Frequently asked questions

Essential to know before applying...

  • Successful admission to the graduate program in the School of Environmental Studies depends on two primary criteria: 1. Academic and professional accomplishments; 2. Fit with a prospective supervisor.
  • Typically, successful students apply with a very strong academic record (A- or better).
  • Admissions are competitive. We tend to pre-screen applicants so that those applying have already made contact with prospective supervisors. Of those who do apply, about 1 in 3 receive offers.
  • It is best to begin scoping out opportunities for graduate students well in advance, typically a year in advance of when you hope to start your studies.
  • Internal funding from UVic—awards, scholarship and teaching assistantships—is limited and used primarily for recruitment in the first year of studies.
  • Students are encouraged to seek significant external funding (e.g., SSHRC, NSERC) to support their studies. This is especially important at the doctoral level. Pursuing this before arriving at UVic is a good way to work with your prospective supervisor to develop potential research projects.
  • Make sure to connect with prospective supervisors well in advance of the admissions deadline (3-6 months). If you cannot find an appropriate match, admission is unlikely.

What are the strengths of the School of Environmental Studies?

The School of Environmental Studies is interdisciplinary and focuses on three distinctive streams of scholarship: political ecology; ecological restoration; and ethnoecology. These three streams braid together, and many of our students work in more than one.

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 type of programs do we offer?

All of our graduate programs are research-based, requiring an independent advanced research project. We offer a few courses, some of which are required, but we do not offer a course-based graduate program. Hence, you must come prepared to tackle an independent research program. Presently we offer:
  • MA and MSc degrees, which are distinguished in practice only by the subject area you tackle and your academic background;
  • A small PhD program, for which we welcomed our first students in September 2014; 
  • Jointly with the Division of Continuing Studies we offer Diploma and Certificate programmes in the Restoration of Natural Systems, and a Professional Specialization Certificate in Native Species and Natural Processes.

These professional training programmes can be a good addition to our graduate research programs, and can be taken at the same time as graduate studies (some conditions apply).

Should I visit the School before applying?

Yes! We encourage prospective students to visit the University of Victoria. There is no better way to tell whether this is the right place for you. The Student Welcome Centre has excellent resources to help acquaint you to UVic and Victoria. The Graduate Program Adviser in the School of Environmental Studies can provide an orientation to the School, and help you line up meetings with prospective supervisors. 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 are the admission requirements?

There are two primary requirements for successful admission. First, you must demonstrate a record of academic accomplishment. We look for a minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) 7.0 (UVic 9-point scale) over the last two years of full-time undergraduate study, which equates (approximately) to an A-, 80% or 3.7/4.0 depending on which grading scale is used by your undergraduate institution. Allowance is sometimes made for professional and volunteer experience, but demonstration of academic proficiency is still required. Second, there must be a strong and confirmed research connection with a prospective supervisor. It is not sufficient to have a strong academic record in one of the School’s areas of emphasis (political ecology, ethnoecology, ecological restoration); you must make contact well in advance with faculty members you think would make appropriate supervisors. Students will not be admitted without an appropriate faculty supervisor.

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

There are specific requirements for the School of Environmental Studies, which can be found at

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?

Conducting a successful graduate degree in the School of Environmental Studies depends on cultivating and maintaining a strong professional relationship with an academic supervisor. All incoming students must have a supervisor, and typically supervisors will not agree to work with a student unless they have some prior contact with the applicant (i.e., prior to the formal application). Thus, all prospective students should contact prospective supervisors well in advance to determine whether there is a mutually satisfying research project. 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. For example, let’s say that you’re interested in community-based restoration of mangrove ecosystems, and there’s no faculty member who shares this particular interest. However, by exercising a bit of flexibility you might find someone willing to supervise a community-based restoration project in a different ecosystem. The first step in finding a prospective supervisor is to scan our faculty listings in the School to determine which professors are doing work that connects with your interests. Write them with an initial inquiry (see “How do I contact a prospective supervisor”).

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

When should I start the application process?

