Doctoral (PhD)

Program DetailsPhD Admissions

Our Doctoral (PhD) program is designed to develop the student’s ability for independent research. Students in the PhD program must have a thesis supervisor upon being admitted to the program. Students are expected to study full time, and will normally be required to spend a minimum of two consecutive years of full time study at the University.

The maximum time of completion is 6 years for the PhD program, but substantial completion of the PhD requirements is expected within three years for students with a Master’s degree and within four years for those students who have transferred from the Master of Applied Science (MASc) program.

In the final step of the PhD program students are required to complete a Final Oral Defence. PhD students will be required to defend their dissertation and its underlying assumptions, methodology, results and conclusions in a manner consistent with that of the doctoral degree being sought.

PhD Program Details

Requirements to complete the PhD Program

  • Minimum of 24 credits of approved courses
  • Qualifying Exam recommended at 24 months
  • Final oral defense and completion of thesis (EECE 699)

Directed studies courses only count for a maximum of 3 credits towards the PhD degree.

Students in the PhD program must have a thesis supervisor upon being admitted to the program. A supervisory committee, comprised of the student’s supervisor and two additional members, should be established by the end of the first year in the program.

For those who hold a Masters degree or have completed masters-level coursework, appropriate credit (maximum 18 credits) will be given for courses completed. At the start of your PhD program, our program staff will inform you of your course requirements and how many credits can be counted from your previous masters degree. No paperwork or transfer forms are required, as our staff will review your transcripts to determine how many courses will be counted towards your PhD program. In most cases, for students who have completed a Masters degree prior to their PhD program, 6 further credits of coursework are required in your PhD program.

A Qualifying Exam should be taken within 24 months of registration for a PhD program following submission of the thesis proposal. This examination is based on the student’s oral defence of a thesis proposal, which will state the objectives of the proposed research, summarize its significance and its relation to previous work, and outline the methods to be pursued during the course of the research.

A note for Direct to PhD students:

Students entering the PhD program without a previous research-based Masters degree must, during the first two years of study, complete a total of 12 credits with a first class average, of which at least 9 credits must be at the 500-level or above and at least 9 credits must be of first class standing. More information on Direct to PhD requirements can be found here: https://www.calendar.ubc.ca/vancouver/index.cfm?tree=12,204,340,181

Purpose:

A comprehensive examination is a Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies requirement for the Ph.D. program. Normally, the examination will be held after the completion of all required course work. The comprehensive examination is in addition to any course examinations and is intended to test the students understanding of the chosen field of study as a whole and the students preparation for the thesis research to follow. A Ph.D. student must satisfy all the course work requirements and pass the comprehensive examination before being admitted to Ph.D. candidacy. In the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the comprehensive examination is in the form of the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination.

Deadline to complete PhD Qualifying Exam:

A student's first-year progress report will be used to confirm that the student is on track towards the PhD Qualifying Examination, which is recommended to be held within 24 months of a student’s program start date. If the student is not able to meet the 24 month deadline, he/she will be asked to submit another progress report requesting and explaining the need for a 3-month extension. Another progress report will be due every 3 months until the qualifying exam. If the qualifying exam has not been held within 24 months after the program start date, the student will prepare a status report for the supervisory committee and the department (Graduate Advisor) with a detailed plan for how to prepare for the examination. Based on the report, the supervisory committee and the graduate advisor will determine further deadlines for the student.

Qualifying Exam Guidelines:

Click here for a quick reference guide to help prepare for the qualifying exam

1. Within 24 months of registering a Ph.D. candidate should take the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination. Prior to the examination being scheduled a Ph.D. proposal has to be approved by the Graduate Advisor.

2. The purpose of the examination is to ascertain whether the proposed topic is suitable for a Ph.D. thesis and whether the candidate is capable of carrying out the work required to successfully complete the Ph.D. degree. Suitability relates largely to the possibility of making original and significant contributions. Capability relates largely to knowledge and understanding of material in the subject area of the proposal as well as areas related to it that affect the proposed research.

3. The examination consists of the presentation of the proposal for the thesis work, followed by questions from the examining committee. The questions are to address both the specific research topic and topics related to the general subject area of the proposal.

4. A two-hour period is scheduled for the examination. The first 25 minutes of which are devoted to the presentation of the proposal. Under no circumstances will the presentation be allowed to exceed 30 minutes.

5. Within 12 months of registering, the candidate should submit a draft copy of the proposal to the Graduate Advisor who will then advise the candidate on the acceptability of the format of the proposal and on the scheduling of the examination.

6. At least one week before the examination, the candidate must give a copy of the proposal to each member of the examining committee.

7. The written proposal should have 3 chapters:
Introduction and Overview: in which the background to and motivation for, the proposed topic is succinctly discussed. It is only this chapter that the necessary details of the work of others are to appear. This work must be clearly and properly referenced.

