4. Registration

Last Revised June 20, 2023

A candidate whose application for admission has been approved by the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies must register in the term indicated on the "Offer of Admission". In exceptional circumstances, registration may be deferred for one term, with approval of the program and the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. The candidate should consult the appropriate program for details about registration.

To be registered graduate students must pay or make arrangements to pay all fees by the established deadline each term (see Office of the Registrar - Fees Refunds).

a) Continuous Registration
Graduate students must maintain continuous registration in the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies in each successive term from initial registration until all requirements for the degree are completed.

b) Maximum Registration Period
The maximum registration period for completing a Master's degree is three calendar years from initial registration and, in the case of a Doctoral degree, six calendar years from initial registration. For students who transfer from a Master's program to a Doctoral program without completing the Master's program, a maximum of seven calendar years from the initial registration in the Master's program will be given to complete the Doctoral degree. For students admitted part-time to an approved part-time Master's program, the maximum registration period is four years.

The student will be withdrawn at the end of his or her maximum registration time limit unless the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies) has approved an extension.

a) Full-Time Student

To be registered as a full-time student according to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, a student must meet the following criteria:

  • be pursuing graduate studies as a full-time occupation.
  • be geographically available and visit the campus regularly. It is understood that a graduate student may be absent from the University while visiting libraries, attending a graduate course at another institution, doing field work and the like. Normally, if such periods of absence exceed four weeks in any term, the student must obtain written approval from the program Graduate Chair and the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies).
  • be considered a full-time* graduate student by the graduate program.
  • must have paid, or made arrangements to pay, full-time tuition fees.
  • should not be employed on campus for more than an average of ten hours per week in any term*.

*Full-time graduate students are expected to pursue their graduate degree on a full-time basis and make satisfactory progress toward timely completion of all program requirements. It is not possible, or desirable, for the university to monitor and enforce the employment activities of its graduate students outside the university. However, it is both possible and desirable for the university to ensure that it does not itself create a structural situation that jeopardizes the ability of the graduate student to make full-time progress towards the completion of graduate program requirements. Accordingly, OCGS is committed to the principle that full-time graduate students are employed no more than an average of 10 hours per week on campus.

(from Ontario Council on Graduate Studies 2017, Principles for Graduate Study at Ontario’s Universities, Resolution 5: The Principle of Timely Program Completion)

b) Part-Time Student in Approved Part-Time Program

Students may be admitted as part-time students in approved part-time programs (listed below) as stipulated in the program's regulations.  During the course of study, and with the approval of the program and SGPS, such a part-time registrant may be approved to register as a full-time student; he or she may then register as a part-time student at a later date by meeting the requirements as stipulated in (c) below.  Students who begin as full-time students in programs that have an approved part-time course of study may only change to part-time registration as stipulated in (c) below.

Students registered part-time may take no more than two courses in a term.  Undergraduate courses taken as extra courses or as degree requirements are to be included in the totals above.

Students can enroll part-time in the following established part-time programs:

  • Computer Science MSc
  • Education MEd
  • Engineering Sciences MEng
  • Epidemiology and Biostatistics MSc
  • Family Medicine MClSc & PhD
  • Foods and Nutrition MScFN - Thesis Stream (Brescia University College)
  • Law LLM
  • Library and Information Science MLIS
  • Media Studies MA
  • Music MMus (Music Education)
  • Nursing MScN
  • Master of Nursing
  • Pathology and Laboratory Medicine MSc & PhD
  • Public Administration MPA
  • Theology MA (Huron University College)

c) Part-Time Students in Full-Time Programs

Part-time registration in full-time programs may be granted in exceptional circumstances and only with the approval of both the Graduate Program and the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies). Examples of such circumstances are: admission to another full-time university program or medical or compassionate circumstances that make it impossible for the student to continue to devote full-time attention to his or her program of study. Supporting documentation must be submitted with the request for part-time status.

Part-time status is not to be used as a means for reducing or avoiding tuition fees.  Being beyond the funding eligibility period will not, by itself, constitute grounds for a change from full-time to part-time status. Part-time status may be granted for up to a cumulative total of three terms.

