Program Structure

All BA students must meet the Bachelor of Arts degree requirements to graduate. Rather than declaring a specialization, students in the Arts Interdisciplinary Studies Program create a coherent, thematically-related program of their own design in addition to these degree requirements.

BA disciplines and courses are classified into 3 categories; IDST students select one of these to be their primary category, and another for their secondary category. The 3 categories are

  • Humanities, such as history, philosophy, languages, literature and classics, apply critical-speculative and interpretive approaches to knowledge production;
  • Social Sciences, such as sociology, linguistics, and psychology, which often (but not exclusively) produce knowledge by applying empirical methods developed in the natural sciences to studies of human relationships and behavior; and
  • Creative and Performing Arts, in which people create products of aesthetic value and subjective or interpretive meaning.

Humanities include topics such as:

  • Art History (ARTH)
  • Area studies (ASIA*, AFST, CDST, CENS, SCAN, LAST, etc.)
  • Classical, Near Eastern, and Religious Studies (CNRS, CLST, etc.)
  • First Nations and Indigenous Studies (FNIS, many FNEL courses)
  • History (HIST, MDVL, etc.)
  • Philosophy (PHIL)
  • Studies of religion (RELG, RGLA, RGST, etc.)
  • Romance Studies (RMST, ITST, etc.)
  • Languages and literary studies (CHIN*, ENGL, KORN*, FREN, SPAN, GERM, SWED, etc.)

*Asian Studies (including ASIA and Asian Language courses) are considered to share the same course code under the same category.

Disciplines in the Social Sciences include, but are not limited to:

  • Anthropology and Anthropological Archaeology (ANTH, ARCL)
  • Economics (ECON)
  • Geography (GEOG, URST)
  • Linguistics (LING, many FNEL courses)
  • Political Science (POLI)
  • Psychology (PSYC)
  • Social Justice Institute (GRSJ, CSIS)
  • Sociology (SOCI, FMST)

Creative and Performing Arts

Most instruction in the Creative and Performing Arts at UBC is in specialized degree programs like the BFA and BMus, and most of their courses are not able to accommodate students from other programs. IDST students may be able to find seats in Film Studies (FIST), Visual Arts (VISA), Creative Writing (CRWR) or other creative and performing arts (Theatre and Film) courses, but are still not guaranteed them even if part of an IDST course plan: for this reason, Creative and Performing Arts may only be used as a secondary category, and you MUST verify that you are allowed as a BA student to register for any of these courses you want to include in your IDST program. 

* Courses from existing interdisciplinary minors (ENSO, HESO, LASO) and others topically-related to your main theme will be considered in the context of the rest of your course selection.

Your Primary Focus area is generally a single subject code (e.g. HIST), but may include two closely-related codes from the same department (e.g. ASIA and CHIN). You CANNOT earn elective credits for upper-level courses in your Primary Focus or in its closely-related codes: if you’ve already completed more than 18 credits in one discipline, you should consider choosing a different one for your Primary Focus so that all of these credits can apply to your degree.

Your Secondary Focus and the courses for your Secondary Category can be from multiple subjects in the same category; for example, a student who chooses Social Science for their Primary Category may have a Primary Focus of Sociology and take Geography and Political Science courses for their Secondary Focus, with HIST and PHIL courses for a Secondary Category of Humanities.

IDST students are responsible for ensuring all BA Degree Requirements are met. Most IDST students select a Research-applicable course within their primary focus area, but may also choose a Research course for other IDST requirements or even their electives. Note that seats in Research Component courses are often reserved for students majoring in the discipline and may not be available.


Credit Requirements

42 upper-level credits are required to complete the Interdisciplinary Studies Program (Courses cannot be taken as CDF).

Students should select courses offered within the Faculty of Arts, following the General Study program structure below:

IDST programs are organized through the following framework:

1) Your Primary category – 30 credits split between a

    • Primary focus area – 18* credits from one discipline (often a single subject code); and a 
    • Secondary focus area – 12* credits from any additional discipline(s) in the same category

2) Your Secondary category – 12 credits from any discipline(s) in a second category (not identical to the Primary)

* Students with an average above 75% may apply to modify the credit distribution within their primary category, increasing their primary focus area credit amount to up to 24 credits with only 6 credits in secondary focus area (maintaining the total of 30 in Primary Category). Applicants who wish to appeal for this increase must explain in their application how the additional primary focus area coursework contributes to their overall thematic focus without detracting from the interdisciplinarity the secondary focus area is intended to provide, especially in contrast to the existing specializations associated with the disciplinary area in question.

  • Please include all upper-level registered/CIP/completed (e.g. ECON) courses (transfer credits as well if applicable) in your primary focus area as additional credits cannot be earned towards your BA degree from upper-level courses taken outside of your approved courses in the primary focus area. This means we will not approve upper-level courses (e.g. ECON) outside of the approved ones (e.g. ECON) in your primary focus area. 

* A maximum of 4 COMM/COMR courses (or equivalent to 12 credits) are allowed upon chair’s approval under Social Science category if your primary focus area is ECON / POLI. Applicants with COMM/COMR transfer credit should pay special attention to the COMM/COMR transfer equivalencies. Lower-level COMM transfer credit often precludes upper-level COMR courses; lower-level COMM transfer credits cannot be used in an IDST program, regardless of their upper-level equivalencies.

  • COMM course code is usually restricted to BCOM students. Non-BCOM students can choose COMR course code. COMR courses are also equivalent to COMM courses if they share the same section ID. 

Students who are interested in pursuing a Thematic Study with Arts Interdisciplinary Studies will work closely with the Chair to craft their course of study. Read more here.



The IDST program cannot guarantee registration in any course: you should be prepared to modify your course selection through a Program Revision based on availability.

FAQ: What if a course that I chose is consistently full, and I’m not able to register?

You must select a new course to fulfill the requirement through the Program Revision Form. IDST cannot guarantee registration in any courses, and selecting a course for your IDST program does NOT constitute grounds to override a department’s or instructor’s enrolment capacity.

FAQ: What if a course that I chose has a registration restriction, and I’m not able to register for it from the SSC?

You should consult the department offering the course (especially in the case of specialized seminars) and it is their decision to whether waive the registration restriction for you or not.

This does not apply to cohort-based classes like those offered by the UBC Acting program, which are only for students who have successfully auditioned and are enrolled in the full curriculum.