PhD overview

Normally, the formal requirements of the doctoral program, each of which is designed to contribute to the overall program outcomes, are to be completed in four years. Students must: 1) complete six term courses and the Doctoral Seminar; 2) pass two written comprehensive examinations; 3) prepare and defend a dissertation proposal; and 4) write and defend a doctoral dissertation.

Students typically take two core classes in the fall GGOV 700 (UW)/GV 710 (WLU) Globalization and Global Governance, HIST 605 (UW)/GV 720 (WLU) History of Global Governance, and the core course for their field specialization in order to develop an understanding of the breadth of the field of Global Governance and its origins. In the second term students normally take ECON 637 (UW)/GV 730 (WLU), GGOV 710 (UW)/GV 701 (WLU) Research Methods, a second course in their field of specialization, all of which add to the depth of their understanding of Global Governance and train them to conduct interdisciplinary, doctoral-level research in their field of specialization. No new courses are envisioned at this time.

The comprehensive exams complement and build on the material covered during the course work and test students grasp of the field of Global Governance and their field specialization, their ability to critique the relevant scholarly literature, and develop new insights about literature. The dissertation proposal assesses students’ ability to design a doctoral-level project, while the dissertation tests students’ ability to make original arguments that advance understanding of the field of Global Governance and the six fields.

Program Requirements

Core Courses

The first component is course work, which is designed not just to develop advanced understanding of issues relating to global governance but also to prepare students for comprehensive examinations in two areas. Students are required to complete a total of six one-term core courses during the first two terms (fall and winter) of the program.

There are four required courses including the Globalization and Global Governance core, an economics component, a history component, and the research methods course. These courses are designed to develop “core” advanced interdisciplinary knowledge of global governance and to prepare students for their comprehensive exam in Global Governance. In order to foster a sense of intellectual community, the two universities are committed to having the PhD students registered in the joint program take the four core courses as a group together.

Students are required to maintain an overall average of 80% in the course phase in order to remain in good standing in the program.

Core Course component(must be completed in the first term of registration in the program)

  • GGOV 700 (UW) / GV 710 (Laurier) Globalization and Global Governance

Economics Component

  • ECON 637 (UW) / GV 730 (Laurier) Economic Analysis and Global Governance or equivalent (students who have higher than second year macro/micro economics are required to take an economics course other than Econ 637)

History Component

  • HIST 605 (UW) Global Governance in Historical Perspective
  • GV720 (Laurier) The History of Global Governance

Research Methods

  • GGOV 701 (UW) / GV 701 (Laurier) Research Methods

Field Core Courses

Students must complete two other courses from one of the program’s six fields. These two courses are designed to prepare students for their second comprehensive exam, which must be written in one of these six fields. They must be selected from a list of courses and must include one course which has been designated as a “core” course in that field:

  • GGOV 610/GV 731 Governance of the Global Economy
  • GGOV 620/GV 732 Global Environmental Governance
  • GGOV 621 Governing Global Food & Agriculture
  • GGOV 630/GV 733 Security Ontology
  • GGOV 640 Human Rights in a Globalized World
  • GGOV 641/GV 760 International Human Rights
  • GGOV 650/GV 734 International Orgs & Global Governance
  • GGOV 642/GV 735/ Global Social Governance

In the event that a field core is not being offered in a given academic year, the program will designate an alternate course as the field core. For a full list of elective courses, see Global Governance Courses (UW) and Global Governance Courses (WLU)

Doctoral Seminar

During their first year, students must also participate in the doctoral seminar to be marked on a credit/non-credit basis. This consists of attendance yearlong (a minimum of six events per term) at departmental colloquia, seminars and related presentations, including public lectures at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), the Academic Council on the United Nations System (WLU), and the BSIA, which offers over 100 events per year (for a list of events at BSIA, see Events. The seminars are designed to provide structured opportunities for meaningful interaction among students, with faculty and with outside researchers and policymakers. They are also designed to expose incoming PhD students to the range of opportunities for learning in the area of global governance within the Waterloo community.

