Monitoring Doctoral Progress

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In 1985, the Committee on PhD Supervision, chaired by Dean Endrenyi, recommended that graduate units should institute procedures to monitor closely the progress of individual PhD students in their programs. The committee concluded that only with close monitoring could potential problems be detected and corrected at an early stage.

SGS Council (May 28,1996) recommended that all graduate units adopt a procedure for monitoring the progress of PhD students registered in their programs. The procedure shall contain the following minimum elements, consistent with the Guidelines for Departmental Monitoring of the Progress of PhD Students.

  • An Advisory Committee consisting of the supervisor and at least two faculty members. 

  • The Advisory Committee meets with the student at least once per year to assess the student's progress in the program and to provide advice on future work. 

  • The Committee prepares a report detailing its observations of the student's progress and its recommendations. 

  • The student be given the opportunity to respond to the Committee's report/recommendations, and to append a response to the Committee's report. 

  • Copies of the report should be given to the student and placed in the student's file. As well, the annual meeting date should be recorded on ROSI.


Guidelines for Departmental Monitoring of Progress Through the PhD 

1. Background

Departments must have available a clearly laid out timetable or “road map” with the timing of critical steps and phases in a typical PhD program to guide students to the completion of their program. The selection of a thesis topic or research area, and the choice of a research supervisor should happen as early as possible in the program so that the student can select courses that will support the thesis, and get the research off to a fast start.

2. Advisory Committee

An Advisory Committee should be set up (within the appropriate time limit for constituting a committee – see SGS Calendar Regulation on ‘Supervision and Satisfactory Progress) consisting of the supervisor and at least two other faculty members with appropriate academic interests. This committee should meet promptly to review the proposed thesis topic, and to advise the student on his/her proposed plan of research and timetable of activity.

The continuing role of the Committee is to ensure that the student is achieving, in a timely manner, the level of academic excellence and technical maturity expected of a PhD graduate from this University. In addition, if possible, the Committee should discuss with the student her/his professional development, with a view to providing guidance toward a future career, and give advice regarding additional courses or other activities that might improve employment prospects.

The Advisory Committee has the authority to recommend termination of a student’s program if insufficient progress or scholarly achievement is observed. The student must be provided with adequate warning of problems and be given a chance to correct deficiencies. Every effort should be made to identify problems early in a student’s program so as to avoid termination for cause late in the program.

3. Regular Meetings of Advisory Committee

At regular intervals after the first meeting (at least once per year), the Advisory Committee should meet with the student as a committee to consider the progress of the student in the program since the last meeting. The specific format of the meeting should be designed to suit the needs of the student and department best. In many departments, it will be appropriate for the student to make formal oral and written reports to the Committee giving details of progress to date, work remaining, and timetable for completion. The student could then defend his/her report very much as would be done in the final oral examination.

After the report, the progress and level of achievement of the student should first be discussed by the members of the Advisory Committee in the absence of the student and recorded on a standard evaluation form for the record. The written comments must be explicit concerning whether research progress and the development of the student as a scholar are appropriate for the current stage of the student’s program. The Committee should then discuss its report with the student. The student should be given an opportunity to respond to all comments of the Committee, and should be encouraged to include his/her comments in the report. The chair and the student should sign the final report, and a copy should be placed in the student’s file with another copy to the student. As well, the annual meeting date should be recorded on ROSI.

The approximate date of the next meeting should be established before the meeting adjourns.

Advisory Committee meetings are not intended to take the place of meetings between the student and supervisor which should occur with much greater frequency than the Advisory Committee meetings.


Professor Elizabeth Smyth
Vice-Dean, Programs
Phone: 416-978-5986
Fax: 416-971-2327

​Executive Assistant to the Vice-Deans
Angelique Plata
Phone: 416-978-2384
Fax: 416-971-2327