Regulations For MFA Students

This page describes the requirements, procedures, and spirit of the graduate programmes in Visual Arts. We believe that graduate work is a 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. 

CONTENTS

I. Responsibilities of the Candidate
II. Residence
III. Courses
IV. Theses and their Supervision
V. Program Streams
VI. Thesis Proposals
VII. Graduating Exhibition & Submission of Theses
VIII. Graduate Student Exhibitions at McIntosh Gallery
VIII. Appeals


I. Responsibilities of the Candidate

It is emphasized that the responsibility for following the rules found on this page, and the regulations of the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies 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

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.

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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 before submitting the Proposal. 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 a Supervisor 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 Chair. 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. Students in both streams should have completed a substantial, new body of work produced during the summer term. Ongoing funding is dependent upon this production and confirmation.

By October 1, the Supervisor 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 Supervisor 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. Program Streams

Thesis Streams

The MFA thesis requires an exhibition accompanied by a written component of approximately 35-50 pages in length and can be undertaken in one of two forms. In the monographic stream, students will pursue a single research subject and will organize the thesis into chapters focused around a central problem. 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 below). As with the monographic thesis, the thesis dossier will be submitted for examination by committee, in conjunction with the student’s thesis exhibition.

The components of the thesis dossier are:

  1. Introduction (3-5 pages) This contextualizes the dossier, introducing the reader to how each component relates to the student’s overall research project, and also forms the basis for the Abstract.
  2. Comprehensive Artist Statement (10 pages, incl. illustrations for reference if applicable), discussing the MFA candidate’s practice and related artistic concerns. This statement is expected to be developed over the course of the second year of the program and to effectively situate the student’s studio work in the context of sustaining research. It may include relevant artist’s practices or artworks, and it may consider theoretical, social, historical/political contexts deemed relevant to approaching and understanding the candidate’s work.
  3. Practice Documentation (10-20 pages, including all images and appropriate text).  This portion of the dossier will involve thorough professional documentation (still and/or time based visuals) appropriate to representing the student’s work. Visual documentation will be accompanied by written identification including title, dimensions, materials, date and a description/situation of the work represented. Normally, the work will be presented as a series of projects or a succession of works that represents the development of the student’s practice during the program with particular emphasis on its later stages, including the most recent work, which is shown in the thesis exhibition.
  4. Writing Practice Component. Students will complete one of the following, demonstrating the development of an evolved practice in writing, both options are subject to the approval of the Supervisor:
    1. A 2500-4000 word (10 - 15 pages) written Review of a recent exhibition/text/film. The review should be written in the style and format of a major art publication (such as Art Forum, Border Crossings, Frieze, Filip, Canadian Art, etc.) The project chosen for review should be relevant to the proposed publication context and to the MFA candidate’s art practice.
    2. A 2500-4000 word (10 – 15 pages) Case Study of a specific artist’s practice, or an artist’s project, modeled after a feature article in an art magazine, or a chapter in a book on a contemporary artist. The artist’s practice being written about is to be of relevance to the practice of the MFA candidate. 

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VI. Thesis Proposals

By March 31 of the first year of residence, all students must submit a Thesis Proposal to the Graduate Committee. Thesis proposals should clearly identify the stream the student intends to pursue and should outline the proposed thesis. The text of the proposal should be approximately four double-spaced pages (1000-1500 words), plus a bibliography. Normally, a bibliography relevant books, articles and other sources, such as catalogues and websites and is at least two pages in length. Bibliographies should follow the Chicago Manual of Style, Humanities format (see https://www.lib.uwo.ca/essayhelp/index.html).

The proposal should describe the proposed project and suggest an appropriate Supervisor from amongst the full-time faculty in the Department of Visual Arts. The student should have consulted with the faculty member in advance. The proposal will be evaluated by the Graduate Committee of the Department, which includes both Art History, Museum & Curatorial Studies, and Studio professors.

The Graduate Committee will review all thesis proposals. By early May, the Graduate Chair (or delegate) 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 a Supervisor agreed upon. By the end of May, the Graduate Chair will confirm with each student in writing the approved topic, and the Supervisor. Ongoing funding is contingent on this approval.

