The Faculty offers three cycles of studies. Those who have successfully completed the studies for any cycle receive the corresponding pontifical academic degree: for the first cycle, the Baccalaureate (three years of study); for the second cycle, the Licentiate (at least two years of study); and for the third cycle, the Doctorate (at least three years of study). The Licentiate degree corresponds to the European-style master’s degree.
The order of studies of the Faculty follows the Apostolic Constitution Sapientia Christiana (1979) and its subsequent revisions, especially the Decree on the Reform of Ecclesiastical Studies in Philosophy (2011). Since 2003, the Holy See adheres to the “Bologna Accord” which has established the European Higher Education Area, seeking to achieve and maintain greater academic compatibility and comparability across Europe and beyond. Since 2010, the Faculty has therefore adapted is offerings and consistently uses the certification of study according to the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS).
The first cycle is composed of two years of philosophy (123 credits) required for future students of theology, as well as an additional year of studies for those studying for the baccalaureate (180 credits). The studies include introductory courses in Philosophy, Saint Thomas and Methodology, and systematic courses in Logic, Philosophy of Nature, Ethics, Psychology, Anthropology, Epistemology, Metaphysics and Philosophy of Religion. These systematic courses are complemented by a thorough introduction to the History of Philosophy: Ancient, Medieval, Modern, and Contemporary. Furthermore, students receive instruction on how to write academic papers and take two full years of instruction in Latin. A course is also given to introduce them to the vocabulary and syntax of ancient Greek.
To obtain the Baccalaureate degree, students have to take the classes of the third year of the first cycle. These courses seek to deepen some aspects of the study of Philosophy, either in the History of Philosophy or some key themes of Thomistic Philosophy, as well as in Theology. These courses are generally taught in Italian. Students are required to strengthen their knowledge of either English or Italian. To obtain the Baccalaureate degree, one must (1) take all these courses and pass the corresponding examinations, and (2) pass the final written comprehensive examination.
The second cycle (the Licentiate) takes at least two years (120 credits) for those whose have an ecclesiastical Baccalaureate in philosophy. More coursework may well be required for those students without an equivalent preparation at the baccalaureate level.
The second cycle is primarily designed to allow the students to specialize. Studies in the philosophical thought of Saint Thomas Aquinas, its historical roots and influences (including its relation to contemporary thought), are the centre of attention of the Faculty of Philosophy. To have access to the sources, the writings of St. Thomas himself, his philosophical sources, and the subsequent Thomistic tradition, second-cycle students must have a good knowledge of Latin. In addition to the coursework, the Licentiate degree requires the writing of a Licentiate paper (the tesina, of at least 50 pages) under the direction of a professor of the Faculty, passing the Latin written exam, as well as the oral and the written comprehensive examinations.
The third cycle is open to those who want to prepare themselves to teach and do professional research in philosophy. It leads to the Doctorate in Philosophy. At the beginning of the program, doctoral students take several courses and participate in the doctoral seminar. They must also prepare two papers for the lectio coram (a public presentation of one of the two research projects) with two different professors on topics different from the topic they will later choose for their dissertation. The student then submits a formal written proposal for his dissertation project, which has to be accepted by the doctoral commission. When this has been approved, the students can continue with the research and writing of the dissertation, which must be an original contribution to philosophical research. The dissertation must be defended publicly and published in whole or in part.