May 21, 2024  
School of Graduate Studies Calendar, 2020-2021 
School of Graduate Studies Calendar, 2020-2021 [-ARCHIVED CALENDAR-]

General Regulations of the Graduate School


Please note: if there is any discrepancy between a department or program handbook and the School of Graduate Studies Calendar, then the School of Graduate Studies Calendar shall prevail.

It is the student’s responsibility to:

  • Maintain current contact information with the University, including address, phone numbers, and emergency contact information.
  • Use the University provided e-mail address or maintain a valid forwarding e-mail address.
  • Regularly check the official University communications channels. Official University communications are considered received if sent by postal mail, by fax, or by e-mail to the student’s designated primary e-mail account via their alias.
  • Accept that forwarded e-mails may be lost and that e-mail is considered received if sent to the student’s account.


Collection of Personal Information

Under the authority of the McMaster University Act, 1976, and by applying to McMaster or by enrolling in a program at the University, students expressly acknowledge and agree that the collection, retention, use and disclosure of relevant personal information is necessary for McMaster University to:

  • establish a record of the student’s performance in programs and courses;
  • to assist the University in the academic and financial administration of its affairs;
  • to provide the basis for awards and government funding; and
  • to establish the student’s status as a member of relevant student governmental organization.

Similarly, and in compliance with McMaster University’s access to information and protection of privacy policies and Canadian and Ontario privacy laws, the University provides personal information to:

  • the Canadian and Ontario government for the purposes of reporting purposes; and
  • to appropriate student government organizations for the purposes of allowing such organizations to communicate with its membership and providing student government-related services consistent with the enrolment by a student at the University.

By applying and/or enrolling at McMaster University the student expressly consents to this collection, retention, use and disclosure of such personal information in this manner. Questions regarding the collection or use of personal information should be directed to the University Secretary, Gilmour Hall, Room 210, McMaster University.

Retention of Documents

All documentation submitted in support of an application for admission becomes the property of the University and is not returnable.

If an applicant is not accepted, or fails to enroll following acceptance, their documentation will be destroyed at the end of the admissions cycle.

2.1 Admission Requirements

McMaster University seeks candidates for graduate study who show high scholarly promise. Admission to a graduate program is based on a judgement by the University that the applicant can successfully complete the graduate degree program. The University’s minimum requirements are identified in this section. Degrees and grades from foreign universities are evaluated for their equivalency to McMaster’s. Departments or programs may establish additional requirements, such as scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Applicants should read the admission statement for the program or department, as well as the section here. Admission is competitive: meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission. Final decisions on matters of admission rest with the Graduate Admissions and Studies Committee for each Faculty. The admission decision is not subject to appeal.

2.1.1 Admission Requirements for Master’s Degree

The majority of graduate programs at McMaster University require the holding of an Honours bachelor’s degree from a recognized university with at least a B+ average (equivalent to a McMaster 8.5 GPA out of 12) in the final year in all courses in the discipline, or relating to the discipline, in which the applicant proposes to do graduate work. Programs which consider applications with a mid-B average identify this in the relevant section of the calendar. In a Master’s program in the Faculty of Engineering the requirement is at least a B- average (equivalent to a McMaster 7.0 GPA). Strong letters of recommendation are also required. Some programs may have different admission requirements, for example, some programs may consider professional practice or experience within the application process so please consult the program section of the calendar for details.

In recognition of the changes taking place in the structure of university education as a consequence of the Bologna Accord, three-year, first-cycle degrees that meet the criteria of the “Framework for Qualifications of the European Higher Education Area” will be accepted in place of a four-year Honours degree. Standard admission requirements will still apply. A Diploma Supplement should accompany the official transcript [item (a) under Section 2.2 ].

Prospective applicants who lack some background in the discipline they wish to enter should consult the Undergraduate Calendar with regard to Continuing Student status. A continuing student is a university graduate who is not currently enrolled in a degree program, but who wishes to take one or more undergraduate classes.

Prospective applicants who did not attain the required standing in their undergraduate degree, but who have five years of work experience that is relevant to the program they wish to undertake, may be admitted to a Master’s program as mature students provided they are recommended by their program. Submission of a complete resume is required to determine eligibility as a mature student.  Such recommendations must be approved by the Graduate Associate Dean of the Faculty in question and evidence of ability to do graduate work will still be required.

2.1.2 Admission Requirements for Ph.D. Degree

Applicants may be admitted to a regular Ph.D. program at one of three stages in their academic work: (1) after completion of a Master’s program; (2) Directly from a Master’s program at McMaster without completing the Master’s degree; (3) in exceptional cases, directly from a Bachelor’s program. Students still enrolled in a Master’s with thesis program beyond 22 months must complete the degree requirements including the thesis prior to admission to the Ph.D. program.

  1. For applicants who hold a Master’s degree, the primary requirements are distinction in their previous graduate work (equivalent to at least a McMaster B+), and strong letters of reference.
  2. Students enrolled in a Master’s program at McMaster University may be transferred to the Ph.D. program prior to completion of the Master’s degree. Not sooner than two terms and no later than 22 months after initial registration in the Master’s program here, students may request to be reclassified as Ph.D. students. After proper review, the department will recommend one of the following:
    1. admission to Ph.D. studies following completion of the requirements for the Master’s degree;
    2. admission to Ph.D. studies without completion of a Master’s program;
    3. admission to Ph.D. studies but with concurrent completion of all requirements for a Master’s degree within one term from the date of reclassification;
    4. refusal of admission to Ph.D. studies.

       In no case does successful completion of a Master’s degree guarantee admission to Ph.D. studies.

For students in (b), the recommendation for admission to Ph.D. must identify which if any courses taken as a Master’s student can be credited toward the requirements for the Doctoral program.

A student in (b) may re-register as a candidate for the Master’s degree, provided that work to date has met the standards for the Master’s program.

Students in (c) who do not complete the requirements for the Master’s degree within the one term will lose their status as a Ph.D. candidate and be returned to Master’s status.

  1. In certain programs, applicants with a first degree only, may be admitted directly to Ph.D. studies. Such students must show sufficient promise, including at least an A average. Within one calendar year the progress of students admitted to Ph.D. studies directly from a Bachelor’s degree will be reviewed by their supervisory committee and the program. The program then will recommend one of the following:
    1. proceed with Ph.D. studies;
    2. not proceed with Ph.D. studies but re-register as a Master’s candidate;
    3. withdraw from the University.

A student admitted to a Ph.D. program who re-registers as a candidate for a Master’s degree must meet all of the requirements for the Master’s degree in order for it to be awarded.


2.1.3 Transfer to Ph.D.

Transfers to a Ph.D. program take effect at the start of the next term, or are retroactive to September 1st for students whose request to transfer is received by the School of Graduate Studies by the end of the second week of October. Students are encouraged to transfer early (i.e., well before the end of the 5th term of their Masters) given that the time-limit on transfers described in 2.1.2.

