The Graduate Program

Important Announcement: Online applications begin on September 1st at 00:01 am PST. The deadline has been shifted to December 1st at 11:59 pm PST.

The ISGP offers flexibility in designing your own program; however, this freedom also comes with added responsibility to closely monitor your own academic progress – meeting deadlines and milestones, as well as managing your supervisory relationship and coordinating your committee. Successful ISGP students are often self-reliant, maintaining consistent communication with the ISGP office and progress updates with their supervisors and committees, as well as self-motivated and resourceful.

The Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program (ISGP) offers degree programs in Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy), M.A. (Master of Arts), and M.Sc. (Master of Science).

The doctoral program is a full-time research-intensive 6-year program with multiple milestones, deadlines, and requirements. All PhD students at the ISGP are required to take a minimum 12 credits of coursework. Courses can be a combination of upper-level undergraduate (300’s/400’s) courses and graduate-level courses (500’s/600’s). Courses must be completed within the first two years of program (schedule permitting), The two mandatory courses are: the introduction to interdisciplinary course (INDS 502E) – ideally taken in the first semester), the Collaborative Transdisciplinary Research course (INDS 502T). More information on the mandatory courses can be found here. The other two courses can either be chosen from the list of interdisciplinary research course (Interdisciplinary Courses (UBC) List) or it encompasses two foundational courses in areas of your research. Students can take a maximum of 3 credits can be a Directed Studies course

The master's programs at the ISGP require 30 credits of course work (6 of which are the Master's thesis). Like with the PhD program, M.A. and M.Sc. students must take INDS 502E. INDS 502T is not required, but it recommended. The difference between M.A. and M.Sc. depends on the designation you would like to obtain for your academic record. It also depends on the nature of your Master's project. Another way to help you determine the appropriate degree program would be to consult the Subject Matter Eligibility under the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). If you intend to apply for the Canada Graduate Scholarships - Master's Program during your master's degree program, it might be helpful to be enrolled in the appropriate degree program (e.g. M.A. for SSHRC applications; M.Sc. for CIHR/NSERC applications). Please consult Selecting the Appropriate Federal Granting Agency to help you decide.

Coursework is decided in consultation between the student and their Co-supervisors, and is intended to increase student's knowledge on the research subject matter(s).

Committee Meetings

The student is strongly advised to form their Supervisory Committee by the end of their second term, after enrolling in the degree. The Committee must be approved by the fourth term of study.

ISGP Annual Progress Report is required from the student by June 30th of each academic year. Regular contact between students and their committees is strongly encouraged.

"A comprehensive examination is normally held after completion of all required course work, and intended to test the student’s grasp of the chosen field of study as a whole. The Candidate’s Committee will set and judge this examination in a manner compatible with the policy of the department concerned. A department may require a formal examination of the thesis before it is transmitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies for Final Oral Examination."

-- Required Examinations Ph.D., UBC Calendar.

There is no general requirement of a comprehensive examination in the case of Master’s degree with thesis. Comprehensive exams are mandatory for Ph.D. programs. In order to advance to candidacy, students must also defend a thesis proposal.

Examples of Exam Formats:

  • 2-4 formal written examinations, 3-4 hours each, followed by an oral exam
  • 1-2 longer examinations, 4-5 hours, open book or closed, along with oral exam
  • 1 or more take-home examinations, followed by oral submission of article or articles

Some Advice:

  • Use the administration of the examination and the preparation to promote and extend the interdisciplinary nature of your program
  • Urge your committee to meet face-to-face to discuss the format of the exam(s), in particular, how they can be created and administered to enhance the transcending of disciplinary boundaries
  • Resist any inclination to have the exams formatted along disciplinary lines (i.e. one paper on Physics, one on Fine Arts); similarly, resist the tendency to have each member of the committee prepare a discrete exam in her/his own area
  • Demand an oral examination, and use the opportunity to encourage your committee members (once again) to exchange ideas.

ISGP encourages students, in collaboration with the members of their supervisory committee, to explore innovative comprehensive examinations. These should combine appropriateness to the course of study and research topic, the qualifications of both graduate and committee, and intellectual rigour. Usually, this will involve more or less written and oral presentation, and study directed toward reinforcing areas of the graduate’s knowledge or material in preparation for the problems or issues to be considered in the thesis topic research.

Students are advised to present options for the consideration of their supervisory committee which demonstrate their knowledge of their research and related subject areas and which may best exploit the expertise of the supervisory committee in relation to the thesis topic. Students are encouraged to establish with their committee early something of the format and topic areas of the exams.These examinations can be assigned over a period of time or on a particular date according to the negotiated decision of the graduate and their supervisory committee.

Students should also have the Chair of their committee report in writing to the ISGP—as early as possible—the form their exams will take.

Once the Comprehensive Exams are completed and the prospectus is approved by the student's Committee, their Supervisor is required to complete the Faculty of Graduate Studies "Recommendation for Advancement to Candidacy" form provided on the Faculty of Graduate Studies website. The form should then be sent to the ISGP Office for the ISGP Chair's review and signature, prior to being submitted to Graduate Studies for processing.

There is no oral exam. Normally, the supervisor and one other member of the committee read the thesis and submit the Master's Thesis Approval form. The student then submits thesis to cIRcle (UBC's Information Repository) to complete/close program.

An oral defence is required. Normally, the examining committee consists of one external examiner, two examiners from the supervisory committee and two university examiners. The Chair of the committee may also participate.

The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies regulations provide for a three-month lead time for the selection of an External Examiner and provide further that the External Examiner will have at least six weeks to review the thesis.

Giving as much lead time as possible, the Chair of the student’s supervisory committee should fill out a Nomination of External Examiner Form and submit it to the ISGP for signature. The form will then be directed to Graduate Studies for processing.