Regulations For PhD Students

This page describes the regulations of the doctoral program in Visual Arts. 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 programs, but we also believe that regulations that cogently articulate all the components of the programme, as well as capture its ethos and spirit, will serve as an effective guide for all parties to follow.


  1. Responsibilities of the Candidate
  2. Residency Requirements
  3. Supervisory Committees
  4. The Three Stages and the Three Streams of the Program
  5. Coursework
  6. Comprehensive 1: Minor Exams
  7. Comprehensive 2: Major Exam
  8. Comprehensive 3: Thesis Prospectus
  9. Thesis
  10. Application for Exhibitions
  11. Part-time Studies
  12. Appeals


I. Responsibilities of the Candidate

The responsibility for following the regulations on this page and those of the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (SGPS) rests on the candidate.
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II. Residency Requirements

The residency requirement is four years. The degree will normally take four calendar years to complete. No University or Department funding can be extended past this limit.
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III. Supervisory Committees

At the beginning of their program, each student will be assigned a full-time faculty Mentor who may or may not then become part of their Committee. Following the successful completion of the Minor in the fall of Year 2, the candidate along with Mentor and the Graduate Chair will discuss the composition of candidate's Committee. If needed, the Graduate Committee will also be consulted. The Committee will consist of three faculty members with the appropriate research expertise. One can be from outside the Department (including outside of the University). One of the members from the Department will serve as the Supervisor. At least one member of the Committee will have a PhD. In rare instances, upon approval by the Graduate Committee, there can be two Supervisors.
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IV. The Three Stages and the Three Streams of the Program

The following three stages are common to students in any of the three streams of the PhD: (A) Studio Stream; (B) Dissertation Stream; and (C) Curatorial/Project Stream.

Differences specific to each stream will be outlined whenever they arise throughout these regulations.

The (A) Studio Stream is tailored for practicing artists, it includes the development of studio work to be presented in public exhibitions and a written thesis. Each student in this stream has the right to a studio space throughout the four years of the program.

The (B) Dissertation Stream is aimed for students who want to concentrate on producing a lengthy written thesis or integrated series of articles.

The (C) Curatorial/Project Stream is adapted for students whose research is best suited to a curatorial or other hybrid projects and a written thesis. We are defining 'project' as a research outcome that might take different forms (e.g. an event, a publication, a website, etc.). The final version of the projects described in these guidelines are expected to be publicly disseminated.

Throughout, regular consultation with Mentor at first, and then Supervisor and Committee members regarding progress through these stages is expected.

The following gives an overview of the three stages, details on the milestones within them (including deadlines) are to be found in the sections that follow.

1) STAGE 1 - YEAR 1: Coursework to Comprehensive 1: Minor Exams

In the first year the student will primarily concentrate on coursework and preparation for the first of the Comprehensives: the Minor Exams.

2) STAGE 2 - YEARS 2 AND 3: Comprehensives 1-3: Minor and Major Exams to Prospectus

In the second year the student finishes their coursework, confirms their Supervisor and Committee, and undertakes the Minor Exams in the fall and the Major Exam in the winter. In the summer of Year 2, the third and final of the Comprehensives, the Thesis Prospectus, is being prepared.

During this two-year stage, Studio Stream students are expected to present at least one exhibition (or equivalent). These will be exhibitions of new work produced within the research program of the candidate. One may be presented in the artLAB and the other will be presented in a public gallery or artist-run centre as an exhibition, or equivalents such as a performance, screening or presentation. Group exhibitions (or equivalent) may be considered. For application procedure to the artLAB/Cohen Commons and the McIntosh Gallery, see section X below). The work exhibited will be professionally documented for inclusion in the image dossier of the written thesis.

During this two-year, Curatorial/Project Stream students are expected to present one research project of modest scale culminating in any one of the following (or combination thereof): the writing of an article of publishable quality, an exhibition, a symposium, film series or a performance. Where appropriate the event will be presented at a public gallery or artist-run centre. The project will be professionally documented for inclusion in the dossier that accompanies the written thesis.

