2008-09 Decanal Memoranda

​​​Communications from the School of Graduate Studies

#000 - November 17, 2008

To:    Graduate Chairs, Graduate Coordinators, and Graduate Administrators

CC:    Cheryl Misak, Interim Vice-President and Vice-Provost

From: Susan Pfeiffer, Dean of Graduate Studies & Vice-Provost, Graduate Education

Beginning with this brief note, key communications from the School of Graduate Studies will be numbered, and will be posted to the SGS web site where they will be listed by title and by date shortly after they are issued. The address is: www.sgs.utoronto.ca/adminsupport/memos. 

The numbered series will include messages that are likely to have broad impact, including announcements, interpretations of graduate policy, and guidelines. Addressees will normally be the graduate chairs and other persons in all graduate units. Communications in the SGS numbered series will come from the Dean, the Vice-Deans or the SGS Directors, via the office of the Dean.

We hope that this approach will help everyone keep track of communications more easily.


 

Graduate Sessional Dates

#001 - November 17, 2008

To:     Graduate Chairs, Graduate Coordinators, and Graduate Administrators

CC:     Cheryl Misak, Interim Vice-President and Vice-Provost

From:  Heather Kelly, Director of Student Services

I am writing about the dates for the University of Toronto Graduate Sessions in the years to come. Our graduate sessional dates are normally built on a 13-week term for a 0.5 course. Graduate sessions do not demarcate any reading weeks. 

Labour Day falls quite late in 2009 and 2010. In addition, the Faculty of Arts & Science has recently restructured its undergraduate calendar around a twelve week term. In light of these factors, we have reviewed our approach to the setting of dates. For the next two years we will signal the start of classes on the same dates as undergraduate classes begin in the Faculty of Arts & Science.

The fall term deadline for receipt of degree recommendations and submission of any required theses for master's degrees (for Fall Convocation) is usually set with a grace period of four weeks from the start of term. If the graduate term were to start the Monday after Labor Day in 2009 and 2010, we would need to limit the grace period to three weeks in September 2009 and 2010. We want to avoid shortening the grace period.

The Graduate Sessional Dates will therefore:

  1. Maintain the 13-week term graduate instruction period. As in past years, instructors retain flexibility in course scheduling with respect to including a reading week. It is expected that at least 12 weeks’ instruction will occur in each term.

  2. Signal the beginning of term to coincide with the FAS starts in 2009 and 2010, allowing us to retain the four week grace period for submission of final marks of graduating master’s students. For reference, the official start date of classes will be on September 9, 2009 and September 8, 2010. The SGS Orientation will be held on Tuesday, September 8, 2009 and Tuesday, September 7, 2010.

If you have any questions about these proposed sessional dates, please do not hesitate to contact the Director of Student Services, Heather Kelly at heather.kelly@utoronto.ca.

 

Training for the Enrolment and Funding Cubes

#002 - November 21, 2008

To:    Chairs/Directors/Graduate Coordinators and Administrators

CC:    School of Graduate Studies Staff

From:  Heather Kelly Director, Student Services

As discussed at the Orientation for New Graduate Academic Administrators this fall, the enrolment and student income cubes are valuable tools for reporting, projections and analysis.

To support your use of these tools, a brief training document developed by Planning & Budget on the enrolment cube is attached. See the comprehensive user guide for cubes.

Training sessions are also available in November for users of the Enrolment Cubes. There are two dates to choose from:

Wednesday November 26th, 9:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. OR Friday November 28th, 9:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

The location is at 256 McCaul St (just south of College) in Room 103.

If you are interested in registering, please choose one of the dates and contact Toni Di Felice at: tony.difelice@utoronto.ca. Seating is limited and priority will be given to those who have not had any training in the past. Please bring your logon ID and password to the session. If you do not have access, please contact AMS.

Heather Kelly
Director of Student Services
School of Graduate Studies
University of Toronto
63 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2Z9
Tel: (416) 978-4350
Fax: (416) 971-2864

 

SGS Leave Policy—--Guidelines

#003 - December 2, 2008

To:     Graduate Chairs, Graduate Coordinators and Graduate Administrators

CC:    Heather Kelly, Director Student Services
          Student Services Officers

From: Berry Smith, Vice Dean, Students

Our present Leave Policy states that “Graduate students whose programs require continuous registration may apply to their Graduate Coordinator for a one-session to three-session leave during their program of study for … serious health or personal problems which temporarily make it impossible to continue in the program,” as well as for parental leave.

