VII. Degree Requirements - VII. Degree Requirements

Graduate students have a maximum period of time by which to complete all of the requirements for their graduate program.

The upper time limits for the completion of degrees are:

One-year Master’s, full-time: Four years
One-year Master’s, part-time: Five years
Two-year Master’s, full-time: Five years
Two-year Master’s, part-time: Seven years
Three-year Master’s, full-time: Five years
Three-year Master’s, part-time: Seven years
PhD, full-time only: Six years
MBA - FS: Seven years
MPA (Management): Seven 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 extensions can be granted. However, under no circumstances can a student be registered in a program beyond 10 years, including leaves, from their initial registration in the program.

7.2 Program Requirements

Every graduate student must have an individually approved program of studies. The program of study for each graduate student must be approved by the Graduate Coordinator in each academic unit or program and submitted for final approval to the Faculty of Graduate Studies. By the end of the first term, the Graduate Academic Unit will enter and approve the proposed program (with the total number of credits required, the names and numbers of all courses required, including ancillary courses and any other requirements and conditions) on the Graduate Student Information System. The graduate program requirements must also be approved by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. At this early stage, the student and academic unit are approving the requirements for the degree. Once approved, the program requirements in GSIS constitutes an agreed contract between the student and the University and is 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 on GSIS to the Faculty of Graduate Studies.  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 will 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 maintain Annual Progress Reports to maintain scholarships.

7.4 Requirements for the Master’s Degree

7.4.1 Thesis-based Master’s Degrees

The course of study for the research degree (MA, MASc, MArch, MCSc, MSc, MDE, MEDS, MES, MURP and the thesis options available in the LLM, MEDS, MEC, MHI, MN, MLIS, MSW, and certain MA and MSc programs) 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 programs include the MACSc, MBA, MEng, MHA, MIM, MMM, MPA, MREM, MPLAN, MEC, MEDS, MHI, LLM, MN, MLIS, MSW, and certain MA and MSc programs. The number of courses varies and a graduate research project is often required.

7.4.3 Specialty and Mid-Career Master’s Degrees

A number of specialty Master’s degrees have been and continue to be 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 the courses may be offered in a distance education mode. They currently include the MBA (Financial Services), MBA (Leadership), MPA (Management), MIM, MEng (Internetworking), and MFA (Creative Nonfiction).

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 for supervisory committee structure.

The course 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 only taken after all coursework is completed.

7.6 Modification of Degree Requirements

Modification of the official degree requirements outlined within this Calendar must be approved by FGS.  Requests for modification are submitted to FGS 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 department may request to substitute required core courses or required list-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 has enabled a student to already possess 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 credits based on graduate courses completed within a previous undergraduate or graduate program.  To be eligible, the courses must be comparably equivalent to graduate courses within the student’s proposed graduate program at Dalhousie University. For courses that have been counted toward a previous degree, in which a minimum grade of “B” was attained, advanced placement may be used to reduce the overall course requirements in some Dalhousie graduate programs. 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 Dalhousie University (advanced placement, letter of permission, and transfer credits) cannot normally exceed 33% of the program’s overall course requirements. Courses must have been completed within 10 years of the first academic term of a student’s program.

7.6.3    Transfer Credit
A transfer credit allows for courses completed outside of the student’s program, normally at another institution, to be used as part of the student’s degree requirements. Such courses must have a minimum grade equivalency of B- on the Dalhousie graduate grade scale, cannot have been used for credit for another degree. Credits completed outside Dalhousie University (advanced placement, letter of permission, and transfer credits) cannot normally exceed 33% of the student’s overall course requirements. 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 if the course was not completed at Dalhousie. Courses must have been completed within 10 years of the first academic term of a student’s program..

7.7 Courses and Grades

Courses may be full or half year (six or three credit hours respectively) and may be designated by the candidate’s committee as “Required” or “Ancillary” (pass mark is B-). Some academic units cross-list graduate courses with senior undergraduate courses: in which case the requirements for graduate students are more demanding than those for undergraduates.

In some Masters 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 supervising committee and program and must be completed while registered in the current program (no advanced placement or transfer credits).  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 in addition to the normal required number of credits.

In some Masters 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 in some cases would be 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.

7.7.1 Academic Transcript

The academic transcript is a reflection of academic history and, therefore reflects both passes and failures. It cannot be altered after the fact. Accordingly, it is essential that students be fully aware of the deadlines for adding and withdrawing from graduate courses. See section 7.7.7 and section 7.7.8.

7.7.2 Course Assessment and Grading Policy

All course assessments follow the Grading Practices Policy.

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

Students will be provided with a course outline (syllabus) by the instructor at the first meeting of the class. In order to complete a course satisfactorily, a student must fulfill all the requirements as set down in the course outline. 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.

