PhD program

Facilities are available for graduate work in Canadian, European, British, Middle Eastern, Japanese and Chinese history. Courses are divided into geographical and topical. 

Geographical courses are designed to cover major historiographical issues over a broad chronological period, within the various geographical areas: Canadian, British, American, European and Asian.

Topical courses examine secondary literature on a significant topical theme such as social, military, intellectual/cultural, gender/women's, First Nations, religious, world or business history and cover various geographical areas and chronological periods. They relate to the particular themes that the student will pursue in his/her Ph.D. dissertation. The courses taken help to prepare students for the comprehensive written and oral examinations.

Students are required to register in HSTR 693 in each term as a co-requisite to the gegraphical and topical field courses. HSTR 693 covers the preparation and completion of the comprehensive exams. See below for more information on comprehensive exams.

Completion time

The PhD program may be completed on a full-time or part-time basis. The PhD degree normally takes a minimum of four years to complete, but must be completed within seven years.


Teaching mentorship program for Ph.D. student-teachers

Find out more about faculty members.

Apply to Graduate Studies at UVic

Guidelines for the preparation of letters of intent for your graduate application

Total 37.5
Course Requirements (Unit Values)  
Historiography HSTR 500 1.5 (graded)
Geographical or Topical Field Courses 3x1.5 4.5 (graded)
Independent Study Course HSTR 690 1.5 (graded)
Comprehensive Exams HSTR 693 3x1 3.0  (pass/fail)
Dissertation Proposal HSTR 695 1.5 (pass/fail)
Dissertation 25.5  (pass/fail)
  1. The Doctoral degree requires credit in 7.5 units of graduate courses, including the historiographical/historical methods course (HSTR 500), comprehensive exams in one major and two minor fields, and completion of a dissertation.   Students who have completed HSTR 500 or its equivalent at the MA level will automatically be assigned credit for the course. 
  2. Ph.D. students are required to take enriched versions of three regular graduate courses, each worth 1.5 units of coursework, plus a 1.5 unit independent study course which will usually be organized by the student’s supervisor.  Graduate courses enriched for Ph.D students will have a 600 level designation to distinguish them from Master’s level courses with a 500 level designation.  Graduate courses eligible for both masters and doctoral fields will have a joint 500/600 designation.

Each student will have a supervisory committee nominated by the academic unit and approved by the Dean of Graduate Studies. The academic supervisor will facilitate all activities of the supervisory committee. All members of a supervisory committee must be on the Faculty of Graduate Studies membership list or be specifically approved by the Dean. A faculty member who wishes to be appointed as a co-supervisor for a student who is in a program outside of the faculty member’s academic unit must be approved for the Faculty of Graduate Studies’ Membership list as an Associate Member in the student’s home academic unit. Note that when this is the case, normally the Associate Member would be ineligible to serve as a non-unit examining member, and would normally be ineligible to serve as an external examiner for the Associate Member’s home academic unit and for the unit for in which the person is an Associate Member.

The duties of the committee include: recommending a program of study chosen in conformity with the Faculty of Graduate Studies and academic unit’s regulations; supervision of the project, thesis or dissertation; participation in a final oral examination when the program prescribes such an examination. The committee may conduct other examinations, and will recommend to the Faculty of Graduate Studies whether or not a degree be awarded to a candidate. See the document “Responsibilities in the Supervisory Relationship” on the Faculty of Graduate Studies website for more information.

Composition of the Supervisory Committee: Doctoral Degrees

Listed below are the minimum requirements for doctoral supervisory committees. Additional supervisory committee members may be added without the approval of the Dean as long as they are members of the Faculty of Graduate Studies or have had specific permission from the Dean of Graduate Studies to serve as a member.

Doctoral Degrees in Regular Doctoral Degree Programs

All members of the Doctoral supervisory committee must be on the Faculty of Graduate Studies membership list or be specifically approved by the Dean of Graduate Studies. The supervisory committee must have at least three members:

  • Member #1: The supervisor - must be from the home academic unit;
  • Member #2: Must be from within the home academic unit;
  • Member #3: Must be from outside the home academic unit.

Doctoral Degrees by Special Arrangement

As in Regular Doctoral Degree Programs, with the provisos that at least one member must be from an academic unit with an active PhD program, and at least one member must have supervised a successful PhD candidate.

