Doctor of Philosophy


The Doctor of Philosophy in Civil Engineering (PhD) program is an advanced research-based graduate program for students who wish to pursue a program of independent research in Civil Engineering. The Doctor of Philosophy in Civil Engineering is available in the following areas of specialization: 

Note that the specialization does not appear on the degree parchment or on the transcript. Successful completion of the PhD degree requires the completion of 30 credits of coursework beyond the Bachelor’s degree, subject to various constraints and requirements as provided below, as well as a PhD thesis. For further information, please contact Civil Engineering Graduate Support.

Prospective Students

Admission Requirements

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) (same as MASC section) 

Prior Degrees
Applicants with an undergraduate and/or Masters degree that is not in Civil Engineering should be aware that, at the time that a recommendation for admission is made, the Specialty Advisor will be requested to provide a justification regarding the suitability of the applicant for pursuing a graduate degree in civil engineering. However, students should not communicate with the relevant Specialty Advisor regarding this justification, unless invited to do so.

English Proficiency 
If your degrees is not from Australia, Botswana, Canada, Ghana, Ireland, Kenya, New Zealand, Nigeria, South Africa, UK, USA, Zaire, Zimbabwe or the English-speaking countries of the West Indies, you are required to submit an official English language test score, typically TOEFL or IELTS.

Below you will find the minimum test scores to be considered for admission into any of the graduate programs at the Department of Civil Engineering at UBC:


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Please note: 

  • The Department will not accept letters from granting institutions stating that the medium of instruction is English.
  • If your transcripts states that the medium of instruction for the institution was in English then you do not need to provide the results of an English proficiency exam.
  • Score reports more than two years old will not be accepted.
  • We only require you to submit official hard copies of transcripts and or your IELTS if you have been recommended for admission to the program. If you are recommended you will receive an email from the department requesting your official documents. All the details you need, mailing address etc. will be contained in the email. 
  • We cannot accept IELTS/TOEFL scores after the application deadline. Once that deadline date has passed you will not be able to upload any documents.


We consider applications for September admission only and you must submit your application by January 31st at the latest. Your referees will be prompted to submit a recommendation letter once you submit your application. They have until February 15th to submit the letter but often referees need several reminders from you before they act. For that reason, please submit your application early and do not forget to follow up with the referees to make sure they submit a recommendation. 

We do not accept applications for admission at other times of the year.

Tuition & Financial Support

ProgramInstalments per yearMinimum # of instalments for programDomestic fee (per instalment)International fee (per instalment)
Full-time (Schedule A)36$1,698.56$2,984.09
Part-time (Schedule C)39$1,249.67$2,506.73
Continuing Fee3N/A$776.01$2,984.09
Extension Fee 3N/A$1,089.93$2,984.09
1 If a degree program is not completed by a set number of instalments or a minimum program fee, the assessments will then switch to a Continuing fee. The Schedule A Continuing fee is assessed after instalment 9. The Schedule C Continuing fee is assessed after instalment 15. 
2 If a doctoral degree (both full-time standard and specialized) is not awarded within a period of six years from the initial registration or within a period of eight years for part-time PhD (Schedule C), a student may be granted an extension with permission from the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, but will be charged additional fees. 

Financial Support

Students in the PhD program are eligible for funding in the form of scholarships, grants, teaching assistantships and research assistantships. For further information, please visit Graduate Funding Opportunities. For information on student loans or other forms of financial support, please visit

How to Apply

Step 1: Create the application

  • The application system can be accessed here. Note that applications for September intake open in July of the preceding year.
  • The application deadline for all Civil Engineering programs is January 31st. Currently we only offer September intake. Details regarding the application fees can be found here
  • In order to avoid any issues with your application, please carefully follow the detailed instructions that are found in the online application.