3) STAGE 3: YEARS 3 AND 4: Prospectus Defense to Thesis Defense

In the summer of Year 2 the Thesis Prospectus is drafted. It is then presented at an oral defense in the fall of Year 3. If the Prospectus is approved, the student's status becomes ABD (All But Dissertation). They then work with their committee on the development of the thesis. This includes reading and commenting on the drafts of some chapters. There is no set number of rounds. It is mainly up to the Supervisor to guide the progress.

When there is a consensus that the student is progressing well and is ready to enter the final stage of the thesis writing, one committee member is appointed to be the Second Reader. The other committee member takes a step back for this final draft stage and serves as the committee examiner at the defense. The decision on who takes on what role is usually agreed upon within the committee but the Graduate Chair can be involved if necessary. The role of the Second Reader is to read through a complete draft and make a final set of recommendations. As part of that process they assess whether it is ready to be defended (once the recommendations are addressed). They do not serve as examiner at the defense. Once the draft has been revised based on the Second Reader’s comments, the Supervisor reads the entire draft one last time before approving its official submission to SGPS for the examination.
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V. Coursework

Students are required to take five half courses. Students will normally complete their course work by the end of the first term of the second year of residency.

VA 9600 (PhD Seminar: Theory and Research Methods) is the only required half course and will normally be taken in the first or second year of the Program, dependent upon a biannual rotation. Students taking the course in their first year will direct their course involvement, in part, towards preparing for the Minor Exams; students taking it in their second year will direct their time, in part, towards developing their literature review and theoretical framework for their Thesis Prospectus.

The remaining four courses will primarily be taken from the graduate courses offered by the Department of Visual Arts. One of these can be an internship offered by the Department of Visual Arts, for more info see: With the written permission of the Graduate Chair, and after consultation with their Mentor or Supervisor, a student may take one half course from another graduate program at Western.

Students who wish to produce studio work as part of their thesis should take the Grad Studio Elective or another studio-based course to fulfill one of their course requirements. This is to ensure studio work is open to critical assessment and to provide adequate background in studio-based research methodologies.

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 may receive an F in the course, and his or her registration in subsequent graduate courses (i.e. progression in the program) 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. This could result in cancellation of funding and progression (according to the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies guidelines).

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VI. Comprehensive 1: Minor Exams


The Minor Exam is a take-home, open-book test. It is scheduled in Year 2 of the student’s program. Students must complete the Minor Exam in the allotted time frame in early September. The questions will be released to the student at the start of their test.

By April 1 of their first year in the program, doctoral students will be sent the six reading lists of approximately 30 articles each (one book is considered the equivalent of four articles). PDFs of some of the articles will included and hard copies of books are available for loan from the Graduate Office or through Western’s Library catalogue. Please see the Program Assistant to sign out the required books. By June 1 students will notify the Program Assistant at which list(s) they have chosen.

Over the summer the student is expected to work through the list of required readings, contacting their Mentor regularly throughout the summer for assistance with any issues and to provide reports on their progress. It is recommended that these meetings be held regularly.

Dissertation Stream and Curatorial/Project Stream students will select two out of the six lists noted below. They will be given one question to answer for each list, and 48 hours per question to craft their responses, for a total of 96 hours.

Studio Stream students will select one list for which they have 48 hours to complete their response. This will comprise 50% of their Minor Exam requirement. The other 50% of Studio Stream students’ Minor Exam requirement will take the form of a critique (see below).

Each answer should be approximately 2000 words (not including footnotes or bibliography). The answer must be emailed in both pdf and docx formats to the Program Assistant at It is important to carefully structure and edit your response.

Please note: there are no extensions unless official accommodations are on file. Please ensure that you submit your response by the deadline. Failure to do so will constitute a failure to complete the Minor Exams.

Grading Process:

The written exams are graded by full-time faculty of the Department of Visual Studies. The process is anonymous: graders and students are not identified to each other.

