2023–24 Decanal Memoranda

February 12, 2024: International Graduate Students’ Study Permit Application Process

Dear Graduate Chairs, Graduate Coordinators, and Graduate Administrators, 

In light of recent changes and the introduction of new measures for international students applying for study permits in Canada, we wish to provide clarity and support, especially concerning our graduate community.  

Clarification Regarding New Measures on International Graduate Applicants 

  • The new Attestation Letter requirement is specifically for undergraduate students. Graduate students, including those in Master’s and PhD programs, are not subject to these new measures. 
  • The IRCC Portal is open and continues to accept Study Permit applications from graduate students – they should be encouraged to apply as early as possible. 
  • As of February 15, 2024 graduates of master’s degree programs will be eligible to apply for a 3-year work permit. 
  • Open work permits are expected to remain available to spouses of international students in master’s and doctoral degree-granting programs. 

In the coming weeks, we will undertake several initiatives to support our international graduate applicants: 

  • Send communications to newly admitted graduate students emphasizing the importance of applying for their study permits early, taking advantage of the current processing capacities before the end of March. 
  • Update the language in offer letters to international graduate students to reflect the above guidance. 
  • Direct newly admitted graduate students to resources, including live Q&A sessions and FAQs, developed by our colleagues at the Centre for International Experience.

Enhancing Study Permit Success: Introducing the Funding Letter for Study Permit application 

  • The Centre for International Experience has introduced a template of a Funding Letter for Study Permit Application (see attached) whose purpose is to supplement the Letter of Admission, providing detailed funding information that is not available in ROSI to assist with the study permit application process. 
  • This Funding Letter for Study Permit Application aims to improve study permit approval rates by offering additional clarity on the student’s financial package. 
  • Graduate Administrators are encouraged to attend a Graduate Community of Practice meeting this Wednesday, on February 14, at 11:00 a.m. where additional information and support regarding the template will be provided by Lana Volkova, Associate Director of International Student Services (CIE). 

We understand the critical role clear communication plays in the application process. We appreciate your collaboration and encourage you to connect with us or our CIE colleagues for further assistance or clarification.  

Thank you for your understanding and continued support. 

Sincerely, 

Joshua Barker, PhD 
Dean, School of Graduate Studies & 
Vice-Provost, Graduate Research and Education 


November 30, 2023: Modification to Balance of Degree for PhD Students Who Transfer to Research-Stream Masters

Dear Graduate Chairs, Graduate Coordinators and Graduate Administrators,

The University implemented a change in the tuition fee structure for most international PhD students in Fall 2018. The new tuition fee structure enabled most international research-stream PhD students to pay domestic tuition rates. This change has proven to be extremely positive for international students, faculty supervisors, as well as the institution.  

The new tuition fee structure did not apply to students in the (1) Research-stream master’s programs and (2) Professional programs. As such, those students who request PhD to master’s transfers are subject to the Balance of Degree (BoD) fee. As of Winter 2020, SGS stopped the practice of applying the BoD fees in all cases of direct-entry PhD students (domestic and international) who transfer into a master’s program.

In the past five years, the number of students requesting PhD to master’s transfers has increased substantially; this was exacerbated by the years of the pandemic. Common reasons provided by these students included changed professional aspirations and/or personal reasons (e.g., medical or financial concerns, childcare, etc.). The number of requests from international PhD students also increased. Most international students who wished to transfer accrued a significant BoD fee, which would be paid by graduate units, supervisors, or the student depending on program and the funding structure of the graduate unit.

In parallel, the number of requests to waive BoD fees for these students increased, supported by graduate units. At the same time, graduate unit leaders emphasized to us the importance of creating barrier-free “off-ramps” for students who were not on a path to succeed in their PhD programs.

 In order to respond to this need, SGS proposed the following changes, that were endorsed by members of the Council of Graduate Deans.

  •  BoD fees will not be assessed for international PhD students, direct-entry and others, transferring to a research-stream Master’s
  • BoD will continue to be assessed for all PhD students transferring to professional master’s programs.  

