7. Degree Requirements

The upper time limits for program completion represent the period of time graduate students have to complete the requirements of their program without requesting an extension. If an extension is required, students can submit their request via the Progress Report tab in the Graduate Student Information System (GSIS).

The upper time limit for the completion of a program is based on either the full-time program fee duration (program fee) or total credit hours (per-course fee) required in the program, as well as the status (full-time or part-time). Program fee durations can be found in Section 2.4.1.

PhD Programs:

Program Fee Duration (status) 
Upper Time Limit
All PhD Programs (full-time) 6 years
All PhD Programs (part-time, if offered)  8 years

Program-Fee Master's Degrees, Diplomas, Certificates:

Program Fee Duration (status)            
Upper Time Limit
12 months or less (full-time) 4 years
12 months or less (part-time) 5 years
16 to 36 months (full-time) 5 years
16 to 36 months (part-time) 7 years
40 months or more (full-time) 7 years
Combined Degrees (full-time) 7 years

Per-course Fee Master's Degrees, Diplomas, Certificates:

Total Credit Hours Required              
Upper Time Limit
3 to 18 credit hours 2 years
21 to 33 credit hours (full-time) 4 years
21 to 33 credit hours (part-time) 5 years
36 to 63 credit hours (full-time) 5 years
36 to 63 credit hours (part-time) 7 years
66 or more credit hours (full-time) 7 years
Combined Degrees (full-time) 7 years

7.1 Maximum Time for Degree Completion and Extensions

Under exceptional and well documented circumstances, such as an approved Leave of Absence or Parental Leave, the upper time limits for completion of degrees may be extended to a maximum of 10 years from the initial term of registration in their program (inclusive of any leaves or periods withdrawal/lapsed registration). After 10 years, students will normally be required to apply again for admission to that program with a program completion plan in place (see Section 5.5.3). Students admitted under this clause may be required to complete additional coursework and will be assessed fees and full tuition commensurate with a new incoming student.

7.2 Program Requirements

Every graduate student must have an individual program of study approved by their graduate coordinator and submitted for final approval to the Faculty of Graduate Studies. By the end of the student’s first term, the academic unit will enter and approve the proposed program (with the total number of credits required, the titles and numbers of all courses required, including ancillary courses and any other requirements and conditions) in the Graduate Student Information System (GSIS). Once approved by the graduate coordinator, the program requirements in GSIS constitute an agreed upon contract between the student and the university on the requirements for the degree and are used by the Faculty of Graduate Studies to audit the student's file for graduation. Any changes to the approved program requirement must be agreed to by the graduate coordinator and the Faculty of Graduate Studies by way of an update to the existing requirements already approved in GSIS.

7.3 Annual Progress Report

Every thesis-based graduate student is required to submit an annual progress report in the Graduate Student Information System (GSIS). Annual progress reports must be approved by the student's supervisor and graduate coordinator. The approved report is due on an annual basis, one month before the anniversary of the student’s admission date. Failure to submit this report may result in delays in registration and funding. Occasionally, students are required to submit progress reports more than once a year.

Students who have external funding administered by the university must submit an annual progress report to maintain scholarships.

Any student who requires an extension to their program must submit a progress report.

7.4 Requirements for the Master’s Degree

7.4.1 Thesis-based Master’s Degrees

Thesis-based Master’s degrees include MArch, MASc, MCSc, MES, MPS including thesis options available in the LLM, MDE, MDI, MHA, MI, MSW, and most MA and MSc programs. The course of study may include courses, seminars, preparation of fields of study, comprehensive examinations, demonstrations of foreign language proficiency, a thesis, and oral presentation and defence of the thesis.

Requirements vary considerably from program to program, and even within the same program, depending on the student’s previous experience and qualifications.

7.4.2 Course-based Master’s Degrees

Course-based Master’s degrees include the MACSc, MBA, MDE, MEng, MFA, MIM, MJ, MMM, MN, MPA, MPAS, MPerio, MPlan, MREM, including non-thesis options available in the LLM, MDE, MDI, MHA, MI, MSW, and certain MA and MSc programs. The number of courses varies from program to program and a graduate research project is often required.

