Programme Guide – Requirements

The Shape of the Programme

All Arts students must earn at least 120 credits overall, 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 chosen in their primary category.

It is in the specialization for the B.A. that IDST is different: its students create a coherent, thematically related programme of their own design, comprising 42 credits of upper-level course work, 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, the other the Secondary.

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

In choosing Primary Category courses from outside the Discipline, students may earn their 12 credits in a single subject, but they need not do so: 18 credits of Political Science plus 3 credits from each of Economics, Sociology, Psychology and African Studies, for example, could constitute a perfectly acceptable programme in the Social Sciences category.

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 programme: there should be some synergy between primary and secondary categories.

Below is a diagram of the most common IDST programme 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

One significant deviation from this model is permitted: an IDST student with at least a 75% average may apply to take 24 credits within the core discipline and only 6 outside it.

But another is not: the IDST constitutes a complete and unique specialization for the B.A. It cannot be combined with an Honours, Major or Minor programme in any other field.

Admission to the IDST is by formal application, including:

  • a programme 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 of the secondary category
  • a statement justifying the coherence of the program

Prospective students should look carefully through the UBC Calendar as well as the list of courses provided, and they might also find it helpful to look at some of the sample programmes provided

They should also discuss their proposed programme with the Chair, who will offer some guidance in its final preparation; and those admitted should not hesitate to consult him at other times if the need arises. It might also be helpful to look at the actual examples of self-designed programs with a coherent and challenging focus provided here.