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.

Apply Now

If you don't have a UBC Campus-Wide Login (CWL) please create an account first.
 

Program Enquiries

Still have questions after reviewing this page thoroughly?
Contact the program

Meet a Representative

Virtual Office Hours

Date: Tuesday, 30 November 2021
Time: 10:00 to 11:00

In this session, we'll provide advice on applying to grad school and answer your questions. Ask us anything about applying to grad school at UBC! 

This is a general session from the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and is not program-specific. 

Admission Information & Requirements

1) Check Eligibility

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. Please review the program website carefully to understand the program requirements. Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission as it is a competitive process.

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:

TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language - internet-based

Overall score requirement: 100

Reading

22

Writing

21

Speaking

21

Listening

22

IELTS: International English Language Testing System

Overall score requirement: 7.0

Reading

6.5

Writing

6.5

Speaking

6.5

Listening

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.

Prior degree, course and other requirements

Document Requirements

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

2) Meet Deadlines

September 2022 Intake

Application Open Date
13 September 2021
Canadian Applicants
Application Deadline: 01 January 2022
Transcript Deadline: 01 January 2022
Referee Deadline: 15 January 2022
International Applicants
Application Deadline: 01 January 2022
Transcript Deadline: 01 January 2022
Referee Deadline: 15 January 2022

September 2023 Intake

Application Open Date
15 September 2022
Canadian Applicants
Application Deadline: 01 January 2023
Transcript Deadline: 01 January 2023
Referee Deadline: 15 January 2023
International Applicants
Application Deadline: 01 January 2023
Transcript Deadline: 01 January 2023
Referee Deadline: 15 January 2023

3) Prepare Application

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.

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.

Citizenship Verification

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

4) Apply Online

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

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.

Tuition & Financial Support

Tuition

FeesCanadian Citizen / Permanent Resident / Refugee / DiplomatInternational
Application Fee$108.00$168.25
Tuition *
Installments per year33
Tuition per installment$1,732.53$3,043.77
Tuition per year
(plus annual increase, usually 2%-5%)
$5,197.59$9,131.31
Int. Tuition Award (ITA) per year (if eligible) $3,200.00 (-)
Other Fees and Costs
Student Fees (yearly)$1,052.34 (approx.)
Costs of living (yearly)starting at $17,126.20 (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).

Average Funding
Based on the criteria outlined below, 38 students within this program were included in this study because they received funding through UBC in the form of teaching, research/academic assistantships or internal or external awards averaging $31,596.
  • 12 students received Teaching Assistantships. Average TA funding based on 12 students was $8,353.
  • 17 students received Research/Academic Assistantships. Average RA/AA funding based on 17 students was $5,258.
  • 37 students received internal awards. Average internal award funding based on 37 students was $16,172.
  • 13 students received external awards. Average external award funding based on 13 students was $31,744.

Study Period: Sep 2019 to Aug 2020 - average funding for full-time PhD students enrolled in three terms per academic year in this program across years 1-4, the period covered by UBC's Minimum Funding Guarantee. Averages might mask variability in sources and amounts of funding received by individual students. Beyond year 4, funding packages become even more individualized.
Review methodology
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 Assistantships (GTA)

Graduate programs may have Teaching Assistantships available for registered full-time graduate students. Full teaching assistantships involve 12 hours work per week in preparation, lecturing, or laboratory instruction although many graduate programs offer partial TA appointments at less than 12 hours per week. Teaching assistantship rates are set by collective bargaining between the University and the Teaching Assistants' Union.

Research Assistantships (GRA)

Many professors are able to provide Research Assistantships (GRA) from their research grants to support full-time graduate students studying under their direction. The duties usually constitute part of the student's graduate degree requirements. A Graduate Research Assistantship is a form of financial support for a period of graduate study and is, therefore, not covered by a collective agreement. Unlike other forms of fellowship support for graduate students, the amount of a GRA is neither fixed nor subject to a university-wide formula. The stipend amounts vary widely, and are dependent on the field of study and the type of research grant from which the assistantship is being funded. Some research projects also require targeted research assistance and thus hire graduate students on an hourly basis.