Students registered part-time may take no more than two courses in a term.  Undergraduate courses taken as extra courses or as degree requirements are to be included in the totals above.

d) Thesis Defense Only Student

The purpose of this status is to allow a student who: a) has completed all program requirements (including thesis submission), but b) has not been able to defend his/her thesis before the end of term, to register at the University in the subsequent term without paying tuition fees. Thesis Defense Only registration (TDO) can be held for only one term.

  • This registration category will not require payment of tuition fees; however, students will be required to pay part-time ancillary fees.
  • In order to be considered for TDO status students must upload their thesis electronically.
  • TDO status will be granted to those students who have submitted a thesis by the final official day of term, but have not been able to secure an examination board and/or examination date that falls beforethe end of the term.
  • Programs are required to inform SGPS as soon as possible (and in any case no less than 10 working days before the last working day of the term) when a thesis examination will need to be scheduled into the subsequent term.
  • The thesis examination must be successfully completed, all required revisions done, and the final thesis submitted to SGPS prior to the end of the TDO term. A student who does not meet these conditions will be required to pay part-time tuition for the TDO term and will continue to be registered until the final thesis is submitted.
  • TDO applies only to students in programs that have a thesis requirement.
  • A student will be given TDO status for no more than one term.
  • When the thesis examination is unsuccessful at either the preliminary or examination stages, the student will not have met the TDO conditions and will be required to pay part-time tuition and fees for the TDO term.

e) Non-degree Part-time Student

Non-degree part-time students must meet normal admission requirements. If a student in this category is subsequently admitted to a degree program, no more than 20% of the course requirements for the degree may be credited from courses taken while a non-degree student. Non-degree part-time students are not required to maintain continuous registration. For each term in which they are registered, however, they must inform their Graduate Chair before the start of the next term whether they plan to take courses during that term or whether they plan to withdraw. Without withdrawal, they will receive a tuition bill for the following term, as if they were in a degree program. Once withdrawn, they must apply for readmission to resume their non-degree part-time studies. In such cases, the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies waives the readmission fee.

f) Concurrent Degree Student

Students in the following programs will be registered in both programs and are eligible to receive degrees in each:

  • MD-PhD
  • MBA-LLB in Business and Law

g) Doctoral Flex-time Registration

Students must select flex-time registration prior to commencing their program of study and cannot alter their registration status once selected.* Students enrolled in flex time studies pay full-time tuition fees for the first four years of their registration, and part-time fees until they complete their program. As the flex-time option is intended for working professionals, Western’s doctoral funding guarantee does not apply to students in flex-time studies. Flex-time enrolment will normally require two additional years of study for students to complete the program, in comparison to students in a regular full-time enrolment status. Completion within six to eight years while in flex-time enrolment is expected.

*Please note that the flex-time registration option is available only for doctoral programs with an approved flex-time option.

h) Interdisciplinary Combined PhD

A Western Interdisciplinary Combined PhD entails the completion of the combined degree requirements of two Western doctoral programs simultaneously under the supervision of a faculty member from each program.


Home Program: For the purposes of the Interdisciplinary Combined PhD Degree Agreement Form, “Home Program” will refer to the graduate program that has administrative responsibility for the student, including providing work/office space, assignment of GTAships, completion of annual progress reports, etc. The Home Program is also the “fall-back” program in the event that the student wishesto discontinue in the combined option.

Partnering Program: For the purposes of the Interdisciplinary Combined PhD Degree
Agreement Form, “Partnering Program” will refer to the second graduate program.

1. Rationale for an Interdisciplinary Combined PhD Option

1.1. Many current and emerging areas of research and professional practice are at the intersection of existing disciplines.

1.2. Advanced knowledge and research expertise that spans disciplinary boundaries is needed to effectively respond to emerging cultural, social, and scientific needs.

1.3. The creation of new interdisciplinary graduate programs would not provide the flexibility or responsiveness required to address these growing needs.

1.4. This option will be unique in Canada and will provide an innovative and competitive advantage for Western and its graduates.

2. Program Structure

2.1. The student shall have two supervisors – one supervisor with doctoral membership in each graduate program. In exceptional circumstances, a single supervisor, with doctoral membership in both programs may be approved by the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (SGPS), conditional upon the supervisory committee representing both programs.

2.2. One of the two programs will be identified as the "Home Program” for the purpose of registration and administration.

2.3. Programs are encouraged to “share” or “merge” some of their usual requirements. For example, a required course in one program can also be counted as an optional or elective course in the second program.

