About the MSc/PhD

What is the difference between the MSc and the MScAC programs?

If you wish to produce original research, you should consider applying to the Master of Science (MSc) program. MSc students are more likely to pursue a PhD and a career in academia.

If you wish to apply current research in real-world situations, you should consider applying to the Master of Science in Applied Computing (MScAC) program. Most MScAC students plan to work in an applied research role within industry after they graduate; however, the MScAC program requirements are rigorous enough that graduates of the program can pursue PhD studies following program completion.

The MSc and MScAC programs have a similar structure: students in both programs must pass four graduate half-courses as part of the degree.

The programs differ in the following ways: MScAC students must complete an additional two half-courses in Communication for Computer Scientists and Entrepreneurship, and an eight-month internship. MSc students must carry out research culminating in a major research paper.

What is the MSc program format?

  • Program length: four sessions full-time (typical registration sequence: Fall/Winter/Summer/Fall); eight sessions, part-time.

  • Coursework: four graduate courses in computer science. The courses must satisfy breadth in three of the four different Methodologies of computer science.

  • Final project: A major research paper demonstrating the student's ability to do independent work in organizing existing concepts and in suggesting and developing new approaches to solving problems in a research area. The standard for this paper is that it could reasonably be submitted for peer-reviewed publication.

  • Time limit: three years full-time; six years part-time.

What is the PhD program format?

  • Program length: four years, or five years for direct entry from a bachelor's degree.

  • Coursework: Students who enter with an MSc must complete four graduate courses in computer science. The courses must satisfy breadth in four different Research Areas of computer science to ensure a broad and well-balanced knowledge of computer science. Students in the direct entry PhD must complete eight courses, satisfying breadth in four Research Areas and three Methodologies.

  • Qualifying oral exam: PhD students must hold their first supervisory committee meeting by the 16th month of the PhD program. This is typically the initial meeting with the supervisory committee and is referred to as the qualifying oral examination. At the qualifying exam, students present an analysis of published research related to their interests. Students are not expected to commit to a thesis topic at this time.

  • Annual supervisory committee meetings: After the qualifying oral exam, the student's PhD supervisory committee must meet at least once annually.

  • Candidacy: The student must complete all course and breadth requirements, and have their thesis topic approved at a PhD supervisory committee meeting within 36 months to achieve candidacy.

  • Thesis: The thesis is a written presentation of the original research conducted by the student under the supervision of a faculty member.

  • Departmental and SGS final oral examinations: The departmental thesis defence must be passed before the SGS final oral examination can be scheduled.

  • Time limit: six years, or seven years for direct entry from a bachelor's degree.

Do you consider any prior work experience?

Applicants are admitted under academic regulations i.e. appropriate admitting degree, GPA, references, and where applicable, English language proficiency must be demonstrated. Work experience can enhance your application and you may incorporate relevant work experience into your statement of purpose and resume/CV, or as a supplemental document. Three letters of reference are required for all three programs. For the MSc and PhD programs, at least two of referees should be able to speak to your ability to conduct independent research at the graduate level. Referees with extensive research or academic experience are preferred.

What fields/areas of interest can I specialize in?

Graduate faculty in the Department of Computer Science are interested in a wide range of subjects related to computing. Please visit our research interests web page for more information.

Do you accept applicants with interests outside your primary research areas?

Graduate students can choose from projects spanning the entire spectrum of computer science research and beyond. Apart from our department's strength in its core research areas, many of our faculty are engaged in interdisciplinary research involving partnerships with colleagues across the university and around the world.

Can you help guide me in terms of my interests/course of study?

Students applying to graduate school are expected to have well-developed interests and these interests should be communicated clearly in the statement of purpose. In planning a course of study, students are guided by breadth requirements.

Computer Science courses in the department are classified by both Methodologies and Research Areas based on their content. Methodologies emphasize core problem-solving approaches and/or techniques and general tools in the course material, while Research Areas are aligned with the activities of the various research groups in the department. MSc students must satisfy breadth in three different Methodologies of Computer Science and PhD students must satisfy breadth in four different Research Areas of Computer Science (direct entry PhD students must satisfy breadth in three different Methodologies and four different Research Areas). This breadth ensures our graduates have a broad and well-balanced knowledge of computer science.

