Regulations For MFA Students

This document describes the requirements, procedures, and spirit of the graduate programmes in Visual Arts. We believe that graduate work is a very serious undertaking. All parties - students, faculty, support staff - must know what is expected of them and work in an atmosphere of collegial support and trust. Rules cannot run programmes, but we also believe that reasonable regulations must be laid down and adhered to. What follows applies to all programme students. The progression of those working part-time must be agreed upon by the student and the Graduate Committee.


I. Responsibilities of the Candidate
II. Residence
III. Courses
IV. Theses and their Supervision
V. Graduating Exhibition & Submission of Theses (MFA Candidates)
VI. Appeals

I. Responsibilities of the Candidate

It is emphasized that the responsibility for following the rules printed here, the regulations of the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies printed in the Calendar and the rules of the University Library regarding format of the thesis, rests on the candidate.
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II. Residence

The MFA will normally take two calendar years to complete. No University or Department funding will be extended past this limit. The formal residency requirement is six regular academic terms.
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III. Courses

All students will complete six half courses, usually four in the first year and two in the second. All Master’s students will take a core course 9500 in Theory and Methods in their first year.

During the course of their program, MFA students will normally be expected to take 9540a and 9541b (Graduate Studio Seminar) in both years. This means that they will take an elective half course in their first year. Furthermore, MFA students may opt to substitute an "optional" half course for either 9540a or 9541b in their second year. (To make such substitution, students should secure approval from their supervisor and the Graduate Chair.)

With the written permission of the Graduate Chair, and after consultation with the Graduate Committee, students may mix studio and art history options. Students may also substitute one half course from another graduate program at Western for one of the elective VA courses, after consultation with their supervisor and with the approval of the Graduate Chair.

Term Work
The following deadlines apply for the completion of term work in graduate courses:

(a) The second day of second term for half courses running through the Fall Term;
(b) May 15 for full courses running through the Fall and Winter Terms and for half courses running through the Winter Term;
(c) September 1 for summer courses.

Any instructor is entitled to set a deadline prior to those established by the Graduate Committee in Visual Arts, and it will have the same force and carry the same penalty as the Department deadline.

It is to the benefit of all students and faculty to have course work completed by the end of each course. Any student who has not submitted all required work by the deadline will receive an F in the course, and his or her registration in subsequent graduate courses (i.e. progression in the programme) will be subject to review by the Graduate Committee. Exceptions to this rule will be made only on medical or compassionate grounds that are established to the satisfaction of the Graduate Committee. Those intending to ask for extensions on such grounds should do so at least a week before the deadline.

Under exceptional circumstances, a student may ask an instructor for an Incomplete in a course. No incomplete may be carried beyond the end of the following term, including summer terms.

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IV. Theses and their Supervision

The First Year

In September of the first year, each student will be assigned a Faculty Mentor who, in addition to the Graduate Chair, will be the student's formal resource for academic matters. The Faculty Mentor will help the student formulate and present his/her plans for the thesis, including the selection of a Thesis Supervisor.

By the end of March of the first year of residence, all students must submit a Thesis Proposal to the Graduate Committee. This important document should be 1000-1500 words in length and should identify the stream the student plans to pursue and should outline specific plans for the thesis. Students must obtain approval for their choice of thesis stream from the proposed supervisor. Supervisors are responsible for directing the student's progression through the thesis while Second Readers (to be identified in the student's Second Year) can play a less active role as determined by the Supervisor in consultation with the student. The Second Reader must, however, read and approve a chapter of the thesis before it is submitted to the examining board. Failure to submit the thesis proposal on time will jeopardize the student's ongoing funding.

By April 15, the Graduate Committee will review all thesis proposals. By April 30, the Graduate Chair will write to or meet individually with all students who have submitted proposals. Suggestions from the Graduate Committee about the thesis will be discussed and an advisor agreed upon. By May 15, the Graduate Chair will confirm to each student in writing the approved topic, and the Supervisor. Ongoing funding is contingent on this formal approval.

The MFA thesis should be 35-50 pages in length. MFA students will consult with their assigned mentors and prospective supervisors and will choose to pursue one of two thesis streams. In the monographic stream, students will investigate a single research subject and will organize the thesis into chapters focused around a central problem. The thesis should demonstrate a critical engagement with relevant theoretical and historical texts that relate to the student's art practice. In the dossier stream, students will develop a dossier comprised of an introduction, a comprehensive artist statement, documentation of the artistic practice, and a writing practice component (outlined in more detail on a separate handout available from the Graduate Assistant). In both streams, the written thesis will be submitted for examination by committee, in conjunction with the student's thesis exhibition.

