Doctor of Philosophy in Geography (PhD)

Overview

Our program introduces students to independent research while broadening and deepening their contact with a selected aspect of Geography. Research can be conducted in these general thematic sub-disciplines: Biogeography; Climatology; Economic Geography; Environment and Sustainability; Feminist Geography; Geographic Information Science; Geomorphology; Historical Geography; Hydrology and Glaciology Indigenous Geographies; Political Geography; Social and Cultural Geography; and Urban Geography.

What makes the program unique?

Our PhD program is flexible, research-intensive, and student-driven. Students come to the program from a variety of backgrounds and are mentored by outstanding scholars in geographical science, human geography, and geographical computational science. They are prepared for careers in academia, government, the private sector, or non-profit organizations, based on the expertise they develop in a specific field of research.

 

Program Enquiries

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Contact the program

Admission Information & Requirements

In order to apply to this program, the following components may be required.

Online Application

All applicants must complete an online application form and pay the application fee to be considered for admission to UBC.

Minimum Academic Requirements

The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies establishes the minimum admission requirements common to all applicants, usually a minimum overall average in the B+ range (76% at UBC). The graduate program that you are applying to may have additional requirements. Please review the specific requirements for applicants with credentials from institutions in:

Each program may set higher academic minimum requirements. Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission as it is a competitve process.

Transcripts

All applicants have to submit transcripts from all past post-secondary study. Document submission requirements depend on whether your institution of study is within Canada or outside of Canada.

English Language Test

Applicants from a university outside Canada in which English is not the primary language of instruction must provide results of an English language proficiency examination as part of their application. Tests must have been taken within the last 24 months at the time of submission of your application.

Minimum requirements for the two most common English language proficiency tests to apply to this program are listed below:

100
22
21
22
21
7.0
6.5
6.5
6.5
6.5

Other Test Scores

Some programs require additional test scores such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Test (GMAT). The requirements for this program are:

The GRE is not required.

Letters of Reference

A minimum of three references are required for application to graduate programs at UBC. References should be requested from individuals who are prepared to provide a report on your academic ability and qualifications. 

Statement of Interest

Many programs require a statement of interest, sometimes called a "statement of intent", "description of research interests" or something similar.

Supervision

Students in research-based programs usually require a faculty member to function as their supervisor. Please follow the instructions provided by each program whether applicants should contact faculty members.

Instructions regarding supervisor contact for Doctor of Philosophy in Geography (PhD)
Applicants should browse faculty profiles and indicate in their application who they are interested in working with. No commitment from a supervisor prior to applying is necessary, but contacting faculty members is encouraged.
The most important first steps in applying for admission to our graduate program is finding and approaching a potential supervisor in the department. This gives you an opportunity to discuss the research you are interested in completing as a graduate student. Every applicant to the graduate program should, in principle, contact a potential supervisor to confirm that they are interested in reviewing the application. This does not constitute a promise from the supervisor that the student will be admitted, since admissions decisions are made by the Graduate Committee; it only serves as an indication that the potential supervisor is willing to consider supervising a new, incoming student.

Document Requirements

Applicants are required to upload a copy of their CV (maximum three pages).

Citizenship Verification

Permanent Residents of Canada must provide a clear photocopy of both sides of the Permanent Resident card.

Research Information

Research Focus

Research can be conducted in, but are not limited to, these themes: Climate and Global Change; Cities; Forests and People; Geographical Analysis/GIScience; Geomorphology, Hydrology and Glaciology; Geopolitics, Biopolitics and Security; Globalization and Development; Nature, Society, and Sustainability; Social Theory; Water, Snow, and Ice.

Research Facilities

The Geography Department at UBC has had its own building with nearly 50 graduate office desk spaces and research labs combined together. One of the main resources located inside the Geography building is the Geographic Information Centre, which offers support services for Geography undergraduate & graduate students, faculty and the general public. Holdings include maps specializing in BC, atlases, books, video recordings, course reserves on geographical topics, and BC’s largest air photo collection. The holdings form a teaching, reference and research centre located in the Department of Geography.

The new Biogeomorphology Experimental Laboratory in Ponderosa Commons officially opened on January 23rd 2014, the outcome of four CFI grants amounting to approximately $3 million.
In particular, this new lab is designed to establish an experimental laboratory to conduct innovative research on the interface between hydrology, geomorphology, ecology and climate (environmental sciences). Such a lab is unique in Canada with only one or two in the U.S.; this lab will put UBC research on the frontiers of science as there are both great scope and great demand for innovative and fundamental research in environmental sciences. Doctoral students conducting research on those themes will be able to utilize the new lab for their research work.

Deadline Details

Application Deadline

Deadline to submit online application. No changes can be made to the application after submission.

