PhD in Indigenous Studies

The Faculty of Native Studies distinctively combines Indigenous community knowledge and concerns with the scholarly standards and methods of a research-intensive university to offer multidisciplinary education in a rigorous, respectful academic environment attentive to local, national and international concerns.

In this scholarly and methodological context, the PhD in Indigenous Studies emphasizes research strengths in the faculty:

  1. Critical Indigenous Theory,
  2. Indigenous Governance,
  3. Indigenous Peoples and Place (with emphasis on the Prairies); &
  4. Indigenous Sexualities, Genders, and Feminisms.

Application Requirements

The Faculty of Native Studies' minimum admission requirements for the PhD in Indigenous Studies program are normally:

  1. A master's degree with a cumulative average of a minimum of 3.3 GPA (on a four point letter grading scale) in the last *60 credits.
  2. A two-page statement detailing:
    1. research interest(s),
    2. background, commitment and scholarly preparedness for advanced, independent research in Indigenous Studies and related fields; and
    3. include an outline of discussion with your preferred supervisor and, if possible, potential committee members in the Faculty of Native Studies.

A research supervisor is required in order to be admitted to this Department. Visit our  Searchable Directory for faculty information. Please note you must have previously corresponded with these faculty member(s) and have made a tentative supervisory arrangement.

  1. An example of academic work appropriate to the application.
  2. Three letters of reference (preferably academic)
  3. A current resume or curriculum vitae
  4. Where applicable, all applicants must meet the minimum English Language Proficiency set by the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research.
  5. Up-to-date Official Transcripts of all post-secondaries attended (see Application Documents for Academic Documents). NOTE: Transcripts "date-of-issue" must be within one year.

All information, with the exception of Reference Letters, will need to be uploaded to the application. With regards to the reference letters, the applicant will need to input the referee's name and contact information whereby an email will be sent to the referee to upload their reference letter.

The PhD in Indigenous Studies is a program of advanced study. As such, students are expected to have an established background in Indigenous studies when applying. This is best demonstrated by fulfilling the requirements for the MA in Native Studies. An equivalent background may also be demonstrated based on the successful completion of several Indigenous studies courses on the applicant’s transcripts. Applicants who do not meet these requirements may be asked to complete Indigenous studies courses or other courses with similar content before re-applying. These courses should be related to the intended research topic.

Application Deadline

Completed MA and PhD applications to the Faculty of Native Studies are due January 15. 

To be considered for a transfer from another University of Alberta graduate program, all application materials must be received by January 15.

A completed application includes all required post-secondary transcripts and all three academic reference letters. It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure that all the reference letters are received by the January 15 deadline. Incomplete applications as of January 15, including those without all reference letters, will not be considered for admission.

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Official documents may be required upon receiving a conditional offer of admission letter. Documents must be sent directly from the post-secondary institution to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research office.

Please read the Application Documents for Academic Documents.

Program Requirements

In the first semester of Year 1, students are required to take ★9 credits, normally consisting of Advanced Theoretical Perspectives in Indigenous Studies (NS 620), Professional Seminar, (NS 655), and Advanced Indigenous Methodologies (NS 690).

During the second semester of Year 1, students will prepare for and undertake two comprehensive examinations and submit a dissertation proposal. An oral candidacy examination will be held based on these written components. All students should be full doctoral candidates by the end of Year 1.

Over the next two years, they will conduct research, engage in scholarly activities, and write a dissertation. The dissertation will be defended at an oral examination. Proficiency in a language other than English (including an Aboriginal language) is recommended in accordance with the thesis topic.


The residency requirement is two academic years of full-time attendance at the University of Alberta (where an academic year is defined as the eight-month period from September through April).

Length of Program

This is an intensive and comprehensive degree program. Full-time PhD students will normally be expected to complete the program in three years.

Financial Assistance

Graduate students in the Faculty are eligible to compete for the general graduate awards and bursaries listed in scholarships and are encouraged to do so.

All applicants are strongly encouraged to apply for Tri-Council Funding when applying to Faculty of Native Studies graduate programs.

Financial assistance in the form of graduate assistantships may be available to qualified students. For further information contact the Faculty of Native Studies.


NS 620 Advanced Theoretical Perspectives in Indigenous Studies

★3 (fi 6) (either term, 0-3s-0). This course engages students with theoretical concepts seminal to the discipline of Indigenous Studies. Students will gain a  thorough understanding of the Indigenous Studies theoretical field and will be able to specifically identify theory relevant to their explicit research project. Through Indigenous theory, students will be able to identify ethical issues in relation to research with Indigenous communities.

NS 655 Professional Seminar

★3 (fi 6) (either term, 0-3s-0). This professional development course helps develop the intellectual independence transferable to employment both within and outside the academy, including the creativity to solve complex situations through the exercise of responsibility and autonomy. From an  Indigenous Studies perspective, this course introduces students to career development and professional issues within the academy, and the public and private sectors. Students will work on developing their research and writing skills to a level that will satisfy peer review and merit publication. Students will work on orally communicating complex ideas cogently, clearly and effectively. Students will work on the technical skills required within the PhD process. Topics include the history of Indigenous Studies as a  discipline; external funding agencies; preparing and reviewing grant proposals; preparing and reviewing manuscripts for publication; oral presentations; writing for different audiences; and preparing for comprehensive exams.

NS 690 Advanced Indigenous Methodologies

★3 (fi 6) (either term, 0-3s-0). This course gives students a thorough conceptual understanding of the key methodological principles and research concepts seminal to the discipline of Indigenous Studies. Students will gain proficiency in Indigenous methodologies and the skills to comprehend,  design, and implement method relevant to their specific research area,  including the use of existing Indigenous methods and the creation of new methods to answer complex research problems. Students will be able to articulate methodological strategies to produce meaningful research 'with' as opposed to 'on' Indigenous communities. Students will begin to develop the skills to carry out advanced research within academic, community and/or applied settings.

THES 909: Thesis Research

★0 (fi 18) (either term, unassigned). Represents research activity equivalent to ★9 for registration status and fee assessment purposes.

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