Graduate Programs and Courses

115 Doctor of Philosophy Program (PhD) – Veterinary Medicine


The purpose of the PhD degree program is to educate individuals to become independent, reliable, and competent research scientists. The PhD degree of the University of Prince Edward Island requires the demonstration of a reasonable mastery of a concentrated field of study. The latter is attested to by the achieving of satisfactory standings in each of a minimum of five graduate courses, the completion of a research project, and the writing of a thesis based upon the research.

The graduate students will register in one of the academic departments of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and in one of the areas of specialization listed:

Department of Biomedical Sciences
Animal Behaviour
Physiology, Pharmacology and Toxicology
Cell Biology

Department of Health Management
Animal Science and Animal Nutrition
Epidemiology/Health Management
Clinical Sciences
Aquatic Animal Health
Public Health
Animal Welfare

Department of Pathology and Microbiology
Clinical Pathology
Morphologic Pathology
Wildlife Pathology
Public Health
Aquatic Animal Health

Depending on the individual thesis topic, projects could involve one or more of several species of animals. There will be considerable interaction and co-operation among the departments, with other universities in the region, and with government research laboratories to provide courses and research facilities to meet the needs of individual students and their research projects.

In addition to the “General Regulations for Graduate Programs” described earlier, the following regulations apply specifically to the Doctor of Philosophy degree:

Admission Requirements

The normal basis for admission to PhD studies as a regular or a provisional student is a recognized thesis-based MSc degree obtained with an average of at least second class (B level 70% to 79.9%) academic standing.

Transfer from MSc to PhD

An applicant enrolled in an MSc program who achieves a superior record (normally at least first class [80% or higher] academic standing in graduate course work) and shows a particular aptitude for research may, with recommendation of the Supervisory Committee and Department, apply to the Graduate Studies and Research Committee for transfer from the MSc to a PhD program without the requirement for completion of the MSc degree. Transfers are normally made within the same department. However, inter-departmental transfers will be considered by the Graduate Studies and Research Committee on a case-by-case basis, on the recommendation of both Departments. The application for transfer must be made no sooner than the end of the second semester and normally no later than the end of the sixth semester, and is effective in the semester following approval. All regulations relating to the PhD program apply from the effective date. However, admission to the doctoral program will be considered provisional until such time as the candidate passes the PhD Comprehensive Examination, as governed by departmental regulations. If the Comprehensive Examination is passed, the student will be transferred from provisional to regular PhD student status. Two failed attempts of the Comprehensive Examination will result in the provisional PhD student status being revoked and immediate reversion to MSc student status. All regulations relating the MSc degree apply from the date of reversion. There will be no refund of program fees.

Residency Requirements

Normally, at least six semesters of full-time study in-residency at the University must be devoted to the doctoral program following completion of a recognized Master’s degree. In cases in which a student transfers from a Master’s to a PhD program, eight semesters of full-time study would be the minimum residency requirement after completion of the Bachelor’s degree. Normally, the thesis must be formally submitted within 48 months of the completion of the residency requirement. Departure from these normal requirements requires approval from the Graduate Studies and Research Committee.


The student’s program is established and progress kept under review by the appropriate department. At the discretion of the academic unit, the day-to-day responsibility for overseeing the student’s program will rest with the Supervisor or jointly with the Supervisory Committee of five graduate faculty, one of whom must be from a department other than that in which the student is registered.

The Chair of the Supervisory Committee is normally the Department Chair. The graduate student’s Supervisor shall not be the Chair of the Supervisory Committee. The Supervisor will normally have the degree for which the student is registered and be from the Department in which the student is enrolled.


The PhD degree is primarily a research degree; for that reason course work commonly comprises a smaller proportion of the total than is the case at the level of the Master’s degree.

Prescribed Studies

In the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, substantive courses are graduate level courses assigned a minimum of two credit hours. In the PhD program students are required to complete courses totalling a minimum of 12 credit hours. Within this course complement there must be at least four substantive courses and the appropriate departmental Seminar course (one credit). Only one of the substantive courses may be a Directed Studies course.

All students are expected to complete VHM 8010 (Veterinary Biostatistics) unless comparable training has been completed prior to entry into the program. In some cases, on the recommendation of the Supervisory Committee and with the approval of the Graduate Studies and Research Committee, exemptions may be granted for some of the course requirement in recognition of previous academic work. For graduate credit, the courses selected must be acceptable to the department and the Graduate Studies and Research Committee. These “substantive” courses and/ or general examinations comprise the candidate’s prescribed studies, in which the student must obtain an overall average grade of at least second-class standing (see Grades in General Regulations section).

A department may require examinations (oral and/or written), from time to time, to evaluate the student’s progress in their overall program.

Additional Courses

In addition to these prescribed studies, the candidate may undertake to achieve satisfactory standings in courses supportive of the special discipline. These courses may be at either the undergraduate or the graduate level. The standings obtained in them will not affect the average grade of the prescribed studies. When a student is required to register in a seminar or colloquium course in more than one semester, the record will show a grade or a designation of “In Progress” for semesters prior to completion of the course and “Pass” or “Fail” for the final semester. With the consent of the Supervisory Committee, and of the instructor and the Department Chair concerned, a student may register for, and audit, all or part of a course. It is understood that the student will attend lectures as prescribed, but will not write any examination or receive any grade. Such a course may be recorded as an additional course, identified by AUD.



