Flexible-Time PhD Program Option Guidelines

What is the flexible-time PhD program option?

The flexible-time PhD program is a registration option that differs from the full-time PhD program only in design and delivery. The flexible-time PhD program option is for practicing professionals in the relevant field of study who require a modified time period and/or content delivery option to complete the requirements of their program.

The design and delivery of the flexible-time option permits continued professional practice by the student in areas related to the student's field of research, except for short, specified periods of time. Because the option involves continued professional practice, it allows a student to complete the program over a longer period of time.

The degree requirements and program curriculum of the flexible-time PhD program option are the same. As such, students must satisfy the SGS General Regulations and Degree Regulations in the SGS Calendar, including good academic standing, supervision and candidacy regulations.

Who can offer a flexible-time PhD program option?

A flexible-time PhD program option may only be offered by a graduate unit where the graduate unit finds there is sufficient demand by practicing professionals in related fields. The option requires governance approval and an SGS Calendar entry notation. A practicing professional is currently defined in the SGS Calendar as an "active professionals who is engaged in work activities that may include consulting, community organizing, self-employment, contractual work, or equivalent. This category may include recently retired individuals who maintain professional engagement (Degree Regulation 12.1.1.3)."

Governance Approval Requirements

Graduate units may offer a flexible-time PhD program option, approved through University of Toronto governance. Proposals to introduce the flexible-time PhD program option into an existing PhD program must be submitted, along with a revised SGS Calendar entry, and approved through University governance procedures for graduate programs as a Major Modification.

Admission Requirements

Applicants may apply to a flexible-time PhD program option in any graduate unit approved to offer this option (see Governance Approval Requirements above). Applications to flexible-time PhD program options are subject to the SGS General Regulations and Degree Regulations and must meet the same admission requirements as applicants to the full-time PhD program.

In addition, applicants to the flexible-time PhD program option must demonstrate that they are "practicing professionals", that is, they are active professionals who are engaged in work activities that may include consulting, community organizing, self-employment, contractual work, or equivalent. This category may include recently retired individuals who maintain professional engagement. Admission to this option is subject to the availability of a supervisor.

Applicants to the flexible-time PhD program option must demonstrate that the research and proposed program of study is related to the applicant's professional work and vice versa. In addition, they will continue their professional activities while registered in the program.

Program Requirements and Path to Completion

Students enrolled in the flexible-time PhD program option may complete the program requirements over a modified time period. As such, the graduate unit will provide a year-by-year path to completion and timeline of requirements based on the defined flexible time program length. This modified path to completion should be included in the SGS Calendar and will ensure that students are aware of dates and deadlines, and expectations surrounding progression through the program.

Example:

Year 1: Complete courses ABC 1234H, ABC 1244Y.
Year 2: Complete courses ABC 1235H, ABC 1233Y. Prepare thesis proposal.
Year 3: Complete course ABC 1235Y. Finalize thesis proposal, defend proposal by October 1.
Year 4: Pass Comprehensive Exams. Achieve Candidacy by August 30.
Year 5: Research and writing.
Year 6: Research and writing.
Year 7: Defend Thesis at Final Oral Examination by August 30.

Program Length: 7 years
Time Limit: 8 years

Registration

Students in a flexible-time PhD program option will register full-time during the first four years and part-time during subsequent years in the program. Students are required to be registered for every session, including summers, following the first session of registration unless granted a leave of absence.

Transfers between the full-time PhD program and the flexible-time PhD program option are not permitted. A student may transfer from a master's program into an approved flexible-time option program, with the years in the master's program being counted as part of the PhD program.  

Fees and Funding

Students pay full-time fees for the first four years and part-time fees thereafter.  Students are expected to be self-funded.

Program Length and Time Limit

Each graduate program offering a flexible-time PhD program option will identify a program length for inclusion in the SGS Calendar entry, which normally will be five or six years. The time limit, between six and eight years, will be established through the departmental regulations. Flexible-time PhD program option students are afforded the same number of program extensions as other PhD students, with approval as required. 

Supervisor and Supervisory Committee

All doctoral students should have an identified supervisor and supervisory committee as early as possible in their program. For the flexible-time PhD program option, the time limit for constituting a supervisory committee is by the end of the first session in Year 3.

Achieving Candidacy

Candidacy must be achieved in the flexible-time PhD program option by the end of the fourth year of registration.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

Can a student switch from a full-time PhD to a flexible-time PhD program option, or vice-versa?

No. Transfers between full-time PhD programs and flexible-time PhD programs are not permitted.

What is the difference between a flexible-time PhD and a full-time PhD?

The flexible-time PhD program is an option for full-time enrolment in a PhD that offers students an extended timeline on the completion of the program requirements of the degree in order to accommodate and academically benefit from concurrent employment in the relevant field of study.

Is the flexible-time PhD program option open to all students? What do I need to apply?

The flexible-time PhD program option is available to practicing professionals in the relevant field of study, in programs where the option has been approved to offer it. In addition to the admission requirements for full-time PhD applicants, flexible-time PhD applicants must also demonstrate that they are practicing professionals in the relevant field.

What is the timeline for program requirements in a flexible-time PhD program option?

The graduate unit and supervisor should develop a timeline to complete the program requirements of the degree, including dates, deadlines and expectations of progression through the program. The SGS Calendar entry will typically also provide this information.

What is the time limit for a student to complete a flexible-time PhD program?

Each graduate unit will identify a program length for the flexible-time PhD program option. The time limit is typically two years longer than the full-time PhD, will be established through departmental regulations, and will not exceed 8 years.

Are flexible-time PhD students eligible to receive a funding package?

No. Flexible-time PhD students are expected to be self-funded and pay full-time fees for the first four years and reduced fees (equivalent to part-time) thereafter.

What if a student's employment situation changes during the flexible-time PhD program?

The definition of a 'practicing professional' is broad (see Admission Requirements above). The definition allows for some flexibility with professional practice arrangements that may change or evolve over the length of the program. While the flexible-time option requires demonstrated continuity, different activities can contribute to your engaged practice.

Students with concerns or questions about their situation, should​ consult with their program Graduate Coordinator or Chair.