Students are strongly encouraged to continue to participate in the Doctoral Seminar throughout the duration of their programs, including the presentation of their preliminary research results in departmental colloquia, seminars and events at BSIA. This participation contributes not just to their own learning experience but also to the cultivation of an active learning community among all graduate students and faculty associated with the Global Governance program. In addition, students at the stage of researching their dissertation are encouraged to present their research results to the wider community of scholars in their field at annual professional conferences such as the International Studies Association. Special seminars are also held on career planning and professionalization.

Comprehensive Exams

Students normally write their comprehensive exams at the beginning of their second year (term 4), and no later than within 16 months of starting the program (also term 4). The purpose of the examinations is to ensure that students have acquired the breadth and depth of knowledge that is necessary not just for their dissertation research projects but also for their future careers in university teaching and research, or in posts concerned with global governance outside of universities. The examination on Global Governance tests the breadth and depth of a student’s comprehension of the leading literature in this field. The second examination tests the breadth and depth of a student’s comprehension of leading literature relating to global governance in the student’s chosen field.

The Program Director ensures that the reading lists are updated annually. The length of the list of required readings for each comprehensive examination varies, but it should not exceed 50 items. Reading lists for the Global Governance Exam are updated by the instructors of the core courses for that particular year in cooperation with the Program Director.

For each Field exam, the reading lists for the “core” material (that is common to all students) are updated by the instructors of the respective core courses for each field for that particular year in cooperation with the Program Director, and is not to exceed 45 works. These instructors are also encouraged to consult with other core faculty in their respective fields. The portion of the reading list that is tailored to the specific needs of each student’s proposed thesis topic is not to exceed five works, and is developed by the members of the field examining committee in consultation with the student.

The Program Director may consult with the Inter-University Program Committee about whether the Committee wishes to play a role in reviewing the reading lists each year.

Optional Internship

After the completion of the comprehensive exams, students may, following the successful defence of their dissertation proposal, complete a four to six month internship working on global governance issues in the public or private sector, at a research institute, or for a non-governmental organization. This optional internship experience is designed to enable students to make practical applications of the problems and principles they have studied and to equip them with relevant research and problem-solving skills. It is also designed to help students develop a dissertation research topic. The internships are generated through both formal partnerships that the program has established and/or through informal professional contacts and competitive application processes.

Dissertation Proposal

Students develop a dissertation proposal, which is to be presented to a supervisor and defended before a formal supervisory committee in term 5 of the program, following completion of the comprehensive examinations. Students are also required to present their dissertation proposal to the Doctoral Seminar. In addition, students will be strongly encouraged to continue to participate in the other various activities associated with the Doctoral Seminar outlined above.

Normally, the doctoral dissertation research proposal will be no more than 30 pages, exclusive of bibliography. A proposal will include the following: a statement of the principal research question(s) and a justification of the question or questions; an outline of the principal theoretical orientations that are framing the research questions; a detailed outline of the research methods and steps to be taken to obtain answers to the research questions; an assessment of the likely contribution to knowledge of the dissertation research; a timetable for completion of the research.


Upon formal approval of the proposal by the students’ respective dissertation supervisory committees, students then proceed to the research and writing of the dissertation. Normally, students should complete and defend the dissertation within four years of starting the program.

Students have the option of writing a traditional thesis that is a sole-authored document with various chapters or a “multiple manuscript thesis” that consists of a collection of papers that are published or submitted for publication. Multiple manuscript theses must comply with the following guidelines:

  1. The multiple manuscript thesis must comply with the policies and guidelines of the student’s host institution.
  2. Any multiple manuscript thesis must contain at least three articles.
  3. At least two of the articles must be single-authored, and one may be co-authored provided the student first obtains approval from her or his supervisor committee, preferably at the time of the proposal defence. If an article is co-authored by the student and others, the relationship should be explicitly stated with regards to the nature and extent of contributions to the work by all parties involved.
  4. There must be a common theme among the three articles that is explained in the introduction and conclusion.
  5. All articles must be of a publishable quality. Acceptance of a manuscript from a journal is separate from and does not constitute acceptance or approval by the advisory committee.

Language Requirement

Prior to completion of the second year, students whose doctoral dissertation is concerned with a non-English speaking country or region are required to demonstrate proficiency in the language of that country. To fulfill the requirement, students must demonstrate to their supervisory committee proficiency in the second language, and may do so by completing designated language courses at either the University of Waterloo or Wilfrid Laurier University. Where there are no courses available, the Program Director will determine the time and method of language assessment, in consultation with the student. The language requirement must be met before the doctoral candidate proceeds to the thesis stage.