The Second Year

No later than September 1 of the student's second year, a substantial portion of the thesis must be received by the student's Supervisor, who must confirm in writing its receipt to the Graduate Committee. MFA students in the monographic stream are expected to submit 16 new pages and present a substantial, new body of work produced during the summer term. MFA students pursuing the thesis dossier stream are expected to submit the writing practice component (case study, interview, or exhibition review) of the dossier and present a substantial, new body of work produced during the summer term. Ongoing funding is dependent upon this production and confirmation.

By October 1, the advisor must supply the student and the Graduate Committee with a written assessment of this draft, noting the work accomplished and plans for what lies ahead in the thesis. By January 1, MFA students are expected to submit either a final 16 pages of the written thesis (monographic stream) or their comprehensive artist statement (dossier stream) to their Supervisor. By April 30 of the student's second year, the thesis should be substantially complete in draft form; MFA students, whose written draft will mainly have been completed by January, should be in the final stages of the production of their Studio exhibition (note that approximately half of the exhibition may have been produced in the context of coursework). A second written assessment from the advisor must be given to the student and the Graduate Committee at or before this time. For MFA students intending to complete in the spring, a letter indicating their readiness to exhibit their work must be written to the Graduate Chair a full two months prior to the opening of the exhibition. Ongoing funding is dependent upon the fulfillment of the foregoing requirements.

Thesis Length: MFA theses should be 35-50 pages.

Timeline of important deadlines:

Year 1

 September 1 March 30 May 15
Assigned a Mentor   Submit thesis proposal Confirmation of thesis stream, topic and supervisor.

Year 2

September 1 January 1 April 30
Submit first portion of thesis MFAs - writing practice component or one chapter. MFAs submit comprehensive artist statement or second chapter Written thesis should be substantially complete in draft form. MFAs should be in the final stages of production for thesis exhibition and should make arrangements for venue.

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V. Graduating Exhibition & Submission of Theses (MFA Candidates)

The student will develop a body of work begun in Studio courses. In consultation with his/her supervisor, s/he will apply for an exhibition date and space. The examiners will be invited to view the exhibition at least one day prior to the scheduled oral presentation of the exhibition. The MFA thesis, which articulates the research undertaken and which has been produced along with the work presented in the exhibition, will be submitted at least one month before the exhibition.

It is imperative that MFA candidates plan ahead in order to coordinate the timing of their MFA exhibitions and thesis defense. Ideally, the exhibition should be up when the thesis goes to defense. It is expected that those students intending to graduate will inform their supervisor of their intentions at least three months prior to the deadline for submitting the names of the examining board. That means if you intend to graduate in the spring, you will meet with your supervisor not later than the end of December and if you plan to graduate in the summer, you will meet with your supervisor not later than the end of May. At the meeting with your supervisor a substantial portion of the thesis (i.e. 20-25 pp. of text) and a substantial amount of work produced for the exhibition will be reviewed. Should the student's studio production be of such a nature as to preclude the presentation of a 'substantial amount produced for the exhibition,' then a presentation of substantial 'sketches', plans and proposal documents indicating the student's readiness to exhibit should be made. At this point the student should also be prepared to discuss the relationship the two shall have in their final form. The supervisor, in consultation with the second reader, shall determine whether or not the work is of sufficient quantity and quality to proceed working towards the convocation deadlines.

Once the work has been approved, students should start planning for their graduating exhibitions. If they plan to hold their exhibition in the ArtLab, they should immediately notify the ArtLab Steering Committee so that an appropriate date can be scheduled. If they are planning to hold their exhibitions elsewhere, they must select a venue that is reasonably accessible to all members of the examining committee. If the student is not planning to exhibit in the ArtLab and an 'outside venue' has not been arranged, they should indicate their plans for securing a space. They should also be prepared to provide details about alternative arrangements, should the need arise.

Both the student and the advisor should immediately notify the Graduate Chair as soon as a decision is made to proceed towards the graduating show and thesis defense. At that time the supervisor and student should agree on a series of possible dates for the thesis defense, bearing in mind that all examiners must be given a finished copy of the thesis at least three weeks prior to the defense. This list of dates must be communicated to the Graduate Chair.

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VI. Appeals


Graduate Appeals Committee (a subcommittee of the Graduate Committee)

Terms of Reference:
1) To ensure that a written set of appeals procedures is available to students.
2) To hear and process requests for academic appeal made by a graduate student against a final grading decision when a satisfactory resolution with the Course Instructor is not reached in the first stage (see “Stages in the Appeal Process” below).
3) In the event of any appeals, the Chair of the Graduate Appeals Committee (or designate) will produce a short annual report summarizing the year’s activities. This report will be submitted to the first department meeting of the fall semester.

The Graduate Appeals Committee shall be composed of the following voting members.
1) Members elected by the Graduate Committee (4 fulltime members and two alternates)
2) The Chair shall be elected from among its members.

One-two years renewable for elected faculty members. One year renewable for student member[s] whose voluntary membership will be solicited by the Graduate Appeals Committee.

