Health Services and Policy Research

Hosted by IHPME

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please note admissions are suspended while we review the future of this collaborative specialization. We sincerely regret the disappointment this will bring to those who had hoped to apply.

The Collaborative Specialization in Health Services and Policy Research began in 2001 as a consortium of six Ontario universities, called the Ontario Training Centre, established in a response to the need for increased numbers of health services researchers to address critical issues in effective and efficient health care delivery (which has been identified as a top priority by national research funding agencies).

The Centre was part of a pan-Canadian initiative involving other provincial centres. After its first decade of operations, funding for the Centre concluded, however the Specialization Program in Health Services and Policy Research continues to attract graduate students from the University of Toronto from a variety of disciplines.

The overall goal of the Collaborative Specialization is to increase health research capacity in Ontario through an innovative training program that builds on existing strengths in university and decision making environments.

Partnering with a number of healthcare organizations, the Collaborative Specialization in Health Services and Policy Research offers graduate training leading to a Diploma in Health Services and Policy Research.

Participating Degree Programs:

  • IHPME — MSc, PhD
  • Kinesiology — MSc, PhD
  • Pharmaceutical Sciences — MSc, PhD
  • Public Health Sciences — PhD
  • Rehabilitation Science — MSc
  • Social Work — PhD

About HSPR Collaborative Program


  • Provide training in health services research for graduate students.
  • Enhance the quality and breadth of trans-disciplinary training in health services research.
  • Include decision makers as active partners in teaching, program and curriculum planning, and the provision of field placements for students.

Competencies Developed:

  1. Understanding the Canadian health care system,
  2. Ability to carry out health services research,
  3. Understanding theories regarding how the health of populations is produced,
  4. Understanding theories of health and health services knowledge production, and
  5. Knowledge exchange and development of research partnerships.

Program Highlights

Once accepted into the Health Services and Policy Research Collaborative Program, students are assigned an HSPR mentor who is a faculty member with similar health services research interest (this faculty member can also be the student’s supervisor).
The student and HSPR mentor review the competencies needed for the Program and assess the extent to which prior learning and learning experiences in their degree program support competency development. The learning activities to achieve the remaining required competencies through the Collaborative Program are discussed and documented in a Learning Plan.
Student and HSPR mentor discuss:

  • what courses and other learning experiences the student will complete as part of their degree program and the extent to which these experiences foster the development of additional competencies needed by a health services researcher,
  • what competencies need to be acquired, and
  • how these competencies will be developed (including timelines for Collaborative Program related course work and completion).

All students are required to complete at least one practicum. They may do a policy or research practicum, depending on the types of competencies that they need to acquire. Some will require both the policy and research practicum. Each practicum is seen as the equivalent of a one-term course. 

The Policy Practicum provides opportunities for students to interact with policy makers or shapers. The goal of the practicum is to understand the policy-making environment, the factors that shape it and gain experience and skills in working with policy makers. During the experience, students should have an opportunity to contribute to an aspect of the policy process by analyzing, synthesizing and/or transferring information relevant to a particular policy option under consideration. They should learn about the factors that shape the differing viewpoints of various stakeholders and how the policy development process works from initial formulation through implementation, review and revisions of policies.
The practicum will be spent with one of the decision-maker partners of the HSPR Collaborative Program. The practicum experience will usually occur over a four-month (one term) period. The student will work with their HSPR Collaborative Program mentor to identify an appropriate practicum site for the student and a supervisor at that site. Students will be assigned a mentor/supervisor at the particular policy site for the duration of their practicum that will meet with the student on a regular basis during the practicum along with the HSPR Collaborative Program mentor. For their practicum (a minimum of 200 hours over a 3-4 month period), students will be based in the work environment of the policy maker.

All students are required to complete at least one practicum. They may do a policy or research practicum, depending on the types of competencies that they need to acquire. Some will require both the policy and research practicum. Each practicum is seen as the equivalent of a one-term course. 

The student is expected to spend at least 200 hours with a health services research team and develop skills in the development of a research project including selection of design, sampling strategy and measurement; ongoing data management and analysis; and presentation and discussion of results with stakeholders. 

Students will be assigned to research teams led by HSPR Collaborative Program faculty for this experience.

Admissions Criteria:

  1. Enrolment

    in a Designated Graduate Program (see above)

  2. Academic Excellence

    The student must provide evidence of academic excellence by way of
    grades on completed graduate courses; a curriculum vitae including information about scholarships and academic awards received, stipend support from funding agencies, background and work experience, and publications and presentations.

  3. Aptitude for Health Systems Research

    The student must submit a letter of recommendation from a graduate faculty member, usually the thesis supervisor in a thesis-based graduate program, commenting on the student’s academic abilities, communication abilities (oral and written), and likelihood for success as a health services researcher.

  4. Career Plan

    The student must submit an autobiographical letter explaining the reasons why they want to become a health services researcher and describe their career plans.