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Pure hexagonal h, as well as mixed-phase cubic/hexagonal c/h boron nitride (BN) thin films were deposited onto  silicon substrates using the dual ion beam deposition technique. The BN thin films were grown under UHV conditions at different substrate temperatures and ion beam bombarding parameters. Thin-film growth was monitored using in situ spectroscopic ellipsometry at 44 wavelengths between 420 and 761 nm. The in situ ellipsometric Ψ and Δ data were compared with two-layer growth model calculations for the mixed-phase c/h BN, and with one-layer growth model calculations for pure h-BN growth. In situ data provide information on the optical properties of deposited h-BN and c/h-BN material, film thickness, and BN growth rates. A virtual interface approach is employed for the optical properties of the silicon substrate. The growth and nucleation of c-BN observed here confirms the cylindrical thermal spike model. The results for composition and thickness of the BN films were compared to those obtained from ex situ infrared transmission measurements and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy investigations.