Transfer from the MSc to the PhD

Transferring from the Master's to the Doctoral Program (Fast-Track)

Outstanding students enrolled in the MSc program may be allowed to transfer to the PhD program without being required to write a master's thesis.

EPI students must refer to these specific conditions and required documents to transfer to the PhD.

BCH, CMM, MIC and NSC student must meet the following conditions:

  • Obtained a minimum of A- in all MSc level courses and a minimum of B+ in the last 30 units.
  • Completed all the core courses required for the MSc.
  • Successfully completed the transfer exam before the end of the 5th term.
  • Submitted the required documents with the required approvals.
  • Obtained the final approval from the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Office of the Faculty of Medicine.

The Transfer Exam is a 2-part exam used to evaluate whether a student has the knowledge and skill to be successful as a PhD candidate.

The exam consists of both a written component (a thesis proposal) and an oral examination. If an MSc student fails one of the components of the Transfer Exam, the MSc student will be asked to complete an MSc degree.

A second examination is not permitted. If successful, the transfer exam will be accepted in lieu of the comprehensive examination.

Learning Objective

The examination will evaluate whether a candidate has the knowledge and skills required to successfully complete a doctoral program. As such, the exam will evaluate:

  • General and project-specific scientific knowledge
  • Knowledge of the scientific literature in the proposed field of study
  • Ability to generate a research question and to propose an experimental plan
  • Ability to use research methodologies and interpret results (generated during the first year of studies)
  • Ability to communicate science both written and orally
  • Ability to put the proposed work in the context of the broader field of research
  • Potential to identify limitations of their chosen approaches and make informed judgments in their specific field of research

At the second meeting of the TAC committee, normally in the 4th term after first enrolment, the student’s research project and the Transfer Exam should be discussed.

At least six weeks before the anticipated date of the examination, the candidate will write to the Director of the Graduate Program via the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Office (GPSO) and request the convening of the Exam.

The request must include a research abstract and names of potential examiners, with c.c. to their supervisor. The GPSO will assist by obtaining approvals by the Director, and confirming the time and location of the exam.

At least 3 weeks prior to the event, the candidate must submit his/her research proposal to the GPSO.


The candidate will prepare a PhD research proposal on their own proposed thesis project.

This research proposal cannot be a summary of a grant proposal submitted by the research supervisor, but rather, must be specific to the research questions to be investigated by the candidate and reflective of research progress made in the first year of studies.

Examination Committee

The committee will be composed of 3 members: 2 TAC members and one additional examiner who will be nominated as the chair for the exam.

At least one of the committee members should be from the home graduate program.

The Chair is expected to ensure the efficient conduct of the exam and a respectful examination environment.

All examiners and supervisors are required to be present during the oral examination.

Roles of the Supervisor and Student

The thesis supervisor must support the transfer exam.

The transfer exam is intended to be an independent learning process. The proposal is to be written by the student as an independent exercise.

The supervisor will not edit the proposal, but rather provide feedbacks on the scope of the research and the hypotheses.

The supervisor may also be consulted on matters of methodology or format of the proposal. It is expected that the supervisor will be present for the exam but will only participate as an observer.

The thesis supervisor may not ask or answer questions during the exam. The supervisor will be asked by the chair of the examining committee to comment at the end of the exam, after the student has left the room (in particular the supervisor will be requested to describe his/her involvement in the preparation of the exam).

The thesis supervisor and the candidate are not to be present during deliberation following the exam.

Assessment and Evaluation

The exam is evaluated as Pass/Fail. The student can fail either the written or oral component. Each component (written and oral) is evaluated by the examination committee.

A minimum of 2 satisfactory votes are required to successfully pass the Transfer Exam.

Following a Verdict 1
The student will be asked to prepare for oral defense.

Following a verdict 2
A student whose performance on the written component is deemed to be not satisfactory (more than one not satisfactory vote) will be asked to write a Master’s thesis.

Part 1: The Research Proposal

The research proposal is a formal document that will be prepared based on your proposed research plan for the PhD.

While you will have already discussed your research direction with your supervisor and TAC, the research proposal required for the Transfer Exam is neither a TAC report nor a re-submission of your supervisor’s grant proposal.

Rather, the research proposal will cover the direction of your work from the time of the exam through to thesis submission. Its scientific rationale will be based on your knowledge of the field as well as your own results.

You must, therefore, decide your topic in a very narrow scope and ensure that all of your experimental aims are sufficiently independent enough to allow you to make a significant contribution to scientific knowledge in your field by the end of your studies, a requirement for the completion of a doctoral degree.

Following submission of the written component (research proposal), the examination committee will be granted 1 week to complete its evaluation with two possible verdict outcomes:

  • Verdict 1: the research proposal is ready to proceed to defense
  • Verdict 2: the research proposal is unsatisfactory
Part 2: Oral Evaluation
Submission and Approval of the Required Documents

Additional information is required to support your request to transfer from the MSc to PhD (fast-track).

The following documents must be submitted to the Graduate and Postdoctoral Office of the Faculty of Medicine through a Service request in uoZone:

  • PhD Disclosure Form
  • Annual Research Progress Report
  • Modification/Cancellation of Registration form

To download these forms

Please submit 3 separate Service Requests and inform your supervisor that his approval is required to process the requests.

In your uoZone, under Request Category:
  • Select Research Related / Modify a supervisor
    You must attach the PhD Disclosure Form to your request.
    This request will document that your supervisor has agreed to take you on as a PhD student and that you will be properly funded.
  • Select Research Related/ Progress Report
    You must attach the Annual Research Progress Report.
    This will document your annual requirement, in the event the Transfer Exam replaced your annual Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC) meeting.
    If a Progress Report has been submitted this year, with a TAC report, this request can be waived.
  • Select General/ Modification or Cancellation of Enrolment
    You must attach the Modification/Cancellation of Registration form:
    • noting the change from MSc to PhD, for the upcoming term
    • dropping THM7999 and adding THD9999 and other relevant courses required to meet the PhD program requirements, such as the PhD seminar course and PhD Comprehensive Exam.
InformationStudents must be enroled to the MSc (THM7999) to request to fast-track to the PhD. If not enroled to THM7999 for the upcoming term, attach a Graduate Registration form to add THM7999 for the upcoming term.
Final Approval from the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Office

Once all levels of approval are received, your request to fast-track will be complete.

The Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Office will process the change within 2-4 weeks; you will be enroled for your PhD courses and receive a confirmation e-mail.

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