Jul 25, 2024  
School of Graduate Studies Calendar, 2023-2024 
School of Graduate Studies Calendar, 2023-2024 [-ARCHIVED CALENDAR-]

Graduate Study at McMaster University


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.

The following sections outline the general graduate academic regulations of the University.  Students must read and comply with both these regulations and those set out by their Program elsewhere in this Graduate Calendar, as applicable. 

Since the Academic Regulations are continually reviewed, the University reserves the right to change the regulations in this section of the Calendar. The University also reserves the right to cancel the academic privileges of a student at any time should the student’s scholastic record or conduct warrant so doing.

Faculties are authorized to use discretion in special situations by taking into account past practice, the spirit of the regulations, and extraordinary circumstances. Students who believe their situations warrant special consideration should consult the appropriate Program Office.

1.1 Programs of Study

McMaster University offers graduate programs that lead to one of the following degrees or diplomas:

Graduate Diplomas in Critical Leadership in Social Services and Communities, Clinical Behavioural Sciences, Clinical Epidemiology, Community and Public Health, Community Engaged Research, Gender Studies and Feminist Research, Nuclear Engineering, Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner (PHCNP), Professional Accountancy, Water Without Borders

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, Global Politics, Labour Studies, Philosophy, Political Science, Religious Studies, and Sociology;

Master of Biomedical Discovery and Commercialization

Master of Biomedical Innovation

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 Civil Engineering, Computational Science and Engineering, Computing and Software, Electrical and Biomedical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Engineering Physics, Manufacturing Engineering, Nuclear Engineering (UNENE), Systems & Technology

Master of Engineering Design

Master of Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Master of Engineering and Public Policy

Master of Finance

Master of Financial Math

Master of Health Management

Master of Public Health

Master of Public Policy

Master of Science in Biochemistry, Biology, Chemical Biology, Chemistry, Child Life and Pediatric Psychosocial Care, Cognitive Science of Language, Computational Science and Engineering, 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, Midwifery, Neuroscience, Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Physics and Astronomy, Physiotherapy, Psychology, Psychotherapy, Radiation Sciences (Radiation Biology), Radiation Sciences (Medical Physics), Rehabilitation Science, Speech Language Pathology, and Statistics.

Master of Social Work

Master of Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation

MD/Ph.D. in Medicine and Biochemistry, Medicine and Biomedical Engineering, Medicine and Health Policy, Medicine and Health Research Methodology, Medicine and Medical Sciences, and Medicine and Neuroscience.

Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology, Biochemistry, Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Business Administration (Accounting; Finance; Health Management; Information Systems; Management of Organizational Behaviour and Human Resources; 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, Global Health, Health Policy, Health Research Methodology, Health Studies, History, Kinesiology, Labour Studies, Materials Science and Engineering, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, Medical Sciences, Neuroscience, Nursing, Philosophy, Physics and Astronomy, Political Science, Psychology, Radiation Sciences (Radiation Biology), Radiation Sciences (Medical Physics), Rehabilitation Science, Religious Studies, Social Gerontology, Social Work, Sociology, Software Engineering and Statistics.

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 Vice-Provost & Dean and Associate Deans of Graduate Studies, the Graduate Council, and the registrarial duties associated with graduate administration.

The Vice-Provost & Dean of Graduate Studies provides leadership in maintaining and improving the standards of graduate scholarship in the University. These 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. These responsibilities include: registering graduate students; assessing tuition fees; maintaining records and files for applicants and new or in-course students and arranging Ph.D. oral examinations.

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, where applicable;
  • 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 some programs (e.g. interdisciplinary graduate programs), these duties are carried out by the Program Director, Co-Director or Associate Director and for some Health Science programs, the Assistant Dean. 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, the Program Director, Co-Director, Associate Director 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 supervisor 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 or Supervisor

The Supervisory Committee, or supervisor or the faculty advisor (Section 1.2.5) when no such committee is required, provides advice to the Department as noted above. Additional responsibilities include, where applicable:

  • to assist in planning and to approve the student’s program of courses and research;
  • to approve the thesis proposal;
  • to decide within departmental regulations, on the timing of the comprehensive examination (for doctoral students) and, where applicable, of the language and other examinations;
  • to maintain knowledge of the student’s research activities and progress;
  • to give advice on research;
  • to provide the student with regular appraisals of progress or lack of it;
  • to perform such other duties as may be required by the department;
  • to report on the above matters annually, in writing, on the approved form to the department, which in turn will report to the Faculty Graduate Committee on Admissions and Study where applicable;
  • to initiate appropriate action if the student’s progress is unsatisfactory, including any recommendation that the student withdraw, for approval by the department and the Faculty committee on Graduate Admissions and Study;
  • to decide when the student is to write the thesis and to give advice during this process;
  • to act as internal examiners for the thesis; and
  • to act as members of the examination committee for the final oral defence when so appointed.

In FHS, committees may also include an Associate Member who would have a formal advisory role on the committee. Please click here for more details.

1.2.5 The Faculty Advisor

When a supervisory committee or supervisor 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. Their 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. In course-based, professional or clinical programs, a program committee or the department chair for the program acts as the faculty advisor. The faculty advisor is expected to respond in a timely fashion to requests for clarification by the student on elements of academic and research progress.

1.2.6 The Graduate Course Instructor

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. 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.

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. Students should be informed of the mechanism and mode of evaluation under these circumstances.

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. 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.

Instructors shall calculate and provide grades to the School of Graduate Studies for all students by the date stipulated in the Graduate Calendar, as a final mark or as an “incomplete”. Final marks shall 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 after the stated sessional date: “Final Date to Submit Results of Incomplete (INC) Grades for Previous Term”.

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:

  • Maintaining current contact information with the University, including address, phone numbers, and emergency contact information.
  • Using the University provided e-mail address or maintaining a valid forwarding e-mail address.
  • Regularly checking 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 @mcmaster.ca alias.
  • Accepting that forwarded e-mails may be lost and that e-mail is considered received if sent to the student’s @mcmaster.ca account.

Where applicable, students are responsible for complying with such conditions as indicated in the offer of admission. 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). 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.


To receive credit for a course, each student is responsible for confirming in the Mosaic Student Center that their enrollment status is appropriate for that course. Students are responsible for ensuring that they have formally enrolled for the course through their department or graduate program.

Research-Based Programs

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. It is also the expectation that students will seek clarification when necessary on questions regarding elements of academic and research progress. The provisions for changing a supervisor are outlined in Section 3.1 .

Students who undertake to write a master’s or doctoral thesis assume responsibility both for creating drafts of the thesis, upholding copyright and intellectual property rights including any research agreements between the university and outside partners, 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.

Since enrollment 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 their academic obligations, the student will be required to withdraw involuntarily from their academic program. (see also Section 5.2 )

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 2.5.8 . In accordance with government regulations (see Section 2.5.2  students who will be away from campus for more than four weeks require not only permission from the Department but also that of the appropriate Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and must submit a Request to be Full Time Off Campus. Note that this permission is needed for conferences, field work or studies 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. Students will also be required to complete the Risk Management Manual (RMM) 801 forms and gain approval through EOHSS. 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 and a decision on readmission is not subject to appeal. An exception to this policy would be programs described in the calendar as delivering their curriculum either partially or fully in on-line formats. Please refer to details in individual program descriptions.

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