GRADUATE PROGRAM HANDBOOK
PhD in Contemporary Arts
Prepared: November 15, 2021
This handbook has been prepared by the Graduate Program Chair and the Graduate Program Committee for students, faculty and staff of the School for the Contemporary Arts (SCA), with the purpose of providing information about the policies, procedures and opportunities in the PhD Program offered by the School. Students, faculty and staff involved in the program should review the Graduate General Rules and Regulations.
The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Contemporary Arts is a research-intensive program focused on interdisciplinary approaches to the fine and performing arts. The program supports both scholarly and practice-based research, with students tailoring their theses to their specific research interests. Students may undertake scholarly approaches in and among the fields of visual culture, media arts, sound studies, and performance studies, culminating in a substantial written thesis, or pursue studio, curatorial, and community-based research, resulting in the creation of a major original artwork or public presentation supplemented by substantial written reflection and commentary outlining the contexts (historical, theoretical, aesthetic) supporting the work.
The PhD’s unique design and focus affirm a conception of arts-based research that sees creative and critical epistemologies not as opposed or siloed, but as necessarily interconnected. Students, responding at once analytically and experimentally to their objects of study and each other, will help to foster an environment in which the very conditions for how knowledge is produced in and through the arts become the impetus for further research.
The SCA’s location in one of downtown Vancouver’s most dynamic and diverse neighbourhoods presents additional opportunities to develop models of critical and creative expression that can respond to the local contexts of our rapidly changing world. The PhD in Contemporary Arts will thus speak to applicants from British Columbia and elsewhere interested in working with and giving back to their specific communities of practice.
Admitted students will normally hold a master of arts (MA), master of fine arts (MFA), or equivalent degree, with high standing, from a recognized university and a solid grounding in studies of contemporary art and/or an established professional artistic, curatorial, or programming practice. To fill any academic gaps, extra undergraduate or graduate courses may be required. Likewise, exceptional students may be permitted, in consultation with their supervisors and the Graduate Program Chair, to accelerate through their coursework.
Before accepting a student into the program, the School will consider the proposed research in relation to faculty resources in the field.
Students pursuing the PhD in Contemporary Arts are expected to complete the program in 12-15 semesters (4-5 years). Each student is matched with a potential supervisor, normally upon admission, and the supervisory committee should be formed during the first year (see Section 4).
The program consists of course work, qualifying examinations, a thesis prospectus, and a thesis (scholarly or practice-based), for a minimum of 35 units.
- CA 890 – Professional Practices Seminar I (0)
- CA 891 – Professional Practices Seminar II (0)
- CA 821 – Research Methods in Contemporary Arts (5)
And at least three of:*
- CA 811 – Interdisciplinary Graduate Seminar I (5)
- CA 812 – Interdisciplinary Graduate Seminar II (5)
- CA 813 – Interdisciplinary Graduate Studio (5)
- CA 823 – New Approaches to Visual Art and Culture (5)
- CA 824 – New Approaches in Moving-Images Studies (5)
- CA 825 – New Approaches in Digital Art Studies (5)
- CA 826 – New Approaches in Performance Studies (5)
- CA 828 – New Approaches to Sound and the Arts (5)
- CA 877 – Selected Topics in Fine and Performing Arts (5)
- CA 883 – Studio in Fine and Performing Arts I (5)
- CA 885 – Studio in Fine and Performing Arts II (5)
- CA 887 – Selected Topics in Fine and Performing Arts (5)
- CA 889 – Directed Study in Fine and Performing Arts (5)
- CA 892 – PhD Qualifying Examinations (0)
- CA 895 – PhD Thesis Prospectus (0)
- CA 899 – PhD Thesis (15)
* coursework may be substituted in consultation with the supervisor or Graduate Program Chair.
Students are expected to complete the program requirements in 12-15 terms (4-5 years). They must register sequentially in each semester until the thesis defence and the completion of all of the degree requirements (see Section 5).
From time to time, a student may wish to go on leave for a term (see Section 13): leaves must be approved by your Supervisor and Graduate Program Chair. Note there is a fee for on-leave status, except in the case of medical leave requests.
A normal four-year pathway through the program would proceed as follows:
Fall Year 1
CA 890 PROFESSIONAL PRACTICES SEMINAR I
CA 821 RESEARCH METHODS IN CONTEMPORARY ARTS
CA 8XX or OTHER 5-UNIT ELECTIVE
Spring Year 1
CA 891 PROFESSIONAL PRACTICES SEMINAR II
CA 8XX or OTHER 5-UNIT ELECTIVE
CA 8XX or OTHER 5-UNIT ELECTIVE
Summer Year 1
CA 892 PhD QUALIFYING EXAMINATIONS
Fall Year 2
CA 892 PhD QUALIFYING EXAMINATIONS
Spring Year 2
CA 892 PhD QUALIFYING EXAMINATIONS
Summer Year 2
CA 892 PhD QUALIFYING EXAMINATIONS
Fall Year 3
CA 895 PhD THESIS PROSPECTUS
Spring Year 3
CA 899 PhD THESIS*
Summer Year 3
CA 899 PhD THESIS*
Fall Year 4
CA 899 PhD THESIS*
Spring Year 4
CA 899 PhD THESIS*
Summer Year 4
CA 899 PhD THESIS*
*Students must maintain enrollment in CA 899 until all the PhD defence and related degree requirements are completed.
Each student is matched with a Supervisor at the start of their studies. Indeed, admission to the program is to a certain extent contingent on ensuring an appropriate supervisory fit. As such, potential applicants are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the research interests and teaching strengths of the SCA faculty in order to facilitate this selection, and to reach out to potential supervisors in advance of submitting their application.
The Supervisor is the person most closely connected to the student’s program of research and has overall responsibility for the direction and mentorship of the student’s proposed course of study. This includes recommendations for course work and independent study, oversight of the development and completion of qualifying examinations and the thesis prospectus, regular feedback on the research for and realization of the doctoral thesis, and general professional and career support.
As per University policy Graduate General Regulation 1.6.3, any continuing faculty member in Contemporary Arts at the rank of assistant professor or above may serve as a doctoral Supervisor. Co-supervision arrangements are also possible, including with associate members of the School or at different ranks. Contact the Graduate Program Chair to discuss this matter if you are interested in exploring such an option.
The Supervisor should meet with the student at least once a month to discuss the student’s progress and to offer guidance. A proposed program of work and a timetable of anticipated completion dates should be established with the student soon after the start of the program.
The Supervisor will make every reasonable effort to ensure that the student’s program remains on track. To facilitate this, the Supervisor will submit an annual Progress Evaluation, at the end of every Spring semester (see Section 4.5, below).
4.1 Supervisory Committee
Each PhD student is expected to put together a supervisory committee that, in addition to the Supervisor, normally includes a minimum of two other faculty members. The makeup of the committee should reflect the disciplinary and critical interests of the student and should take advantage of the diversity of the faculty available in the School. One committee member (other than the Supervisor) may be a faculty member from outside the School. Potential committee members outside the faculty will be required to provide a curriculum vitae to show that they are suitably qualified.
The supervisory committee should be formed during the first year and no later than the beginning of the qualifying examinations. As soon as the committee membership has been finalized, the “Approval of Supervisory Committee” form must be completed and returned to the Graduate Program Assistant for signing by the Graduate Program Chair and forwarding to the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.
The Supervisory Committee will offer advice, consult on and approve the student’s qualifying examinations and thesis prospectus, provide feedback on the student’s thesis project, and serve as voting members on the Examining Committee at the PhD defence. Members of the Supervisory Committee should meet with the student on a regular basis, and more frequently as the doctoral project readies for presentation and defence.
4.2 Changes in the Supervisory Committee
Continuity of supervision is important at the doctoral level, so a change in the constitution of a student’s Supervisory Committee—especially a change in Supervisor—should only be undertaken for compelling reasons.
Notification of changes to the Supervisory Committee must be approved by the Graduate Program Committee and the “Change of Supervisory Committee” form submitted to the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.
4.3 Graduate Program Chair
The Chair of the Graduate Program has the overall responsibility for the Graduate Program Committee. The Chair’s responsibilities include:
recommending and vetting policy with the Graduate Program Committee;
informing students about policy and opportunities;
advising students who do not yet have supervisors;
chairing the Examining Committee; and
moderating the PhD defence.
In the event that the Graduate Program Chair is the Supervisor of the student to be examined, a delegate Chair for the defence must be chosen.
4.4 Graduate Program Committee
The Graduate Program Committee is responsible for the overall administration of the graduate program on behalf of the School. Their responsibilities include:
overseeing the curriculum of the Graduate Program;
making recommendations to the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies on admissions, fellowships, scholarships, awards and the granting of the degree;
determining the availability of travel funds and suitability of funding requests;
making recommendations to the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies on formal requests by individual students for course waivers, course substitutions, or any deviation from PhD degree requirements (all such requests must also be approved by both the student’s Supervisor and the Supervisory Committee);
reviewing progress reports of individual students when such progress appears unsatisfactory; and
monitoring the standards and equity for all students in the SCA PhD Graduate Program.
Students are required to submit an electronic Progress Report to their Supervisor each May, unless they are planning to defend in the summer semester. The Progress Report form is completed and submitted online, and includes:
courses taken by semester;
work done for those courses;
work accomplished outside of those courses;
a list of funding received;
work as Teaching Assistant;
teaching work outside of the School; and
outside activities relevant to academic progress.
Additionally, in consultation with their Supervisor, the student is required to describe their plans for the upcoming year. The student’s Progress Report must be forwarded to the student’s Supervisor at the beginning of the Summer Semester, usually May 1.
The Supervisor will provide comments upon the student’s progress over the last year, and in the program as a whole. The comments should indicate whether the progress is satisfactory or unsatisfactory.
The student will receive a copy of the Evaluation. The Progress Evaluation becomes a permanent part of the student’s program record.
The excerpt below is from Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website, Graduate General Regulations:
1.8.1 Progress Evaluation
For master’s and doctoral students, the supervisory committee shall report on the student’s progress at least once each year. This report will be sent, in writing, to the graduate program committee with a copy to the student. The evaluation of student progress in course work will rely in part on their maintenance of a CGPA of 3.0, as required by graduate regulation 1.5.4.
For graduate diploma students, a progress review will be initiated if the CGPA drops below 2.5.
1.8.2 Review of Unsatisfactory Progress
If a student’s progress appears to be unsatisfactory, the supervisory committee or the chair of the graduate program committee shall make a written report to the graduate program committee, and provide a copy to the student. That committee shall consider whether the student’s progress has been satisfactory. The graduate program committee, on consultation with the supervisory committee, if one has been appointed, may:
a) require the student to withdraw, or
b) inform the student of the unsatisfactory progress and require the student to improve in specific ways in a specific period of time.
The student concerned has the right to appear before the graduate program committee when the case is considered, and may submit any materials relevant to the case. A student who is required to withdraw shall be informed, in writing, with copies to the dean of graduate studies and the director, graduate admissions and records. If required to improve within a specific period of time, the student shall be informed in writing as to what precisely is required, with copies to the dean of graduate studies and the director, admissions and records.
Any decision of the graduate program committee under the provisions of this section may be appealed to the senate graduate studies committee through the dean of graduate studies. The student has the right to appear before the senate graduate studies committee when the case is heard. The decision of that committee shall be final.
CA 890-0 Professional Practices Seminar I
CA 891-0 Professional Practices Seminar II
These non-credit professional development courses are required of all students in SCA’s graduate programs (MA, MFA, and PhD). In addition to building a sense of community through the peer discussion of questions relating to students’ research and teaching, different skills-based sessions will be devoted to academic writing, pedagogy, proposal and grant writing, the public dissemination of work, and so on. Students will have a chance to share work in progress with each other and the School, and guest workshops by professionals in the field (including SCA faculty) will occur regularly.
CA 821-5 Research Methods in Contemporary Arts
This required course is offered each fall. It develops students’ thinking across the fine and performing arts in a comparative perspective that synthesizes the historical and theoretical approaches of art history, cinema studies, performance studies, computer-based media studies, visual culture studies, and practice-based research.
