When McMaster moved to its current graduate organization, the aims of graduate work were described as “the highest development of the powers of reasoning, judgment, and evaluation in intellectual concerns; specialized training in professional skills; initiation into research or scholarly work and development of a capacity for its successful and independent pursuit; the fruitful pursuit of research and scholarly work”. This description remains as valid today as it was then.
Research is central to graduate work, and McMaster’s strong research orientation has a pronounced effect on the character of its graduate programs. The numerous research achievements of McMaster faculty members have been recognized by grants, prizes, medals, and fellowships in academic societies. Such distinctions attest to the qualifications and dedication of faculty members in developing and disseminating knowledge. The education that McMaster faculty provide is valuable not only for the graduate student’s career but also for the student’s development as a person.
1.1 Programs of Study
McMaster University offers graduate programs that lead to one of the following degrees:
Master of Arts in Anthropology, Classics, Communication and New Media, Cultural Studies and Critical Theory, Economics, Economic Policy, English, French, Gender Studies and Feminist Research, Geography, Globalization, Health and Aging, History, Philosophy, Political Science, Religious Studies, Sociology, and Work and Society;
Master of Business Administration;
Master of Applied Science in Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Computational Science and Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Engineering Physics, Materials Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Software Engineering;
Master of Communications Management;
Master of Engineering in Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Computational Science and Engineering, Computer Science, ADMI Design and Manufacturing, Electrical and Biomedical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Engineering Physics, Manufacturing Engineering, Mechatronics, Nuclear Engineering (UNENE), Software Engineering; Software Engineering and Virtual Systems Design;
Master of Engineering Design;
Master of Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation;
Master of Engineering and Public Policy;
Master of Finance;
Master of Health Management;
Master of Science in Biochemistry, Biology, Chemical Biology, Chemistry, Cognitive Science of Language, Computational Engineering and Science, Computer Science, Earth and Environmental Sciences, eHealth, Geography, Global Health, Health and Radiation Physics, Health Research Methodology, Health Science Education, Kinesiology, Materials Science, Mathematics, Medical Sciences (Blood and Vasculature; Cancer and Genetics; Infection and Immunity; Metabolism and Nutrition; Neurosciences and Behavioural Sciences; Physiology/Pharmacology), Neuroscience, Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Physics and Astronomy, Physiotherapy, Psychology, Radiation Sciences, Rehabilitation Science, and Statistics;
Master of Social Work;
Master of Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation;
MD/Ph.D. in Medicine and Biochemistry; Medicine and Medical Sciences.
Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology, Biochemistry, Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Business Administration (Accounting; Finance; Human Resources; Information Systems; Management Science; Marketing), Chemical Biology, Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Classics, Cognitive Science of Language, Computational Science and Engineering, Computer Science, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Economics, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Engineering Physics, English, French, Geography, Health Policy, Health Research Methodology, History, Kinesiology, Materials Engineering, Materials Science, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, Medical Sciences (Blood and Vasculature; Cancer and Genetics; Infection and Immunity; Metabolism and Nutrition; Physiology/Phamacology), Neuroscience, Nursing, Philosophy, Physics and Astronomy, Political Science, Psychology, Radiation Sciences, Rehabilitation Science, Religious Studies, Social Work, Sociology, and Software Engineering.
1.2 Responsibilities to Graduate Students
The principal responsibilities that McMaster University has for the academic endeavours of its graduate students are shared by the School of Graduate Studies, the Faculty, the Department, the Supervisory Committee, and the Faculty Advisor. The following summarizes the responsibilities of each of these bodies.
1.2.1 The School of Graduate Studies
The name “School of Graduate Studies” refers to the Associate Vice-President & Dean and Associate Deans of Graduate Studies, the Graduate Council, and the registrarial duties associated with graduate administration.