Do you offer distance education?

The short answer is no. Graduate courses are offered in-class with our internationally recognized faculty. Our MScAC program and fully funded MSc and PhD programs are offered on a full-time basis only.

MSc students may attend part-time without funding; however, classes are generally offered during the day (between 9 am and 6 pm). Graduate students are important members of our research labs. Most labs engage in weekly talks and get-togethers on-site, during the day. Students are sometimes registered off-campus to engage in approved specialized research activity, or they may take an approved leave of absence from research to gain relevant work experience in an internship.

What is the academic and research environment for MSc/PhD students like?

The Department of Computer Science is located in the heart of Toronto, the third-largest information and communication technology centre in North America. Our location in the city is a real advantage, adding depth and breadth to our research possibilities and encouraging strong industry connections. We also enjoy many benefits in being a part of the University of Toronto, the largest university in Canada with access to one of the best research library systems on the continent and superior student health and wellness resources.

Computer Science is a department within U of T's Faculty of Arts and Science, facilitating engagement in interdisciplinary research across all fields of inquiry. Students in the department are invited to regular talks from researchers within the department and from around the world, and our reputation for excellence serves as a tremendous foundation for the work our students and faculty engage in. 

Our faculty and graduate students consistently produce high-impact research that is among the most highly cited in computer science and attracts attention far beyond the discipline. Our students, both graduate and undergraduate, excel on the national and international stages. Our department has been awarded more Canada Graduate Scholarships, the country's most prestigious graduate fellowship, than any other computer science department in Canada.

Applying to the MSc/PhD

What is the application deadline?

All applications received before December 2, 2019 will be considered for September 2020 admission.

Is there a January admission round?

No, we do not have an admission round for January.

How is my application processed?

Your application will be read by one or more members of our Admissions Committee. 

The best applications are then sent to faculty members in each applicant's research area(s) for additional comments. Some applicants are contacted for additional information or for a Skype interview.

Please note that the addition of late information to your application does not cause it to be re-read. The admission decision is based on the information that is in the application at the time it is submitted and sent for review.

Can I apply for both the MScAC And MSc?

Yes you can. You will be assigned an applicant number and password when you start the online application on the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) admissions website. If you plan to apply to both programs, you can add a second application from the payment section of the online application. As the two programs cater to different interests, your statement of purpose should be tailored to each program.

Do I have to find a faculty supervisor at U of T before I apply?

No. During our application review, faculty supervisors make acceptances based on the applicant's statement of purpose. Feel free to name the faculty member(s) you are eager to work with in your statement of purpose.

Test Scores: GRE

Do I need to send GRE scores?

We encourage applicants who have completed their university studies outside of Canada to submit scores from the GRE General Test. High scores on the test will enhance your application.

  • GRE institution code: 0982

  • Department code: 0402

How recent must my GRE results be?

GRE scores are valid for five years from the date of being issued.

Will you consider a GMAT score?

For your application to the MSc or PhD programs, we would prefer to see GRE results.

English-Language Proficiency Testing

Do I need to send English test scores?

If the primary language of instruction and examination of your most recent degree was English, then you are not required to take an English language proficiency exam. If you are admitted to our graduate program, we may ask you to provide an official statement from your university/college that the language of instruction and examination was English.

Otherwise, you must achieve the English test scores outlined by SGS. We do not require a higher minimum score.

How recent must my English test results be?

TOEFL scores are valid for two years from the test date. Scores should be valid at the time of application for admission to graduate studies. Scores more than two years old cannot be verified and the applicant will be required to re-take an English language proficiency test. In circumstances where scores expire shortly after the application deadline, applicants may receive a conditional offer, dependent on retaking the test prior to the start of the fall session.

When is my English test score due?

Scores may be added to your application even after the deadline (we'll process your application on the assumption that you can show satisfactory scores). In circumstances where scores expire shortly after the application deadline, applicants may receive a conditional offer, dependent on retaking and passing the test prior to the start of the fall session.

What if one section of my English test score falls below the minimum requirements? Will I still be considered?

Yes. We look at applications in their entirety. Where there is a strong academic rationale, an application that falls just short of the stated requirements may be reviewed on a case–by-case basis by the Admissions Committee once the application deadline has passed.

