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IGS Ph.D. Degree: Candidacy and Comprehensive Examination Guidelines


According to the policies and procedures within the College of Graduate Studies, the IGS Program Committee oversees all aspects of the IGS program, including approval of comprehensive examination formats. However, the IGS Program Committee may delegate its authority to other standing committees within Faculties or Unit Departments (see below) that have well-established processes and procedures for evaluating and approving comprehensive examinations.

These processes and procedures, must, however, conform to the Guidelines for the Comprehensive Examination Process for Doctoral Students in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies Program as indicated below.

All doctoral students undergo a 'candidacy' process at the end of which they receive the Admitted to Candidacy notation on their transcripts indicating that they have completed all the requirements for their doctoral degree except their dissertation (ABD)—that is, they have become candidates for the doctoral degree.

There are three major requirements for advancement to candidacy:

  • Course Work
  • Comprehensive Examinations
  • Dissertation Proposal/Prospectus

Doctoral students at University of British Columbia, Okanagan are required to advance to Candidacy within 36 months of the date of initial registration, as indicated in the policy contained in the Okanagan Academic Calendar.

The first step in the candidacy process is the formation (by the supervisor in consultation with the student) of a committee of faculty members who oversee the path toward candidacy. The committee is known as the supervisory committee and it consists of at least three (3) members. The supervisory committee approves the plan of study and the format of the comprehensive examination, and it is the supervisory committee members who must ensure that the plan of study is reasonable and feasible. The role of the supervisory committee is to ensure that the candidacy process is a robust one and that it meets all the needs of the student while also satisfying the requirements of doctoral programs in general.

Although the IGS Ph.D. program on the UBC Okanagan campus does not have a general additional language(s) requirement, a student’s supervisory committee may decide if and how proficiency in languages essential for the student’s program of study must be demonstrated.

Membership of the supervisory committee is declared via the IGS Program Plan, which needs to be filed with the College of Graduate Studies by the end of the student’s first term of study.

I. Course Work

See:      Okanagan Academic Calendar - Program Requirements

II. Comprehensive Examination

Passing a comprehensive examination is one of three requirements that must met in order to advance to candidacy. In conducting the comprehensive examination, the supervisory and examination committees must adhere to general guidelines published in the UBC - Okanagan Campus Academic Calendar: Okanagan Academic Calendar - Comprehensives, Examinations, and Thesis

As stated in the Guidelines for the Comprehensive Examination Process for Doctoral Students in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies Program, “A comprehensive examination is intended to test the student's comprehensive knowledge of the chosen field(s) of study and the student's ability to communicate that knowledge with thorough understanding. The student is expected to demonstrate mastery of the concepts, theories, methods, controversies, and recent advancements in the field as well as to demonstrate critical insights concerning how knowledge in their areas of study is being (and can be) advanced. The comprehensive examination is the primary mechanism by means of which academic mastery can be demonstrated and by means of which the committee judges the ability of the student to pursue advanced research at a doctoral level. It is therefore intended to be an academically useful tool and to be of the highest academic standard.” The complete Guidelines for the Comprehensive Examination Process for Doctoral Students in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies Program may be downloaded hereThese Comprehensive Examination Guidelines are definitive for all faculty and PhD students participating in the Interdisciplinary Studies Program.

III. Dissertation Research Proposal/Prospectus

The writing, defence and/or approval of the dissertation research proposal/prospectus may be considered part of the comprehensives stage or as a separate stage in the candidacy process, depending on established practice in the disciplines involved. 

Although the College of Graduate Studies does not require a formal dissertation proposal defence, it is customary (and often required by the supervisory committee) for the student to prepare a written research proposal and to defend it orally to the supervisory committee and, at the discretion of disciplinary criteria, to the unit and faculty. This is considered the final stage of the candidacy process. For certain types of research (i.e., those involving extensive field research for which Research Ethics Board approval is required), the dissertation proposal involves significant effort. Under these circumstances, it may be preferable to conduct a proposal process that follows after the comprehensive examination. In other cases, the supervisory committee may decide that the prospectus should be developed as part of the comprehensive examination, and the oral component of the examination will focus on both the general materials that are typically part of such an exam, as well as the specific materials that outline the dissertation research. 

Best practices for the disciplines in which the student is engaged should determine the form of the prospectus. Within this light, the student’s supervisory committee establishes the specific guidelines for the prospectus and considers it for approval. The supervisory committee may require revisions until approval is granted. It should be noted that, where research ethics approval is required, the research proposal must be approved by the supervisory committee before the student applies for Ethics Review. The research may not commence until that ethics approval has been granted. 

Once the comprehensive examinations have been successfully completed and the dissertation proposal approved, the supervisor completes the Ph.D. Advancement to Candidacy form. The supervisor submits the form to the department/unit Graduate Coordinator, who ensures that all the requirements for candidacy have been met, and, upon doing so, signs the form and forwards it to the College of Graduate Studies office. Once candidacy approval is granted, the Ph.D. Candidacy designation is entered on the student’s transcript.

Once the student has been granted candidacy status, the student is considered ABD (All But Dissertation), with only the research and satisfactory completion and defence of the dissertation remaining for completion of the IGS Ph.D. degree.

Candidacy Related Forms

Last reviewed shim4/22/2016 1:41:27 PM