Graduate units have the authority to approve such leave requests for up to one year. In deciding whether to approve requests, the phrase “personal problems” can be, and has been, interpreted in many ways, resulting in widely varying practice amongst graduate units. To help ensure fair and equitable application of the leave policy, consistent with the academic requirements of the student’s program, and to ensure that students requesting leaves are fully informed about the possible consequences of taking time off from their program, the following guidelines are proposed:

1. “Personal problems” should be interpreted broadly, and do not need to be health-related. Students may have financial reasons for requesting a leave (though we recommend they first explore the possibility of an emergency assistance grant); exceptional temporary employment, placement or education opportunities relevant to the student’s program or career goals may arise; family members or close friends may require care; or the student may simply have any number of serious personal reasons for requesting a leave from academic study.

2. Because of the highly varied and often personal nature of problems and the assumed ability of graduate students to make rational, informed decisions, no reasonable request for leave of up to three sessions should be denied (but see below).

3. Graduate units and supervisors should make every effort to disclose to students the possible implications of taking a leave. The leave might be seriously detrimental to the student’s progress through the program, or might affect other students or the program itself significantly. Though the “clock stops” in many respects (see Leave Policy in the SGS Calendar (http://www.sgs.utoronto.ca/informationfor/cal2008-09/genregs/AdmReg.htm#registration) it is important to point out that other things may be different after the leave: knowledge moves on, personnel change, etc. The supervisor and/or graduate unit should make such matters clear in discussions with the student preferably before leave is officially requested, and also in general discussions establishing expectations at the start of the program.

4. If a denial of a request for leave is thought unreasonable, the student should utilize the normal appeal route as described in the SGS Calendar, including consultation with the SGS Vice Dean, Students.

Note that requests for extensions beyond one year or subsequent requests for leave must still be approved by the Admissions and Programs Committee of SGS as well as the graduate unit, and will require a substantive rationale.

 
 

Connaught Graduate Scholarships

#004 - January 16, 2009

To:        Graduate Chairs, Graduate Coordinators

CC:       Graduate Administrators
             R. Paul Young, Vice-President, Research
             Cheryl Misak, Interim Vice-President and Provost
             Council of Graduate Deans, School of Graduate Studies

From:     Susan Pfeiffer, Dean of Graduate Studies and Vice-Provost, Graduate Education

Many of you will have received memorandum [PDADC-L] #33: Connaught Fund Programs in 2009-2010, distributed on January 13, 2009. Among the steps required to deal with the financial status of the fund, it states: “Currently held Connaught Graduate Scholarships, an agreed upon priority, will be renewed for one year only. No new Scholarships will be awarded in the 2009-2010 year. Further information will be forthcoming from Dean Pfeiffer.”

I am very pleased that the Connaught Committee has given a high priority to the support of our Connaught graduate scholars, and has devoted a significant portion of the very scarce current resources of the Fund to this purpose. It is regrettable that we will not be able to rely on the Connaught program to recruit international scholars for 2009-2010. We hope that economic circumstances allow us to reinstitute the program as an important recruitment tool in future years.

The procedures for possible renewal of doctoral recipients of Connaught awards is at the discretion of the graduate program if the scholar is in full-time attendance at the University of Toronto, maintaining at least an A- average, and making satisfactory progress toward the completion of the degree as determined by their department. The award may be held for a maximum of five years. No renewal of masters awards is allowed.

As in previous years, a list of eligible students will be distributed to you from the Graduate Awards Office. This will assist departments who wish to nominate a current Connaught doctoral scholar for the renewal of their award in the 2009-2010 year. If you have questions about the renewal process please contact the SGS Internal Awards Officer, Michelle Ryan at: ma.ryan@utoronto.ca.

Because of financial uncertainty, no plans are being made regarding subsequent years at this time. It will be helpful and appropriate to make sure that all your international doctoral students are briefed on current procedures for establishing permanent residence status in Canada. The Canadian government has recently become more proactive in recruiting international students to stay in Canada. In some graduate programs there may be misperceptions among faculty and students, namely that persons here on student visas are discouraged from applying, or that permanent residence status can negatively affect citizenship status in the home country. In addition to affirming a strong relationship to Canada, the attainment of permanent residence status gives the student access to wider scholarship eligibility and domestic tuition fee levels. For further information on this topic, please contact the director of the International Student Centre, Ben Yang (ben.yang@utoronto.ca).