2.1.4 Admission Requirements for Part-Time Ph.D. Degree

Admission to a part-time Ph.D. program is possible only for an individual holding a Master’s degree whose circumstances preclude uninterrupted full-time doctoral studies. Because of the divergent nature of academic disciplines, part-time doctoral work is not feasible in some areas. Accordingly, no Department or Program is obligated to offer part-time doctoral work. As part of their applications prospective part-time students are required to provide a plan of study, including a clear account of when and where the thesis research is to be conducted. If facilities at the place of employment are to be used for the research, the signed agreement of the employer, recognizing the conditions surrounding graduate work, is also required. In addition, departments may have other requirements for admission to a part-time doctoral program. A part-time doctoral student must be geographically available on a regular basis, and must be able to participate regularly in departmental seminars and colloquia.

2.1.5 Admission of Students to a Cotutelle Ph.D. Degree

A cotutelle is a single Ph.D. awarded by two post-secondary institutions, typically from different countries. A cotutelle degree promotes and structures research collaborations in a way that allows students access to a broader range of research experience than would be available at a single institution. 

Partner university arrangements may vary and students must investigate what is required to fulfill that institution’s cotutelle requirements. For information on how to apply please view the Cotutelle Policy.

2.1.6 Admission of Students with Related Work Experience or Course Work Beyond the Bachelor’s Degree

As noted in Section 2.1  of the Graduate Calendar, “Admission to a graduate program is based on a judgement by the University that the applicant can successfully complete the graduate degree program”. Some potential applicants may not satisfy our admission requirement for a 4-year honours degree with a B+ average in the final year. However, work experience and/or completed course work beyond the Bachelor’s degree, may have some bearing on the applicant’s ability to complete a graduate program. The admissions process will recognize these accomplishments as follows.

Admission to graduate studies for a student with related work experience and/or course work beyond the Bachelor’s degree will be based on the following criteria:

  1. References from reliable sources, which specifically identify the applicant’s aptitude for research and graduate education.
  2. University 4-year undergraduate degree or equivalent, completed more than 4 years ago, together with additional course work taken since that time.
  3. Significant record of workplace experience, the relevance of which will be assessed by the graduate program of choice.

2.1.7 Admission Requirements for Graduate Diploma Programs

The admission requirements for a graduate diploma are the same as are identified in Section 2.1.1  for admission to a Master’s program.

Graduate Diploma students with at least a B+ average in their diploma course work may be eligible to transfer to a Master’s degree in a related program, subject to the recommendation of the department or program to the relevant Faculty Graduate Admissions and Study Committee. If the diploma has not been completed, transfer credit may be given toward the degree requirements for all graduate courses completed successfully. Approval of the department is required for any such credit to be applied toward a degree; it is not automatic. Departmental or program approval is normally based on an assessment of the amount of additional coursework that will be required for the degree.

If a student wishes to enter a related Master’s program after the diploma has been completed, credit may be granted towards the subsequent degree program for those courses completed successfully, with a limit of one full course or half of the course requirements for the degree, whichever is less.

2.1.8 Admission Requirements for Post-Degree Students

A Post-degree Student is one who has not been admitted to a graduate degree or diploma program but who holds a university degree and has been given permission to take a specific graduate course. Permission to take a course as a post-degree student requires the approval of the course instructor, the Department Chair, and the School of Graduate Studies. An application is required for each course. Students are allowed to take up to three courses as post-degree.

Although acceptance as a post-degree student carries no implications with respect to acceptance for a degree program in the School of Graduate Studies, the level of academic achievement expected for admission under this category is the same as that required of students admitted to a Master’s program (Section 2.1.1 ). Courses taken as a post-degree student may be eligible for credit toward a Master’s degree in a related program, to a maximum of one-half of the degree’s course requirement, subject to the recommendation of the department or program to the relevant Faculty Graduate Admissions and Study Committee.

A student who has completed a relevant undergraduate degree and is not admissible to a program under current standards, may be admitted as a post-degree student with the approval of the Associate Dean to demonstrate admissibility. In such cases, any courses taken as a post-degree student will not be available for credit in a subsequent graduate program, should they be eventually considered to be admissible. 

The deadline for registration is the same as for graduate degree programs (see Sessional Dates, Registration  ). 

Post-degree students are not allowed to take graduate courses for Audit.

(Note: A Graduate Diploma is distinct from a baccalaureate, undergraduate diploma, Master’s or Ph.D. degree, or diplomas and certificates awarded by the Centre for Continuing Education at McMaster University).

2.1.9 Non-Credit Participants in Graduate Courses

Graduate courses are not normally open to “auditors” who attend a course without the usual qualifications and without seeking academic credit. Under some circumstances, however, people who are not registered graduate students and who do not meet the requirements for admission as Post-degree (see Section 2.1.8 ) may attend a graduate course. This requires the written permission of the course instructor, the Department Chair, and the School of Graduate Studies.

A fee is charged for each course taken as a non-credit participant (by persons who are not registered graduate students). See Section 5.1, Fees for Graduate Students , for the fee schedule.

2.1.10 Visiting Students

Visiting Students are individuals who are currently registered in a graduate degree program in another university, and who have made arrangements through both their home university and a graduate program at McMaster to spend some time at McMaster as part of their degree program at the home university. While they are visiting students, they will not be enrolled in a degree program at McMaster. They are not part of any official exchange agreement including Ontario Visiting Graduate Student (OVGS) arrangement, although there may be an agreement between the McMaster program and their home institution. For more information on Ontario Visiting Graduate Student arrangements please consult Section 6.10. McMaster currently allows out-of-province and international students to visit in one of three ways: to take course work in a specific program; to conduct research in a specific lab; or to participate in an internship with a specific program or faculty member. In any case, students will be enrolled as full-time students for a maximum of one year. Acceptance is on the recommendation of the department or program at McMaster. For every term that the student is here in residence they must register in SGS 302 . Visiting students are not permitted to audit courses.

The student is expected to pay the supplementary fees (see Section 5.1, Fees for Graduate Students ) and the appropriate Canadian or international equivalent per course fee for the time that they are registered here. It is necessary for international visiting students to enroll in the UHIP program to ensure adequate health insurance coverage during their stay.

2.1.11 Incoming Exchange Students

Exchange students are individuals who much like visiting students, are enrolled in a graduate degree program in another university and are paying fees to that university. The difference between a visiting student and an exchange student is that the exchange student participates in a formal exchange program between McMaster University and their home institution. A complete list of exchange agreements that McMaster participate in can be found on the Office of International Students Affairs webpage ( For every term that the student is here in residence the must register in SGS 702 .

Students participating in a formal exchange program are not assessed supplementary, or course fees, and are entitled to take a full course load (assuming they are registered for a full course load at their home institution). It is necessary for them to enroll in the UHIP program to ensure adequate health insurance coverage during their stay.

2.1.12 English Language Requirements

English is the language of instruction and evaluation at McMaster, except in the M.A. and Ph.D. programs in French. Hence it is essential that all students (except in the French program) be able to communicate effectively in English.

Applicants whose primary language is not English will be required to furnish evidence of their proficiency in the use of the English language. Such applicants are required to supply this evidence as part of their application. At the discretion of the graduate program, applicants may be exempted from this requirement if they have completed a university degree at which English is the language of instruction.

The most common evidence is a score on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Equivalent scores on other recognized tests may also be considered.

Students taking the IELTS are required to achieve a minimum score of 6.5 with a minimum score of 5.5 in each category. 

TOEFL requirements may vary across programs.

