A Ph.D. program is primarily research oriented. A student who enters the doctoral program with an M.Sc. degree is registered as a Ph.D. 2 and required to take a minimum of two 3-credit courses while preparing for an oral examination of their research proposal. In some cases, a supervisor may require more coursework to address gaps relevant to the research planned. As Ph.D. 2, a student does preliminary work on their thesis project, writes a research proposal and prepares for an oral examination scheduled towards the end of that year or in the next semester (the early part of their Ph.D. 3 year). The research work, writing up the results and their interpretation and submission as a thesis, typically takes three additional years (Ph.D. 3 to Ph.D. 6).
Students entering the Ph.D. program with a bachelors' degree and without an M.Sc. must take 4 courses during a Ph.D. 1 year, prior to the steps described above.
Excellent students initially admitted into the M.Sc. program can be “fast-tracked” from the M.Sc. into the Ph.D. program at the end of their M.Sc. 1 year if suitable progress has been demonstrated. Their minimum course load (4 courses in M.Sc. 1, and 2 more courses during the following year as Ph.D. 2) adds up to 18 credits (6 courses). They generally take their comprehensive oral examination at the end of their Ph.D. 2 year.