 
 

Graduate Applicants with Community College Degrees

#005 - February 23, 2009

To:        Graduate Chairs, Graduate Coordinators, Graduate Administrators

From:    Heather Kelly, Director of Student Services

CC:       SGS Student Services Staff

Over the past few years, provincial governments have extended degree-granting authority to community colleges in a number of provinces including British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario. The degree programs offered by these institutions are either two-year associate degrees or three to four-year applied degrees. Given the significant growth in the number and types of degrees offered by a wider variety of Canadian post-secondary institutions, there has been some confusion regarding the preparation of these graduates for further study.

According to the Council of Ontario Universities, Ontario universities neither include nor exclude applicants categorically on the basis of their undergraduate credentials. Each applicant is considered on his or her own merits according to standards set by each institution program by program. As such, graduates of four year college programs are not excluded from consideration for admission to our graduate programs at the University of Toronto. Alternate paths are acceptable, following appropriate scrutiny. Applicants should be individually assessed in terms of the quality and nature of their academic preparation. If a graduate unit wishes to recommend admission of an outstanding applicant with a four-year applied bachelor’s degree, SGS will consider that recommendation on a case-by-case basis, as we do with other non-standard applications, like those from international institutions with three year baccalaureate degrees.

As with any non-standard admissions case, graduate units must carefully review each case to ensure that the institution issuing the degree is a “recognized” institution, that is, has the appropriate provincial/territorial charter to grant degrees, and the extent to which the degree is comparable to a U of T four-year bachelor’s degree. For admissions purposes, the latter is pegged as being approximately 75% liberal arts and science content. It is important to ensure that applied degree programs represent preparation that is comparable in providing preparation to a traditional academic degree program. If this is not the case, the applicant will not be admitted.

The content match between the community college degree program and the proposed graduate degree program is an important consideration , insofar as it provides a measure of an applicant’s likely success in graduate study. A distinctive characteristic of every graduate degree offered by an Ontario university is the independent research component. While this component is larger in doctoral stream programs than in professional master’s programs, it is nonetheless a requirement of all graduate programs. A strong foundation in arts and science coursework is normally seen as a good indicator of appropriate preparation for that research.

Given that every graduate program will have its own expectations regarding appropriate scholarly preparation, we at SGS are pleased to review files that document high achievement in undergraduate programs that have relatively high proportions of applied content. Under the auspices of our Admissions & Program Committee, we track the progress of graduate students whose backgrounds are non-traditional, in order to adjust our expectations as educational practices change and diversify.

Your assistance in clearly communicating our admissions policy to community college applicants is appreciated. Should you have any questions regarding an applicant’s suitability based upon their degree program or institution of study, please contact your Student Services Officer for assistance. More information can also be found in the SGS Admissions Manual (please use gradadmin access and password).

 
 

Guidelines for Use of INC, SDF, and WDR

#006 - March 18, 2009

To:    Graduate Chairs and Coordinators

From: Berry Smith, Vice-Dean Students

CC:    Council of Graduate Deans, Graduate Administrators, SGS Student Services Officers

Date: March 18, 2009

A graduate student’s transcript must be an accurate record of earned achievements. This message clarifies and guides in particular the use of the non-grade notation INC, which is not well understood, and has sometimes proven problematic. The two related notations of SDF and WDR are also touched upon.

Grade and non-grade notations appear in transcripts and are used on ROSI; they are governed by the University policies on grading practices. There are two such policies, the University Grading Practices Policy1 (UGGP) and the Graduate Grading and Evaluation Practices Policy2 (GGEPP). While it is the stated intention of the latter that “grading practices in the School of Graduate Studies are consistent with those throughout the University,” the two policies are not always concordant. Indeed, the Provost’s Office has ruled that where there is disagreement, the UGGP takes precedence. The UGGP states (see Appendix) that “INC is assigned by the instructor or divisional committee, normally as a final report3, where course work is not completed but where there are not grounds for assigning a failing grade.” The GGEPP states that INC is “assigned as a final report by a graduate unit review committee or SGS Vice-Dean on the basis of incomplete course work in special circumstances (e.g. medical reasons or when there are no grounds for assigning a failing grade).” Both policies state that INC carries no credit and is not considered for averaging purposes. They also both include the rather enigmatic criterion “where there are no(t) grounds for assigning a failing grade.” The policies differ in that the GGEPP does not explicitly allow the instructor to assign an INC.

