Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

The Doctoral (Ph.D.) program is designed to develop the candidates ability for independent research. Applicants to the program must have a high scholastic standing and demonstrate an aptitude for research to be admitted into the program. General information, course administration and policies can be found on the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Any further information can be provided by contacting the Civil Engineering Graduate Secretary.

Ph.D. students will normally spend a minimum of three academic terms at the University, although in some circumstances it is possible to complete the program in 2 years following a Master's degree. Substantial completion of the Ph.D. requirements is expected within three years for students with a Master's degree, and within 4 years for those students who have transferred from the Ph.D. program. The University requires that the Ph.D. program be completed within 6 years of initial registration. For further details concerning the Ph.D. program, consult Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website.

UBC Regulations and Policies

It is the responsibility of each student to be aware of the Academic Calendar and have a full understanding of the Regulations in it, including the Statement on Academic Freedom.

Conduct of faculty, staff and students is governed by a number of University Policy Statements that can be found at: Index of All Policies, Guidelines and Rules. Students are expected to have a full understanding of these policies; giving particular attention to: Policy 85 - Scholarly IntegrityPolicy 87 - ResearchPolicy 88 - Patents and LicensingPolicy 97 - Conflict of Interest.

Financial Aid

Information on University awards and scholarships can be found at Award Opportunities for Current Students. Additional information on Civil Engineering scholarships and awards can be found on Graduate Funding Opportunities.

Research Supervision

A student must choose a faculty member to serve as their Research Supervisor within six-months of initial registration in the Ph.D program. The principal role of the Research Supervisor is to provide guidance on selection of coursework, to collaborate on the development of a research plan, to supervise the research effort, and to provide guidance on preparation of the Ph.D. thesis. On occasion, a student may be co-supervised by two faculty members. Ordinarily, for a student receiving financial support through a Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA). Scholarship funding through a Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA) is described at Managing Your Program.

A student who is initially undecided on their research topic will be assigned an interim supervisor, typically the Specialty Advisor. However the choice of Research Supervisor must still be within six-months of initial registration in the Ph.D program.

If the Research Supervisor is on study leave or any other leave exceeding two months, it is recommended that an interim co-supervisor be appointed. If the interim co-supervisor is not a member of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, then a formal request for approval must be submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies.


Coursework requirements specific to each area of specialization may be found in Areas of Specialization.

The PhD program in Civil Engineering requires completion of at least 30 credits of coursework beyond the Bachelor’s degree level, and submission of a thesis (CIVL 699). Students are required to obtain approval of their course selection from their thesis supervisor or Specialty Advisor. A student who has completed graduate courses while enrolled in another department at UBC, or another university, will have course requirements assessed on an individual basis by the Research Supervisor: credit may be granted for a maximum 18 credits of coursework, for courses with a standing of at least 74%, subject to the approval of the Associate Head, Graduate Programs.


500 Level

30 credits of graduate 500 level courses.

Directed Studies
(CIVL 592)

A maximum of 6 credits may be taken as Directed Studies (CIVL 592). For more information on registering for a Directed Studies course, contact the Civil Engineering Graduate Secretary.

Topics in Civil Engineering
(CIVL 598)

maximum of 6 credits may be taken as Topics in Civil Engineering (CIVL 598) i.e, courses that are not yet approved as regular CIVL courses.

300 or 400 Level

A maximum of 6 credits of undergraduate 300 or 400 level courses may be taken.

100 or 200 Level

100 or 200 level courses may not be used for Ph.D. program credit. If remedial or prerequisite coursework is required at the 100 or 200 level, register for it as an Unclassified Student or as an Auditor: the different registration status is important because the course is not considered in the GPA for the Ph.D. program.

CIVL 597 Seminar

All full-time Ph.D. students are required to register once and attend CIVL 597 Graduate Seminar series (1 credit) in the chosen area of specialization (if offered) throughout their program. Ph.D candidates are required to give at least one seminar presentation during their program.


Students are expected to maintain a minimum academic standing and a minimum grade of 68% is required in each course used for credit. Supplemental examinations are not granted to graduate students: a course in which a grade of less than 68% is obtained may be repeated for higher standing, subject to the approval of the Faculty of Graduate Studies. A student who obtains a grade of less than 68% in more than one course, or achieves an overall average of less than 80% in coursework taken in the Ph.D program, will normally be required to withdraw.

Supervisory Committee

The program of each student is overseen by a supervisory committee of at least three members, including the Research Supervisor who normally chairs the committee. Preferably, the committee should include one member from outside the Department, who does not have to be a member of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.  The committee is established by the Research Supervisor in consultation with the Graduate Program Advisor, within 6 months of the student’s registration in the PhD program.

Comprehensive Examination

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.  It is separate and distinct from the defense of the Thesis Proposal. The examination can only be taken after completing a minimum of 24 credits of coursework (beyond the Bachelor’s degree), and must be taken within 24 months of initial registration in the PhD program.  It comprises a take-home written examination that is completed over a period of several days, followed by an oral examination that is held in camera and is of three hours maximum duration. It is formulated by a Comprehensive Examination Committee that consists of at least four members. Membership of the committee is determined by the Research Supervisor in consultation, where appropriate, with the Associate Head for Graduate Programs. Preferably, the committee should include one examiner from outside the Department, who does not have to be a member of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.  In addition to the four committee members, a Chairperson appointed by the Associate Head for Graduate Programs conducts the oral examination in accordance with departmental guidelines. The recommendations of the committee must be conveyed by the Chairperson in writing to the Associate Head for Graduate Programs for transmission to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

Thesis Proposal

Upon successful completion of the Comprehensive Examination, the student prepares a research proposal for the doctoral thesis that must be approved by the Supervisory Committee. The formality of the proposal defense, and its evaluation, vary between each area of specialization. Accordingly, the student is required to consult with the Specialty Advisor on these matters.

Advancement to Candidacy

Upon successful completion of the Thesis Proposal, and all required coursework, the student may be admitted to candidacy. All doctoral students must be admitted to candidacy within 36 months of initial registration in the PhD program.

Final Doctoral Exam & Degree Application


For detailed information on thesis preparation refer to: Dissertation & Thesis Preparation. Normally, early drafts of the Ph.D thesis are prepared with guidance from the Research Supervisor, who must agree to its technical content and findings. The cost of thesis preparation is considered a responsibility of the Candidate. In preparing the final draft, the thesis should be circulated to all other members of the Supervisory Committee for their comments and suggestions. It may be appropriate to convene a meeting of the Supervisory Committee to assist with this process. Upon receiving a recommendation from the Supervisory Committee, the Department Head gives approval for the thesis to be submitted for examination.

Final Doctoral Examination

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

Upon a successful defence of the thesis, the final approved copy of the dissertation must be submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies. It will be added to the UBC Library's cIRcle Institutional Repository. Please make sure that the thesis you submit is complete and accurate; you cannot re-submit an updated or changed thesis at a later date. IMPORTANT: If you would like your thesis to be withheld from publication, you must obtain approval from the Faculty of Graduate Studies before submitting your thesis.

The Ph.D candidate must apply for graduation by submitting an application through the Student Service Centre. Immediately thereafter, please inform the Graduate Secretary in Civil Engineering.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Students are responsible for ensuring that their program registration is complete, that all fees have been paid and that they meet all course requirements for the degree and program. If you have any questions of clarification please contact the Civil Engineering Graduate Secretary.