Frequently asked questions

When should I start the application process?

  • Prospective students typically begin contacting their potential supervisors in the Spring or Fall of the year before they would start their programme. As soon as possible is the best approach to take when beginning the application process.
  • The admission deadline is January 15th. While each prospective supervisor has their own preferences, many recommend the initial contact to be made a year in advance of your intended start date. Make sure you have connected with your prospective supervisor(s) in advance of the admission deadline and follow-up with them to ensure they will have the capacity to supervise you (three to six months prior to deadline). Please visit the 'How do I find a prospective supervisor?' question for more information on what details to include in your inquiries. If you cannot find a prospective supervisor who is willing to encourage your application, admission is very unlikely. We endeavor to provide admissions offers not later than mid-April, although admission offers can roll out through May and June as well. Under some circumstances, especially for PhD applicants, we can entertain alternate entry dates (January, May). 
  • We strongly encourage both domestic and international students to apply for major scholarships and fellowships. Please see 'What financial support is available?' tab. These applications are typically due a year in advance of your programme start date. 
Note: To write a strong application to our programme and for scholarship/fellowship funding, you need to have a sense of what kind of study you will undertake. This means that you should be in touch with prospective supervisors well in advance of major scholarship/fellowship deadlines.

What are the areas of emphasis offered by the School of Environmental Studies?

The School of Environmental Studies Undergraduate curriculum focuses on three distinctive streams of research: Political Ecology, Ecological Restoration, and Ethnoecology. While these three streams do continue to play a prominent role in our graduate studies, prospective students are encouraged to visit the current research page in order to learn more about what research our individual faculty members are involved with and what opportunities are available for prospective students. Please also visit our student research page to learn more about what research our current students are working on.

What subjects do we NOT offer?

The fact that we focus on three streams of research (political ecology, ecological restoration, and ethnoecology) means there are many subjects we do not support or represent. We do not, for example, typically support work in  environmental toxicology, remediation, environmental chemistry, or environmental engineering.

What programs do we offer?

All of our graduate programs are research thesis-based, requiring an independent advanced research project. We offer graduate courses, some of which are required, but we do not offer a course-based graduate program. You must come prepared to pursue an independent research program. Presently, we offer:

  • MA and MSc degrees, which are distinguished in practice only by the research subject area and your academic background;
  • A PhD degree;
  • We are an affiliate of the Cultural, Social and Political Thought Program. In order to learn more about the admission process and requirements to this programme, please visit their website here.

Should I visit the School before applying?

Yes! We encourage prospective students to visit the University of Victoria. There are other options for Campus Tours including  a virtual tour. If you are interested in coming to campus to tour our School of Environmental Studies, we encourage you to reach out to your prospective supervisor to arrange a visit. While you are on campus, you can also take a general tour of the university, which can help orient you to the campus. While you are here, it is a great idea to familiarize yourself with the city of Victoria, the transit system and the many things that the island has to offer to see if it would be a good fit.  For those unable to travel, we recommend telephone and video calls.

Who should apply?

We encourage students from any academic and professional background who find a strong fit with our programme to apply. Students who are training in fields that seem somewhat remote from our specialties will need to make it plain why they wish to make a transition. Generally speaking, students with a strong background in the humanities, social/policy sciences, and fine arts would apply for an MA degree program, while students with backgrounds in the natural, physical and applied sciences would apply for an MSc degree.

What is required for successful admission?

Admission to the School of Environmental Studies’ graduate programs is highly competitive, and depends on three primary criteria:

  1. Academic record (A- or 7 on the 9-point scale or 3.7 on the 4.0 scale during the last two years of full-time academic study);
  2. Mutually agreeable research project confirmed with a prospective supervisor;
  3. Established funding strategy (see What financial support is available? below)

Are other qualifications taken into account?

While academic achievement is the clearest predictor of success in graduate studies, it is not the only one. We take into account remarkable personal and professional achievements that show commitment and ability to work at an advanced level.

What is the admissions process?

All students apply directly to the University of Victoria. Detailed information can be found at http://www.uvic.ca/graduatestudies/admissions/admissions/apply/index.php.

There are specific requirements for the School of Environmental Studies, which can be found at http://www.uvic.ca/socialsciences/environmental/graduate/admission-requirements/index.php.

Assuming your application is complete, it will undergo the following adjudication steps:

  • UVic’s Graduate Awards and Records Office (GARO) will review applications to determine if they meet minimum requirements. All applications are forwarded to the School of Environmental Studies.
  • The Graduate Program Committee (GPC) in the School of Environmental Studies (Graduate Adviser, Graduate Secretary, two faculty members) reviews applications to ascertain which applicants are a strong potential fit with members of the Environmental Studies faculty.
  • Faculty members will review applications that fit more-or-less their areas of interest and specialty. Each faculty member provides a ranked list of applicants they are willing to support (as supervisor, co-supervisor or committee member).
  • The GPC meets to create a list of students who have made it past the screening process to this point (i.e., meet minimum requirements, and have a faculty sponsor). A variety of factors, including academic, personal and professional achievements, and the ranked preferences of faculty.
  • All offers go out with a financial offer based on UVic fellowships, awards and teaching assistantships as well as faculty research contributions. Internal funding is very limited. Student applications for external fellowships, scholarships and awards (e.g., SSHRC, NSERC) are strongly encouraged.

