MA Program

The Master’s (MA) program in the Department of History is a 24-month program and requires full-time residential study. The history master’s program includes regional and thematic courses, methods and historiography, and a research seminar, culminating in the writing of thesis.

Program Requirements – MA Degree

Master’s students must complete six courses for a total of 18 credits. Below are the required courses.

  • The MA Research Seminar (3 credits): The MA research seminar introduces students to the problems, materials, and research methods in the discipline; candidates must demonstrate their ability to use documents and other sources, and to write and defend papers based on such research. Ideally, the seminar paper will be the nucleus of the MA thesis. This is a mandatory course for MA students taken in Term 1 of Year 2 of the MA program.
  • Historiography (3 credits): The Historiography seminar involves an intense introduction to varieties of historical writing and the philosophic assumptions behind historical thinking. The Comparative History courses are designed to broaden student's knowledge and compensate for gaps created by specialization. This is a mandatory course for MA students taken in Term 1 of Year 1 of the MA program.
  • Readings and Topics Courses (12 credits): The readings and topics courses introduce students to the main historiographical problems and secondary literature in their fields of specialization.


Possible Options in lieu of Area and Thematic Courses

With the permission of the Graduate Advisor, students may take up to 6 credits of coursework from outside the History Department in lieu of readings or topics courses. Language courses may not be substituted for graduate readings courses. Coursework should be consistent with the student’s program and approved by the supervisor, and if applicable, the graduate advisor (see below for specific details).

  • Graduate courses (3 credits) offered from outside of the History Department. With the permission of the Graduate Advisor, students may take up to 3 credits of graduate coursework from outside the History Department. Language courses may not be substituted for graduate readings courses.  Please consult your supervisor for possible graduate courses offered outside of the History Department.  (Examples of non-history graduate seminars represent 500+ level courses from the STS department, Asian Studies, FNIS, etc.)
  • Directed Studies Course (3 credits). This course (HIST 547D) represents a one-on-one directed readings course with a professor.  When a professor (usually the supervisor) agrees to do a directed readings course with a student, the professor must submit a course syllabus to the graduate program assistant to register the student into the course. Normally, these courses are done with a supervisor and their student if there are no suitable graduate courses available for the student.
  • Graduate course (3 credits) through the Western Dean's Agreement (WDA). Students at participating Universities in Western Canada can attend partner institutions as visiting students without having to pay the host university's tuition fees through the Western Dean's Agreement. Courses taken by MA students under the Western Deans' Agreement are eligible to be transferred as credits to their degree programs.


To Request a Transfer of Credits for Courses taken through the Western Dean's Agreement:

  1. Read through the GPS guidelines for Transfer Credits:
  2. Order a Transcript from the University where you completed the graduate course to the UBC Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS). Due to COVID-19 G+PS is temporarily accepting encrypted transcripts sent by email directly from the issuing institution as official. The issuing institution must send a link to a secure site to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (G+PS) at G+PS will download the transcript from the secure site. Important: an e-transcript is downloaded via a link to a secure site. It is NOT an email attachment of any kind, even if sent from an authority at the issuing institution.
  3. Contact the History Graduate Student Support ( to assist you in preparing the "transfer credit form".

The MA thesis is the culmination of your work in the history graduate program. The preparation of this document involves isolating, defining and explaining a historical problem through the use of primary materials. The emphasis of the thesis is on the quality of the historical work, rather than exhaustive treatment of the subject.

Once a research topic is identified in consultation with the advisor, students should prepare a thesis prospectus indicating the nature of the problem they plan to investigate, the research methods, the literature relevant to the problem, and the availability of relevant materials. Students will need to select a second committee member who will provide advice and assistance throughout the remainder of the process.

The master’s thesis is about 40 pages (10,000 words) in length and in the genre of a scholarly article ready for submission to a peer-reviewed journal.

A thesis is evaluated and graded by the supervisor, committee member, and a third independent reader. A thesis may be accepted as presented, returned for revisions, or rejected. If there is a disagreement among the evaluators, the graduate advisor will mediate. A thesis earning a grade lower than 60 will be rejected. If the thesis is rejected, the student will be asked to withdraw from the MA program.

When a thesis has been approved, the Master's Thesis Approval and Program Completion form signed by the student's supervisor and the graduate advisor must be submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

MA thesis evaluation procedure

  1. When the supervisor, committee member, and MA student consider that the MA thesis is ready to be submitted, they should choose an independent 3rd reader. As a general rule, the 3rd reader should be from the UBC History Department. However, recruiting a reader from another UBC department or even another institution would be acceptable if the supervisor, committee member, and student think it is advisable.  The use of an examiner external to the department should be exceptional. It would be the responsibility of the supervisor to discuss the department’s grading standards with the 3rd reader.
  2. The supervisor should contact this reader himself or herself on the advice of the committee member and MA student. In exceptional circumstances, she or he could submit a list of names to the graduate advisor who could contact the reader for the committee.
  3. The examiner would be given up to 2 weeks to assess a 40-pages MA thesis. She or he would be asked to submit a written report to the MA committee. This report should include a short summary of the thesis as well as a discussion of its strengths and weaknesses.
  4. The grade would be decided by a consensus between the supervisor, the committee member, and the 3rd reader. In matters of disagreement or failure to reach a consensus, the issue will be mediated by the graduate advisor on a case-by-case basis.
  5. The supervisor is responsible for conveying the decision to the graduate advisor and administrator in writing. The final report should include the grade awarded by the examining team and summarize the reason behind the grade.


Before receiving the MA degree in History, candidates must demonstrate an adequate reading ability in a language other than English - either French or a foreign language appropriate to their field of study. Students who require a foreign language for their thesis research will be expected to take the language exam in that language.

The department holds language exams twice a year (usually in November and April). Candidates must translate a passage from the language they have chosen into English, with the aid of a dictionary, but without the assistance of a laptop computer.

Exemption from the language exam may be granted under certain circumstances, on a case by case basis, by submitting a written request to the History graduate advisor.

Several departments at the university offer courses to help students acquire a reading knowledge of a foreign language, such as French, German, or Russian. Students who have successfully completed such a course at the third-year level or above, with at least a B (72%) average, can apply for exemption from the History Department's exam by submitting evidence of completion of the course to the History graduate advisor.

Once the MA thesis has been approved, the final step will be to submit the thesis to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) to close your program.

Step 1:
Read the overview of the submission process:

Step 2:
Carefully follow the steps in the link below to submit your thesis to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies to close your program:


In step 1, the MA student must fill out the "MA Thesis Approval Form" and coordinate with each committee member to get their signature approval.  Committee members can sign separate "MA Thesis Approval Forms" and return this to the student.  Once the student has all of the forms in step 1, they can email them to the History graduate student support ( to verify the signatures and forward the forms to GPS on behalf of the student.

For Reference:

Every candidate for a degree must make formal application for graduation. Students apply through the Student Service Centre (SSC). Please check the Deadlines section of this website or contact your program to find out when the Application to Graduate is open.

If your application to graduate is not approved, then you must re-apply for the next graduation season.

Not attending the graduation ceremony?

You must apply to graduate regardless of whether or not you plan to participate in the scheduled ceremonies.


For questions about applying to graduate, please contact

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