Frequently Asked Questions

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Admission and Eligibility

My interests are broad and don’t seem to fall within a single category or focus area. Should I still apply?

IDST is intended for students who wish to specialize their studies in an area unavailable through an existing major or minor. If you’re having trouble narrowing things down to specific focus areas, think about your personal, academic, and career goals, the expertise you’d like to develop, and the courses you’ve already taken that you’ve been particularly engaged by. Also, look at the upper-level courses offered across the Faculty of Arts and think about which ones you’d most like to take. What do they have in common?

Once you’ve done some reflecting and research, Faculty advisors at Arts Advising can help you connect the dots between your interests and help you develop a focus around which you can build an IDST program.

My average is less than 60%. Am I still eligible for admission?

To be admitted to the IDST program, you must demonstrate that you will be capable of taking on independent study; the 60% average is intended to show you are succeeding in your courses thus far and will be able to handle the IDST workload.

That said, we understand that many students have a difficult start to their undergraduate career as they adjust to university life: the Program Chair will recognize improvement from one year to the next, particularly if you’ve excelled in the courses you hope to apply to the IDST program.

How do I design a program – where should I start?

Start with yourself! Think about the reasons you’re interested in IDST – both what makes it appealing and why you aren’t attracted to other majors in the Faculty of Arts; think about your professional and personal goals – what knowledge would be useful to achieve them, and what skills will you want to apply when you do? (Remember, courses can teach a lot more than the content in their description: you can use courses to develop your research ability, communication, and even understanding of other people.)

Take into account what courses you’ve been most engaged by so far, and where your performance has been strong. Consider also what upper-level courses you want to take – what are the common threads between them? What about them piques your interest?

After considering the topics you’re interested in and compiling a list of courses you want to take, you can start thinking about the connections that can lead to your coherent thematic focus and the courses you apply to it. Assistance on this step can be found through Arts Academic Advising Services.

Credits and Course Registration

My IDST course selection would require that I take more than 120 credits to graduate. May I still apply?

Yes: the 120-credit minimum is just that – a minimum. Students must accept that this will entail extra expense and potentially delay graduation, and may wish to consult Arts Academic Advising or their Enrolment Services Professional to help plan for this.

Common situations in which students take more than 120 credits include:

  • Adding extra courses to meet prerequisites for graduate and professional programs or postgraduate certifications
  • Taking lower-level courses as preparation for a new area of study after changing their focus or entering IDST later in their undergraduate careers after changing specializations
  • Adding courses to reach the 72-credit Arts Minimum, particularly for those who took elective courses offered by non-Arts Faculties (this requirement is only reduced if more than 48 non-Arts credits are required for a student’s approved IDST program)

What if one of the courses I originally selected isn’t offered in my third or fourth year?

You must select a new course within the same category and complete a Program Revision Form to alert the Chair of your change. All course revisions are subject to the Chair’s approval, and must continue to support your coherent thematic program.

If the UBC Calendar shows that a course is 3/6 credits, may I choose either option?

No: you should assume the course will be three credits when planning, as this is by far the most common scenario. The credit amount will be specified on the SSC when you register, and is not for students to decide. If the course is offered for six credits, you may submit a Program Revision Form to alter your program accordingly.

May I take 500-level (Graduate) courses?

BA students may take up to two 500-level courses worth a maximum of 8 credits for their undergraduate degree. Students must submit the Faculty of Graduate Studies’ Enrolment of Undergraduate Students in a Graduate Course Form, with approval of the course instructor, Arts Academic Advising, and the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

Students are generally only granted permission to enroll in Graduate courses if they’ve completed 75% of their 300- and 400-level degree and program requirements and attained a minimum overall average of 80%.

The course instructor, Arts Academic Advising, and G+PS each have the right to refuse students’ requests to enroll in graduate courses. Many graduate programs offer classes specifically tailored to their curriculum, and planning to apply a course to your IDST program does not grant you the right to registration.

All courses you submit on your application should be at the undergraduate level, with any graduate courses to be added through the Program Revision Form after your registration in them is approved.

May I take honours or other special seminars?

You can apply these courses to your IDST program, but registering in them requires the assent of the department offering the course. Many of these courses only have enough seats to meet the need of the Department’s honours students, and instructors and the departments have the right to refuse registration to other students.

If I go on exchange, can I count my course credits from abroad towards the IDST program?

Once your transfer credits are articulated – appearing on your student record as generic credits (e.g. “POLI3RD”) – you may submit the syllabus for the course they came from to the Program Chair, who will evaluate whether the course is indeed applicable to your program.

