Upgrade to PhD from Masters ("Fast-track" to PhD)


Admission to the PhD program normally requires completion of the Masters degree. Exceptional students may upgrade from a Masters degree to a PhD.  Upgraded students who successfully complete their PhD will not receive a Masters degree - they will only receive a PhD.  

The School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Regulations

The regulations regarding upgrades are detailed below and the SGPS regulations governing upgrades ("transfers") are detailed in section four of the graduate calendar, (4.05). 

Departmental Regulations

1.    It is expected that such transfers will occur only when the student and referees can make a strong case that the student: a) is highly motivated to complete a PhD; b) has a very strong academic record; c) has proposed a project that is appropriately scoped for a PhD thesis.

2.    Students must have completed at least three terms of full-time registration in the Master's program.

3.    Students must have completed all course requirements and met all requirements for progression in the Master's program except for submission of the Master's thesis.

4.    Students are required to take a minimum of two courses at the PhD level. In exceptional circumstances, Master's students who have taken more than five courses may be able to claim credit for one course towards the PhD program.

5.    Applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the faculty members of the Graduate Affairs Committee.

6.    All regulations of the PhD program will apply immediately upon transfer. Students must sit the Comprehensive and Proposal Examination within two terms of the transfer to the PhD.

7.    Requests for transfer will only be considered if they are supported by the student’s Masters Advisory Committee.

8.    If the request is unsuccessful the student returns to complete the Master's program.


1.    The process may be initiated by the student or supervisor.  The student must consult with their Masters Advisory Committee.

2.    The student writes to the Graduate Chair requesting the transfer, ensuring that the following documentation is sent to the Graduate Administrator:

•    A letter from the student confirming the basis for the request and including a statement providing permission for the Graduate Advisory Committee to see the student's file including transcript.

•    A minimum of two letters from the Advisory Committee - one from the supervisor(s) and one from another member - explaining in detail the reasons for supporting the request, including discussion and assessment of the proposed research.

•    A short (5-10 pages) draft PhD thesis proposal. A key consideration is whether the proposed research is likely to be of sufficient scope and quality to meet the PhD requirements.

•    A  curriculum vitae.

•    Any other information that may assist the Graduate Affairs Committee in making their decision.

3.    The application for transfer is reviewed, and approved or rejected, by the faculty members of the Graduate Affairs Committee. The Associate Vice-Provost in SGPS makes the final approval.  The Committee may meet with the student and the Advisory Committee prior to making their decision.

4.    The Graduate Chair informs the student in writing of the decision, with copies to the Advisory Committee. GAC may make recommendations about next steps in the candidate's program (e.g., extra course work).  A successful request is forwarded by the Graduate Chair for approval by the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

Can a student still receive a Masters degree?

If, coursework or milestones in the program cannot be adequately completed (e.g., comprehensive exam) or the Supervisor and/or Thesis Supervisory Committee recommend it, an upgraded student may request to 'down grade' from their PhD studies, to the Master's program.  The student must still meet the requirements of the Master's degree.