  • In most Faculties a minimum of 92 IBT (internet-based test) is required. 
  • In Business, Ph.D. and MBA programs require a minimum score of 100 with a minimum of 22 in the reading component, 22 in the listening component, 26 in the speaking component and 24 in the writing component on the IBT. The Master of Finance Program Requires a minimum score of 92. 
  • In Engineering the faculty requires a minimum score of 88 TOEFL (internet-based) or 6.5 IELTS. Please check with the program to see specific requirements, which may be higher.

Students who have completed an Academic ESL program through Canadian academic institutions may petition to have this considered in lieu of TOEFL.

For a list of acceptable English-language tests, please visit the School of Graduate Studies website.

2.2 Application for Admission

Enquiries about graduate work should be made directly to the department of interest. Our online application system is located at

Applications may be submitted at any time but applicants should refer to the department or program to which they are applying for department specific deadlines. However, most University scholarships and awards are adjudicated in late March or early April, so students applying later than March cannot be considered for these awards.

Applications from outside Canada should be completed at least five months before the desired date of entry in order to allow for any delays and for obtaining the necessary visa.

Application Fee

Applications must be accompanied by the required application fee. This fee is non-refundable and must be paid in Canadian dollars by means of a credit card payment or electronic transfer. The fee is assessed for each program requested to review the application.

The following items are required before your online application will be considered complete. 

  1. One official transcript of academic work completed to date, sent directly from the issuing institution. If the final transcript does not show that a completed degree has been conferred, an official copy of your diploma is also required.
  2. Two confidential letters of recommendation from instructors most familiar with your academic work or appropriate relevant experience. Please note that McMaster University uses the Electronic Referencing System. By entering the email address of your referee through the online application, the system will automatically send an eReference request on your behalf.
  3. see Section 2.1.12  - English Language Requirements
  4. Statement of interest in pursuing graduate studies.

Programs may have additional admission requirements including, but not limited to, interviews.  Please consult your program for details.

A graduate of a university outside Canada may also be required to submit a description of undergraduate and graduate courses taken in the field of specialization and in similar fields.


2.3 Transfer/Advance Credit and Determination of Course Equivalency 

Transfer Credit

Application for transfer credit is normally done through the admissions process or as a petition for special consideration before taking the course for in course students and in both cases requires an Associate Dean’s approval. Credits from other institutions must have been received in the last 5 years with a minimum grade of B-. In general, no credits used towards a previous degree or used as a basis of admission will be approved as credit toward a McMaster graduate degree. Normally, a maximum of 50% of the course degree requirements only will be approved for transfer credit. Approved transfer credit appears as a course with a grade notation of T on the student’s transcript.

Credits from other institutions can be used to substitute a specific McMaster University course requirement; however, the student may be required to take additional courses. Students wishing to apply for advance credit or course requirement equivalency should normally inquire when they apply or accept an offer of admission.  Requests after admission should be submitted to the program office for consideration using a petition for special consideration.

Advance Credit

Eligible students enrolled in a program with an advanced credit option may request advance credit for up to two courses based on courses taken in their undergraduate degree at McMaster. For full details, please refer to descriptions of the individual programs. Requests for advance credit are done by petition to the Associate Dean of the Faculty once enrolled in the graduate program.

In some cases, course taken for credit as part of a diploma program may be considered for advanced standing credit in subsequent master’s programs.

Courses taken at the 500-level in a student’s undergraduate career at McMaster may be considered for advanced credit.

2.4 Acceptance

Graduate programs perform the initial assessment of completed applications.  Applicants may be accepted conditionally before completing their present degree programs. Conditions must be cleared by the deadline date specified in the offer letter.

Official offer letters are sent only by the School of Graduate Studies, and are valid only for the program and term stated in the admission letter. Successful applicants are required to respond through the Applicant Portal to the offer of admission prior to the response deadline. Some programs require a deposit fee. The value of the deposit fee will be deducted from the student’s tuition fees. If circumstances develop making it impossible for a student to begin graduate work in the specified term, the department and the School reserve the right to revoke the offer of admission, and any financial aid offered.

The graduate program and the University reserve the right to revoke an offer of admission if any submitted materials are falsified, if a final transcript does not meet admission requirements or if it contains an annotation about an academic integrity or code of conduct matter.

2.5 Enrollment

2.5.1 Continuity of Registration

All graduate students, in both the regular and part-time programs, are required to enroll and pay supplementary fees annually and tuition fees term by term (within the first month of the term) until they graduate or withdraw. If they fail to do so they do not retain the status of graduate student, will be withdrawn in good standing, and must apply for re-admission if they wish at a later date to continue their studies. If the department approves re-admission, a student may be allowed to begin graduate work in the winter or summer term (January or May), in which case they will first register at the start of that term, but in any following years will enroll in September for all three terms.  A student can either be:

• readmitted to defend if all that remains is the thesis defence and student is readmitted for one term only
• if a student needs more than one term to complete - they should be readmitted to program and maintain continuous enrollment until they complete their studies

A student who doesn’t enroll for each term will be withdrawn in good standing unless there is a scheduled break in the program.

See also section 3.6 or 4.6 for more information on program progression.

2.5.2 Definition of Full- and Part-time Status

Full-Time Status

A full-time graduate student must:

  1. have been admitted to a graduate program as a full-time student;
  2. be pursuing their studies as a full-time occupation;
  3. identify themself as a full-time graduate student;
  4. be designated by the university as a full-time graduate student;
  5. for most programs (and all research-based programs) be geographically available and visit the campus regularly. Other programs may have different requirements and may be conducted fully on-line. Without forfeiting full-time status, a graduate student, while still under supervision, may be away from the university (e.g. visiting libraries, doing field work, attending a graduate course at another institution, etc.) provided that, if any such period exceeds four weeks in any one term, written evidence shall be available in the Graduate Studies Office to the effect that this request has the approval of the department or program Chair and Graduate Associate Dean. For information on full time off campus please consult section 2.5.6.
  6. be considered to be a full-time graduate student by their supervisor or equivalent (designated by the program office)
  7. students who change status from full to part-time, do not receive any more time to complete their program and will continue to be charged tuition fees at the full-time level.
  8. students who change part to full time will have their term count re-set on a ratio of 2:1

All active graduate students other than full-time graduate students as defined above are part-time graduate students. See also section 3.6 or 4.6 for more information on program progression.

2.5.3 McMaster University’s Regulations for Full- and Part-time Status

In accordance with the above provincial regulations, McMaster requires students to register annually, and to confirm their status as a full-time graduate student. Only full-time graduate students are eligible for scholarship support.

McMaster University complies with the OCGS document “Principles for Graduate Study at Ontario’s Universities” (March 2017) which, in Resolution 5, states the following:
“Full-time graduate students are expected to pursue their graduate degree on a full-time basis and make satisfactory progress toward timely completion of all program requirements. It is not possible, or desirable, for the university to monitor and enforce the employment activities of its graduate students outside the university. However, it is both possible and desirable for the university to ensure that it does not itself create a structural situation that jeopardizes the ability of the graduate student to make full-time progress towards the completion of graduate program requirements. Accordingly, OCGS is committed to the principle that full-time graduate students are employed no more than an average of 10 hours per week on campus.”

