Fast Tracking and Back Tracking

Transfer from the Master's to the Doctoral Program  

Upon recommendation by the program and approval by Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS), academically promising students registered in Master's programs may proceed directly to Doctoral studies without completing the full requirements for the Master's degree. The student, if approved for fast-tracking, will enter the doctoral program at the PhD2 level.

Students who fast track from MSc to PhD and have completed a course as part of their Master's and are transferring to the PhD, then the course and credits are transferred at the time of the transfer, meaning that students do not have to retake the required course or make up the credits.

Criteria for Fast-Tracking:

  • completed a minimum of 2 full-time terms, but not more than 4 full-time terms in the Master's program
  • obtained 6 to 9 course credits (CGPA of 3.5 or higher)
  • favorable evaluations of research progress from at least one full RAC meeting. In exceptional circumstances and with the graduate program director and program coordinator permission the first RAC meeting can be combined with the Fast-Track committee meeting.
  • strong commitment from the student and the supervisor to complete the program
  • successfully pass the Transfer exam


  1. To initiate the fast-tracking process, a letter of intent should be sent to the Director of the Graduate Program by the research supervisor as soon as the decision has been made. The letter should explain the reason for fast-tracking and pledge support and resources needed to successfully complete the proposed research, including the committee agreeing that the project meet the criteria for a PhD.
  2. Upon approval by the Director, the student will be required to pass the Transfer exam that consists of two parts - oral and written - before a panel consisting of the research supervisor, the RAC and 1-2 additional members selected from the faculty by the supervisor, in consultation with the RAC chairperson.
  3. Prior to the oral exam, the student will be required to submit a 15-20 page written progress report (double-spaced, font size 12, standard margins) containing:
    • background information
    • the rationale and objectives of the original Master’s and how this can be expanded into a PhD project
    • methodology and a description of progress already achieved
    • the research plan for future work
  4. The exam will follow the format of a RAC meeting and will include a 20-30 min. presentation to be followed by a question period.
  5. The exam is evaluated as Pass/Fail, as per the PDF iconFast Track Evaluation form. Evaluation criteria include:
    • knowledge and understanding of the project
    • knowledge of the relevant scientific literature (Note that this is not a comprehensive exam)
    • ability to propose research plan and to ask new research questions
    • knowledge of research methodologies and the ability to interpret results (Note that this is not a PhD research proposal defense)
    • critical thinking skills
    • written and oral communication skills
  6. Following the examination, the student must submit the completed and signed PDF iconFast Track Evaluation form to the Graduate Program Coordinator.
  7. The panel will then be asked to submit a written recommendation to the Director of the Graduate Program regarding the suitability of the student and the research project for a PhD program.

Once the Fast Track application has been approved, the student should notify the Graduate Program Coordinator of the approval, then submit an application on uApply to Fast Track.  PLEASE TAKE NOTE THAT ADMISSION DEADLINES APPLY TO FAST TRACK APPLICATIONS.  These dates can be found under Application Deadlines.

Fast Track Guidelines and RAC Checklist for the student's evaluation panel.


Back tracking procedures:

Terminating Registration in a Doctoral Program to Complete a Master's Degree in the Same Program

GPS strongly discourages the practice of withdrawing from a Doctoral program to register in the same program for a Master's degree ("back-tracking"). However, in exceptional circumstances such a transfer may be preferable academically to having the student fail or withdraw from the Doctoral program.

In such cases where a transfer is preferable, the student must have permission from both the Graduate Program and GPS to transfer from the Doctoral to the Master's program; the Graduate Program Director must provide specific reason(s) when recommending the change in program to GPS.  The student must then submit an application to the Master's program according to normal procedures and deadlines.  Also, the student must be made aware that they will not be eligible for subsequent readmission to the same Doctoral program after completion of (or participation in) the Master's degree.  The student should discuss any concerns with the Graduate Program Director and if necessary, the Associate Dean GPS.

Note: The Ministère de l'Enseignement supérieur, Recherche et Science (MERS) regulations require that a student must be registered for at least one academic term in the program from which they intend to graduate.  


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