Stages of the Program

For complete details of the PhD program, including graduate courses offered, please see the PhD information in the Current students section of our site.

Program Plan Stage

In Term 1, you will enrol in the program’s one required course: ENVS 8102,  PhD research seminar. Working with the seminar collective and your assigned Supervisor, you will develop the initial version of your Plan, which will include brief statements about:

  • your current research interests
  • key terms and definitions
  • related tensions and questions
  • your comprehensive areas and corresponding bibliographies

As part of this process you may choose to take courses in the Faculty, in other graduate programs at York, or, with approval, at other universities. You may also participate in other educational experiences that will help you achieve your intellectual goals.

Comprehensive examinations

In consultation with your Supervisor, you are encouraged to read and explore in a wide but focused way, and to learn to draw out prevailing themes, issues and debates in your field of study. Given the interdisciplinary nature of the Faculty and diversity of Program Plans, the comprehensive exams can take many forms. Usually students focus on two to three comprehensive areas, one of which may be methodological. However, there are no set areas – instead, these are defined through the development of your Program Plan and in discussion with your Advisory Committee members.


You will research and write your dissertation under the guidance of your Supervisor and Supervisory Committee.

Overview of Stages within Program Timeline

Terms 1 and 2 (year 1 fall and winter)
Program Plan stage

Enrolling in ENVS 8102: PhD Research Seminar
Enrolling in other courses as appropriate for your Program Plan
Putting together your Advisory Committee
Preparing your Program Plan and having it approval by your Advisory Committee by the end of term 2

Terms 3 to 6 (year 1 summer to year 2 summer)
Comprehensive Examination stage

Wide and focused reading (supplemented by courses) as determined in your Program Plan
Comprehensive Exams should be passed by the end of terms 5-6 (year 2 winter to year 2 summer)
Putting together your Supervisory Committee by the end of term 5 (year 2 winter)
Preparing and defending your Dissertation Proposal, with your approved Proposal and nomination of Supervisory Committee sent to the Faculty of Graduate Studies for approval by the end of term 6 (year 2 summer)

Terms 7 to 18 (year 3 fall up to year 6 summer)
Dissertation stage

Research and writing of dissertation
Dissertation Examination passed by the end of terms 12 to 18 (year 4 summer to year 6 summer)

Because of the diversity of research projects in the Faculty, there is some variation in how and when PhD students move through these stages. However, Section 33 of the Faculty of Graduate Studies regulations sets deadlines for when you must have your Supervisor/Supervisory Committee in place.

Timeline for Program Completion

Ideally, you will progress through the PhD program as outlined below. Full-time registration is required – there is no part-time option for the FES PhD program.

The maximum time allowed for completion of the PhD degree is 18 terms/6 calendar years (not including leaves of absence and other exceptional circumstances). If you still working on the Dissertation stage after six years, you can withdraw in good standing and petition for readmission for one term only to complete your Dissertation Examination.

Under certain circumstances you can petition for permission to not register/pay fees in a specific term and the term will not be counted as part of your 6 year limit. For details please see Sections 16 and 31 of the Faculty of Graduate Studies regulations.