Admissions: General

Do I need to send official paper transcripts of my previous university records?

After students receive an offer of admission, we will ask them to submit official copies of their final transcripts.

During the initial application process, we require applicants to upload only an unofficial copy of their documents. If made an offer, applicants are required to request official transcripts be sent to the University of Toronto, Department of Computer Science, directly from the issuing institution. Many applicants are currently enrolled in coursework at the application deadline. Admission decisions are made conditional upon receipt of final transcripts which should then show:

  1. Completion of all requirements of the admitting degree with a grade point average that satisfies School of Graduate Studies minimum admission standards;

  2. Degree conferral, including the degree conferral date.

Do I still need to submit a transcript if I graduated from the University of Toronto?

U of T graduates are not required to purchase an official transcript of their academic record at this institution. A printout from ROSI/ACORN of your academic record at the University of Toronto serves as an official transcript to satisfy admission requirements.

Do I have to pay the application fee?

Yes. Without payment of the fee, your application will be incomplete and will not be processed.

When will a decision be made on my application?

We begin sending decisions by email in mid-February, and we aim to have notified all applicants by the end of April.

Your decision, and all communications during the application process, will be sent to the email address that you specified when you registered in the application system. Please make sure that it remains valid and that you check it regularly.

How many applicants get an offer each year?

It varies from year to year. On average, the department receives 2,500 applications across all three programs, with each program issuing approximately 70 offers.

If I am not accepted this year and want to reapply next year, will I need to submit a new application?

You may re-apply in subsequent years, keeping in mind the validity period of GRE and English proficiency test scores. It is also a good idea to keep your statement of purpose and references relevant and up to date. The application fee is required for every application.

How important is the statement of purpose?

Very important. We admit only superior students who are committed to the study of computer science. Your statement of purpose is your opportunity to tell us who you are and why you are an exceptional candidate.

You must clearly communicate that you understand what graduate school is about, that you understand the opportunities we offer, and that you are a good fit for graduate studies here. It is also your opportunity to show us your commitment to quality and your skills in English. Poorly written, error-filled statements are not successful.

What do I include in the statement of purpose?

Your statement of purpose should be a one- or two-page personal essay that discusses your career goals, why you want to do research, the areas of research that interest you and your skills or qualifications. Describe any original research you have done – the results, their importance and your particular contributions. If you have specific research plans, outline them in your statement. Include the names of any faculty that you are particularly interested in working with. Be concise and use specific examples rather than vague general statements.

How important are letters from referees?

Very important. Earnestly request that they submit their report by the referee deadline listed in the application. Credible assessments of your work from credible referees are essential to your application. Missing or late referee reports will put your application at a disadvantage. Choose referees who know your work well and upon whom you can rely.

Are professional references accepted as a referee?

Two of your three referees should be able to speak to your ability to conduct independent research at the graduate level. Referees with extensive research or academic experience are preferred.

Why do you prefer institutional email addresses for referees?

Institutional addresses are preferred so that we can verify referee letters, if required. If your referee does not have an institutional address, this is fine as long as a verifier could search for the email address and find your referee.

Is there a way to verify whether my supporting documents (referee letters, transcripts, etc.) have been received?

When referees upload their reference to the Graduate Applications System, applicants will see a message that says "report received" for each referee, if the upload was successful. Once the application is submitted, applicants can view the application and confirm that all their documents have been uploaded.

I’ve completed a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering, but I’d like to apply for a second PhD in computer science. Is that ok?

Completing a second degree in the same or related field would be considered "non-standard", and may only be approved by the School of Graduate Studies following a formal petition to do a second related degree. A substantive rationale would be required and considered on a case-by-case basis. The usual next academic step after completing a PhD would be a postdoctoral fellowship. Please visit the SGS website for postdoctoral fellows for details.

I do not have a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field. Am I still eligible to apply?

Applicants who otherwise meet minimum admission requirements, but hold a degree in another field, may apply for admission as special students to the non-degree program. As a non-degree special student, students may take graduate courses to qualify them for admission to the degree program. Special students should specify the courses they wish to take and why they wish to take them in their application as a supplemental document. Enrolment in both undergraduate and graduate courses is permitted.

