Satisfactory Progress Guidelines for PhD Students

All PhD students must complete the minimum program requirements listed in the SFU Academic Calendar

Required coursework and examinations

PhD students are normally admitted in the Fall term. The standard class schedule is:

Year 1 - Fall term

Year 1 - Spring term

Year 1 - Summer term

Two of: 

NOTE: All students are required to pass two chosen-in-advance comprehensive exams. The comprehensive exams choice procedure is described in the Comprehensive Exam Procedures document available on the Department website. No more than two attempts for each chosen exam are permitted. Any extenuating circumstances must be communication in advance to the Graduate Program Chair. 

Year 2


PhD students are expected to receive a minimum grade of B- in each course and maintain a minimum CGPA of 3.00. Students with CGPA above 3.50 are eligible for various merit-based graduate scholarships and awards. Please see for details.

At least four graduate elective courses must be completed before the end of year 2.


1. ECON 831 is a two-week math review course offered prior to the start of the Fall term (in the last week of August and the first week of September). It is graded on a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory basis. Students are allowed up to two attempts to pass the course by the end of the Fall term. Depending on a student’s background, ECON 831 may be waived with the approval of the Graduate Program Chair.

2. Any graduate economics course (ECON 8xx or 9xx) offered in the respective year and different from the required PhD or MA courses (ECON 798, 802, 803, 804, 807, 808, 809, 831, 835, 836, 837, 838 and 899) is eligible. The four elective courses must be taken for credit.

With prior approval of the Graduate Program Chair graduate elective courses may be also taken outside the Economics department or outside SFU. For courses taken at UBC or the University of Victoria there are no additional fees, in accordance with the Western Deans’ Agreement:

Program Deadlines and Additional Requirements

Year 2 and above

  • Regular attendance of the department research seminar is required

Year 3 - Fall term

  • Latest time to have a designated Senior Supervisor (file a completed form with the Graduate Program Assistant) and schedule a date for the Field Comprehensive Exam (ECON 987).

Year 3 - Spring term

  • Latest time to complete ECON 900 by presenting a research paper written under the supervision of a faculty member (normally the Senior Supervisor) in a Brown Bag seminar. A copy of the paper must be sent to the Graduate Program Chair before the term’s end.

Year 3 - Summer term

Years 4 and 5

  • Complete a PhD thesis supervisory committee (normally three faculty members). File the required Committee composition form with the Graduate Program Assistant.
  • Work on at least three research papers to be included in the PhD thesis
  • Meet regularly with supervisors
  • Submit at least one paper for publication in a refereed journal
  • Present research in progress in a Brown Bag seminar and academic conferences (travel funds are available on a competitive basis)

Year 5/63 - Fall term

  • Have a completed and polished job market paper
  • Attend the job market orientation session organized by the Graduate Program Chair
  • Submit job applications
  • Attend job market meetings (e.g., the CEEE and the EEA Winter meeting held in December)

Year 5/6 - Spring term

  • Attend the AEA Winter meeting in January
  • Job interviews
  • Work on finishing and formatting the PhD thesis
  • Schedule a PhD thesis defence date

Year 6 - Summer term

  • Latest time to defend the PhD thesis and graduate4

3. Economics PhD students are normally on the job market in their 5th or 6th year. Students should consult with their supervisory committee about the best timing given their research progress.

4. SFU regulations require that all PhD students admitted in or after Fall 2016 must complete their degree in maximum six years (18 terms).

Satisfactory Progress Guidelines Violations

At the end of each term all PhD students are evaluated according to the Satisfactory Progress Guidelines (SPG) defined in this document. Students in violation of the SPG are referred to a review by the Graduate Program Committee (GPC). The GPC will convey its decision in a formal letter addressed to the student and copied to the Dean of Graduate Studies. The possible consequences of a SPG violation include: probation, suspension of financial support, requiring the student to withdraw from the program.

Failure to maintain minimum 3.00 CGPA

The minimum 3.00 CGPA requirement is a university-wide regulation that all graduate students must satisfy at all times to remain in good academic standing. If a student fails to meet this requirement, the student may only be allowed to continue in the program if the Graduate Program Committee writes a letter to the Dean of Graduate Studies recommending forbearance. The Dean has the right to decline such requests.

It is not uncommon for some students to find the first term(s) of the Economics PhD program overwhelming. In the past, most such students have been able to recover from a poor initial performance. The department is willing to give the student the opportunity to redeem him/herself, as long as the student clearly understands the risks involved. The main risk is not being able to pass the first-year PhD comprehensive examinations. Except in cases of extenuating circumstances students are not allowed to retake graduate courses or extend the program duration.

In addition, any student violating this criterion will be placed on a low-priority list for funding, including TA-ships.

Failing a graduate course

Unless there are extenuating circumstances (for example, medical or compassionate), a student who receives a failing grade in a graduate course will be required to withdraw from the program.

Other violations

All other SPG violations will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the GPC. Violations related to the deadlines or other satisfactory progress expectations specified above are typically addressed by giving the student a fixed time period (e.g., one term) to address the violation. Repeated SPG violations can trigger requiring the student to withdraw.

Violations of SFU’s Academic Integrity Policy do not fall within the jurisdiction of the GPC and will be handled at the university level:


Students have the right to appeal any GPC or Graduate Program Chair decision directly affecting them. Appeals must be addressed to the Senate Graduate Studies Committee and submitted in writing via the Dean of Graduate Studies office.