The University academic year begins the first week of September, and the academic year is divided into a 13 week first term - September, October, November - and a 14 week (including reading week in mid-February) second term - January, February, March. There is a formal examination period scheduled at the end of each term. The four month summer term is devoted to research. The usual period for completing an MSc is two to two and one half years while that for a PhD is about five years. All students accepted for the MSc or PhD will be offered a package of funding which includes a research assistantship and a teaching assistantship - two years guaranteed for the MSc, five years guaranteed for the PhD.
The normal times for a student to begin their program of study are September 1 or January 1. It is also possible to begin May 1 upon Departmental approval and agreed supervisor selection.
The Department offers MSc and PhD degrees - each degree requires graduate courses and research work reported in a thesis. Each degree requires 12 credits of course work, unless the candidate already holds an approved MSc. Most courses are worth 3 credits.
Direct entry PhD students may take between 2 and 4 three credit courses in their first year but must complete 12 credits within the first 24 months of their program. PhD students who plan to take less than 4 courses in their first year must obtain permission from their supervisor (as indicated by an e-mail to the Graduate Program Assistant). MSc students may take either 3 or 4 three credit courses in their first year in the program. MSc students who plan to take 3 courses in their first year must obtain permission from their supervisor (as indicated by an e-mail to the Graduate Program Assistant). An individual program is designed by consultation between the graduate advisor, the student's supervisor (if known), and the student at the time of his or her arrival. There are no entrance or cumulative examinations.
Students accepted into the MSc program may transfer directly to a PhD degree program after one year (without completing their MSc) if they have maintained an 80% average in three 500 level courses (9 credits). In such a case, however, there would be a probationary requirement of completion of 12 credits with a first class standing in order to maintain registration in the doctoral program.
The progress of each PhD student is evaluated once a year at a meeting of the faculty. A supervisory committee is formed for each student; this committee normally consists of the research supervisor and three other faculty members, one of whom is chosen by the student. In their second year, PhD students are required to pass a comprehensive examination. This exam consists of an oral report of their research progress and questioning on their work and the background related to it - this meeting is normally the last requirement before the thesis and must be passed in one or two attempts to achieve candidacy.
At the completion of the thesis, both MSc and PhD students must defend their results and thesis at a formal oral defense. In the case of PhD students an external examiner, chosen in consultation with the supervisor and the graduate advisor, is also asked by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies to review the thesis.