CA 811-5 Interdisciplinary Graduate Seminar I
CA 812-5 Interdisciplinary Graduate Seminar II
These courses are offered each fall and typically enrol members of the first- and second-year MFA cohorts, respectively. However, PhD students may also benefit from their content. CA 811 is a critical and theoretical seminar organized around issues of relevance to contemporary discourses about art practice and reception and focuses on peer discussion of selected readings and the production of one or more academic papers. CA 812 offers concentration on the preparation and presentation of a background research essay cognate to students’ artistic research and may appeal to PhD students working on their dissertation prospectuses.
CA 813-5 Interdisciplinary Graduate Studio
This course is offered in the Fall Semester and is required for all first-year MFA students. PhD students may, however, enrol with the permission of the instructor(s). The purpose of the course is to foster an environment where students can collaborate with artists from other disciplines, broaden their skills and make connections for future projects.
CA 823-5 New Approaches in Visual Art and Culture
CA 824-5 New Approaches in Moving-Images Studies
CA 825-5 New Approaches in Digital Art Studies
CA 826-5 New Approaches in Performance Studies
CA 828-5 New Approaches to Sound and the Arts
A slate of these elective courses is offered every Fall and Spring and foreground topics-based theoretical approaches to specific media arts.
CA 883-5 Studio in Fine and Performing Arts I
This course is taught every Spring as a group studio class, with all first-year MFA students attending and producing individual work in an inter-arts setting. PhD students may register with the permission of the instructor.
CA 885-5 Studio in Fine and Performing Arts II
This course allows students to concentrate on the development of their studio practice in an interdisciplinary context under the guidance of a faculty member conversant with the issues being explored. Students are encouraged to undertake projects that extend their creative process in new directions, and to work with different faculty members in the School.
CA 877-5 Selected Topics in Fine and Performing Arts
CA 887-5 Selected Topics in Fine and Performing Arts
Individual faculty members may offer studio, seminar or lecture courses concentrating on specific subjects relevant to students in the program. These are not regular offerings. The course may be repeated for credit when different course content applies.
CA 889-5 Directed Study in Fine and Performing Arts
A Directed Study is an individualized course with a specific instructor, proposed by the student, in consultation with the faculty member. This course may be taken as a studio course, a reading course, or a combination of both.
For each Directed Study taken, the expectations of both the student and the instructor must be clearly declared at the outset and formalized on the Course Proposal Form. The student will fill in this form in consultation with the instructor (or instructors) and attach a statement of course expectations to the form. The Supervisor signs the form, thereby approving the nature and scope of the work to be undertaken. The Course Proposal form is then submitted to the Graduate Program Assistant, and kept as part of the student’s records. Regular meetings between course instructors and students will be arranged to discuss progress, review work and suggest research directions.
With the permission of the course instructor, their Supervisor, and the Graduate Program Chair, students may register in an undergraduate course as a Directed Study to improve their training outside their area of specialization; the course supervisor will assign extra work to make up the difference in units and the level of complexity between undergraduate and graduate expectations. This course may be repeated for credit when the course content is different.
Students may also register to audit a graduate or undergraduate class, with the permission of the course instructor, their Supervisor and the Graduate Program Chair. Audited courses will not count toward degree requirements.
5.1 Courses in Other Departments
It is also possible for PhD students to take courses in other departments, either for credit (graduate courses only), or as an auditor (graduate and undergraduate courses). This requires permission of the instructor and sponsoring department, as well as SCA’s Graduate Program Chair.
Students enroll in their qualifying examinations, CA 892, following the completion of their coursework; this normally coincides with the start of their third doctoral term, or first summer term in the program. They should complete their second qualifying examination by the end of their sixth doctoral term (normally their second summer term in the program).
Examinations will be graded “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.” A student who receives a grade of “unsatisfactory” on any part of the examinations will be permitted to rewrite or resubmit work, normally within the following academic term. A second grade of “unsatisfactory” will require a review of the student's progress and likely withdrawal from the program, as per Graduate General Regulation 1.8.2.
6.1 Scholarly Qualifying Examinations
For students pursuing the scholarly PhD thesis option, qualifying examinations consist of two 25-30 page take-home essays developed from annotated bibliographies in two fields: a secondary field that, while cognate to the student’s area of specialization, will give them additional research and teaching expertise; and a primary field that ensures students have a thorough knowledge and understanding of the critical literature, historical contexts, and theoretical approaches germane to their intended focus of doctoral study. Examples of secondary and primary qualifying examination fields include:
Secondary Field: Space and Place in Performance
Primary Field: Site-Specific Dance and Environmental Politics
Secondary Field: Theories of Event and Sound
Primary Field: Feminist Audio Archives
Secondary Field: Indigenous Critical Theory
Primary Field: Contemporary Indigenous Film in the Americas
6.1.1 Secondary Field Exam Preparation and Procedures
Following completion of their course work, students will consult with their Supervisor and Supervisory Committee to prepare a secondary qualifying examination proposal of no more than two pages, and an annotated bibliography of a maximum of 50 titles (a mix of books, articles/chapters and other materials, including relevant artworks). The proposal should describe the examination field and provide a concise statement of purpose, and the annotated bibliography should identify and briefly describe relevant texts.
Once a student has completed (or nearly completed) the secondary qualifying examination reading list, the Supervisory Committee will draft a question to be presented to the student in their exam. The question is designed to test the student’s knowledge of the field and will be formulated after conversations with the student. Supervisors will ensure that the question is emailed to the Graduate Program Assistant at least a week before the examination is scheduled to be written.
The secondary exam question is emailed, by the Graduate Program Assistant, to the student at 9 am on the day they are to begin writing their response. The Supervisory Committee will be copied on this email. The completed 25-30 page essay should then be emailed to the Supervisory Committee a week later.
Within two weeks of submitting the exam, students should receive feedback from their Supervisory Committee. This feedback can be delivered at an in-person meeting and/or through written correspondence. The purpose of the feedback is to provide the students with a sense of their performance in surveying and analyzing the field in their essay. The feedback should discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the submitted paper, and make suggestions for further study.
Supervisors will communicate the results (satisfactory or unsatisfactory) of the secondary field examination to the Graduate Program Assistant and the Graduate Program Chair. If the examination needs to be repeated, this should be done no later than the following term. The secondary qualifying exam must be completed before students move on to their primary qualifying exam.
6.1.2 Primary Field Exam Preparation and Procedures
In preparing their primary field exam proposal and annotated bibliography, students should once again consult closely with their Supervisors and Supervisory Committees. The two-page proposal should outline a distinctive field of scholarship in which the topic of the student’s proposed thesis is clearly situated and theorized. As with the secondary field exam, the accompanying bibliography’s 50 titles (again, a mix of books, articles/chapters and other materials, including related artworks) may be a combination of relevant primary and secondary sources. It is strongly encouraged that students begin the preparation of their primary field examination proposal and reading list BEFORE completing their secondary field exam. This will ensure students’ timely progress through this stage of their program.
Once a student has completed (or nearly completed) the primary qualifying examination reading list, the Supervisory Committee will draft a question to be presented to the student in their exam. The question is designed to test the student’s knowledge of the field and will be formulated after conversations with the student. Supervisors will ensure that the question is emailed to the Graduate Program Assistant at least a week before the examination is scheduled to be written.
The primary exam question is emailed, by the Graduate Program Assistant, to the student at 9 am on the day they are to begin writing their response. The Supervisory Committee will be copied on this email. The completed 25-30 page essay should then be emailed to the Supervisory Committee a week later.
Within two weeks of submitting the exam, students should receive feedback from their Supervisory Committee. This feedback can be delivered at an in-person meeting and/or through written correspondence. The purpose of the feedback is to provide the students with a sense of their performance in surveying and analyzing the field in their essay, and to ensure that they are sufficiently prepared to begin research on their dissertation.
Supervisors will communicate the results (satisfactory or unsatisfactory) of the primary field examination to the Graduate Program Assistant and the Graduate Program Chair. If the examination needs to be repeated, this should be done no later than the following term. The primary qualifying exam must be completed before students move on to drafting their thesis prospectus.
6.2 Practice-Based Qualifying Examinations
For students pursuing the practice-based PhD thesis option, qualifying examinations consist of: 1) a lecture-demonstration and public critique that illustrates the proposed application of the candidate’s research methodology in a studio, gallery, or community-based context, and that situates that methodology within relevant fields of artistic and academic inquiry; and 2) a 25-30 page take-home essay that responds to a question arising from an annotated literature and artistic review related to the critical, creative, historical, and theoretical contexts underlying their proposed project. Examples of the two practice-based qualifying examinations include:
Lecture-Demonstration: Studio showing and critique of a choreographic process
Lit/Art Review: Agency and Embodiment in Dance and Performance
Lecture-Demonstration: Testing and explication of a generative application or machine composition tool
Lit/Art Review: New Directions in Music and AI
Lecture-Demonstration: Public presentation of a curatorial framework
Lit/Art Review: The Senses in Contemporary Visual Art
6.2.1 Preparation and Procedures for Field Exam 1: Lecture-Demonstration
The first practice-based qualifying examination requires students to apply their research and reading in and around their main area of focus to a demonstration of the methodology they intend to use to realize their final thesis project. This may take the form of a studio showing and explanation of preliminary artistic research, a public presentation of curatorial principles, an interactive testing of core technologies, materials, or creative scores, a focused conversation with community participants, or other relevant mode of delivery/presentation. Students will work closely with their Supervisors and Supervisory Committees to determine the exact form and timing of the lecture-demonstration exam.
In all cases, the exam must be preceded by the preparation and formal submission of a proposal that describes and outlines the purpose of the lecture-demonstration, and that provides some background on the core concepts, theories, readings, artworks, and precedent artists/writers/thinkers being drawn on in the demonstration of the student’s practice-based methods. A bibliography/artography should also accompany the proposal.
Once a student has completed the research and preparation for the lecture-demonstration, the Supervisory Committee, in consultation with the Graduate Program Chair and Graduate Program Assistant, will set a time and book a venue for the examination. All members of the Supervisory Committee should be in attendance, and the Graduate Program Chair and members of the GPC should also be invited. Additional SCA faculty, staff, and students may attend at the discretion of the presenting student in consultation with their Supervisors and the Graduate Program Chair—and if space permits.
At the conclusion of the lecture-demonstration, the Supervisory Committee will ask questions and offer relevant critiques. The student will then synthesize this feedback in relation to their presentation in a short 2000-3000-word reflective statement that will be forwarded to the Supervisory Committee for review no later than one week after the lecture-demonstration.
Within two weeks of submitting the reflective statement, students should receive feedback from their Supervisory Committee. This feedback can be delivered at an in-person meeting and/or through written correspondence. The purpose of the feedback is to provide the students with a sense of how well they did in presenting and reflecting on the practice-based methodologies they will be deploying in their research, and to ensure that students are sufficiently prepared to move on to their second field exam in advance of beginning research on their dissertation.
Supervisors will communicate the results (satisfactory or unsatisfactory) of the lecture-demonstration qualifying examination to the Graduate Program Assistant and the Graduate Program Chair. If the examination needs to be repeated, this should be done no later than the following term. The lecture-demonstration qualifying exam must be completed before students move on to completing their lit/art review field exam.
6.2.2 Preparation and Procedures for Field Exam 2: Literature and Artistic Review
For their second field exam, students will consult with their Supervisor and Supervisory Committee to prepare an examination proposal that will serve as a focused literature and artistic review of their main area of research. The two-page proposal should describe the examination field and provide a concise statement of purpose, and the annotated bibliography and artography should identify and briefly describe a maximum of 50 relevant items (a mix of books and articles/chapters, artworks, or other forms of relevant documentation).It is strongly encouraged that students begin the preparation of their lit/art review field examination proposal and reading/viewing list BEFORE completing their lecture-demonstration field exam. This will ensure students’ timely progress through this stage of their program.
Once a student has completed (or nearly completed) a review of the items on the lit/art review qualifying examination list, the Supervisory Committee will draft a question to be presented to the student in their exam. The question is designed to test the student’s knowledge of the field and will be formulated after conversations with the student. Supervisors will ensure that the question is emailed to the Graduate Program Assistant at least a week before the examination is scheduled to be written.
