The MA Program

Criteria for Admission

1. Faculty Criteria

Canadian applicants for the Master’s degree must hold an Honours or Bachelor’s degree requiring at least four years of study with a minimum overall average in the B+ grade range (76% at UBC) in third and fourth year-level courses prescribed by the Department concerned as a prerequisite to the Master’s program.  Applicants from other countries should consult requirements posted on the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website

2. Department Criteria

The marking practices of universities differ greatly, and UBC considers each application for graduate studies on an individual basis. As a general rule, successful applicants will have minimum first-class standing (80% or higher at UBC or equivalent) in each of the last two years of undergraduate study, in accordance with the criteria for graduate funding in the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. No student with an overall average of less than 75% or its equivalent in his/her final two years should consider graduate studies in this Department. Students from American colleges and universities which use letter grades should have at least a B+ average. Where a graduate point system is used, students should have a grade point average of 3.3 or better on a 4-point scale in their final 2 years.  In the case of students from British universities, an Upper Second Class (or Class II, Division I) is normally acceptable for full standing in the M.A. program if the student is well recommended.  In the case of students from Asian universities, we normally require clear first-class standing for the entirety of their undergraduate degree program. A Master’s degree from Indian and Pakistani universities is usually regarded as the equivalent of an honours B.A. if the student is well recommended.  The Department does not have enough experience with continental European, African, and Latin American universities to have established grade equivalents. Assistance in determining grade equivalents for foreign universities is provided by the Registrar’s Office and the Faculty of Graduate Studies. The Department generally requires further preparatory undergraduate course work by students more than five years away from their most recent undergraduate training. Exceptions will be made to this rule only in unusual circumstances, and, in most cases, only after a personal interview.

For admission to full standing, students should usually have had significant political science coursework in the last two years of their undergraduate program. Students not meeting this criterion, but with superior undergraduate records in other disciplines, are also encouraged to apply. The Department reserves the right to require admitted students with a weak background in the social sciences to make up deficiencies with some additional coursework. To aid the Department in evaluating the work of students from outside Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, such students may be required to provide an example of their work in English.  This will preferably be a term paper or other piece of political analysis.

The graduate program is rigorous and concentrated.  While many M.A. students will not continue academic work beyond the M.A., they should recognize that the graduate program is designed to involve students in the development of the discipline of Political Science.

Students’ economic circumstances will not be considered in the admissions process.  The department makes every effort to use the resources at its disposal to provide each student with sufficient financial support to meet the costs of graduate education and of living within Vancouver.

The Department strongly encourages applications from women, visible minorities, persons with disabilities, and aboriginal persons. In making admissions decisions with respect to applicants with comparable academic records, the department encourages the faculty members of the Graduate Admissions and Awards Committee to consider the diversity of the incoming class.  In considering applications for admission, the Graduate Admissions and Awards Committee will also look beyond the formal academic transcripts and consider work or personal experience of the applicant that may be relevant to the proposed program of studies.

3. English Language Requirements for the M.A. Program

There must be clear evidence that the applicant is competent to pursue studies in the English language. Applicants whose degrees are from a country other than Australia, Botswana, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, New Zealand, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States and the English speaking countries of the West Indies are required to submit a satisfactory TOEFL score of at least 550 (some departments may require higher scores) before any offer of admission is made.  Score reports more than two years old will not be accepted. TOEFL may be waived if the applicant has already passed the GCE A- level English examination with a minimum grade of “B”.

A test of English proficiency is required for all applicants who do not have a prior degree from a Canadian institution or from a program in which English was the primary language of instruction. If your degree is from Canada or the primary language of instruction was English, you do not need to provide English-proficiency test scores. We accept either TOEFL or IELTS scores, with the minimum required scores as follows:

  • TOEFL score of 92 for the internet-based Test (iBT), with minimum scores for listening of 22, reading of 22, speaking of 23, and writing of 25. For the paper-based test (PBT), we also require the Test of Written English and require scores that are minimally equivalent to the internet-based minimum scores.
  • an IELTS (academic component) score of 6.5 overall, with a minimum score of 6.0 in each of the four components (listening, reading, speaking, and writing)

We cannot consider the application until we have the official test report.  UBC is an English language institution and as such deficiencies in English language skills will affect academic performance.  Satisfactory TOEFL and TWE scores do not guarantee that students are adequately prepared for graduate study in English.  Such proficiency ultimately is the responsibility of the student.  Students with special needs can make special arrangements with the Educational Testing Service, which administers the GRE and TOEFL tests, or alternatively, apply to the graduate admissions committee to waive either requirement.