The Associate Vice-President & Dean of Graduate Studies provides leadership in maintaining and improving the standards of graduate scholarship in the University. The responsibilities include: being the School’s voice in graduate matters concerning research and its funding, scholarships and assistantships, the development of graduate programs and policy statements affecting graduate work; being the designated chair of Ph.D. dissertation oral examinations; approving the nomination of external examiners for Ph.D. theses and receiving the examiners’ reports. The Associate Deans of Graduate Studies routinely act as the Dean’s delegates. They recommend revision or development of regulations or policies affecting graduate work, refer matters of policy and curriculum to the Graduate Curriculum and Policy Committees, and deal with student appeals. In addition to acting on behalf of the Graduate Admissions and Study Committees as described below, the responsibilities of the Associate Deans include the awarding of McMaster Graduate Scholarships by acting on recommendations received from departments offering graduate work.
The Associate Graduate Registrar and Secretary of the School administers the academic affairs of students enrolled in the School of Graduate Studies. This responsibility includes: registering graduate students; assessing tuition fees; maintaining records and files for applicants and new or in-course students and arranging Ph.D. oral examinations.
The Executive Director, Strategic Planning & Administration administers the financial affairs of the School of Graduate Studies. This responsibility includes: managing all graduate scholarships, administering the graduate payroll, and allocating scholarship funds for graduate programs.
1.2.2 The Faculty
For each Faculty there is a Graduate Admissions and Study Committee, which is chaired by an Associate Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. This committee, or the Associate Dean on its behalf, is responsible for matters concerning both incoming and in-course graduate students. More specifically, these responsibilities include:
- determining the admissibility of applicants;
- receiving reports on the progress of students and making decisions thereon, including recommendations to require a student to withdraw;
- ensuring that program requirements have been met prior to the awarding of degrees; approving off-campus courses and leaves of absence; and
- deciding on applications from students for special consideration with respect to academic regulations.
In all of these matters, the Committee or the Associate Dean acts on recommendations made by departments.
1.2.3 The Department (or Graduate Program)
Typically, many of the duties of the Department in regard to graduate students are carried out by the Department Chair and the Graduate Advisor (in some programs these are referred to as Graduate Coordinators or Area Coordinators) for the Department. For purposes of graduate studies policies stated in sections 1 through 6 of the Graduate Calendar, all reference to Department Chair shall mean, in the graduate programs of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Program Coordinators or appropriate Assistant Dean. The departmental duties include making recommendations to the Graduate Admissions and Study Committee of the Faculty as noted above. The Department is responsible for matters such as:
- ensuring that every student has, at all times, a faculty advisor or a properly constituted supervisory committee;
- reviewing annually each student’s academic progress and reporting thereon;
- conducting comprehensive examinations and language examinations, when these are required;
- preparing and distributing guidelines and departmental regulations for supervisors and students;
- ensuring that each student is properly trained in all safety practices, guidelines, and policies for the use of any resources required in carrying out their work, where appropriate.
In performing those duties that relate to individual students, the Department relies on advice from the Supervisory Committee or the faculty advisor.
In those cases in which a Supervisory Committee or faculty advisor determines that a student’s progress is unsatisfactory, and recommends that the student be required to withdraw, the Department is expected to verify the reasons for the recommendation. If the recommendation is confirmed, the Department will forward the recommendation to the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, who will receive it and act on behalf of the Faculty Admissions and Study Committee.
If the Department is not convinced that the recommendation is appropriate, the Department may attempt to mediate between the supervisor and student, or may attempt to find an alternate Supervisory Committee or faculty advisor. If that is not possible because all members with expertise in the student’s topic are already on the Supervisory Committee, then the Department may find it best to encourage the student to transfer elsewhere. If the student is very close to completion, the Department may advise the student to continue in the program despite the lack of Supervisory Committee support.