The lit/art review exam question is emailed, by the Graduate Program Assistant, to the student at 9 am on the day they are to begin writing their response. The Supervisory Committee will be copied on this email. The completed 25-30 page essay should then be emailed to the Supervisory Committee a week later.
Within two weeks of submitting the exam, students should receive feedback from their Supervisory Committee. This feedback can be delivered at an in-person meeting and/or through written correspondence. The purpose of the feedback is to provide the students with a sense of their performance in surveying and analyzing the field in their essay. The feedback should discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the submitted paper, and make suggestions for further study.
Supervisors will communicate the results (satisfactory or unsatisfactory) of the lit review field examination to the Graduate Program Assistant and the Graduate Program Chair. If the examination needs to be repeated, this should be done no later than the following term. The lit review qualifying exam must be completed before students move on to drafting their thesis prospectus.
The thesis prospectus helps to guide the student toward defining a significant thesis topic and is normally written in the seventh semester of the PhD program, following the completion of the student’s final qualifying exam.
Upon successful completion of their qualifying exams, students will be enrolled in CA 895 and begin drafting their prospectuses. The document should be a maximum of 15-20 pages and should: 1) describe the project and its relation to current scholarship and/or artistic/curatorial practice in the field; 2) state the main research questions to be addressed; 3) delineate the theoretical approach and methodology; 4) outline the anticipated form for the completed research (e.g., a breakdown of dissertation chapters for a scholarly thesis OR a description of the artwork(s) or public presentation and supplementary written documentation--and the ratio of each--for a practice-based thesis); 5) append a list of references and thesis reading list; 6) provide an estimated timeline to completion; 7) indicate whether any Ethics approvals have been or need to be sought (see Section 7.1, below); and, for practice-based doctoral students, 8) include any required resources from the School (including access to equipment and/or studio space) and a draft budget for the realization of their projects.
The School will provide a maximum of $1500 in support of practice-based PhD students’ thesis projects. For more information on eligible expenses, and how to claim them, see Section 19.
The prospectus will be reviewed by a student’s Supervisor and Supervisory Committee, who will respond with revisions and suggestions. Once the committee is satisfied with the prospectus, the Supervisor will submit it to the Graduate Program Committee for information and recording purposes, and with a view to establishing an archive of successful PhD prospectuses for future students to draw on. Then a thesis prospectus meeting date will be set. The prospectus meeting should take place at the end of the student’s seventh (fall) semester in the program. This meeting will include the student, the dissertation committee, and the Graduate Program Chair.
The prospectus meeting is not a formal defence of the prospectus, which will already have gone through a rigorous approval process. Instead, it should be considered a practical check-in before a student dives into the substance of their research. Are there any issues or questions that might have been missed or that need to be addressed? What practical considerations need to be taken into account (e.g., field research or travel to archives; meetings with collaborators; etc.)? What other commitments does the student have (e.g., teaching, residencies, related professional opportunities)? When will in-progress thesis material be shared, how, and with whom? What kind of turnaround can students expect from their committee members on submitted or shared material? While a timeline will have already been included in the written prospectus, this meeting is a chance for student and committee members to commit to realizing these target deadlines, as well as to agree upon an ideal workflow.
At the end of this meeting, the student will be ABD (all but dissertation), an important achievement on the way to the PhD degree.
If your thesis involves any work with humans or animals, as defined in SFU Policy R20.01 or R20.03, you are required to obtain Ethics Approval, an ethics exemption, or an Animal Care Protocol Approval form. Ethics approval for human research is granted through the SFU Office of Research Ethics. Ethics approval for animal research is granted by the University Animal Care Committee.
Whether individual or collaborative research, you must have either applied in advance for individual ethics approval as the Principal Investigator (P.I.) or been included by name as a co-investigator, collaborator or research assistant in the P.I.'s approval letter. If you do not have an ethics approval listing your name as attached to the study, you may need to file an Amendment to Previously Approved Research.
If the research for your thesis required ethics approval, an Ethics statement must appear on page iii of your thesis, immediately after the Approval page. The Ethics statement is included in the Word thesis template. If the statement needs to be replaced, follow the steps below:
Open the Ethics statement in Word, Select All and Copy
In your thesis document, place your cursor immediately before the "A" of the "Abstract" heading on your abstract's page
Paste the Ethics statement into your thesis
Once pasted into your thesis, click on the Ethics statement heading and ensure the Heading 1_Preliminary style is applied
Regenerate the table of contents
After the completion of the thesis prospectus, candidates are enrolled in CA 899, whereupon they will: 1) write a thesis normally consisting of between 200 and 250 pages (not including front matter, bibliography, appendices, etc.); or 2) complete a thesis presented by artistic and/or practice-based methodologies.
Option 2 will be supplemented by significant written critical reflection and scholarly analysis relating to the theoretical, conceptual, and historical contexts supporting the artistic or public-facing presentation, as well as its practical execution and public reception. The proportional relationship between these components will be determined during the drafting of the student’s thesis prospectus and may be derived from the following ratios: 70/30; 60/40; 50/50. Written materials will be submitted to the library along with documentation of students’ artworks/public presentations (see Section 9).
Both completed thesis options are defended in an oral exam as per GGR 1.10.1. The purpose of the defence is to create a critical dialogue around the thesis. The examining committee is chaired by the Graduate Program Chair and consists of the student’s Supervisory Committee, an Internal Examiner from another academic unit at SFU, and an External Examiner who is an expert in the field from outside the University. The examining committee is tasked with determining the student’s understanding of the practical, theoretical, critical, and historical aspects of their thesis project, and that the thesis merits the awarding of a doctoral degree. Discussion will centre on the student’s presented work and the candidate’s response to questions posed in the defence. For practice-based doctoral students, the defence will focus on both the artistic presentation and the written support materials.
8.1 Defence Format
The candidate will first prepare and present an approximately twenty-minute summary outline of the content and context of the thesis. Extracts from the presentation (slides, video, sound files) may be included for illustration. The purpose of this presentation is to give the examining committee a clear sense of the work and its theoretical and critical basis. The candidate should concentrate on presenting those aspects that constitute the core of their research activities and set a context for a substantial critical discussion of the thesis.
The External Examiner will then ask specific questions of the candidate concerning the theoretical and critical assumptions and implications of the thesis. The purpose is to determine the candidate’s success in realizing their expressed intentions. In the spirit of efficiency, this should be held to twenty minutes. The Internal Examiner will then follow with a similar round of questions, also keeping to approximately 15-20 minutes.
Members of the Supervisory Committee, ending with the Supervisor, will then in turn continue the dialogue with the student. The committee is then asked, in the same order, if they would like to pose a second round of questions. After this, the discussion is opened to the floor and members of the audience are invited to pose questions.
At the end of this discussion, the candidate and audience will be asked to withdraw while the committee considers the following:
the quality of the presented thesis;
the strength of the defence; and
the candidate’s overall understanding and articulation of their work.
The committee composes its recommendation, and the candidate is then recalled to the room and advised of the outcomes of the deliberations. There are four possible outcomes:
The thesis may be passed as presented/submitted.
The thesis may be passed on the condition that minor revisions be completed to the satisfaction of the Supervisor.
The Examining Committee may defer making judgment if it concludes that all or any of the thesis materials – including, for practice-based candidates, their public presentation – could pass after additional work by the candidate. Revised thesis materials shall come forward for re-examination (see GGR 1.10.1). The Examining Committee may not defer judgment a second time.
The thesis (including one that has been revised and re-examined) may be failed. In this case, the candidate is required to withdraw from the University.
Following the announcement of the defence outcome, a schedule for the completion of the revisions and corrections, if any, will be set. The Examining Committee will then sign the “Recommendation of the Award of the Degree” form. This form is to be returned to the Graduate Program Assistant.
For more information see "Degree Completion" on the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website and the relevant sections of the Graduate General Regulations here.
Up to SIX MONTHS ahead of the anticipated defence date:
The student confers with their Supervisor and Supervisory Committee about their readiness to proceed toward the submission and/or presentation of their thesis.
The Supervisor, in consultation with the student and the Supervisory Committee, contacts individuals who might serve as appropriate Internal and External Examiners and determines their availability to attend the defence and, in the case of practice-based candidates, to review the publicly presented or exhibited thesis materials.
At least TWO MONTHS before the defence date:
The Supervisor submits the name, CV, and full contact information of the External Examiner and the name and contact information of the Internal Examiner to the Graduate Program Chair with the “Approval of the Examining Committee” form in order to schedule the Defence.
The candidate’s Supervisory Committee makes a recommendation concerning the date of the examination and the composition of the Examining Committee in conformity with Section 1.9.1 of the Graduate Regulations.
The Graduate Program Assistant confirms the availability of the External and Internal Examiners and prepares an official invitation to both, providing the date, time, and location of the student’s thesis defence as well as, in the case of practice-based candidates, the date, time, and location of their performance/exhibition/public presentation.
At least SIX WEEKS before the defence date:
Practice-based presentations must have occurred and all finalized written thesis components and accompanying documentation must be submitted for distribution to the Examining Committee.
Additionally, the student provides the following information to the Graduate Program Assistant for inclusion on the “Approval of Examining Committee”:
A maximum 150-word abstract describing the areas of thesis research
Date, time, and desired location of the defence
List of equipment required for the defence (e.g. computer, projector, audio equipment, etc.)
The Graduate Program Assistant completes the form “Approval of Examining Committee for a Doctoral Student” and forwards it to the Supervisor and Graduate Program Chair for signatures. Once signed, this form, and the CV of the External Examiner are sent to the Director of Graduate Admissions and Records at the Office of the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.
The Graduate Program Assistant notifies the University community: Notice of the defence date, time, and location is e-mailed to the School for the Contemporary Arts and the Faculty of Communication, Arts, and Technology (FCAT), posted on the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Calendar of Events, and sent to the Director of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies for entry into the University’s records.
The Graduate Program Assistant books the location for the Defence and the requested A/V equipment.
At least TWO WEEKS before the defence date:
The Graduate Program Assistant will prepare a memo from the Graduate Program Chair announcing the date, time, and location of the examination, and distribute it to the candidate, the members of the Examining Committee, the Dean of FCAT, and the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. The Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies will notify the University community.
DAY OF THE DEFENCE
The Graduate Program Assistant will provide the following items to the Chair of the Examining Committee:
Instructions for the conducting of the defence;
Results, Approval & Degree recommendation (RAD) form;
A link to the thesis abstract for the audience.
The Chair will conduct the Defence in accordance with GGR 1.10.
The Chair will deliver the outcome of the Defence to the candidate.
FOLLOWING THE DEFENCE
At least ONE WEEK prior to the semester deadline, the student should have their thesis revisions complete, the RAD form signed and the copyright forms filled out, and all other documentation ready to submit online to the Library.
When the Library Representative of the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies has checked the Project and accepted the format, they will notify the Registrar. The Senate will not approve any degree until the Registrar has been so notified. If the student does not meet this deadline, they may have to register and pay for part of the next semester.
The semester deadlines for having thesis material completed and into the Library are strict and affect graduation dates. Students are advised to check with both the Graduate Program Assistant and the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website regarding these deadlines. It is the student’s responsibility to meet this Library deadline. The degree will not be awarded until this Library requirement is met.
Students must ensure that all components of their thesis submission and accompanying documentation meet the Library's requirements, as set out on the Library's Thesis Assistance website.
As well as having a resource-packed website, the Library also offers workshops on the formatting and submitting of a thesis to the library before the defence (more information is available here). Students can also register and book an in-person or telephone Thesis Formatting or Submission appointment with the Assistant for Theses via their online booking system. Students may also call 778.782.4747 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. This should be done early!
When the PhD thesis and related documentation are ready for submission, the student registers to indicate they will be submitting them to the library via the Thesis Registration System. Thesis submission is now entirely online. Students have to complete the submission steps described here. It is the student's responsibility to upload the thesis and all of the required documents as PDFs. Here's what the Library stipulates:
Required thesis documentation includes:
signed and dated Results, Approval & Degree recommendation (RAD) form
signed and dated Non-Exclusive Copyright License
If applicable documentation includes:
If your thesis contains image/figures, please upload a high-quality, press-quality, or standard-quality PDF (or equivalent).
