Ph.D. Degree Requirements

Residence and Time Limits
Program Advising
Course Work
Second Language Requirement
Doctoral Progress Report
The Doctoral Candidacy Process
The Prospectus
Candidacy Review
Candidacy Process Year by Year

Residence and Time Limits

All PhD students are considered full-time. PhD students are not eligible to undertake their degree on a part-time basis.

Students who enter the PhD program having already earned an MA must remain in residence in the Lower Mainland (Vancouver area) for two winter sessions of PhD study (roughly two years).

Students who have been permitted to transfer via fast track from the UBC English MA’s program to the UBC English PhD program require at least one winter session of residence in the Lower Mainland following the transfer.

Under normal circumstances, the PhD should be completed in four to five years, although UBC allows up to six years for completion. Under exceptional circumstances, requests for a leave of absence, normally limited to 24 months for PhD students, and/ or an extension of up to one year may be granted. All students are required to maintain continuous registration throughout their program of study. Students who fail to register for two consecutive terms may be required to withdraw. Status may be reinstated only if an application for reinstatement is approved by both the Graduate Committee and the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

Students should note that, in accordance with the guidelines of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, undertaking the PhD is considered the equivalent of full-time employment. If the student is receiving scholarship funding from the university or government [either in the form of SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) funding or UBC’s 4YF (Four-Year Doctoral Fellowship) or scholarships and TA-ships], employment is limited to 12 hours per week and students are not permitted to seek full-time employment, except under special circumstances. All employment beyond the student’s initial funding package must be discussed with and approved by the Graduate Advisor.

Students receive 15 working days of vacation each year. For university policy on vacations see https://www.grad.ubc.ca/faculty-staff/policies-procedures/graduate-student-vacation-policy.

TOP

Program Advising

All students are required to seek program approval before registering. New PhD students should communicate with the Chair of the Graduate Program, (English.Gradchair@ubc.ca) before classes begin in order to establish the parameters of their individual programs. The Graduate Chair serves as PhD Advisor and will monitor each student’s program to completion. Any changes in a PhD student’s program must be approved by the Chair of the Graduate Program.

With the full consultation of the Graduate Committee the student is assigned a Pro tem Supervisor from his/her point of entry into the program. By the end of the first year, the full Pro tem Committee will be in place, chosen in consultation with the Graduate Chair, the Pro tem Supervisor, and the student [CANDIDACY FORM 1]. The Pro tem Committee consists of one specialist in the student’s chosen area and two colleagues. One committee member may be chosen from outside the English Department. The committee members will guide the student through the qualifying process, beginning in the first year with the field examination. They also serve as academic mentors on all aspects of the program and the department. The Pro tem Committee is dissolved after the candidacy paper is passed and a new Thesis Supervisory Committee is then constituted that can (but need not) include members of the Pro tem Committee. Thesis Supervisory Committee members from outside UBC must be approved by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

Please Note: The PhD Advisor and the Graduate Committee make every effort to ensure that students have satisfied all the requirements for the degree (second-language requirement, coursework, etc.).However, it is ultimately each student’s responsibility to assure that all requirements have been met.

TOP

Course Work

Students entering the PhD program with first-class MA degrees in English will normally take 15 credits of course work at the 500 level. Students transferring from the MA to the PhD or entering the PhD directly from an Honours BA will be asked to take a minimum number of credits determined by the Graduate Committee.

As of January 2017, all PhD students in Years 1 or 2 will be required to take the Research Methods course, ENGL 500B. This pass/fail course will introduce students to the forms and protocols of PhD research. It will count toward the 15 credits required for admission to candidacy.

PhD programs are individually planned in consultation with the Chair of the Graduate Program. The student’s prior work is assessed in order to ensure appropriate coverage and preparation.

Students are permitted, under the Western Deans’ Agreement, to take up to 12 graduate credits at another western university (Athabasca, Alberta, Brandon, Calgary, Lethbridge, Manitoba, Northern British Columbia, Regina, Saskatchewan, Simon Fraser, and Victoria) towards their PhD degree. More information about the program and procedures is available through the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies; click here to visit the Western Deans’ Agreement page. Students interested in pursuing this option should, as with every aspect of PhD program planning, consult with the Graduate Chair.