1.2.4 The Supervisory Committee
The Supervisory Committee, or the faculty advisor when no such committee is required, provides advice to the Department as noted above. Additional responsibilities include, where applicable:
- planning and approving the student’s program of courses and research;
- approving thesis proposals;
- deciding, within departmental regulations, on the timing of the comprehensive examination and, language and other examinations;
- maintaining knowledge of the student’s research activities and progress;
- giving advice on research;
- providing the student with regular appraisals of progress or lack of it;
- initiating appropriate action if the student’s progress is unsatisfactory, including any recommendation that the student withdraw;
- deciding when the student is to write the thesis and giving advice during this process;
- acting as internal examiners for the thesis.
1.2.5 The Faculty Advisor
When a supervisory committee is not required, a faculty advisor will be assigned by the Department. Like the supervisory committee, the advisor will provide advice to the Department as noted in Section 1.2.3 above. His/her responsibilities will include: planning and approving the student’s program of courses and research; deciding within departmental regulations, on the timing of the comprehensive examination, and language and other examinations; maintaining knowledge of the student’s research activities and progress; giving advice on research; providing the student with regular appraisals of progress or lack of it (i.e., the student and student advisor have a mutual obligation to meet on a regular basis); initiating appropriate action if the student’s progress is unsatisfactory, including any recommendation that the student withdraw.
1.2.6 Guidelines for Graduate Course Instructors
For most faculty members and graduate students alike, the graduate classroom offers a unique site of intellectual development, exploration, and exchange. The following guidelines are intended to highlight best practices to help instructors plan and run successful graduate courses, and to optimize the learning experience for graduate students. These guidelines supplement the official Policy on Graduate Course Outlines, to which all graduate courses must adhere.
In fields that include diverse knowledge bases or skill sets, the instructor may wish to meet with prospective students before the course starts, particularly with students who are from outside the home program or department. Such a meeting might include a discussion of the overall objectives and content of the course, an explanation of the methods of assessment, and a description of the expertise and skill level expected of the student.
The graduate course instructor may decide to recruit one or more faculty members or field experts to give special lectures during the course. Such an invitation should be made well in advance of the lecture date. Invited instructors usually are not expected to evaluate the students. However, there may be rare cases in which an invited instructor contributes some aspect of course evaluation. In that event, the official course instructor still bears ultimate responsibility for overall evaluation and course outcome. Accordingly, best practice would be for the invited instructor to receive information, preferably in writing, about evaluation criteria and expectations that are consistent with the course outline. Students also should be informed of the mechanism and mode of evaluation.
To receive credit for a course, each student is responsible for confirming on SOLAR that his/her registration status is appropriate for that course. Students are responsible for ensuring that they have formally registered for the course (including any seminar course) through their department or graduate program. Best practice suggests that the instructor should remind students of their responsibilities at the first meeting of the course. If the instructor becomes aware that a student is not listed on the grade sheet, or that the grade sheet includes the name of a student who has not been attending the class, the instructor should inform the department/graduate program.
As noted in the Policy on Graduate Course Outlines, the course instructor is responsible for providing each student with evaluations of the student’s academic performance at various stages during the course, and, whenever possible, a list of due dates. It is best practice in graduate courses for each student to receive at least one written evaluation prior to the ‘drop’ date so that students can have the chance to withdraw from the course without academic penalty. Such an evaluation could take any of a number of forms (e.g., evaluations of a seminar presentation, a written assignment, or a collaborative work).
At the graduate level, students normally are expected to actively participate in courses (i.e., contribute to discussion, be encouraged to ask questions), and instructors often award marks for participation. Participation marks typically amount to a relatively minor proportion (e.g., 5-20%) of the final grade. Some students, particularly those whose first language is not English, may be reluctant to participate in a discussion in class. Best practice suggests that these students should be recognized early and, whenever possible, tactfully drawn into the discussion by the instructor. The ultimate aim of any graduate course is not only to convey information to and exchange information with students, but also to equip students with the confidence and ability to exchange information with others, both in the spoken word and in writing.