Three committee members.

Appeal Procedures:
An appeal is a request for an exemption from a Senate regulation or a ruling of a program, instructor, or administrator in academic matters; or a request that a grade on a particular piece of work or examination, or a final standing in a course or program be changed. If the matter relates to a course, the student must attempt to resolve the matter with the course instructor and if unsuccessful may appeal to the Graduate Chair (or designate). If the matter does not relate to a course, the student normally will submit a written appeal to the Graduate Chair in the first instance. In cases where the original decision was made by the Graduate Chair, the student should consult his or her program regarding the appropriate appeal procedure within the program. An appeal must be made in writing to the Graduate Program within three weeks of the date when the grade was officially reported, or when the ruling was made by a program, instructor, or administrator in academic matters.

NOTE: The outcome of an appeal may result in an increase, decrease, or no change in the grade under appeal.

Grounds for Appeal:
The grounds for an appeal may be one or more of: medical or compassionate circumstances, extenuating circumstances beyond the appellant's control, bias, inaccuracy or unfairness. Ignorance of Senate regulations and policies and particular program requirements and policies as set out in the University's Academic Calendars does not constitute grounds for an appeal. Students wishing to file an appeal must submit in writing the matter under appeal, the grounds of appeal, a clear and detailed explanation of those grounds, including all supporting documentation, and the relief requested.

The Department of Visual Arts does not view the appeals process as an opportunity for students to solicit a second opinion on a grade assigned to a particular piece of work. Appeals must pertain to the final grade in a course, and will only be entertained if sufficient grounds for appeal can be met. Grounds for an appeal must be based on circumstances that extend beyond a student's mere concern or disappointment with their grade standing. The committee must be able to ascertain that the circumstances surrounding the assessment were flawed and therefore that the grade itself may be shown to be flawed.

Stages in the Appeals Process:
1. The first stage of the process is a discussion of the disputed grade with the appropriate Course Instructor.

For grades assigned to individual assignments, essays, and projects completed throughout the term, the student first must appeal to the Instructor of the course, within three weeks of the date on which the Instructor returned the assignments to the class. The Appeals Committee will not hear any further appeals about the final grade in any course unless this first step has been taken.

2. If completion of the first stage has not resolved the matter, the student may appeal the final grade in the course to the Graduate Appeals Committee.

Appeals of final grades must be within the time frame indicated in the Graduate Calendars. It is the student's responsibility to ensure that the appeal is submitted within the deadline. The student shall submit a formal letter to the Graduate Appeals Committee outlining the grounds for the appeal, the remedy sought and relevant materials. If the appeal involves a request for work to be re-graded, the original marked work and a clean copy (if possible) must be included. In the case of studio-based work the original project and/or detailed documentation must be submitted. If the appeal is commenced once the deadline has passed, it will not be considered by the Graduate Appeals Committee nor by the Department Chair.

3. The Graduate Appeals Committee has the discretion to determine whether the grounds for appeal have been met.

If the Committee deems that the reasons for the appeal are not legitimate, the Department Chair will be informed. The appeal will be terminated and the student will be informed.

4. If the Committee decides that the grounds for appeal have been met, the following steps will be taken:

a) The Course Instructor will be shown the appeal letter and offered an opportunity to make a written response;

b) If work is to be re-graded, a reader or studio art critic normally from among Department faculty will be appointed who is competent in the area in question and was not involved in the assignment of the original mark. The reader/critic will consider the work in question and will arrive at an independent evaluation. If there is a large discrepancy between the original mark and the re-graded mark, a second reader/critic may be appointed by the Committee. If the appointed reader(s) and/or critics arrive at a grade within five marks of the original, the original grade will stand.

5. The Graduate Appeals Committee will review the evidence and will make a recommendation on the case to the Department Chair.

The Department Chair will consider the recommendation from the Graduate Appeals Committee, and will make a decision. The student and the instructor will be notified promptly and in writing by the Department Chair of the decision and of the change in grade, if any. Within the Department of Visual Arts, the Department Chair’s decision on the matter is final.

A student can appeal to the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies) (or designate) only if s/he has undertaken an unsuccessful appeal process at the program level but the student should carefully consult the guidelines regarding such Appeals.

An "Application for an Appeal to the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies," which also provides information on appeal procedures, must be used by students appealing to the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies). This application and all supporting documents must be submitted to the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies within three weeks of the date the Graduate Program's decision is issued. An appellant who is not satisfied with the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies)' decision may have a further appeal to the Senate Review Board Academic (SRBA) if the matter is within SRBA's jurisdiction. Appeals to SRBA must be made within six weeks after a decision has been issued by the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies). Information on appeals to SRBA can be found at Additional information and SRBA Appeal Applications can be obtained from the University Secretariat, Room 290, Stevenson-Lawson Building.

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