Please note: Students undertaking coursework through the Western Deans’ Agreement must provide two official  transcripts to the Department of English Graduate Program Office in order to have the credits officially counted.  Western Deans’ courses/external credits are not be applied to UBC official transcripts.

While there are no formal area requirements for the PhD, students should consider that future employers often look to course work and qualifying areas for evidence of range and versatility in teaching.

A Directed Reading (English 547) is a course of study undertaken by an individual student with an instructor. It is usually taken for 3 credits, though 6 credit directed readings may also be approved. Faculty regulations prohibit any student from applying more than 6 credits of Directed Reading toward the credit requirements for a degree.

Should a PhD student wish to pursue a Directed Reading, s/he should discuss the feasibility of the planned course with the Graduate Chair. Any student wishing to apply for a Directed Reading should, after consulting the appropriate advisor, work with the proposed supervisor to prepare a brief but detailed outline of the proposed course. This outline, brief rationale for the course, a bibliography, and a schedule of meetings and proposed assignments, should be submitted, with the signature of the supervisor, to the Graduate Office by the second Friday of the term in which the course will be taken. Forms are available in the Graduate Office. Late applications are not considered. The Graduate Committee approves applications for English 547 courses only if the student can establish that no course is being offered in that particular area during the current academic year, and if the Directed Reading is essential to the student’s academic development.

The student must provide both an electronic copy (to be circulated for approval) and a hard copy with the Supervisor’s signature for the records.

Students who have met all English requirements may take up to 6 credits in related fields outside the Department.

TOP

Second Language Requirement

All new PhD students are required to demonstrate a reading knowledge of a second language relevant to their particular area of research. The Graduate Chair, in consultation with the Pro tem Supervisor, will determine whether a student, upon entering the PhD program, has already met the second-language requirement. Students who have not met the requirement may do so by completing an approved language or literature course (it may be possible to do this as an auditor), or by passing an examination, provided that an examiner acceptable to the Department is available. The department can also offer the use of a computerized French language program.

While only one language is required, students should of course consider the scholarly and professional requirements of their chosen area when developing their language skills.

TOP

Doctoral Progress Report

Each May beginning in the student’s second year in the doctoral program, both the student and his or her supervisor will be asked to write a brief report indicating the nature and extent of work completed on the candidacy process or thesis and any circumstances impeding progress on either.

TOP

The Doctoral Candidacy Process

Amended and Approved by the Graduate Faculty of the Department of English, UBC September 17, 2014.

*Please see the end of this section for a convenient summary of the candidacy timetable for both students and supervisors.

Students who need to consult the old candidacy process, which is currently being phased out, can find it here.

Field List and Examination

In addition to course work in the first year of the program and in consultation with the Pro tem Committee, the student will prepare a general field list of primary and secondary material designed to assure that the student has sufficient knowledge of his or her field of interest.

  • This field should be the field in which the candidate plans to teach. If the proposed thesis topic will intersect with more than one field, then this list should be adjusted to reflect the student’s cross-field interests.
  • The list will include approximately 75 book-length items (or, for article-driven fields, the equivalent in articles and papers) that constitute the field. Modification to the requirement can be made if the student and his/her committee can make a good case to the Graduate Chair that the requirement, in its details, is unsuitable to the student’s field.
  • It is assumed that students will rely heavily on the expertise of their committees in the preparation of these lists.
  • It is assumed that the balance between primary and secondary material will vary from field to field and will, therefore, be determined by the Pro tem Committee.
  • The field list will be submitted, no later than June 15 of Year 1,to the Graduate Committee for the record (but not for approval) and a copy of the field list will be placed in the student’s file [CANDIDACY FORM 2].
  • Knowledge of this field list will be examined in a two-hour oral examination. All students in Year 2 of the program will sit the examination no later thanDecember 15 of Year 2.
  • The oral performance will be evaluated by members of the Pro tem Committee. One member of the Graduate Committee will attend the examination to oversee the process and will vote as well.
  • Students will be informed of the results of their examination at the end of the examination following a brief meeting of the examiners and the Graduate Committee member.
  • While the committee is discussing the student’s performance at the end of the oral exam, the student’s supervisor will compile a brief record of the deliberations and use them to fill out the report: [CANDIDACY FORM 3]All committee members and the Graduate Committee representative must sign this report at the end of the exam. The report will then be submitted to the Chair of the Graduate Program within a week of the oral examination. The performance will be ranked “unsatisfactory” or “satisfactory” by each member of the committee. This report will be made available to the student and will go on file.
  • In cases where students have two or more “Unsatisfactory” votes from the committee members and the Graduate Committee representative, students will be asked to retake the oral exam, which they must do before January 15 of Year 2. A second report must be filled out on this occasion with a vote tally and all signatures of those present. [CANDIDACY FORM 3]
  • If the student’s performance is again deemed “Unsatisfactory” by two or more members of the committee and the Graduate Committee representative, the student and the student’s supervisor will meet with the Chair of the Graduate Program. While no student will be asked to leave the program at this stage, no student can advance to candidacy without attempting the field examination.