Work Accomplished: In which any original work that the candidate has done on advancing he state-of-knowledge on the proposed topic is described. The candidate is expected to show evidence, commensurate with the period since registering in the Ph.D. program, which demonstrates the viability of the thesis proposal and the plans for future work.

Work Planned: In which the procedures to be implemented in carrying out the remaining and probably major part of the work are outlined. A tentative time schedule for completion is also to be included in this chapter.

8. The written proposal must not exceed 30 pages of normal typescript (12-point font, double-spaced with approximately 26 lines per page and 6.5-inch line length), plus extra pages for the list of references.

9. The examining committee is comprised of the candidate’s supervisory committee (supervisor plus at least two other members), plus Head’s nominee who acts also as the chairperson and is nominated by the Graduate Advisor who is either a full or associate professor. In event that the Graduate Advisor is the supervisor or is on the supervisory committee, the chairperson is to be appointed by the the Department Head.

10. The chairperson ensures that the committee uses good judgement about questions on related topics. She/He does not normally participate in the questioning except to clear up misunderstandings or at the end of the questions by the other members of the committee, to expose possible important weaknesses. The chairperson votes in a riving at the committee decision.

11. The examining committee may make one of the following recommendations:
The candidate continue on the Ph.D. program.

The candidate be given a conditional pass.

The candidate be re-examined within 3 months time.

The candidates case be reviewed by an arbitration committee.

The candidate be asked to withdraw from the Ph.D. program but permitted to complete requirements for the M.A.Sc. degree.

The candidate be withdrawn from the University.

12. All recommendations of the examining committee must be submitted in writing to the Graduate Advisor of the Department and be signed by all members of the committee.

13. If the vote of the examining committee is unanimous, the recommendation stands.

14. In the event of recommendation 11B, the pass is subject to satisfactory correction of specified deficiencies of a minor nature. Assessment of these corrections is to be the sole subject of a meeting of the committee and the candidate. The outcome of this assessment cannot be again category 11B.

15. In the event of recommendation 11C, the re-examination is a completely new examination. The outcome of this examination cannot be again category 11C.

16. If the vote of the examining committee is not unanimous, the case will be referred to an arbitration committee. The arbitration committee will consist of all the full professors in the Department and will be chaired by the Graduate Advisor of the Department. The candidate’s supervisor must be present and the proposal must be available during the discussion. The supervisor will not be present during the vote. Where a member of the arbitration committee (full professors) is the candidates supervisor, she/he must withdraw during the vote. The chairperson of the arbitration committee votes but if there is a tie the supervisor’s vote will also be counted.

Purpose:

To obtain department approval of the thesis for submission to the external examiner of the Final Oral Defense

Exam Committee:

The exam committee for the Department exam is typically the same committee as for the PhD Qualifying exam

The committee consists of four members; the supervisory committee (Supervisor/Co-supervisor/Committee member) and the Head's Nominee/Chair.

Structure:

- The Department exam is not public
- The Candidate makes a presentation of the dissertation (roughly 30 minutes)
- The Examining Committee questions the Candidate
- The Examining Committee holds an in-camera discussion
- The Head's Nominee conveys the findings of the Examining Committee to the Candidate
- The Department Exam usually lasts two hours

The examining committee may make one of the following recommendations:
• Pass (includes minor revisions)
• Conditional pass: major revisions required and to be approved by the Examining Committee
• Not pass: In the case that the decision is “Not pass”, the student and the Supervisory committee meet and discuss how to proceed

How to set up the Department Exam:

Department exams should be scheduled when the student’s thesis/dissertation is ready for final approval by the supervisory committee members for the Final Doctoral Examination at the university level. Generally the department exam is held two months before the Final Doctoral Examination.

The student and supervisory committee are responsible for finding an appropriate Chair for the department exam. If possible, it is recommended that the Chair and supervisory committee be the same as the student’s qualifying exam.

The student and supervisory committee should determine a preferred time/date for the exam to be held. Either the student or supervisor must email help@ece.ubc.ca to request the exam be set up and to book a room. Exams can also be held virtually if the supervisory committee agrees.

Students should refer to the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website for submitting their dissertation in preparation for their Final Doctoral Examination.

Purpose:

To ensure the Candidate is able to present and defend the dissertation and its underlying assumptions, methodology, results and conclusions in a manner consistent with the doctoral degree being sought. To communicate the results of the work to the campus community.

The Final Doctoral Examination is set up with the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. Students and supervisors can refer to the Final Doctoral Examination Guideline for all information about the examination procedure and set up.

Questions about the PhD program can be directed to our student services staff by emailing help@ece.ubc.ca

PhD Admissions

Applications for September 2023 intake will be open from October 15th, 2022 to January 15th, 2023.

