About the IDST Program

The Shape of the Program

All Bachelor of Arts students must earn at least 120 credits, of which 48 must be at the 300- or 400- level, and must also meet the Faculty of Arts Requirements for Writing, Research, Language, Literature and Science. IDST students typically fulfill their research requirement with a course in the discipline (e.g. History) chosen in their primary category (e.g. Humanities).

It is in the specialization for the B.A. that IDST is different: its students create a coherent, thematically related program of their own design, made up of 42 credits of upper-level coursework, chosen from two of the IDST’s four categories – Humanities, Social Sciences, Creative and Performing Arts or Science – of which one will be the Primary Category and another the Secondary.

Below is a diagram of the most common IDST program model:

Primary Category
30 credits from upper-level courses in total

18 credits from courses in a single discipline
12 credits from courses within the Primary Category, but outside the single discipline


Secondary Category
12 credits from upper-level courses
in any disciplines within one of the other three Categories


In the Primary Category, students must earn 30 upper-level credits from courses with a coherent thematic focus. Of these, 18 must come from single discipline, while the remaining 12 credits must be from within the same category, but from outside that discipline.

In choosing Primary Category courses from outside the main discipline, students may earn their 12 credits in a single subject, but they need not do so.

Some examples:

Primary Category: Social Sciences with 18 credits of Sociology, plus 3 credits from each of Anthropology, Economics, Psychology and Political Science.

Primary Category: Social Sciences with 18 credits of Psychology, plus 12 from Linguistics.

Primary Category: Humanities with 18 credits of English, plus 9 credits from Asian Studies and 3 from Art History.


In the Secondary Category, students must earn 12 upper-level credits, which are not restricted to any specific discipline, although students should keep in mind the overall thematic coherence of their program: there should be some synergy between primary and secondary categories.


One significant deviation from this model is permitted: an IDST student with an average of at least 75% may apply to take 24 credits within a single discipline, and only 6 outside it, to fulfill the total 30 credits required in the Primary Category.

IDST constitutes a complete and unique specialization for the B.A. and cannot be combined with an Honours, Major, or Minor program in any other field or Faculty.

Admission to the IDST is by formal application, including:

  • a program of study for the 42 credits of upper-level coursework, comprising the 18-credit core discipline and the 12 additional credits in the Primary Category, as well as the 12 credits in the Secondary Category
  • a statement justifying the coherence of the program

Prospective students should look carefully through the UBC Calendar for BA Degree Requirements.

If you have questions, students should discuss their proposed program with the Chair, who will offer some guidance in its final preparation; and, those admitted should not hesitate to consult the Chair at other times if the need arises.