • Complete all coursework
  • Start planning reading lists
Third Year Reading lists should all be approved
Fourth Year Work on Dissertation Work on Dissertation
Fifth Year Work on Dissertation