Monographic Stream

The proposal should include the following:

  • A working title for the project and the name of the suggested Supervisor (consult with this person first).
  • A brief description of the direction your studio research will take. This should include reference to material strategies, theoretical models and historical precedents, if applicable. You need not indicate in detail the type of studio exhibition you will produce, but the type of studio work you will engage in should be outlined.
  • A description of how the thesis will be broken down into chapters or sections. Although at this stage the Committee does not expect you to produce a table of contents listing chapter titles, you should be able to identify the main issues you plan to address. Indicate, also, the likely structure of your paper. Will the first chapter develop the historical and theoretical ground for your studio work? Will the second chapter relate the ideas developed in chapter 1 to your own work and the work of other artists? Clearly indicate your intended way of linking the text to your own studio production.

 

Dossier Stream

The proposal should include the following:

  • A working title for the project and the name of the suggested Supervisor (consult with this person first).
  • A brief description of the direction your studio research will take. This should include reference to material strategies, theoretical models and historical precedents, if applicable. You need not indicate in detail the type of studio exhibition you will produce, but the type of studio work you will engage in should be outlined.
  • A brief description of and rationale for the writing practice component you plan to undertake (review, case study, or interview). For instance, explain why writing a case study on a particular artist will be valuable for the development of your own practice, or identify which exhibition you plan to review and where you will submit your review for publication.

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VII. Graduating Exhibition & Submission of Theses

Student will develop a body of work begun in Studio courses. In consultation with their Supervisor, students 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 plan to hold their exhibition in the McIntosh Gallery please read through Section VII below. 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 Supervisor 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 Assistant and the Graduate Chair.

Submission Format
The text must be double-spaced and include a title page, an abstract, and a table of contents. Formatting of the text must follow SGPS formatting guidelines outlined here and the current Chicago style guide. Text is to be submitted to the Graduate Assistant (vagrads@uwo.ca), Graduate Chair, and Supervisor as email attachments in both PDF and docx file formats.

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VIII. Graduate Student Exhibitions at McIntosh Gallery

Proposal Guidelines

McIntosh Gallery welcomes proposals for Department of Visual Arts’ graduate student thesis exhibitions. With occasional exceptions, the east and west galleries are available each June for doctoral candidates in Art and Visual Culture and each August for MFA (studio) candidates. To be considered for these slots, students must make their application through the Visual Arts Graduate Chair in consultation with the McIntosh Gallery.

Students are required to submit their proposal to the Graduate Chair. Upon having their proposal accepted by the Graduate Chair, students will submit a detailed proposal to the Curator. Students are encouraged to meet with McIntosh curatorial staff to discuss their proposal and its relationship to the gallery’s mandate, curatorial objectives, and existing programming at least one year in advance for PhD students, and six months in advance for MFA students. The goal is to achieve a collaboration that is beneficial for both the student and the gallery.

McIntosh Gallery encourages proposals that include:

  • curriculum-generated student art work
  • contemporary art, including work made by new generation artists
  • art works from the McIntosh Gallery permanent collection
  • archival materials from Western Archives
  • material and visual culture other than works of art

 

McIntosh Gallery will maintain curatorial autonomy. Consequently, the Gallery reserves the right to decline a proposal if it is deemed not suitable for reasons that may include but are not limited to:

  • Exhibition conflicts with existing programming. Gallery programming must be understood as a trajectory with both a past and a future. Proposed graduate exhibitions may be declined for reasons that include repetition of content such as proposed artists or areas of curatorial or conceptual investigation that have been or will be the focus of recent or imminently upcoming McIntosh exhibitions, respectively.
  • Exhibition relies on works of art borrowed from other public institutions. The Gallery agrees to facilitate borrowing from the artists or their dealers only.
  • Exhibition includes live animals, plants, hazardous or toxic materials
  • Exhibition is beyond the capacity of the gallery or the student to mount effectively
  • Exhibition could potentially damage the reputation of McIntosh Gallery, Western University, the artists or other content providers
  • Cultural or racial insensitivity of the exhibition with respect to its subject matter

Timely Communications with McIntosh Gallery

Exhibiting at McIntosh Gallery provides students with an excellent opportunity for professionalization and learning about gallery best practices. Students are required to communicate with Gallery staff well in advance of their scheduled exhibition dates and must respond to email from gallery staff in a timely fashion throughout the process. Students must be willing to work with gallery staff to establish a realistic timeline in order to install the exhibition such that the quality meets both the student’s and the Gallery’s expectations.