If the articulation recommended by a department is to a specific course (appearing on your record as e.g. POLI364), Degree Navigator will apply it automatically towards the relevant requirement.

I am a transfer student, or applying to transfer to UBC. Will credits from my previous institution apply?

As for credits earned on exchange, transfer credits from your previous institution may apply to your IDST program at the discretion of the Program Chair. These credits must be articulated at the upper-level (UBC 300- and 400-level courses), and will only be considered after the articulation process is complete.

IDST Advising cannot offer preliminary evaluation of transfer credit courses for applicability to the IDST program.

BA Degree Requirements

If I select courses for my IDST program that fulfill the Faculty of Arts Literature or Language requirement, can these credits be counted for the Faculty Requirement as well?

Yes, if your program is approved this will be evaluated when your course selection is programmed. You will be notified of any alterations to this effect. For example, if you’ve taken CHIN 471, CHIN 471 may be applied automatically by the system to satisfy your literature requirement instead of IDST program requirement. You will be notified of this in your offer letter and be able to choose whether to use this course to satisfy both  requirements or either. If CHIN 471 is to be applied to satisfy both IDST and your faculty literature requirement, you need to make up 3 credits by having an increase of 3 credits to your electives. 

Do I have to satisfy the Research Component of the Faculty of Arts Writing and Research Requirement through my primary discipline?

No, although there is an academic and even personal advantage to conducting intensive research in a field where you also have broad background knowledge, and it is recommended that students include a research course within their Primary Focus Area. That said, it may not be logistically possible to apply a research course within your IDST program, in which case you are responsible for ensuring the requirement is met elsewhere. BA students may satisfy this component by passing any course on the list of research-intensive courses, whether they take this course as part of their IDST program or as an elective.

Graduating with an Interdisciplinary Studies BA

Will getting an interdisciplinary degree limit my employment and other opportunities after graduation?

No – an IDST BA program may not offer the A-to-B professional training provided by other Faculties that opens a specific set of career doors, but given the increasing complexity of human societies and the professional world, IDST can help equip you with the intellectual flexibility, critical thinking, and analytical skills that will be worth offering to prospective employers well into the 2040s.

The really useful legacy of your undergraduate education will be the intellectual strength and the flexible, adaptable habits of mind that will enable you, probably more than once or twice in your working life, to experience challenges, to analyze and understand them, and to respond to them creatively and effectively. And for that purpose there is a lot to be said for learning now to look at whatever interests you, or challenges, or puzzles you, from different points of view, using the diverse methods of analysis proper to a variety of academic disciplines.

You may even be better off for having created your own undergraduate program of study by synthesizing what the university can offer you and what you, with your current intellectual strengths and skills, can offer in return. It’s not all that different a process from what you will probably have to do ten, twenty or more years from now when you have to blend the knowledge and skills that you will have by then with what the new world of that new age will be offering and will be demanding.

When interacting with prospective employers in the future, consider the skills you gain from an Arts degree on a deeper level: most employers will give employees on-the-job training to help them acclimate to a new workplace and its unique procedures; what you’re offering them is not this knowledge, but the ability to acquire and apply it to their benefit.

Will having an interdisciplinary degree on my transcript affect my chances of being accepted to graduate school?

It certainly can, and you should do your research in advance to plan for this:

  • Graduate programs, particularly those that are research- or thesis-based, are often specific to a single academic discipline and require extensive background in that field before admission
  • Professional graduate programs (e.g. law, journalism, and education) are less likely to rely on students’ background knowledge and more on their skills, which IDST may be an appropriate vehicle to develop.

If you are interested in pursuing postgraduate research:

  • Plan early, considering the discipline you hope to apply for
  • Research various MA programs individually and their requirements for admission
    • At UBC alone, the Sociology Master’s program accepts students without a full major’s worth of sociological background so long as they can demonstrate through their research proposals and previous coursework that they’re prepared for advanced studies in sociology; an IDST program that includes SOCI courses but an additional array of theories and methods courses in which you’ve demonstrated a specific topical interest may be considered appropriate.
    • UBC Psychology, on the other hand, expects MA applicants to have a substantial breadth of experience conducting research in psychology and familiarity with the discipline – IDST cannot provide this.
    • Consider consulting programs through publicly available contact information for more information on what background knowledge they might prioritize, and make your undergraduate course planning decisions accordingly (whether through IDST or not).