Ensure that your thesis is formatted according to library thesis layout and specifications and standards. To ensure this, it is strongly encouraged that students use the pre-formatted templates provided by the library.
Normal components of your submitted thesis include:
Declaration of Committee page
Table of Contents
List of tables and figures
Appendices and supplemental material
Upload supplementary material files if applicable (see Appendices & Supplemental Material). This will pertain especially to practice-based PhD theses, and allows for the robust documentation of the artistic, curatorial, or other public-facing components of your thesis project through audio, video, hi-resolution image, and data files. If a student is including supplemental material in their submission, they must also include an appendix within their thesis document, which contains an overall description of the subject matter, credits, and file name(s).
A digital copy of a student’s thesis will be processed by SFU Library and made available in Summit, the Institutional Repository at SFU. A digital copy will also be sent to Library and Archives Canada and be accessible through the Theses Canada Portal.
9.1 Applying to Graduate
Students can apply to graduate at any time in the term they wish to defend their thesis. Students can do this via the “Application to Graduate” section on go.sfu.ca.
As part of this process, students should indicate any merit-based awards they have received during the pursuit of their degree so they can be listed in the Convocation program.
New students must have a credit balance on their account before they will be able to enroll in classes. This is done by paying the deposit to accept the offer of admission (more information is available here).
Note that if a student has outstanding fees on their student account, they cannot enroll in a subsequent term, and other penalties will be applied (more information is available here).
Registration timetables are posted on the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website and in the academic Calendar of Events. It is the student’s responsibility to check deadlines, pay their deposits, and keep their accounts current (more information is available here).
Students register through the Student Information System. Students can log into the Student Information System with their computing ID and password here.
Students are required to pay tuition fees as well as other fees each term. PhD students pay a per-term fee (more information is available here).
After a student has paid for six full semesters, graduate tuition is reduced to a continuing fee, which is half the term fee.
11.1 Registering during Thesis Submission Semester
A student must register for the semester in which their thesis is defended and submitted. This will normally be a continuing fee. However, if the thesis is submitted prior to the “Early in Term” date (usually the last day of the first month in the term), the student may be eligible for a 75% refund of tuition.
Early submission dates are listed by term on the Thesis Submission: Deadline Dates webpage here.
We aim to provide all accepted PhD students with robust financial support over the course of their programs, including a minimum of $20,000 CAD per year over four years. This matches the current level of support provided by a four-year Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada (SSHRC) Doctoral Fellowship (see below). Individual student funding packages will be comprised of a combination of awards, fellowships, teaching assistantships, research assistantships and, where possible, sessional instructorships (once ABD). The Graduate Program Assistant will notify students of approaching deadlines for government and internal awards. Please prepare well in advance and keep in mind that you may need transcripts and reference letters.
12.1 Government Awards
Eligible doctoral students can apply for funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships are valued at $20,000 CAD per year for up to four years. Canada Graduate Scholarships—Doctoral (CGS D) are valued at $35,000 per year for three years.
To be eligible for a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship, a student must:
be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada, as of the application deadline;
not have already received a doctoral-level scholarship or fellowship from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) or SSHRC (the agencies);
submit only one scholarship or fellowship application in a given academic year to either SSHRC, CIHR or NSERC. Nominations to the Vanier CGS program do not count toward this limit (see SSHRC’s regulations on multiple applications and holding multiple awards for more information); and
have completed no more than 48 months of full-time study in their doctoral program by December 31 of the calendar year of application.
To be eligible for a CGS D Scholarship, a student must:
be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada, as of the application deadline;
have completed no more than 24 months of full-time study in their doctoral program by December 31 of the calendar year of application if previously enrolled in a master’s program;
have completed no more than 36 months of full-time study in their doctoral program by December 31 of the calendar year of application if enrolled in a joint program (e.g MD/PhD, MA/PhD)
applicants who fall into this category have access to the 36-month window whether or not they were previously enrolled in a master’s program;
have completed no more than 36 months of full-time study in their doctoral program by December 31 of the calendar year of application if enrolled directly from a bachelor’s to a PhD program (with no time spent in a master’s program)
direct-entry applicants must be enrolled in their doctoral program at the time of application.
Both the SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships and the CGS D Scholarships are offered through one annual national competition. Applicants need to submit only one application to be considered for one or both awards. As each award has notable differences, applicants must read the descriptions for each award carefully to determine if they are eligible to apply and hold each award. Applicants eligible for both the SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships and CGS D Scholarships will automatically be considered for both awards.
Competition is strong and you need an original, compelling application. Students who do not enter the program with such funding are encouraged to work with their Supervisors to draft a strong proposal for the next annual competition, whose internal SFU deadline is always very early in the fall term. Workshops on crafting a strong application and peer-review sessions will also be held as part of CA 890. Additionally, prospective applicants are encouraged to take the grant-application workshops offered by the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies early in the fall semester (more information is available here).
Students holding a CGS D Scholarship may apply for the CGS Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement. Students entering the PhD program with a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship or a CGS D Scholarship will also be eligible for a Provost Prize of Distinction. This award is by nomination.
Other federal and provincial awards are listed on the Department of Graduate Studies website (more information is available here).
12.2 Major Entrance Scholarships
SFU sponsors several major entrance scholarships for students beginning their graduate studies. The awards are open to various academic units. Students must meet any additional eligibility requirement or criteria specific to the award. Some are open only to domestic students, while some target international students. The Indigenous Graduate Entrance Scholarship is intended for graduate students who have Canadian citizenship and Indigenous ancestry. Students should refer to the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website for looking up awards they are eligible for.
12.3 SFU Internal and Donor-Funded Awards
Internal SFU and Donor-Funded awards are available through the Grad Awards and Adjudication System (GA3). Students can use the system to apply for merit based graduate awards and scholarships that are administered by the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.
Students begin by completing a profile, which will populate each of their award applications. Students can also receive their status on submitted applications, accept or decline awards, and review their financial profile.
The system will only show awards that are currently open for application; students are encouraged to browse the website to see all the awards that will be available over the course of their degree program(s) (more information is available here).
12.3.1 Graduate Fellowship
The SCA Graduate Program is granted a number of Graduate Fellowships (GF) each year, presently valued at $3500 for a partial GF and $7000 for a full GF. These are awarded by the Graduate Program Committee to members of our MA, MFA, and PhD cohorts on the basis of academic excellence. A minimum CGPA of 3.5 is required (more information is available here).
12.3.2 Travel & Research Awards
These are smaller amounts administered by the School for the Contemporary Arts on a “first come” basis, usually awarded for travel for research purposes (such as attending festivals or conferences) in the amount of (up to) $1500 per academic year. These awards can be applied for three times per year: November, March, and July, and are payable into the student’s account in the first month of the following semester. Note that these applications require a faculty reference, so students should discuss their project with a faculty member who can vouch for the relationship between their project and their work at the School.
These funds need to be adjudicated by the Graduate Program Committee, so students should apply at least 6 weeks in advance of their travel, if possible (more information is available here).
12.3.3 Private Internal Awards
Many internal SFU awards are listed on the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website. Students should consider creatively how they might be eligible for these (more information is available here).
12.3.4 President’s PhD Scholarship and Thesis Completion Fellowship
These two awards support PhD students nearing the end of their studies who demonstrated academic excellence and timely progress in the completion of their degrees. (more information is available here and here).
12.4 Graduate Student Society, Financial Support
12.4.1 GSS Open Access Award (GSOAA)
The Graduate Student Society Open Access Award acknowledges graduate students who have published work in gold open access journals (more information is available here).
12.4.2 GSS Family Subsidy
Graduate students with children, in demonstrated financial need, are eligible to apply for up to $400 in funding (more information is available here).
12.4.3 GSS Professional Development Grants
The GSS is proud to provide a source of funding to graduate students presenting at conferences or engaging in field research. Graduate students taking part in these professional development activities may apply for a grant of $499. Grants are distributed by lottery to top-scoring applications coded according to an objective system established by the GSS Grants Allocation Committee (more information is available here).
12.5 Emergency Funding
12.5.1 GSS Emergency Grocery Card Program
The Emergency Grocery Card Program has been established by the GSS to provide temporary assistance to graduate students in urgent financial need. It is not meant to replace the services of SFU Financial Aid, food banks, or long-term remedies for graduate students’ financial needs (more information is available here).
12.5.2 Quest Food Exchange Program
Quest is BC’s largest not-for-profit food exchange program. The GSS has partnered with Quest Food Exchange in order to help support people facing financial hardship to access affordable, healthy food (more information is available here).
12.5.3 SFU Student Emergency Loan Fund
Short term emergency funds are available to students who urgently need money while awaiting receipt of other sources of funding.
Emergency loans are not available for outstanding fees owed to the University.
Students must have a demonstrated financial need and a secured source of repayment.
Graduate students must be enrolled for residence credit in an approved full-time program.
Students must meet with a financial aid and awards advisor. It is the student’s responsibility to supply all requested documentation. Incomplete applications may be rejected.
Simon Fraser University emergency loans are tenable only at Simon Fraser University and only for the term indicated on the notice.
12.5.4 Further Resources
For further assistance, check out the comprehensive list of other local resources, compiled by the Graduate Student Society: Community Resource here.
12.6 Student Loans, Bursaries, and Work-Study Positions
12.6.1 Student Loans
Students enrolled in eligible programs can apply for a variety of government assistance, including student loans and grants. Student lines of credit offered through financial institutions are also available. These forms of funding are offered to both full-time and part-time students (more information is available here).
Bursaries are a supplemental source of funding for students with demonstrated financial need; that is, they should not be treated as your primary source of funding. Bursaries are available to Canadian and International students. Students should be aware that they may not be awarded a bursary every term. Due to the high volume of applications received each term, payment of funds may not occur until the middle of the term of application. (more information is available here).
12.6.3 Work-Study Program
The Work-Study Program is an opportunity to participate in research-based projects and earn a supplemental income. Students will also gain valuable experience connecting with various members of the SFU community and build their co-curricular record. Because a student’s first commitment is to their studies, Work-Study hours are flexible, on campus and supervised. Work-Study positions are available during the Fall, Spring and Summer terms. Successful applicants will be awarded 140 Work-Study hours for a term.
To qualify and maintain eligibility for a Work-Study placement a student must:
have a minimum CGPA of 3.00 at SFU (waived for students in their first term at SFU);
be enrolled full-time in an approved program, unless otherwise stipulated;
have a demonstrated financial need (as assessed by SFU).
More information is available here.
12.7 Research Assistantships (RAs)
Faculty members holding research grants often have research-assistant jobs for graduate students, which require a variety of practical research. Such faculty members will often hire students as research assistants. The Graduate Program Chair will attempt to liaise between faculty members needing RAs, and students looking for RA positions. Alternatively, students may simply familiarize themselves with faculty members' funded research projects and approach them to propose their services as research assistants.
12.8 Funding for International Students
Unlike at many other universities, the tuition cost for international students is the same as for Canadian students. At SFU, international students are eligible for university awards and fellowships, work-study jobs, and bursaries. However, many government awards are available only to Canadian citizens and permanent residents. International students are encouraged to secure some funding from their home country.
Information about Scholarships and Awards available to international students is available by searching the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies’ Awards and Funding database.
In some cases, loans are available to international students (more information is available here).
General information for international students can be found online here.
Specific financial aid is also available to U.S. students (more information is available here).
12.9 FUNDING FAQS
12.9.1 When will I receive my award?
12.9.2 Why is the award amount in my account less than what I was awarded?
Your award will first be applied to any outstanding payments you need to make to SFU. After this is done, your award will show up in your account as a ‘refund’ for the remaining amount.
12.9.3 Why have I not received my award yet?
Awards need to be accepted in the GA3 system. You also may need to apply for your award as a reimbursement for expenses. Go here to find out. Make a note of which awards are received as up-front payments, and which require an expense claim. Keep all receipts and make an appointment with the SCA financial assistant to file your claim.
12.9.4 How do I track the status of my award?
12.9.5 How can I maximize my chances of receiving grants\awards?
Check the GA3 system for eligible awards.