Although instructors are required to provide written course outlines at the beginning of courses, the Policy on Graduate Course Outlines also provides instructors with the opportunity to alter a course’s content to reflect shifting research interests as long as the students are informed of such changes promptly and in writing. Even in the case of changing content, best practice is for instructors to adhere to the original course outline in terms of the amount of work expected from the students, the schedule of assignments, due dates, and the evaluation scheme.
Best practice suggests that instructors should calculate and provide final grades to the School of Graduate Studies for all students by the date stipulated in the Graduate Calendar. Final marks also should be provided to the students in a timely manner. Although there may be rare instances in which the instructor may need to report grades before all work is complete for a student, instructors should be aware that a grade of “incomplete” will be converted to an “F” and recorded on the student’s transcript.
1.3 Responsibilities of Graduate Students to the University
Just as the University has responsibilities to graduate students, they have responsibilities to the University.
The student’s responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
- registering annually until graduation, withdrawal, or withdrawal in good standing due to time limit;
- paying fees as required;
- complying with the regulations of the School of Graduate Studies as set out in this Calendar.
Where applicable, students are responsible for complying with such conditions as may be laid out in an accepted letter of offer. Students are also responsible for complying with the regulations governing graduate students at McMaster University with respect to full- and part-time status (see sections 2.5.2 and 2.5.3 ) and, in particular, for informing the School of Graduate Studies of any change in employment status. Students are further responsible for informing the School of Graduate Studies within two weeks, which acts as the official keeper of student records, of any change in personal information such as address, name, telephone number, etc. Students are also responsible for reporting through the department any change in student status, course registration, or withdrawal.
With regard to research and study, students are responsible for maintaining contact and meeting regularly with the faculty advisor, thesis/project supervisor or supervisory committee, for observing departmental guidelines, and for meeting the deadlines of the department and the School of Graduate Studies. If there is a problem with supervision, it is the student’s responsibility to contact the Department Chair or Graduate Advisor. The provisions for changing a supervisor are outlined in Section 2.7 .
Students who undertake to write a master’s or doctoral thesis assume responsibility both for creating drafts of the thesis and for responding to direction from the Supervisory Committee. The student shall have the responsibility to write and ultimately to defend the thesis, and the Supervisory Committee has the responsibility to offer guidance in the course of the endeavour, and to recommend or not recommend the completed thesis for defence.
In order to receive a degree, the student must fulfill all departmental or program requirements and all University regulations, including those of the School of Graduate Studies. Students who have outstanding financial accounts at the end of the academic year will not receive their academic results, diplomas, or transcripts.
Since registration permits access to libraries and certain other academic facilities (including off-campus facilities), it also implies a commitment on the part of each graduate student to use such facilities in accordance with applicable rules, including all safety practices, guidelines and policies. Inappropriate behaviour that is deemed to be in violation of such practices and/or policies may lead to denial of access to the facility. If such a denial of access to facilities means that a student can no longer fulfill his/her academic obligations, the student will be required to withdraw involuntarily from his/her academic program. (see also Section 6.2 )
Full-time students are obliged to be on campus, except for vacation periods or authorized off-campus status, for all three terms of the university year. Vacation entitlement is discussed in Section 2.5.6 . Any absence of one week or longer from campus, which is not part of the student’s vacation entitlement requires the supervisor’s approval in writing. If the absence exceeds two weeks, the approval of the department chair is also required. In accordance with government regulations (see Section 2.5.2 ) students who will be absent from campus for more than four weeks in any one term require not only permission from the Department but also that of the appropriate Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and must submit a petition for special consideration. Note that this permission is needed even for field work or study elsewhere in the world, in order to allow the University to comply with the regulation requiring that a written explanation for such absences be lodged in the Graduate School office. Students may arrange, through the Department and the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, to be “full-time off-campus” for periods of up to a year. In cases of unauthorized absence the student will be deemed to have withdrawn voluntarily from graduate study and will have to petition for readmission. No guarantee of readmission or of renewal of financial arrangements can be made.