8 Free Online PhD Programs in Canada (Plus Free Scholarships)

Deciding to further your education down to a Ph.D. level doesn’t come cheap, in fact, it takes some level of determination to do it because you won’t only consider the time, but also the cost. Most likely, you now have a family, and a job or business you do, so the responsibilities are very high now.

That’s why most Universities in Canada decided to make some of their programs to also be available online, thereby allowing students to participate in their research work from anywhere in the world and also have time for other responsibilities.

The best part is that some free online PhD programs in Canada help eligible students fund their expenses through scholarships, bursaries, grants, and other financial aid. The United Kingdom also provides the same kind of programs and you can even enroll in them from anywhere including Canada.

Before we list these free distance learning PhD programs in Canada, let’s first briefly explain the importance of online PhD in Canada, and later list some requirements you need to study these programs.

Reasons to Study Online Ph.D. in Canada

More Affordable

First of all, the tuition of a distance learning Ph.D. program is more affordable than an on-campus degree. Then the cost of living also adds up especially if you’re an international student.

More Flexible

You also get to perform your research at the appropriate time for you, which also helps you to have time for your other activities like job and family.

Maintain Job

If you’re already working, an online Ph.D. will help you to remain on your job, unlike an on-campus Ph.D. that might require you to change your city or if possible country.

This is not to say that a campus-based Ph.D. doesn’t come with its own perks.

Requirements to Study Online Ph.D. Programs

Here are some basic admission requirements you need to enroll in these free virtual Ph.D. programs in Canada;

  • You need to have gotten your master’s degree from an accredited university (it doesn’t matter the country you got it).
  • Submission of post-secondary transcripts and graduation certificates (if necessary) of all previous undergraduate and graduate work.
  • Letters of reference
  • Proof of English Language Proficiency depending on the country you completed your post-secondary education
  • Statement of academic intent
  • A curriculum vitae (CV)
  • A substantive writing sample
free online PhD programs in Canada

Free Online PhD Programs in Canada

It is worth noting that it’s very competitive to get any of these programs that provide free courses through scholarships. It’s good to have very good grades, especially above the minimum required grades to have a higher chance.

1. CAREY – Doctor of Ministry

For more than 60 years, Carey Theological College has been training thousands of leaders in Canada and around the world who serve as pastors, missionaries, and lay leaders in local churches today. Their Doctor of Ministry (D.Min) program is an advanced degree for experienced pastoral leaders who have completed a Master of Divinity or equivalent and will be completed within 3 years.

This is one of the free online Ph.D. programs in Canada that provide fully funded scholarships through the Carey Theological College President’s Scholarship. And because the D.Min is totally online, it means you can be eligible for this scholarship regardless of location.

To spice it up, they still have other scholarships that will benefit those that won’t get the Carey Theological College President’s Scholarship, they include;

  • Church Group Discount
  • President’s Bursary: also another scholarship that fully covers your tuition
  • Carey Student Scholarship
  • Carey Student Bursary

And many others.

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2. Athabasca University – Doctor of Education

This Doctor of Education program might interest you if you’re a mid-career professional involved in

  • Distance Education
  • Adult Education
  • Continuing Education
  • Policy Development and Implementation

It will take a minimum of 4 years, and a maximum of 5 to complete the program. Just like CAREY – Doctor of Ministry, this program provides free education through scholarships like:

  • AU Doctoral Level Student Bursaries 
  • AU Award for Graduate Studies 
  • AU Graduate Level Student Bursaries 
  • Dan Coldeway Memorial Award 


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3. AU – Doctor of Business Administration

The Doctor of Business Administration at Athabasca University is for experienced managers and senior leaders who hold an MBA (or an equivalent master’s degree) and want to combine their skills with practical research. You can complete the program in a minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 7 years.

This is among the free online PhD programs in Canada that also use scholarships to help their students reduce financial expenses. Besides the scholarships listed in the Doctor of Education above, AU also accepts some external scholarships like:

  • Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships: worth $70,000 per year for 2 years
  • Canada Graduate Scholarships – Doctoral program: worth $35,000 per year for 26 months
  • Globalink Research Award: The amount varies
  • SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships: worth $20,000 per year for up to 4 years.
  • SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowships: worth $40,500 per year for up to 2 years.

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4. Doctoral Program in Canadian Studies at Trent University

This Ph.D. program offers five fields of study, which are:

  • Culture, Heritage, and the Arts;
  • Environment and Place
  • Policy, Economy, and the State;
  • Identities and Social Movements; and
  • Feminist, Gender & Women’s Studies

The program can be completed within 4 years.

They claim to be #1 in Ontario for Scholarships and Bursaries for more than 20 years, and it’s not far from the truth because they have numerous scholarships that can help you further your Ph.D. for free.

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5. Ontario Tech University – Online Doctor of Education

This Ph.D. program is focused on working professionals in K-12, universities, colleges, and public and private sector organizations. Their research theme is “Education in the Digital Age,” which should give you a glimpse of what to expect.

Just like other free online PhD programs in Canada, we’ve listed, this program also awards scholarships one of my favourites is the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship Program. It awards $70,000 per year in funds.

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6. Royal Road University – Doctor of Social Sciences

Actually, this is not 100% online, but rather a hybrid program that combines both online and on-campus research. Your courses will include;

  • Dissertation
  • Social Change and Interdisciplinarity in Global Context
  • Social Science Theory and the Globalized World

And others.

Though their tuition costs CAD 89,464 for both domestic and international students, they have several scholarships and grants to reduce or if possible waive this fee.

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7. University of Waterloo – Graduate Diploma in Planning (GDip)

One of the interesting things about this program is that the University of Waterloo understands you’re busy, so they created the online program to fit your busy schedule. They provide several funding opportunities, where you can get minimum funding of $25,962 if you’re in good academic standing.

International students are eligible for the International Doctoral Student Award (IDSA). 

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8. University of Manitoba – Education (PhD)

This Ph.D. program will help you gain an in-depth understanding of theories within the field of education, and the program can be completed within a minimum of 3 years. There are several faculty-specific and university-wide funding opportunities available to Faculty of Education graduate students to support academic and research goals, Some of them include;

  • Delta Kappa Gamma Manitoba Mary E. Lamont Fellowship
  • Faculty of Education Truth and Reconciliation Fellowship
  • NEW Indigenous Master’s Scholarship in Education
  • NEW Indigenous Doctoral Scholarship in Education


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You can see that these free online PhD programs in Canada use scholarships – whether fully funded or partially funded – to help you reduce or totally offset the cost of a Ph.D.

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