M.A. Degree Requirements (Language or Literature)

Residence and Time Limits
MA without Thesis and MA with Thesis
Program Advising
Course Work
MA Thesis

Residence and Time Limits

Students may enroll in either full-time or part-time studies leading to an MA. Part-time studies must be applied for and constitute a fee schedule only.

Full-time students must be in residence in the Lower Mainland for at least one winter session. Students who are planning on taking an MA degree on a part-time basis must obtain approval of the Graduate Program Advisor and the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies prior to the beginning of the degree program. Part-time students are deemed ineligible for TAships or awards. All part-time students must show evidence of continuing progress each year they are enrolled in the program; that is, they must complete a minimum of 6 credits of work during each calendar year. For a full account of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies policies regarding part-time studies, click here.

Most full-time students require 16-24 months to complete the degree.

All MA students, whether full-time or part-time, must complete their programs within five years of initial registration. Under exceptional circumstances, a leave of absence of up to one year and/or an extension of up to one year may be granted. To read the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies description of different kinds of leave, click here.

All students are required to maintain their registration continuously, whether taking courses or not. 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. To read the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies policy on application for reinstatement, click here.

MA students returning after their five-year entitlement has lapsed must apply for readmission. Normally no credit will be assigned for courses taken previously. To read the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies policy on application for readmission, click here.


MA without Thesis and MA with Thesis

The Department of English at UBC offers the MA either with or without a thesis. Either degree qualifies the student to apply for the PhD program. Typically, approximately one-third of any given MA cohort in the department is working on a thesis-based MA.

For the MA in Literature or Language, without thesis, students are required to complete 30 credits of course work, of which not more than 6 credits may be 300 or 400 level courses.

For the MA in Literature or Language with thesis, students are required to complete 21 credits of course work, of which not more than 6 credits may be 300 or 400 level courses; and 9 credits for the MA Thesis and Oral Examination.


Program Advising

All MA students must seek program approval before registering each year. New MA students should communicate with the MA Advisor (English.MA_advisor@ubc.ca) before classes begin in order to discuss their course work and other aspects of the program. Continuing students should seek program approval in the spring before registering. Language students are encouraged to seek course selection advice from a faculty member in the Language program.

Each candidate for the MA with Thesis should choose a thesis supervisor as soon as possible, preferably during the first year in full standing.

Any changes in a graduate student’s program (for example, switching from a thesis to non-thesis program; switching from literature to language) must be approved by either the MA Advisor or the Chair of the Graduate Program. With the approval of the Graduate Committee, a student may transfer from the MA program in literature to the MA program in language or vice versa, provided that area requirements are fulfilled. A student who fails in one program may not transfer to another.

In advising students, the MA Advisor makes every effort to ensure that each student has satisfied all the requirements for the degree. However, it is the student’s responsibility to ensure that, at the time of applying for the degree, all requirements have been met.

Course Work

All MA students are required to take ENGL 500 “Research Tools and Methods” and to complete either:

27 credits of additional coursework (coursework option) OR
18 credits of additional coursework and write a 9-credit thesis (thesis option).
MA students will be automatically registered in ENGL 500 as a program requirement

Although ultimately, program planning is their own responsibility, students should plan their programs prior to and during registration, in consultation with the MA Advisor.

MA students may count toward the degree a maximum of 12 credits taken outside the English graduate program.  Those 12 credits may be from the following:

  1. Up to 6 credits of upper-level (300 or 400) ENGL undergraduate courses (except for ENGL 301, 302, and 303). These courses must be taught by graduate ENGL faculty and must not be distance education courses. An MA student taking an undergraduate course should produce a body of work similar to that undertaken in a graduate course, usually a longer seminar paper or major project. Students should consult with the instructor of the course ahead of time regarding this assignment, and must confirm the suitability of their plans with the MA Advisor.
    Under certain circumstances, an incoming MA student may transfer up to 6 credits of upper-level English undergraduate courses that were not used toward the undergraduate degree. These will count toward the 6-credit maximum of undergraduate courses. Please see the MA Advisor for details.
  1. Up to 6 credits of graduate courses in fields outside the Department; these courses should be related to the student’s program of study.
  2. Up to 6 credits of graduate courses in English at other western universities (i.e. Athabasca, Alberta, Brandon, Calgary, Lethbridge, Manitoba, Northern British Columbia, Regina, Saskatchewan, Simon Fraser, and Victoria) pursued through the Western Deans’ Agreement. More information about the program, the tuition waiver, and procedures is available through the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies; click here to read more about the Western Deans’ Agreement. Students undertaking course work through the Western Deans’ Agreement must provide two official transcripts to the English Graduate Office in order to have the credits officially counted.

PLEASE NOTE: Students may take additional courses from any of the categories above, but only 12 credits total (with a maximum of 6 credits from each category) may be counted toward the degree.

MA students are strongly urged to satisfy their course work requirements through the avenues listed above. In some cases, however, an MA student may wish to pursue a Directed Reading (ENGL 547) with an instructor. Normally such a course of study is taken in the second year of the program. ENGL 547 is usually 3 credits, although a 6-credit course may be approved in exceptional cases; in special circumstances, an MA student in Language may take two Directed Readings to a maximum of 6 credits. Faculty regulations prohibit any student from applying more than 6 credits of Directed Reading toward the credit requirements for a degree. The application and approval process for a Directed Reading is as follows:

1) The student discusses the feasibility of the planned course with the MA Advisor.