When course work is not completed, graduate units should annotate the student’s record with the temporary notation of SDF (“standing deferred”) if an extension has been granted. At the end of that extension, the instructor’s final grade report is supposed to replace the SDF (unless further extensions have been sought and approved). Under the GGEPP, that final report should be one of the letter grades A+ through B-, or FZ. However, according to the GGEPP definition of SDF: “If, by [the extension date], a final grade is not available and the student has not submitted the outstanding course work, then the report of ‘SDF’ will be replaced by a final report of ‘INC'.” In fact, SGS always attempts to track down unresolved SDFs and blank grades and replace these with appropriately resolved final “reports”.

The meaning of the notation of INC on a student’s transcript is therefore unclear, since it can appear through at least four routes (no INC’s have been assigned by an SGS Vice-Dean to my knowledge):

  • Assigned by instructor (allowable according to the UGGP, but not the GGEP)

  • Assigned by graduate unit (though probably rarely by a “review committee”)

  • By default if an SDF was not resolved

  • By default if no grade was ever submitted by the unit

Thus present policy and usage ensures that an INC on a transcript has little or even negative information value. Graduate units and instructors appear to be highly variable in its use. Some use INC freely when a student fails to complete coursework, instead of reviewing reasons for incomplete work and assigning SDF or FZ as appropriate. Others never use it. Furthermore, INC notations can be ambiguous when decisions to terminate programs arise: recently, the Graduate Academic Appeals Board ruled that, since INC in a course carries no credit, it is not equivalent to a failure grade, and reports of INC could not be counted in applying a program regulation stating that termination may follow if a student fails to obtain an appropriate standing in a given number of courses. Extending this logic, and depending on the wording of the program requirements, a student might be able to continue indefinitely in a program by not finishing coursework rather than finish at risk of an FZ.

Finally, the notations INC and WDR have no functional difference. Students are free to retake the relevant courses with no restrictions. Neither count toward degrees or GPA calculations.

1 See http://www.governingcouncil.utoronto.ca/policies/grading.htm  

2 See http://www.governingcouncil.utoronto.ca/policies/grgrade.htm​

3 The term “final report” has been interpreted by some as meaning this grade notation is permanent and immutable. In reality, “final”means that it is not temporary in the sense that SDF is: intended to be replaced by the final grade when the work has been completed. In fact, it may be changed through an approved mark-change process just as with any other grade.

Guidelines

To ensure consistency, the following guidelines should be adopted:

  1. In all cases of incomplete course work, instructors should submit to their graduate unit whatever grade has been earned; blanks, NGA, or INC notations should not be accepted.

  2. If a student is unable to finish coursework by the deadline for valid (usually documented medical or similar) reasons, graduate units should use the “SDF” mechanism, granting an extension and ensuring the student knows the new deadline for submitting completed coursework, 

    OR

  3. If a coursework extension is not requested, or not granted, graduate units should submit the letter grades obtained as in 1. above.

  4. If coursework is completed by the extended deadline, the new final grade should replace the SDF indicator, 

    OR

  5. If the student does not complete the coursework by the extended deadline, and there are no acceptable grounds for further extending the SDF, graduate units should submit the letter grades obtained as in 1) above.

  6. If the graduate unit determines that a further extension is warranted, a request for extension should be submitted to SGS as normal.

  7. If unusual circumstances beyond the student’s control mean that the student will not be able to complete the coursework given reasonable extensions, graduate units should consider requesting late withdrawal (“WDR”) as opposed to using “INC”. 

Adherence to these guidelines should reduce the use of INC to truly “special circumstances” – in the rare event that coursework cannot be completed in reasonable time because of circumstances beyond the student’s control, where a failure or low mark would be clearly unfair, and where late withdrawal is deemed inappropriate. INC should not be used to protect students from the consequences of poor academic performance or poor choices.

Appendix: Definitions in University Policies

University Grading Practices Policy

SDF: Standing Deferred

Standing deferred on the basis of incomplete course work because of medical or similar reasons. SDF is assigned by the divisional review committee upon approval of a student's petition or an instructor's recommendation. It must be replaced by a regular grade assigned by the instructor before the expiry of a specific extension period. It carries no credit for the course and is not considered for averaging purposes.

INC: Incomplete

INC is assigned by the instructor or divisional committee, normally as a final report, where course work is not completed but where there are not grounds for assigning a failing grade. It carries no credit for the course and is not considered for averaging purposes.

WDR: Withdrawn Without Academic Penalty

WDR is assigned by the divisional review committee upon approval of a student's petition for late withdrawal from a course. It carries no credit for the course and is not considered for averaging purposes. WDR is relevant only if a division wishes to show the course on the transcript.