Candidacy Paper

After the field examination, the student will begin working with the Pro tem Committee to develop an individually focused research topic or question that allows the student to begin to conceptualize the thesis.

  • This topic (consisting of a question, similar to the question on an exam) should be submitted no later than two weeks after the date of the Oral Exam to the Graduate Committee for the record [CANDIDACY FORM 4] and a copy of the topic will be placed in the student’s file. (Note: the Graduate Committee does not discuss, vote on, or approve the topic).
  • The student will then write a 20-25 page (12 point Times New Roman font) paper based on this topic. Papers that exceed 25 pages excluding bibliography will not be considered.
  • The paper need not be considered a thesis chapter or article-like intervention (though it could be); it might more closely resemble the literature review of the thesis (and may indeed become such a survey); it could also represent the student’s early engagement with scholarship important to the dissertation.
  • While the candidate may consult with the Pro tem Committee and may receive their suggestions while pursuing his/her reading and writing, the committee should not review drafts of the paper. In this sense, the paper resembles more of a take-home exam than a draft of a chapter. This paper should be handed in no later than May 1 of Year 2.
  • The Pro tem Committee will read the qualifying paper and then meet to discuss it. One member of the Graduate Committee will be given a copy of the qualifying paper and will attend this meeting to oversee the process (meetings can happen through electronic means). During the meeting, while all members are present, the student’s supervisor will write a quick summary of the deliberations using: [CANDIDACY FORM 5]. All committee members and the Graduate Committee representative must record their votes and must sign this report. The report will then be submitted to the Chair of the Graduate Program within a week of the meeting. The performance will be ranked “unsatisfactory,” “satisfactory,” or “distinction” by each member of the committee. This report will be made available to the student and will go on file.
  • Criteria for success will be clear evidence of wide reading, sophisticated critical and interpretive skills, and the capacity to conceptualize issues and arguments independently. The committee will normally take up to two weeks to return the results of the paper.
  • In case of two or more “Unsatisfactory” rankings among the Pro tem Committee and the Graduate Committee representative, students will be asked to re-write the paper. The revised attempt must be submitted within two weeks of the committee’s response to the first attempt. Any second attempt should respond to the comments and criticisms provided by the committee on the first version of the paper (that is, students should not write a whole new paper but should take the advice of the committee in revising the existing one).
  • This second version will be read by the Pro tem Committee and the Graduate Committee representative. A second meeting of the Pro tem Committee and Graduate Committee representative will be called to assess the paper. Once again, the student’s supervisor will write a quick summary of the deliberations using [CANDIDACY FORM 5]. All committee members and the Graduate Committee representative must sign this report and record their ranking of the paper. The supervisor will then submit the signed report to the Chair of the Graduate Program within one week of the meeting. Performance will be ranked “unsatisfactory,” “satisfactory” or “outstanding” by each member of the committee. This report will be made available to the student and it will go on file.
  • If the student’s second performance is deemed “Unsatisfactory” by two or more members of the Pro tem Committee and Graduate Committee representative, the student and the student’s supervisor will meet with the Chair of the Graduate Program. While no student will be asked to leave the program at this stage, no student can advance to candidacy without attempting the candidacy paper.
  • Outstanding achievement in the examination is marked by the award of Distinction. The recommendation for Distinction may be made by any member of the committee other than the Pro tem Supervisor. If a recommendation for Distinction is made, a vote is taken, which must be unanimous for Distinction to be granted.