2.4. One thesis is to be completed; the thesis must meet the expectations of both programs, the content of the thesis should represent a blending of the disciplines.

2.5. The composition of the examining board for the dissertation will include representation of both participating programs and disciplines. Some variation from the usual PhD Examination Board structure may be
needed to achieve this; such variation must be approved by SGPS.

2.6. The student's individual program (structured to support completion in 4 years)
must be determined and agreed upon by the two programs normally no later than
by the second term, including:
o All courses to be completed to meet the learning outcomes of both programs
o The nature and timing of comprehensive(s) to satisfy both programs (if feasible, the comprehensive exam requirements of the two programs can be merged into one exam)
o Any additional milestones required to meet the learning outcomes of both programs
o The topic of the dissertation/research

3. Enrolling in an Interdisciplinary Combined PhD Option

3.1. The student is accepted first into a “Home Program” and then requests admission to the “Partnering Program” ideally before the beginning but no later than by the second term after beginning in the “Home Program”.
o The student must meet the entrance requirements of both graduate
programs and must be admitted by both programs.

3.2. Following completion and approval of the “Interdisciplinary Combined PhD Degree Agreement” and admission to the Partnering Program, the student is transferred into the combined degree program.
o Normally the Interdisciplinary Combined PhD Agreement will be completed prior to the student’s first term of registration but no later than two terms into the student’s registration in the Home Program.

4. Inclusion on Transcripts and Degrees

4.1. One degree/parchment will be awarded; it will list both graduate programs.

4.2. The student’s transcript will note registration in both graduate programs, with one degree awarded upon completion of all requirements.

4.3. The student’s transcript will read under “Academic Program History”:
Program: Home Program
Plan: Interdisciplinary Combined Doctor of Philosophy
Home Program and Partnering Program
Status: Active in Program (or later, “Completed Program”)

4.4. The final degree awarded will appear on the parchment as: DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY, Home Program and Partnering Program

Programs may allow students to transfer their registration from the Master's to the Doctoral degree within the same program, without completion of the Master's degree. The Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies) will consider such requests on the recommendation of the student's program.

Transfers from the Master's to the Doctoral program must take place before the sixth term of Master's registration.

The Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies) may grant a leave of absence on pregnancy/parental, medical or compassionate grounds normally to a maximum of three terms or 12 months, on the recommendation of the Graduate Program.

While on leave, students are expected to be away from normal activities as graduate students (e.g. attending classes, conducting research). However, students and supervisors may negotiate ongoing communication during this period. Before the end of the approved leave of absence, students notify the Graduate Chair/Director, the Graduate Assistant and, where relevant, the Supervisor(s), to discuss the transition back to their studies.  If students are applying for an additional leave of absence, it is important that the program and SGPS be notified as soon as possible.

To ensure that they are optimally supported throughout their degree, students requiring leaves of absence that extend beyond three terms are encouraged to communicate with programs about potential professional, academic or research implications of the extended period away from their studies.

The start and finish of the leave may begin or end at any point in the term; normally the leave will coincide with the start and end of terms. Students are advised to consult with their graduate program to make special arrangements especially if taking courses during this period.

The date for degree completion and funding of the degree program will be extended by the duration of the time taken on leave, i.e. one, two or three terms as appropriate.

a) Pregnancy and/or Parental

Pregnancy/Parental Leave is intended to recognize the need for leave at the time of pregnancy, birth or adoption, and to permit a pause in studies in order to provide full-time care in the first year of parenting a new child. Either parent may request up to three terms of leave, which must be started within twelve months of the date of birth or custody.

Provided the student has been a registered full-time graduate student for at least one term and is not receiving additional Tri-Agency benefits, they are entitled to a $1,500 pregnancy and parental bursary per leave.

During a Pregnancy/Parental leave international students can opt into UHIP for up to 12 months.

b) Medical

Graduate students may apply for a medical leave by providing a Medical Certificate completed by a health care practitioner.  During a Medical leave, international students can opt into UHIP for four months in a 12-month leave period. It is possible to extend UHIP for another four months subject to the approval of the insurance provider.

Graduate students on medical leave can retain bus pass service.  Please contact the Society of Graduate Students for more information.

c) Compassionate

Graduate students may apply for a compassionate leave for care and support of a seriously ill family member. This leave is not intended to cover circumstances related to travel, employment or other financial concerns.