Applications for January 2024 intake will open May 1st, 2023.

Before applying, we recommend that prospective students explore the general research areas that the ECE department is structured around:

Prospective applicants can also explore the personal web pages of the faculty members they might be interested in working with. Our faculty listing can be found here.

We recommend that prospective students also consider their financial situation and the costs of living in Vancouver during a graduate program. For information on the financial requirements of living in Vancouver and studying at UBC, please visit our Costs page.

Questions about PhD Admissions can be directed to our student services staff by emailing help@ece.ubc.ca

Dates and Deadlines

Applications for the September 2023 start date will be open from October 15th, 2022 to January 15th, 2023.
We will continue to accept references, documents and test scores until January 31st, 2023.

Applications for the January 2024 start date will open May 1st, 2023.

Students applying for September admission will be notified of a decision in the Spring. Students applying for January admission will be notified of a decision in late Summer. These rough timelines of results depend on the number and competitiveness of applications being reviewed.

A note for Four Year Fellowship hopefuls: All MASc and PhD applicants who complete their September applications for the doctoral program by December 31st will be eligible to be nominated by an ECE faculty member for a Four Year Fellowship that year.

Application Requirements

Applicants to the program must have a high scholastic standing and demonstrate an aptitude for research to be admitted.

Applicants to the PhD program must have a course and thesis-based Master's degree and references should include a detailed letter from the Masters thesis supervisor. Applicants who have completed a course-based only Master's program are only eligible for the PhD program through "Direct Entry", which requires a strict set of admission requirements, listed on our admissions page. Applicants who have completed a degree by research only may have to complete a year of additional coursework as part of their PhD program.

Applicants to the PhD program must have a faculty member who is willing to supervise them before they can be admitted. It is not mandatory to find a supervisor before applying, but you are welcome to contact faculty beforehand to inform them of your interest in applying. Please note that all complete applications are made available to all faculty members for review. When you apply, you will be able to indicate your preferred supervisors or research groups you are interested in working with.

In ECE, there are two levels of admission requirements. First, applicants must meet the minimum UBC-wide requirements for admission. Second, applicants must meet the following ECE Department minimum requirements which are mandatory before you will be considered for admission to our graduate programs.

Grade Requirements:

Applicants to our Doctoral program from the US or Canada must have a minimum B+ (3.3 on a 4.0 point scale) average overall in their Master's program. For specific requirements for applicants from other countries, please check the UBC minimum requirements here.

Language Requirements:

Applicants who have recently completed a degree in one of the following countries do not need to submit a language score. Degrees must have been completed within the past 5 years of the date of application to our department in order for this language score requirement to be waived:

Australia, Botswana, Canada, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Malta, Namibia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Singapore, South Africa, Tanzania, United Kingdom, United States, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and the English-speaking countries of the West Indies.

Other applicants, including Canadians and Permanent Residents, who have completed their most recent degree in other countries must submit a current, official TOEFL or Academic IELTS score, regardless of the language of instruction.

TOEFL requirements: Total of 100 on the IBT with minimum component scores of 22 (reading, listening) and 21 (writing, speaking);
Academic IELTS requirements: Total of 7/9 with a minimum score of 6.0 in each component. The General IELTS test is not acceptable.

Please note, the department may request proof of English proficiency from any candidate where there are concerns that their language skills may interfere with success in the program.

If your TOEFL score is within a few points of the minimum score (eg. 95+ on the iBT) you will not be asked to rewrite the test but your lower score will be pointed out on your evaluation and if a professor decides to accept your application they will have to provide a low-TOEFL rationale. We do not make exceptions for the IELTS score of 7/9. If you have a score of 6.5 we unfortunately will not be able to accept it.

Please note that in some cases there are a few other forms of acceptable language scores that are approved at UBC for submission. Please see the following website for more information: https://www.grad.ubc.ca/prospective-students/application-admission/english-language-test

Admission through the Direct to PhD Pathway

Admission to the PhD Program with a Previous Course and Thesis-based Master's Degree

Applicants applying should have:
- A recognized course and thesis-based Master’s degree which includes graduate level courses and a written thesis
- References must include a detailed letter from the thesis supervisor
- North American degree holders must have an overall average of B+ (76% at UBC) in your master’s degree program
- Non-North American degree holders must review the academic entrance requirements for students from your country at the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.
- Applicants who have completed a degree by research only may have to complete a year of additional coursework as part of their Ph.D. program.