7.4.3 Specialty and Mid-Career Master’s Degrees

A number of Master’s degrees have been developed to meet specific needs and demands for graduate education in commerce, public service, and industry. Some, but not all, of these programs are degrees designed for mid-career professionals. These are primarily course-based programs with some component of work and professional experience (either as part of the program or as pre-requisites for admission). All or part of these courses may be offered in a distance education mode. They currently include the MBA (Career Advance), MDI, MEng (Internetworking), MFA (Creative Non-Fiction), MFA (Fiction), MIM, MJ, MN (Professional Stream), MPA (Management), MPlan, and certain MSc programs.

7.5 Requirements for the Doctoral Degree

A candidate must demonstrate the ability to carry out research of high quality leading to an advance of knowledge in a specific area of study. The candidate’s course of study will be initiated with the advice and direction of a supervisory committee (see Section 9.3).

The program of study may include courses, seminars, comprehensive examinations, qualifying examinations, preparation of fields of study, demonstrations of foreign language proficiency, and any other requirements considered necessary for the clear demonstration of post-Master’s-level comprehension, scholarship, and ability in the candidate’s particular area of study.

Comprehensive exams are typically taken after all coursework is completed. Doctoral programs require completion of a thesis and oral defence.

7.6 Modification of Degree Requirements

Modification of the official degree requirements outlined within this calendar must be approved by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Requests for modification are submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies by the program on behalf of the student and will only be considered for one of the following reasons:

7.6.1 Advanced Standing (Course Substitution)

Within the first academic term of a student’s program, the academic unit may request the substitution of required core courses or required listed electives (X credit hours from a list of specific electives) with an alternative course based on advanced knowledge/experience already possessed by a student. Examples may include specialization at the undergraduate level or extensive work experience/professional training, which provides advanced competency in a given area. The substituted course is intended to provide advanced-level training in a similar competency or to enable a student to diversify their course selection. Advanced standing does not reduce the overall credit hour requirements of the degree.

7.6.2 Advanced Placement (Degree Requirement Exemptions)

Within the first academic term of a student’s program, a student may request advanced placement based on graduate-level courses previously completed within a conferred undergraduate or graduate program at Dalhousie University or previously completed via an active Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). To be eligible, the courses must be comparably equivalent to graduate courses within the student’s proposed graduate program at Dalhousie University. A passing grade on the Faculty of Graduate Studies grading scale is required for advanced placement consideration. Approved advanced placement courses reduce the overall course requirements of a Dalhousie graduate program. Application for advanced placement must be made within the first term following admission and must be approved by the graduate coordinator and the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Credits completed outside of Dalhousie University (Memorandum of Understanding, Letter of Permission (LOP), and transfer credits) cannot usually exceed 33% of the program’s overall course requirements (excluding thesis). Courses must have been completed within 10 years of the first academic term of a student’s program. Unless explicitly identified within the academic calendar entry of the graduate program, advanced placement for graduate credit hours completed as part of a previous conferred degree at Dalhousie University may not normally exceed 50% of the degree requirements within the new graduate degree.

7.6.3 Transfer Credit

Transfer credit allows for graduate-level courses completed outside of the student’s program at another institution before they begin their graduate studies at Dalhousie University to be used as part of the student’s degree requirements. These courses may have been completed as part of a conferred degree. Credits completed outside Dalhousie University (advanced placement via Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), Letter of Permission (LOP), and transfer credits) cannot normally exceed 33% of the student’s overall course requirements (excluding thesis). Application for transfer credits must be made within the first academic term of the student’s program and must be approved by the graduate coordinator and the Faculty of Graduate Studies. An original transcript and course equivalency is required. Courses must have been completed within 10 years of the first academic term of a student’s program.

7.6.4 Modification of Doctoral Degree Requirements

The credit hour requirements for a Doctoral degree (excluding comprehensive examinations, thesis and defense) may be reduced by up to 50% of the normal requirements detailed within the calendar with approval of the graduate coordinator, unless explicitly noted within the program entry. These reductions will be reflected in the individual student program requirements listed in the Graduate Student Information System (GSIS) and must be finalized within the first academic term of registration of the Doctoral program.

Any reductions in course requirements below 50% of the normal degree requirements must be approved by the Faculty of Graduate Studies before being submitted in GSIS.

7.7 Courses and Grades

Courses are assigned a specific number of credit hours and may be designated by the candidate’s committee as required, elective, or ancillary. In all cases, a pass mark is B- or higher.

