Course of study


A Master’s student will normally spend 2-3 years of full-time study at UBC.In the first year, the student usually takes the required course work and start research in the lab. In the GPN, these courses consist of the two core courses Neuroscience I (NRSC 500) and Neuroscience II (NRSC 501) as well as two electives. Whereas NRSC 500 and 501 are typically taken in year 1, electives can be taken at any time in year 1 or 2.

A Supervisory Committee provides guidance on research and may also recommend additional coursework. It is the student’s own responsibility to organize committee meetings and to nominate an individual from the Committee to serve as Chair during meetings. It is suggested that the first committee meeting, which serves to introduce a research proposal for approval by the Committee, be held by the start of the second year of study. Near completion of the research project, a second committee meeting may be called before the student begins writing up their thesis.

The written thesis must be submitted to the Committee and an External Examiner (requested from within the UBC Neuroscience department) at least 2 weeks before the date of the final defense. At the final defense, the External and the Committee will be present and if necessary, one member of the Committee may be absent. Following a successful oral defense and submission of the finalized thesis to the Faculty of Graduate Studies, the student is eligible for graduation.

The minimum course requirements are 30 course credits of which at least 24 must be numbered 500 to 699 (including a 12 credit research thesis). A maximum of 6 credits at the undergraduate level in courses numbered 300 to 499 may be counted toward the requirements of a master’s degree. A sample MSc timeline is available on the forms page of this website.


Students may be eligible to transfer from a master’s program into a related doctoral program.  

Transfer directly into a doctoral program is normally accomplished after completion of the first year of study at the master’s level and will not be permitted after completion of the second year. Transfers may not be retroactive.
Signed and completed transfer to PhD form must be submitted to Neuroscience program office by:

  • December 1 for Transfer start of January 1 the following year (winter T2 session)
  • April 1 for Transfer start date of May 1 (summer session)
  • August 1 for Transfer start date of Sep 1 (fall session)


A PhD student admitted with a Bachelor’s degree normally will spend a minimum of four years in full-time status at UBC. The maximum time allowed for completing a doctoral degree is six years. During the first year, the student will normally complete the core course work including NRSC 500 and NRSC 501, establish a supervisory committee, and begin research in his/her supervisor’s laboratory. The student’s supervisory committee gives ongoing advice and guidance, and may recommend further course work. In the second year the student will complete any remaining course work and hold at least one supervisory committee meeting, while continuing research.

UBC graduate student policy recommends successful completion of the comprehensive exam by the end of second year, which includes approval of the research proposal. The deadline for completion of the comprehensive exam is the end of third year. In the third and fourth years, the student will continue research work and is expected to have one supervisory committee meeting every year to monitor and guide research progress. The deadline to transfer down to a Master’s degree is the end of the third year of PhD. Students typically begin preparation of their PhD thesis during their fourth or fifth year in the program, after having gained approval to begin writing from their Supervisory Committee and Primary Supervisor. Once the thesis has been approved by the Supervisory Committee and the External Examiner, the student presents his/her oral Defense before the University Examiners and the academic community. A sample PhD timeline is available on the forms page of this website.

A PhD student admitted with a Master’s degree normally will spend a minimum of three years in full-time study at UBC. Course work requirements are normally completed during the first year of study. Ensuing studies follow the schema outlined above.

Note: Students that fail to achieve a mark of 80% or higher in NRSC 500 or 501 will be required to answer questions regarding these core NRSC courses at their comprehensive examination.