York University Quality Assurance Procedures (YUQAP) New Program Appraisal

Response to the External Appraisal Report on the Proposed New PhD in Nursing

Submitted by Dr. Christine Kurtz Landy, RN, PhD on behalf of the School of Nursing,

Doctoral Task Force, July 15, 2015

Dr. Marilyn MacDonald, RN, PhD and Dr. David Holmes, RN, PhD were the examiners who undertook the external onsite appraisal of the proposed new PhD program in Nursing on May 26, 2015. We thank the reviewers for their excellent review of our proposed program. In our response we will address the reviewers’ comments by section examined in the external review.

1. Outline of the Visit

No response needed.

2. General Objectives of the Program

The reviewers identified that the program name and objectives are appropriate.

3. Need and Demand

The reviewers recommended we include the annual number of PhD Nursing graduates in Canada and the number of vacancies in the nursing professorate.

This information is documented in Section 3 of the Proposal Brief. However, a new report with more current information has been released since submitting the Brief (CASN, 2014). We are happy to update the information, as summarized below.

Admissions to PhD Nursing Programs in Canada (CASN, 2014)

Year / Number of Students Admitted
2010-2011 / 89
2011-2012 / 84
2012-2013 / 64

Graduates from PhD Nursing Programs in Canada (CASN, 2014)

Year / Number of Graduates
2010 / 77
2011 / 89
2012 / 66
2013 / 63

Canadian Schools of Nursing were unable to fill 61 preapproved full-time nursing faculty positions in 2013 (CASN, 2014).

4. Program Content and Curriculum

We are pleased that the reviewers recognized that our curriculum is unique and fills an important gap among Nursing PhD programs in Canada. In response to the reviewers’ suggestion we have lowered the number of required credits student must complete by 6.0 credits (the doctoral seminars will no longer be for credit). Students will now complete two core courses, 6.0 credits each and two 3.0 credit electives at the graduate level. This is in line with other Ontario Nursing PhD program course requirements which range from 9 to 18 minimum credits (from review of PhD Nursing programs at the University of Toronto, Western University, McMaster University, University of Ottawa and Queens University).

We have developed 7 nursing graduate electives covering content area relevant to PhD nursing students and not available at York. Several of these courses also offer relevant content to graduate students in other Faculty of Health graduate programs. These courses will be offered based on demand and will not be offered on a yearly basis.

5. Program Structure, Learning Outcomes and Assessment

The reviewers identified that the program requirements and learning outcomes are clear. They recommend that we include the expectation that students apply for external student funding, awards and receive research training within the research program of their supervisor under the Doctoral Program Learning Outcomes on pages 19 and 20. We agree and will include these expectations in this section of the proposal.

The external reviewers expressed concern that “The requirements for Comprehensive exam seem excessive and should be looked at. We suggest looking at other PhD nursing programs in Canada as well as practices within other faculties at York U.” They suggested a format : “For example, two questions (one theoretically focused, one methodologically focused) 15-20 pages each, double-spaced”.

The comprehensive examination outlined in the proposal brief is in line with comprehensive examination requirements of other School of Nursing PhDs in Canada. The comprehensive examination is discussed on pages 9-10 and 25-26. Our requirements comprise one scholarly paper in a cognate area and a dissertation research proposal. We are happy to add more detail to the structure of the comprehensive examination, i.e. the maximum number of pages for scholarly paper in the cognate area and the research proposal.

The reviewers expressed concern that we only have yearly progress reports. This is incorrect. Within the proposal we indicate that students will submit a Yearly Study Plan to their supervisor and dissertation committee (once established). Students are expected to have monthly meetings with their doctoral supervisors to discuss their progress. In addition, students will meet with their supervisors and dissertation committees (supervisory committee meeting) every 6 months to evaluate the student’s progress. At the semi-annual supervisory committee meeting the student and the committee will complete the Nursing PhD Program Semi-Annual Progress Report. Students are expected to summarize their achievements, including their awards, conference presentations, publications, participation in student life, etc. on the Nursing PhD Program Semi-Annual Progress Report (see form in Appendix F of the Doctoral Proposal Brief). In addition the student’s progress will be evaluated as satisfactory or unsatisfactory at the semi-annual supervisory committee meeting. If the progress is unsatisfactory, the student, in consultation with her supervisory committee and the graduate program director will plan the necessary remediation needed to make satisfactory progress. This process is described on page 31 of the Doctoral Proposal Brief.

6. Admission Requirements

Although the minimum admission GPA (minimum B+) is below Tri-Council training funding awards, the GPA is in line with many graduate program minimum requirements across Canadian Universities and in PhD nursing programs.

7. Resources

The School of Nursing is developing a human resource plan which includes criteria to insure adequately trained faculty are available to support/supervise the education of nursing doctoral students.

The reviewers suggested that the governance structure for the School of Nursing be added to the proposal brief. They correctly identified that the School’s graduate program director and the graduate program assistant will support the proposed PhD program. This has been added to the proposal brief.

The reviewers expressed concern that admitting 5 to 6 students per year when starting the PhD program may be too ambitious. After discussion with Dean Skinner we plan to admit 5 to 6 doctoral students alternating years for the first 4 years of the program. This will allow for the minimum class size needed to offer required courses, and for faculty to gain experience in PhD student supervision.

The reviewers noted that the School of Nursing, like all Schools of Nursing in Canada, has had failed faculty member searches. Our PhD program will provide opportunity to prepare future faculty for our School and elsewhere. We are also continuing to strategically search for faculty members that are a ‘fit’ with our program’s needs.

The reviewers were not provided with our Graduate Faculty’s CVs. The Graduate Faculty’s CVs were sent to the Vice Provost Academic’s office before the review. However the reviewers were provided with an overview of faculty research underway in the School of Nursing. They stated that we have faculty with programs of research that demonstrate capacity to supervise PhD students.

The reviewers noted the financial support available to PhD students provided by York. We will require students to apply for external training awards to help fund their PhD. Graduate faculty will also ask for student training funds when applying for research awards to help fund their doctoral students.

8. Quality of Student Experience

The reviewers noted that the faculty presentations demonstrated intellectual quality. In addition they commented the MScN program students they met were very positive about their MScN program and would not hesitate to apply to the PhD program at York.

9. Summary and Recommendations

The external reviewers stated that our proposed PhD in Nursing is a most welcome addition to doctoral education in Canada. We have responded to the reviewers’ report.

  1. We have reduced the minimum number of course credits required in the PhD program from 24.0 to 18.0.
  2. We will add explicit detail to the structure of our comprehensive examination beyond what is already describe in the Proposal Brief. This will include page length for both documents. We do not propose reduction of requirements, i.e. one scholarly paper in a cognate area and a research proposal, as our requirements are in line with the variety of comprehensive examination requirements in Nursing PhD programs across Canada.
  3. We have modified our planned admissions to 5 to 6 students every other year.
  4. The School of Nursing is developing a human resources plan that will include adequate graduate faculty to support our PhD program.


Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing (CASN). (2014). Registered Nurses Education in Canada: Statistics. Revised report posted December 22, 2014. Ottawa: CASN. Retrieved from