Admission to the PhD Program with a Previous Undergraduate Degree

This is also known as a direct entry PhD. In addition to the usual M.A.Sc. requirements, you must have:
- A first class standing in your bachelor’s degree and evidence of prior research ability. First class standing is indicated for each nation by UBC G+PS guidelines (80% minimum or equivalent for Canadian institutions). It is understood that such a grade-average is a minimum requirement and depending on the overall applicant profile, higher grades can be expected.
- Hard evidence of research experience and ability, by way of previous research internships, for example. Ideally, you should be a co-author on a manuscript or paper accepted in a high visibility, rigorously peer reviewed academic venue, e.g., an internationally recognized journal, or, in certain disciplines (especially computer and software engineering), top tier conferences.
- Prospective supervisors of direct entry students must submit a maximum one page explanation of why the student is deemed sufficiently-prepared to be directly admitted to the Ph.D. program.

Admission to the PhD Program with a Previous Course-based Master's Degree

In addition to the usual M.A.Sc. requirements, you must have:
- Hard evidence of research experience and ability, by way of previous research internships, for example. Ideally, you should be a co-author on a manuscript or paper accepted in a high visibility, rigorously peer reviewed academic venue, e.g., an internationally recognized journal, or, in certain disciplines (especially computer and software engineering), top tier conferences.
- Prospective supervisors of students with a previous course-based masters degree must submit a maximum one page explanation of why the student is deemed sufficiently-prepared to be directly admitted to the Ph.D. program.

Application Documents

Hardcopies of documents are no longer required to apply for our programs. If you are admitted to UBC, further instructions on submitting hardcopies will be sent to you directly. We will require the following when you submit your online PhD application:

Official Transcript from each post-secondary institution you have attended (college, university, etc.): You are required to upload a PDF version of your official transcript that clearly shows your university grading scale. Please note that we do accept current transcripts from degrees that are in progress at the time of application.

  • UBC students do not need to provide transcripts to their applications for their UBC degrees, as we already have UBC transcripts on file.
  • Please upload a PDF version of your overall GPA calculation if your GPA is not clearly indicated on your official transcript. For Canadian and US universities, GPA is calculated using only upper-level (300, 400, and graduate-level) courses. For international students, GPA is calculated using all grades listed on the transcript.

Curriculum Vitae (CV): Your CV should outline professional employment experience, education, publications, and awards which you feel should be taken into account in considering your application for admission and/or scholarships. Please ensure that you list the titles of research projects / graduation theses. If your thesis or other writing is available online, please consider including links to your work.

UBC-Specific Statement of Purpose: A clearly written (two pages maximum) Statement of Purpose outlining your goals for your program. Specifically, you should detail why you would like to attend UBC to engage in studies leading to a degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Please describe your aptitude and motivation for graduate study in your interest area, including your preparation for this field of study, your academic plans or research goals, and your future career goals. Additionally, please indicate whether you have been awarded or have applied for any scholarships for your time in our program, and include amount of funding, duration of funding, etc.

TOEFL or IELTS scores (if required): See above for specific language proficiency requirements. Please note that TOEFL and IELTS scores must be sent in via ETS transfer from the test centres directly. We are unable to accept any other means of TOEFL or IELTS submission.

  • For TOEFL submissions, we only accept academic test scores (NOT general). Please use the UBC institution code 0965 when sending in your scores to UBC. If asked for a department code, please indicate the Electrical and Computer Engineering department.
  • For IELTS submissions, please indicate on the IELTS application form the following:
    • Name of institution: The University of British Columbia
    • Name of person/department: Graduate School Admissions
    • Address: 170-6371 Crescent Road, Vancouver BC V6T 1Z2, Canada

A scan of your Permanent Resident Card (if applicable): If you are a Permanent Resident of Canada, you are required to submit a PDF scan of both sides of your Permanent Residency card or, if you have not yet obtained a card, of your Record of Landing in Canada.

Three Reference Letters: All three reference letters must be submitted by your referees to your application. At least one of your references should detail your academic achievement and how you would perform in a graduate level degree program. Please be sure to contact your referees in advance of your application so that you have their correct contact information. When you apply, you will be asked to provide the following referee information, and an email will be automatically sent to them asking for their reference submission via either our e-reference form or uploading a written letter:

  • First name
  • Last name
  • An official institution email address - personal email addresses (gmail, yahoo, etc.) cannot be accepted.
  • Contact information at his/her institution
  • Title or position held

GRE scores are not required: All applicants are welcome to submit a GRE score in support of their application if they wish, but it is not required for a complete application. If you choose to submit a GRE score, please ask GRE to submit their examination report to UBC using the institution code 0965.

How To Apply

Submit Your Application Online through UBC's admission portal

The online application system will ask several ECE-specific questions. Please think about the following questions in advance of beginning your online application:

  • Which research area are you interested in?
 Acronym Research Area
 BIOT Biomedical Technologies
 COMM Communication Systems
 COSE Computer and Software Systems
 EPES Energy Systems
 MINA Micro and Nano Technologies
  • For MASc and PhD applicants, which faculty members are you interested in working with?
  • Do you require financial support?