Full-time students who are participating in McMaster-based paid employment should work no more than an average of 10 hours a week to a maximum of 505 hours in the academic year.  Normally students who exceed this limit are asked to drop down to part-time status, to stop working or reduce their hours of work.  Changing student status from full-time to part-time will affect a student’s scholarship funding, OSAP, and student visa status.

The University considers full-time students to be those that have their studies as their priority. All full-time students must be available to conduct research (as appropriate), participate in courses and the other activities required by their program. In some cases award holders may face employment restrictions, but it is the responsibility of the student to ensure their work arrangements are compliant with the terms of their awards.

All active graduate students other than full-time graduate students as defined above are part-time graduate students.

2.5.4 Employment Regulations

In the McMaster context, there are three terms in the School of Graduate Studies for purposes of interpreting the rule in Section 2.5.3 limiting employment with the University to ten hours per week on average: Fall (September through December); Winter (January through April); and Summer (May through August). These are deemed to have 17, 17, and 18 weeks respectively. The ten-hour limit includes but is not limited to work as a Teaching Assistant at McMaster.

2.5.5 Enrolment - International Students on Study Permits

International students admitted to graduate studies degree programs must have a valid Study Permit issued by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), provided that their program of study is longer than six months. A copy of your study permit may be required by various offices at McMaster depending on your status.

If a Study Permit expires prior to program completion, students must apply to CIC for renewal and submit a copy of the renewed Study Permit to the School of Graduate Studies (check the ‘valid until’ date on the Study Permit). Make sure you apply at least 30 days before your current permit expires. If your Study Permit expires and you have made an application to renew it, but have not had a decision yet, you can continue studying until you receive a decision. Proof of application for renewal must be submitted to the School of Graduate Studies to permit continuing enrolment.

There are additional rules for students whose program is delivered either partially or wholly on-line. Students whose program is delivered entirely on-line do not need a study permit. Students whose program is delivered partially on-line and is longer than six months will need a study permit for the period of time when they are required to be on campus - for example to attend a residency week.

For information on status change to permanent resident status during the course of your study, please see section 5.1.4 .

2.5.6 Full Time Off-Campus

On admission to a full-time program, the assumption is that a student will be full-time on-campus. This is known as being “in residence”. If a student wants to spend a period of time away from the university in order to complete their research, they must apply to be full-time off campus and complete the form RMM 801.

Students admitted to a degree program on a part-time basis are responsible for maintaining close contact with faculty members and students in their field of study.

2.5.7 Leaves of Absence

Graduate students are required to be continuously registered to support the timely completion of their degree.  Students may apply for a Leave of Absence in one of four categories (see below for the specifics for each type of leave):

1.  Medical or disability leave;

2.  Parenting leave;

3.  Compassionate or personal leave; or,

4.  No course available leave

General Notes for Leaves of Absence

Leaves of Absence (“LOA”) are normally granted on a term-by-term basis. Whenever possible the LOA should start and end at the beginning of a term (i.e., January 1, May 1, or September 1). During an LOA the student will not receive supervision or be entitled to use the University’s academic facilities for the purposes of academic progression. No tuition will be charged, nor will the student be eligible for any scholarship support. Please note students on an LOA have to pay applicable supplemental fees and will be able to use the services associated with those fees (please direct questions to Student Accounts). The length of time for completing the degree, and for scholarship support eligibility (see qualifier below), will be extended by the duration of the LOA on the resumption of studies. If an LOA begins or ends in the middle of a term, term count will be determined upon return in consultation with the Associate Dean.

It is understood that when a student takes a LOA, the duration of the leave will not be counted as time towards the time limits in which the student is required to complete or make progress in his or her graduate studies program. On occasion a student may take a leave of absence starting mid-term. This may have impacts on tuition, pay and term count, students should contact their program office or the School of Graduate Studies for more information.

Students should be aware that in the event of an LOA, continuation of the same research project and/or supervisor cannot be guaranteed. In order that the student’s supervisor and/or program can make suitable arrangements to cover ongoing responsibilities during the student’s LOA, students are expected to provide as much notice as possible of the intention to take a LOA.

Note: Students who hold fellowships, scholarships or grants from NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR, or OGS should be aware that these agencies or any other external funding source may have policies governing the interruption and continuation of awards that may differ from the University’s policy on LOA. Students holding such awards and who intend to keep them are responsible for ensuring that any LOA taken does not conflict with the granting agency’s regulations. The appropriate agency should be contacted for details.

Students returning earlier than planned from an LOA must provide  written notice to the School of Graduate Studies a minimum of four weeks in advance of the new return date.

LOA affecting Teaching Assistantship duties are covered by the Collective Agreement with Local 3906 (Unit 1) of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Please refer to the collective agreement for additional information:

Alternatively, the student may request to withdraw (Withdrawal at the Request of the Student). Should the student opt to withdraw, they may be eligible for reinstatement at the University’s discretion upon reapplication.

Please note in all cases leaves of absence have the potential to impact term counts. Students on a leave will have their term counts adjusted - if they are off for one or two months out of a term, the term is counted, in cases where they are off three or four month the term is not counted toward their overall term count.

1.  Medical or disability leave:

A medical or disability LOA is permitted for reasons of illness or disability, provided that the request is supported by adequate medical documentation.  Absences are approved for up to 12 months at a time. 

Students wishing to return from a medical LOA must provide a medical note indicating they are fit to continue with their studies.

2.  Parenting leave:

A parenting LOA is intended to assist parents in successfully combining their graduate studies and family responsibilities with minimum financial and/or academic impact. The University will provide the following arrangement for parents requiring parenting leave from their studies at the time of pregnancy, birth or adoption and/or to provide care during the child’s first year.

According to the Employment Standards Act 200 - May 7, 2018 version Part XIV, a “parent” includes:  “a person with whom a child is placed for adoption and a person who is in a relationship of some permanence with a parent of a child and who intends to treat the child as his or her own”. 

While students are not covered by the Employment Standards Act, McMaster grants students a Parenting Leave for a maximum of four consecutive terms.  A student electing not to take the maximum amount of time available for Parenting Leave will not have the option of taking any unused portion at a later date.  Students returning from a leave should consult with their programs and should note that course availability may be affected by the timing of their return.

Eligible students can also apply for a Parenting Grant.  More information on this is available on the School of Graduate Studies Website at the following link:

A parenting LOA or a portion thereof may be taken concurrently with a Pregnancy and/or Parental Leave from employment, in accordance with the Employment Standards Act, 2000, should the student also be an employee of the University.

3.  Compassionate or personal leave:

Students who have successfully completed at least one full year in a graduate program may apply for an LOA once for up to one year for personal circumstances, or work experience provided that the student’s supervisor and the department support the request.

An LOA will not be granted to pursue another program of study.

Under certain circumstances the Vice-Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies may allow for a special leave of absence.  In this case, application should be made directly to the Vice-Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies.

4.  No course available leave:

This leave is available only for graduate programs that have indicated on their website that the ‘no course available leave’ is an option.  This leave is available to students who have yet to complete course work and no suitable course is offered in a given term; the student may petition for a ‘no course available leave’ for that term.  This leave is not available if the student is registered in a program that requires a thesis/dissertation or a major research paper.