Graduate Grading and Evaluation Practices Policy

SDF Standing Deferred

Assigned by a graduate unit review committee to a student who has been granted an extension for the completion of course work beyond the SGS deadline for completion of course work, pending receipt from the instructor of a final course report. A final course report is due no later than the SGS deadline for completion of course work and grade submission following the original one for the course. If, by that date, a final grade is not available and the student has not submitted the outstanding course work, then the report of ‘SDF’ will be replaced by a final report of ‘INC’. SDF carries no credit for the course and is not considered for averaging purposes.

INC Incomplete

Assigned as a final report by a graduate unit review committee, or SGS Associate [Vice] Dean on the basis of incomplete course work in special circumstances (e.g. medical reasons or when there are no grounds for assigning a failing grade). INC carries no credit for the course and is not considered for averaging purposes.

WDR Withdrawal Without Academic Penalty

Assigned by the graduate unit review committee, when there are extenuating circumstances, upon approval of the student’s request for late withdrawal from a course. It carries no credit for the course and is not considered for averaging purposes.

 
 

Annual Audit of Student Files

#007 - April 7, 2009

To:     Chairs, Graduate Coordinators, and Administrators

From:  Susan Pfeiffer, Dean of Graduate Studies and Vice-Provost, Graduate Education

CC:     Cheryl Misak, Vice-President and Provost
           Heather Kelly, Director of Student Services

This is a report to you about the SGS annual audit of graduate student files, undertaken by the School as part of our responsibility for the oversight of graduate programs and their administration. 

Graduate units have the primary responsibility to make and communicate admission decisions, and maintain official student files. For its part, the School of Graduate Studies has the responsibility to ensure that the minimum admission standards and proper documentation are maintained, and that student records are properly managed. It also allows SGS to provide in-person support and advice regarding particular problems faced by graduate units.

To assess these processes, SGS Student Services Officers and Assistants conducted an audit of student files during February and March from 19 randomly selected graduate departments. This audit has been conducted annually for the past ten years and this most recent audit completes our second five year cycle.

Overall, this year we found 92 significant and 143 minor errors—an increase in significant errors compared with the average over the first five year cycle and the same incidence of errors compared with the average of the second cycle. I am pleased to report that there was a decrease in minor errors compared with the averages in both the first and second cycles. The individual findings for the departments that were audited have been forwarded to the respective Graduate Chairs with a copy to the relevant Graduate Coordinators.

The attached report] shows that this year's audit focused on two aspects of the maintenance of student files: admission criteria and registration/in-program documents. In those departments surveyed, there were 28 significant and 65 minor errors in the admissions files and 64 significant and 78 minor errors in the registration files. Also scrutinized are five diagnostic reports generated from ROSI, which indicate noncompliance in data entry.

Based on the findings of the audit, I ask you to ensure that these practices are followed in your graduate unit:

  • An annual progress report must be submitted by the supervisory committee for all Ph.D. students beyond their second year in program and recorded in the student file and on ROSI. This requirement was approved at SGS Council in 1996 and has been outlined to you in previous correspondence. A useful strategy to ensure that annual reports are submitted is to designate a certain time of the year (e.g. “May Monitoring”).

  • Late grades or grade changes should be submitted to the School after the SGS calendar deadline.

  • Admission recommendation forms should be used to document the decision to admit a student.

Forms may be found on the SGS website.

On a related note, when assessing international credentials, please address any questions or concerns to your Student Services Officer at the School. Our staff members have considerable expertise in this area and are happy to examine any questionable documents or to provide other feedback about foreign credentials.

Download Audit Report 2008-09 (PDF).

 
 

Minor Changes within Non-Course Graduate Program Requirements

#008 - April 24, 2009

To:      Graduate Chairs, Graduate Coordinators

From:   Berry Smith, Vice-Dean, Students

Cc:      Council of Graduate Deans
           Graduate Administrators
           Edith Hillan, Vice-Provost, Academic
           SGS Student Services
           Karel Swift, University Registrar

Graduate programs, particular doctoral-stream ones, often have requirements that are not considered “courses.” Such requirements may include a comprehensive or field exam, a practicum, an internship, language requirements, etc. While significant changes to program structure must be approved through governance mechanisms, many details of these individual requirements are at the discretion of the graduate unit.

This memo is to remind all graduate units that the Graduate Grading and Evaluation Practices Policy (see the SGS Calendar or the Governing Council website) applies to these non-course requirements as well as to more conventional courses (see II.3 in the GGEPP). In particular, any change in timing, weight, method of evaluation, etc. needs to be discussed with the affected students and approved by a simple majority of them (see II.1.b of the GGEPP). Within a course, such discussion would occur in class in sufficient time before the assignment or exam. In the case of a single event such as a comprehensive exam, discussion should take place with the affected cohort, i.e. with the next set of students scheduled to take the exam, and within the year preceding the exam.

