Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program (ISGP)?

ISGP is a program framework that enables students to earn research degrees focusing on problems which cannot successfully be addressed within the bounds of a single established discipline. It leads to only three degrees: MA, MSc and PhD.

Is this program the only means for pursuing interdisciplinary studies at UBC?

Not at all. Many schools, institutes and programs provide opportunities for interdisciplinary studies. Indeed, many long established disciplines/departments encourage or enable students to do inter-disciplinary research. Students interested in interdisciplinary work should inquire in related departments as to whether they allow students to do course work in several departments and whether they permit (or encourage) supervisory committees involving faculty from different disciplines. UBC also offers a number of specific interdisciplinary programs—Genetics, Neuroscience, Occupational Hygiene and Resource Management and Environmental Studies—organized by the Faculty of Graduate Studies, each with its own program chair.

Why would I apply to another department if I want to do an interdisciplinary program?

Necessary preparation for admission to the ISGP is considerable. You might better assemble the material you need to be accepted into the program if you’re already in an established program and you have various good contacts among the faculty members. Developing such contacts is particularly important for potential applicants currently outside the Vancouver area. And, of course, you might find that many departments will permit and encourage you to become interdisciplinary. In any event, you should not contemplate beginning an application to the ISGP unless you are prepared to spend a great deal of time preparing a coherent project, and a qualified research committee to supervise it.

Why should I choose the ISGP over a departmentally-based graduate program?

Students who are interested in conducting interdisciplinary graduate level research and would benefit from having a supervisory committee consisting of faculty members from more than one department are encouraged to apply to the ISGP. Students choose the ISGP when their academic needs would not be sufficiently met by any one department in particular due to the interdisciplinary nature of their research and need for guidance from faculty members from more than one department.

Can I do an interdisciplinary degree in areas such as film or creative writing?

The ISGP does support and accommodate thesis research in the arts. The best way to find out whether or not the ISGP program is suitable for you is to send us a 2-page Statement of Proposed Research Topic (SPRT)!

Is my research project possible at ISGP? Is the ISGP right for me?

If you have a clear vision and your research will cross disciplinary boundaries, the ISGP could be the right program for you. Many applicants wonder if their particular research interests are possible to pursue at ISGP or if the combination of discipline X and Y is acceptable. What applicants should ask themselves is whether or not they would be able to conduct their research within a disciplinary program or department or whether their research must be based in an interdisciplinary program. ISGP is designed for students who are taking on research projects that would not be sufficiently supported by a single disciplinary department.

Do graduates of the program find employment?

We find that many employers are increasingly interested in hiring people with broader backgrounds than are provided by traditional programs. For example, in some academic settings it is a real advantage to be versatile enough to teach in several areas and to interact with researchers across a broad spectrum of interests. The ISGP is also working on offering more career workshops for current students.

How many students are in the program?

There are more than 8,000 graduate students at the University of British Columbia, about 100 of these are in the ISGP. The program serves a very unique 1% of all the students—scholars willing to undertake an extraordinary challenge while embracing the flexibility and intersection of disciplines.

Will I meet other students registered in the program?

The best way to meet with other students is to become active in attending ISGP events. Research seminars on interdisciplinary themes and special events like workshops and conference are also organized by the ISGP. See the news and events section of this site for more information. As well, Green College was established to create a community of interdisciplinary students and provides an ongoing program of speakers and events to which ISGP members are welcome. Please access their website for further details.

Am I required to meet with or to be in contact with the ISGP Chair as part of the application process?

While the initial consultation is not required, it can be a good way to find out whether or not the program is suitable for you. The first step in the application process is to reach out to potential co-supervisors. For help with finding faculty members in your research areas, see UBC Experts Guide or Potential Supervisors guide. With the help of potential co-supervisors, fine-tune your two-page Statement of Proposed Research Topic (SPRT) and submit it to well in advance of the application deadline. The Program Chair will provide feedback (once) on your research proposal. This step also ensures that the ISGP program is suitable for you. Before you seek an in-person consultation, please send us your SPRT for feedback.
NOTE: The ISGP will only review and provide feedback on SPRTs before December 15, prior to formal admission application. SPRTs submitted on December 15th may not receive feedback.
Blackout period (January - March): In-person consultation for prospective students is not available due to admission season.

How many different schools and departments do current ISGP supervisors represent?

Currently, 125 UBC faculty members from 35 different departments are supervising ISGP students.

When can students start the ISGP?

Successful applicants typically begin their programs in September although under exceptional circumstances admission can be deferred to January or later to the following September (deferral up to one full year).

What is the application deadline?

The application deadline for all application materials is always January 15 @ 11:59 pm PST.

What documents are needed to apply to the PhD or MA or MSc program?

