Island culture, environment, economy, geography, and politics

The Master of Arts in Island Studies (MAIS) at the University of Prince Edward Island is a unique, interdisciplinary, and policy-driven graduate program that critiques islands on their own terms. We welcome students from around the world with diverse disciplinary backgrounds and diverse degrees, or with professional workplace experience in the public, private, or resource sectors.

Our program offers a challenging opportunity for students with:

  • a special interest in researching islands: their societies, economies, histories, cultures, governments, geographies, and environments
  • an interest in public policy and administration
  • career aspirations within local, regional, national, and international governmental and non-governmental organizations
  • career aspirations in the private and resource sectors
  • a desire for the challenge of graduate education

"The journey is as important as the destination, so take every opportunity."

a group of six Master of Arts in Island Studies graduates at UPEI Convocation
Michael Adebayo Olubiyi

Michael is a proud UPEI alumnus, a Class of 2022 graduate of the Master of Arts in Island Studies program, and manager of development planning for the City of Port Moody in British Columbia.

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Course Structure

Note: Current UPEI students should refer to Student Planning in myUPEI and the UPEI Academic Calendar governing their entry year, and speak to an academic advisor about course requirements. The course structure presented for this program is a recommended, unofficial progression for prospective students.

Course-based Stream

New course- and work-study Master of Arts in Island Studies

UPEI is recognized as the world leader in delivering a quality Island Studies education, successfully offering a thesis-based Master of Arts in Island Studies program for almost two decades.

Now we are pleased to offer a course- and work-study Master of Arts in Island Studies program, specializing in three streams:

  • Island Tourism (IT)
  • Sustainable Island Communities (SIC)
  • International Relations (Island Studies) and Island Public Policy

Course-based stream students will participate in in-person and/or hybrid model delivery courses, combining face-to-face, online, and video-based instruction. All of these specializations combine practice with theory.

Course-based focus areas

Combined with the work of the and the UNESCO Chair in Island Studies and Sustainability, the MAIS course- and work-study based stream provides even more opportunities for students around the world to access the leading Island Studies post-graduate program in the world today.

International Relations (Island Studies) and Island Public Policy
Accepting students in the Fall (September) and Winter (January) semesters

The MA Island Studies program at UPEI has an established strength in policy and international relations aspects of island studies. Islands, including small island states and subnational island jurisdictions, are often at the forefront of domestic, marine and international policy discussions, ranging from resource development, environmental regulation and strategic and territorial claims. Island studies teaching and research is proving to be significant and original in relation to diplomacy and coalition-building. Non-sovereign islands especially are using the spaces in domestic and international politics to bring about change. Graduates from this focus area will be able to provide leadership in addressing the complex issues facing modern governments and policy-making organizations. Students will gain the skills and knowledge to start or advance a career within local, provincial/state, federal and international governments or non-profit agencies that interact with government. Private companies that have extensive interactions with island governments will also benefit from the graduates鈥 skills and understanding of island policy issues.

Island Tourism
Accepting students in the Fall (September) and Winter (January) semesters

Tourism on many islands is one of the largest employers and fastest-growing sectors. This focus area is designed to meet the needs of current and future island-based tourism industry managers, executives, and other professional and public sector researchers. Graduates will develop their analytical, research and management skills to a standard that will allow them to excel in this growing sector. Graduates will develop a firm understanding of the specific challenges and opportunities associated with tourism in both warm and cold-weather island tourist destinations. The practical experiences associated with this program will allow students to work with professionals in the tourism sector to gain knowledge in the industry that complements the knowledge gained in the classroom. Employment opportunities for graduates include positions in travel agency and tour operating companies, the heritage sector, official tourist organizations, branding and marketing companies, and local or national government and other (including regional and international) organizations where knowledge of the tourism sector is important.

Sustainable Island Communities
Accepting students in the Fall (September) and Winter (January) semesters

Islands are special environments that are both resilient and vulnerable to changes in climate, economy and culture. A specialization in Sustainable Island Communities combines concepts of community development with practices of sustainability on islands to create a cutting-edge post-graduate degree. This focus area is ideal for students interested in the interdependence of physical, ecological, economic, political, cultural and social issues and who want to strengthen their abilities to become effective agents of community change. Students learn to take concepts, skills, solutions and strategies learnt in the classroom and test them against real-world situations on islands throughout the world.  Almost all public and private organizations are now incorporating some aspects of sustainability planning 鈥搃ncluding climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies - into their practices.

Employment opportunities for graduates of this specialization include community economic development, natural resources management, sustainable agriculture, rural and land-use planning, renewable and alternative energy management, environmental consulting, sustainability director positions, and posts with international organizations such as the United Nations, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, World Watch, Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund. Local, regional and federal government departments of sustainability and environmental management on islands would be natural employers for graduates from this focus area. Students will benefit from opportunities accorded them from UPEI鈥檚 Institute of Island Studies and the UNESCO Chair in Island Studies and Sustainability based at UPEI.

If you want additional information on any of these specializations or on the thesis program, don鈥檛 hesitate to contact the Program Coordinator at mais@upei.ca for more details. You can also view testimonials by current students and graduates at the 鈥淲hat Our Students Say鈥 links.

Program structure

September鈥揇ecember 2024

  • All new students will take Themes and Perspectives in Island Studies (IST 6010) and they may also take Research Methods and Design for Island Studies (IST 6040) now or in the January 2025 semester. These foundational courses will allow you to learn about the field of Island Studies while getting to know your instructors, your classmates and your new university. Island Tourism students will also take the core Islands and Tourism (IST 6230) course, while the Sustainable Island Communities students will take Sustainability for Small Islands (IST 6250), and International Relations and Island Public Policy students will take Public Policy in Small Islands (IST 6150).

