PhD Program Structure, Rules and Policies

The PhD in accounting program consists of course work, a comprehensive examination, an internship and a thesis. At the completion of the program, the student is expected to be capable of conducting research in a selected functional area within the School of Accounting and Finance.

Official program rules can be found in the Graduate Calendar.


Year in Program Fall Winter Spring
Year 1


Acc 781

Econ 601

Econ 621


Acc 7xx

Acc 7xx

Summer paper
Year 2






Acc 7xx

Acc 7xx

Comprehensive exam
Year 3 Dissertation topic Dissertation design/proposal Dissertation proposal deadline
Year 4 Dissertation research Dissertation research/ “Going on the road” dissertation defense


Students will select appropriate course work for their chosen core discipline, functional area and methods. Course selections shall be approved each term, in advance, by the graduate officer.

Accounting PhD courses are listed within the 700 series (e.g., 701, 702, etc.). 

Details of graduate-level courses offered by other departments are available through individual department sites and can be accessed through the Graduate course search which allows users to search courses in a specific subject/faculty or using keyword search.

If a required course is not offered at UW and permission is received by the graduate officer to take the course at another Ontario university, an Ontario Visiting Graduate Student (OVGS) applicationmust be submitted.


All students are required to complete a PhD Research Paper in the first spring term. 

Winter, 1st year Find an advisor and research topic
Spring, 1st year Carry out your research and write your paper
Early Fall, 2ndyear Present your research before faculty and other doctoral students

The following policy was approved by the PhD Policy Committee, April 2003

The degree requirements for the PhD degree of the School of Accounting and Finance, as printed in the University Graduate Calendar, require a research paper to be completed as part of the course work stage of the program. The following guidelines are to clarify the procedures for this requirement.


The following Comprehensive Examination Policy was approved by the PhD Policy Committee April 2007

Upon satisfactory completion of course work (no failures, 78% average) the student will write a comprehensive examination measuring knowledge in the chosen core discipline, functional area and methods specialty.  The exam is administered over three days.

  • Two days breadth - covers material from Acc781, 4 Acc7xx courses, weekly Friday seminars
  • One day depth - covers material from your chosen research specialty;
  • Pass / fail each day

For more information, see the expandable sections below. 


A dissertation is a research project that is a thorough, original exploration of a question. Typically, it is more involved than a single research paper that is published in a journal.

  • More extensive literature review
  • Often has more hypotheses or sub-questions
  • Considerably longer document
Timeline Action required
Within 1 month after comprehensive exam Find a supervisor

Within 1 year of the passing the comprehensive exam

(plan for early winter rather than spring or summer)

Submit your dissertation proposal which includes:

  • a detailed statement and justification of a research problem (original work)
  • a review of relevant literature
  • your planned research design 

Present your proposal before SAF faculty.

After presentation

Faculty decide whether it is acceptable, and what else may be needed.

The thesis advisory committee is determined following presentation (formally chosen by the PhD Policy Committee, in consultation with your supervisor)

The following policy was approved by PhD Policy Committee May 2005

The PhD student will present a PhD thesis proposal seminar within one year of passing the comprehensive examination. If the proposal seminar is not held within one year, the student must seek approval for an extension from the PhD Policy Committee. No more than one extension will be granted except under extraordinary circumstances.

Please review the PhD proposal policy in the expendable section below.


Students are required to defend their thesis research in an oral examination conducted according to University requirements.

University-wide rules for PhD committees and PhD defenses.

See sections Advisory CommitteePhD Thesis Examinations, and Examining Board.  Please speak to the graduate PhD coordinator when thinking about your defense date and thesis submission.


To enhance their academic career prospects, we encourage PhD students to present their research at high‐quality conferences and become involved in the broader academic community. The school will pay reasonable costs of registration, economy travel and accommodation not covered by other sources. If you have submitted your research for presentation at a peer-reviewed conference, first apply for travel funds from the Graduate Studies and Post Doctoral Affairs office. If the research is co-authored with a faculty member, often the faculty member will subsidize the student’s travel from a research grant.

See full travel policy in the expandable section below.