  • Statement of Intent (cover letter explaining your interest in the program)
  • Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  • 2-page Statement of Proposed Research Topic (SPRT)
  • ISGP Co-Supervisors Agreement (signed)
  • Three (3) references must be submitted through your online application either as eRef (for referees with institutional email), or as a "Report on Applicantform / free-form letter in letterhead bearing signatures (for referees with non-institutional emails e.g. Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo...etc.).
  • Two (2) sets of official transcripts (in sealed and endorsed envelopes) from each of the post-secondary institutions you have attended. One set will be opened and scanned by you to upload to online application. The 2nd set will be kept sealed and sent to Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies only if you are offered admission. Transcript submission guidelines are found here.

How long does it take to prepare an application to the ISGP?

Many students find they need about four months to prepare their application. Please visit our Recommended Timeline section.

What if my application is not complete by the application deadline? Can I get an extension?

No extensions will be granted.

I don’t see ISGP on the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies online application form. How do I choose the right program and department from the drop down menu?

Under the “Degree” drop down menu, select PhD, MA or MSc and under the “Program” menu, select Interdisciplinary Studies.

Can I send you a scanned copy of my transcripts?

No. You must upload your scanned transcripts (front and back, in PDF) to your online application. Documents emailed or submitted in person will not be accepted.

I can only obtain one copy of my official transcripts, which I have to open and scan, rendering them "unofficial". How may I provide Graduate Studies with an official (sealed and endorsed) set for final admission?

We understand that certain universities only issue one transcript to the student. If this is the case, you can make a photocopy and have it attested by the university that issued that transcript. For more information on this process and UBC policy on transcripts, please visit Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies web site.

The student must keep in mind that transcripts are required when applying for external grants and funding opportunities. If the university you attended is remote or notoriously difficult to obtain transcripts from, it is important to obtain a few copies in sealed envelopes when possible and bring them along to Vancouver should you need them for future funding applications.

What are my chances of being admitted?

Application success depends greatly on not only meeting all the admissibility criteria, but rather, exceeding them:

  • Strong Academic record (high GPA) meeting/exceeding UBC minimum requirement
  • Strong support of 2 UBC co-supervisors in different disciplines
  • Proof of funding certainty (fellowship or research / teaching assistantships)
  • Strong publication record
  • Demonstrated research ability
  • Outstanding contribution to applicant’s field(s) of research
  • Relevant experience (professional/extracurricular)
  • Innovative and truly interdisciplinary research topic
  • Demonstration of personal qualities and leadership skills that ensure successful academic achievement
  • Proof of language proficiency for academic writing (at university-level) and communication

When are successful applicants notified?

Applicants are usually notified some time in March or early April.

How many students apply to the program each year? How many are accepted?

We receive approximately 30 applications each year. The number of students admitted to the program largely depends on available funding, resources and the quality of the application pool.

Can my reference letters be sent via email?

It depends. References must be submitted through your online application either as eRef (for referees with institutional email), or as a "Report on Applicantform / free-form letter in letterhead bearing signatures, For referees with non-institutional emails (e.g. Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo...etc.), the references may be emailed to the ISGP office: to be uploaded to the applicant's online application.

Can I collect my reference letters and send them to ISGP?

No. Three (3) references must be submitted through your online application either as eRef (for referees with institutional email), or as a "Report on Applicantform / free-form letter in letterhead bearing signatures. For referees with non-institutional emails (e.g. Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo...etc.), the references may be emailed to the ISGP office: to be uploaded to the applicant's online application.

My referees are on sabbatical/travelling overseas. How can I obtain my reference letters in time?

When selecting referees, consider their plans. If you feel that an individual will not be available to submit a letter to our office ahead of the application deadline, it is advised that you select another referee.

Should my references send you the online “Report on Applicant for Admission to Graduate Studies” that is sent to them when I fill out the online application?

Unfortunately, your referees will only receive the invitation to submit their references after you formally submit your online application.

Is it necessary to have two co-supervisors at the time of application?

Yes. Applicants must upload a complete and signed ISGP Co-Supervisors Agreement to their online application by the application deadline.

How do I select my supervisors?

Any faculty member who meets the supervisory requirements and is a current member of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies is eligible to supervise an ISGP student. Please see Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies policy on supervision here.

I do not live in Vancouver. How can I collect the signatures needed for the ISGP Co-Supervisors Agreement?

Applicants who are not currently living in Vancouver typically send their forms as an attachment via email. The potential supervisors then sign the form and email it back to the student. Students are responsible for getting all the required signatures. When all of the signatures have been collected, the applicant will then upload the form to their online applications. It is recommended that students begin this process well in advance of the application deadline.

When is it appropriate to contact potential co-supervisors?

As this is the lengthiest step in the entire application process, we advise applicants to start approaching potential co-supervisors as early as possible, while in the process of fine-tuning their research proposal (SPRT).

Can you help me find a supervisor? I do not live in Vancouver; how can I connect with a supervisor.

It is the responsibility of the applicant to find a supervisor. For tips, please see this link.

Can I have supervisors that are not affiliated with UBC?

The composition of your co-supervisors and supervisory committee must be at least 50% UBC members. After you are admitted into the ISGP, you may begin the process of formally recommending the non-UBC co-supervisor:

To recommend a non-UBC supervisor, please fill out the form here and submit all documents to the ISGP for further approval if admitted to the program.

