FAQs for Urban Studies Applicants

Application Planning Questions

1: Should I study part-time or full-time?

This depends on your particular circumstances. For international students who must satisfy the conditions of their study permits and post-graduation work permits, it is important to maintain full-time student status. If you are financing your studies through grants or student loans, you may also be required to maintain full-time status.. Any Urban Studies graduate student who is registered in at least six units of coursework in any given term is considered a full-time student.

When MURB students successfully complete URB 696 and begin their independent thesis research, they register in URB 697. This course alone also carries a full-time course load equivalency.

For students planning to study part-time, an important consideration is that the eligibility criteria for the majority of needs-based financial aid (including SFU bursaries), as well as merit-based awards and grants (including SFU’s graduate fellowships) requires that students have full-time status.

2: How long does it take to graduate? If I attend as a full-time student, can I complete in under two years?

For the master's degree (MURB): You need to complete 32 units, including elective seminar courses (usually 4 units each) and three required courses (URB 670, 696, and 697) designed to help you complete your independent research-based thesis. We offer courses year-round in three terms: fall, spring and summer. Typically a full-time course load is two courses per term. It is possible for a full-time student to complete a MURB degree in five terms (so under two years). However, the few students who have achieved this are the subject of late-night stories around the campfire.

Students normally have a maximum of nine terms (three years) to complete their MURB degree, whether they study part-time or full-time. 

For the diploma (GDUS): It is possible to complete the 24-credit GDUS in one year (3 terms) of full-time study.

3: What if I am below just one of the band scores on my English language test?

Applicants have to meet (and preferably exceed) the minimum English language requirements in each reported category. These minimum requirements should be met before you submit your application. We do not allow exceptions because we want students to succeed in their studies with us.

4: I have a portfolio that I would like to include as supporting documentation for my application. How can I submit it?

This is not required, however, you are welcome to submit a supporting document in the ”other documents” section of the online application system. This can be helpful particularly for applicants who earned their undergraduate degree a number of years ago or whose professional or academic background is not within the social sciences.

5: I’m not sure which program best suits me. Can I apply for the diploma program and the master’s program at the same time?

Yes, you can. However, you must submit two separate applications and sets of documents, and pay the application fee for each. You may use the same referees for both applications, but each referee will need to submit their letter twice.

6: What are my chances of getting into the master’s or diploma program? How can I know how competitive my application is? 

We can’t answer this question definitively because the strength of your application in relation to others depends on the overall quality and size of our applicant pool, and we never know that until the application deadline has passed.

  • SFU’s minimum CGPA for admission to a graduate diploma is 2.5 on a 4.33 scale or 2.67 on a 4.00 scale. 
  • SFU's minimum CGPA for admission to a master's program is 3.0 on a 4.33 scale or 3.33 on a 4.00 scale.

However, we always receive more applications than we have space to admit and consequently, successful applicants typically have substantially higher CGPAs than these. If you have a bachelor’s degree with a CGPA that is higher than the minimum, some urban-related volunteer or  professional experience, at least two strong academic references, and your statement of interest shows that you have strong writing skills and that you have thought seriously about why you want to pursue graduate education in urban studies and what you would like to research (if applying to the master’s), we will definitely receive your application with interest.

If your application falls slightly short in one or more of these areas, you may still be successful, depending on the strength and number of the other applications we receive. Admission to the master’s program is more competitive than to the diploma program.

7: If I send you my resume and transcripts, will you tell me whether I am eligible?

Sorry, no. The volume of inquiries and applications we receive is too high for us to do that for individual applicants. However, you can check the information we have on our own program website and on SFU’s Department of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies to determine your own eligibility. For international students, minimum academic requirements by country are listed here, as are minimum English test scores if you need to provide those. 

If your question is more about the likelihood of you being accepted, please see Q6 above.

8: When can I apply and when can I start if I’m successful?

We have two application intakes each year.

For fall term admissions: Our online application system opens November 1 and closes the following Feb. 15 for those wishing to begin in September of that calendar year. 

The deadline for these applications to be submitted is normally February 15 in the same calendar year as applicants would be admitted (e.g. 2020 in the above example).

For spring term admissions: Our online application system opens April 15 and closes June 15 for those wishing to begin the following January. This is generally a smaller intake.

9: When will I know whether my application has been accepted?

We notify all applicants within 4 to 6 weeks of the application deadline. We are not able to respond to individual requests for updates on the status of applications before then.

Master of Urban Studies Questions

10: I work full time. Can I complete a Master of Urban Studies degree?