When is the application deadline and notification of admission?

Completed applications are due by January 15th for admission commencing the following September. We endeavor to provide admissions offers not later than March 1st, although admissions offers can roll out through March and into April. Under some circumstances, especially for PhD applicants, we can entertain alternate entry dates (January, May).

How do I find a prospective supervisor?

The first step in finding a prospective supervisor is to scan our current research page to determine which professors are doing work that aligns with your interests. You should contact prospective supervisors well in advance to determine whether there is a mutually satisfying research project – see When should I start the application process?. There are many factors that go into making a good supervisory relationship, and this starts with realizing that a successful research project is one that is interesting to both student and supervisor. This means that your specific interests may need to bend to accommodate specific projects.  

Once you have identified one or more prospective professors who seem to share your interests, be sure to visit and study their research website (where available).

Once you have a good understanding of your prospective supervisor’s interests, write them a brief email (2-3 paragraphs) explaining your background and academic interests, including a statement describing the topics you are interested and willing to work on. Things to include: 

  • A targeted inquiry to reflect your familiarity with your potential supervisor’s research (e.g., You’ve read one or more of their publications, or you know that someone is working on a major research project and you’d like to be a part of it). 
  • A copy of relevant academic transcripts (unofficial are okay for initial contact), a résumé or CV, a statement describing your research interests. 
  • Some prospective supervisors have guidance for prospective students on their websites, so make sure to check to see if what the prospective supervisor would like to see as part of the initial inquiry.

How do I contact a prospective supervisor?

You’ve identified one or more prospective professors who seem to share your interests. What to do next? Be sure to visit their research website and read their letter to prospective students (where available). Write them a brief e-mail (2-3 paragraphs) explaining briefly your background (e.g., interests, academic training), and a brief statement of the kinds of things you are interested in working on. Try to make your interest statement something in between very specific (e.g., community-based mangrove restoration in Thailand) and very broad (e.g., ecological restoration). Target your inquiry to reflect your familiarity with a potential supervisor’s research (e.g., you’ve read one or more of their publications, or you know that someone is working on a major research project and you’d like to be part of this). Please attach a copy of relevant transcripts (informal versions are fine at this stage), a resumé and any additional statements of your interest. If you can combine these in a single PDF document, this is appreciated. If you are uncertain who to contact, feel free to write the Graduate Programme Advisor for advice esgrad@uvic.ca.

How competitive is the admissions process?

Very. We attract many more strong applicants than we can admit. We have historically admitted on average 14 students (MA/MSc/PhD) each year.

What duration are the programs?


  • MA/MSc: 2-3 years full-time.  One year of coursework and thesis proposal preparation, and one to two years of thesis research and writing.
  • PhD: 4-5 years full-time. Studies conducted with one year of coursework and candidacy requirements completed in the first two years of study.

The Restoration of Natural Systems programme offers a number of credentials that can be combined with our graduate research programs. These diploma and certificate programs can be taken at the same time as graduate studies (some conditions apply). More information can be found here. Co-op terms may also be taken in conjunction with our graduate studies programs. Please note that all of these options will extend the time required to complete your program. Please visit the Co-op for Graduate Students page here to learn more.

What are the residency requirements?

There is no formal residency requirement, but students are required to participate in weekly classroom-based coursework during the first year of their studies. Any arrangements to live elsewhere after courses are completed need to be agreed upon by your supervisor.

What language competency is required?

Students must meet the minimum English language proficiency as determined by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Please visit the Faculty of Graduate Studies page in order to determine which criteria is to be met for admissibility.

What financial support is available?

Very limited financial support is available directly from the University of Victoria. A significant proportion of our students are funded from external fellowships, scholarships, and awards that they apply for. Such funding provides essential financial support and confers prestige on students, but also allows UVic funding to stretch farther. Thus, we encourage Canadian applicants to seek out external funding such as SSHRC, NSERC, and Trudeau Foundation fellowships. International students may be eligible for awards from their home countries, international programmes, or limited Canadian programmes that support international students (e.g., Vanier PhD Fellowship). Extensive lead times are required for these applications, and applications are typically due September-November in the year prior to commencing studies. 

We aim is to offer reasonable and competitive funding offers by combining student funding success with UVic fellowships and awards, supervisor research stipends, and bursaries. Teaching assistantships are also an opportunity available to graduate students, but these are not integrated with offers of admission. Students are discouraged from self-funding due to the rigorous nature of embarking upon postgraduate studies.  Applicants should apply for and secure funding before the intended start date. 

International students should be aware that external funding is likely to be essential for successful completion of their programs. There may be awards available to international students that are not available for Canadian students. Typically, we cannot provide sufficient UVic-based funding to cover the expenses for international students. Please visit this link to learn more about funding and employment opportunities for all incoming students.