7.7.1 Course Assessment and Grading Policy

All course assessments follow the Grading Practices Policy.

Students will be provided with a course outline (syllabus) by the instructor at the first meeting of the class. Changes to the outline that affect assessment components, the weight of individual assessment components, or examination requirements with a value of 10% or more must have the approval of at least two-thirds of enrolled students in order to be valid.

When collaboration is included as part of course expectations, as in group projects or group assignments, the instructor will provide in the course outline a statement of the degree of collaboration permitted in preparation and submission of assignments.

Course examinations may be oral, written (closed or open book) under supervision, take-home or a combination.

Within four weeks of the beginning of each term, course outlines must be placed on file with the appropriate home academic unit.

The official grading system at the university is a letter-grade system.

All instructors of graduate courses (e.g., designated 5000 and above), with the exception of a few courses for which a pass/fail grading scheme has been approved, will use the following grading scheme:

Grade  Grade Point Value  %  Definition 
F 0.00 0-69  
INC 0.00   Incomplete
W Neutral and no credit obtained   Withdrew after deadline
ILL Neutral and no credit obtained   Compassionate reasons, illness
IP Neutral   In progress
P Neutral   Pass
TR Neutral   Transfer credit on admission
Pending  Neutral   Grade not reported
CR GPA neutral grading option due to extenuating circumstances   Credit obtained (requires a minimum passing grade in the course)
NCR GPA neutral grading option due to extenuating circumstances   No credit obtained

Please see Section 7.7.9 for information on in-progress and multi-term grades.

The date for the submission of grades is set annually by the Senate Learning and Teaching Committee in conjunction with the Dalhousie Academic Dates for that year and will normally be between seven and ten calendar days from the final day of the exam period. The date will be based on three principles:

  1. Transparency and timeliness for students to allow for informed course planning and registration in future terms before the term starts;
  2. Appropriate time for instructors to enable the effective and appropriate grading of examinations and term assignments; and,
  3. Adequate time to provide necessary services to students to enable timely academic standing assessments, advising, and convocation approvals.

The final possible date for the submission of grades will be published along with the Dalhousie Academic Dates for each academic year.

Correction of Errors in Recorded Grades

Students must request correction in the calculation or recording of final grades by:

Fall term courses   February 1
Winter and regular session (September - April) courses   June 1
May - June courses   August 1
May - August courses   October 1
July - August courses   October 1
Reassessment of a Final Grade

Students who have concerns about final grades are encouraged to first discuss them with the course instructor. In addition, students are advised to consult the graduate coordinator, head of the academic unit, a student advocate with Dalhousie Student Advocacy Service (DSAS), the Associate Dean of Students in the Faculty of Graduate Studies, or the ombudsperson. If their concerns cannot be resolved, students may also use the formal process that follows for the reassessment of final grades. Once a final grade has been submitted to the Registrar, a student who wishes to have a final grade reassessed should make a written request to the Registrar and pay the requisite fee of $50 per course. Such requests must be made by:

Fall term courses   March 1
Winter and regular session (September - April) courses   July 1
May - June courses   September 1
May - August courses   November 1
July - August courses   November 1

The reassessment will be conducted according to procedures developed for this purpose. If the reassessment changes the grade (higher or lower) from the original, the new grade will replace the original one and the $50 will be refunded.

Pass Standard

Faculty of Graduate Studies regulations stipulate that graduate students must achieve a minimum grade of B- in all courses completed as part of their certificate, diploma, or degree program. A lower grade will be recorded as a failure (F). For the majority of graduate programs, a student who fails to meet these requirements in any term is immediately and automatically dismissed from the program. Some programs allow for students to carry a failing grade for one course without automatic dismissal. In these programs, a second failing grade will result in immediate and automatic dismissal. These programs currently include: MACSc, MArch, MASc in engineering disciplines (except Biomedical Engineering), MBA, MCSc, MDI, MEng, MI, MIM, MPA, MPA-MGMT, and MScOS. Please see Section 10 regarding thesis examinations for additional information.

A dismissed student may apply to the academic unit for reinstatement (see Section 5.4 and Section 5.5). Reinstatement to a program after a dismissal must be supported by the graduate coordinator and approved by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. If reinstated, a failed core course must be repeated. Electives may be repeated or replaced at the discretion of the academic unit. If reinstated, any subsequent “F” will result in a final program dismissal. Note academic dismissal and reinstatement will be permanently recorded on the student’s transcript.

