PhD Program

The PhD Geography program is a full-time, research degree that emphasizes the development of a self-motivated and disciplined approach to learning.

Skills of critical analysis, of abstraction, of interpretation, and of clear oral and written presentation are essential. The student is expected to develop and demonstrate these qualities in an original, scholarly dissertation.

Program Overview

Our program structure is neither as formally-structured as that in many American departments nor as informal as has been common in Europe.

The first year is designed to prepare students for readings, seminar courses, the formulation of a research topic, and the Comprehensive Examination.

Spring Review:

An oral review and a written report is required of all PhD students in the spring of their first year. The purpose is to allow students:

  • To establish a Committee;
  • To set the dates of major milestones; and,
  • To discuss their research plans with their Committee.

Comprehensive Examination

A Comprehensive Examination is required of all PhD students. It is designed to test a student’s understanding of the chosen field of study as a whole and the student’s preparation for the thesis research to follow. Normally, it will be held after completion of all required coursework, and is in addition to any course examinations.

According to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, students are expected to complete their Comprehensive Examination within 24 months from the date of initial registration.

The Comprehensive Examination consists of:

  • Written examinations at the discretion of the students’ Committee
  • An oral examination after the written papers

Formal Thesis Proposal

A formal thesis proposal is required of all PhD students. It is submitted a few months after successful completion of the Comprehensive Examination, but in some cases, it is available at the time of that Examination.

When the Comprehensive Examination has been passed and the Formal Thesis Proposal has been accepted, the student will be admitted to Candidacy. Candidacy also requires completion of the residency period and of all required coursework.

According to the Faculty of Graduate Studies, students are expected to be admitted to Candidacy within 36 months from the date of initial registration. If you do not meet this requirement, you must apply for an extension.

From then on, the candidate’s time will then be devoted to research and writing.

In addition to their thesis, students are required to complete:

  • A minimum of 9 credits of coursework at 500-level or above
  • This must include either GEOB 500 or GEOG 520, unless already completed as part of the MA or MSc program at UBC Geography.

Your thesis’ length should not exceed 350 pages of text. Normally, a Thesis is read first by the Candidate´s Supervisor, who discusses early drafts with the student. Well before submission of the final draft, the Thesis is circulated for comment and suggestions to the other members of the Candidate´s Supervisory Committee. Only when all members of the Supervisory Committee have read a draft of the Thesis and a majority have accepted it for Doctoral Oral Examination should the final version be presented.

For detailed information, please review the Thesis Preparation and Submission Guide.

All Doctoral students must defend their theses before they can graduate.

The purposes of the Doctoral Oral Examination are to:

  • Ensure that the Candidate is able to present and defend the thesis and its underlying assumptions, methodology, results, and conclusions in a manner consistent with the doctoral degree being sought;
  • Communicate the results of the work to the campus community.

For detailed information, please review the Doctoral Oral Examination Guide.

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