In evaluations of student performance, the Political Science Graduate Program makes no allowances for students who lack fluency in English. Academically oriented English language instruction is offered, for a fee by both the English Language Institute (ELI) and the Writing Centre on campus.  If a problem is identified, individuals may wish to defer commencement of their graduate studies to pursue language instruction, or proceed part-time while taking language courses simultaneously.

Categories of Students in the M.A. Program

According to Faculty regulations, admission to the M.A. program will be in one of the following two categories:

Granted to applicants who hold the Bachelor’s degree with the required academic standing appropriate to the field of the proposed Master’s program.

Granted to students with deficiencies in standing, or who do not have the necessary prerequisites.  Prerequisite courses normally are taken in the first year concurrently with courses on the graduate program but are not counted as credit toward the Master’s degree.

As the number of fully prepared applicants exceeds the number who can be accepted, the Department is normally unwilling to accept provisional students.  Exceptions to this generally restrictive policy are most likely to be made for candidates who are deficient in Political Science courses, but who have an unusually good undergraduate record, and who can present a strong case for their likely success in political science.  Exceptions may also be made in the case of students who are more than 5 years away from their undergraduate training, but who otherwise meet the admissions criteria of the Department.

Faculty regulations for Qualifying Year

Upon the recommendation of the department, students with a Bachelor’s degree who lack prerequisites for a chosen field of graduate study may be permitted to register as qualifying students for no more than one year.  Satisfactory completion of a qualifying year does not guarantee admission to a graduate program.  Up to 12 credits of eligible courses may be applied to the graduate degree program provided prior permission to register in these courses was obtained from the Department and the Dean of Graduate Studies.  Qualifying status is granted only to those students who are recommended for such status by the Departments concerned.

Such students may only take graduate courses with the special permission of the Graduate Admissions and Awards Committee and the Faculty member in charge of the graduate course.  Our experience with qualifying year students has been generally unfavourable. As a result, we do not encourage students in this category, nor do we normally allow graduate credit for courses taken in the qualifying year.  A student wishing to do a qualifying year must convince the Graduate Admissions and Awards Committee that there are cogent reasons why he/she should be admitted to this classification.  If the Committee is convinced, a program of studies will be drawn up in consultation with the student and submitted to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies for additional scrutiny and decision.  Occasionally, the Graduate Admissions and Awards Committee will be asked to approve a course of study for a qualifying year student who has no aspirations for graduate studies.  Such cases will be considered on their individual merits.

Requirements for the M.A. Program

  1. If the degree is not awarded within a period of five years from initial registration, the student’s candidacy will be terminated and the student will be required to withdraw from the program.  Extension of candidacy will be granted under exceptional circumstances.
  2. The progress of all students studying for a Master’s degree will be reviewed from time to time and at least once a year in the spring by the department concerned and the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.  A candidate may be required to withdraw if progress has not been satisfactory as shown by course work that does not meet the requirements, an excessive number of credits below 68% or courses with incomplete standing, unsatisfactory progress on the thesis or graduating essay, or failure to satisfy additional requirements of the Department or Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

Students must complete 30 credits in total to receive the M.A. degree in political science. These are comprised of:

Courses (18 credits):

At least 12 credits of graduate course work must be taken within the Department.  Up to 6 credits may be taken in another department or at the senior undergraduate level. However, students must get specific, prior approval from both the Director of the Graduate Program and their supervisor (or initial academic contact) for any course taken outside the Department or at the senior undergraduate level. Note also that approval will be granted only for courses that are taught to a broadly similar academic standard to courses in our own graduate program. Senior undergraduate courses and courses in professional Master’s programs may not be taught to the same academic standard as courses in academic graduate programs, and so may not be approved for credit. Students wishing to take a course outside the department should consult with the Graduate Director first in order to identify any difficulties that might arise. Where the outside course is not comparable in rigour to a Political Science graduate course, the student may need to ask the course instructor to make adjustments to course readings and assignments in order to bring the requirements up to a comparable standard to an academic graduate course.

