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Indigenous Studies Ph.D.

PhD Graduate Karyn Recollet with Elders
Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies

Indigenous Studies Ph.D.

Admission to the Program


Are you ready for a PhD?

The PhD journey can be a highly rewarding and opens up new world of possibilities, but it is also a decision that needs to be taken very seriously (postgrad.com). Two important questions that should be considered before submitting an application to the program are:

  •  Why do you want to pursue a PhD? 
  • What do you plan to do with it once you are done?

PhD work is incredibly intensive and requires candidates to engage at a PhD level with relevant scholarship and also demonstrate advanced writing skills on course work, comprehensive exams and a dissertation. 

There are many ways to make a significant contribution to knowledge and/or society (ies) that do not require a PhD. Having a PhD doesn't always guarantee a job at the end of the process either which is also an important consideration. 

If you are confident in your reasons for pursuing a PhD and know what you will do with it when you are done, and feel you have the necessary skills (advanced reading comprehension and writing skills) and background (Indigenous Studies at an undergraduate or masters level or equivalent studies) to succeed in the program, please review our faculty profiles to make sure there is an appropriate faculty member to supervise your research project. 

Applying to the Program

The PhD Program in Indigenous Studies welcomes qualified applicants from all backgrounds who are interested in decolonizing the academic and working toward the autonomy of Indigenous peoples. The application deadline is February 1. Applications are reviewed by a selection committee in early to mid February for a September program start. On rare occasions we do consider student applications after this date. Please email the Program Director to inquire about the submission of a late application after the February first deadline.


To be considered for admission, students must have completed a Masters Degree in a field relevant to Indigenous Studies with an overall average at graduation of at least B+ (77%, GPA 3.3). In cases, where the Master's degree is in a field other than Indigenous Studies, students may be required to enroll in a make-up or Qualifying Year Program in Indigenous Studies to ensure an adequate academic background for pursuing PhD work. The Qualifying Year will consist of between four and five upper-year undergraduate courses in Indigenous Studies (with MA level assignments); the number of courses depend on the student's background and qualifications. Successful completion of a Qualifying Year will permit the student to compete for admission on an equal basis with other applicants. Admission to the Ph.D. program is not, however, guaranteed.

Plan of Study

Plans of study are reviewed by the selection committee and are vital indicators of a students ability to carry out a PhD research project. To be successful your plan of study should include:

  • Your area of interest/focus for your dissertation
  • Previous courses and/or research in this area
  • Discussion of scholarship that has influenced your decision to focus in this area of research
  • Previous courses or experience with Indigenous and/or allied settler methodologies
  • Previous courses or work that prepared you for reading and writing at a PhD level

Writing Sample

All applicants must submit a writing sample. In most cases, an MA thesis or MRP chapter will suffice. Please note that applicants may be asked to produce an additional piece of writing for the selection committee. Writing samples must be in PDF format and submitted electronically to Graduate Studies (graduate@trentu.ca). Please indicate in the subject line of your email: student name and program choice. Hard copies will not be accepted.

Letters of Reference

Letters of reference are vital components of an application package. They should primary address your academic ability to carry out your proposed research project. Passion for a topic is appreciated, but does not guarantee successful completion of the program. Letters should provide honest and critical assessment of an applicant's abilities, particularly with respect to reading and writing at a PhD level and any kind of engagement you have had with Indigenous Studies or Indigenous research contexts. Communication skills (oral and written) are vital for working with colleagues, engaging with scholarship, completing comprehensive exams, conducting research, and writing and defending a dissertation.

Further Information

For further information on applying to a Trent University graduate program, see How Do I Apply?