To recommend a non-UBC supervisory committee member, please fill out the form here and submit all documents to the ISGP for further approval if admitted to the program.

*NOTE: Indication (from the graduate program) of the particular qualifications that make the nominee suitable must be provided by student’s supervisor as a rationale.

Only completed forms and required documents will be accepted and processed.

For more information on supervisors and supervisory committee, please visit the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website.

What are the physical facilities?

The ISGP Office is located in the H. R. MacMillan Building and is directed by a Program Chair and an Administrative Assistant. There are two student offices for use on a first-come-first serve basis. Also, through the concept of ‘home’ department, the ISGP relies on the department in which a student’s research supervisor holds her/his major appointment to provide intellectual and practical help and a sense of student community. In some instances, Centres and Institutes provide additional office space and support.

What course work do I need and what are the comprehensive examination requirements?

Course work and comprehensive exams are devised in consultation with your supervisory committee; however, a preliminary list of course work should be included in your application. Courses would include regular courses as listed in the UBC Calendar, and perhaps, where there are no such courses offered, an indication of program areas in which your committee will assist you, often through directed studies courses, to develop the background. There are no minimum course requirements for the PhD degree, i.e. no specified minimum number of credits of course work you need on your transcript. The PhD requirement varies from department to department (from zero in a good many departments, to 30 credits in a few): The crucial question is, what do you and your committee feel is essential preparation for you to complete your proposed research project?

A Master’s degree requires 30 credits, with a 6-credit thesis.

Every PhD degree requires overview ‘comprehensive’ exams prior to writing the actual dissertation, to demonstrate that you have a suitably thorough command of the field(s) in which the doctoral degree is being offered. The ISGP promotes innovation in comprehensive exams, although realizing the efficacy of written and oral exams.

Are there required courses in ISGP?

No, but we highly recommend students to take one or more of our courses. When admitted to the program, the student will create a course schedule in consultation with their co-supervisors. Students in the master’s program must complete 30 credits of coursework which includes a 6-credit thesis. Coursework for doctoral students is determined by the student’s supervisory committee.

Must ISGP students live in Metro Vancouver for the duration of their program?

Students must live in Vancouver for at least the first year of their program. The ISGP is not an online-based program and cannot be successfully completed remotely. Living in the Metro Vancouver area is important in order to connect with their supervisory committee, engage in the university’s and ISGP’s intellectual communities and take seminars on campus.

Is there financial support associated with admission to ISGP?

Successful applicants are offered one of the limited number of "Four-Year-Fellowships (FYF)" by the ISGP, as per UBC's "Minimum Funding Policy for PhD Students."

On the online application, applicants are recommended to include any funding commitments (teaching-, research-assistantships, scholarships or stipend) from co-supervisors.

While it is not an expectation for supervisors and their departments to provide funding, we nonetheless recommend that they consider the possibility of offering any form of funding support. In the event that an applicant is not ranked high enough to receive ISGP funding package, full/partial funding from UBC supervisors may increase the chance of the applicant being admitted.

How much can I expect to pay for tuition and living expenses in Vancouver?

Tuition fees
Student fees
Cost of living

Tuition cost, student fees, and cost of living can be calculated here.

I do not have a competitive GPA. Should I still put forth an application?

All applicants must meet the UBC Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies minimum academic requirements. Please note that the ISGP is a competitive program and meeting minimum requirements will not guarantee acceptance.

Can I see an example of a Statement of Proposed Research Topic (SPRT)?

No. Due to confidentiality regulations, we do not provide examples of SPRTs. The format may vary but each applicant must include a clear outline of their research project, explain their proposed methodology and state their research question(s) within two pages.

You may choose to follow this sample structure as a guide to your writing:

  • Proposed Research Title
  • Introduction (research significance, why the research is crucial)
  • Research methodology
  • Explanation of how the research is relevant and impacts local, national, or global communities
  • Proposed outcome of the research study

What is the Proposed Course Schedule? How many courses should I choose? Where do I find information on courses offered at UBC?

ISGP students are welcome to make changes to their course proposals with their supervisor’s guidance once they have gained admission to the program. However, at the application stage, the course proposal allows the admissions committee to see where the student’s research interests lie. Applicants must search for courses on the UBC website and select roughly 5-10 graduate level courses. You can search for courses on the UBC web site

Do you need my TOEFL scores?

If your last degree is not instructed in English, we require your TOEFL scores. You can find information on these requirements here. TOEFL scores must be issued to UBC directly from the Educational Testing Centre. Please ensure that you include the following on your TOEFL sheet:

– use the University of British Columbia’s institution code 0965

– give the reason for taking TOEFL “to enter a college or university as a graduate student”

UBC accepts electronic submission directly from ETC.

For applicants whose first language is not English, but obtained the last degree in English, a proof of instruction in English must be provided by the Registrar's Office of the previous institution(s). In order to be exempted from TOEFL requirement, the primary language of an applicant's previous academic institution (not just the program in which the applicant is enrolled) must be English.

Do you need my GRE scores?

No, we do not require applicants to provide GRE scores.