2.5.8 Vacations

Full-time graduate students are expected to be on campus for all three terms of the university year, as specified in Section 1.3 . In addition to statutory holidays (see Sessional Dates ) and the closure of the University normally late December until early January, normal vacation entitlement for a graduate student is two weeks of vacation during the year, to be scheduled by mutual agreement with the research supervisor. An exception to this allotment requires approval from the supervisor or in the supervisor’s absence a member of the supervisory committee.

Students who are also employees of the University must seek vacation approval from their employment supervisor and are entitled to vacation time pursuant to the terms of their employment contract.

2.5.9 Appeals and Petitions for Special Consideration

The University wishes to assist students with legitimate difficulties. It also has the responsibility to ensure that degree, program and course requirements are met in a manner that is equitable to all students. Please note that academic accommodation requests related to a disability are processed under the Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities policy. This includes accommodation requests for Permanent Disability, Temporary Disability, and Retroactive Accommodation.

In those instances where a student acknowledges that the rules and regulations of the University have been applied fairly, but is requesting that an exception be made because of special circumstances (compelling medical, personal, or family reasons) the student may submit, in a prompt and timely manner, a Petition for Special Consideration. The appropriate form is available on the School of Graduate Studies website. The student’s supervisor and Associate Chair are normally required to provide their independent assessments of the student’s statement in the petition. Supporting documentation will be required but will not ensure approval of the petition. The authority to grant petitions lies with the School of Graduate Studies and is discretionary. It is imperative that students make every effort to meet the originally-scheduled course requirements and it is a student’s responsibility to write examinations as scheduled.

In accordance with the Student Appeal Procedures, decisions made on Petitions for Special Consideration cannot be appealed to the Senate Board for Student appeals. Where any student feels there may have been discrimination on grounds in a protected social area as outlined in the Ontario Human Rights Code, they may contact the Equity and Inclusion Office to discuss initiating a complaint (Room 212 of the McMaster University Student Centre). In Health Sciences, Graduate Students should also consult the Advisor on Professionalism in Clinically-Based Education.

2.6 Academic Progression and Graduate Curriculum

To be considered to be in good academic standing a student must do the following as outlined in section 1.3:

  • enroll annually (excluding leaves of absence) until graduation, withdraw, or be withdrawn in good standing due to time limit;
  • pay fees as required;
  • comply with the regulations of the School of Graduate Studies as set out in this calendar and;
  • make satisfactory progress toward the completion of the degree as outlined in section 2.6 Academic Progression.

All degree students are admitted under the General Regulations of the School of Graduate Studies, described in the calendar. Respective degree regulations for the various degrees offered at McMaster University are specified in the program-specific sections of the calendar.

Each student is required to satisfy the program requirements of the academic year in which the student first registered in the graduate program. Failure to maintain good academic standing may impact the students’ ability to continue in the program.

Students may be required to withdraw or may be prevented from registering for the subsequent academic year if they do not comply with the regulations outlined in this calendar, including failure to maintain satisfactory academic progress.

Students in this situation who elect to withdraw from a program and would not otherwise have been withdrawn by the program due to failing its academic requirements, may be considered to have ‘withdrawn in good standing’. Students with this standing may re-apply for admissions to the same program at a later date to continue their studies.

Students who were required to withdraw by its Faculty Committee on Graduate Admissions and Study, represented by the Associate Dean for the Faculty, shall not be permitted to enroll at any later time into the same program.  This policy does not apply to students who have withdrawn in good standing, overturned the failure through the Student Appeal process, or are seeking re-admission due to retroactive accommodation granted by Student Accessibility Services.  A student withdrawn from any program will normally not be allowed to apply for a different program for a period of three years to give the student time to better prepare for graduate studies.

2.6.1 Averaging of Letter Grades

Grades in graduate courses are reported as letter grades. However, instructors may record grades for individual components of the course either as letter or numerical grades. The averaging of letter grades assigned to individual components of a course must be done by using the McMaster 12-point scale, as follows: A+ = 12, A = 11, A- = 10, B+ = 9, B = 8, B- = 7, C+ = 6, C = 5, C- = 4, D+ = 3, D = 2, D- = 1, F = 0. Further, all .5 marks should be rounded up. The passing grades for courses at the graduate level are A+, A, A-, B+,B, and B-. Graduate students enrolled in undergraduate courses will be subject to the grading scale as courses in the graduate level. The minimum passing grade is a B-. Final grades are normally converted to letter grades after the numerical grade is determined.

Graduate Student Grading Scale:



Equivalent Percentages




























69 and under


Note: Grades in graduate courses are reported as letter grades. Averaging of letter grades must be done using the McMaster 12-point scale. 

MBA and Master of Finance Grading Scale:



Equivalent Percentages




























59 and under


Example of Weighted Average Calculation, using the grade points and units for courses completed:

Course Grade

Grade Points


Course Units
































                                                                                                                                        To calculate Average:  135 ÷ 18 =7.5                                      


Note: Students are graded according to the type of coruse they are taking, for example non-MBA students who enlist in MBA courses are graded based on the MBA grading scale.


McMaster University’s Policy on Graduate Course Outlines is available at:

2.6.2 Course Levels and Types

A McMaster course is a body of work which is graded using the graduate student grading scale and consists attending lectures, seminars or other of organized activities (e.g. online discussions, experiential learning, etc.). Normally the beginning and end dates for courses should coincide with the beginning and end dates of University sessions. All Graduate courses have a unit value, with the standard examples being 1.5 units (normally 12 to 19 hours of organized activity) for a course usually lasting for half a term, 3 units for a course usually lasting one term (normally 24 to 39 hours of organized activity), 6 units for a course usually lasting two terms (normally 48 to 78 hours of organized activity).

Graduate students are normally required to complete their course degree requirements by taking courses from within their program. As a minimum, at least 50% of courses taken must be listed or cross-listed by the program in order to be counted towards the degree. Courses taken outside of the program and not listed as part of the degree requirements, require the permission of the Associate Dean of the faculty or their delegate to be counted towards the degree.

Courses available for graduate credit are numbered either at the 700- or 600-level (e.g. 771 or 6D06). Courses are restricted in enrolment to graduate students, with the exception of undergraduate students enrolled in 500-level courses equivalent to graduate courses and those students registered for approved, accelerated Masters programs and with written permission of their department (or program) chair, director, or designate. (Programs may have additional restrictions on the number of 600-level courses allowed for graduate credit, though no program may allow more than one-third of their course requirements to be filled at the 600 level). Graduate students taking 600-level courses are regularly required to do extra course work beyond that required of undergraduates in the corresponding 400-level course. Each program offers only a selection of its courses in any given year.

2.6.3 Requirement Designations

The enrollment process will automatically assign a course towards the primary academic program that a student is enrolled in for a particular term. This process does not determine whether the course will exceed the requirements outlined the curriculum. Where a student wishes to designate a particular course towards a program other than their primary academic program a special request is required during the normal add period outlined in the sessional dates. The requirement designation form is available on the School of Graduate Studies website.

Courses can be designated as being in one of the five categories:

Master’s (Count towards the primary academic program requirements of a Master’s degree)
This category identifies the courses that are to count towards the Master’s degree requirements (including any additional graduate requirements or undergraduate courses specified by the supervisory committee or Department Chair). The passing grades for a Master’s course are A+, A, A-, B+, B, and B-.

