Curriculum & degree requirements

Finding your path through GLS

Learn more about the curriculum and degree requirements for completion of the Graduate Liberal Studies (GLS) program and how to tailor your path through the program to your unique interests.

General requirements

In the GLS master of arts program, students have three to four years from the start of the program to complete their degree. Students are required to complete the core foundational courses, LS 800 and LS 801, as well as four elective seminar courses1 and one of the following:

  • Successfully defend two extended essays
  • Successfully defend one project2
  • Complete two additional seminars, one of which must be LS 898: Graduating Seminar

All three options result in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) degree. The total tuition cost is the same because the MA project and extended essays are considered full-time courses and fees are levied accordingly.

1 Two of which may be graduate-level courses from other disciplines. This may be considered if there is a case made for a better fit within the student’s unique academic path.
2 The project should derive from work done in seminars and may use non-written media.


Graduate liberal studies requires the completion of two core courses, LS 800 and LS 801.

Reflections on Reason and Passion I

LS 800

The first of two core courses that constitute an extended examination of the tension between reason and passion in human experience. This course will emphasize close reading and discussion of works, drawn from different cultures and epochs, that reflect on human passion.

Reflections on Reason and Passion II

LS 801

The second of two core courses that constitute an extended examination of the tension between reason and passion in human experience. This course will examine writings by some who have insisted on the indispensability of reasoning as a guide to action and the source of truth, as well as writings by some of those who on various grounds have cast doubt on this faith in human reason.

Course outlines

Explore the GLS curriculum by viewing current and past course outlines.

View current & past course outlines

Elective courses

After completing the two core courses, students have the option each semester to take elective courses toward the degree requirements. The GLS elective courses are offered under thematic rubrics (e.g. LS 812: Science and Human Values). However, the specific course content will vary significantly in accordance with the interest and expertise of the faculty teaching them. We encourage students to take courses from several different thematic areas in order to benefit from the interdisciplinary curriculum. Normally, a student will complete six seminars (including the two core courses) at the rate of two per year.

By permission a student may take up to two seminars or graduate courses in another department, or may do an individual study course (LS 829, Directed Study) on a topic of special interest.

Studying at another institution

Students may take courses at another university with permission from the department. An application form  requesting permission to take courses must be submitted. Students then apply to the other institution as a visiting student and request that the course credits be transferred to SFU. Those students wishing to take courses in western Canada may apply to take a course under the Western Deans Agreement. Tuition is paid to the home institution. Students interested in setting up one of these arrangements should contact the department staff.

Travel Study

GLS students have many opportunities to participate in full-credit field school courses organized by Simon Fraser University (SFU) or by other universities with GLS programs.

Learn more about travel study

Submitting a proposal

If you are interested in the Extended Essay or Project options, you will need to meet with the Graduate Chair of GLS to discuss your research interest, followed by submitting a proposal. The Graduate Chair submits your proposal to the GLS Steering Committee for deliberation and approval. The Steering Committee usually meets in September, December and April. Proposals must be received at least two weeks prior to the Steering Committee meeting. Please contact the GLS office for the exact meeting dates. Once the proposal is approved, supervisory committees and timelines are set up for completion of the work.

Students need to find a senior supervisor who will support them in developing their proposal. A proposal should not be attempted or submitted without the support of a student’s senior supervisor. The senior supervisor continues to work with the student through the completion and defence of their essays or project. The senior supervisor must be a full-time or retired SFU faculty member. The selection of your senior supervisor is a very important decision.

Proposals are usually between three and five pages in length, and must include the following:

  • The topic to be studied and its significance
  • The methodology to be employed
  • A tentative outline of contents
  • A select bibliography
  • A timeline for completion

If your essays or project involve any human subjects, students must apply and receive approval from the university research ethics committee (the senior supervisor must be listed as the co-applicant).

Grades and deferrals

The minimum grade point average (GPA) that must be maintained by a graduate student is 3.0.

If, for some reason, you are unable to complete your course work in time, it is sometimes possible to negotiate a deferred grade. This matter is between you and your instructor.

Gradudate and Postdoctoral Studies has decreed that all deferred grades must be resolved by the end of the first month of the following semester, otherwise the deferred grade automatically becomes an F.

For example, if your grade for LS 800 in fall 2016 is deferred, you have until the end of January 2017 to complete the course work and have a final grade assigned.