Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies (PhD)
The Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program (ISGP) at the University of British Columbia was established in 1971, the first of its kind in Canada. It is one of the only Canadian programs to offer doctoral degrees in interdisciplinary studies, and is possibly one of the largest of its kind in North America.
The main purpose of the ISGP is to enable qualified graduate students to pursue advanced interdisciplinary research exceeding the provisions of existing departmental programs. There are no restrictions regarding the topic and in many cases the student draws upon expertise from several distinct faculties. The prospective student has to bring together three or four qualified faculty from different departments or units. Because there are no constraints on which fields are brought together, there are virtually no two students in the same sub-field. The ISGP is designed only for a highly motivated and superb student who can steer an independent course.
What makes the program unique?
ISGP gives you the opportunity to:
- pursue interdisciplinary research that is individually designed by the student
- select courses and research supervisors from every department at UBC
- participate in interdisciplinary lectures, workshops and seminars
- apply for funding for exceptional students
UBC offers a progressive environment that welcomes interdisciplinary approaches to research. When I started to live in Vancouver, I could trace UBC's existence in the social and political spirit of the city. This connectedness gave me a sense of community and made me realize that UBC could open a window to further explore how meaningful action and research could be possible.
Contact the program
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: 90
IELTS: International English Language Testing System
Overall score requirement: 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
2) Meet Deadlines
September 2023 Intake
Application Open Date01 November 2022
3) Prepare Application
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.
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 Interdisciplinary Studies (PhD)
IMPORTANT: 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).
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.
Tuition & Financial Support
|Fees||Canadian Citizen / Permanent Resident / Refugee / Diplomat||International|
|Installments per year||3||3|
|Tuition per installment||$1,767.18||$3,104.64|
|Tuition per year|
(plus annual increase, usually 2%-5%)
|Int. Tuition Award (ITA) per year (if eligible)||$3,200.00 (-)|
|Other Fees and Costs|
|Student Fees (yearly)||$1,057.05 (approx.)|
|Costs of living (yearly)||starting at $17,366.20 (check cost calculator)|
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.
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
All full-time students who begin a UBC-Vancouver PhD program in September 2021 or later will be provided (either by the ISGP or by faculty supervisors) with a funding package of at least $22,000 for each of the first four years of their PhD. The funding package may consist of any combination of internal or external awards, teaching-related work, research assistantships, and graduate academic assistantships. Please note that many graduate programs provide funding packages that are substantially greater than $22,000 per year. Please check with your prospective graduate program for specific details of the funding provided to its PhD students.
- 6 students received Teaching Assistantships. Average TA funding based on 6 students was $5,900.
- 13 students received Research/Academic Assistantships. Average RA/AA funding based on 13 students was $8,953.
- 32 students received internal awards. Average internal award funding based on 32 students was $13,677.
- 11 students received external awards. Average external award funding based on 11 students was $25,702.
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.
Tax credits and RRSP withdrawals
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.
Applicants have access to the cost calculator to develop a financial plan that takes into account various income sources and expenses.
72 students graduated between 2005 and 2013. Of these, career information was obtained for 66 alumni (based on research conducted between Feb-May 2016):
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 EducationUniversity of British Columbia (11)
Simon Fraser University (7)
Western University (Ontario)
Swinburne University of Technology
University of Alberta
Providence University College
Sample Employers Outside Higher EducationVancouver Coastal Health (2)
BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS
Child Health BC
St. Michael's Hospital
BC Centre for Improved Cardiovascular Health
Nigel Haggan & Associates
Government of Canada
The White Mountain School
Sample Job Titles Outside Higher EducationConsultant (5)
International Chief Evaluator, President
Veterinarian, Animal welfare advocate
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
PhD Career Outcome SurveyYou may view the full report on career outcomes of UBC PhD graduates on outcomes.grad.ubc.ca.
DisclaimerThese 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.
Enrolment, Duration & Other Stats
These statistics show data for the Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies (PhD). Data are separated for each degree program combination. You may view data for other degree options in the respective program profile.
Completion Rates & Times
|2009||Dr. Seetzen's dissertation described a new technology using optics and advanced algorithms to deliver realistic high brightness, high dynamic range images. This technology will change the way we see digital images, and is emerging as the major product platform in the TV industry.|
|2009||Dr. Kennedy conducted research with First Nations to examine what is required for fair and successful land management in B.C., particularly in the absence of treaties. She developed key principles for negotiations that would lead to power redress with non-Aboriginal governments and include First Nations' distinct values and governance methods.|
|2009||Dr Evoy studied the technical and ethical dimensions of health service funding decision-making processes. This interdisciplinary research provides practical insights for health administration and opportunities for greater public understanding of how local health service funding decisions are made on their behalf.|
|2009||Dr. Sheinin negotiated science and story together, to explore sustainability in Eagle Creek, West Vancouver. She incorporated new practices into her daily living that better sustain watershed supplies, recreation, and salmon spawning in the creek. This research illuminates teaching from non-human nature, interdisciplinary questions, and an alternative research ethics.|
|2008||Dr. Bombard examined the nature and extent of genetic discrimination faced by Canadians at risk for Huntington disease. She found that genetic discrimination is frequent among Canadians and results in high levels of distress. This research provides direction to clinicians and informs policy supporting individuals at risk for genetic diseases.|
|2008||Dr. Geddes developed themes of adolescent depression generated by adolescents' definitions of depression. Adolescents' self-recognition of depression, and social and emotional competence were also examined in association with dimensions of depressive symptoms. This research provides new insights regarding the concept of adolescent depression and its early detection and intervention.|
|2008||Dr So developed a universal platform for the accurate quantitative analysis of gene expression. Termed the U-STAR platform, it represents the culmination of his investigations into state-of-the-art gene expression technologies, resolving the many deficiencies in these technologies that compromise their ability to provide quantitative information.|
|2008||Dr. Petrie Thomas found that in 8-month-old infants born extremely preterm, decreases in heart-rate during focused attention and sustained focus while exploring novel objects strongly predicted cognitive development. This knowledge will lead to methods for the very early identification of infants at-risk for attention and cognitive problems.|
|2008||Dr. Camp examined sex and gender in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Using population health, CT scan and pulmonary function data Dr. Camp found significant differences between men and women in the epidemiology, pathophysiology and exposure history of this disease. This research also illuminated the importance of measurement validity in gender studies.|
|2008||Dr. Duska analyzed the sources of legitimacy and effectiveness of norms of social control within the Tibetan Diaspora in India. The questions raised, the methodology used and the findings are critical to policy debates about how cosmopolitan states accommodate different ethnic and religious communities within a liberal constitution.|
Sample Thesis Submissions
Interdisciplinary Studies allows students to design their own graduate program by bringing together three or four qualified faculty from different departments or units. Because there are no constraints on which fields are brought together, there are virtually no two students in the same subfield.