Graduate courses taken as a special student may be transferred for credit if a student is subsequently admitted to a degree program at the U of T in accordance with the SGS transfer credit policy.

It’s been several years since I completed an undergraduate degree. Can I apply as a mature student?

The mere passage of time in a profession in and of itself is not sufficient to qualify an applicant for admission. Applicants who graduated five or more years ago without achieving the minimum requirements for standard admission to a graduate program may be considered for non-standard admission if, since graduation, they have done significant intellectual work and/or made a significant professional contribution that can be considered equivalent to a higher academic standing.

My grades do not meet the minimum admission requirements. Am I still eligible to apply?

Applicants who would like to apply for admission to a master's program and do not meet the admission requirements may consider completing an upgrading year of study to become eligible for standard admission. Normally this would entail taking the equivalent of one full year of senior-level undergraduate courses (4-5 full courses or equivalent) with an average of at least B+. 

I have taken the prerequisite courses but do not meet the minimum requirements. Should I upgrade my courses?

You may consider retaking the courses to improve your grades, but applicants who struggle in course work will not be considered competitive for admission. All three graduate-level programs (MSc, MScAC, PhD) have mandatory course requirements. Students who fail more than two courses at the graduate level will be terminated from their program.

I do not have the required courses to apply. Where can I take prerequisites?

Prospective students may take undergraduate courses at any accredited school with degree granting authority, in-class or online. At minimum, prospective students should consider advanced undergraduate courses, equivalent to CSC 343H1: Introduction to DatabasesCSC 369H1: Operating Systems; and CSC 373H1: Algorithm Design, Analysis & Complexity.

Also, note that course grades are only one component of an application. Along with a statement of purpose that demonstrates your meaningful commitment to the study of computer science, you must obtain letters of reference from at least three referees.

My grades do not meet the minimum application requirement, but I have gained several years of computer science experience working in industry. Am I eligible to apply?

Like mature applicants, it is not the amount of time spent in the field that counts, but the significance of your contribution and impact on the profession that must be detailed, documented, and presented as part of the application.

Where an applicant has, for example, published relevant papers, technical reports, or patents professionally, the applicant may then be considered for non-standard admission if they can demonstrate that they have achieved qualifications at least equivalent to the stated admission requirements. Applicants should explain why they think that their professional development activities or work experiences should be viewed as equivalent to academic work conducted at a university.

Will continuing studies courses be considered?

Continuing studies courses are not offered for degree credit. The only exception to this is the English for Academic Purposes (Academic English) courses offered by the English Language Program to fulfill English language proficiency requirements.

Admissions: Other Applicants

I’d like to enrol in computer science graduate-level courses for professional or personal reasons. Can I do that?

Non-degree special students are welcome to apply for professional and/or personal reasons. Non-degree/special students should indicate which courses they are interested in taking in the supplemental information portion of the application. Non-degree students do not hold priority for enrolment, nor are they assigned a faculty supervisor. Non-degree students must apply for non-degree studies every year.  Graduate courses taken as a special student may be transferred for credit in accordance with the SGS transfer credit policy if a student is subsequently admitted to a degree program at U of T.

Interested students must apply through SGS, and meet the minimum standards of admission for full-time study.

Please contact us at for more information on non-degree graduate studies and how you can submit your application.

If I become a permanent resident after applying as an international student, how is my application considered (as either a domestic or international student)?

Updates to citizenship or residency must be confirmed through the School of Graduate Studies, not the department. Once residency has been confirmed, SGS will initiate the change in student status. Permanent-resident students are considered domestic applicants.

Does the department accept visiting students, scholars, or researchers?

Yes. We welcome both exchange students and visiting students to U of T in our department. Please visit the SGS website to determine which status you qualify for. Once you have applied for the relevant exchange program, your application is processed through SGS and passed on to the department for approval.

Can I discuss my application with someone in person or by phone?

Yes, our office hours are 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. We are located in the Bahen Centre for Information Technology, 40 St. George Street, Toronto, ON M5S 2E4, Room 7222.  We can be reached by phone at 416-978-8762. We can also be reached by email at

Please understand that we cannot provide specific advice about your application or provide feedback on a refused application.

How do I apply for postdoctoral positions?

The next academic step after completing a PhD is postdoctoral studies. Please visit the SGS website for postdoctoral fellows for details.