Step 2: Upload scanned copies of supporting documents

  • Prior to submitting the application you must upload PDF versions of the required documents. Originals will be requested only if you are offered admission.
  • Please note that all required scanned documents must be uploaded no later than February 15th, two weeks after the application deadline.
  • Transcripts must be uploaded as a single PDF file for each post-secondary institution attended.
  • If you are a UBC student then you do NOT need to provide the UBC transcript with your application as we are able to access your transcripts internally and add them to your file.


  • A minimum of three references is required for the MASC and PhD programs.
  • References should be requested from individuals who are prepared to provide a report on your academic ability and qualifications.
  • In the online application system, applicants are asked to provide an email address for each referee. Please note, that we are unable to accept e-mails from referees using Hotmail, Yahoo, GMail, or other free e-mail accounts.
  • A unique link will be emailed to each referee, allowing the referee to log in to a secure site and submit an online reference or upload a reference document as an attachment.

Statement of Intent

  • Please provide a maximum of one page in PDF format detailing your specific area of academic interest, i.e., the research topic you want to work on.
  • Describe your past education and other experiences, and how they have prepared you to be successful in a career in civil engineering. 


  • Upload Your CV in PDF format detailing your education, work experiences, and competencies, including publications, if applicable.
  • All PhD applicants should submit, as an addendum to the CV, a formal publication list, including all papers published and conference presentations made.

English Proficiency Test Scores

  • If you need to submit an English test score then please note that your official score report should be submitted directly from the Testing Centre.
  • Please use the following code for an official score report request: Institution Code: 0965/ Department Code: 65.

If you are offered admission, the offer letter will indicate which original hard-copy documents you need to submit.

  • All transcripts must arrive at UBC in envelopes that have been sealed and endorsed by the issuing institution. If the official transcript does not indicate the degree name and the degree conferral date, then two official copies of the degree certificate are required. 
  • Current and former UBC students do not need to submit official UBC transcripts as part of their graduate application package. However, they are still responsible for submitting transcripts from all other post-secondary institutions that you have attended, e.g., exchange year, transfer year, etc.
  • Please note that any document submitted to UBC becomes the property of UBC and will not be returned.

Current Students

Coursework Requirements

The PhD program requires completion of at least 30 credits of coursework beyond the Bachelor’s degree level, and successful completion of a PhD thesis (CIVL 699) (which itself carries no academic credit). Most students would typically count 18 credits from the preceding Master’s degree coursework, leaving only 12 credits of coursework to be taken within the PhD program itself.

The 30 credits of coursework are subject to the following requirements:

  • 500 level courses: A minimum of 24 credits of graduate level course (numbered 5XX) courses must be completed, of which at least 12 credits must be in Civil Engineering (labeled CIVL 5XX).
  • CIVL 597: All students are required to register once in the appropriate section of CIVL 597 Graduate Seminar (1 credit, Pass/Fail mark); however, they are encouraged to attend the seminar series (without subsequent registration) throughout their time in the program.
  • CIVL 592: A maximum of 6 credits may be taken through CIVL 592 Directed Studies.
  • CIVL 598: A maximum of 6 credits may be taken through CIVL 598 Topics in Civil Engineering. (These are courses that have not yet been approved by the University Senate.)
  • 300- & 400-Level Courses: A maximum of 6 credits of 300- or 400-level courses may be taken.
  • 100- & 200-Level Courses: 100- & 200-level courses may not be used for credit towards completion of the MASc degree.
  • Specialization Requirements: Coursework requirements specific to each area of specialization must be satisfied and may be found under Research Areas.

Students are required to obtain approval of their course selection from their Research Supervisor.

Coursework Regulations

CourseworkPlan. All PhD students are required to secure the approval of a Coursework Plan from their Research Supervisor or Specialty Advisor. Students should initially develop a draft plan that lists the proposed courses and schedule, taking into account course availability (not all courses are offered every year) and term in which they are offered (see Course Schedule), as well as the below considerations. The aim of the coursework plan is to help students ensure adherence to course credit requirements, coursework regulations, an appropriate course load, and avoidance of scheduling conflicts.