Grading Criteria:

The student needs to answer the question and ought to offer in-depth analyses of the texts they have selected. They need to be able to identify the main issues relating to what is asked and discuss the most relevant texts—the ideas of the writers dealing with the issues the question targets need to be put into dialogue with one another. They can discuss their own research interests to illustrate the application of some of the theorists’ ideas, but the discussion of the writers on the list and their ideas should be the focus of the answer.

Grading Breakdown:

A terrific answer that covers all of the bases and makes an original argument in clear, fluid prose is an A+ or 90% or above.

A really good answer that perhaps misses a point or two that you would have expected and think necessary but is well written and nicely done is an A or 85% +.

A really good answer missing 3-4 points (like the kind above) would be a low 80s grade.

An adequate answer with some high points is a high 70s and still a pass.

Below 70% is a fail. This would be the case when an answer doesn't make an argument, has a poor sense of the field, and contains various mistaken assumptions, etc.

Any student failing the Minor (i.e. receiving a grade below 70%) will be allowed to sit one further Minor Exam the following January. In the event of a second failure, the student will be required to withdraw from the program.

Students are only allowed to fail (and re-sit) only one of the Comprehensives in the program: the Minor Exam, the Major Exam, or the Thesis Prospectus. In the event of a second failure in any of the three milestones, the student will be required to withdraw from the program.

The Minor Examination Reading Lists

  1. Cultural Difference, Postcolonialism, and Decolonization
  2. Cultures of Time and Space
  3. Gender and Sexual Difference
  4. Museums and Archives
  5. Practices, Processes, and Materials
  6. Visual and Material Culture



The student will present new work produced during the first year of the program. It is up to the student, in consultation with their Mentor, to decide the amount of work and style of display, as well as the location of the critique (typically within Visual Arts). At least a week in advance of the critique, the student will provide the Committee with a written artist statement of approximately 1000 words.

The Critique represents 50% of the Comprehensive and will be held in the fall after the written component. A minimal pass for the Minor Exam is 70%. Note that a grade of 70% or better on each of the written portion and crit portion must be achieved in order for a Studio student to achieve a Pass of the Minor Exam. The two grades (one for the written exam and one for the crit) will be averaged to achieve the final total for the Minor Exam for Studio students.

The Committee:

The Mentor and two additional full-time Faculty members (at least one of whom is Studio) will attend.

Procedure for the Critique:

  • The critique will be scheduled for 1 to 1.5 hours.
  • The student will speak about their work for ten minutes at the beginning of the critique.


Grading considerations:

  • Ambition and maturity of the work presented
  • Evidence of advancement in the practice, compared to work presented in the application for admission
  • Performance of the student in the critique (articulateness; capacity to respond to questions/situate the work; evidence of awareness of methodology)


Grading Process:

Following the critique, the Committee will discuss the Grade and attempt to arrive at a grade through consensus. Where this is not possible, each Committee member will provide the Grad Chair with a grade and the three will be averaged. At the discretion of the Committee, written feedback will be provided to the student, but this is not a requirement.
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VII. Comprehensive 2: Major Exam

As the student's research interests become more focused during through the first stage of the program, they will converge in the Major Exam that contains two components, a Literature Review and a Theoretical Framework. These are developed through coursework as well as discussions with Mentor, Supervisor, Committee, and other faculty.

The Major will be approximately 15 to 20 pages in length (not including bibliography).

Due to the Supervisor on March 1 of Year 2.

Alongside the above, in consultation with their Mentor or Supervisor, each student will formally declare which stream of the program they intend to pursue. The three streams are: (A) Studio Stream; (B) Dissertation Stream; and (C) Curatorial/Project Stream. They will include this declaration as part of what they submit for the March 1 deadline.

For Studio Stream students the Literature Review will include both theoretical as well as practice-focused texts and catalogues. It is expected that the Theoretical Framework will apply to the intended studio work as well as the intended paper.

The Major Exam is graded as a Pass/Fail by the candidate's committee. Any student failing a Major Exam will be allowed to resubmit a revised Major Exam within three weeks of receiving their grade. In the event of a second failure, the student will be required to withdraw from the program.

