Margarita sitting in chair with tall grass behind her

PhD in Rural Studies (Thesis/Research)

Support sustainable rural communities and landscapes.

The PhD in Rural Studies is offered through our School of Environmental Design and Rural Development (SEDRD) and provides opportunities for advanced studies and research on the integration of socio-cultural and bio-physical components of capacity development, design, or planning of landscape systems and rural communities.  

The Rural Studies doctorate focuses on two fields: sustainable rural communities and sustainable landscape systems. Both fields contribute research to support the long-term well-being of rural communities through the integration of economic, social and environmental factors in their planning and activities. 

 World-class faculty

Tap into the knowledge of SEDRD faculty and other U of G departments, including Food, Agriculture and Resource Economics, Geography, Political Science, and Sociology and Anthropology.

 Local and global

Focus your research on local, Canadian or global rural communities and landscapes to strengthen your credibility in the areas you wish to focus your career.

 Improve lives

Investigate issues and potential responses that broadly or pointedly affect rural communities and landscapes (community development, sustainability, social enterprises, food systems and rural policy).


 Unique in Canada

Add unique experience to your resume by learning in the only rural studies PhD program in Canada.

 Interdisciplinary research

Integration of a multidisciplinary approach to integrate a variety of subject areas to explore a wide variety of research areas.


 Virtual classes

All courses are offered virtually to enable the inclusion of students who are balancing various demands, such as family and full time employment, or are studying internationally.

Group of people look out onto a grassy and rocky South African landscape

More information on courses and admission requirements can be found here.

Silvia in pearl necklace and red and white floral sweater
Agriculture in less-developed countries cannot achieve its full potential if the gender dynamics of different groups are not addressed. We must move beyond examining individual factors (e.g., biology, socioeconomic status, sex, gender, and race) and consider the relationships and interactions between them and across multiple levels, to bring attention to important differences within population groups that are often portrayed as relatively homogenous.

Dr. Silvia Sarapura, Faculty
Professor, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development
Hear more from Dr. Sarapura

Leith in grey cap and colourful plaid dress shirt
The central research goal of my research is to examine the concept of resiliency and sustainability within the context of resource-based communities to address the often problematic relationship(s) between resource reliance, community well-being, and adaptive capacity.

Dr. Leith Deacon, Faculty
Professor, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development
Hear more from Dr. Deacon

How to Apply

The program's admission policy is governed by the availability of graduate advisors and other resources. The Rural Studies Program admits applicants from a wide variety of disciplines and backgrounds which greatly enhances the multidisciplinary approaches in the program. The program also seeks to achieve the significant participation of women and Indigenous people. 

More details on the U of G graduate program application process here.

As part of the application requirements, you are required to secure a faculty advisor to supervise your program. Applying without first having communicated with a potential advisor is not recommended.

Our SEDRD faculty profiles describe research programs in more detail. Contact the faculty member you are interested in working with to discuss potential research opportunities. We recommend connecting via email. To determine advisor availability applicants can also contact the Rural Studies Program Coordinator

  • Applicants must have a master’s degree (or the equivalent) from a recognized university in the humanities, social-science, or applied-science disciplines. 
    • Master's graduates in a range of humanities, social-science and applied-science disciplines are eligible for consideration for admission. As examples, master's graduates in geography, sociology, planning, environmental science, rural extension studies and international development may be particularly suitable. Applicants who have not completed courses relevant to rural studies or gained experience in rural communities may be required to do so prior to admission or as part of initial phases of the PhD program. 
  • Admission to the doctoral program requires a satisfactory baccalaureate and at least high second-class honours (‘B’ standing) in a recognized master’s program.  
  • Secured a faculty advisor

  • A  completed PhD Rural Studies Admission Questionnaire form  
  • Statement of Interest
    • Your statement of research interest (separate from the one requested within the on-line application form) should outline: your career goals; the particular area of research you wish to pursue at the University of Guelph (what is it you want to research?); and its relationship to SEDRD faculty expertise.
    • Good academic standing alone will not guarantee entry to the Program. One of our faculty members must be interested in, and willing to supervise your research. It is therefore important that you state your research interests and goals clearly and succinctly.
  • Resume
    • Please provide a current resume that gives a profile of your background and experience.
    • Work experience in a related setting is also considered especially useful in applying theory to practice and to identify research needs and topics.
  • Please be aware that any material collected towards a graduate application, (for example transcripts, reference letters, etc.) must be dated within the past year.  Any material dated prior to a year from the application date will not be accepted.
  • Your application is not considered complete until all of these documents have been received.

More details on the U of G graduate program application process here.

  • Securing a Study Permit:

    • To study in Canada, all students must apply for a Study Permit at the nearest Canadian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. A student authorization is commonly called a student visa. For you to be considered for a student visa, the Canadian immigration officer will need to see your letter of acceptance from the University of Guelph, proof of citizenship and proof of funds for one academic year. 
    • The University of Guelph and Immigration Canada expect international students to have enough funds for the duration of their study in Canada, and especially during their first year. The issuance of a student visa is strongly based on your ability to finance your education. The student visa is usually issued for the duration of your academic program. 
    • Please note that you will not be allowed to register at the University of Guelph if you do not have a valid Study Permit.
  • If your first language is not English, and you do not have a degree from an English speaking University, you must provide an official English Testing score from an acceptable source. Please refer to the Office of Graduate Studies website for the required English Language Proficiency acceptable tests and required scores.
  • Please use this guide to compare your academic credentials and determine the grade equivalency needed.
  • More resources for international applicants are available on the U of G Graduate & Postdoctoral website.


For questions on applying and admissions: 

Lorena Barker, SEDRD
519-824-4120, Ext. 56780 

For questions on program options:

Leigh West, Ontario Agricultural College (OAC)
519-824-4120 Ext. 52101

Rana in floral orange and pink hijab
I believe the Ph.D. program in Rural studies is a very unique program internationally. It is an interdisciplinary program and gives the student the chance to learn from various views of literature. The course work prepares students for research and fieldwork.

Rana Telfah, Graduate Student
PhD in Rural Studies
Hear more from Rana

Jeff in army green sweater and arms crossed at chest
The interdisciplinary nature of the program is a fantastic benefit for what I want to do, and to be able to study rural studies and potentially help to develop policy for my own communities is a fantastic opportunity. 

Jeff Reichheld, Graduate Student
PhD in Rural Studies
Hear more from Jeff

Choosing SEDRD was a natural extension of my previous training in public policy and community development and places me at the heart of an institution that is recognized as a leader in rural research, providing access to previous research and crucial opportunities to liaise with decision- and policy-makers in Canada and abroad.

Ashleigh Weeden
PhD in Rural Studies