It isn’t unusual, for instance, for prospective students to contact prospective supervisors in the Spring or Fall of the year before they would start their program (e.g., May or September 2014 for a September 2015 start). As soon as possible is the best approach. Our annual admission deadline is January 15th  (December 15th for international applicants) and most professors have already had strong inquiries many months in advance. We encourage all students (Canadian and International) to apply for major scholarships and fellowships (see “Financial Support”), and these applications are typically due in the fall of the year prior to the start of your program (e.g., September to November 2014 for a September 2015 program start). To write a strong application to our program and for scholarship/fellowship funding, you need to have a sense of what kind of study you will undertake. Thus, this means that you should be in touch with prospective supervisors well in advance of major scholarship/fellowship deadlines.

How competitive is the admissions process?

We attract more strong applicants than we can accommodate. Our programmes have grown more competitive since their inception in 2007, and admissions success varies from year-to-year: we admit between 30% and 50% of those who apply. Our pre-screening process (see “Contacting a Prospective Supervisor”) tends to limit most naïve applications. We have historically admitted on average 12 students each year. Each professor has a limited capacity annually, and may be able to take on between 0 and 3 students (with 1 or 2 most common). Our new PhD program will have a small annual intake (1-3 students), and will over time place limits on the number of MA/MSc students we can admit.

How long are the programmes?

For MA/MSc programmes, count on one year of coursework and thesis proposal preparation, and one year of thesis research and writing. Typically, students who conduct fieldwork will do so at the end of their first year of study. Some students can take longer in their programmes, but we do not encourage students to spend more than two years of full-time study.

For the PhD programme, we estimate that students will spend 4 to 5 years of full-time study with coursework and candidacy requirements completed in the first two years.

What are the residency requirements?

There is no formal residency requirement. However, students will need to manage coursework during their first year that requires them to manage weekly commitments. If you are taking time away from a professional commitment, or are juggling family commitments elsewhere, we advise that you commit to living in Victoria at least during the first term of your first year of study, and then book in periodic intensive visits throughout your studies.

What language competency is required?

Students must meet at least minimum English language proficiency as determined by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Details are provided on the Faculty of Graduate Studies website:

To be more specific, “Applicants whose first language is not English, and who have not resided in a designated English-speaking country for three years immediately prior to the entry-point applied for, must provide proof of English language proficiency.  Normally this is done by providing results directly to the university from a TOEFL, IELTS or MELAB test. Official test score reports must be sent directly to the University of Victoria by the testing agency. Scores older than two years are not acceptable. Applicants holding a recognized degree from a designated English-speaking country are exempted from the language proficiency requirements.

“For the internet-based TOEFL (IBT), we require a minimum of 90 with the following minimum section requirements: Listening 20; Speaking 20; Reading 20; Writing 20. The minimum acceptable TOEFL score is 575 on the paper-based test. Individual departments may set a higher standard. This requirement will not be waived.”

“A minimum Overall Band Score of 6.5, with no score less of less than 6.0 on each individual component on the Academic IELTS is required. Note than any IELTS test, other than the Academic test, will not be accepted.”

What financial support is available?

Students are encouraged to apply for external financial support (awards, scholarships, fellowship, research grants, sponsorships).. Many of our students are successful with external fellowships, scholarships and awards. Such funding provides essential financial support and confers prestige on students, but also allows UVic funding to stretch farther. Thus, we encourage all students to seek out external funding such as national SSHRC, NSERC, and Trudeau Foundation fellowships. Extensive lead times are required for these applications, typically September -November in the year prior to commencing studies.

Students work with prospective supervisors to construct a portfolio of funding for their graduate studies from a variety of sources, including external fellowships and scholarships, UVic fellowships, scholarships and awards, bursaries, teaching and research assistantships, grant support, and personal finances. An offer of financial support typically accompanies an admissions offer. The amount of the award varies and amounts can be higher depending on external funding (including top-up awards), and teaching and research assistantships. Our aim is to offer reasonable and competitive offers with leading universities in Canada, and our emphasis is on strong recruitment offers for the first year of study. Students are encouraged to work with their supervisor on ensuring funding throughout their program, and this often involves significant initiative on the part of the student.

International students should be aware that external funding might 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 of international students.