Transcript Deadline

Deadline to upload scans of official transcripts through the applicant portal in support of a submitted application. Information for accessing the applicant portal will be provided after submitting an online application for admission.

Referee Deadline

Deadline for the referees identified in the application for admission to submit references. See Letters of Reference for more information.

September 2021 Intake

Application Open Date
14 September 2020
Canadian Applicants
Application Deadline: 01 January 2021
Transcript Deadline: 01 January 2021
Referee Deadline: 15 January 2021
International Applicants
Application Deadline: 01 January 2021
Transcript Deadline: 01 January 2021
Referee Deadline: 15 January 2021

Tuition & Financial Support

Tuition

FeesCanadian Citizen / Permanent Resident / Refugee / DiplomatInternational
Application Fee$106.00$168.25
Tuition *
Installments per year33
Tuition per installment$1,698.56$2,984.09
Tuition per year
(plus annual increase, usually 2%-5%)
$5,095.68$8,952.27
Int. Tuition Award (ITA) per year (if eligible) $3,200.00 (-)
Other Fees and Costs
Student Fees (yearly)$944.51 (approx.)
Costs of living (yearly)starting at $16,954.00 (check cost calculator)
* Regular, full-time tuition. For on-leave, extension, continuing or part time (if applicable) fees see UBC Calendar.
All fees for the year are subject to adjustment and UBC reserves the right to change any fees without notice at any time, including tuition and student fees. Tuition fees are reviewed annually by the UBC Board of Governors. In recent years, tuition increases have been 2% for continuing domestic students and between 2% and 5% for continuing international students. New students may see higher increases in tuition. Admitted students who defer their admission are subject to the potentially higher tuition fees for incoming students effective at the later program start date. In case of a discrepancy between this webpage and the UBC Calendar, the UBC Calendar entry will be held to be correct.

Financial Support

Applicants to UBC have access to a variety of funding options, including merit-based (i.e. based on your academic performance) and need-based (i.e. based on your financial situation) opportunities.

Program Funding Packages

The Department of Geography ensures all incoming PhD students a minimum level of $23,000 per year for a duration of four years through scholarships, teaching assistant and/or research assistant positions. However, if students are successful in their scholarship applications, their financial support will be adjusted. Students without external funding are required to apply for the Affiliated Fellowship, SSHRC or NSERC scholarships (where eligible).

Scholarships & awards (merit-based funding)

All applicants are encouraged to review the awards listing to identify potential opportunities to fund their graduate education. The database lists merit-based scholarships and awards and allows for filtering by various criteria, such as domestic vs. international or degree level.

Teaching and Research Assistantships

Student service appointments are intended to help qualified graduate students meet the cost of their studies at the University. Student appointments may involve part-time duties in teaching, research, or other academic activities.

Financial aid (need-based funding)

Canadian and US applicants may qualify for governmental loans to finance their studies. Please review eligibility and types of loans.

All students may be able to access private sector or bank loans.

Foreign government scholarships

Many foreign governments provide support to their citizens in pursuing education abroad. International applicants should check the various governmental resources in their home country, such as the Department of Education, for available scholarships.

Working while studying

The possibility to pursue work to supplement income may depend on the demands the program has on students. It should be carefully weighed if work leads to prolonged program durations or whether work placements can be meaningfully embedded into a program.

International students enrolled as full-time students with a valid study permit can work on campus for unlimited hours and work off-campus for no more than 20 hours a week.

A good starting point to explore student jobs is the UBC Work Learn program or a Co-Op placement.

Tax credits and RRSP withdrawals

Students with taxable income in Canada may be able to claim federal or provincial tax credits.

Canadian residents with RRSP accounts may be able to use the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) which allows students to withdraw amounts from their registered retirement savings plan (RRSPs) to finance full-time training or education for themselves or their partner.

Please review Filing taxes in Canada on the student services website for more information.

Cost Calculator

Applicants have access to the cost calculator to develop a financial plan that takes into account various income sources and expenses.

Career Outcomes

65 students graduated between 2005 and 2013: 1 graduate is seeking employment; for 6 we have no data (based on research conducted between Feb-May 2016). For the remaining 58 graduates:


RI (Research-Intensive) Faculty: typically tenure-track faculty positions (equivalent of the North American Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor positions) in PhD-granting institutions
TI (Teaching-Intensive) Faculty: typically full-time faculty positions in colleges or in institutions not granting PhDs, and teaching faculty at PhD-granting institutions
Term Faculty: faculty in term appointments (e.g. sessional lecturers, visiting assistant professors, etc.)
Sample Employers in Higher Education
McGill University (2)
Memorial University of Newfoundland (2)
York University (2)
University of British Columbia (2)
Northwest Indian College
University of Edinburgh
Carleton University
University of Wisconsin - Madison
University of Bologna
University of Alberta
Sample Employers Outside Higher Education
Engineered Compost Systems
Glasgow Museums
Northwest Hydraulic Consultants
International Settlement Services of British Columbia
Ontario College of Trades
Marine Protected Areas
British Council
BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations
Airports Council International
Natural Resources Canada
Sample Job Titles Outside Higher Education
Writer
Regional Aquatic Ecologist
Architect
Director of Consulting Services
Editorial
Co-owner
Policy Analyst
River Geomorphologist
Facilitator
Climate Change Programme Manager
PhD Career Outcome Survey
You may view the full report on career outcomes of UBC PhD graduates on outcomes.grad.ubc.ca.
Disclaimer
These data represent historical employment information and do not guarantee future employment prospects for graduates of this program. They are for informational purposes only. Data were collected through either alumni surveys or internet research.
Career Options

The majority of students who completes their PhD program continue in the world of academia to become instructors, professors and postdoctoral fellows at other educational institutions. Others are hired as professionals in government, consulting agencies, non-governmental organizations and businesses.

Enrolment, Duration & Other Stats

These statistics show data for the Doctor of Philosophy in Geography (PhD). Data are separated for each degree program combination. You may view data for other degree options in the respective program profile.

Enrolment Data

 20192018201720162015
Applications5541503749
Offers149111316
New registrations139111315
Total enrolment7475747771

Completion Rates & Times

This program has a graduation rate of 73.81% based on 42 students admitted between 2006 - 2009. Based on 32 graduations between 2015 - 2018 the minimum time to completion is 4.00 years and the maximum time is 9.00 years with an average of 6.05 years of study. All calculations exclude leave times.
Disclaimer
Admissions data refer to all UBC Vancouver applications, offers, new registrants for each year, May to April [data updated: 10 March 2020]. Enrolment data are based on March 1 snapshots. Program completion data are only provided for datasets comprised of more than 4 individuals. Rates and times of completion depend on a number of variables (e.g. curriculum requirements, student funding), some of which may have changed in recent years for some programs [data updated: 27 October 2019].

Research Supervisors

This list shows faculty members with full supervisory privileges who are affiliated with this program. It is not a comprehensive list of all potential supervisors as faculty from other programs or faculty members without full supervisory privileges can request approvals to supervise graduate students in this program.

  • Bakker, Karen Jessica (Political economy, political ecology, environmental studies, development studies, and resource and environmental management)
  • Barnes, Trevor (Vancouver)
  • Bergmann, Luke (Geomatics, Globalization)
  • Dempsey, Jessica (wrestle with the theoretical and historical-geographical complexities of environmental politics as it shapes and is shaped by the entanglement of state, economy, science, and culture)
  • Donner, Simon (Climate Changes and Impacts, Prediction and Climatic Modeling, Marine Environment, Climate change science, Climate policy, Science communication, Coastal Ecosystems)
  • Eaton, Brett (Rivers and climate change, fish habitat, disturbances)
  • Evenden, Matthew (Environmental history and water history, with a regional specialization in Canada, particularly Alberta and British Columbia)
  • Glassman, James Francis (Development Geography, Third World Urbanization, Economic Geography, Political Economy, Political Geography, Southeast Asia, Pacific Rim)
  • Gregory, Derek John (Political Geography War in the miiddle east, bombing)
  • Hassan, Marwan (Geological and Geomorphological Processes, Fluvial geomorphology, Sediment transport, Channel Stability, Landscape evolution, Surface hydrology)
  • Henry, Gregory H (Biodiversity and Biocomplexity, Biogeography, Ecological and Ecophysiological Processes, Climate Changes and Impacts, Environment and Habitats, Plants, Genotype and Phenotype, tundra ecosystems, experimental climate change, plant-animal interactions, Arctic environments, vegetation change, plant traits)
  • Hiebert, Daniel Joseph (immigration, diversity, national security, social policy, urban geography)
  • Klinkenberg, Brian (Geomatics, Biogeography, Bioinformatics, Environmental Health, Geographic Information Science, Environmental Remote Sensing, Spatial Analysis, Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) and Citizen Science Initiatives)
  • Knox, Sara (Ecological and Ecophysiological Processes, Ecosystem (Aquatic and Terrestrial), Climate Changes and Impacts, Atmosphere (Including Chemical Aspects), Micrometeorology, Biogeochemistry, Hydrology, Ecology, climate change)
  • Koppes, Michele (climate change, glaciers, natural hazards, landscape change, polar regions, ice-ocean interactions )
  • Kuus, Merje (transnational regulatory practices in contemporary Europe, but the empirical focus undergirds a broader interest in knowledge and power, structure and agency, in bureaucratic and policy-making settings; political identity, subject-formation, and center-periphery relations, especially in contemporary Europe)
  • Le Billon, Philippe (Geography, politics, africa, environmental, human geography, development, security)
  • McKendry, Ian (Air pollution Climatology)
  • Moore, Robert Daniel (Fresh Water, Ice and Snow, Hydrology, hydroclimatology, stream temperature, fish habitat, forest hydrology, glacier hydrology, snow hydrology)
  • Peck, Jamie (Socio-Economic Conditions, Economic geography)
  • Pratt, Geraldine (Feminist Geographies)
  • Sundberg, Juanita (Militarization and Everyday Life in the US-Mexico Borderlands, environmental dimensions of US's border security policies in the Mexican border)
  • Williams, Jennifer (Ecology and Quality of the Environment, Ecological and Ecophysiological Processes)
  • Wyly, Elvin (Urban Spaces and Urbanity, Specialized Services (Housing, Transportation), gentrification, housing, the politics of data and quantitative methods, U.S. politics)

