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Part IV: Policy Governing the Relationship Between Supervisor and Student
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Graduate Studies Calendar 2014-2015 Handbook of Supervision and Examination for New Students (Applicable to students admitted for Fall 2014 and beyond) Part II: Thesis-based Master's Degree
Part II: Thesis-based Master's Degree
Approved by Graduate Council April 2, 2009.
1.0 Selection of a Supervisor
1.1 General Advice to Students

All students must have either an interim advisor or an approved Supervisor at the time of first registration, and a permanent Supervisor no later than the second annual registration. It would help the student in program planning if the selection of a Supervisor were completed as quickly as possible. Students are encouraged to think about and select their areas of specialization as early as possible, and preferably before beginning the program.

1.2 Supervisor Selection

The initial selection of a Supervisor should be by mutual agreement between student and faculty member, and approved by the Graduate Program Director. Difficulties or conflicts in selecting or recommending a Supervisor should be referred promptly to the Dean by any of the persons involved.

1.2.1 Supervisor Eligibility Requirements

Continuity of supervision throughout a graduate program is important to a student’s success. Normally, faculty members with Continuing Board appointments in the professorial ranks are chosen as Supervisors. However, there are occasions when it is to the student’s advantage for a program to recommend the appointment of a Supervisor who does not have a Continuing Board appointment. For example, an individual who holds an appointment that is Specific Term (Contingent, Limited Term, Term Certain), Clinical or Adjunct, or Honorary, or has Emeritus status, or is from outside the University, may be appointed Supervisor. In cases such as these, the Faculty of Graduate Studies requires assurance that the proposed Supervisor will be able to provide continuity.

The proposed Supervisor must understand the commitment expected in terms of time and funding and be familiar with current graduate program and Faculty of Graduate Studies regulations. The Graduate Program Director must ensure that supervision will be provided for the probable time period required for the completion of the degree program.

If the proposed Supervisor is someone from outside the graduate program who does not have a Continuing Board appointment, a Co-supervisor must be appointed.

The Supervisor should be currently active in research in an area related to the student’s interest. Faculty members working on their own graduate degrees cannot be approved in any supervisory capacity without special dispensation from the Dean.

1.2.2 Conflict of Interest

The relationship between Supervisor and student is an academic one. Where other relationships exist or develop that might give the appearance of conflict of interest they must be immediately reported to the Graduate Program Director who can consult with an Associate Dean or the Dean if the Graduate Program Director is unable to resolve the situation. (See Graduate Studies Conflict of Interest Policy:

1.3 Appointment of Co-supervisor

In addition to those cases noted above in which it is required that a Co-supervisor be appointed, a Co-supervisor may be appointed by the Graduate Program Director upon the written recommendation of the Supervisor and agreement of the student. A postdoctoral fellow as defined in the Postdoctoral Fellow Policy may be appointed a Co-Supervisor.2

2The Postdoctoral Fellow Policy defines a PDF as "An individual, normally within 5 years of completion of a doctoral degree or 10 years of completion of an MD, DDS, DVM or equivalent, who is engaged in a temporary and defined period of mentored advanced training to enhance the professional skills and research independence needed to pursue his or her chosen career path." The Postdoctoral Fellow Policy mandates that "assistance with the supervision of graduate students" requires "the agreement of the Faculty Supervisor."

1.4 Supervisor or Co-supervisor from Outside the Department, Program, or Faculty

A Supervisor or Co-supervisor may be from a department, program, or faculty other than the student's home department, program, or faculty. The recommendation must be endorsed by the student. The faculty member's home program should be notified by the relevant Graduate Program Director whenever the faculty member is asked to supervise or co-supervise outside the home program. Such an "external" Supervisor or Co-supervisor must agree to be responsible to the Graduate Program Director of the student's home department in all matters related to the supervisory responsibilities.

1.5 Continuity of Supervision

Students are entitled to continuity of supervision. In the case of the resignation from the University, illness or death of the Supervisor, the Graduate Program Director must make immediate arrangements to provide continuity of supervision pending the appointment of a new Supervisor.