If the change is intended to be permanent, it should also be discussed with both graduate faculty and graduate students, and approved by the appropriate departmental graduate committee. Ideally such broad consultation would occur before the change is presented to and voted upon by the current cohort. Depending on the nature of the change, and the advice coming from such discussion, the change could then be applied to in-program students who are more than a year away from the requirement, or implemented only for new admits.

 
 

Graduate Professional Skills Program

#009 - May 12, 2009

To:    Graduate Chairs, Directors, Coordinators, Administrators

CC:    Council of Graduate Deans

From:  J.J. Berry Smith, Vice-Dean, Students

I am pleased to announce the launch of the Graduate Professional Skills (GPS) program. GPS is a non-academic program presented by the School of Graduate Studies consisting of a variety of offerings that provide doctoral-stream students a range of opportunities for professional skills development. This exciting new initiative was developed over the past year in collaboration with a variety of partners from across the University of Toronto.

GPS provides a framework for coordinating and publicizing existing and new offerings in the area of professional skills development for graduate students, for establishing and implementing appropriate criteria to ensure academic standards, and for creating an institutional “seal of approval” to enhance the value of these offerings to students. Students successfully completing the GPS will receive a notation on their transcripts.

GPS recognises a need to help graduate students acquire skills in addition to those conventionally learned within their disciplinary program. PhD programs prepare students exceedingly well for a future in their chosen area of research, but may not be as effective in developing other skills critical to success in the wide range of careers they may enter. GPS aims to ensure that our graduates can communicate effectively, plan and manage their own time, be entrepreneurial, understand and apply ethical practices and work effectively in teams and as leaders.

This structured approach to professional skills development should make our students more competitive, and help our institution attract and retain talented graduate students by enriching the graduate student experience. GPS will help ensure that the University of Toronto will produce PhDs who are fully capable of being leaders not just in their disciplines, but in the myriad ways that an increasingly complex world needs.

For more information on the Graduate Professional Skills program, including information sessions and offering descriptions, please visit: http://www.sgs.utoronto.ca/informationfor/students/campus/gpsp.htm

For questions, please contact our SGS Programming Coordinator, Jeff Richardson (jeff.richardson@utoronto.ca or 416-946-3497).

 
 

Graduate Applications: Fees and Format

#010 - June 18, 2009

To:      Graduate Chairs, Directors, Coordinators, Administrators

CC:     Cheryl Misak, Vice-President and Provost
           Sally Garner, Executive Director, Planning & Budget
           Council of Graduate Deans

From:   Susan Pfeiffer, Dean of Graduate Studies and Vice-Provost, Graduate Education

As of this writing, we have received over 23,000 graduate applications for the 2009-10 academic year. The receipt and adjudication of these applications are significant annual activities in your units. In keeping with the costs associated with the adjudication of the applications, we have received permission to increase the application fee from $100 to $110. The School of Graduate Studies will reduce the amount that it retains from each fee, from $60 to $50 of each fee. This represents a substantial budget cut to SGS. The remainder of the funds generated will be distributed by the Office of Planning & Budget to the Faculties, proportional to the number of applications generated. The Faculties will have discretion over the use of these funds.

Also starting next year, we will be allowing all applicants to submit a scan of their unofficial academic transcripts with their application. The official transcript must follow, subsequent to an offer of acceptance that includes the condition of official transcript receipt and verification prior to registration. Applicants who do not receive offers will not incur the cost of requesting official transcripts. This new feature was tested during the current year, and was very well received by the participating units. At least for some applicants, this new feature will more than offset the increase in the application fee.

The scan of the applicant’s academic records will make a higher proportion of the applications completely electronic. This, in turn, will reduce the staff time that is annually directed toward preparation of the applications for adjudication. This initiative will not only reduce staff time but will also improve our response time to applicants, since applications will be complete at the time of submission and can be assessed more quickly, resulting in earlier offers to applicants. We will continue to support the needs of units that need to assess components of the application that cannot be submitted electronically, such as extensive writing samples and portfolios.

The module in the application process for letters of recommendation is also being improved over the summer, with the creation of referee accounts with complete lists of references requested, clearer submission mechanisms and document review. These various changes and improvements will enhance the crucial processes of application and adjudication at U of T.​​