Minimum Course Marks. A minimum grade of 68% is required in each course used for credit. However, a maximum of 6 credits with grades between 60 and 67% may be accepted for credit, if the candidate has an average greater than or equal to 68% in all coursework. Supplemental examinations are not granted to graduate students: a course in which a grade of less than 60% is obtained may be repeated for a higher standing, subject to approval of the Department. A student who obtains a grade of less than 68% in more than 6 credits will normally be required to withdraw for inadequate academic progress.

Course Exemptions. Transfer credits are not granted to PhD students.  Instead, they may be granted exemptions towards the 30-credit requirement based on previous courses taken. A student who has completed graduate courses while enrolled in another UBC department or another university, will have course requirements assessed on an individual basis by the Research Supervisor: exemptions may be granted for a maximum of 18 credits of coursework, for courses with a standing of at least 74%, subject to approval of the Department and G+PS.

Core Course Substitutions. A Core Course may be substituted by an elective course if the equivalent course has already been taken. 

Selection of Elective Courses. Elective Courses may be selected from the list of Approved Elective Courses for the relevant specialization, CIVL 592 (which needs to be arranged with a particular instructor), a relevant CIVL 598 section (if available) and/or other courses including 300- & 400-level undergraduate courses and courses outside Civil Engineering. However, beyond the Approved Elective Courses, the final selection of elective courses requires the approval of the Research Supervisor, typically at the time of Coursework Plan approval. At all times, Department-wide course credit requirements and constraints need to be strictly adhered to.

PhD Dissertation

All PhD students should register and maintain registration in CIVL 699 Doctoral Dissertation in order to complete the PhD thesis. The thesis is prepared under the guidance of the Research Supervisor. In order to complete the thesis, PhD students are required to successfully complete the following four milestones:

  • Comprehensive Exam
  • Proposal Defence
  • Advancement to Candidacy
  • Dissertation Defence

These are outlined in turn: 

Comprehensive Examination. A student needs to complete successfully the Comprehensive Examination in order to commence with preparation of a Research Proposal. The purpose of the examination is to evaluate the student’s comprehension of scientific and engineering principles in the chosen field of study, as well as the potential for independent and original research. The examination can only be taken after completing the 24-credit coursework requirement, and must be taken within 24 months of initial registration in the program. The examination comprises a take-home written examination, followed by an in-camera oral examination that may extend up to three hours. A Comprehensive Examination Committee conducts the examination in accordance with Department Guidelines. The Committee is comprised of a chair appointed by the Associate Head, the Research Supervisor and at least two other members as determined by the Research Supervisor in consultation with the Associate Head. The Chair conveys the Committee’s recommendations in writing to the Associate Head for transmittal to G+PS. 

Proposal Defence. Upon successful completion of the Comprehensive Examination, the student prepares a Research Proposal for the thesis that must be approved by the Supervisory Committee. The format of the proposal defense and its evaluation vary between each area of specialization. Accordingly, the student is required to consult with the Research Supervisor on the development of the proposal. 

Advancement to Candidacy. Upon successful completion of all required coursework, the comprehensive examination and the proposal defense, the student may be admitted to candidacy through the submission and approval of the relevant G+PS form. All doctoral students must be admitted to candidacy within 36 months of initial registration in the PhD program. 

Dissertation Defense.  For detailed information on the final doctoral examination, including appointment of the External Examiner, the constitution of the Examination Committee, and the oral defense, refer to Final Doctoral Examination.

Part-time Status, Leaves of Absence and Program Duration

PhD students are considered full-time, and may not apply for part-time status. They may apply for leaves of absence during the program, and any such leave, if granted, does not count towards the total duration limitations of the program. PhD students will be expected to spend the equivalent of at least two consecutive years of fulltime study at the University, although completion of the program typically takes a minimum of three years. The PhD program must be completed within 6 years of initial registration.