In the total program of a doctoral student it is expected that the major part of the time be devoted to research in fulfilment of the thesis requirement. The research proposal should be formulated at as early a date as possible and be presented to the Supervisory Committee for approval. Research involving the use of animals must follow the Guidelines of the Canadian Council on Animal Care. When it is necessary for the research, or some of it, to be conducted off-campus, the arrangements are subject to the prior approval of the Chair of the Department in which the student is registered.

Comprehensive Examination

At as early a date as may be feasible in each case, and in all cases no later than the final semester of the residency requirement (i.e., the 6th semester after the Master’s degree or the 8th semester after the honours baccalaureate), the student is required to take an examination to assess his or her knowledge in that branch of learning embracing the subject. The examination will ordinarily be in two parts, one written and one oral.

The Comprehensive Examination is an examination by the academic unit in which the student is enrolled (as distinct from an examination by the Supervisory Committee).

Upon completing the Comprehensive Examination satisfactorily, the student is deemed to have met the Department standards, and then becomes a candidate for the PhD degree. The Examining Committee, appointed by the Chair of the academic unit concerned, consists of some or all of the members of the Supervisory Committee, together with two additional members of the Graduate Faculty, at least one of whom must be a member of the unit. The Chair of the academic unit concerned serves as Chair of the Examining Committee, and is responsible for making all arrangements. As a Comprehensive Examination, consideration is to be given to:

1) the student’s knowledge of the subject matter and ability to integrate the material derived from his or her studies; and,

2) to the student’s ability and promise in research. The Examining Committee, therefore, will receive from the Supervisory Committee a written evaluation of the quality of the student’s performance to date in research and of the student’s potential as a researcher. The Examining Committee will determine the relative importance to be given to these two major components of the Comprehensive Examination.

The results of the Comprehensive Examination will be reported to the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Research through the Chair of the academic unit. The examination may be repeated once within a program, and if the student fails a second time, further registration in the PhD program will be denied.


Each candidate for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy shall submit a thesis, written by the candidate, on the research carried out by the candidate on the approved topic. The thesis is expected to be a significant contribution to knowledge in its field, and the candidate must indicate in what ways it is a contribution. The thesis must demonstrate mature scholarship and critical judgement on the part of the candidate, and it must indicate an ability to express oneself in a satisfactory literary style. Approval of the thesis is taken to imply that it is judged to be sufficiently meritorious to warrant publication in reputable scholarly media in the field.

Examination and Publication

For each doctoral thesis, an External Examiner from outside the University is appointed by the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Research in consultation with the Supervisor and the Department Chair. Prior to the exam, the External Examiner will submit a written appraisal of the thesis to the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Research. This brief report will summarize their evaluation of the thesis and normally include a discussion of the scientific significance of the thesis with comments regarding its theoretical framework, methodology, findings, and interpretations. The report will consider its academic standard and quality, reflecting that the candidate meets the minimum requirements to qualify as a researcher, considering the candidate’s formulation of research questions, logical and original approaches to testing stated hypotheses, and understanding of current methods and their limitations.

The External Examiner is expected to attend the Final Oral Examination. However, when an External Examiner is unable to attend the Final Oral Examination within a reasonable time frame, the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Research, in consultation with the Chair of the Examination Committee and the Chair of the Department, may permit examination via videoconference. Honoraria and expenses are paid as per University policy in relation to the duties involved.


The thesis may be submitted at any time of the year, but candidates are advised to allow ample time for revision and examination. It is understood that, as the thesis is being written, the candidate is in regular communication with the Supervisory Committee. In due time, a draft emerges which is deemed to be ready for examination. The candidate then formally requests examination, endorsed by the Supervisory Committee (maximum of one dissenting committee member) and the Departmental Chair, and a copy of this final draft is sent to the External Examiner as “fair copy” of the thesis. Normally within one week of receiving the thesis, the External Examiner will communicate to the Associate Dean GSR their opinion of the overall acceptability of the thesis going forward to examination. If the thesis is approved, at this stage, arrangements for the Final Oral Examination will be finalized by the Graduate Studies and Research Office. It is understood that as a result of the Final Oral Examination, the entire examination committee will be involved in decisions about whether the candidate satisfies the criteria for the degree which may include corrections to produce a revised final draft of the thesis.

The Final Oral Examination

The Final Oral Examination is devoted chiefly to the defence of the doctoral thesis. It is a Faculty (as distinct from a departmental) examination, for which the arrangements are the responsibility of the Office of the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Research. The Final Oral Examination is conducted by a Committee consisting of five members, as follows:

  • a member of the graduate faculty who is not a member of the Supervisory Committee appointed to act as Chair by the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Research in consultation with the Department Chair;
  • the External Examiner;
  • a member of the graduate faculty who is not a member of the Supervisory Committee, selected by the Departmental graduate faculty;
  • two members of the student’s Supervisory Committee, selected by the Supervisory Committee. Normally, one member shall be from a Department other than that in which the student is registered.

Normally, the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Research or his/her designate will attend the Examination. The Examination is normally open to the public but members of the audience may question the candidate only upon invitation of the Chair of the Committee. Normally the Examination is preceded by a public presentation of the research results.

The members of the Examination Committee, including the External Examiner, report individually on both the defence and the thesis, the candidate being deemed to have passed if not more than one of the five Examiners votes negatively. An abstention is regarded as a negative vote. Concurrently, the members sign the Certificate of Approval, to be submitted with the approved thesis in its final form to the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Research. The report to the Associate Dean will record the decision as “unsatisfactory,” or “satisfactory.” If “unsatisfactory,” the candidate may be given the opportunity of a second attempt. A second “unsatisfactory” will terminate candidacy at this University.

Graduate Courses – Veterinary Medicine


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