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
I learned about UBC’s Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program (ISGP) from a colleague who was working and studying at Simon Fraser University. I researched the program and quickly learned that at UBC I could learn to be creatively and intellectually ambidextrous, working with both hands simultaneously, integrating both sides of my brain. Now, as a Public Scholar, I can find ways to share and hone my work with the community and public partners, adding another dimension of rigor and insight to my research.
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
|2012||Dr. Sarwal examined ways in which International Cancer Control Congresses affect the way cancer, a key global health challenge, is being addressed. Through her investigations, she developed and applied a method for evaluating the impact of such capacity-building efforts. Initial findings show that the Congresses facilitated change, fostered communities of practice and aided in knowledge transfer.|
|2012||Dr. Green examined how sustainability commitments made by BC universities have influenced introductory economics curriculum. The economy depends upon the environment, but Green found the economic theory taught in first year economics is oversimplified and neglects this dependence. He showed that such courses do little to help students understand sustainability.|
|2012||Dr. Haggan demonstrated a broad-based demand for the immeasurable values of love, cherishing and protecting, in our relationship with the sea. A concept of the secular sacred can ensure that basic human values of gratitude, generosity and renewal are as well-represented as science and economics in dialogue about farmed salmon and the Enbridge pipeline.|
|2012||Dr. Virani examined barriers to predictive testing facing individuals in rural communities who are at risk for the inherited brain disorder, Huntington disease. She developed a novel telehealth testing protocol for predictive testing and showed that this model improves access to testing, without compromising quality of care and support.|
|2012||Dr. Chan used Organization Theory to study professional practice change in health care. She examined the role of physician engagement and inter-organizational collaboration in bringing about practice change among family physicians. Her case study showed that professional boundaries were able to shift among family physicians involved with the Division of Family Practice in BC.|
|2012||Dr. Zamorano developed a comparative reading of Octavio Paz's poetics in light of existential philosophy. His reading shows that Paz's belief in the poetic essence of being has links to the tenets of Martin Heidegger and José Ortega y Gasset. Such comparisons help to clarify Paz's ambiguous statements on Mexican identity, the poetic existence of individuals and his critique of modernity|
|2012||Dr. Bunjun studied organizational power relations at Vancouver Status of Women from 1971 to 2008. Using intersectional feminist analysis, she argues that organizations are not neutral, but rather sites of colonial encounters. Based on her findings, she proposes a nuanced understanding of power and entitlement, and a more ethical Affirmative Action Policy.|
|2012||Dr. McElroy studied the impact of war and displacement on early childhood in northern Uganda. Her research illuminates the disruption of traditional strategies for protecting and nurturing children, leaving them exposed to developmental risk even during resettlement. Findings highlight needed interventions for vulnerable infants and young children.|
|2011||Dr. Connelly investigated the acoustical characteristics of vegetated roofs, and their contribution to the ecological performance of buildings and to urban soundscapes. She developed methods to evaluate the effectiveness of greening rooftops, to reduce noise and introduce natural sounds for the benefit, health, well-being and liveability of our cities.|
|2011||Dr. Cabarcas studied the capacity of small farmers in two Ecuadorian indigenous communities to reduce pesticide environmental health risks. The study described important contextual barriers such as inequitable land distribution, unfavourable market policies, and limited state support. He uncovered local and global mechanisms of health inequities.|
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.