1.6 Supervisor Selection and Approval Deadlines

Regular students are required to have approved Supervisors within twelve months of initial registration. A student admitted as a special case admission must have an approved Supervisor before admission.

2.0 Responsibilities of Supervisors
2.1 Knowledge of Rules and Procedures

Supervisors should be familiar with the rules and procedures of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and program regulations and requirements.

2.2 Meetings between Student and Supervisor

A student and Supervisor have a shared responsibility to meet on a regular basis.

2.3 The Role of the Supervisor

The supervisor should act both as a general academic mentor, with emphasis on guidance, instruction, and encouragement of scholarship and research, and as a judge of the student's performance. Because of their own involvement in research and related professional activities, Supervisors should provide professional guidance and research stimulation to their students. A fundamental duty of the Supervisor is to impart to the student the skills necessary to plan and conduct original research.

Specifically, the Supervisor should:

  • Work with the student to establish a realistic timetable for the completion of the various requirements of the program of study; discuss with the student and establish mutual expectations for the student's vacation time (students are entitled to two weeks of vacation during the twelve month period, Visit the Academic Regulations for more details:;
  • Develop a relationship with the student conducive to research and intellectual growth;
  • Guide the student in the pursuit of knowledge and provide constructive criticism in support of the highest standards of research and professional development.
2.4 Participation of Supervisor in Thesis Preparation

The Supervisor is expected to provide frequent and prompt comments on drafts of the thesis and should attempt to be critically constructive and encouraging but the thesis must be the creation of the student.

2.5 Supervisory Provision for Leave of Absence

(Approved by FGS Council: June 4, 2009)

A program and Supervisor must ensure that the student is provided with adequate supervision during a Supervisor's leave, potentially through the appointment of an interim Supervisor. Students should be informed well in advance about the Supervisor's plans for forthcoming leaves of absence. With current means of communication, continued supervision while on a research and scholarship leave is the expectation for faculty members. These arrangements must be communicated in writing to the Graduate Program Director, who bears the responsibility for ensuring continuity of supervision for students in his/her graduate program.

2.5.1 Interim Supervisory Arrangements

When an interim Supervisor is appointed to cover a period of a Supervisor’s absence, the regular Supervisor retains final responsibility for the adequate supervision of the student. Faculty members approved as interim Supervisors must indicate in writing to the Graduate Program Director their willingness to accept responsibility for the day-to-day supervision of such students.

2.6 The Supervisor and Setting up Examinations

The Supervisor is responsible for scheduling the thesis oral examination.

2.7 Suggested Procedures in the Event of Problems between Graduate Students and Their Supervisors

Students should first try to resolve problems with Supervisors by talking to the Supervisor. Supervisory Committee members might be able to give helpful advice in this situation. Problems that are not resolved in this fashion should be discussed with the Graduate Program Director, and then the Department Head or equivalent. If it appears that a solution cannot be reached, the student and/or the Graduate Program Director may consult the Faculty of Graduate Studies for advice about a resolution to the matter.

2.8 Procedures for the Curtailment of Supervisory Duties

The Dean of Graduate Studies approves the initial appointment of a faculty member to supervisory duties. If a complaint is made against a Supervisor, the Dean will first discuss the matter with the Department Head or equivalent, and then with the faculty member concerned. The issue may be resolved informally. If the Dean decides that a more formal approach is needed to resolve the dispute, the Dean will inform both the Head and the faculty member of his/her conclusions in writing. If the result of the Dean's investigation is curtailment of the supervisory duties of the faculty member, the Dean will inform the faculty member in writing.

2.9 Requirements for a Master’s Supervisory Committee

A Supervisory Committee at the Master's level is not normally appointed unless required by the program or requested by the Graduate Program Director.

The Faculty of Graduate Studies will recognize a formal Supervisory Committee at the Master's level once an Appointment of Supervisor/Supervisory Committee form is filed. A Master’s Supervisory Committee will be governed by the rules applying to doctoral Supervisory Committees (see Article 3.0 in Handbook of Supervision and Examination Part III: Doctor of Philosophy / Doctor of Education Degree).