7.7.2 Ancillary Courses

An ancillary course is an undergraduate or graduate level course recommended by an academic unit as advisable additional background to a graduate degree program but not specifically required for that program. The pass grade in ancillary courses is the same as for all graduate course requirements (B- or higher). Ancillary courses must be listed in the Graduate Student Information System (GSIS) but do not count towards the required number of courses for the graduate program. Normally, students are limited to 6 credit hours of ancillary courses during their program.

Students are not permitted to register for undergraduate or graduate courses that are not part of their program requirements, unless they do so as a “Special Student Undergraduate” (SSUG) or "Special Student Graduate” (SSGS) with program and Faculty of Graduate Studies approval. Courses taken as an SSUG or SSGS must be admitted, registered, and paid for separately. SSUG or SSGS courses will not be included as part of the student’s graduate program as ancillary courses.

7.7.3 Audits

Students may audit up to 6 credit hours in each academic year. Audits must be listed as program requirements in the Graduate Student Information System (GSIS), must be relevant to the student's program of study, and must have academic unit and Faculty of Graduate Studies approval. For program fee students, audits not approved as part of their program of study will be subject to additional tuition. Per-course fee students will be charged the normal audit tuition for each audit registration. Audits cannot be taken on a Letter of Permission (LOP) and will not be approved as part of a qualifying program

7.7.4 Independent Study, Directed Readings, and Special Topics Courses

Students enrolled in programs requiring 30 credit hours or less of coursework may not register for more than 6 credit hours of independent study, directed readings, or special topics courses (combined). This maximum is increased to 9 credit hours for programs requiring 31 to 45 credit hours of coursework, and 12 credit hours for programs requiring more than 45 credit hours of course work. Registration in each case requires written approval of the graduate coordinator of the unit. If students are registering for more than one independent study, directed readings, or special topics courses, they must be sure to register in different course numbers so that courses do not appear as repeats. Note that some academic units place lower limits on the number of independent study, directed readings, or special topics courses permitted within their programs. Course information for independent study, directed readings, or special topics courses is to remain with the academic unit and follow Dalhousie University’s Syllabus Policy.

7.7.5 Letters of Permission

Credit courses at recognized universities approved by the academic unit (after examination of course descriptions) and Faculty of Graduate Studies can be taken at other universities as part of the graduate degree program provided the course is not available at Dalhousie.

Students with no holds on their registration may receive permission to take courses for credit at another university. For the Letter of Permission (LOP) form and guidelines, see the Faculty of Graduate Studies website.

Courses taken at another post-secondary institution must appear in the Graduate Academic Calendar, be graduate-level, and be affiliated with a graduate degree from a recognized institution to be considered for credit. Courses that are linked to a professional development certificate or non-academic program resulting in a certificate of completion rather than an official post-secondary institution transcript cannot be considered for credit.

Students may not take courses outside Dalhousie for graduate credit unless prior approval has been formalized via the Letter of Permission (LOP) process.

The maximum number of courses taken outside Dalhousie University shall normally be confined to 33% of the course requirements, except in cases where a university-level agreement, governing specific cooperative arrangements, has been negotiated and is in operation.

The regulations governing grading policy (see Section 7.7.2) apply to courses taken at other institutions (e.g., C+ on a graduate course taken elsewhere will be deemed an “F” in the student's program and will render them liable to academic dismissal). Students who fail a course may not replace that course with a LOP except by special permission from the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Program fee students must be registered at Dalhousie and have paid appropriate fees before receiving approval.

Per-course fee students are responsible for paying fees for courses taken outside Dalhousie.

(i) Credit courses at Canadian Universities

Dalhousie will normally pay the tuition for students who pay a program fee to take courses offered at other Maritime universities, to the equivalent cost of a Dalhousie course, provided the course is not available at Dalhousie. Any charges above that amount are the responsibility of the student. The tuition for an approved course taken at a university outside the Maritimes is the responsibility of the student.

(ii) Credit Courses at Non-Canadian Universities

Grades received at an international institution will be recorded on the student’s Dalhousie record as either “Pass” or “Fail”. The tuition for an approved course taken at a university outside the country is the responsibility of the student.

