Ph.D. program admission

The deadline for submitting applications and uploading supporting material (including letters of recommendation) is the 15th of January of each year. Admission is normally granted for the Fall term of the same calendar year (beginning in September), although it may be granted for the Winter term (beginning in January of the following calendar year) in exceptional cases.

Application material is submitted using SLATE, McGill’s online application system. All supporting documents can be written in either English or French. Detailed instructions on how to apply and how to upload required supporting documents on SLATE can be found under the ‘How to apply’ section below. Note: You will need a valid credit card to submit the application fee. 

Individuals who wish to be admitted into the Ph.D. program formally apply to the School of Urban Planning, not to a specific professor. While it can sometimes be useful to communicate with professors prior to applying, professors cannot respond to all requests. You are encouraged to view the webpages of individual faculty members, to acquaint yourself with their research interests and projects, and to see if they have advertised any Ph.D. research opportunities.

Students are selected by consensus among all core faculty members based on two criteria: (1) the promise of excellence as conveyed by the application documents; and (2) the desire and ability of a professor to take on supervision of the student’s proposed research.

Interviews will be conducted with short-listed applicants (via phone or Zoom) before a final decision on admission is made. These interviews, during which the Graduate Program Director and the prospective supervisor will be present, are designed to better know and evaluate the applicant.

Academic requirements

Applicants must have a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0/4.0 (B) or 3.2/4.0 (just below a B+) for the last two years of full-time studies of the previous degree. Applicants must already possess a Master’s degree, or qualify as candidates for such a degree, to apply for the Ph.D. program.

Language requirements

  • If your first language is not English and you have not completed an undergraduate or graduate degree from a recognised foreign institution where English is the language of instruction, or from a recognised institution (anglophone or francophone), you must provide documented proof of competency in oral and written English by the application deadline.
  • McGill University accepts IELTS and TOEFL scores submitted electronically by an official test centre. No paper test report forms will be accepted. Applicants must directly ask the centre where the test is taken to send the scores to McGill electronically (institution code: 0935). The minimum acceptable exam results for the TOEFL are an overall score of 100 on the iBT with a score of at least 23 on each of its four components; for the IELTS, the minimum overall band is 7.0 with a score of at least 6.5 for each component.
  • McGill University will also accepts the McGill Certificate of Proficiency in English or McGill Certificate of Proficiency (English for Professional Communication: Certificate of Proficiency). The certificate must have been awarded by the application deadline.

How to apply

Applications must be submitted using SLATE, McGill’s online application system. You must ensure that you do the following:

  1. Complete the online application form, including payment of the application fee using a valid credit card. Within 48 hours of submitting your payment, you will be able to upload the other required documents.
  2. Upload a current version of your curriculum vitae. This should include a description of your academic and professional experience and accomplishments, along with full contact information.
  3. Upload a statement of research objectives, not exceeding three pages, including (a) an outline of long-term career goals; (b) an explanation of why you believe that a Ph.D. in Urban Planning, Policy, and Design will help you achieve those goals; and (c) a clearly-articulated but concise discussion of your research interests, intended research plans, and proposed methodological approaches. PLEASE NOTE---As of January 2024, the SLATE system has a glitch. There is no requirement for applicants to submit a personal statement. You may simply upload your statement of research objectives twice. We apologise for any confusion this may cause.
  4. Upload unofficial copies of transcripts for your complete university-level academic record to date, including transfer credits, student exchanges, and all programs (complete, incomplete, and/or in progress).
  5. Identify three (3) individuals who will provide letters of recommendation, at least two of whom must be current or past professors. The letters will be submitted directly to McGill by these individuals using the contact information that you provide, which must include a valid institutional email address. Within 48 hours of when you submit your application fee, an email will be sent to your referees inviting them to provide a reference by answering a series of online questions. They may also upload an additional free-form letter.
  6. Upload two examples of independent written work (e.g., course papers, articles, chapters, research reports) in English or in French. The two items must not exceed 60 pages combined (e.g. 30 pages + 30 pages). Please ensure that each example is uploaded separately.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Incomplete or inaccurate applications that are submitted can significantly delay or even prevent an admission decision (this includes letters of recommendations). Please verify the following on SLATE before submitting your application:

  • Ensure that the title of the degree matches what is officially indicated on the transcripts, e.g., B.A., B.Sc., B.S.Sc., Licence, etc.; if you cannot find a complete match, please enter ‘Bachelor’ or ‘Master’.
  • Ensure that the year that the degree was granted matches what is officially indicated on the transcripts.
  • Ensure that you include a copy of the degree certificate (diploma) if the transcript does not indicate that a degree has been conferred. For degrees that follow the British system, please include the overall standing if applicable.
  • Ensure that the documents include the transcript key/legend.
  • Ensure that a separate record has been created for every institution that is mentioned in the transcripts that are uploaded, even if grades for those institutions are already reflected. This includes institutions where transfer credits were received, or where exchange terms were taken. The exceptions are high schools and Québec CEGEPs.
  • Enter the CGPA for your degree(s). These entries facilitate the review process, but they are not binding. Links provided in this section will lead you to resources to help determine your CGPA. The School recognises that this is a complicated process, so please do not spend too much time on it; incorrect entries will not affect your application

If you have questions about admissions that are not addressed on this website or on McGill's application website, please contact us via admissions.planning [at] (Note: due to the volume of emails received, please anticipate up to one week for a response).

Please note: It is your responsibility as the applicant to ensure the completeness of the application (including letters of recommendation) for each program to which you are applying. Applications may not be evaluated if they are still incomplete by the application deadline. It is the applicant’s responsibility to verify that the correct documents have been uploaded.

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