Members of a Supervisory Committee should provide support to both the student and the Supervisor by expanding the range of expertise and experience available to advise and assess the student. Members should provide constructive criticism and discussion of the student's ideas, methods and performance as the program develops; should be accessible to the student for consultation and discussion; should suggest other sources of information to the student; and must participate in examinations and in periodic meetings with the student and provide regular assessment of the student's progress as required by the program regulations.

3.0 Thesis Quality Requirements

Refer to the Thesis and Thesis Examination Regulations and administrative processes for more information:

4.0 Standards of Performance
4.1 Judgment of Student Performance

Supervisors and Graduate Program Directors must inform students on a regular basis about their academic progress. If a student's performance is judged to be below an acceptable level, this judgment should be expressed to the student formally and in writing at as early a stage in the program as possible. A student may be required to withdraw from the Faculty of Graduate Studies for reasons of "unsatisfactory progress" (see also section 5.3).

4.2 Annual Progress Report

The Supervisor and each continuing student must jointly submit an annual progress report on the student’s performance. This form must be signed by the Supervisor, the Graduate Program Director, and the student, and must be forwarded to the Faculty of Graduate Studies. The student must sign the report after the Supervisor and the Graduate Program Director have completed their comments to acknowledge that he/she has reviewed these comments.

5.0 Faculty of Graduate Studies Examinations
5.1 Faculty Examination Requirements

Care should be taken to distinguish between Faculty of Graduate Studies examinations and Departmental or Program examinations. The Faculty of Graduate Studies requires a final oral examination of theses. Visit: for more information.

5.3 Program Examination Requirements and Standards

Program requirements may include examinations that are in addition to the Faculty of Graduate Studies requirements. Programs are entitled to set their own standards of adequate performance in such examinations, provided these are not in conflict with Faculty of Graduate Studies standards. When a student fails to meet either Faculty or program standards, the program may recommend to the Dean of Graduate Studies that the student be required to withdraw (see also section 4.2).

5.4 Communication of Examination Requirements to Students

Programs should provide their students, as early as possible, with information about the precise nature and form of program examinations and tests.

6.0 Student Approval of Designated Area of Specialization

The format of the University degree parchment presented to successful candidates shows the degree, the department or area of study, and the approved area of specialization. Students should ensure that the approved area of specialization identified on the Notice of Thesis Oral Examination form is correct, before it is sent to the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

7.0 Convocation Clearance

The names of the candidates who have successfully completed the final thesis oral examination will not be added to the convocation list until the Faculty of Graduate Studies receives the thesis electronically and a Notice of Completion. Students will continue to be assessed continuing fees until cleared for convocation.

8.0 Transfers at the Master’s Level
8.1 Application for Change of Area of Specialization

A student requires approval of both the Graduate Program Director and the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies to transfer from one area of specialization to another, while remaining within the degree program.

8.2 Transfers from Thesis-based Master’s Degree to Course-based Master’s Degree

A student requires approval of both the Graduate Program Director and the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies to transfer from a Thesis-based Master's Degree to a Course-based Master's Degree.

9.0 Transfers to Doctoral Programs
9.1 Transfer from Master’s to Doctoral Programs

Program Heads may recommend outstanding Master's students for transfer to the doctoral program. Such recommendations must be endorsed by the proposed doctoral Supervisor and accompanied by the names of members of the proposed doctoral supervisory committee. The transfer must be approved by the Dean of Graduate Studies.

9.2 Course and Examination Requirements

Courses credited in the prior Master's program will be taken as fulfilling doctoral requirements where applicable, in accordance with program requirements for required doctoral course work. All students transferring from Master's to doctoral programs will be required to sit the doctoral candidacy examination.

9.3 Time Limits on Transfers

Transfers from Master’s to doctoral programs must be completed within 24 months of the student’s initial registration in the Faculty of Graduate Studies. All transfer students must attempt the candidacy examination within 36 months of first registration in the Faculty of Graduate Studies.