Within four weeks after 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:

GradeGrade Point Value %Definition





























Neutral and no credit obtained

  Withdrew after deadline


Neutral and no credit obtained

  Compassionate reasons, illness






  Transfer credit on admission



  Grade not reported



  Not Graded: Part of a Multi-term Course

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 corection 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, supervisor and/or Graduate Coordinator. In addition, students are advised to consult the Chair of the academic unit, Director of the School/College, Dean of the Faculty in which the grade was assigned, a Student Advocate, 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. The request must identify the specific component that the student wishes reassessed and the grounds for the request. The Registrar’s Office will then forward the reassessment request to the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Such requests must be made by:

Fall term courses March 1
Winter and regular session (Sept - Apr) courses   July 1
May - June courses Sept 1
May - August courses Nov 1
July - August courses Nov 1






The reassessment will be conducted according to procedures developed for this purpose by the academic unit. The procedures should reflect the nature of the academic discipline and assessment involved and should provide for a review of the assessment by a qualified person or persons not responsible for the original evaluation. A written notification of reassessments with reasons should be returned to the Faculty of Graduate Studies no later than 45 days after receiving the request. If the reassessment results in the assignment of a grade that is (higher or lower) than the original one, the new grade will replace the original one and the $50 will be refunded.

Note that graduate students can only request a grade reassessment for written assignments and examinations within a FGS approved course.

Students who wish information about grade re-assessment procedures should contact the Registrar's Office.

Pass Standard

Faculty of Graduate Studies regulations stipulate that graduate students must achieve a minimum grade of “B-” in all courses required for their degree program. Any lower grade will be recorded as a failure (F). For the majority of graduate programs at the university, 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: MArch, MBA, MCSc, MEng, MASc in engineering disciplines (except Biomedical Engineering), MEC, MLIS / MI, MPA, and the MScOT Post-Professional (does not include MScOT Entry to Practice).

A dismissed student may apply, in writing, to the academic unit for reinstatement, (see section 5.4 and section 5.5). Reinstatement to a program after a failing grade must be supported by the Graduate Coordinator, and must be approved in writing by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. In all programs 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 that academic dismissal and reinstatement will be permanently recorded on the student’s official transcript.

7.7.3 Ancillary Courses

Undergraduate courses recommended by an academic unit as advisable additional background to a graduate degree program, but not specifically required for that program, are termed ancillary courses. The pass grade in ancillary courses is the same as for all graduate course requirement (B-)s. Ancillary courses must be listed on the Graduate Student Information System, but do not count towards the required number of courses for the graduate program. Normally students are limited to six credit hours of ancillary courses during their program. Students who take ancillary courses on a Letter of Permission are responsible for the tuition fees at the other institution.

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

7.7.4 Audits

Students may take one audit (equivalent of six credit hours) in each residency year of their formal program. Audits must be listed as program requirements in GSIS, must be relevant to the student's program of study, and must have academic unit and the 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 on the student's account. Per-course fee students will be charged the normal audit tuition for each audit registration. Audits cannot be taken on a Letter of Permission and will not be approved as part of a Qualifying program.

7.7.5 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. Note that some academic units place lower limits on the number of independent study, directed readings or special topics courses permitted within their programs.

7.7.6 Letters of Permission

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

Students in good academic standing, with no holds on their registration may receive permission to take courses for credit at another university. For the Letter of Permission form and guidelines, see

Students may not take courses outside Dalhousie for graduate credit unless prior approval has been given by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Courses are never approved retroactively.

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 normal regulations governing grading policy (see section 7.7.2) apply to courses taken at other institutions (e.g,. a 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 Letter of Permission except by special permission from the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Students who are required to take courses at other institutions outside the Maritimes will be considered for a Letter of Permission on a case by case basis, (e.g., if the course is a necessary component of a student's program). 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. The tuition for an approved course taken at a university outside the Maritimes is normally the responsibility of the student. Any charges above that amount are the responsibility of the student.

Students who receive approval to take courses at institutions inside or outside the Maritimes for convenience or for non-academic reasons do so at their own expense. See regulation on concurrent registration (see section 5.6) whereby a student is required to receive approval to take any courses outside their degree requirements.

Graduate students who pay a program-fee must be registered at Dalhousie and have paid appropriate fees before receiving approval.

Students who pay on a per-course fee basis are responsible for paying fees for courses taken outside Dalhousie.

(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”.

(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 and culture. These are coordinated by the Study Abroad and Exchange Advisor in the International Centre (IC). Additional information is available at

7.7.7 Withdrawal from Courses

The last dates for adding and deleting courses are published in the schedule of Academic Course Add/Drop Dates at the front of this calendar.

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

All regularly scheduled courses may be added or dropped on the web at by the deadline listed in Academic Course Add/Drop Dates. Special dates and processes apply to courses involving open learning.

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

Non-attendance does not, in itself, constitute withdrawal. Withdrawals are effective when a student withdraws from courses on the web at or written notification is received at the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

7.7.8 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 (September-April) term courses June 1
May-June courses August 1
May-August courses October 1
July-August courses October 1

MBA(FS) - Please consult the academic unit entry.

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.

At the discretion of the course instructor, alternate arrangements for examinations, tests or the completion of assignments may be made for students who are ill, or in other exceptional circumstances.

All outstanding grades, including ILL or INC, must be addressed before registration for the next term.

7.7.9 Incomplete due to Illness

Students must have a plan to complete, repeat or replace any course with an outstanding grade, including ILL or INC, before registration for the next term. If grades are still outstanding into the next term and no arrangements have been made, students may be required to re-register in the course.

7.7.10 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.  

7.7.11 Academic Standards

When the work of a student becomes unsatisfactory, (including insufficient progress), or a student’s attendance is irregular without sufficient reason, the Faculty of Graduate Studies may require withdrawal from one or more courses, or academic dismissal from the Faculty.