Exhibition Budget

McIntosh Gallery provides in-kind support for student exhibitions, including gallery space, installation support (staff and basic materials), communications, and curatorial mentoring on request. The gallery will pay the cost of one opening or closing reception during each exhibition period. If two student exhibitions are scheduled at once, a shared reception will be organized.

The cost of exhibition production, transportation of artworks, framing and mounting, and any additional costs - including CARFAC fees in the case of curatorial projects - are the responsibility of the student and the Department of Visual Arts, as negotiated between the student and the Department Chair. All electronic equipment required for student exhibitions must be provided by the student or the department. Students should be aware that McIntosh Gallery does not budget for the purchase of equipment for graduate thesis exhibitions. The Gallery does not currently have the capacity to complete substantial fabrication of any additional single-use structures for individual exhibitions. If students require fabrication of structures required to realize their concept, they are responsible for having that fabricated and transported to site.

MFA and PhD (studio stream) students are not eligible to receive CARFAC exhibition fees for work that fulfills program requirements. 

Communications and Publicity

In the case of student-initiated curatorial projects, preliminary invitations to participate will be sent to the artists by the Gallery. The Gallery will be responsible for drafting letters of invitation and artists’ contracts.

For all student exhibitions, the Gallery will produce all communications materials related to the exhibition as part of our overall communications strategy. The gallery will assume the cost of all communications. At least three months in advance, students will provide a high-resolution image and a short text that will be used for communications. The gallery reserves the right to edit the text for length, clarity, and grammar. Any additional communications desired by the student must be approved by the Gallery, and the Gallery must be appropriately acknowledged.

Exhibition Programs

All exhibition programs (talks, tours, panel discussions, symposia etc.) must be organized in consultation and collaboration with the Gallery and scheduled at agreed upon times during the exhibition. Communications for such events and programs must be handled by the Gallery as part of our overall communications strategy. Any proposed partnerships with other artists or institutions must be approved by the Gallery.

Publications

Proposals for publications related to the exhibition, including online publications, websites, catalogues, brochures, invitations, posters and handsheets must be included in the original exhibition proposal. Final text must be submitted for approval by the gallery four months in advance of the exhibition.

Publications must meet the Gallery’s standards for image quality, copyright, and copy editing. Funding from outside sources for publications must be secured in advance. McIntosh Gallery is the publisher of all exhibition-related materials and holds copyright over the material. McIntosh will oversee the distribution and communications for any publication.

Installation

Curatorial stream PhD students will provide label copy and didactic text to curatorial staff at least two months in advance. While all students are required to meet with curatorial and preparatory staff to determine an installation plan at least one month in advance, curatorial stream PhD students in particular are responsible for determining how they want the work and didactic material to be installed.

Insurance

Western University’s insurance policy does not cover student art work. Students exhibit their work at the Gallery at their own risk.

Other

The Gallery will close to accommodate thesis defenses at a time agreed to by both the Department of Visual Arts and McIntosh Gallery. The Gallery reserves the right to temporarily close the exhibition at any time as required for gallery business.

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IX. Appeals

GUIDELINES TO ACADEMIC APPEALS FOR GRADUATE STUDENTS

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.

Composition:
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.

Term:
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.

Quorum:
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 http://www.uwo.ca/univsec/pdf/academic_policies/appeals/appealsgrad.pdf. Additional information and SRBA Appeal Applications can be obtained from the University Secretariat, Room 290, Stevenson-Lawson Building.

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