Yes. Most of our courses are offered in the evening, from 5:30–9:20 p.m., in order to facilitate participation by students who work full-time. Seminar courses usually meet once or twice per week and you should budget at least double that amount of time when considering the time needed to read and prepare for class. Most of our students who work full-time find it manageable to take one seminar course per semester.  

When it comes time to research and write the independent thesis component of the degree, almost all students find they need to negotiate some time away from work in order to focus on data collection, analysis and writing. 

11: How do I choose my research supervisor?

Unlike many graduate programs, we do not require applicants to have a commitment from an academic supervisor at the time of application. Instead, you may consider multiple options for research supervision at the time of application. When you apply or once you arrive on campus, you should make efforts to meet faculty whose research interests you to inquire about research supervision. Within their first year, master’s students submit a ballot with their research topic and supervision preferences. The program then assigns senior and secondary supervisors to each student, taking their preferences into account.

12: I’m not sure if the Master of Urban Studies is for me. Can I start out in the Graduate Diploma in Urban Studies program and transfer to the MURB later?

Yes. The GDUS offers a challenging academic program without the thesis component that’s required in the MURB program. If you do not have a research question burning inside, or if you are not sure you want to commit to a master's degree, the GDUS program could be right for you. Transfers from GDUS to MURB are possible with demonstrated academic achievement in the GDUS and the commitment of a faculty member to supervise your research.

13: Is the Master of Urban Studies a planning degree?

No. We don’t offer a certified planning credential and have not sought to structure our program in that way. Some of our faculty have educational, research backgrounds or professional experience in urban planning and policy, while others do not. Many of our students and graduates work as urban planners or in some planning capacity. 

It is possible to seek accreditation with the Planning Institute of British Columbia (PIBC) and the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP) with a Master of Urban Studies degree. Anyone who works as a non-certified planner for five years may be eligible for certification through CIP's prior learning assessment recognition (PLAR) program. Some of our graduates have also become registered professional planners by seeking pre-candidate status with the PIBC.

14: I have a background and degree(s) in architecture, the sciences, or fine arts. Am I qualified to apply for the Master of Urban Studies degree?

Urban Studies is an interdisciplinary field. Successful students come to Urban Studies from a variety of different academic backgrounds. However, though there is considerable room to design your own course of study, you will be asked to do at least some social science research as part of your degree. Because of this, the admissions committee wants to see evidence that applicants have the proven capability to succeed in a social science-based seminar course, and interest in conducting social science-based urban research. Applicants should demonstrate to the admissions committee that they understand the nature and requirements of the MURB degree at SFU and that their path has led them to urban studies for good reason. 

Financial Questions

15: How much will a Master of Urban Studies degree cost?

The Graduate Urban Studies Program is a fee-per-unit program, which means you pay tuition for the units you enroll in, not for the terms you’re enrolled. You are required to complete 32 units to graduate with a MURB. As of July 2020, tuition for both the masters and graduate diploma programs was $315.82 per unit. So the minimum total tuition cost of a MURB is currently $10,106.24. The final tuition cost will depend on how long it takes you to complete your independent research project (URB 697). This is because students earn 4 units for completing that project, but typically have to enroll in (and pay for) that course three or more times in order to complete and defend their research project. However, if students meet the minimum progress requirements for this course in the first term, the tuition for subsequent terms is only 50% of the regular amount. This means that at current tuition rates, students who complete their MURB research project within three terms would pay a total of $11,369.52 in tuition. The program and each student’s supervisor will provide guidance to help students develop a proposal for a research project that is feasible to complete within this timeframe.

Students are also required to pay various fees and to maintain health and dental coverage during the time they’re studying. At current rates, we estimate the total cost of those fees (including for medical and dental insurance and a transit pass) for a full-time domestic student to be approximately $1,600 per year.

You can find more information about the fees SFU charges here

SFU has also provided a calculator to help you estimate your costs, which you can find here.

More information on graduate tuition and fees is available in the most recent version of the academic calendar.

 Note: International and domestic students pay the same tuition but pay different amounts for the required medical and dental insurance.

16: How much will a graduate diploma in Urban Studies cost?

The Graduate Urban Studies Program is a fee-per-unit program, which means you pay tuition for the units you enroll in, not for the terms you’re enrolled in. You are required to complete 24 units to graduate with a GDUS. As of July 2020, tuition for the graduate diploma program was $315.82 per unit. So the total tuition cost of a GDUS is currently $7,579.68 

Students are also required to pay various fees and to maintain health and dental coverage during the time they’re studying. At current rates, we estimate the total cost of those fees (including for medical and dental insurance and a transit pass) for a full-time domestic student to be approximately $1,600 per year.