Thesis (12 credits):

Students are generally expected to complete the requirements for the M.A. in one calendar year.  The 18 credits of course work will be taken during the winter session from September to April and the thesis written in the succeeding spring and summer.  Students with deficiencies may continue their course work in the subsequent year. Please see here for more details.

M.A. Thesis

  1. The subject matter and orientation of the thesis must be within the generally recognized boundaries of Political Science. In practical terms, any topic for which a Thesis Supervisor within the department can be obtained will be acceptable.  It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the necessary source materials are available.  Students should feel free to consult Department members for suggestions as to possible thesis topics.
  2. See Sections I.C (9) and (10) above for information concerning selection of Thesis Supervisor and selection and composition of M.A. Thesis Examination Committee. The student must identify and secure agreement from an appropriate faculty member to serve as supervisor of the thesis, and my consult with the Graduate Director to identify the appropriate supervisor.
  3. The M.A. thesis will consist of a research paper which has as its model an article for submission for publication (normally between 8,000 and 12,000 words in length, including notes). The thesis will typically originate as a research paper in a graduate seminar and undergo revision under the direction of a Political Science faculty member (normally the seminar instructor).
  4. If the thesis does not originate as a research paper in a seminar, the student should prepare a thesis prospectus by the end of April which indicates the nature of the topic he/she plans to investigate, the specific research methods and plans to be followed in the study, and the body of literature, relevant materials, etc. to be used. The approval of the prospectus rests with the Thesis Supervisor.
  5. After the thesis topic is approved, and until the final evaluation of the finished thesis, the student’s primary contact will be with their Supervisor. The candidate must keep in frequent touch in order to receive advice and to report on the progress of the research.  If their research does not permit them to be in Vancouver, such reports can be submitted by mail or email.
  6. In the progress of their research students will inevitably make slight changes in their topics. Major changes, however, can be made only with the approval of the Thesis Supervisor.
  7. Once the thesis is nearing completion, the student should consult with their supervisor and/or the Director of the Graduate Program to identify a second reader and seek that person’s agreement to serve as the second member of the two-person thesis examination committee. The student should consult with the supervisor and second reader to ensure that both will be available for projected possible dates for an oral examination. The second reader should not have had extensive involvement in the development of the thesis (e.g., should not have provided comments on a prior draft).
  8. While the Supervisor should be an important source of advice and aid to the student, they are not responsible for the final quality of the thesis, or for its final disposition by the Thesis Examination Committee. The fact that the Supervisor allows a thesis to go before the Examination Committee for evaluation does not guarantee that the committee will accept the thesis.  If, however, a thesis that the Supervisor considers unacceptable is being placed before the Committee for final disposition, the fact that the Supervisor considers it unacceptable must be made known to the student.
  9. Students must be aware of the technical requirements for the preparation of a thesis contained in the brochure of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, Instructions for the Preparation of Graduate Theses. As far as style is concerned, students may use any of the widely accepted formats in Political Science, such as the Turabian (Chicago) or MLA styles. The UBC Library website provides citation style guides for your reference. Proofreading and extensive editing for style and grammar are not among the tasks the Supervisor and Second Reader are expected to perform.
  10. When the thesis has been approved by the supervisor, the student or supervisor must send a copy to the second reader.
  11. The Oral Examination of the thesis will then be scheduled. The Oral Examination will be announced to the Department in advance and all members of the Department are welcome to attend. At the Examination, the candidate will make an oral presentation of approximately 20 minutes, summarizing the content of the thesis. Following the presentation, the Thesis Examination Committee will ask the candidate questions to assess the quality of the research and the candidate’s mastery of the thesis’s subject matter. Questions may also be asked by audience members. At the conclusion of the questioning, the Examination Committee will deliberate in camera over the assessment of the thesis.
  12. A thesis may be accepted as presented, accepted on condition of revisions being made, or rejected. A successful thesis must be approved by both the supervisor and second reader. Where revisions are required, these will be submitted to and approved by the thesis supervisor within 30 days.In case of rejection, the student will be required to withdraw from the M.A. program.
  13. An accepted thesis will receive a grade jointly be determined by the thesis supervisor and the second reader. The supervisor must complete a thesis report and assign the grade on the MA Thesis and Examination Report form, and both Examination Committee members must sign the form and return it to the Director of the Graduate Program.
  14. The grade assigned to a successful thesis will jointly be determined by the thesis supervisor and the second reader. The supervisor must complete a thesis report and assign the grade on the MA Thesis and Examination Report form, and both Examination Committee members must sign the form and return it to the Director of the Graduate Program.
  15. When the thesis has been accepted, the student must submit the thesis to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies as required according to their procedures, including submitting the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies MA thesis and Program Completion form with required signatures.
  16. It is customary for the successful candidate to provide one copy of their thesis to the Political Science Reading Room, and one copy to their supervisor.

