Academic Policies for the Jewish Studies M.A.

The Jewish Studies M.A. (JSMA) program is part of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), and overseen by the Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies (IIJS), which is responsible for admissions, monitoring academic progress, and other administrative aspects of academic life. All students should familiarize themselves with and follow the regulations of the University, the IIJS, the Graduate School, and the JSMA program. Please be aware that lack of knowledge about University, IIJS, GSAS, and/or JSMA rules and policies does not excuse students who fail to comply with these regulations.

For Graduate School rules and policies, see Academic Affairs.

University rules are described in Essential Policies for the Columbia Community.

Good Academic Standing

To maintain good academic standing, JSMA students must earn a cumulative grade point average of B (3.00) or higher and make continual progress towards the completion of the degree. Academic records are reviewed each term. Students who do not maintain good academic standing will be placed on academic probation. If they do not meet the conditions of their probation, they may be dismissed from the University

Credits, Enrollment, and Time to Degree

Each degree program within the JSMA program requires 36 credit points, of which at least 30 must be at the 4000 (graduate) level or above. Generally the total of 36 points is fulfilled through completion of eleven three-point courses and a thesis worth three points.Students enroll on a full-time or part-time basis. Full-time students take 12 credit points (normally four courses) or more per semester. Part-time students take between 3 and 11 points per semester. Most full-time students complete the degree in two years or less. All students must complete all requirements for the degree within five years (not counting official leaves of absence). Students who exceed the five-year degree limit may be dismissed from the program.

Transfer Credit

Students entering a Jewish Studies degree program may transfer up to six credits from institutions other than Columbia, or 12 credits from Columbia, provided the courses to be transferred are graduate-level courses, are appropriate to the JSMA program of study, were completed at the time of enrollment in the Master's program, and have not been used toward the fulfillment of requirements for another degree. All transfer credit must be approved by the Assistant Director in consultation with the Office of Admissions. Transfer credit should be requested in the student’s first semester. Once a student registers as a student in the Jewish Studies program, he or she must complete all coursework at Columbia.

Courses, Registration, and Grading

Most courses that may be used to fulfill degree requirements are taught in various departments in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Many of these require that the student seek approval from the instructor and/or the department offering the course. Enrollment is not guaranteed in courses that require permission. Courses taught outside the Arts and Sciences (for instance, in SIPA or the Law School) require cross-registration applications. JSMA students do not register for Residence Units (RU), a registration requirement for other graduate programs. Students need only to register for individual courses.

Pre-Approved Course Lists

Courses designated as pre-approved may be taken by any student in the particular JSMA program for which they are pre-approved without consultation with the Assistant Director. Inclusion on the pre-approved course list does not guarantee registration for JSMA students; many courses require instructor or departmental approval or cross-registration applications.

Students should consult with the Assistant Director before each term’s registration period to choose courses that are not on the pre-approved course list and to make sure the courses they have selected fulfill requirements. Courses are listed in the Directory of Classes and described on department web pages, where up-to-date information and registration procedures are available.Specific rules apply to certain types of courses:

  • Students wishing to take a course at the 3000 level must receive approval from the Assistant Director in advance of registration. Columbia courses at the 2000 or 1000 level do not count toward the degree.

  • Internships; practica; courses at the 2000 or 1000 level; and courses consisting solely of independent study or supervised reading (with the exception of the thesis, G4999 Supervised Individual Research) do not fulfill degree requirements.

  • Students wishing to take courses with the prefixes V or BC (for instance CLAS V3140, AHIS BC3950) MUST consult with the Assistant Director to determine whether such courses can count toward the degree.

  • Courses held in the summer term are administered by the School of Continuing Education. Summer course schedules, descriptions and other information can be found on the Summer Term website. All JSMA students should have summer courses approved by the Assistant Director before registering.


With the exception of RSRH G4001, Scholarly Research and Writing, courses taken for pass/fail or for a grade of R do not apply toward the Jewish Studies M.A. degree. For general grading information, see the Grading System page.

Courses Offered through the Dean’s Office

RSRH G4001 Scholarly Research and Writing is intended for students who have been away from academia for an extended amount of time or who wish to hone their academic research and writing skills in preparation for writing a seminar papers and a Master’s thesis. It is not a course in English-language skills; students are expected to have native fluency in English. JSMA students may count it toward the degree as an elective. Offered fall and spring terms.

RSRH G4990 Liberal Studies Research Seminar is designed for Liberal Studies students writing the thesis. It provides a structured opportunity to do research and write in stages, to review and discuss one’s work, and to receive constructive advice on writing. Students must submit the proposal for their final thesis to the IIJS office in order to be registered in the course. This course is offered when there is sufficient interest, usually in the spring term.

Jewish Studies Thesis Policies

All Jewish Studies students complete a thesis as the final requirement of their course of study. The thesis is a work of substance that draws together ideas developed in the course of a student’s interdisciplinary studies. It is approximately 12,500 words long excluding the bibliography.

Thesis Proposal

Before commencing the thesis itself, the student submits to his or her thesis advisor(s) the proposal, a statement of 900-1100 words describing the topic; the question to be answered or issue to be analyzed; the nature of the resources to be used; and plans for approach and methodology; and a brief bibliography indicating an awareness of current work on the topic. Thesis proposals, with approval by the advisor(s), are due in the IIJS office prior to the term in which the student plans to register for the thesis. The proposal may be altered after submission, with approval of the first supervisor, if research indicates that a different direction would be more appropriate.

Thesis Registration

There are two registration options for writing the thesis: G4999 Supervised Individual Research and G4990 Research Seminar. Students choose one or the other depending on their preference for either individual work with a professor or the class-type structure of a research seminar. G4990 Research Seminar is only offered during the spring semester and only if sufficient interest exists.

When students submit their proposal, they indicate their preference for either G4999 Supervised Individual Research or G4990 Research Seminar. The thesis can be worth two, three, or four credit points. Students are registered for the thesis by the JSMA office.

Thesis Advisors

Students taking G4999 Supervised Individual Research usually have one thesis advisor but may choose to have two if their work would benefit from the advisement of faculty who are expert in two different fields. Students in G4990 Research Seminar automatically have two advisors: the instructor of the seminar and a faculty supervisor of the student’s choice. Thesis advisors should be chosen for their expertise in the subject of the thesis; they must be current Columbia faculty members in a relevant department and hold a Ph.D. or other comparable degree. Students are responsible for finding their own thesis advisors.

Final Copy of the Thesis

The required format of the thesis is provided in the Jewish Studies M.A. Thesis Guidelines. Paper and electronic copies of the final version of the thesis must be deposited in the IIJS office, and the advisor(s) must return the evaluation form to the IIJS office before the student will be approved for graduation. Past theses from the IIJS program as well as a small writing resource library are available for students in the IIJS office.


For any questions, email Adam Kirsch at