These programmes provide training in a particular area of specialisation through independent exploration and study, culminating in the submission of an original thesis. Students in these programmes may be required to satisfy a component of coursework, and a qualifying examination, before undertaking independent research.
Each research student will be appointed a supervisor(s) or Thesis Committee (for PhD candidate), who is/are responsible for providing the necessary guidance as well as take part in the evaluation of the student's progress and performance.
Candidates may upgrade from a Master's programme to the PhD upon completing specific requirements. In general, the requirement for upgrading should be to meet all requirements necessary for students admitted directly into a PhD programme or students admitted into a general graduate programme to be qualified as a PhD candidate. At a minimum, this will include passing the Qualifying Examination. The additional requirements may include specified coursework and a thesis proposal.
Each Faculty/Department will determine the set of modules that a candidate must complete before proceeding to the PhD Qualifying Examination (QE). The QE comprises a comprehensive examination and an oral defence of the PhD thesis proposal. The comprehensive examination tests the general competence of the candidate in his/her discipline(s), while the oral defence ensures that the candidate is prepared to embark on his/her thesis research. The QE should usually be taken 12 to 24 months from the start of the PhD candidature.
A Master's thesis will be examined by two examiners (one of whom may be an external examiner, as decided by the Head of Department and the Vice Dean) while a PhD thesis will be examined by three examiners (at least one being an external examiner). PhD candidates are required to attend an oral examination after the thesis has been examined. The oral panel will be a subset of the thesis examination panel.
The objective of coursework-based graduate programmes is to provide further specialised education beyond the undergraduate level as a foundation for research or professional enhancement. Students in such programmes are required to attend classes, seminars, and, in certain disciplines, laboratory sessions. Modules may also involve written examinations. Some programmes include a small research component, and require the writing of a supervised dissertation.