You can find more information about the fees SFU charges here

SFU has also provided a calculator to help you estimate your costs, which you can find here.

More information on graduate tuition and fees is available in the most recent version of the academic calendar.

Note: International and domestic students pay the same tuition but pay different amounts for the required medical and dental insurance.

17: Can I get financial support to complete my Urban Studies program?

Students admitted to the Urban Studies program do not receive a standard package of financial assistance. The need among Urban Studies students for financial assistance varies, because a large proportion of our students work full-time. While this is much less likely to be the case for international students, numerous international students opt for co-operative education and/or other paid research or internships, which can offer meaningful paid work opportunities in fields related to urban studies. 

Urban Studies students have access to merit-based, competitive fellowships and private awards at SFU. Some of these are awarded at the time of admission. More opportunities arise for students once they are registered, as a reward and incentive for progress and timely completion. We commit to working with all students who qualify for competitive national awards, including the Social Sciences Research Council of Canada's Graduate Scholarships-Master’s Program( SSHRC CGS-M), and have a good track record with these prestigious awards. Some students pursue opportunities to work as teaching assistants for undergraduate courses or as research assistants on faculty research projects. These opportunities come up regularly but are also competitive and merit-based.  

SFU also offers bursaries for students with demonstrated financial need. Students can apply for these through goSFU at the start of each term.

However, it is important for students who plan to study part-time to be aware that the eligibility criteria for the majority of needs-based financial aid (including SFU bursaries), as well as for merit-based awards and grants (including SFU’s graduate fellowships) requires that students have full-time status.

More information about needs-based student financial aid at SFU is available here.

More information about merit-based scholarships and awards for graduate students is available here.

Other/General Questions

18: Is the Urban Studies Program currently offering its courses online due to Covid-19 restrictions, or in person? How will courses be offered in fall 2021 and beyond?

In the current (spring 2021) term we are offering our courses online, with some limited face-to-face meetings, in keeping with provincial public health guidelines and SFU's Covid-19 safety planning. 

SFU is now planning to move back to providing in-person, face-to-face instruction in fall 2021. You can find the most current information on SFU's ongoing response to Covid-19 on this page.

If we are able to continue offering some of our courses online, we will note that on our course offerings page, as we confirm the course delivery format.

19: I am an Indigenous person of Canada. How is my application to the Urban Studies Program treated?

In support of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and the goal of increasing the number of Indigenous graduate students as outlined in the British Columbia Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education and Training Policy Framework and Action Plan, the Urban Studies Program will nominate all qualified Indigenous applicants for graduate scholarships dedicated to them by SFU Graduate and Postgraduate Studies. These scholarships are currently valued at $18,000 per year for two years for masters students.

20: Can I get a PhD in Urban Studies?

We currently offer only a graduate diploma and master’s degree. However, a growing number of our graduates have gone on to successful PhD studies in disciplines such as geography, communication, sociology and policy studies. Students may also apply to conduct an interdisciplinary PhD in Urban Studies via the SFU Individualized Interdisciplinary Studies Program.

21: I have already started a graduate degree and would like to transfer into the Urban Studies Program. Can I transfer my graduate credits?

Students in Urban Studies program may take up to two courses (eight credits) from another recognized institution and count these credits toward their credential. This is by permission of the director, and depends upon whether the courses taken at the other institution are applicable to urban studies. It is also dependent on you NOT having applied these credits already toward another degree. This would be something to discuss only after being admitted.

22: What if I need to take a break from my studies?

Once admitted to the diploma or master’s program, a student must either be enrolled in courses, or on leave.

Students can take up to three terms of personal leave while in the master’s or diploma program, but each of these terms counts towards the maximum time allowed for completion of your credential (nine terms) before you must apply for an extension. You can take a personal leave for any reason and all you need is permission from the program director (for diploma students) or permission from your supervisor and program director in the case of master’s students. No supporting documentation is required. 

Students can also take leaves for medical, compassionate or parental reasons. In these cases, the terms taken on leave do not count toward the number of terms allowed to complete your credential before applying for an extension. Supporting documentation is required when applying for this type of leave.

Finally, master’s students who have completed all their elective courses can take a term of academic leave if none of the required master’s completion courses are being offered. This is often the case in the summer before a master’s student takes URB 696, which is typically offered in the fall.

Deadlines for applications and ALL supporting materials

- Tuesday, June 15, 2021 (to start in January 2022)

Application decisions

- 4-6 weeks after the application deadline 
- We are not able to respond to individual queries about the status of applications before this time.