Jul 25, 2024  
School of Graduate Studies Calendar, 2024-2025 
School of Graduate Studies Calendar, 2024-2025

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

In addition to Masters and Ph.D. degrees McMaster University offers graduate programs that lead to one of the following:

Graduate Diploma

A Graduate Diploma is based on Graduate Degree Level Expectations (GDLEs) and prepares Students for employment requiring sound judgment, personal responsibility and individual initiative, in complex and unpredictable professional environments. Graduate Diplomas must include academic content equivalent to a minimum of four, three-unit (half) graduate courses at McMaster.

Academic Microcredentials

A designation of achievement of a coherent set of skills, competencies, or knowledge, specified by a statement of purpose, learning outcomes, and potential need by employers and/or in the community.

Academic Certificates

A Graduate Academic Certificate is a microcredential consisting of a program of study coherently organized around clear learning objectives. Graduate Academic Certificates must include academic credit courses equivalent to at least two, three-unit (half) graduate courses at McMaster.  

Specialized Pathways

Dual Degree

A program of study offered by two or more universities or by a university and a college or institute, including Institutes of Technology and Advanced Learning, in which successful completion of the requirements is confirmed by a separate and different degree/diploma document being awarded by each of the participating institutions.

Combined Degree

A program of study that combines two existing degree programs of different types. The combination may, for example, consist of two existing graduate programs, or a graduate and an undergraduate program. In most cases, the combination will involve at least one professionally oriented program. As students normally pursue one degree program at a time, and if two qualifications are sought, the degree programs would best be pursued consecutively.  

Concurrent Registration

Normally students are enrolled in a single full-time or part-time program of study. These programs can be offered in standard formats as well as combined, collaborative specialization, joint or dual programs or streams.

Additionally, with the permission of the graduate unit(s) and SGS, students may be simultaneously registered in more than one program. These are stand alone programs and not approved as combined options. A student may enroll in one program as full-time and the other as part-time, or in both programs on a part-time basis. Enrollment in two full-time programs will be considered on a case-by-case basis.  Students are responsible for the fees charged for both programs. Students may not be enrolled concurrently in more than one program that are also offered in a combined or joint format (MD/PhD, PhD/OT, PT, SLP)

Concurrent enrollment is different than combined, dual, joint and collaborative specialization programs as the two programs are pursued and distinct from one another. Academic work from one program may not be used to satisfy the requirements of another program and progression (or lack of progression) in one program does not impact the progression or standing of the other.


A customized program of doctoral study developed jointly by two institutions for an individual student in which the requirements of each university’s doctoral program are upheld, but the student working with supervisors at each institution prepares a single thesis which is then examined by a committee whose members are drawn from both institutions. The student is awarded two degree documents, though there is a notation on the transcripts indicating that the student completed his or her thesis under Cotutelle arrangements.

Joint Degree

A program of study offered by two or more universities or by a university and a college or institute, including an Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, in which successful completion of the requirements is confirmed by a single degree document.

Collaborative Specialization

An intra-university graduate field of study that provides an additional multidisciplinary experience for students enrolled in and completing the degree requirements for one of a number of approved master’s and/or PhD programs within the collaborative specialization. Students meet the admission requirements of and register in the participating (or “home”) program but complete, in addition to the degree requirements of that program, the additional requirements specified by the Collaborative Specialization.

For a complete listing of the programs offered please visit the School of Graduate Studies website, gs.mcmaster.ca

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.

The Associate Registrar and Graduate 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

Either a Faculty Graduate Admissions and Study Committee or an Associate Dean Graduate Studies Faculty are 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 or to the Associate Dean Graduate Studies 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 in accordance with the regulations established for degree progression. 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 Graduate Course Management Policy, 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 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.
  • Maintaining status as an active student including enrolment in the academic year or following any necessary procedures for an authorized break or leave of absence.
  • 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.
  • Be geographically available and visit the campus regularly which normally means multiple times per week; written permission from the department/supervisor is required for studies to be off campus. In all such cases, Full Time Off Campus status must be formally submitted to SGS. Note, some programs may have different requirements (e.g., online, clinical placements).

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, which acts as the official keeper of student records, within two weeks 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 .  If this period of time exceeds two weeks, the approval of the supervisor or in the supervisor’s absence a member of the supervisory committee is also required. 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 and pay the readmission fee. 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.