Doctoral (Count towards the primary academic program requirements of a Doctoral degree)
This category identifies the courses that are to count towards the Doctoral degree requirements (including any additional graduate requirements or undergraduate courses specified by the supervisory committee or Department Chair). The passing grades for a Doctoral course are A+, A, A-, B+, B, and B-.

Extra Courses (Extra Course)
This category identifies courses that the student is taking with the approval of the supervisor but that are not necessary to the student’s current degree program. In order to designate a course as extra, a student will have to submit a course designation request during the normal add period of enrollment in a particular term. The form is submitted to the program office and once approved will have the designation added to the enrollment record for that course only. If a failing grade (i.e. less than B-) is received in a course taken as Extra, the courses (and grade) will not appear on the student’s transcript unless because of academic dishonesty. Students may petition to change the designation of an Extra Course to a Master’s or Doctoral course prior to the deadline to drop a course provided that this change is supported by the supervisor and program. Changes of designation after the drop date will not be approved. Courses designated as Extra Course may subsequently be counted towards graduate degree requirements and the course designation changed to Master’s or Doctoral, if approved by the Faculty Admissions and Study Committee or the Associate Dean acting on its behalf. The passing grades for an Extra Course are A+, A, A-, B+, B, and B-.

Courses that are required by the supervisory committee or the Department Chair as additional requirements in excess of the stated minimum for the program must be designated as Master’s or Doctoral.

Diploma Course
This category identifies courses that are to count towards the requirements for a diploma. The passing grades for a Diploma course are A+, A, A-, B+, B, and B-.

Certificate Course
This category identifies courses that the student is taking as individual courses not counting towards the requirements for a diploma. The passing grades for a Certificate course are A+, A, A-, B+, B, and B-. 


McMaster students enrolled in a program wishing to take a course at another institution need to apply online in the Student Centre (see section 6.10 - Inter-University Cooperation - Ontario Visiting Graduate Student ).

2.6.4 Milestones

Milestones are non-course requirements that are part of the curriculum and required in addition to course work (e.g. seminars, workshops and comprehensive examinations etc.) Milestones are considered formal components of a student’s academic progress and if not successfully completed will normally prevent a student from graduating.

There are two types of Milestones: graded and non-graded.  Both types of Milestones can be viewed on the Mosaic student centre but only graded Milestones must appear on the student’s transcript (once completed). If a student receives an F grade in their Milestone they may be required to withdraw.
Please refer to individual program descriptions for further details of non-coursework requirements.

2.6.5 Required Course and Training for All Graduate Students

All graduate students, including part-time students, exchange students and visiting students must complete and pass the course SGS 101 Academic Research Integrity and Ethics   within the first month of their first term after their admission to graduate studies at McMaster. The purpose of this course is to ensure that the standards and expectations of academic integrity and research ethics are communicated early and are understood by incoming students. All students are required to take and pass SGS 101 . Students may not graduate or register in subsequent academic terms without having successfully completed this course.

All graduate students are required to complete appropriate training required to complete their research and studies (health and safety training, ethics training, biosafety training, etc.), as determined by their home Department or Program. All graduate students also are required to complete and pass SGS 201 Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) , which can be completed on Avenue to Learn. Having an understanding of how we can identify and reduce attitudinal, structural, information, technological, and systemic barriers to persons with disabilities is core to McMaster University’s commitment to supporting an inclusive community in which all persons are treated with dignity and equality, and completion of AODA training is critical as McMaster’s graduates move forward in their varied, chosen professions.

Students may not graduate or register for subsequent terms in their program until they have completed their required training.

2.6.6. Audited Courses

Graduate Students may request to audit Graduate courses only. This requires a completed form, signed by the instructor and student’s supervisor. Upon completion of the course, and subject to confirmation from the instructor that their expectations regarding the student’s participation were met (i.e. that the student attended at least 80% of the class), a grade of “AUD” will be recorded on the transcript. No other grade will be assigned.

Audited courses have no academic credit and an audited course may not be retaken for credit.

Graduate students are not allowed to audit undergraduate courses.

2.6.7 Repeated Courses

Graduate students may not repeat courses for credit. The only exceptions are: when remediating a failing grade (see 2.6.4) and reading/special topics courses (only where each topic taken by the student is distinct from others previously taken).

2.6.8 Failing Grades, Failing Milestones and Incomplete Grades

The minimum passing grade in a graduate course is a B-.  Failure in either a course or a milestone is reviewed by the appropriate Faculty Committee on Graduate Admissions and Study or the Associate Dean. The Faculty Committee on Graduate Admissions and Study or the Associate Dean acting on its behalf requests a departmental recommendation regarding the student, and this recommendation is given considerable weight. In the absence of a departmental recommendation to allow the student to continue, the student will be required to withdraw. Those allowed to remain in the program must either repeat or replace the failed course or milestone. A failing grade in a Certificate, Diploma, Master’s or Doctoral course remains on the transcript. Students who fail a second course or milestone will not normally be allowed to continue in the program.

Under exceptional circumstances a course instructor may approve an extension for the student for the completion of work in a course and assign an Incomplete grade (INC). The instructor will submit an incomplete grade with a ‘Lapse To’ grade, which is the grade that will default to at the date to clear incomplete grades. Normally this extension is in the range of a few weeks. A student who receives an incomplete grade must complete the work as soon as possible, and in any case early enough to allow the instructor to report the grade by the ‘Final Date to Submit Results of Incomplete Grades’. If the INC grade is not cleared by the deadline, the lapsed grade will be recorded.

2.6.9 Placeholder Courses

To complete registration at least one course needs to be added for each term. If the student is not taking an academic course in a term, there are two different placeholder courses.

  • SGS 700 - for students who are in programs that are costed on a per term basis
  • SGS 711 - for students who are in programs that are costed on a per course basis

If a student does not add a course in each term the student will not have completed their enrollment. This will have impacts on all aspects of student life including scholarships, fee assessment and ordering transcripts.

If a student adds a placeholder course and subsequently adds an academic course the placeholder should be dropped. The placeholder will not be dropped if the only courses remaining include:

  • SGS 101, and/or
  • SGS 201, and/or
  • Courses in the Education series - such as EDUCTN 750

Students who are here as a visiting or exchange student will need to enroll in SGS 302 .

2.6.10 Outgoing Exchange Students

Students on exchange programs may take graduate courses that with approved transfer credit may count towards completion of course curriculum. Any credit for these courses will depend on the student achieving a passing grade based on the Graduate Grading Scale outlined in Section 2.6.1.Students are required to maintain enrolment at McMaster by registering for SGS 702.

2.6.11 Ontario Visiting Graduate Studies and Canadian University Graduate Transfer Agreement

The Ontario Visiting Graduate Student Plan (OVGS) allows a graduate student of an Ontario university (Home University) to take graduate courses at another Ontario University (Host University) while remaining enrolled at his/her own university, without applying to the host institution. The student completes an Ontario Visiting Graduate Student form which must be signed off by their graduate program chair and the associate dean and will indicate the course to be taken and the term during the which the course is offered.  

