PhD Program

About the PhD Program

The primary objective of the PhD in Planning is to prepare students for academic careers in teaching and research. Some may also pursue an advanced planning career in the private, non-profit or public sector, given the rising demand for people with a PhD credential outside of academia.

The PhD program in Planning has 3 fields of specialization:

  • City-regions in global context: economic development and social planning
  • Environment and sustainability planning
  • Urban development, design and the built environment

Our program is designed to provide students with a broad and critical knowledge of planning history, theory and practice, as well as rigorous training in research. These objectives are achieved through a combination of advanced seminars and workshops, a comprehensive exam and a doctoral dissertation. As part of their training, students also receive teaching assistantships and may be offered research assistantships, as these become available.

The expectation is that PhD degrees will be completed on a full-time basis within four years of initial registration. The School of Graduate Studies requires that the thesis be submitted within six years of initial registration in the program.

PhD students must complete the following program requirements:

  • Coursework: All students must complete at least six half-credit courses (3.0 FCE) as follows – PLA2000H (0.5 FCE), PLA2001H (0.5 FCE), JPG1111H/JPG1120H or an approved methods course (0.5 FCE), at least one course from outside the planning program (0.5 FCE), two electives in any subject (1.0 FCE)
  • Annual Progress Reports: The supervisory committee must meet at least once per academic year to review the student’s progress and plans for the following year.
  • PhD Comprehensive Examination: Students will take a written and oral comprehensive exam between June of year one and no later than December of year two. The purpose of the exam is to ascertain whether a student has obtained an adequate knowledge base to continue in the PhD program; to ascertain any knowledge gaps and suggest remedial action; and to provide a student with the opportunity to get a broad perspective on their chosen field of study.
  • PhD Research Proposal Examination: Students will submit a research proposal which is defended before the supervisory committee. Ideally, the research proposal should take the form of a paper of about twenty to forty pages in length which includes a statement of the problem, research questions, a discussion and literature review of the research context in which it is set, research objectives or hypotheses, a brief outline of the data sources and methods, a draft survey or guiding questions for interviews (where appropriate) and a suggested timetable for completion. There should be a discussion of methods and methodology that makes reference to the literature on methodology. The proposal should provide a rationale for the choice of methods and discuss any ethical issues stemming from the research (if appropriate).
  • PhD Candidacy: When all requirements exclusive of the thesis have been met, the student has achieved PhD Candidacy. When all requirements exclusive of the thesis have been met, a student has achieved PhD Candidacy. The department requires students to achieve candidacy by the end of year two. School of Graduate Studies policy requires that candidacy is achieved by the end of year three.
  • Thesis and Departmental Thesis Examination: The thesis shall constitute a significant contribution to the knowledge of the field and must be based on original research conducted while registered for the PhD program. The topic for the thesis will have been approved at the proposal defense. The completed PhD thesis will be examined in a Departmental Thesis Examination. The examination committee consists of the supervisory committee.
  • School of Graduate Studies Final Oral Examination: The Final Oral Examination is the capstone experience of the PhD program. Students will defend their dissertation before an Examination Committee which will include an appraiser (external to the University) and at least one graduate faculty member who has not been closely involved in the supervision of the thesis (in addition to the supervisor and other members of the supervisory committee).

For complete details on PhD program requirements above please review the Planning PhD Handbook.