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
Course Structure
Course-based Stream


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

Starting in September 2019, an exciting new specialization in Sustainable Island Communities and a second cohort in Island Tourism 

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 more than 15 years.

Now, building on our initial success in 2018, in September 2019 we will be offering a a brand new cohort of the course- and work-study Master of Arts in Island Studies program, specializing in Sustainable Island Communities. For those who missed out on the initial offering of the Island Tourismspecialization, you are not out of luck. Starting in September 2019, we will be starting a second cohort of this specialization.  Course-based stream students will participate in hybrid model delivery courses, combining online, video-based and face-to-face instruction. You can choose to come to PEI to complete your graduate degree or be connected with the rest of your cohort from the comfort of your own home.

Course-based focus areas

Combined with the work of the Institute of Island Studies 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. 

Island Tourism 
September 2019

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
September 2019

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 –including 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’s Institute of Island Studies and the UNESCO Chair in Island Studies and Sustainability based at UPEI.

An additional focus area in International Relations, Islands, and Public Policy will be offered in 2020. Ask the Program Coordinator at mais@upei.ca for more details.

Program structure

September–December 2019

  • All new students will take Themes and Perspectives in Island Studies (IST 6010) and Research Methods and Design for Island Studies (IST 6040). 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)

January–April 2020

  • Island Tourism students will take Strategies for Economic Development for Small Islands (IST 6110) and 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)

May–June 2020

  • 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. 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 2020–April 2021

  • Over the next eight months, you will register in another two courses, each delivered using a combination of face-to-face, online and video technology.

May–June 2021

  • 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.

July–August 2021

  • Students will complete the final course in the program; Communications Management and Island Issues (IST 6200). After your successful completion of this course, you will join the proud alumni of UPEI's Master of Arts, Island Studies program.


Thesis Stream


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’s top island studies university, hosting an Institute of Island Studies, a Canada Research Chair in Island Studies, and the internationally peer-reviewed Island Studies Journal—all located in one of North America’s 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 program involves six courses (three hours per week for twelve weeks) and a thesis under supervision (spread over three academic terms).

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’s 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 (“B”, i.e. 70% to 79.9%) standing in the work of the last four semesters or the last two undergraduate years.

Please refer to the UPEI Academic Calendar 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.

Fees and Funding
Tuition and Scholarships


Master of Arts in Island Studies - $8,430 per 2 year program

Master of Arts in Island Studies - Tourism - $15,300 per 2 year program

International students pay $7,320 per year in addition to full-time student tuition.

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

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, 2019 will receive first consideration for scholarships.

Faculty Members
Your mentors. Our professors.

UPEI has about 250 faculty—exceptional scholars, teachers, and mentors, with more being hired each year as we open new, progressive, and unique programs. But the story isn’t just in the numbers. It’s in the quality of our people. Award-winning faculty from around the globe have made UPEI home. Here, you’ll learn directly from these world-class professors and researchers in small classes where you’ll have easy access to them. 

Read about your professors to learn more.

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