Students are only allowed to fail only one of the Comprehensives in the program: the Minor Exam, the Major Exam, or the Thesis Prospectus. In the event of a second failure in any of the three milestones, the student will be required to withdraw from the program.

Grading Process:

The Major Exam will be assessed by the student's Committee based on a Pass/Fail determination. The Committee will provide feedback on these elements, and the student will be expected to incorporate the feedback in further revisions that will eventually be incorporated into the Thesis Prospectus.

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VIII. Comprehensive 3: Thesis Prospectus

The Thesis Prospectus will include revised versions of the Literature Review and Theoretical Framework developed for the Major Exam in Year 2 (see section VII above). In addition, the student will be expected to add an Introduction, Chapter Outlines, a Methodology, and a Timeline. The entire Prospectus will be approximately 25 to 30 pages in length (not including bibliography).

Draft due to the Supervisor on June 1 of Year 2.

The Prospectus will outline the candidate's research program according to the guidelines established for the stream of the program they have selected. A bibliography organized to indicate which materials are pertinent to a candidate's larger research trajectory, and those that are specific to individual articles or exhibitions, must be provided.

In the Prospectus, the candidate will also formally declare which stream of the program they have selected. For those selecting the Studio Stream, the Prospectus will be developed as a written document and must include references to the student's work produced thus far in the program, and the work planned leading up to the Thesis Exhibition.

Oral Prospectus Defense:

Once a final draft of the Prospectus has been approved by the candidate's Committee, a date will be set for the candidate to orally defend their Research Prospectus during the fall of their 3rd year. This will take place at an open public presentation in the department (in-person, online, or hybrid). At least ten days before the meeting, the candidate will submit a final copy of their Research Prospectus along with a 500 word abstract to the Graduate Chair and Program Assistant (they will distribute to the full-time faculty).

For the presentation, the candidate will make a half hour oral presentation about their research/creative practice. Following the presentation, the candidate will take questions from the audience.

Grading Process:

After the defense the candidate's Committee will make one of three decisions: 1) pass with no conditions; 2) conditional pass pending minor revisions to be approved by their Committee; or, 3) fail.

A student who fails their Prospectus Defense will be allowed one further attempt to pass it. A student who fails a Prospectus Defense a second time will be required to withdraw from the program.

Students are only allowed to fail only one of the Comprehensives in the program: the Minor Exam, the Major Exam, or the Thesis Prospectus. In the event of a second failure in any of the three milestones, the student will be required to withdraw from the program.

A student who passes the Prospectus Defense is considered to have reached ABD status (All But Dissertation).

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IX. Thesis

Written Component (Studio Stream):

A written thesis of publishable quality (normally 80-100 pages in length not including bibliography or image documentation) will be presented alongside a dossier documenting the studio work, and other minor exhibitions or projects. This text will be comprised of a substantial integrating introduction plus chapters or a series of interrelated articles meeting the standards set in well-respected national or international peer-reviewed journals. The thesis must be formatted according to the SGPS guidelines:

Written Component (Dissertation Stream):

A written thesis of publishable quality (normally 200-250 pages in length not including bibliography or image documentation) will be presented. This text will be comprised of a substantial integrating introduction plus chapters or a series of interrelated articles meeting the standards set in well-respected national or international peer-reviewed journals. A creative component to the research (video, website etc.) may be carried out as a minor focus of the research. This component will be professionally documented for inclusion in the dossier that accompanies the written thesis. The thesis must be formatted according to the SGPS guidelines:

Written Component (Curatorial/Project Stream):

A written thesis of publishable quality (normally 100-150 pages in length not including bibliography or image documentation) will accompany the final exhibition (or event). This text will be comprised of a substantial integrating introduction plus chapters or a series of interrelated articles meeting the standards set in well-respected national or international peer-reviewed journals. The thesis must be formatted according to the SGPS guidelines:

Exhibition Component (Studio Stream):

A Thesis Exhibition will be presented in a recognized public gallery or an institution of equivalent stature as a publicized screening, performance or as a presentation. The exhibition will be publicized and professionally documented. Whenever possible, the Thesis Exhibition dates should coincide with the scheduling of the Public Talk and Oral Examination.