(iii) Graduate International Exchange and Study Abroad Programs

A number of graduate programs enable Dalhousie University students to pursue part of their studies in another country. These are coordinated by the Study Abroad and Exchange Advisor in the International Centre. Additional information is available on the International Centre website.

7.7.6 Withdrawal from Courses

The last dates for adding and dropping courses are published in the schedule of Academic Dates in the Calendar. For fee implications, see the refund schedule on the Money Matters website.

Students may not transfer from full to part-time status by withdrawing from courses after the deadlines listed in the schedule of Academic Dates.

All regularly scheduled courses may be added or dropped at www.dal.ca/online by the deadline listed in Academic Dates. Special dates and processes apply to Open Learning courses.

Please note that dropping or changing courses may affect eligibility for student aid.

Non-attendance does not constitute course withdrawal. Withdrawals are effective when a student withdraws from courses via www.dal.ca/online. Please see Section 5.3 if a student wishes to withdraw from a degree program.

7.7.7 Incomplete Courses

A student who fails to complete the required work for a particular course during the normal period of the course will receive a grade of “F”. However, where circumstances warrant, a grade of “Incomplete” (INC) may be assigned. Subsequent completion of the work following the end of the course may result in a change of grade by the course instructor, as long as the work is completed before the following deadlines:

Fall term courses   February 1
Winter and regular term (September - April) courses   June 1
May - June courses   August 1
May - August courses   October 1
July - August courses   October 1

For GPA purposes, a grade of INC holds a credit value of 0.0.

After these deadlines, an “INC” cannot be changed without permission of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Where the formal deadline for completion of work is beyond the INC deadline, the course instructor can request the Faculty of Graduate Studies extend the INC for an approved period of time.

7.7.8 Courses Impacted by Illness and Exceptional Circumstances

In the event of illness or exceptional circumstances, a student may request a grade of ILL. Procedures may vary by academic unit.

An ILL grade may be assigned with the expectation that a student will have a plan to complete outstanding course components within their next term of registration. An ILL grade may also be assigned as a final grade with the expectation that the student re-register in or replace the course with another.

7.7.9 In-Progress Courses and Multi-Term Courses

In-Progress Courses: The grade of “In Progress” (IP) is used to identify and report on-going satisfactory progress in thesis, research projects, and courses/seminars structured to progress over a flexible number of academic terms. Students are expected to register in the course in each term that they are engaged in course-related activities. A final grade is only assigned in the academic term where course requirements are met. 

Graduate Multi-Term Courses: The grade of “Multi-Term” (MT) is used to temporarily identify a course sequence that spans multiple terms in an academic year in per-course fee graduate programs. The MT grade in each term is replaced by a final grade upon successful completion of the course sequence.  

7.7.10 Credit/No Credit Grading Option

Credit-No Credit (CR/NCR) grading option is designed to provide a GPA-neutral grade in the place of a letter grade for students experiencing exceptional extenuating circumstances when other solutions are not appropriate. To be considered an extenuating circumstance, the situation must be unforeseen or unpredictable and result in a significant personal crisis for the student, demonstrably impacting their academic performance. Students wishing to appeal for this grading option must submit an Application for a Waiver of an Academic Regulation Form available on the Registrar Office website to their graduate coordinator/administrator. The arguments and expectations of the petitioner must be clearly stated.

7.7.11 Undergraduate Courses

In some Master's programs that require completion of general elective courses, approval may be given for a limited number of senior-level undergraduate courses to satisfy some of the elective requirements. The undergraduate course(s) must be approved by the supervisory committee and the academic unit and must be completed while registered in the current program (no advanced placement, transfer credits, or Letter of Permission (LOP) nor can it be a course previously completed for credit). When satisfying an elective requirement for the graduate program, the undergraduate course cannot be a fundamental or pre-requisite version of a graduate course normally offered within the program. Undergraduate courses required to address a pre-requisite knowledge gap should be completed as an ancillary course in addition to the usual required number of credits.

In some Master's and all Doctoral programs that require completion of a specific number of graduate credits, undergraduate courses may not be used to satisfy the required number of graduate credits. Undergraduate courses may be included within the required program of study in addition to the required number of graduate credits and would be designated as ancillary courses (see Section 7.7.3).

If a student is permitted to take one or more undergraduate courses as part of their graduate program, a minimum passing grade of B- applies.