Make a schedule of award deadlines, using the awards timeline provided by the Department of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies here.
Prepare some basic materials that you will likely re-use:
A concise and engaging description of your research, which would be comprehensible to someone without direct expertise in your field.
A description of the project you are working toward, with thought given to how it might be relevant or exciting to a broader research community.
An up-to-date list of your public presentations\publishing.
An up-to-date CV.
Be aware that for some awards, your GPA is a major consideration.
PhD students are eligible to work as Teaching Assistants (TAs) or Tutor Markers (TMs). SCA students in all of our graduate programs (MA, MFA, PhD) have priority in the hiring of TAs and TMs in the School for the Contemporary Arts. Duties vary by course, but include preparation, attending lectures, leading discussion groups, studio consultation, and marking essays and exams.
TAs are paid according to a multiple of base units, according to the number of hours per week a TA is expected to work. Slightly different rules apply to Tutor Markers.
Approximately two months before the beginning of each semester, the Graduate Program Assistant will inform all graduate students when the application process has opened. Applications are processed using SFU’s online system here.
Students are encouraged to apply for all positions for which they are qualified, ranking them by preference. Selection is made by the course instructors in consultation with the Graduate Program Chair. All TA and TM positions are conditional on enrollment. TA and TM requirements change each semester, depending on the courses offered, and unfortunately there are rarely enough available positions to distribute to all qualified candidates. This is especially true in the summer semester, when we offer fewer undergraduate courses.
Applications for TA and TM positions should be professional and well written, and should outline your experience and suitability for the course. By agreeing to TA or TM, a student is making a time commitment; TAs and TMs have to be available for the time and duration of the course and notify the instructor in the application of any anticipated absences. TAing is an important learning and financial opportunity; however, students should be cautious about taking on multiple positions. A balance between studies and the TA commitments needs to be maintained.
PhD students can also apply for TA and TM positions in other departments/schools. It has to be noted that graduate students in those departments/schools have priority.
Students who are TAs and TMs may choose to pay for their tuition under the “Payroll Deduction Process.” The benefit is they are not charged interest on the outstanding balance (more information is available here).
Overseen by their course instructor, TAs and TMs fill out and sign a Time Use Guideline at the beginning of the semester, which includes a breakdown of the hours the TA/TM is expected to devote to various tasks. It is important for TAs and TMs to keep track of their hours weekly, to not work beyond contract hours, and to not work for free. TAs and TMs that find themselves working too many hours per week, have to let the instructor know immediately so that they can redistribute the workload; alternatively, a TA/TM may request a workload review. Information on Time Use Guidelines (TUGs) is available on the online FAQ here.
As they progress in the doctoral program, PhD students may also wish to apply for Sessional Instructor positions advertised within the School. This should generally not happen until students are ABD and in the third or fourth year of the program and, as they will be responsible for the delivery of their own course, students are encouraged to assess their capacity to undertake such a commitment in consultation with their Supervisors. Hiring for these positions, which will vary by area and topic, is contingent upon suitability and experience. Applications for these positions generally open two months before the start of each semester.
TAs and TMs, as well as Sessional Instructors and Research Assistants, are represented by the Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU), which, in its own words, “secures our wages, limits class size, provides health and dental benefits, protects us from discrimination and harassment, and generally makes our working conditions better.” PhD students choose their representative to the TSSU.
All TSSU Members as defined by the TSSU bylaws with children under the age of 13, or those with children requiring additional care due to a physical or developmental disability up to the age of 18, are eligible to apply for childcare (more information is available here).
Graduate students pay mandatory Student Society fees, which gives them access to a number of benefits.
14.1 Health and Dental Benefits
Graduate students must have medical insurance for the entire duration of their studies. Without insurance, they could end up paying thousands of dollars per day for a hospital stay or even be refused certain services. In Canada, there are two types of insurance: primary and secondary. Both primary and secondary insurance are required for graduate students.
Primary Medical Insurance covers medically-required services, such as visits to doctors, hospital stays and diagnostic medical testing. Primary medical insurance is legally required for all residents of British Columbia (including international students) and is provided through the BC Medical Services Plan (MSP). Effective January 1, 2020, the BC MSP premium has been eliminated for Canadians and permanent residents; however, each study permit holder is required to pay a health fee of $75 per month.
Secondary Medical Insurance generally covers prescription drugs, vision care, and dental care. Eligible SFU students receive secondary medical insurance through the SFSS/GSS Extended Health and Dental Plan. Graduate students working as TAs may receive additional coverage through another provider as part of their employment contract (more information is available here).
All SFU graduate students who are taking at least one course at SFU who have basic medical insurance will be automatically enrolled in the SFSS/GSS Extended Health and Dental Plan.
14.1.1. Opting Out of the GSS Health and Dental plan
Students that have existing secondary coverage in BC may opt out of the GSS extended health plan. To opt out, they will be required to upload proof of coverage on the GSS Health and Dental website (here) during the Change-of-Coverage Period (this will be during the first two weeks of each term).
The GSS has compiled information about the procedures, as well as potential benefits\drawbacks to opting out of the plan here.
14.1.2 Additional Benefits for TAs and TMs
TSSU members who are BC residents may opt-in to a group plan, to have part of their secondary insurance premiums paid by the employer (SFU). TAs, TMs, and Sessional Instructors must apply for all benefits by deadline. The employer (SFU) will not automatically enrol them. For international students, there is a three-month waiting period. These benefits extend to spouses and dependents.
Cost Sharing Breakdown:
Extended Health (Secondary Insurance): 75% employer-paid plan through Pacific Blue Cross that covers 80% of prescription drugs and minimal paramedical practitioners. Coverage may be maintained for up to 2 semesters following employment as long as the form is submitted before employment ends. Students can see the plan booklet for full details and can enroll via the form on SFU’s HR website here.
14.1.3 Coverage for International and Out-of-Province students
International and out-of-province students should apply for British Columbia Medical Services Plan (BC MSP) as soon as they enter the province, as the application takes 90 days to process. During this waiting period, international students are automatically enrolled in a short-term plan called guard.me. Students from another Canadian province should maintain their out-of-province insurance until they obtain their BC MSP card.
14.1.4 Opting out of Guard.me
Guard.me is a private insurance plan contracted by SFU that can provide coverage before international students are eligible for BC MSP. All incoming international students are automatically enrolled in this plan for the first semester of their program, but must still register for BC MSP.
For detailed information about how to opt-out, students should see the TSSU’s guide here.
14.1.5 Adding your spouse or your dependants to the plan
Students can opt-in family members/spouses for an additional cost (not tied to tuition or fees) during the change-of-coverage periods online at Studentcare.
14.1.6 GSS Benefit Plan Bursary
The annual GSS Benefit Plan Bursary is intended to offset the costs of the extended Health & Dental Benefit Plan ($459.54) for graduate students in demonstrated financial need. The application form can be downloaded here.
14.2 Health Clinics and Counseling Services
Students have access to SFU's health clinics, counseling services, health promotion, and physical therapy. Most fees are covered by BC MSP (more information is available here).
14.3 SFU Computing ID
As soon as students are admitted to SFU and have paid their deposit, they will receive an email to activate their SFU Computing ID, which gives them access to email, the Student Information System, their payslip, web publishing facilities, eLearning systems such as Canvas, campus labs, and online Library services (more information is available here).
14.4 Library/ID card
Library/ID cards gives students access to SFU's library, semester loans of books, electronic databases, interlibrary loan, free workshops, and other services.
Additional Library Services:
14.4.1 Library Research Commons
SFU Library's Research Commons supports the research endeavours of the University community, with particular focus on graduate students during all stages of the research lifecycle (more information is available here).
Document Services: The library has computers and software for word processing, spreadsheets, presentation slides, and other tasks. Students can download, save, print, copy, and scan at all three libraries.
Alerts: Students should follow the library’s New books report to see weekly and monthly listings by subject and format. Students can save time and stay on top of their research with current awareness resources such as RSS feeds and table of contents emails from journals and journal article databases. Students can use the Off-Campus Access Bookmarklet for seamless access to article links in emails or on publisher websites.
Citation Management: SFU provides subscription access and support for several reference management tools.
Conferences: Sign up for Conference Alerts (Academic Conferences Worldwide)
Criterion On Demand: Students have access to a selection of educationally relevant feature films and documentaries from the Criterion Collection. Visit the database here.
Graduate students are eligible to borrow materials at other college and university libraries using a reciprocal borrowing (COPPUL) card. Students must obtain their card at SFU library before they borrow materials from other libraries. This card is free. More information is available at Borrowing privileges at other universities: Borrowing Library Materials. If a student requires a book or article that SFU library doesn't have, they can request it through inter-library loan. This service is free and unlimited for graduate students.
LinkedIn Learning: All SFU students, staff and faculty receive free access to the LinkedIn Learning online training library.
14.4.2 Your Liaison Librarian
Liaison Librarians are a very helpful resource for student research. Sylvia Roberts is the liaison librarian for the School for Contemporary Arts.
A liaison librarian:
Knows the information sources relevant to the subjects taught in the department/school,
Is available by appointment for research consultations,
Provides library instruction or web-based research guides on request for courses offered by the department/school,
Leads library instruction classes for undergraduate students. If a TA thinks this would benefit their course or tutorial, they should discuss it with the course instructor to make arrangements.
SFU students can take advantage of U-Pass, a program that provides unlimited, all zone access to public transit in Metro Vancouver (the GVRD) at one-third to one-fifth the cost of a regular monthly transit pass (more information is available here).
14.6 Parking permits
Downtown: The parking lot at 400 West Cordova Street offers reduced rates after 4:00pm for students, faculty, and staff with a valid SFU library card or a parking pass available from Continuing Studies.
Burnaby and Surrey: Graduate students can buy parking permits valid for one semester (more information is available here).
14.7 Vancouver Parks & Recreation Membership
Eligible SFU Vancouver students will be issued a Vancouver Parks & Recreation Membership, which allows access to Vancouver Park Board operated fitness centres, public skating, and public swimming sessions during operating hours.
Graduate students are eligible for a Vancouver Parks & Recreation Membership if the following criteria are met:
The Graduate student is charged the full Recreation & Athletics fee ($73.94) AND
Registered in a minimum of 3 credits at the SFU Vancouver Campus OR
Registered ‘per term’ at the SFU Vancouver Campus
If preferred, an SFU Vancouver graduate student can choose to obtain an SFU Burnaby Membership, instead of an SFU Vancouver Membership. Students must select their preferred campus and may not hold multiple campus memberships at the same time (more information is available here).
Biographies of SCA Faculty can be found here.
Contact information for SCA Staff can be found here.
For information on how to go on leave or withdraw from a course, students should consult the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website and Section 1.8 of SFU’s Graduate General Regulations.
The Graduate Program Assistant keeps an ongoing record of each student’s progress in the Program. This record lists all courses completed and in progress. The record also includes Progress Reports and information on grades, course instructors, course outlines, project proposals, awards, and fellowships.
Those students completing a practice-based PhD should adhere as best as possible to the following general guidelines for the public presentation of the artistic, curatorial, or community-based presentation of their thesis materials.
The thesis should be presented in a form consistent with the research direction undertaken by the student during their tenure in the program, and on a scale that is congruent with a doctoral-level degree: e.g., as a major exhibition, an evening-length performance, or other substantial artistic/practice-based presentation organized by the student. The student will ensure that this presentation is publicized to the School community and the broader public (see Section 19.3).
Whether admission is charged for the thesis presentation is up to the student, their Supervisor, and any potential partnering presenters. Please see Section 19.4 for a more detailed discussion on this topic.
The External Examiner should be confirmed by the Supervisor and Graduate Program Assistant well before the presentation of the thesis so that they can attend the event (see Section 8.2).
Thesis presentations are scheduled in consultation with the student’s Supervisory Committee, the Graduate Program Chair, and any outside stakeholders (e.g., a public gallery or artist-run centre, a theatre company or performance festival, etc.). If presentations take place in the School, then the SCA Production Coordinator and Technical Director must be involved, as these presentations are contingent on a number of factors: faculty schedules; available space; technical support; etc. Proposed dates for the thesis presentation and defence should ideally be submitted to the Graduate Program Chair and Graduate Program Assistant at least six months before the thesis presentation is scheduled to take place.