2) The student submits to the relevant faculty member a convincing statement in writing illustrating the content and goals of the proposed Directed Reading.

3) In consultation with the instructor, the student prepares a brief rationale and outline for the course, which will map out a schedule of meetings, a series of assignments, and a bibliography for the proposed course. This course outline should resemble in its rationale, number of readings, and assignments, a typical graduate course offered by the English Department. Students may want to consult the “Courses Offered” section of the Department of English’s website for descriptions. Electronic forms are available through the Graduate Office.

4) The student submits these materials, signed by the instructor, to the Graduate Office by the second Friday of the term in which the course will be taken. Late applications are not considered. The Head of the Graduate Program approves applications for ENGL 547 courses only if the student can establish that no suitable course is being offered during his/her program and only if the Directed Reading is essential to the student’s academic development.

5) The student must provide both an electronic copy to the Graduate Office (to be submitted to the Graduate Program Head for approval) as well as a hard copy with the Supervisor’s signature for the records. Once the Head has approved the course, the student will be registered in the course by the Graduate Office.

Course Work for MA in Language

Incoming MA students in Language are required to confer with a Language graduate faculty member concerning their course selection. Students are encouraged to take the Language seminars, 507 (Studies in English Historical Linguistics), 508 (Linguistic Studies in Contemporary English), and 509 (Studies in Rhetoric) whenever they are offered.

Students in the Language MA are also encouraged to take relevant literature seminars. For example, History of English students whose focus is the Mediaeval period should enroll in ENGL 510, 511, and/or 512; students whose focus is the Early Modern period should enroll in ENGL 515, 519, and/or 520. Students studying dialects of English should enroll in the appropriate Canadian, British, and/or American literature seminars. Students whose focus is Rhetoric should enroll in ENGL 553.


MA Thesis

MA students wishing to write a thesis must apply to the Graduate Committee with a prospectus to do so. As soon as the student has decided upon an area of specialization, preferably by the end of the first year with full standing, the student should formulate a topic and strike up a Supervisory Committee, which includes a primary supervisor and at least one reader (or at most two readers) selected in consultation with the Supervisor. At this stage, the student must submit a prospectus electronically for approval to the Graduate Program Office.

The MA thesis prospectus offers a preliminary description of the proposed argument of the thesis and locates the argument within the broader parameters of the field of study. It also sets out the major steps through which the student plans to proceed in researching, writing, and structuring the thesis. The prospectus includes a bibliography, which should provide a comprehensive list of the required primary sources for the proposed research, and a list of the most relevant and influential secondary readings on or around the topic.The text of the prospectus, excluding the bibliography, is limited to1500 words in length. A prospectus that exceeds the 1500 word length will be returned to the student to be shortened.

The prospectus is read first by the Supervisory Committee and, if found satisfactory, by the Graduate Committee. Thus it seeks both to convince readers who are specialists in the proposed research subject and to explain the proposed research to non-specialist academic readers. The Graduate Committee may request changes, additions, or clarification, or it may approve the prospectus outright. The student should not begin formal writing of their project until both the Supervisory Committee and the Graduate Committee have formally approved the prospectus.

The kind and amount of thesis supervision will be dictated by the needs of the individual student and the preferred methods of the Supervisor. Preliminary drafts, either of individual chapters or of the whole thesis, should be submitted to the Supervisor as the student proceeds. The student is encouraged to meet with all members of the committee. The entire Supervisory Committee evaluates the prospectus and the final draft of the thesis before each is submitted for examination. In consultation with the Supervisor, the student should revise the thesis in accordance with the committee’s suggestions. The committee members will not act as copy-editors.

The final thesis should be no more than 60 pages in length, excluding bibliography, endnotes, tables, figures, and other appendices. It should be submitted in 12-point Times New Roman font, it should be double-spaced, and it should have one-inch margins. The final form of the thesis must be prepared in accordance with the regulations set down by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and with the formal approval of all committee members. Students can consult the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies’ thesis preparation page here. Theses which do not meet the specified standards may be rejected.

Once the thesis is approved by the Supervisory Committee, a final oral examination on the thesis and its background is held. Students must not submit theses for oral examinations until all other requirements for the degree have been fulfilled. A final oral may be held at any time of the year, provided the approved committee can be assembled– students should take into account that it can be more difficult to assemble the committee during the summer months. After the oral examination, a pass/ fail is assigned to the thesis. An outstanding thesis may be awarded the grade of Distinction (H). Revisions made after the oral examination will not alter the pass/ fail allocated to the work.

Students residing more than 800 kilometers from the university may request exemption from the oral when submitting the thesis. Where substantial revisions to the thesis are not required, such a request may be granted at the discretion of both the Supervisory Committee and the Graduate Committee. Skype or equivalent defenses may be coordinated with approval from the MA Advisor.

After the oral defense has been held and any requested revisions have been made, the candidate should submit one electronic copy of the final version of the thesis via iCircle to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, along with the final thesis forms: www.grad.ubc.ca/current-students/final-dissertation-thesis-submission/electronic-submission. The thesis will not be approved and an iCircle account will not be created until all required forms have been received. One hardcopy of the final version of the thesis submitted to iCircle is required for the Department of English Reading Room and should be submitted electronically to the Graduate Office, one hard copy for the Supervisor if requested, and one hardcopy for the candidate if desired.