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 that cannot successfully be addressed within the bounds of a single established discipline. It leads to only three degrees: MA, MSc, and PhD.

About ISGP

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.

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.

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 their need for guidance from faculty members from more than one department.

The ISGP does support and accommodate thesis research in the arts.

To find out, please visit our "Why choose ISGP at UBC?" web page. 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.

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

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.

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.

The best way to meet with other students is to become active in attending UBC events and join the Online Graduate Student Community (sign up with your CWL here). Research seminars on interdisciplinary themes and special events like workshops and conferences are also organized by the ISGP and various units at UBC (check them out here). 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.

No, there is no such requirement.

If you have any questions beyond what information is provided in the website, please reach out to us in an email with your questions in bullet-point form. Please note that in-person meetings are not available at this time.

Blackout period (January - March): Video meetings for prospective students is not available due to admission season.

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


The online application is due by January 15 @ 11:59 pm PST (must be completed with all required Application Materials).

Many students find they need about four months to prepare their application.

Your application will not be considered with missing components. No extensions will be granted.

Under the “Degree” drop-down menu, select PhD, MA, or MSc, and under the “Program” menu, select Interdisciplinary Studies. Please ensure you select the correct program under UBC-Vancouver (UBC-V)

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

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 the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website.

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.

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 (for PhD applicants)
  • 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

Applicants are usually notified sometime in March or early April.

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.

Reference Letters

It depends. References must be submitted through your online application either as an 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.), their references may be emailed to to be uploaded to the applicant's online application.

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 to be uploaded to the applicant's online application.

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.

*NOTE: Your referees will only receive email notifications to submit references AFTER you finish and submit your online application.  Referees would have a week to complete and submit their references by January 22. Three (3) references must be submitted through your online application either as:

1) eRef (for referees with institutional email) - click the link within email notification


2) “Report on Applicant” form / free-form letter in letterhead bearing signatures (for referees with non-institutional emails e.g. Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo…etc.) - emailed directly to


Yes. Applicants must ensure two (2) Co-Supervisors download, complete, and email the ISGP Co-Supervisors Assessment & Agreement Forms (to individually by the application deadline (January 15)

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 the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies policy on supervision here. You may also search for eligible faculty members here.

In order to ensure stability and appropriate level of support from your supervisory team, it is crucial that at least one of your proposed co-supervisors is a G+PS member who is tenured or tenure track faculty member holding the rank of Assistant/Associate/Full Professor (verify by entering name here).

Applicants who are not currently living in Vancouver typically send their forms as an attachment via email. The potential Co-Supervisors then complete the ISGP Co-Supervisors Assessment & Agreement Forms and email them to directly. Students are responsible for ensuring both Co-Supervisors complete and submit the ISGP Co-Supervisors Assessment & Agreement Forms by the online application deadline (January 15).

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 Statement of Proposed Research Topic (SPRT) Form.

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

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.

Coursework and Location

The ISGP Office is located in the H. R. MacMillan Building and is directed by a Program Chair and a Senior Administrator. There are two student offices for use on a first-come-first-serve basis. Also, through the concept of a ‘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.

Course work and comprehensive exams are devised in consultation with your supervisory committee; however, a preliminary list of coursework 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?

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.

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

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.

Tuition and Funding

Successful applicants may be offered one of a 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 an ISGP funding package, full/partial funding from UBC supervisors may increase the chance of the applicant being admitted.

Teaching Assistantships are created for courses offered by disciplinary Faculties. As the ISGP does not offer any courses that require teaching assistants, students in the ISGP must seek TA-ships in other Faculties/Departments. We recommend that ISGP students check departmental web sites (of those in their research disciplines) for "career opportunities". ISGP students may also express their interests in being considered for TA positions to their co-supervisors, and the administrators of the co-supervisors' departments. Research Assistantships (RA-ships) are usually listed in Workday.

Students who are also looking for meaningful work experiences on and off campus may also consider the UBC Work Learn program.


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.

No. The ISGP does not offer any professional certifications, official registrations, or diplomas of any kind. If you are interested in receiving any of these, we strongly recommend that you pursue your program within an approved department.

It's best to check with the official organization or board for which you want to work to see which university credentials they require and where they can be earned.

No. Due to confidentiality regulations, we do not provide examples of SPRTs. Each applicant must include a clear outline of their research project, explain their proposed methodology, and state their research question(s). Please see explanations on how to fill out the Statement of Proposed Research Topic (SPRT) Form here.

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 website.

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 the 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.

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

You can fill out our Contact and Submission Form. If you have more than one question, please number them for clarity. Additionally, if you are a current UBC student, we ask that you include your student number.