In preparing for their thesis presentation, it is absolutely essential for students not to make any assumptions about available space and/or resources, either internally or externally. For performing artists, this means booking space early (at least six months in advance of the presentation), finding a technical director with which to work, and organizing necessary equipment (projectors, video cameras, monitors, speakers, computers, etc.). For gallery presentations, this will likely mean working with a community partner, or in the case of the Audain Gallery, helping to organize the installation, vinyl lettering, booklet printing, catering, and gallery cleanup. In preparing for their presentations, students must not assume that School spaces and resources will be automatically reserved for them; similarly, students must not assume that there are unlimited resources: although every attempt will be made to meet their equipment needs, they must keep in mind that others, including MFA students and fellow PhD students, will likely be making similar requests.
19.2 Presentation FAQ
19.2.1 Can I present my work outside of the school? Yes, and there are any number of reasons why this might be more appropriate and beneficial for PhD thesis presentations.
19.2.2 Can I pay my collaborators? You can include honoraria for your collaborators in your budget. The maximum amount allowed for a single collaborator is $400. You cannot pay collaborators directly; instead, you must submit an expense claim to the SCA Financial Assistant, including your collaborators’ names, e-mails, addresses, citizenships, and SIN numbers. The SCA will process and send payments directly to your collaborators.
19.2.3 What if my thesis project changes? This is often the case. It is important to keep your Supervisory Committee informed, as well as the SCA Technical Director and the Audain Gallery (if required). To ensure smooth planning of your thesis defence, please also keep the Graduate Program Assistant informed of major changes to your presentation date.
It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that their thesis presentation is properly advertised, but the SCA's Communications Assistant (email@example.com) can help with design and production for print and digital materials as well as with online promotion, including adding your event to the SCA's Events page. Students can set up a meeting with the Communications Assistant to find out more.
Advertising comes in many forms, including:
printed event cards and posters (and a brochure or program as necessary);
a listing on various events lists or promotional material being produced by the SCA;
a listing on the SCA web site;
a listing on the SFU Events calendar;
a Facebook event and other online PR;
a listing with the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website.
Advertising should include essential information such as the name of the event, the date, location, who it is being presented by, if tickets are needed and where they are available, and where to get more information, such as a website. The SCA's website must always be included, as well: www.sfu.ca/sca.
All School-related advertising material MUST include the official SFU School for the Contemporary Arts logo, available in digital form from the SCA Communications Assistant.
As well, the event listings for ALL public presentations of Graduating Projects must also include the statement:
“Presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University.”
Our location should be described as:
“School for the Contemporary Arts at SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts.”
All of the necessary location information for your venue should be included. For example:
Djavad Mowafaghian World Art Centre
SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts
149 West Hastings Street, Vancouver
A minimum of three weeks prior to the event, the student have to give all of the relevant (and complete) information and copies of all design files (packaged) to the SCA Communications Assistant. The Communication Assistant not only needs to review all materials before they're made public, but also must send all print jobs off to the SCA's preferred printer.
As part of their thesis prospectuses (see Section 7), students must include a complete budget that includes all costs associated with the practice-based portion of their project. Costs could include materials involved in the creation/presentation, as well as performer/crew/contributor honoraria.
When preparing their budget, students have to be aware that there may be costs associated with using specific spaces and with having technical support and equipment. It is the student’s responsibility in determining all costs associated with the thesis presentation. For visual artists presenting in the Audain Gallery, these costs must include all associated installation and de-installation costs. For performing artists, these costs must include Front of House costs. Early consultation with their Supervisor and liaising with the School’s Technical Director and staff in the Goldcorp’s Audience, Event, and Production Services Department will be important to a smooth process and accurate budget.
The School for the Contemporary Arts will provide up to $1500 toward associated costs for practice-based thesis projects.
The School will additionally cover the following ancillary costs for individual presentations:
Front of House costs for up to three shows
Costs for up to 50 posters and 200 postcards
Students should include the above costs as in-kind donations from the School in their submitted thesis prospectus budgets.
In most cases, admission to thesis presentations should not be charged. However, special permission may be given to students to charge admission if they can demonstrate that the costs of the project exceed the budget allocated to them. In such a case, a written request must be made to the Graduate Program Committee prior to the event. If there is an admission charge for the presentation, the student will ensure that complimentary tickets are available to members of the Examining Committee for all performances. All box office revenue will remain with the University until an expense claim, honorarium or invoice is submitted to the School’s Financial Assistant: only expenses directly incurred in the Project, above the initial grant award, may be reimbursed.
Please note: All Project expenses must comply with SFU's Business and Travel Expenses policy (AD 3.02). A more detailed overview of the rules and processes of policy AD 3.02 is in this PDF. Students should consult Section 19.5 below for information about claiming expenses, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about submitting honorariums or invoices. Any box office revenue above the requested expenses (i.e., the approved honoraria) will remain with the School to directly support future graduate student presentations. Additionally, all service charges related to ticket sales (i.e., GST, handling fees, etc.) will be deducted before any revenue is distributed for possible honoraria.
Expenses incurred for project presentations that have been approved in a thesis prospectus are eligible for reimbursement through expense claims. Students should retain all receipts for items purchased, and submit them as one expense claim.
Please note that honoraria cannot be claimed for reimbursement, due to University procedures. In other words, students should not pay honoraria out of their own pocket, and then submit for reimbursement. In order to pay honoraria, students must submit the names, addresses, social insurance numbers, and citizenships of persons who they wish to pay, together with the requested amount of payment, to the Graduate Program Chair for approval (see Appendix D). Once the list is approved, the Graduate Program Chair will forward it to the Financial Assistant, who will arrange payment directly to those persons listed for the approved amounts. This procedure must also be followed for requests on box office revenues collected for performances. Please note that honoraria cannot be requested for fellow graduate students, or any student receiving course credit for working on the project.
All students who are current employees of the University (i.e. cashiers, Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, or work-study employees) will have access to fins.sfu.ca. Students should contact the SCA's Financial Assistant, email@example.com, for more information about submitting an Employee Expense Claim. Together with all receipts, the completed form should be given to the SCA's Financial Assistant, who will then initiate a direct deposit into the student’s bank account (which can take up to four weeks).
Student who are not employees of the University should contact the School’s Financial Assistant at firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information about submitting a Non-Employee Expense Claim. If the student has not been an employee, they should ask the budget clerk to print out a form, which can then be filled out and signed before being submitted.
Communication forms an integral part of successful advancement through the PhD degree. The student shares the responsibility of maintaining communication with their Supervisor and Supervisory Committee, the Graduate Program Chair, the Graduate Program Assistant, Faculty, and other students.
If a student receives an email from one of their advisors, the Graduate Program Chair, or the Graduate Program Assistant, it is good practice to respond to it promptly. Even if they don’t have time for a full reply, it is important for them to acknowledge that they have received and read the message. Having to resend requests for information (about awards, progress reports or other information) to students can become time-consuming.
Students will find themselves emailing professors (the ones they are working with now and the ones they worked with in the past) and staff at the University regularly, requesting references and information on various University events and practices. Effective emails get the quickest and most thorough response.
The following suggestions will help students get their message across, but students should also ask their Supervisor(s) and correspondents what type of practices they prefer:
Read your message before you send it.
Make your subject line descriptive, such as “Can we book a meeting this week” or “Need more information about SSHRC process”.
Change the subject of the message if the topic of the conversation changes.
Keep threads going, but restate important information in your email. Different email programs link related email differently, so don’t assume recipients can easily find all related email. Keep a thread going in the message, but restate the important information (general topic, dates under discussion, etc.) so recipients don’t have to go digging through the thread.
Don’t assume the reader remembers previous conversations, or knows about the topic, include all the information about timelines, deadlines, institutional rules related to the topic, and, particularly, information for reference letters.
Include your student number when emailing the Graduate Program Assistant.
Consider writing important information in bold.
Put action items or questions on separate lines so that they stand out and get noticed.
Feel free to email to the email@example.com list but if the topic is not concerning everyone, then limit the number of people to whom you send a message to those who need to read it.
Put people who need to be informed on the "Cc" line.
Put people who need to respond or take action on the "To" line.
Don’t count on an immediate response; however, if there has been no answer after approximately a week, send a polite follow-up. It is better to send a follow-up than assume a reason (too busy, not interested) that the person isn’t answering. It is possible they would love to communicate with you but have not received or read your previous email.
Use your SFU email consistently. If you email from other email addresses, ensure that your name appears the same, so that the recipient can search and organize all messages from you.
Acknowledge messages and respond as promptly as possible. If you are unable to respond with a full answer right away, let the sender know that you are looking into the issue and will respond by a certain time or date.
Regarding attachments, make sure your surname is part of the name of the attached files/documents. The recipient may have to search for it in their attachments folder, or save it to their computer. Consider that if your attachment has a generic filename, such as “Award”, they will be forced to rename it to avoid losing it on their computer.
Try to empathize with the recipient(s) of the message. Although it may be quick to write the message, think about what you are actually asking that person to do, or the info you are asking them to provide. Is your email clear, is your subject line meaningful, and are your attachments well named?
Don't send a message when you are angry. Better to write it, save it to your drafts folder, and come back to it later. Often by the time you return to the email, the problem has resolved or improved.
20.1 Requesting Reference Letters
To request a reference letter, first send a short email asking if the person would be willing to supply you with a letter for a specific purpose by a specific date. If they say yes, then send them a fuller description of what is needed. Include a draft of your application statements, so they can refer specifically to your application proposal in their letter. Even if you are emailing someone whom you think knows the terms of the award (such as the Graduate Program Chair), offer a friendly reminder by restating the terms of evaluation which will be used by the granting body, so that your reviewer can address these in the letter. Include information on how the letter is to be disseminated. Be clear if is there a form, an online link, if the letter is to be sent directly, if it has to include the address, etc. Many people will appreciate a polite reminder a few days before a letter is due.
It will take your referee some time to draft the first reference letter. Make sure to give them plenty of notice. Subsequent letters are easier for the referee to write, so do not hesitate to ask, but give ample notice.
The following provides general information regarding the selection of a PhD Supervisor, expectations, progression, changes of Supervisory Committee, and conclusion of the program.
Graduate students should also consult the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website for Best Practices in Forming and Utilizing a Supervisory Committee as well as Section 1.6 on "Supervision" in the Graduate General Regulations.
Meant for both departments/schools and students, these general guidelines are organized roughly into five phases of the relationship between Supervisor and student:
Selection – initiation of graduate program and selection of the right Supervisor and Supervisory Committee,
Initial Phase – establishment of the basis of the relationship,
Continuation – progression toward the degree,
Changes – possible changes to the Supervisory Committee,
Conclusion – preparation for defence.
There is necessarily some overlap among guidelines relevant to these phases so the separation into phases should not be taken too literally. There is also some redundancy among the guidelines to ensure that all aspects are fully covered.
Graduate programs at SFU vary widely in size, in orientation and in homogeneity. Therefore, the degree to which some of the guidelines are applicable will vary as well; e.g. the degree of formality in expressing expectations will typically not be as great in smaller, more homogeneous programs as in larger, more heterogeneous ones. Differences in the tradition and 'culture' between disciplines will also affect the degree to which some of the guidelines are applicable. Guidelines most strongly affected by these factors contain explicit reference to them, but these factors should be borne in mind when referring to all guidelines.
Selection of a Supervisor
In the case of the PhD at SCA, selection of a Supervisor is extremely important and should be a well-informed decision. University Regulations require that the committee be formed within the first year in the program. However, the SCA PhD program typically matches students with Supervisors upon admission into the program. Another way of putting this is that a major criterion for admission to the PhD is supervisory fit and ensuring that there is faculty capacity to support a student’s research. Prospective PhD students are therefore advised to reach out to potential supervisors early in the application process.
Relatedly, faculty members should take on only as many graduate students as they can adequately supervise.
Selection of other members of the Supervisory Committee should occur as early as possible in a student's program and should be based on an informed decision that takes into account students’ research interests and faculty members’ time and capacity.