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

 20202019201820172016
Applications4655415037
Offers91491113
New registrations91391113
Total enrolment7474757477

Completion Rates & Times

This program has a graduation rate of 72.5% based on 40 students admitted between 2007 - 2010. Based on 35 graduations between 2016 - 2019 the minimum time to completion is 3.33 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: 22 April 2021]. 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: 29 October 2020].

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
2015 Dr. Krayenhoff studied cities with trees, such as Vancouver. He developed and tested a computational model of atmospheric exchanges of heat and wind. Novel developments include how trees shade and shelter buildings. The new model helps us predict the effects of tree planting on air temperature and air pollution levels in cities.
2015 Dr. Yates conducted ethnographic research into peer-to-peer adult education, within rural communities in Peru's Southern Andes. He explored government and non-government programs that promote indigenous methods of peer-to-peer adult education, and yet paradoxically prioritize employability and rural productivity over indigenous knowledge.
2015 Dr. Cienciala examined how the physical environment in stream channels influences the distribution, quality and disturbance of fish habitat. This research informs natural resource management, conservation and restoration. It also provides insights into the potential consequences of land use and climate change for fish populations in running waters.
2015 Dr. Leach studied winter stream temperature in the rain-on-snow zone of the Pacific Northwest. He found that winter stream thermal regimes are influenced by transient snow cover and hill-slope runoff during rainstorms. This research improves our ability to effectively manage stream ecosystems as they respond to environmental change.
2015 Dr. Wall completed his doctoral studies in the field of Geography. He used GPS tracking data to study the movements of elephants across the African continent. In addition to developing new geospatial methods and software, he used the tracking data to characterize the ways in which elephants use the landscape, so that they can be protected.
2014 Dr. Lim examined two interlocking dimensions of change in the Chinese political economy. The study revealed institutional continuities between the Mao and post-Mao era and critically evaluated post-2007 socioeconomic policy experimentation in the Pearl River Delta and Chongqing.
2014 Dr. Crawford developed new techniques to measure and map emissions and absorption of carbon dioxide in urban neighborhoods. These measurements also revealed dynamic spatial patterns of carbon dioxide in the urban atmosphere. Findings from this work have implications for urban planning, air quality, and sustainable growth.
2014 Dr. Barber's study of cultural heritage in Hong Kong used a perspective informed by relational urbanism and policy mobility. Case studies of locational conflicts and policy change raised new theoretical and political questions by showing that the uses of heritage are simultaneously local and global, progressive and conservative.
2014 Dr. Luzi studied the movement of sediment in gravel bed mountain streams. He demonstrated the importance of larger-than-average streambed particles in controlling channel stability and patterns of sediment transport. This research can in turn be used to assess the potential effects of development on aquatic habitats.
2014 Dr. Leong examined the impacts of future climate change on freshwater supply for the oil sands industry. She found that changes in annual river flow patterns will impact the frequency of water shortages that mining companies will face. This research can inform water management and policy decisions in adapting to a changing climate.

Pages

Further 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
 

Apply Now

If you don't have a UBC Campus-Wide Login (CWL) please create an account first.
 

September 2022 Intake

Application Open Date
13 September 2021
Canadian Applicant Deadline
01 January 2022
International Applicant Deadline
01 January 2022

September 2023 Intake

Application Open Date
15 September 2022
Canadian Applicant Deadline
01 January 2023
International Applicant Deadline
01 January 2023
 
Supervisor Search
 

Departments/Programs may update graduate degree program details through the Faculty & Staff portal. To update the application inquiries contact details please use this form.

Curious about UBC for grad school?

Our community of scholars is one of the world’s finest, committed to discovering and sharing knowledge, and to tackling the challenges that face our world.