The Canadian University Graduate Transfer Agreement (CUGTA) allows registered students enrolled in a graduate program at a Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS) member university to take courses offered at another CAGS member university for transfer credit.

In both OVGS and CUGTA arrangements the courses must be deemed as integral to the student’s degree program and must not be available at McMaster University. There is a two-course maximum per student over the duration of their program.

2.7 Supervision

It is the responsibility of the department/program to ensure that every graduate student has, at all times, a faculty advisor or a properly constituted supervisory committee. The supervisor must be declared within the first 5 months of study and the supervisory committee must be declared within the first 12 months of study.

The department/program should ensure that the members of a supervisory committee are sufficiently competent and experienced to serve at the required level. In identifying a supervisory committee, the department/program should consider the following, among other things: the balance of the committee by rank and experience; publications and other demonstrations of competence in scholarship or research on the part of the supervisor. Supervisory committees for Ph.D. candidates shall be reviewed annually by the department/program. Supervisory committee members are assumed to continue their participation on student committees unless otherwise replaced by the Associate Chair or Graduate Advisor.

From time to time it may be appropriate for non-McMaster faculty of industry experts to be considered for roles on the supervisory committee. In cases such as this approval is required by the Vice-Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies. Please refer to the policy at the following link.

While the supervisor and student have a mutual obligation to meet on a regular basis, the department/program shall ensure there is a formal regular meeting of each Ph.D. supervisory committee at least once within the reporting year (December 1-November 30), and possibly more often, to discuss the student’s progress. Each Ph.D. supervisory committee must report at least annually on the student’s progress and the department/program chair must forward such reports to the School of Graduate Studies. For Ph.D. students who have entered or transferred into the Ph.D. effective January 1st or May 1st, they must have a Ph.D. Supervisory committee meeting completed no later than November 30th of that same calendar year; those entering September 1st must have at least one meeting by November 30th of the next year. The report formally documents the supervisory committee’s assessment of the progress of the student’s program.

The department/program should prepare a set of guidelines for supervisors and students. The guidelines should deal with the selection and functioning of supervisory committees and should cover the joint responsibilities of faculty members and graduate students. The guidelines may be attached to or incorporated in department/program handbooks which give regulations supplementary to those in the Calendar. Items relevant to graduate supervision should be approved by the appropriate Faculty Committee on Graduate Admissions and Study. A copy of the guidelines shall be given to each faculty member and each graduate student.

It is possible to change supervisors or the membership of a supervisory committee, although this is not the norm. If the direction of the research changes, membership can be changed by mutual consent of the parties involved. Supervisors and/or supervisory committee members may not resign without the department’s/program’s approval. A change in supervisor is at the discretion of the department/program, not the student or supervisor.

If a student feels that they are receiving unsatisfactory supervision, they should consult the Department/Program Chair or Graduate Advisor. If this avenue is not sufficient, the student is encouraged to speak with the appropriate Associate Dean of Graduate Studies about the problem. A student without supervision may be withdrawn due to the requirement of supervision to complete the degree. (see Section 4.5 - Supervision )

Graduate students and supervisors are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the McMaster University Graduate Work Supervision Guidelines for Faculty and Students, which follow below and to list of policies, policies on accommodations available on the School of Graduate Studies website at

2.7.1 Graduate Work Supervision Guidelines for Faculty and Students


The relationship between the graduate student and supervisor/advisor is unique and provides a remarkable opportunity to guide and mentor the student engaged in advanced academic learning. What is considered ‘good’ supervision will vary from discipline to discipline, and it naturally evolves as the student advances through a graduate program. This document provides suggestions to initiate, promote, and sustain successful student-supervisor/advisor relationships.

Guidelines for the Graduate Student

  1. Commitment to scholarly activity is a pre-requisite for graduate success.
  2. To support mentorship and guidance, the student must engage in effective, timely and on- going communication with the supervisor/advisor regarding the status of their project.
  3. The student should discuss expectations with the supervisor/advisor to ensure that there is a mutual understanding of research goals and related activities, coursework, timelines and deadlines.
  4. The student must manage their time, meet deadlines, and prepare for regularly scheduled meetings (e.g., with the supervisor/advisor and supervisory committee). Students should recognize that graduate program academic expectations will not be modified if they choose to engage in other activities, such as working outside of their graduate studies, studying for professional program entrance exams or applying for jobs or postdoctoral fellowships. Student- supervisor meetings for thesis work typically occur at least monthly, although meeting regularity will vary amongst disciplines and at various stages. Students are encouraged to discuss concerns about the type and amount of supervision needed for their work with their supervisor. Students are expected to inform the academic head of the graduate program if they are concerned about inadequate or inappropriate supervision.
  5. The student is expected to develop effective communication and collaborative skills and to demonstrate respect for others. The student should carefully and earnestly consider advice, suggestions, comments and criticisms received from the graduate supervisor/advisor. The student should expect timely, but not immediate, responses (regarding meetings, feedback on written work, etc.) from the supervisor/advisor and supervisory committee.
  6. The student is obliged to act ethically in conducting graduate work. This includes, but is not limited to, following McMaster University policies on the ethical conduct of research and academic integrity. The student is required to document and honestly report research data, to conscientiously cite information and data sources, and to seek guidance on any data exclusions. He/she must acknowledge contributions of the supervisor/advisor, committee members and others, in accordance with the norms of their academic discipline.
  7. It is the student’s responsibility to carry out all work safely and in accordance with standard operating procedures. Potentially dangerous tasks should not be done while impaired and should not be done until properly trained. It is the student’s duty to learn about safe practices, ask questions, and seek appropriate help and guidance on safety matters.
  8. It is the student’s responsibility to be aware of all the requirements, regulations, and guidelines outlined in the Graduate Calendar as well as all University policies pertaining to graduate work.
    See Work Supervision Guidelines.pdf (see Appendix).

