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PhD Program

Admission requirements

All applicants of the PhD program must normally hold a Master of Applied Science (MASc) degree or an equivalent degree in engineering, applied science or mathematics from a recognized university. The minimum required average for admission to the PhD program is 83%.

Admission to the PhD program is approved by the Faculty of Engineering Graduate Studies Committee.

Additional admission criteria 

  • excellence of background preparation and academic achievement in prior degrees and the possession of a relevant Master's degree,
  • the opinions on academic preparation and research ability contained in three letters of reference,
  • demonstrated ability to formulate research problems and to execute the research required to solve problems (such as a MASc research thesis)
  • English language skills which will allow a candidate to write an acceptable thesis in English and to communicate orally with the university community

Note: An MASc obtained without a full research thesis is normally deemed an inadequate qualification for admission to the PhD program. In exceptional cases, applicants may be admitted, with a minimum duration of three years, from an appropriate Honours Bachelor's degree.

Course and credit requirements

The course work associated with the PhD program is intended to provide a foundation for advanced learning in the chosen field of research. A minimum of four course credit units is required for a PhD student holding a MASc degree and seven course credit units for a PhD student that entered the program after completing their Bachelor program. At least 2 of the courses must be from the list of approved core courses (updated by the Department annually) in one of the 13 approved areas of specialization as specified in the student's letter of admission. The faculty supervisor will consider the level and adequacy of each student's preparation in drawing up the candidate's program. The Department may recommend that graduate credit be allowed for credits awarded by other approved institutions. However, please be aware that any transfer credits granted toward the program for which you are requesting funding may count when determining the number of months of studies you have completed, as of December 31 of the year of application. Please refer to individual scholarship criteria for more detailed information. It is expected that PhD candidates will maintain a 78% minimum accumulative average in the course work. To obtain credit for the PhD program, an individual course must be passed with at least 75%. Graduate courses will normally include a supervised examination, worth at least 50% of the final grade. The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering does not permit students to retake graduate level courses.

The requirements for the PhD degree are completed when the student successfully defends his or her thesis before an examination committee. This committee should consist of the supervisor, 3 other members of the University (at least one of whom should be from outside the Department) and an external examiner. Faculty from other Departments who hold cross appointments in the Department are counted as departmental members in defining examining committees.

Period of registration

The target registration period for a full time PhD candidate coming from a BASc degree is 36 months (9 terms), and coming from a MASc is 28 months (7 terms). The maximum allowable time for a PhD student is 72 months (18 terms) for a BASc degree holder and 48 months (12 terms) for a MASc degree holder. Part time PhD candidates coming from a MASc program should complete their program in 36 months (9 terms) but will be allowed up to 48 months (12 terms).

The program time frames given above are considered ample time in which to complete the PhD degree. Extensions beyond these time limits are not encouraged and, in any case, must be approved by the Faculty Graduate Studies Committee.

PhD Comprehensive Examination

This examination is conducted by the Department for each candidate. It is normally held 6-12 months, but not later than 16 months, after the initial registration for the PhD degree. The examination has two main purposes:

  1. to examine and approve the thesis proposal, after which a Committee is identified which will assist the student with the subsequent research program; and
  2. to satisfy the Department that the candidate has a broad knowledge of the chosen field and a thorough technical background to pursue the proposed research.

In the ECE Department, the first stage of the PhD Comprehensive Examination will be on the presentation of the proposal followed by a question period. The presentation of the student will be restricted to 30 minutes. Following the question period, the student and any audience members will be asked to leave the room while the committee determines if the student has passed. If that is the case, the student will be recalled to continue another round of questions on his or her research and technical background.

PhD Research Seminar

This seminar is not intended to be an examination of seminar presentation; rather, its aim is to allow the PhD candidate to gain experience in preparing and presenting his or her research work. Furthermore, this seminar is not intended and should not be regarded as a dry run for the PhD oral examination. The seminar should be held one year after the PhD Comprehensive.