Individual Interdisciplinary Doctoral Degrees

As in Regular Doctoral Degree Programs, with the provisos that there must be co-supervisors from two relevant academic units, at least one of whom must be from an academic unit with an active PhD program and at least one member must have supervised a successful PhD candidate.

  1. Enriched 600 level courses will be the basis for the “fields” in which candidates write comprehensive exams.  Course instructors will also be the field supervisors and examiners.
  2. Enriched 600 level courses will involve the same course work as the 500 version of the course plus additional assignments: 1) an expanded reading list which will bring the reading requirements in the course up to 50 books or the equivalent.  This list to be decided by the course instructor with input from the student.   2) The preparation of a syllabus for a survey course in the area including a list of lecture topics.
  3. The independent study course will also have a reading list of 50 books or the equivalent and will normally focus on the candidate’s intended area of dissertation research.
  4. Students will receive a letter grade for each of the enriched courses and the independent study course.
  5. Students choose three courses from the list of geographical and topical field courses and are strongly encouraged to choose from both. Geographical field courses are defined by territorial or regional boundaries.  Topical field courses examine  significant themes that cut across geographical or temporal boundaries, such as social, military, intellectual/cultural, family, women’s, indigenous, gender, religious, colonial, world or maritime history.  With the approval of the graduate advisor, students may also take a 1.5 unit course in another department.
  6. Major and minor fields may be defined either topically or geographically.  Normally students will choose one of the enriched courses and complement it with the independent study course to constitute their major field; the other two enriched courses will provide the basis for two minor fields of study.  Students may also combine two linked enriched courses (ie., Pre and Post Confederation Canada) into a major field and use the independent study course for a minor field.
  7. It is recommended that field supervisors arrange to meet the doctoral students in their 600 level courses periodically throughout the term to discuss the books on the full reading list.
  8. Doctoral students are expected to take the three enriched courses in successive terms during the first fall, spring and second fall terms of their enrolment in the program and complete the written comprehensive exam following the conclusion of each course.  The independent study course will normally be taken during the same term as the course serving as the basis for a student’s major field and be examined as part of that field.   Comprehensive exams will be graded on a pass fail basis.
  9. In special cases, Ph.D. students may be allowed, with the approval of the graduate advisor, to take two field courses in the same term, and write one of the comprehensive exams the following term. Students must pass all three comprehensive exams. A student failing only one comprehensive exam will be allowed to rewrite that one exam a single time.   
  1. After successfully completing the written comprehensive exams, a doctoral student will make a presentation of his/her dissertation proposal to their supervisory committee at a meeting chaired by the graduate advisor. This process will normally occur during the spring term of a student’s second year in the program.  The student will submit, at least two weeks in advance of the dissertation proposal defence, a paper introducing the topic, the method, and the sources of the proposed thesis of at least 20 pages in length.  The defence will consist of an initial 15 minute presentation by the student, and one or two rounds of questions from each member of the supervisory committee. The proposal is graded on a pass/fail basis; that outcome is entered as the student’s grade for HSTR 695. Students are allowed a second attempt should they fail the process on the first try. Highly motivated students who satisfy normal program requirements will be allowed to present their dissertation proposal before the spring of their second year, with permission of the graduate advisor.
  2. During at least the first two years of the Ph.D. program, students are expected to attend the Graduate Student Workshop series of presentations and departmental lectures on a regular basis.
  3. The dissertation will be graded on a pass/fail basis.

When you begin writing your thesis there are many resources available to you through the faculty of Graduate Studies.  If you have questions please contact our graduate assistant.

Before you defend your thesis there are a number of steps that you must take.


  • Supervisor needs a minimum of three weeks to review the final draft of your thesis
  • Once your supervisor approves your final draft it then goes to your additional committee members
  • Additional committee members require a minimum of three weeks to review your final thesis draft
  • Submit request for oral examination form to grad studies once all committee members have examined the thesis and are satisfied that it represents an examinable document for the degree requirements.  This form must be received by grad studies 30 working days before your oral defense (not including the day of the defense).

The oral defence take 2 to 2.5 hours.  The student will give a 15 minute presentation at the beginning, followed by a question period that starts with the external examiner.