Registration and Progression Requirements

The academic year in the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (SGPS) consists of three terms, commencing on or about September 1 (Fall Term), January 1 (Winter Term), and May 1 (Summer Term). PhD Students are admitted for the Fall Term.

PhD students must maintain continuous registration in the SGPS in each successive term from initial registration until all requirements for the degree are completed.

The maximum registration period for completing a Doctoral degree is six calendar years from initial registration. For students who transfer from a Master's program to a Doctoral program without completing the Master's program, a maximum of seven calendar years from the initial registration in the Master's program will be given to complete the Doctoral degree.  

Due to students coming to our program from a wide variety of educational backgrounds, there is a fairly heavy course-work requirement. To ensure timely completion of the degree, there is a necessary rate of progress through the program. PhD students must complete 4.0 credits (consisting of core and elective courses) and maintain continuous registration by paying tuition fees in each successive fall, winter and summer term (from program entry, until the thesis is successfully defended, and corrections submitted to SGPS).

Students are entitled to 2 weeks vacation time per year, the timing of which must be pre-approved by their supervisor(s).

The Doctoral degree must be completed within four calendar years (twelve terms) from initial program entry. The deadline for degree completion will be extended in exceptional circumstances, in the case of an approved leave of absence (refer to section on Leave of Absence).

Change of Registration

SGPS coordinates the administration of changes to students’ registration status as requested. Those changes proceed through various channels of approval. For more information on these requests please select the required change below: 

Program Requirements


PhD students in the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Program must complete their core courses (3.0 credits) in the first two terms of registration (fall and winter), except Biostatistics 9681Q and Epidemiology 9690R which must be taken in term four. Students are also strongly encouraged to complete all elective courses (1.0 credits) in the first two terms of registration (fall and winter); however, an alternate arrangement for the completion of the elective courses may be approved by their supervisor(s).

PhD students in the Biostatistics Collaborative Program must complete their core courses (2.5 credits) in the first two terms of registration (fall and winter), except Biostatistics 9681Q and Epidemiology 9690R which must be taken in term four. Students are also strongly encouraged to complete all elective courses (1.5 credits) in the first two terms of registration (fall and winter); however, an alternate arrangement for the completion of the elective courses may be approved by their supervisor(s).

Additional courses may be taken at the student's discretion at any time, in consultation with his or her supervisor(s). Please review information on Graduate Course Descriptions, and the Graduate Course Schedule.

Research Seminars

All first-year PhD students are required to attend the weekly departmental seminar series in the first two terms of registration (fall and winter). This seminar series milestone will appear on the transcript as complete or incomplete, based on student participation (at least 80% attendance is required). Students who miss more than 20% of seminars in the first year will have to complete the missed seminars in their second year. The Seminar Series Schedule is available online.

Please note: The Department’s expectation is that first year PhD students attend every seminar in their first 2 terms of study. Any seminars missed should be due to extenuating circumstances. 80% is a minimum threshold and students should not choose which seminars to attend and which to miss based on this minimum attendance requirement.

Comprehensive Exam

All doctoral students are required to write a comprehensive exam during the fourth term, after successful completion of the core courses. All eligible students will write this examination simultaneously at a date set by the Comprehensive Examination Committee. Details are available on the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Comprehensive Exam Information and Biostatistics Stream Comprehensive Exam Information pages.

Thesis Proposal Defense and Public Lecture

All doctoral students must successfully defend a thesis proposal before proceeding with their thesis research. The thesis proposal will, ideally, be defended during the fifth term of registration (the winter term of the second year). However, with the approval of their supervisor(s), students can defend the thesis proposal at any time. The thesis proposal must be successfully defended by the end of the ninth term of registration (end of the third year).

Within two to four months after successfully defending the thesis proposal, doctoral candidates must present a Public Lecture on their thesis research. The Public Lecture allows the candidate to present his/her research projects to a part of the Western University community of scholars in an open forum. Details are available on the Thesis Proposal Requirements page.


Overview and Regulations

Every candidate for the Doctoral degree must complete a thesis. The Thesis Overview and Thesis Regulations pages from the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies outline the process of preparing a doctoral thesis, as well as defending it successfully.

All thesis research must take place under the direction of a thesis supervisor(s). The thesis must indicate in what respects the investigation has increased knowledge of the subject. A candidate may not submit a thesis that has been previously accepted for a degree, but may, with the permission of the Graduate Program, incorporate material included in a previous thesis.

PhD students are expected to complete their thesis by the end of the twelfth term (end of fourth year). In exceptional circumstances, with supervisor approval, the thesis may be completed by the end of the sixth year (maximum registration period) or the student will be withdrawn from the program.

Thesis Format

A thesis based on the report of research findings may take one of two formats: Monograph (traditional or proposal style format) or Integrated-Article (manuscript format).

These formats are well described on the SGPS website, which must be followed by all Phd students. Students are reminded that, regardless of the format adopted, a thesis in Epidemiology and Biostatistics needs to contain a chapter devoted to a detailed, critical review of the literature.

Intent to Submit

When the thesis is thought to meet recognized scholarly standards for the discipline and degree and is ready for examination, the student, in consultation with the supervisor(s), will begin the process of arranging the Thesis Examination by setting a proposed date, and obtaining provisional consent from the potential members of the Thesis Examination Board. When PhD students are ready to defend their thesis, and after consultation with the supervisor(s) and supervisory committee, an Intent to Submit Thesis form must be completed and submitted to the Academic Program Coordinator at least eight (8) weeks prior to the earliest proposed thesis examination date.

Thesis Exam Request

Once the examination date is chosen, and no less than seven (7) weeks prior to that date, thethe Doctoral Thesis Examination Request Form, signed by the student and supervisor(s), must be submitted to the Academic Programs Coordinator. This will allow examiners to have adequate time to review the thesis before the examination. Please review submission deadlines, as regulated by SGPS.

Information regarding preliminary thesis submission and final thesis submission, is provided through SGPS.

Completion Checklist

All PhD students who have received confirmation of completion from the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies must submit a signed copy of the Completion Checklist. This checklist summarizes the various loose ends a student is expected to wrap up before leaving the university. It also contains very important information requests for post-graduation contact and success.

Review of Student Progress

Success in the graduate program is marked by achieving key milestones in a timely manner. The primary purpose of the annual review of student progress, conducted at the end of terms three (summer) and five (winter) and every winter term thereafter, is to identify departures from the normal time line so that appropriate actions can be taken as soon as possible. It is the student's responsibility to initiate the process, and timely compliance is itself a formal progression requirement. All students are required to submit a completed and signed progress form by the deadline. Registration for future terms will be conditional on the student having submitted a progress form by the deadline. It is the student's responsibility to prepare the Annual Review of Student Progress Form when it is e-mailed out.

Review of student progress is a 2-step process whereby the student: (1) completes Part A of the form and (2) schedules an in-person meeting with his/her supervisor(s) to complete Part B. The form is then signed by both the student and supervisor(s) and submitted by the deadline to the Academic Program Coordinator. Copies should be kept by both the supervisor(s) and the student. Supervisor, and if applicable, co-supervisor signatures, are required on the form.

The Departmental Graduate Affairs Committee will require a student to withdraw from the program if he or she is not making adequate progress. This progress includes: following the recommended time line, regularly meeting with the thesis supervisor and maintaining a continued effort on the thesis research, as well as maintaining a cumulative average of at least 70% calculated each term over all courses taken for credit, with no grade less than 60%.