Graduate Funding

How do I apply for graduate funding?

We ensure that all full-time MSc and PhD graduate students receive financial support to at least the basic level through a research assistantship stipend, provided the student is making satisfactory progress in their graduate program. This stipend can also be increased by taking on a teaching assistantship.  

For details on graduate student funding, please visit the School of Graduate Studies website for a snapshot of the main sources and amounts of funding (PDF) received by doctoral students at the unit and sectoral levels, broken down by year of study. Also included in the snapshot is information about average times to completion.

How long are your guaranteed funding periods?

Students who start our graduate program from a bachelor's degree will receive 60 months (5 years) of financial support. Of these 60 months, students receive 17 months of support to complete the master's degree and 43 months of guaranteed support to complete the PhD degree.

Students who enter the PhD program with a master's degree from elsewhere will receive 48 months of financial support to complete the PhD degree.


Guaranteed Funding Period


17 months

PhD (with master's completed elsewhere)

48 months

PhD (transition from our MSc program)

43 months

Direct entry PhD (from a bachelor's degree)

60 months

Do funded students have to make payments or does the department take care of that for me?

Funding is distributed in monthly installments directly into your bank account. A portion from three of those installments goes towards paying a portion of your fees (in September, January and May). 

If I am not in the funded cohort, when am I required to pay my tuition and fees?

In order to register, students are expected to pay a minimum registration payment in August – if you are receiving funding, you must log into ACORN and click on "defer my fees" before August 31st.  Otherwise, the system will not register you without payment.

If you are outside of the funded cohort, you must pay the minimum fee to register by August 31st. Interest then accrues on the 15th of each month starting in October. The interest on the monthly balance is 1.5%. 

I am receiving an award that will cover my fees. When am I required to pay my tuition and fees?

If you are receiving an award that will cover your tuition and fees, you must submit a fee deferral form from the School of Graduate Studies website to the Graduate Office before August 31st. The form must indicate the source and amount of funding you are receiving. Once verified, the Graduate Office can defer your fees for you pending receipt of your award. Some awards go directly to your student account and towards fees, other awards go directly to your bank account in which case you will have to make payment through your bank.

Costs: Tuition, Living Expenses, Housing

What Is The Cost of Living In Toronto?

Accommodation (shared)

$9,000/year ($750/month)


$5,400/year ($450/month)



Books and School supplies


Health Insurance

$612 (international students)

Local Transportation

$1,284 ($107/month)


$1,200 ($100/month)

Source: University of Toronto Student Life website.

What housing options are available on- and off-Campus?

Students can choose from a variety of housing options both on- and off-campus. We encourage students to use the University of Toronto Housing resources.

Scholarships and Financial Aid

Which scholarships are available to MSc/PhD students?

In addition to scholarships offered by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS), there are a number of departmental awards, industry awards, and awards managed by SGS that you may be eligible for. The Graduate Office sends out announcements on major award eligibility requirements and deadlines, but you should also visit the SGS website, the ULife Opportunities website and speak to your supervisor about awards in your research area.

What types of financial aid are available for MSc/PhD students?

If you are experiencing financial difficulty, first let your supervisor know. They may be able to offer you assistance, but this is not guaranteed. 

After speaking with your supervisor, you should visit the SGS website for information on the Master's Tuition Bursary or the Doctoral Completion Award. These awards are for students who are out of the funding cohort but need a little more time to complete their programs (about 1 term for MSc students and less than 2 years for PhD students). Departmental Awards, which are made available annually in early fall, often consider financial need.

Another option available to you is the SGS Emergency Loan/Bursary. To access these funds, you must be in a situation that could not have been foreseen; e.g. fire or theft. You will need to make an appointment with the financial aid officer at the School of Graduate Studies to be considered for this type of assistance.

If you are a domestic student, you can apply to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) for a government loan.  If you are an international student, you may be eligible to apply for similar scholarships offered by your home government.

Finally, Student Lines of Credit (or LOCs) are an option. An LOC differs from a loan in that a loan is a specific sum of money that you have to begin paying back right away. With an LOC, you are approved for a certain amount, then only repay how much you actually use. If you do not use the LOC, you do not have to pay it back.

Newly Admitted International Students

What are the immigration requirements for coming to study in Canada?