Exhibition Component (Curatorial/Project Stream):

The results of the research undertaken will be presented in a recognized public gallery or an institution of equivalent stature, or as a publicized screening, performance, publication, or presentation. The exhibition (or equivalent) will be publicized and professionally documented for the dossier.


Public Talk:

The candidate will present a synopsis of their thesis research at a publicly advertised talk lasting one hour that will immediately precede the oral examination.The talk will be introduced by the candidate's Supervisor (or designate).

Oral Examination:

The group of examiners who attend the oral examination consists of one member of the candidate's committee, one full-time faculty member of the Department, one full-time faculty member from Western outside of the Department, and one External. Reference: SGPS regulations

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X. Application for Exhibitions

Students are encouraged to apply for exhibition opportunities in any venue that is relevant to their practice. The options on campus are the artLAB/ Cohen Commons and the McIntosh Gallery. Each function differently, as outlined below. However, the deadline for applications to both is the same. For these venues, applications are generally for slots for the following calendar year.

Deadline for proposals: March 31.

Proposal Guidelines for Graduate Student Exhibitions at the artLAB or Cohen Commons

Please fill the application form for proposals here. The form is intended for exhibitions not directly connected to a course. It applies to both thesis and non-thesis exhibitions, and for both solo and group shows. Graduate students from all streams can apply. Priority will be given to thesis exhibitions.

PhD students in the Studio Stream are guaranteed an exhibition slot for their thesis exhibition (if there are no other options elsewhere). However, the scheduling of that slot is up to the Gallery Manager (in consultation with the Graduate Chair, and the Student's Supervisor).

Proposal Guidelines for Graduate Student Exhibitions at the McIntosh Gallery

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 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.


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.


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.


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


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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XI. Part-time Studies

The program is not normally offered on a part-time basis. However, students who are already fairly advanced in their studies may apply for part-time status for reasons of family, medical or other circumstances that make it impossible to devote full-time attention to the thesis, or in the case of related full-time employment in hand.

Applications for part-time status must come at least one month prior to the start of the semester for which part-time status is sought.

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XII. Appeals


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).


The Graduate Appeals Committee shall be composed of the following voting members.*

1) Two members selected from the Graduate Committee and one member from the full-time faculty

2) The Committee Chair shall be elected from among its members.

3) The Appeals Committee shall not include the Course Instructor or other directly concerned in the case, nor any other faculty member with a potential conflict of interest, or a perceived bias against the student placing the appeal.

3) The selection shall be made by the Graduate Chair in consultation with the Department Chair.

*The Graduate Appeals Committee is not a standing committee, it shall be struck if and when an appeal is filed.


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 should first submit a written appeal to the Graduate Chair via email. In cases where the original decision was made by the Graduate Chair, the Department Chair will step in as designate. The appeal must be made to the Graduate Chair (or designate) within four weeks of the date when the grade was officially reported, or when the matter under appeal occurred.

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, and 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 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. Or with the relevant faculty if it's a non-course related matter. For grades assigned to 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 appeals about the final grade in a course unless this first step has been taken.
  2. If completion of the first stage has not resolved the matter, the student may appeal to the Graduate Appeals Committee. For course-related matters, this will normally wait until final grades for the course have been released. The appeal must come within three weeks of the final grades release. 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.
  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:
    1. The Course Instructor will be shown the appeal letter and offered an opportunity to write a response;
    2. If work is to be re-graded, a faculty member, normally from the Department, competent in the area in question and who was not involved in the assignment of the original grade, will be appointed. The selected faculty member will consider the work in question and will re-grade the work. If there is a large discrepancy between the original grade and the re-graded one, a second grader may be appointed by the Appeals Committee. If the appointed graders arrive at a grade within ten percentage points 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.

The proceedings of the appeal are confidential, including all deliberations of the committee.

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 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 being 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 beyond the Departmental level 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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