You are here



  • Do I need a B.A. or a B.F.A. in Film to be considered for admission?

No. While a Bachelor's Degree is required for admission, there is no requirement for a degree in a particular field. The admission committee is interested in a proposed program of study that is supported by your previous coursework and experience. In addition to candidates with only an undergraduate degree we are equally interested in those who already have an M.A. or M.F.A. degree. Note also that the Ph.D. in Critical Practice is not specifically a film degree and may entail the study and practice of digital and other media.


  • What is the relationship between the Film and Digital Media PhD and the Social Documentation Master's Program?

Both degree programs are housed in the Department of Film and Digital Media and share faculty and department resources. The Social Documentation Program is an intenstive two year MFA program, in which students research, formulate and produce a documentary piece. For more information on the Social Documentation Program, visit:


  • What's the relationship between the DANM (Digital Arts and New Media) program and the Film and Digital Media PhD?

The Film and Digital Media department has a close relationship with the MFA in Digital Arts and New Media (DANM). DANM is an interdisciplinary MFA program, which exists within the Arts Division and whose participating faculty are drawn from the various Arts Division departments. Among the FDM faculty, Sharon Daniel, Margaret Morse, Soraya Murray, and Warren Sack all do fifty percent or more of their teach in DANM, and other faculty also teach course from time to time. FDM PhD students are urged to explore relevant course offerings in DANM, just as DANM students will show up in FDM graduate courses.


  • What are the opportunities for coursework in other graduate programs on campus, and can I get additional concentration in a second area?

There are many opportunities to take elective courses in other departments and this is highly encouraged to augment your specific research/practive goals. A list of suggested electives will be circulated to all FDM PhD students around the time that courses are enrolling. Programs that often have appropriate graudate electives include Visual Studies (History of Art and Visual Culture department), Feminist Studies, History fo Consciousness, Linterature, the Social Documentation MA, the Digital Arts and New Media MFA, and others. Some of these programs also offer a "Designated Emphasis" in their fields. You can find out more from their websites or by contacting their graduate directors.


  • Is financial aid available?

Admitted students are guaranteed support as described in their offer of admission.  This will include, at minimum, the support described in the university's 5-year/50% program, which is a minimum level of support equivalent to a 50% teaching assistantship for five years. In total, this program will bring all doctoral and MFA student support—stipend, fees, tuition, GSHIP, etc. up to a minimum of $43,000 annually.  Support may surpass this level, as described in the admissions offer letter.  


  • What is the cost of the program?

Current information on Resident and Non-Resident Tuition can be found at:  Upon admission, students will receive a letter of offer that includes support to defray these costs, as described above.


  • How long will it take to earn the degree?

The program is designed for completion in six years, though time-to-graduation will necessarily vary.


  • Does the program admit students for an M.A. in Film & Digital Media?

While our Ph.D. students earn an M.A. in the course of their study, we only admit students who intend to earn a Ph.D.


  • How do I apply to your program?

All applications to graduate programs are submitted online. For instructions on how to apply, visit the Division of Graduate Studies. This website is also a valuable source of general information about graduate studies at UC Santa Cruz.  If reapplying to the program, a new application must be submitted.

  • Is the GRE required for admission?

The GRE will not be required for the 2020-2021 admissions cycle and beyond.


  • What are the key admissions criteria?

In evaluating an application, our primary concerns are:     
A. Does the applicant have a well-articulated set of research goals, a clear focus or direction, and a strong sense of how to go about the initial process of formulating a project?

B. Could the applicant's work be done in a more conventional program? The Ph.D. in Film & Digital Media is concerned with the integration of critical studies and production. We will prioritize candidates who have an integrated practice or who intend to do hybrid work that would not be easily supported in a more conventional program.      

C. Is there a match between the applicant's proposed area of research and the expertise of the faculty? The Statement of Purpose needs to detail an intellectual project or domain of study in sufficient depth to allow our admissions committee to determine whether we have the faculty resources to support and guide your work.  

D. Candidates must have demonstrated skill in critical, theoretical and historical scholarship, and a demonstrated interest in film, television, video or new media studies. We are particularly interested in candidates with demonstrated experience in some form of artistic production, and an interest in combining creative work with critical and theoretical study. Students are admitted on the basis of their ability to do sustained, independent, doctoral-quality work. Prior achievement, as an artist and/or scholar, is always a plus.

For more information on the application, visit:


  • Can you tell me what my Statement of Purpose should include?

The Statement of Purpose is typically 2 to 4 pages long. The statement should include:    
A. A personal statement giving sufficient background to explain how you came to be involved/interested in your area of research.    