Review of the Progress of M.A. Students

Faculty regulations stipulate that “a candidate may be required to withdraw if progress has not been satisfactory."

  1. The Department undertakes an annual review of each student’s progress in late spring.  The review is carried out by the Director of the Graduate Program in consultation with faculty who have taught or supervised each graduate student. The Director of the Graduate Program will send a letter to each student currently in the program summarizing the student’s performance and raising any concerns about progress in the program.
  2. Students whose performance is unsatisfactory will enter a probationary period, with continued enrollment in the program dependent on further progress during this period. The student will be informed of the specific criteria and timeline that the Department will apply in reviewing their performance and progress during the probationary period.
  3. A request that a student withdraw will be made by the Graduate Program Director only after the student has failed to meet the criteria or timeline established for the probationary period, after thorough consultation with those faculty who have taught or supervised the student, and after the student has been given an opportunity to present their case for remaining in the program, including by drawing attention to any extenuating circumstances that might warrant consideration.
  4. Evaluations of student performance will take into account health and personal difficulties that may impede academic progress. Students facing extenuating health or personal circumstances that they believe warrant consideration in assessments of their performance and progress must request either a concession or academic accommodation.

Students facing ongoing difficulties making progress should also consider taking a leave of absence from the program:

  1. Concession: Students facing mental or physical health issues; unanticipated changes in personal responsibilities; or traumatic events, sexual assault, or death in the family or of a close friend that prevent the student from completing specific course requirements on time should request a concession from the course instructor. Students may also contact the Graduate Program Director to help arrange course-specific concessions.
  2. Academic accommodation: Students with ongoing medical conditions or disabilities that affect their studies for more than one term should register with the Centre for Accessibility and seek an academic accommodation.
  3. Leaves of absence: Students whose health or personal circumstances, including parental or other care responsibilities, prevent them from making adequate progress in the program for an extended period should consider taking a leave of absence from the program. A leave of absence “stops the clock” on program deadlines. Moreover, no tuition fees are owed during on-leave terms (only a nominal on-leave fee is owed), and students are not expected to make any academic progress while on leave. See here for more information on leaves of absence. See also information on parental accommodation.
  4. Extensions: Extenuating circumstances not of the student’s making may justify allowing the student additional time to complete his or her degree program. See here for more information about requesting an extension. Requests for extensions must usually be accompanied by documentation of the reason for the extension request.

External Supervision of M.A. Students

In exceptional circumstances, supervision by a non-political science faculty member may be allowed in the MA program.

  • The student must make a case that the relevant supervisory expertise is not available in the Department,
  • The student must make a case that the supervisor has sufficient expertise to supervise a thesis that will meet Political Science disciplinary expectations;
  • Based on the above, the initial academic advisor and Grad Advisor both see this outside supervisor as appropriate and give their approval.
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