Ph.D. Program Requirements


Ph.D. students are encouraged to finish their Doctorate program within 5 years

Ph.D. Program Timeline

Doctorate Requirements

Most students complete these requirements in their first year, but you have up to 20 months to complete them. Minimum requirements include:

Note: Students enrolled in Statistical Machine Learning have their own set of course requirements.

Supervisory Committee and Annual Progress Reports

Every Ph.D. student must have a supervisory committee, by the end of year 2. The supervisory committee consists of three faculty members, typically computing science profs (your supervisor and two other profs, or one other prof if there are two supervisors). Where appropriate, a supervisory committee member may be from a different department.

The student should meet with their supervisory committee at least once a year. The supervisory committee meetings are tied to the annual reporting for Ph.D. students in the following way:

  • Students create an annual report at the end of each year in the program. For Fall admission the deadline is September 15, for Winter admission it is January 15.
  • After the completion of the first year, the supervisor provides a progress assessment in gradDB.
  • After the completion of the second year, each year the student must schedule, in collaboration with the supervisor(s), a meeting with the supervisory committee before the end of the academic term in which the report is due (Fall for Fall admission and Winter for Winter admission). 
  • In exceptional cases, instead of the supervisory committee meeting, the student may meet separately with the members of the supervisory committee. 
  • The supervisor must enter in gradDB the feedback, comments, and evaluation of the student’s progress provided by the supervisory committee.
  • In the absence of an evaluation by the end of the term in which it is due, the Associate Chair (Graduate) may recommend that the student be put on academic probation until the pending evaluation is completed and the supervisory committee determined that there is sufficient progress.

The Associate Chair evaluates the progress of a student during the annual review. In the event that the progress is unsatisfactory, a meeting will be held with the Associate Chair, the student, and the supervisor to review the performance problem. If it happens to be the student of the Associate Chair, then another faculty member will be asked to chair the meeting. The review will determine the cause of the lack of progress, work to resolve the problems, and then set new milestones that will allow the student to graduate in time. Six months after the meeting, the performance of the student will be evaluated again. If the performance is still unsatisfactory and the student is found solely responsible for the lack of progress, then funding will be terminated immediately. The student may choose to convert to the M.Sc. degree program with no funding.

Graduate Seminars

You are required to give three publicly-announced Departmental seminars.

  • Seminar 1: Within the first 24 months of enrolling in the program
  • Seminar 2: Before the candidacy exam
  • Seminar 3 (Thesis seminar): Before the final oral thesis exam*

*Assuming all members of the committee agree, students are allowed to combine this seminar presentation with their defense by defending immediately after the presentation. As all committee members will be in attendance, the student will NOT be required to begin the defense with a 15-20 minutes summary.

Seminar Guidelines

Dissertation (Thesis)

To be deemed acceptable, a Ph.D. thesis must be original, worthwhile, and substantial in its contribution to knowledge.

FGSR states: "A doctoral thesis must embody the results of original investigations and analyses and be of such quality as to merit publication; furthermore, it must constitute a substantial contribution to the knowledge of the candidate's field of study."

Dissertation Guidelines

Candidacy Examination 

The candidacy oral examination ensures you have the ability to pursue and complete original research at an advanced level and have an adequate knowledge of the discipline and subject matter relevant to your thesis topic.

Candidacy Exam Guidelines

Final Oral Examination (Defense)

The final examination (or Ph.D. thesis defense) determines whether your thesis meets the criteria. You must take the examination before the end of the fourth year.

Final Oral Exam Guidelines


The University of Alberta holds two convocations each year:

  • Spring Convocation in June
  • Fall Convocation in November
Convocation Deadlines and Details

Transfer to M.Sc. from Ph.D.

You may switch from the Ph.D. program into the M.Sc. degree program. Transfer must be supported by your supervisor and the Department.