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Environmental Studies (PhD)

Creatively redefine the boundaries of environmental research. Adopting an interdisciplinary lens for your PhD in Environmental Studies, you will create a unique Program Plan, to be  guided by your supervisory committee. Using various conceptual approaches to explore environmental issues in their historical and comparative contexts, you will analyze how theoretical and practical matters intersect, and how reflexive, rigorous, critical and creative thinking can inform environmental research, practice and policy. Explore conventional disciplines such as social sciences, humanities, arts and natural sciences in ways that encourage viewing issues through a broader, more contextual perspective, with an emphasis on social justice.

Students may research such vital issues as:

  • Applied ecology and conservation
  • Critical urban studies
  • Environmental and social justice
  • Environmental humanities
  • Arts-based research and community arts practice
  • Global political ecology and critical development studies
  • Indigenous and decolonizing approaches to environmental research
  • Socio-environmental health
  • Environmental policy and management
  • Critical approaches to energy and climate change

Program Details

4 to 6 years

Full time

Fall entry


Applying to Environmental Studies (PhD)

  • Fall 2021 Online Application: January 15, 2021
  • Fall 2021 Submission of Supporting Documents: January 30, 2021
  1. Complete the online York University Graduate Application Form.
    • No documents will be reviewed prior to the submission of an online application.
  2. Pay the application fee.
  3. Submit supporting documents through the York University online portal, MyFile.
    • Within four business days of application, you will receive a confirmation email with your nine-digit student reference number, which will allow you to access your MyFile account and upload your documents.
    • It is important to check your MyFile regularly for any documents you are required to submit and updates to the status of your application.


Academic transcripts or degree certificates (if degree conferral is not indicated on transcripts) are required from every post-secondary institution you attended. This includes:

  • Undergraduate and graduate studies
  • Exchange programs
  • Studies for which you did not complete a degree

Transcripts are not required for studies completed at York University.

If you are currently completing your studies, submit your in-progress transcript.

More information about transcript submission is available on the York University Graduate Admissions page.

Statement of Academic Interest

Your statement must follow the format below:

Part A: A title summarizing your research interests (20 words or less)

Part B: Five keywords that best describe your research interests

Part C: A description of your intended research (approximately 1,000 words):

  • Situate your research interests and proposed work in relevant general academic fields and literature.
  • Describe your research topic and plan for the dissertation (including preliminary research questions, theoretical frameworks, methodology and anticipated contributions).
  • Provide details of your background preparation (such as previous degrees, courses, research or professional experience, community work) supporting your proposed research.
  • Describe how your interests relate to our full-time faculty members’ research.   
  • Note: You do not need to secure a supervisor prior to applying. However, it is strongly recommended that you connect with a few potential faculty members to discuss your shared research interests. If you are accepted into the program, a supervisor will be assigned to you (based on your research interests).

Resumé or Curriculum Vitae

You may also wish to include the following information (if applicable) in your resumé or curriculum vitae:

  • Academic honours (scholarships, fellowships, awards, etc.)
  • Academic and professional qualifications and memberships
  • Publications and reports (if any are jointly authored, please provide a separate note describing your contribution)

Sample of Written Work

  • The writing sample should be your best and most recent academic writing (such as a thesis chapter or article) as appropriate to your research area.
  • The writing sample must be in English and no more than 50 pages.

Two forms ­– Referee and Supplementary Information –  must be completed. These can be found under the “Supplementary Information Forms” link in your MyFile account. It is best to prepare your answers in advance and then copy and paste them into the form.

Referee Information Form

  • You will be required to submit three references or referees.
  • Please provide us with the names, email addresses and mailing addresses of your referees. A link will emailed, on your behalf, to your referees to complete a Letter of Recommendation form. 
  • Your referees will have two weeks to complete the form.

Academic references are strongly preferred. It is possible to use professional references if necessary, provided they address your critical thinking skills and facility with conceptual and theoretical materials.

Supplementary Information Form

This is a standard graduate form, so some questions will not apply.

  • Question 1: Awards information – Please list any external awards you have applied for (such as the SHHRC and OGS).
  • Question 2: Language skill – Does not apply to the PhD in Environmental Studies. Please leave this section blank.
  • Question 3: Program options – Does not apply to the PhD in Environmental Studies. Please leave this section blank.
  • Question 4: Professors you hope to work with – Please identify three faculty members, as mentioned in your Research Statement, who could be a potential supervisor. 
  • Question 5: Other information – You may include any additional information you feel is relevant to your application that has not been previously mentioned.

(if applicable)

If your first language is not English, you must demonstrate you have an acceptable level of English by completing a language proficiency test:

  • TOEFL – paper-based: 600; computer-based: 250; iBT: 100 (York code: 0894)
  • IELTS (Academic) – overall band score: 7.5

Note: You must meet the required minimum score for your application to be considered.

For more details, see York University’s English language proficiency information.