If you are applying to come to Canada and join the MSc/PhD program as an international student, you will need a study permit to study in Canada. In order to be eligible for a study permit, you must satisfy certain immigration requirements. These requirements include proof of:

  • Acceptance by the University of Toronto

  • Adequate funds for tuition fees, living expenses etc.

  • Medical clearance

As soon as you receive an offer of admission for the program, it is advisable that you begin the visa application process, as processing times vary across visa offices.

Details of how to apply for your study permit can be found on the the Government of Canada website and the University of Toronto's Centre for International Experiences (CIE) website.

Can my spouse qualify for a work permit while I’m studying at U of T?

Once you have been granted your study permit, your spouse or common-law partner may apply for a work permit. The work permit will be valid for the same period of time as your study permit, and no job offer is required in order to apply for this. More information on work permits for spouses and common-law partners can be found on the CIC website. 

Newly Admitted Students: Studying at U of T

Will I attend a program orientation?

Both the School of Graduate Studies and the Department of Computer Science host orientation events. These events are held in the first week of September, prior to the start of classes. International students may also attend an orientation hosted by the Centre for International Experience (CIE).

Can I start courses in the summer before the program starts?

Students offered admission for September are permitted to register in the preceding summer session. Students who begin research work (no coursework) in the summer are exempt from summer session fees. International students will have to pay for health insurance and may have to adjust the start date of their study permit.

Can I defer my offer of admission?

With your supervisor's permission, you may defer the start date of a September offer to January, May, or the following September (one year maximum).

Which courses are required?

There are no specific required courses for MSc and PhD students; however, MSc and PhD students must choose courses that will satisfy their breadth requirement. Computer science courses are classified by both Methodologies and Research Areas based on their content.

Methodologies are core problem-solving approaches and/or techniques and general tools emphasized in the course material, while Research Areas are aligned with the activities of the various research groups in the department.

By the end of the first month in your program, you should submit a plan of study that outlines how you will fulfill breadth. Your supervisor should review this plan before you submit it to the grad office.

How many hours per week do the programs entail?

Each one-term graduate course is expected to involve 24 to 36 hours of in-class instruction per term plus assignments to be completed outside of classroom hours. In addition to students' independent research, students are important members of their research labs and are expected to spend a significant amount of time contributing to the lab. 

But there is much more to the life of a graduate student than classes and lab work. Your lab and the department will provide many stimulating activities as well as the University's Student Life and GradLife hubs.

Can I drop to part-time status in the MSc/PhD programs?

With supervisory approval, MSc students have the option of dropping down to part-time status; however, part-time students are not funded. PhD students and MScAC students may not attend on a part-time basis.

What are the thesis requirements?

To qualify for PhD candidacy, a student must complete the course and breadth requirements, pass the qualifying oral exam and have a thesis topic approved by their supervisory committee. Candidacy is typically achieved by the 36th month of the program.

PhD candidates engage in original research, conducted under the direction of a faculty member. The research must constitute a significant and original contribution to computer science. The results must be presented in a thesis and defended at the departmental oral examination and then the doctoral final oral examination.

Which industries is the department affiliated with?

Given our long history and tradition of excellence, the University of Toronto and the Department of Computer Science have established numerous partnerships in public and private industry. Coupled with our location in the heart of Toronto, industrial partners include IBM, Avaya Inc., Ontario Power Generation, MITEL Corporation and Microsoft – not to mention the province's hospitals, legal firms, and financial sectors.

Can I take leave to participate in an internship or startup?

Yes. It varies from year to year, but approximately 15% of our graduate students take leave to get involved in a startup or complete an internship. Both domestic and international students in the funded cohort who are planning a summer term leave are asked to inform the Graduate Office in January of their intention to take a leave. International students in the funded cohort should speak to the Graduate Office before starting an internship as a leave of absence may affect their funding.

After Graduation

Can international students stay in Canada after the completion of their studies?

After completing the program, you will become eligible for the Post-Graduate Work Permit Program (PGWPP), which will allow you to stay and gain further work experience in Canada, even if you do not have a job offer. The PGWPP will usually be issued for the length of the study program.

If you wish to stay in Canada and apply for permanent residency, there are also a number of other immigration programs that you may be eligible for.