Expectations that are clear, explicit and mutually accepted are the basis of a good supervisory relationship. These expectations should be discussed and agreed upon very early in the relationship. Clear and unambiguous written agreements are recommended.
With the participation of the Supervisory Committee, Supervisors and students should, at the start of the supervisory relationship, agree on a plan of study for the student's degree program with clear 'milestones' denoting progress. The plan may be expressed in writing. In all cases, there should be an explicit understanding that it may be changed in light of future developments. Departments/schools may wish to consider the establishment of a general written agreement, stipulating minimum requirements, rights and responsibilities of the student, Supervisor and department/school, which could be revised to meet individual student/supervisor needs.
Students must be made aware of evaluation criteria for all work before work commences. If ambiguities remain, students should discuss them with the faculty member and resolve them before proceeding.
Supervisors and members of Supervisory Committees should inform graduate students of their disciplinary orientation and views on controversial topics in the field and state their expectations of graduate students in relation to these.
It is the responsibility of Supervisors to inform students in advance of evaluation procedures, the outcome(s) of those procedures (in written form) and the means available to students to respond to evaluation outcomes.
Whenever research is being planned, faculty members and graduate students should reach agreement on the ownership of any intellectual property that may result. This will include patents, licenses and the authorship of any publications, artistic works, or other projects which may arise from the research. The principle that all students who participate in research that leads to publication/public presentation (or profit) should receive appropriate credit should be maintained. It is recommended that a written agreement be concluded. Similar discussions should occur between instructors and students in courses in which new data and ideas may be generated. In all cases, the agreements reached must be consistent with University policies on intellectual property.
When a faculty member funds a student from a research grant, the terms and conditions of such funding should be stated in writing.
Progression through the graduate program presents several areas where guidelines are helpful. These relate to academic and personal aspects of the relationship.
Advice, Resources and Evaluation
Faculty members should be familiar with School and University policies and procedures, and with sources of information on graduate student support. Similarly, students are responsible for familiarizing themselves with the University Calendar, the Graduate Studies website and official School and University documentation pertaining to graduate education.
An important element of graduate education is the development of research skill/professional competence. Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that a student has access to intellectual resources and to research opportunities. Other members of the Supervisory Committee and the School share in these responsibilities. Graduate students are expected to take advantage of the resources and opportunities that are provided and to actively pursue support for their research and themselves.
To the extent possible, the Supervisor should provide financial support for the student's research and for the student.
Faculty members should be available for regular consultation with students. Supervisors, other committee members and course instructors should be available to students on a schedule appropriate to the needs of both parties.
Students should meet with their Supervisors and/or full Supervisory Committees on a regular basis to set both short- and long-term goals (which may be modified from time to time) and to ensure adherence to common expectations. Normally, students should arrange such meetings.
The Supervisor and the student share the responsibility of ensuring that examinations such as minor fields, qualifying or comprehensive examinations are arranged in a timely way.
The Supervisor is responsible for ensuring that the student's progress is assessed on at least an annual basis as described in Section 1.8.1. This will often entail formal meetings of the Supervisory Committee and the student. The resultant report on the student's progress may be either written by the Supervisor or drafted by the student and endorsed—possibly in modified form—by the Supervisor. The Supervisor is responsible for transmitting the report to the chair of the SCA Graduate Program Committee, with a copy to the student.
Supervisors must inform their students of planned absences well in advance and make arrangements for an acting supervisor, who would normally be a member of the Supervisory Committee (see Section 1.6.3). Similarly, students should inform their Supervisors of planned absences in advance. In cases of unplanned absences, notification should be done as soon as possible.
The purposes of evaluation of students are to improve academic skills in research, writing, critical thinking, analysis, etc. and to assess the progress of the student toward the degree. Evaluation should be fair, sensitive and provided in a timely fashion. Criticism should be specific and constructively presented. Evaluation should include specific suggestions for improvement, when indicated. Students have the obligation to respond in a timely way to criticism and suggestions for improvement.
Faculty members who feel they cannot or can no longer, evaluate a student's work in an unbiased way should arrange to have another qualified person evaluate the work.
Evaluation of the student's work in one area should not be affected by evaluation in another area. Students who feel their work is not being evaluated fairly should notify the SCA Graduate Program Chair and seek resolution. If satisfactory resolution cannot be reached at this level, the Graduate Appeal Procedures may be applicable.
Interpersonal and Other Conflicts of Interest
The relationship between Supervisors and students must be purely an academic one. Any deviations from this require cessation of any evaluative role for the supervisor.
Romantic, intimate relationships (including but not limited to sexual intimacy) are unacceptable between faculty members and graduate students because of the increased potential for coercion, favoritism and harassment and so should be avoided. The societal view of "consenting adults" does not apply in the faculty member-graduate student case, because of pre-existing imbalances in power. Faculty members are responsible for drawing a clear line of separation between their professional and their personal lives. A faculty member who enters into an intimate or close personal relationship with a graduate student who is, or will be, subject to the faculty member for any evaluation, supervision or employment should terminate or decline the evaluative/supervisory/employment role(s) and take all necessary steps to avoid any suggestion of bias, including informing the School Director of the situation.
Faculty members who are in a financial relationship with a student shall not be involved in any evaluative role with respect to the student. Such relationships may include business partnership or an employee-employer relationship outside the normal scope of research or teaching assistantships, but normally exclude situations where both faculty member and student are co-holders of the rights to intellectual property.
Faculty members who play more than one role with respect to the student should not take unfair advantage of this situation. One example is serving as both Supervisor and course instructor in a course where the student is employed as a teaching assistant, which could result in undue pressure on the student to perform work beyond that specified under the TA terms of employment.
Faculty members must not permit personal conflict with a graduate student to impinge on that student's relationship with other faculty members. Similarly, faculty members should not allow personal animosities among colleagues to influence graduate students' relationships with those colleagues.
Supervisors and students should discuss academic dishonesty and its consequences, with regard to both Project and course work. Neither party should assume that what constitutes academic dishonesty is "self-evident." Consult Policy R60.01.
Supervisors and students should become familiar with and govern their behaviour by the University Human Rights code, which covers a range of harassment and discrimination issues, including sexual harassment. Consult Policy GP18.
Neither a graduate student nor a faculty member may present the work of the other as if it is their own work.
Faculty members should be sensitive to cultural differences regarding standard academic practice related to academic dishonesty and make every effort to inform and explain Canadian definitions.
Changes of Committee
Change in membership of the Supervisory Committee may be initiated by the student, any member of the Supervisory Committee or any member of the SCA Graduate Program Committee, as described in Section 1.6.6.
A graduate student may wish to change his or her Supervisor and/or committee member(s) for any number of valid reasons. These reasons include, but are not limited to, change in direction of research, change of interests and irreconcilable academic or personal conflicts.
Intellectual debate is an important part of University activity. Occasionally, fundamental differences in substance, style or philosophy may render debate counter-productive. Every effort should be made by faculty members and graduate students to address such difficulties. Departments and schools are encouraged to establish mechanisms to mediate or otherwise resolve such differences before they become irreconcilable. If it becomes apparent to either party that intellectual differences have become irreconcilable and that debate between them has become more negative than constructive, each has a responsibility to reconsider working together.
Students should be able to change Supervisors without subsequent negative consequences. This involves faculty members disavowing proprietary attitudes regarding graduate students and ensuring that past conflicts do not color future relations with the student. If the faculty member is unable to detach themselves, then they should remove themselves from any further formal and informal evaluative functions regarding the student. See the section above under Supervisory Committee for further guidance about changes in committee.
Conclusion of the Program
Well in advance of University deadlines, the Supervisory Committee and student should consult to prepare for the culminating event. Timelines and procedures should be agreed upon for completion and approval of the project and for its examination. The same considerations apply to the writing of a final examination.
In doctoral programs, there are an External Examiner and an 'Internal' Examiner. The choice of examiners should be made in consultation with the graduate student, who should be informed about the qualifications of the examiner(s).
The same considerations related to conflict of interest in supervisory contexts (see above) are relevant to selection of examiners: examiners should have no personal, financial or professional relationship with the student that would lead to any conflict of interest.
Normally, the Project is not sent to examiners until it has the approval of the full Supervisory Committee.
Prior to the defence, all participants should acquaint themselves with the possible outcomes specified in Section 1.10.2.
The relationship between the Supervisor and the student does not end upon degree completion. The Supervisor, and other faculty members as appropriate, should be available to write letters of reference for the student and submit them in a timely manner.
Here are some of the options for creating a Directed Study:
Option 1: Add work to an existing undergraduate course
Contact the undergraduate course instructor and secure their approval to enroll in the course. Forward the approval to the Graduate Program Assistant, who will then enroll you as a graded student.
Find a Directed Study course supervisor and propose the extra work you will do within the course to bring it up to Graduate level.
If the course is taught by faculty within the School for the Contemporary Arts, the Directed Study supervisor may be the course instructor. If the school is not taught by our faculty, you will need to find a supervisor from within the SCA.
The extra work could happen within the course (a longer essay, a secondary research project, etc.), or it could happen adjacent to the course (an artistic project that explores the course content through your practice).
Incorporate the Directed Study course supervisor's suggestions/revisions to your proposal, and get their signature on Directed Study proposal form.
Submit the signed Directed Study course form to the Graduate Program Assistant, who will then enroll you in CA 889.
Optizon 2: Audit a course (or courses), and complete a significant artistic project
Contact the course instructor(s) and secure their permission to audit. Forward the permission to the Graduate Program Assistant, who will then enroll you as an auditing student.
The steps following this are the same as in Option 1.
Option 3: Independent Reading List, with Supervision
Propose a reading list, and incorporate additional suggestions and feedback from your course supervisor.
Create your proposal, describing the readings and the types of responses you will do.
The steps following this would be the same as in Option 1.
Option 4: A Completely Different Option
Your proposed course may not fall under any of the previous options. The most important factors are:
You have the supervision of a faculty member, and an agreement on how you will be graded.
The supervisor is from within the SCA.
The work you undertake is worth 5 graduate credits, as confirmed by your Directed Study course supervisor.
The work doesn't replicate work you are doing in any other course.
The work is rigorous and supports your research, as confirmed by your Directed Study course supervisor.
The work incorporates feedback and support from SCA faculty. You would not be permitted to do an artistic project, with no relation to a faculty member. There needs to be a clear "study" element, as well as supervision.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I fill out _____ on the form?
The form is quite general because it is meant to accommodate a wide variety of situations. If something doesn't apply to you, don't worry about filling it out. The non-negotiable parts are:
You must include your transcript, with your GPA, and a description of the work/project that is detailed enough for:
Your course supervisor to know how to give you a grade at the end of the semester.
Your course supervisor and the Graduate Program Chair to deduce any potential problems. For example: your project requires resources that the School can't support; your project isn't rigorous enough to merit 5 credits; your project raises concerns from a research-ethics standpoint.
Us to know that your course supervisor has agreed to the proposal, and that they are aware of what you will be doing.
Note: a clear project proposal will help you, and your supervisor, stay on track during the semester when things (inevitably) get busy.
Will _____ be approved?
If you have incorporated feedback from a faculty member, it is likely that the course will be approved. The Graduate Program Assistant can enroll you in a Directed Study until the second week of classes, though ideally, these will be completed during regular registration at the end of the previous term. Please create your proposals with enough time to receive feedback and approval from your course supervisor.
When should I take a Directed Study?
It is completely up to you. If an interesting special topics course is being offered, you may want to take the Directed Study during that semester, because these courses don't come along often. Directed Studies courses should generally be taken during PhD students’ first year in the program, as part of the completion of their coursework.
This Appendix provides guidelines for the allocation of the spaces within SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts.
Accessible and equitable use of space is essential to the School’s operation. In order to support the variety of demands on the spaces, a policy has been devised that allows for the greatest flexibility on behalf of our student and faculty needs, while insuring that classes, productions, graduate student and faculty research requirements remain a priority. In all cases, space will be used in a manner which best serves the interest of the SCA.