Doctoral Citations

A doctoral citation summarizes the nature of the independent research, provides a high-level overview of the study, states the significance of the work and says who will benefit from the findings in clear, non-specialized language, so that members of a lay audience will understand it.
Year Citation
2019 Dr. Reid showed how glaciation, landslides, and forestry practices impact mountain stream channels and salmon habitat through time and across space. This study helps watershed managers predict effects of land cover changes and water widthdrawals on sensitive fish habitat.
2019 Dr. MacKenzie investigated the processes that control bank erosion in steep, gravel-bed channels. She found that a small number of large grains stabilize the channel regardless of the amount of water and sediment supplied to the system. These results have implications for hazard mitigation and infrastructure design in mountainous regions.
2019 Dr. Whyte examined the historical origins and political geographies of American psychological warfare. His work has challenged convention and increased our understanding of communication and warfare.
2019 Dr. Sommerville researched recent agricultural investment ventures pairing marginalized communities with wealthy investors in Canada and South Africa. She found that the schemes allow investors to benefit from land claims and land reform programs, compromising the benefits offered by such programs to First Nations and black African communities.
2019 Dr. Nolan studied the contradictory relationship between terrorism prevention and multiculturalism in Australia. She argued that combining the two can undermine positive community relations and service delivery for marginalised communities. Her research illuminates the unique role of local council workers to resist these effects.
2019 Dr. Simpson studied recent conflicts over oil pipeline developments in North America. He interviewed activists working to prevent the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. His work contributes to understanding how contemporary environmental movements attempt to build relations of solidarity with First Nations and Indigenous land and water defenders.
2019 Dr. Tadaki examined the implementation of an ambitious freshwater policy in Aotearoa New Zealand. By analyzing how different actors influenced the implementation process, his research shows that there is space for political struggle over policy outcomes, even after a policy has been written.
2019 Dr. Zell examined the role of labour recruiters who facilitate temporary migration for lower-skilled jobs in Canada. She developed a conceptual framework for understanding them as mobile petty sovereigns, who exercise discretionary power at borders. Her work reveals where and how state power is asserted and resisted in globalized labour markets.
2019 Dr. Hsu studied trade politics and its relations with historical development of nationalism and populism in Taiwan. Her research unravels multiple drivers and complex forms of discursive mediation that contributed to trade and economic liberalization. It challenges conventional understanding of neoliberalism and indicates space for social change.
2018 Dr. Luedee studied the environmental history of the Porcupine Caribou Herd. He demonstrated how the demarcation of political borders in the western Arctic and the creation of boundary concepts in the biophysical sciences, transformed human understandings of and relationships with this group of migratory animals during the twentieth century.

Pages

Sample Thesis Submissions

Further Program Information

Specialization

Geography covers physical, human and regional geography.

Physical geography has a strong natural science emphasis and focuses on physical and ecological systems at or close to the earth's surface, and the interaction of these systems with people. The major substantive specializations are biogeography, climatology, GIS and remote sensing, geomorphology, and hydrology.

Human geography explores the connections between human geography and political economy, social theory, and cultural studies and pursue their substantive implications for interpreting changes in past and present landscapes. Other work focuses on the political and policy aspects of these changes. Major areas of specialization are development geography, economic geography, feminist geography, historical geography, and social and cultural geography. Work in these fields often feeds into a strong general interest in urban geography and intersects with work in environmental geography.

Regional geography focuses on the following regions: Canada, Asia and the Pacific Rim, Russia and Eastern Europe, and Latin America.

 

Faculty Overview

Academic Unit

Program Identifier

VGDPHD-KV
 
 

September 2021 Intake

Application Open Date
14 September 2020
Canadian Applicant Deadline
01 January 2021
International Applicant Deadline
01 January 2021
 

Supervisor Search

 

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