Guidelines for Supervisors and Advisors of Graduate Students

  1. The supervisor/advisor must be aware of the inherent power imbalance in the relationship with students, behave professionally, and communicate appropriately. He/she must provide a safe, healthy environment that fosters productive scholarly work, curiosity, and freedom of expression. The environment must be free from harassment, discrimination, and intimidation.
  2. The supervisor/advisor is expected to have sufficient time and resources (as appropriate for the field) to support the student’s work effectively. It is the supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that students have appropriate safety training, and that they carry out all work safely, and in accordance with standard operating procedures, once properly trained.
  3. The supervisor/advisor should help the student develop a realistic thesis/research plan with reasonable plans, that balance exploration with achievable, manageable and focused goals, and allow completion of scholarly work “in time.” 
  4. The supervisory committee must approve thesis project plans, including those that are part of a larger collaborative project led by others (e.g. research team members or collaborators).
  5. The supervisor/advisor may encourage the student to undertake some research that is not formally part of their scholarly paper project or thesis project, provided that it will not negatively impact the student’s academic progress. If appropriate, the additional work can be supported by a research assistant stipend.
  6. The supervisor/advisor should be aware that a student might experience changes in motivation and productivity. The supervisor/advisor should be prepared to adapt his/her mentorship approach to promote success in a range of different situations.
  7. The supervisor/advisor is expected to be aware of accommodation policies, procedures and support services, and to support students with temporary disabilities in designing and organizing accommodations. For students with identified permanent disabilities, the supervisor/advisor is expected to consult with Student Accessibility Services on accommodations. They are expected to be respectful of graduate students who are dealing with stressful situations and personal difficulties. When appropriate, the supervisor/advisor should direct the student to campus resources and other supports. The supervisor/advisor is responsible for promoting a culture of respect and collaboration and encouraging timely conflict resolution when disputes arise, which may require consultation with the supervisory committee or others (e.g. head of the graduate program).
  8. The supervisor must regularly communicate and have face-to-face meetings with the student to provide feedback on the student’s progress, strengths, weaknesses, gaps in knowledge, and how well the student is addressing deficiencies. Written summaries of feedback should be prepared when there are significant deficiencies. When a student is struggling with meeting graduate program/thesis work expectations, a supervisory committee meeting should be scheduled early to assess progress and plans, and to provide a clear statement of requirements to meet expectations.
  9. The supervisor/advisor and supervisory committee are required to provide students with timely, but not instantaneous, feedback. As an example, corrections to a thesis chapter, major research project, or a manuscript optimally should occur within a few weeks. Faculty should be aware that they must respond to a draft of the thesis within the timelines outlined in the graduate calendar.
  10. Supervisors/advisors who undertake a research leave or other leaves must communicate to their graduate students, and graduate student applicants, the plans to provide supervision during the leave. Supervisors/advisors who will be away from campus for extended periods of time must name an alternate faculty member, with graduate supervisory privileges, who will have day-to-day responsibility and signing-authority for students.
  11. The supervisor/advisor is expected to encourage increasing independence as the student progresses through graduate work. Although the supervisor/advisor is not expected to be a copy editor for the student’s written work, he/she should review and provide feedback on materials that the student produces prior to external review or defence.
  12. Students’ contributions to research must be acknowledged in accordance with the University policies and the norms of the academic discipline.
  13. When feasible and appropriate, supervisors/advisors are expected to encourage students to submit their graduate work for presentation at conferences and workshops, and for publication.
  14. The supervisor/advisor should recognize that there are multiple career paths available to different students, and should be respectful of the student’s choice of career path, providing advice, where appropriate, on the best way for the student to reach their career goals. The supervisor also should be aware of professional development opportunities for the student offered through the Department/Program, Faculty, or University, and should encourage the student to take advantage of such opportunities.
  15. It is the supervisor/advisor’s responsibility to be aware of all the requirements, regulations, and guidelines outlined in the Graduate Calendar and University policies. See Work Supervision Guidelines.pdf (see Appendix).

2.8 Theses

2.8.1 General

The thesis will be a coherent work prepared as an electronic document (an e-thesis) that provides a complete and systematic account of the research accomplished by the writer. A printed paper version is no longer acceptable for thesis defence or for storage in the university library after a successful defence. A Doctoral student may prepare and defend either a standard e-thesis (see ‘GUIDE FOR THE PREPARATION OF MASTER’S AND DOCTORAL THESES’) or a “sandwich” e-thesis at oral examination (also known as the ‘thesis defence’). Normally, a Master’s student may submit only a standard e-thesis (see ‘Thesis Guide’ section 5.2). Each department or program offering graduate work is wholly responsible for setting up oral examinations for Master’s (see ‘Thesis Guide’ Sections 6.1 and 6.2). The School of Graduate Studies assists with arranging all Ph.D. oral examinations (see ‘Thesis Guide’ Sections 6.3, 6.4 and Appendix 1).

Prior to the thesis defence and, in the case of a doctoral thesis, before sending out the draft to the external examiner, the entire document must be reviewed for its originality using the University’s paid subscription to Urkund. The program/supervisor will review the originality report generated by Urkund and either recommend changes to the document or approve it for the defence. A thesis may not be seen by the thesis examining committee (including the external reviewer in the case of a doctoral thesis) until the Urkund generated report was reviewed and approved by the supervisor or the program, unless authorized by the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies.

All candidates for Master’s or Doctoral degrees who have successfully completed their oral examinations and who have made all required revisions to the satisfaction of their supervisor must upload an electronic version of their final e-thesis to ‘MacSphere‘  (see section 2.8.3  below).The e-thesis must be presented in a format acceptable to the School of Graduate Studies. Please note that changes to an e-thesis will not be accepted after it has been uploaded to MacSphere and that the document uploaded should be the version approved by the supervisory committee after the defence. Having filed the e-thesis to MacSphere, the student may choose to purchase printed and bound copies for their personal use or for presentation. Details of selected companies who are organized to print and bind the thesis are listed on the School of Graduate Studies website ( The cost of printing and binding will be borne by the student.

No research for the Master’s or Ph.D. degrees at McMaster may be secret or classified. All e-theses will be available to readers through MacSphere.

Individual Departments or graduate programs may issue special instructions concerning the expected forms of graphs, tables, maps, diagrams, and sound and video files which may be included within the e-thesis. Accepted forms of bibliographical reference in the particular discipline and other matters of format should be discussed with the thesis supervisor. Students may also refer to the instructions set forth in Kate L. Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. In those instances where an examiner requests a printed copy of the thesis, it is the student’s responsibility to produce a print version well before the oral examination. Doctoral students and their supervisors should keep in mind that theses of extraordinary length are to be discouraged. The preparation of a lengthy Ph.D. thesis almost certainly extends the time that the student takes to complete his or her degree. As a general rule, doctoral students are urged to limit their theses to no greater length than three hundred (300) pages of text (Master’s thesis to less than 200 pages). In cases where students and their supervisors believe that responsible scholarly treatment of the thesis topic requires substantially greater length than that specified above, a written approval from the appropriate Associate Dean of Graduate Studies must be obtained before the external examiner is contacted.

2.8.2 Response Times for Theses

Supervisory committees should respond to the draft of a Ph.D. thesis within 2 months. Providing comments on individual chapters will take proportionately less time. Very long theses or chapters may take more time. There are busy periods within the academic year when the time taken to provide comments might be a bit longer than this norm. However, in no case should the response time exceed 3 months.

For Master’s theses the corresponding times are 1 month and 2 months. Master’s students are entitled to defend within 2 months of providing the final draft of the thesis to the department/program.

2.8.3 Publication of Electronic Theses at McMaster University

Every successfully-defended thesis for a Master’s or a Ph.D. degree shall be published substantially as it was approved at the thesis defence, including any changes mandated by the defence committee, through the University Library’s MacSphere and the Library and Archives of Canada. To this end, as a final requirement of the degree, each student must sign a license enabling such digital publication, and must upload the thesis to MacSphere in electronic form. Note that the student may request postponement of digital publication for up to one year at the time of uploading the thesis to MacSphere, and all such requests will be automatically granted. E-publication delays normally would be requested for the shortest amount of time required to facilitate publication with external organizations, to protect any right to immediate commercial gain, or to permit a patent application to be completed. Students wishing extensions of their initial postponement must apply directly to the Vice-Provost & Dean of Graduate Studies, at least 4 weeks before the termination of the initial e-publication postponement, with a full description of why an additional delay is requested and what steps have been taken to address the issues that required the initial delay. The Vice-Provost & Dean of Graduate Studies will determine whether further publication postponement is warranted, and, in no case will a publication delay of more than 2 years be permitted.