In all cases students will be assessed the appropriate tuition based on their program and legal status for each session in which they are registered in the master’s program. Students must be registered in the master’s program, for, at minimum, the last session prior to graduation.

Graduate units wishing to support their students in these types of transfers are encouraged to discuss fee and funding implications with their students prior to requesting a transfer with the School of Graduate Studies (SGS Program Transfer Request Form). Funded PhD students who transfer to research master’s program with a funding commitment, should remain eligible for continued support. Graduate units might use the unit’s bursary structures to support unfunded and professional students in need.

SGS will continue to monitor transfer requests so that this supportive mechanism is used cautiously and not used routinely to transfer PhD students into master’s programs as standard practice.

If you have any questions regarding the transfer requests and Balance of Degree fee, please contact Vice-Dean, Students, Prof. John Peever at sgs.vdeanstudents@utoronto.ca.

Joshua Barker, PhD
Dean, School of Graduate Studies and
Vice-Provost, Graduate Research & Education


August 10, 2023: Annual Reminder: Graduate Department Academic Appeals Committee (GDAAC) & Graduate Academic Appeals Information Session

Dear Graduate Chairs & Coordinators, 

I am writing to provide an annual reminder to all Graduate Chairs of the need to establish a Graduate Department Academic Appeals Committee (GDAAC) for their graduate unit and communicate to members of their graduate units about this committee’s existence and procedures.

Transparency and clarity must be provided to all graduate students regarding the right to appeal academic decisions. In many years, a graduate unit may not actually receive any academic appeals. Nonetheless, the graduate unit must maintain a standing appeals committee, and clarify for graduate students the process for bringing forward an appeal.  

All Graduate Chairs should undertake the following:

  1. Strike a Graduate Department Academic Appeals Committee:
    • Guidelines on the formation and procedures of the Graduate Department Academic Appeals Committee can be found on the SGS website, https://www.sgs.utoronto.ca/policies-guidelines/graduate-department-academic-appeals-committee/.  
    • It is usually helpful to appoint members of this committee as part of the normal assignment of service commitments to faculty members. The Graduate Department Academic Appeals Committee should be added to the list of committees requiring appointees every year. Please have this committee in place by the beginning of the academic year in early September.
  2. Provide information on your departmental website about the Graduate Department Academic Appeals Committee:
    • At a minimum, we would ask that you provide, in a clear location that students will easily find, reference to your Graduate Department Academic Appeals Committee; contact details for the Secretary/Chair of that Committee; and a link to details regarding such committees’ procedures on the SGS website. If you wish to provide additional detail regarding your committee on your departmental website or student handbook, we recommend that you primarily rely on the language from that SGS webpage, altering where necessary to reference your own committee. Please have your webpages updated with this information by the end of September.  

Additionally, the School of Graduate Studies has organized an information session for graduate faculty leaders to understand the graduate academic appeals process, from faculty mediation to the roles of GDAAC and the Graduate Academic Appeals Board (GAAB) and to learn best practices for departmental success. In addition to yourselves, once GDAAC Chairs have been identified, please encourage them to attend. Register for the “Conversations with SGS: Graduate Academic Appeals” virtual event on November 14, 2023, at 9:00-10:30 a.m. by clicking here. 

We thank you in advance for assisting us in providing clarity to our graduate students on appeals procedures. Should you have any questions regarding graduate academic appeals, please contact Prof. John Peever, Vice-Dean, Students at sgs.vdeanstudents@utoronto.ca  or Ms. Angelique Plata at sgs.vdeanea@utoronto.ca

Sincerely,

Vina Goghari, Ph.D., C Psych.
Acting Dean, School of Graduate Studies
Acting Vice-Provost, Graduate Research and Education


August 1, 2023: CGPSS – 2022 Canadian Graduate and Professional Student Survey (CGPSS) Results

Dear Graduate Chairs and Council of Graduate Deans,

The results of the 2022 Canadian Graduate and Professional Student Survey (CGPSS) are now ready for review. The CGPSS tool helps identify the strengths and areas for improvement in graduate programs. The survey was conducted in the spring of 2022 by the University of Toronto, along with 54 other Canadian universities. A total of 5,298 registered graduate students at U of T, representing 26.4% of the graduate student body, participated in the survey. Despite the lower overall response rate compared to prior iterations, we received a representative sample that encompasses the entire student population in terms of SGS divisions, degree type, gender, and legal status.