View the complete list of PhD requirements in the Graduate Studies Academic Calendar.

Fields in the Program

Conflict and Security

This field is concerned with the referent objects of security and associated threats; the causes and management of conflict; and the global governance challenges of human, state, societal, national, international, ecospheric, and global security. Courses in this stream examine the theory and practice of security at all levels of analysis.

Global Environment

This field is concerned with the global governance of environmental issues. Courses in this stream examine contemporary dilemmas relating to the ways in which environmental challenges are being addressed and managed by multiple agents through a range of transnational institutions and governance structures, both existing and proposed. Conceptual issues and debates, set within the context of a variety of internationally significant sustainability challenges, are investigated. Multilevel governance of these challenges at the international, regional, national and local levels are examined. Key topics covered include: global climate change, agriculture and food security, international water resource management and environmental aspects of the global economy.

Global Justice and Human Rights

This field is concerned with the study of the relationship between global governance and issues of global justice and human rights. Courses in this stream explore themes such as: the practical and ethical challenges that international human rights and relief organizations encounter when operating in the global south; theoretical approaches to understanding global justice as a contemporary social justice issue, with a particular focus on the cultural constructs relating to conceptions of freedom, obligation, and community; and contemporary debates in the field of human rights, such as those related to cultural relativism and universal human rights, human rights and foreign policy, the place of economic rights, the relationship between gender and human rights, and human rights and retrospective justice.

Global Political Economy

This field is concerned with the governance of the global economy and the relationship between politics and economics in world affairs. Courses in this stream focus on the theoretical and public policy debates relating to the evolution of the world economy, the relationship between states and markets, and contemporary international economic relations. Topics covered include: global trade in goods and services; foreign direct investment and multinational corporations; international financial and monetary affairs; world development, poverty and inequality; global food and agriculture; shifting power in global economic governance; and governing the illicit global economy.

Global Social Governance

This field examines the prospects for the supranational governance of social issues with a focus on the political and philosophical underpinnings of transnational social policy cooperation. Topics covered include: the implicit and explicit prescriptions for and impact upon national social policy of intergovernmental organizations (such as the UN and Bretton Woods Institutions), international non-governmental organizations and international private actors (such as TNCs and consultancy companies); the contribution of supranational organizations, international NGOs, and other global actors to the global discourse on social policy; the role of private actors and global public-private partnerships in global health policy; the development of systems of transnational social redistribution, social regulation and social provision and empowerment; and the methods and concepts used by development agencies to assess the social policy of countries and shape their interventions.

Multilateral Institutions and Diplomacy

This field is concerned with the formal and informal practices, institutions and organizations which generate global governance. Courses in this stream focus primarily on the theory, practice and machinery of international organization, public policy, and diplomacy. Topics covered include organization theory, multilateral cooperation, foreign policy, diplomatic history, global social and public policy, representation and negotiation.

Inter-University Programming Committee

The PhDGG program is governed by an Inter-University Program Committee, which is made up of two faculty representatives from each university (for a total of four faculty), plus two student representatives, one from each university. The Director of the Program, Associate Director, and Program Officers (see below), all of whom sit in a non-voting capacity, are responsible for implementing the decisions of the IUPC. The two faculty representatives from Laurier are selected for a maximum three-year term by the Associate Dean of the School of International Policy and Governance. The two faculty representatives from the University of Waterloo are selected for a maximum three-year term by the Chairs of Political Science, Economics, History, and the Dean (or delegate) of the Faculty of Environment. (The Dean of the Faculty of Environment has been chosen for this role because of the smaller size of the Faculty of Environment and interdisciplinary nature of each of the units within that Faculty).

The Program Director and Associate Director each serve a three-year term, and are selected by the four representatives, mentioned above, of the two universities. The Directorship rotates between the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier as deemed appropriate by the Program Committee. The Director acts as chair of the Inter-University Program Committee. The Program Committee meets in its entirety a minimum of three times a year, and has the authority over policy direction concerning admissions, curriculum, and supervisory and examination committees.