TOP

The Prospectus

With the completion of the field examination and qualifying paper, the Pro tem Committee is dissolved. Then the student, in consultation with the Graduate Chair, invites an appropriate faculty member to supervise his or her prospectus and thesis. Student and supervisor together then establish the full committee, which normally consists of the candidate’s supervisor and two other members of the Department of English. The names of all supervisory committee members are submitted to the graduate program [CANDIDACY FORM 6]. The supervisory committee will likely (but not necessarily) include some or all of the original Pro tem Committee. It may include a faculty member from another department and/or another institution. External committee members must be approved by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. Development of the prospectus should involve those committee members who will be overseeing the thesis to its conclusion.

The Faculty of Graduate and Post Graduate Studies has a page with links to policies and procedures relating to supervision and examination here.

The thesis prospectus, prepared in consultation with the Supervisory Committee, should be submitted to the Graduate Committee with the full approval and the signatures of all three members of the supervisory committee [CANDIDACY FORM 7] no later than October 15th of Year 3. Addressed to the Graduate Committee, the prospectus must make good sense to academics outside the area of specialization and should focus on the thesis’s tentative argument and originality. The prospectus should be no more than 2,500 words in length, excluding bibliography. Prospectuses should be submitted in 12 point Times New Roman font. Prospectuses that are longer than 2,500 words will not be read and will be returned for revision. The prospectus should contain four components:

 

  • Description and Justification:The prospectus begins by describing the student’s target of research for non-experts in the field. What are you planning to investigate? This stage should articulate as clearly as possible the “what” as well as the “why” of the thesis. The prospectus should situate the thesis in its field, showing how it develops or departs from previous research and what the writer hopes it will contribute. The prospectus should also spell out the theoretical or methodological framework of the thesis.
  • Plan:The prospectus is not necessarily a detailed blueprint, and it allows for changes of direction. Precise conclusions to inquiries not yet fully entered into need not be anticipated. However, the prospectus is to make clear the overall organization of the thesis as envisaged at this point in terms of its main stages of inquiry and its argumentative structure. Conventionally, the prospectus includes chapter summaries.
  • Thesis Bibliography:This document should contain the essential reading for the dissertation. It should be no longer than 10 pages and should comply with standard formatting procedures (MLA or Chicago style; 12 point, Time New Roman font).

The entire Graduate Committee will read and comment on the originality and value of the project. Should the Graduate Committee decide at this stage that the program of research has not yet been adequately conceived, it may invite the student, in consultation with his/her supervisory committee, to revise the relevant portions of the Prospectus for a second delivery within four weeks of notice of the Graduate Committee’s decision.

Performance will be ranked “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” by the Graduate Committee. Graduate Committee deliberations on the prospectus become a matter of record [CANDIDACY FORM 8] and will be consulted in the Candidacy Review.

If the student’s performance is deemed unsatisfactory, the student and the student’s supervisor will meet with the Chair of the Graduate Program. While no student will be asked to leave the program at this stage, no student will advance to candidacy without attempting the prospectus.

TOP

Candidacy Review

Students who achieve a minimum of 85% GPA in their courses at UBC and who pass all stages of their candidacy exams will automatically be recommended for advancement to candidacy. For other students, a conference on their progress may be deemed necessary by the Graduate Chair in consultation with the Supervisor. In these cases, following completion of the candidacy examination, paper, and prospectus, the Supervisor and Graduate Chair will meet, no later than December 15 of Year 3 to discuss advancement to candidacy. The student’s performance in course work, the field examination, the candidacy paper and the prospectus will be reviewed and advancement to candidacy will be decided upon. In cases of dispute, the student’s file will be presented to the Graduate Committee and a vote taken. Students who do not advance to candidacy at this point will be asked to leave the program.

  • No student will advance to candidacy without attempting the field examination, the candidacy paper, and the prospectus.
  • If it is determined, by a majority vote, that the student’s overall progress to date is unsatisfactory, the student will be informed in writing that he/she is to be dismissed from the program or that he/she will be asked to voluntarily withdraw from the program. Students wishing to appeal this decision can do so through the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies appeal process.