Simon Fraser University has articulated multiple objectives for the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts. After teaching needs are accommodated, the SCA has the opportunity to generate income from rentals to artists and artistic organizations. These rental requests are made to the Director, School for the Contemporary Arts.
Priority for space
School for the Contemporary Arts courses (actual class time & exam)
Booking outside of class times for class assignments, projects and rehearsals for School productions
Faculty and Teaching Assistant course preparation
SCA faculty research
SCA or SFU Woodward’s projects or partnerships involving rehearsal requests
Other requests from:
FCAT Office and Units
other units within SFU and
outside artistic groups
Contemporary Arts courses, Summer Workshops/Programs
Booking outside of class times for class assignments, projects and rehearsals for school productions
Faculty research and course preparation
Graduate student preparation for graduating project to be presented in the Fall semester
Graduate student research
SCA student use of space for projects not related to a course
Regardless of whether a student is registered or not, the student would have to rent the space in one of the following scenarios:
On their own as a third party. In this scenario, the student would need to purchase facility liability insurance ($3million), such as from a company called Special Risk Insurance Brokers in Langley.
Have the space booked as part of an SFU course by an SCA representative. The SFU instructor responsible for the course under which the space is booked should be prepared to provide a written document showing how the use of the space is related to a specific SFU course that the student needs to complete or is planning to take. In this case, the space rental could be deemed to be an SFU activity.
Have the space booked through some other body such as the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS). The SFSS's liability insurance would then be relied upon if there was damage.
Requests from outside artistic groups.
Faculty and graduate student requests for the Summer semester should be submitted during the Fall semester to insure availability.
The Manager of the SCA Academic and Administrative Unit, in consultation with the Space and Scheduling Committee, will allocate space to courses within the yearly course scheduling process and resolve space conflicts.
All booking requests are made with the Undergraduate Assistant. When booking space for courses or course-related use, include the course number with the request.
Space must be booked with the Undergraduate Assistant before equipment can be requested through IT Services.
IT services not related to a course and outside of the public venues is booked with the SCA Technical Director.
Students may book space for a maximum of two consecutive weeks at a time (the current week plus the following week), including the weekend.
Students should be aware of the needs of their fellow students and not overbook. Generally, we consider 3 hours of extra time per week as a reasonable amount. If additional time is requested, the student may be required to get faculty permission. Conflicts over space may have to be referred to the Associate Director, SCA.
If plans change and space is not required, the Undergraduate Assistant must be notified. Note: if space has not been claimed ½ hour after the beginning of the booked time, the space is considered forfeited.
The space must be returned to its original condition. Chairs and tables must be returned to their appropriate positions. Props and other materials must be cleaned up and the booker must remove everything brought into the space. Transgressions may result in the loss of booking privileges.
Shoes and Food policy for rooms 2210 (Studio T), 2270 (Studio D), 4210 (theatre studio), 4270 (theatre studio), 4525 (Courtyard Dance Studio), 4650 (Blonde Dance Studio [barefoot floor only]), and 4750 (Hastings Dance Studio):
No outdoor shoes, no dance shoes with screws (tap shoes) are permitted. Pointe shoes are fine but no rosin.
Props that could damage the floor are not allowed in these studios.
Food and drinks are not allowed in teaching spaces, studios, or computer labs, except water in plastic or metal containers, no glass.
Each space has been allocated a number of tables and chairs through Facilities Services. A request for additional furniture for a course should be sent to Facilities Services, with room numbers and configurations. If additional furniture is needed for a single class, that request goes to the SCA Undergraduate Assistant. Additional furniture requests in performance venues goes to the SCA Production Coordinator.
The School for the Contemporary Arts shares the Performance Venues, cultural spaces, and amenities in SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts with GCA Production and Event Services, SFU Woodward's Cultural Programs, SFU's Vancity Office of Community Engagement, SFU Galleries, as well as with other SFU-related and external events facilitated by SFU Meeting, Event and Conference Services (MECS).
The School for the Contemporary Arts confirms Performance Venue usage in SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts 18 months in advance. SCA bookings are primarily for performances (including preparation for performances), film screenings, and visual art exhibitions.
Performance Venues in SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts include:
Fei & Milton Wong Experimental Theatre (B2290)
Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema (3200)
Djavad Mowafaghian World Art Centre (2555)
Studio D (2210)
Studio T (2270)
Contact the SCA’s Production Coordinator to determine services to facilitate events in these venues.
Required Information for Payment of Honoraria
Please note that you may not pay collaborators directly. Instead, please submit the following information to the SCA Financial Assistant. Cheques will be mailed directly to collaborators within 4-6 weeks of your submission.
Name (First & Last)
Address & Postal Code/Zip Code
How you would like the cheque delivered (please highlight desired option):
ii. Campus Mail
iii. Picked Up at 149 W. Hastings Street Vancouver, BC V6B 1H4
Are they an SFU Employee (include ID#)
Canadian Resident (include SIN)
Non-Resident (If US Resident, include SSN)
Provide details as to why this honorarium is being issued (Max 30 characters)
What is the Total Amount for the Cheque
Are these CND/USD/Other Funds: CND
Area that will be charged (i.e. Theatre): GRAD
The sale of liquor/ alcohol at SFU is regulated by SFU Administrative Policy AD 1.12 and the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch of the Ministry of Justice. You must comply with all the stipulated regulations.
If you are holding an event in any of the fourth floor spaces at the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, you may sell alcohol under a Special Event Permit (SEP). The catering companies Lazy Gourmet, H.A.V.E Catering, and Tayybeh hold the licenses for the basement, ground floor, and second floor spaces at the Centre (on the third floor, only The Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema is under these licenses). To sell alcohol in these locations, you must operate under one of these catering licenses, administered through SFU Meeting, Events and Conference Services (MECS) for a cost. Before arranging a bar, you must confirm a venue for your event through the SCA Technical Director.
Special Event Permit
Individuals or groups are allowed up to 3 special occasion licenses per month, and 24 per year. The steps for applying for a Special Event Permit (SEP) for a location on the fourth floor (only) of the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts are as follows:
Vote at the SCA Graduate Student Caucus to officially host the event through caucus.
All individuals hosting or serving liquor at an SEP event are required to complete a Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) training program. A Special Event Server (SES) certificate is required for all events under 500 guests. A Serving it Right (SIR) certificate is required for events over 500 guests. The Primary Event Organizer (an individual) needs to possess SES or SIR certification. If no one in your caucus has an SES or SIR certificate, you can obtain SES certification online here ($20), and SIR certification here ($35).
Events hosted by SFU Graduate Caucuses are covered under the Graduate Student Society (GSS) insurance policy. Obtain proof of insurance coverage through the GSS.
Contact Student Services and complete this form to seek approval to apply for a Special Event Permit at SFU.
Once approved, you must then apply for a Special Event Permit, which you can do online.
Follow the SFU instructions outlined on the form in step 4 including: obtaining approval from the Responsible Officer, notifying campus security of your event with completed documentation, and posting your Special Event Permit in a visible location in the bar or serving area during the hours the licence is in effect.
You will need to provide the alcohol, cash float, as well as non-alcoholic beverages, food and server. Only persons with an SES or SIR certificate may serve alcohol at your event. You will need one server for every seventy-five attendees.
Special Event Permit Terms and Conditions can be read here.
MECS (Meeting, Events and Conference Services)
MECS offers two bar options: a cash bar and a host bar. To arrange a bar through MECS do the following:
Determine which bar option you want and how many attendees you expect. While a cash bar may ultimately appear more expensive, students should weigh carefully the organizational and human resources cost of selling their own tickets, tracking sales, and reconciling post-event.
Contact Kristen Schiefke (firstname.lastname@example.org), Manager of Academic & Administrative Services, with your request and include the following information: date of event, venue, event title, type of bar, expected number of attendees, food choices, projected budget, and contact information.
Costs to the event organizer are as follows:
There is a minimum of $200 of sales required (otherwise the difference will be charged to your event).
A ticket seller for your event at $25/hour for a minimum of 4 hours.
Taxes and service charges are included in the standard sale price. Standard prices for attendees are $6 for beer, $8 for wine and $2.50 for non-alcoholic beverages (all prices are for non-premium products).
The MECS caterer will provide a float and ticket seller to conduct cash sales. The minimum cost to the event organizer is $100. The maximum cost to the organizer is $300 if no sales are made.
Example 1: There are ten bottles of beer and seven glasses of wine sold at the event.
Beer 10 x $6 = $60
Wine 7 x $8 = 56
Gross Sales = $116
Minimum Sales difference $200 – $116 (Gross) = $84
Ticket Seller = $100
Total Cost to Event Organizer = $184
Example 2: There are twenty bottles of beer and fourteen glasses of wine sold at the event.
Beer 20 x $6 = $120
Wine 14 x $8 = 112
Gross Sales = $232
Minimum Sales difference $200 – $232 (Gross) = –$32 or 0
Ticket Seller = $100
Total Cost to Event Organizer = $100
Costs to the event organizer are as follows (all prices are for non-premium products):
$5 per bottle of beer.
$35 per bottle of wine (a 5 oz pour is approx. 5 glasses per bottle). It is important to take the number of bottles opened into consideration when setting your prices. You can set a time when no further bottles of wine should be opened.
$2 per non-alcoholic beverage including bottled water BC Liquor tax at 10% on top of sales.
Service charge at 15% on top of sales.
Cost to the attendees is set by the event organizer.
Due to the potential for beverage count/ ticket count discrepancies when you are running a host bar, it is recommended that you use the Discrepancy Prevention Form (PDF) to help track your counts in collaboration with the MECS catering staff. It is also advisable that you ask the staff to stop opening wine bottles after a certain point in the evening, so that you do not get charged for bottles that are opened for a single pour.
Example 3: You set your prices as follows: $6 for beer, $8 for wine, and $2.50 for non-alcoholic beverages. There are ten bottles of beer and seven glasses of red wine sold at the event. You will take in the following cash sales:
Beer 10 x $6 = $60
Wine 7 x $8 = 56
Gross Sales = $116
You will be charged the following:
Beer 10 x $5 = $50
Wine 2 bottles x $35 = $70
Subtotal = $120
Service Charges 15% x Subtotal = $18
Tax 10% x Subtotal = $12
Total owing = $150
Total Cost to Event Organizer = $34
Example 4: You set your prices as follows: $6 for beer, $8 for wine, and $2.50 for non-alcoholic beverages. There are twenty bottles of beer and seven glasses of white and seven glasses of red wine sold at the event.
You will take in the following cash sales:
Beer 20 x $6 = $120
Wine 7 x $8 = 112
Gross Sales = $232
You will be charged the following:
Beer 20 x $5 = $100
Wine 4 bottles x $35 = $140
Subtotal = $240
Service Charges 15% x Subtotal = $36
Tax 10% x Subtotal = $24
Total owing = $300
Total Cost to Event Organizer = $68
With all bar options, you are obligated by law to make food available to the attendees. For a MECS-organized bar, you must purchase catering options and provide them to your patrons for free. (The exception is in the Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre, where MECS catering providers can operate a cash concession for $160 flat rate.) SFU Policy AD 1.12 states "that a wide variety and generous supply of food and non-alcoholic beverages be made available for consumption during events".
MECS’ catering licenses require that, if they provide any bar service, they must also provide the food service *. You will not be able to operate a MECS bar without purchasing requisite food for each attendee. There is an additional 15% service charge on all food sales.
Taking our bar examples from above and adding a minimum purchase of food to each, you would have a total cost of the following:
Bar Total: $184
Food Total: $276
Bar Total: $34
Food Total: $276
* It is possible for specific Cultural and/or Community Events to provide types of food that may not be available from the caterer. This is offered on a case by case basis and must meet certain cultural requirements, along with liability insurance and Vancouver Coastal Health regulations. These requests come from the Community Engagement office or GCA’s Production and Event Services.
All incoming PhD students will be assigned a shared office (in the Goldcorp Centre) or studio (at 611 Alexander) space, depending on their practice/focus of research.
While it is to be expected that students will populate these spaces with materials and equipment relevant to their research, at all times respect should be taken for fellow occupants and the spaces themselves.
Any personal items that are not promptly retrieved at the conclusion of a student’s studies risk forfeiture to the School and University.