B. A project proposal describing the research you wish to pursue, how you plan to go about it (i.e., research design), at least initially, your methodology (i.e., necessary tools and skills), and the anticipated results (i.e., research content).     

C. Why you want to get a Ph.D.


  • The online application states that Letters of Recommendation must be submitted online. Can my Letter of Recommendation be sent in a hard copy?

We do not accept hard copies of letters of recommendation. Please follow the instructions in the application and/or contact the Division of Graduate Studies at (831) 459-5905 for information about letter services.


  • What kind of writing sample would you like? Is it ok to include something that's not on a film or media topic?

We'd like to see an example of your best writing. It does not necessarily need to be academic writing, but it should show something of your style and command of written language. If you have something that's specific to film and media, then that would be ideal. But if you have a piece from another domain that shows your writing skills at their best, then you should include that instead.

The portfolio may include one or more of the following:

  • 10-15 still images maximum
  • 10 minutes of video maximum
  • 2-3 links to interactive pieces maximum
  • a PDF file of text


  • How should I send in my portfolio?

We cannot accept portfolio submissions outside of the Graduate Division's official application.  Please submit the portfolio work using online formats, through your application. You may use any widely available website (e.g., Vimeo, YouTube, Flickr, etc.) that does not require an account to access the website.  Please make sure your submission is not password-protected, or be sure to include the password in your application.


  • What if I don't have a portfolio?

We understand that not all applicants will have a portfolio, especially those whose background is predominatly in critical studies. Each application will be assessed on their merits, so lack of a portfolio is not necessarily an obstacle to admission, depending on the candidate.


  • I already have an MA/MFA. Do I need to do three years of coursework before beginning the dissertation?

Students entering the program with a masters degree (wheter an MA, MFA, or other relevant masters degree) may be eligible for a reduced courseload which may speed up their time to the PhD qualifying exam. In no case will a student be eligible for more than thirty graduate credits (the equivalent of six graduate seminars, or approximately one year of study). The decision about whether to suggest a reduced courseload is made on a case-by-case basis by the graduate committee. If you are admitted to the program, the Director of Graduate Studies may discuss this with you at that time.


  • I am an international student. Where I can find answers for issues related to international applicants?

An international student guide is available on the Graduate Division's website for applicants.  The Global Engagement Office is another a source of information for international students.


  • Is there specific funding available for international students?

UCSC greatly values the participation of scholars from diverse nations and cultures in our graduate programs, and we therefore actively solicit applications for admission from foreign applicants.  International Students are included in the university's 5-year/50% program for funding.  However, for funding beyond this support, because many of the financial aid programs available to UCSC students are restricted to U.S. citizens and permanent residents, it is strongly recommended that international applicants also seek scholarship support from their own governments and local organizations or societies.  Additional support may be provided by the university upon admission to the program, and links to various private and public funders can be found here. 


  • Who needs to take the TOEFL exam?

Applicants from countries where English is not the primary language must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). A minimum score of 550 on the paper-based TOEFL  or 220 on the computer-based test, or 83 on the NEW internet-based test, is required for admission.


  • I am an international student who received a B.A./M.A. degree in the United States. Do I need to take the TOEFL? 

The TOEFL exam is an admissions requirement but the department may waive it in special circumstances.


  • Are there other Ph.D. programs similar to the Film & Digital Media Critical Practice program?

The UCSC program is intended to balance practice with critical studies and thus is not precisely "practiced-based." There are a few nascent programs in the United States that might be comparable, such as the University of Southern California's iMAP (interdivisional Media Arts and Practice) program and Rensselaer's Ph.D. in Electronic Arts.  Also, in the UK and Australia many practice-based Ph.D. arts programs have been developed.  See also this book, recently published, on a related topic: James Elkin, Artists with PhDs: On the New Doctoral Degree in Studio Art (New Academia Publishing, 2009)


  • Do you accept transfer students?

Transfer students will be considered, but students not previously enrolled in an integrated program of critical practice are unlikely to be granted advanced standing


  • Can the program be completed online with out-of-state residency or part time?

Due to the small size of the program and the intensive work involved, full-time residency is required.


  • Can I be admitted to your program in January?

We admit in the fall quarter only.


  • What is your policy on deferral?

We cannot defer admission. An applicant who is unable to accept admission for the year in question can reactivate the application for the following fall term. However, while the applicant has a very good chance of again being offered admission, there is no guarantee this will happen.


  • What if my questions weren't answered here?

You can contact the graduate coordinator with specific questions at any time. Faculty can also be contacted about academic and research questions.

The information on this website is unofficial and subject to change.  Official UCSC admissions policies and major requirements are published in the UCSC General Catalog. Official funding information is included in individual offer letters sent by UCSC’s Division of Graduate Studies.