TOP

Candidacy Process Year by Year

FOR STUDENTS

Year One

  • course work (12-15 credits); meet with Graduate Chair
  • establish Pro tem Committee [CANDIDACY FORM 1]; preparation of field list
  • SUBMISSION OF FIELD LIST (June 15[CANDIDACY FORM 2]
  • begin reading for field list exam

Year Two

  • reading for field list exam (continues)
  • FIELD LIST ORAL EXAM (before December 15; retake exam before January 15)
  • field exam report [CANDIDACY FORM 3]
  • SUBMISSION OF CANDIDACY PAPER TOPIC (no more than two weeks after oral) [CANDIDACY FORM 4]
  • reading for candidacy paper / writing candidacy paper
  • SUBMISSION OF CANDIDACY PAPER (May 1)
  • candidacy paper report [CANDIDACY FORM 5]
  • dissolution of Pro tem Committee / constitution of new Supervisory Committee [CANDIDACY FORM 6]
  • preparation of prospectus and thesis bibliography

Year Three

  • SUBMISSION OF PROSPECTUS (October 15[CANDIDACY FORM 7]
  • Graduate Committee reports on thesis prospectus [CANDIDACY FORM 8]
  • If necessary, candidacy review / candidacy review meeting with Graduate Committee and Supervisory team (no later than December 15)
  • dissertation writing

Year Four

  • dissertation writing
  • completion of penultimate draft

Year Five (if needed)

  • appointment of external examiner (November) [EXTERNAL EXAMINER APPROVAL FORM]
  • dissertation submitted to G&PS (January)
  • dissertation examination (Spring)

Personalized Candidacy Schedule – Off-cycle* students please use this PERSONALIZED CANDIDACY SCHEDULE FORM

FOR SUPERVISORS

Year One

  • student establishes Pro tem Committee [CANDIDACY FORM 1];
  • Pro tem Committee prepares field list of 75 book-length items
  • SUBMISSION OF FIELD LIST to Graduate Committee (henceforth GC) by June 15 [CANDIDACY FORM 2]

Year Two

  • FIELD LIST ORAL EXAM (before December 15)
  • FIELD EXAM REPORT to be filled out at the oral exam during committee deliberations and signed by all present; submit to GC [CANDIDACY FORM 3]
  • Should the Oral be deemed “Unsatisfactory” by two or more of those present, including GC rep, the student must retake the oral exam before January 15. Second FIELD EXAM REPORT to be filled out during deliberations and signed by all present at second oral exam; submit to GC [CANDIDACY FORM 3]
  • Student submits CANDIDACY PAPER TOPIC to GC no more than two weeks after oral exam [CANDIDACY FORM 4]
  • Student submits 25-page candidacy paper to Pro tem Committee (no later than May 1)
  • Pro tem Committee and one GC rep meet to discuss Candidacy Paper (electronic meetings are fine). Paper will be ranked “Satisfactory,” “Unsatisfactory,” or “Distinction” by each voting member. Report written during meeting, signed by all present, and submitted to GC within one week of meeting [CANDIDACY FORM 5]
  • Should the Candidacy Paper be deemed “Unsatisfactory” by two or more of those present, including GC rep, it must be revised and handed in again within TWO WEEKSof the committee’s notice to the student. Pro tem Committee and one GC rep meet to discuss second Candidacy Paper; report written during meeting, signed by all present [CANDIDACY FORM 5]; and submitted to GC within one week of the meeting
  • Dissolution of Pro tem Committee

THESIS SUPERVISORY COMMITTEE ESTABLISHED

  • Constitution of Thesis Supervisory Committee [CANDIDACY FORM 6]
  • Preparation of Prospectus and Thesis Bibliography

Year Three

  • SUBMISSION OF PROSPECTUS TO GC (October 15[CANDIDACY FORM 7]
  • Graduate Committee reports on thesis prospectus[CANDIDACY FORM 8]
  • Candidacy review/ candidacy review meeting with Graduate Committee and Supervisory team (no later than December 15)

Subsequent Years

TOP