  • An Aggregated Report can be found on SGS website. It provides a summary of a subset of questions, highlights of the survey results, benchmark data comparing U of T with U15 peer institutions, and a comparison of survey results over time.
  • In line with how we have recently distributed gradSERU data, SGS is also now providing to graduate chairs access to a limited access CGPSS Departmental Dashboard that can be found on the SGS Data SharePoint Site. This dashboard displays granular results of all questions asked in the 2022 survey administration, including additional wildcard questions. Users can filter down to a specific faculty/unit, and further pivot data by breakdown for comparison.

If you have any trouble accessing the report and the dashboard, please contact SGS Data Analyst, Grace Zhu, at sgs.data@utoronto.ca. If you have questions regarding the data or you would like additional data for your unit, please contact Corinne Pask-Aube, Senior Planning & Budget Officer, at corinne.pask@utoronto.ca.

Sincerely

Brian Desrosiers-Tam
Assistant Dean


July 12, 2023: Resources for Graduate Units: New and Updated Guidance

To:         All Graduate Units, SGS Council of Graduate Deans, and SGS Staff

Dear colleagues,

The School of Graduate Studies (SGS) is pleased to announce that the following three resources to enhance the student experience are now available on the SGS website:

  • New Guidelines for Graduate Units in Monitoring the Progress of Doctoral Students. These guidelines provide general recommendations for graduate units on creating structures and processes to support doctoral student success and ensure timely progress.
  • Updated guidance on Understanding Good Standing & Satisfactory Progress. We have updated our guidance documentation to offer a more comprehensive understanding of what constitutes “Good Academic Standing” and provide more information on the SGS Calendar expectations regarding coursework completion, supervisory committee meetings and evaluations, candidacy, and program length and time limit.
  • Updated guidance on Understanding Personal Time Off. These updates include additional information, examples, and frequently asked questions to assist Graduate Units in implementing the Personal Time Off Policy across research-based and professional-stream programs.

Please share these resources with faculty members, administrators, and students in your Graduate Unit.

The School of Graduate Studies expresses its gratitude to former Interim Vice-Dean, Students, Prof. Yana Yunusova for her invaluable leadership throughout the preparation of these resources.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Prof. John Peever, Vice-Dean, Students at sgs.vdeanstudents@utoronto.ca.

Best,

Vina Goghari, Ph.D., C Psych.
Acting Dean, School of Graduate Studies
Acting Vice-Provost, Graduate Research and Education


July 6, 2023: New School of Graduate Studies: Generative Artificial Intelligence Guidance

To:         All Graduate Units, SGS Council of Graduate Deans, and SGS Staff

Dear colleagues,  

The School of Graduate Studies (SGS) is pleased to announce new Guidance on the Appropriate Use of Generative Artificial Intelligence in Graduate Theses available on the SGS website. This guidance will be of interest to graduate students, supervisors, supervisory committee members, Graduate Chairs and Graduate Units, and covers a range of topics related to graduate thesis research and writing. As the use of generative artificial intelligence is a rapidly evolving area of research and policy, this guidance will continue to be updated in line with new developments.  

Please share this guidance with faculty and students in your Graduate Unit.  

I also would like to express my gratitude towards former Acting Vice-Dean of Research and Program Innovation, Prof. Kelly Lyons, as well as Dr. Lynn Ossher, Projects Officer, Graduate Research and Program Culture. Their leadership has been invaluable in the preparation of this guidance. 

If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact Prof. Vina Goghari, Vice-Dean, Research & Program Innovation at sgs.vdeanprograms@utoronto.ca

Best,

Joshua Barker, PhD
Dean, School of Graduate Studies and
Vice-Provost, Graduate Research & Education