PhD in Indigenous Governance

The PhD in Indigenous Governance is inherently interdisciplinary, as governance is embedded in all aspects of Indigenous social, cultural, economic, political, and health practices and institutions. We seek students who are motivated to deepen their understanding of the complexity of Indigenous governance practices. IGOV PhD projects advance the field of Indigenous governance and nationhood through demonstrated abilities in comprehending, creating, and applying theories, conducting original community-engaged research, and communicating their work effectively in multiple modalities appropriate to their intended audience. The PhD offers students the opportunity to map a specialised course of study that provides a breadth of expertise.

Program Structure

Students are expected to be in residency for two years during which PhD students will take six (6) 1.5 unit courses, three (3) of which will be based on the student’s field of study; complete the language requirement (see language requirement options) and complete the requirements for candidacy (exam and proposal).

  • Complete all of the following
    • Complete all of:
      • IGOV600 - Indigenous Futurities (1.5)
      • IGOV675 - Professional Practice & Preparation (1.5)
      • IN601 - Foundations of Indigenous Nationhood (1.5)
    • Complete 4.5 units of electives
    • Complete 1 of the following
      • Complete 3 units of:  introductory undergraduate Indigenous language courses
      • Complete 1.5 units of: upper level undergraduate Indigenous language course
      • Complete 1 of:
        • IGOV671 - Indigenous Language Translation (1.5)
        • IGOV673 - Indigenous Language Exposure (1.5)
    • Complete all of:
      • IGOV693 - PhD Candidacy Examination (3.0)
      • IGOV695 - Dissertation Proposal (3.0)
      • IGOV699 - Dissertation (28.5 - 30)

Field of Study Elective

Students must complete 4.5 units related to your field of study. Students will enroll in 3 or more 1.5 credit courses from another academic department. One of these courses to be an advanced research methods course.

Language Requirement

All students will have a working knowledge of the Indigenous language of the Indigenous nation with which they plan to work. Students do not need to demonstrate fluency or mastery of the language to meet this requirement. Rather, the requirement is intended to provide students with exposure to an Indigenous language so that they are able to articulate the relationship between Indigenous knowledge, Indigenous languages, and Indigenous governance practices.

PhD students must choose one of the three options below to complete the language requirement:

  • Coursework: taking courses in an Indigenous language (two introductory undergraduate courses or one upper-level undergraduate course taken as part of the doctoral program); or
  • IGOV 671 Translation exam: This course allows student to demonstrate proficiency of an Indigenous language through a language translation exam administered by the relevant department or language expert; or
  • IGOV 673: Exposure: This course provides students with an opportunity to spend a minimum of 72 hours of exposure to the Indigenous language by sitting with a language speaker or attending a language immersion camp.

The student must have their language requirement plan approved by their supervisor and the language requirement must be completed prior to sitting the Candidacy Exam. A student may petition IGOV to have this requirement waived if they can demonstrate they meet or exceed this requirement prior to being admitted to the PhD Program.


Typically, in the spring term of the second year of study, the students will enroll in IGOV 693:

  • Assemble their dissertation committee who will serve as their examination committee. Committee composition: The Chair of the committee will be the faculty supervisor who must be an IGOV core faculty member; one other committee member must be an IGOV faculty member, and the third committee member can be comprised of faculty from UVic;
  • Organize a meeting to review and clarify the entire process of the exam and answer any questions. At this meeting each member of the committee will be assigned to oversee one of the three themes that organize the exams:
    • Theme I: Indigenous Ways of Knowing & Indigenous Research Methods
    • Theme II: Key Ideas, Debates, Theory, & Practice in Indigenous Governance
    • Theme III: Field of Specialization
  • Prepare a reading list under the supervision of the designated committee member and familiarize themselves with the assigned material;
  • Complete the written and oral components of the exam.


The dissertation is expected to be of the highest caliber and must reflect original research that makes a unique and significant contribution to a scholarly conversation or field. The dissertation must meet academic and community ethical standards.

Dissertation proposal

Upon successful completion of the Candidacy Exam, students will enroll in IGOV 695: Dissertation proposal (3.0) where they will prepare and defend a dissertation research proposal. At the defense, the student will give a 20-minute presentation on their proposed dissertation topic and answer questions posed by the dissertation committee. The proposal and oral defense will also be evaluated on a pass/fail basis.

Once these requirements have been fulfilled (normally by the end of the second year of full-time study), the student will have completed all requirements but the dissertation and will enroll in IGOV 699 Dissertation and begin their dissertation research.

How to Apply

Admission into the PhD program requires completion of the Indigenous Governance master’s degree or equivalent from an accredited institution. Students admitted into the PhD program without the IGOV master’s degree (or equivalent) will be expected to take core courses from the master’s degree in Indigenous governance (IGOV 510, IGOV 520, IGOV 530, IGOV 550, and/or IGOV 570) to fill any gaps in their prior graduate training. The admissions committee will review transcripts of students without the MA in IGOV and any additional course work will be assigned at that time. A minimum GPA of A- (7.0) is required for admission to the PhD program.

For international students whose first language is not English and who do not hold a recognized degree from an accredited institution in which the language of instruction is solely English, proof of English Language Proficiency is required before the application deadline. The School of Indigenous Governance accepts the proof of English Language Proficiency set out by the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

In addition to the Faculty of Graduate Studies Admission Requirements, the School of Indigenous Governance also requires the following submissions with the application:

  1. On-line Application Form
  2. Statement of Intent: 1-2 pages which highlight relevant aspects of your background and training, describe your general research interests and how they correspond with the thematic foci of IGOV. Students are expected to identify an area of specialization in their statement of intent. For example, this may be Indigenous feminisms, Decolonial practices in social work, Indigenous environmental justice, etc.
  3. Writing sample: This can be a term paper, section of the master’s thesis, or a published paper that best reflects the student’s writing and analytic abilities. Maximum 30 pages.
  4. Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  5. 2 assessment reports and/or letters of reference: the online application will prompt you to provide two names (or more) and email addresses. Automatic assessment requests will be sent out once you submit your application and your references will have an option to upload a reference letter or complete the online questionnaire. Please ask your references to submit their assessment by February 15.
  6. Transcripts: copies of your unofficial transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended (including transfer credits) are sufficient until an offer of admission is made – then you will be required to submit official copies directly to GARO office. For more information on what is considered unofficial transcripts, please see the submission of documents page on the Faculty of Graduate Studies website.

Need help?

If you have questions about the PhD application process, contact the IGOV program office.