January鈥揂pril 2025

  • Island Tourism students will take Approaches to the Management of Island Tourism (IST 6240).
  • Sustainable Island Communities students will take Political Ecology of Small Islands (IST 6130) and Blue/Green Development Strategies for Small Islands (IST 6260).
  • International Relations and Island Public Policy students will take International Relations and Island States (IST 6120) and Subnational Island Jurisdictions (IST 6270).

May鈥揓une 2025

  • The Theory and Practice of Island Research I (IST 6210) is the first of two work-study experiences for all course- and work-study students whereby students carry out an applied research project. These experiential courses consist of 35-40 contact hours with island organizations linked to your specialization and supplemental online instruction. These project-specific experiences might be at your home location, on PEI or at other sites around the world.

September 2025鈥揂pril 2026

  • Over the next eight months, you will register in another two to three courses, each delivered mostly face-to-face. Island Tourism students will take Strategies for Economic Development for Small Islands (IST 6110) in the fall semester.

June 2026

  • Students will complete the Capstone Course: Communications Management and Island Issues (IST 6200). This is a course taken daily over a two-week period.

July鈥揂ugust 2026

  • The second work-study experience course, Theory and Practice of Island Research II (IST 6220), can be undertaken at the same or a different organization as the first work-study experience.

After your successful completion of these 10 courses, you will join the proud alumni of UPEI's Master of Arts, Island Studies program.


Thesis Stream


This is an interdisciplinary program that accepts students from all disciplinary backgrounds. All we ask is that you have a passion for islands. Thesis stream students may adopt a comparative approach to study islands or explore a topic or issue that is crucial to one island. Either way, the program will prepare students with the practical research skills and knowledge they need to succeed in a world increasingly defined by interconnections and interactions among peoples and regions.

Students will:

  • study in small classes at the world鈥檚 top island studies university, hosting an Institute of Island Studies, a UNESCO Chair in Island Studies and Sustainability, and the internationally peer-reviewed Island Studies Journal鈥攁ll located in one of North America鈥檚 most picturesque island jurisdictions
  • benefit from grants and research assistantships made available to students by faculty
  • be considered for many scholarships and awards, including entrance scholarships and donor-based awards
  • participate in a challenging scholarly and interdisciplinary environment, with expert professors based at UPEI or visiting from other parts of the world 

The thesis version of the program involves six courses (three hours per week for twelve weeks) taken in the first year and a thesis researched and written under the supervision of faculty mentors at UPEI and abroad (spread over a second year).

Admissions Criteria
Admission to the Master of Arts Program

In the following it must be understood that the standard of reference is the typical Canadian university curriculum and university system.

Admission to a graduate degree program as a regular student is granted, on recommendation of the Department concerned, to:

  • the holder of an Honours or majors baccalaureate or its equivalent.
  • a student who has satisfied the requirements for transfer from provisional student category as described below.  

The minimum requirement for admission to graduate studies in the Faculty of Arts is a Bachelor鈥檚 degree, or equivalent, in an honours or majors program or equivalent from a recognized university or college. The applicant will ordinarily be expected to have achieved an average of at least second class (鈥淏鈥, i.e. 70% to 79.9%) standing in the work of the last four semesters or the last two undergraduate years.

Please  for complete admissions information.

Students are expected to be proficient in the use of English, both written and oral, when they begin their studies at the University of Prince Edward Island. Please review the English Language Requirements for graduate programs.

Application Deadline
Make sure you apply before the deadline!

Application deadline (Fall term): July 1

Application deadline (Winter term): November 1

All application materials, including all supplementary materials, must be received no later than July 8 (Fall term) and November 8 (Winter term).

Note: When deadlines fall on a weekend, the deadline moves to the first business day following.

You do not have to secure a supervisor prior to applying to this program. Visit the Faculty of Graduate Studies website for contact information.


Application for Admission 


All documents pertaining to application for admission must be submitted to the Office of the Registrar.

  • Follow UPEI's graduate program application process at upei.ca/apply.
  • All official post-secondary transcripts (must be mailed/couriered directly from the institution to UPEI)
  • A "Statement of Research Interests" 
    • a 1-3 page statement indicating your motivation for applying to this particular program. If you are applying to the thesis program please provide a general idea of what you intend to pursue as part of your thesis research. For further information contact the Program Coordinator (mais@upei.ca).
  • A sample of written research work (in English) from prior university or professional experience.
  • Two (2) letters of recommendation from professors or those familiar with your professional work.
  • A resume or curriculum vitae.
Fees and Funding
Tuition and Scholarships


Master of Arts in Island Studies Tuition - $12,900 per program
(Course-based study - $1,290 per course for 10 courses)
(Thesis-based study - $1,290 per course for 6 courses and $1,720 per course for 3 thesis courses)

International students pay $801 per course in addition to full-time course tuition.

For a complete breakdown of part-time or full-time study as a student in the Master of Arts program, visit our .

Scholarships and Bursaries

Approximately one-quarter to one-third of all students accepted into the thesis and course-based programs will receive scholarships that will partially offset their costs. For more information on this innovative program or the thesis-based program and opportunities for admission, please contact the Program Coordinator at mais@upei.ca. Students applying by March 31 will receive first consideration for scholarships.

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