During a Compassionate leave international students can opt into UHIP for up to four months.

d) Internship

Graduate students in programs without an internship requirement who secure an internship through Western’s Internship Program may apply for an internship leave.

Students may apply for a leave of absence by completing an online request via the Graduate Student Web Services Portal. The request is then reviewed by the graduate program. If approved by the program, it is reviewed by the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

Once on leave, students are not registered with the University nor will they be required to pay tuition and ancillary fees for this period; however, they are entitled to receive/maintain certain benefits as described below.

Financial Benefits:

  • Graduate students may qualify for pregnancy/parental benefits such as paid pregnancy/parental leave or sick leave if they are employed as Graduate Teaching Assistants; consult the GTA Collective Agreement for further information.
  • Graduate Students who are awarded funding through an external agency e.g. Tri-Agency (Research Grant or External Scholarship), OGS etc. may be entitled to certain benefits and should check with the particular granting agency for further information.

Service Benefits:

  • Graduate students while on leave may opt into the Society of Graduate Students (SOGS) health plan which includes coverage of prescription drugs, as well as basic dental care and vision coverage.
  • Graduate students while on leave may opt into Campus Recreation Services.
  • Graduate students will retain email and library privileges.
  • Student Health Services are available to those on leave.

Withdrawal from a program can occur in two ways. A student can voluntarily withdraw, following formal notification to the program. Alternatively, the program or SGPS can withdraw a student for failure to meet admission conditions, progression requirements, specified deadlines for completion, or failure to pay fees. Once withdrawn from a program (and the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies), the person withdrawn is no longer a student and may not attend classes, receive supervision, or have access to any resources of the University.

Students who have voluntarily withdrawn or who have been withdrawn and wish to complete their program must formally re-apply for admission. Credit for previous work completed must be approved by the program and SGPS.

Students who are withdrawn for non-payment of fees will be considered for admission under the following payment conditions:

  • Any student who has withdrawn or has been withdrawn may be required to pay fees for the terms in which registration has lapsed if admitted.
  • Payment of all fees owing at the time of withdrawal including all penalty fees incurred as a result of the default
  • Prepayment of full fees for the term in which admission is sought
  • These payments must be money order, cash, direct debit, or certified cheque

Fee refunds will be made on a pro rata basis to students who have completed all of their degree requirements, withdraw, or are required to withdraw before the end of a term. Detailed information on graduate tuition refunds is available on the Office of the Registrar's Website.

Scholarships received from the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies are also subject to pro-rating. Contact the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies for details.

Full-time graduate students in research-based programs are expected to be active in their program for all three terms of the university year, as specified in Section 4.03. While engaging in their program, we recognize that personal time (i.e. time away from studies) is beneficial for student health, well-being and academic achievement. It is acceptable and expected that Supervisors, Supervisory Committee Members and Graduate Chairs will discuss expectations around students’ study and research schedules; they will mentor students and support their need for time off and their pursuit of work/life balance. Time away from studies must take into account the impact on timely progression and the impact on research and other responsibilities.

It is expected that students devote a reasonable number of hours each weekday to study and to research. It is acceptable for students to take days off. In making these time management decisions, it is expected that students will learn to discern when time away from studies supports academic productivity, and when it undermines timely progression.

Graduate Chairs are encouraged to ensure that both student and supervisor needs and expectations are met. See Regulation 11.02 (supervisor expectations).

In addition to the above, students are entitled to be away from their studies and research responsibilities during:

Graduate students are also entitled to at least two weeks of vacation time from their studies per year.

Effective January 2013, all incoming graduate students are required to complete the SGPS Academic Integrity module to progress beyond the first term of their degree. 

This module is designed to provide you with the necessary knowledge and resources to abide by academic principles during your graduate career and to help combat scholastic offenses.  After reviewing the material and finishing the readings, students are required to complete both a multiple-choice assessment and a series of short case studies to evaluate their knowledge of academic integrity.  Students have unlimited opportunities to pass the module.  Students who do not complete the module will not be able to progress beyond the first term of their degree. 

Eligible students can access the module in the Graduate Student Web Services Portal. Instructions regarding access and how to complete the module will be emailed to students the first week of their first term.