Graduate Courses

Policy on Graduate Courses & Other Academic Activities​​​

All graduate programs are composed of a number of academic requirements that include graduate courses and other academic activities. A graduate course is a discrete, time-delimited unit of instructional/learning activity identified by a course code, in which students enrol. Graduate courses must be approved according to the relevant SGS policies and procedures. All graduate courses must have an instructor in charge who has a graduate faculty appointment in the graduate unit(s) responsible for the course.

A full graduate course (course weight of one full-course equivalent [1.0 FCE]) should involve a minimum of 48 to 72 hours of organized activity (e.g. ,two lectures or three hours of laboratory work a week over two sessions); a half course (0.5 FCE) should require approximately half this time commitment. Normally the beginning and end dates for courses should coincide with the beginning and end dates of University sessions.

Graduate courses may take many forms, and their timing may not always coincide with the normal beginning and end of classes in each session.

Important links:

Course Codes

All graduate courses have course codes consisting of:

  • a prefix associated with the academic unit (three letters);

  • a four-digit course number; and

  • a suffix associated with the course weight (alpha character).

Normally, course weight is measured in full-course equivalencies (FCEs) and is indicated via a Y or H suffix:

  • Y full course: 1.0 FCE normally taken over two sessions

  • H half course: 0.5 FCE normally taken over one session

Course weight variations occur in some graduate programs. These variations often take the form of modular courses. A modular course is a course that has a non-standard weight, may have non-standard start and end dates within a session, and is usually combined with other course components so that the total equals 0.5 or 1.0 FCE. The minimum contact hour requirement applies to modular courses, equivalent to course weight.

Other Academic Activities

Graduate programs may have a variety of requirements that are not courses but constitute other academic activities which have been approved according to SGS policies and procedures. Some common non-course academic activities are major research papers, comprehensive examinations, practica, internships, etc.

Guidelines on Graduate Courses & Other Academic Activities

See the policy above for more information and for the definition of graduate courses.

Course Variations in Timing (see also modular courses under Course Codes above)

Intensive course: A course that is offered through a compressed timeframe. The minimum contact hours are equivalent to the course weight.

Extended course (+): A course in which the work continues into another academic session. 

Continuous course (°): A course which may extend throughout a student’s program.

Course Delivery Modes

Face-to-face: A course in which students are in the same place at the same time.

Distance-delivery: A course which uses a variety of technologically mediated instruction. This course mode may include online instruction, webcast, podcast, audio/video and may be either synchronous or asynchronous.

Mixed: A course that is a mixture of face-to-face and technologically mediated instruction.

Alternate Course Types

The following descriptions of course types beyond the regular course description found in the policy section above are intended to provide guidelines for graduate courses structures and to clarify common terminology. They are not intended to constrain pedagogical innovation.

Reading and research course: Reading and/or research courses should involve as much reading and work as a normal seminar or other type of graduate course; written work should be a requirement of the course. Reading and/or research courses are subject to the grading practices policies in the same way as any other course. Only faculty holding a graduate appointment may direct a reading and/or research course, and they must hold a faculty appointment in the graduate unit where the course is being offered, normally in the student’s home graduate unit. In general, both the student and instructor should be on campus and the frequency of their meeting should be consistent with other courses. Approval to take a reading and/or research course is given by the graduate unit.

Seminar/workshop courses: Some graduate units offer seminar/workshop courses. These courses vary in format and delivery from unit to unit, and they may or may not count towards the number of courses required for the completion of a degree program. Consult the home graduate unit for details and program requirements. 

Laboratory courses: Some graduate units offer laboratory courses. These courses may vary in their requirements only in the site and method of learning. 

Joint courses: Joint courses exist where two or more graduate units participate to offer the course. A joint course has a three-letter course code prefix that begins with J. Joint courses are approved by both graduate units. 

Cross-listed courses: Cross-listed courses are those that are listed in the offerings of another graduate unit with the permission of both units. The course code does not change when cross-listed. 

Topics courses: Some graduate units offer topics courses. These courses vary from regular courses in that the content of these courses may vary from offering to offering. 

Graduate Seminar Series Courses: Guidelines for Graduate Units


Attendance at a seminar series is regularly part of requirements in graduate degree programs as well as in collaborative programs. The requirement varies from required attendance to attendance plus other activities or attendance plus evaluated activities. These guidelines offer graduate units and collaborative programs the opportunity to choose from one of two graduate course types for seminar series. Units may wish to convert existing seminar series courses to one or the other of the two course types, where appropriate.       

Seminar series are viewed as distinct from “graduate seminars.” Seminars at the graduate level are generally defined in the SGS Policy on Graduate Courses and Other Academic Activities; this set of guidelines addresses seminar series courses in detail. Seminars which are not part of a “series” are commonly understood to involve smaller classes where the learning format may involve both lecture and student presentations. These more traditional courses are usually graded with a letter grade and weighted in the normal manner. Such graduate seminar courses are distinct from graduate seminar series courses which are the topic of these guidelines.

All graduate courses are subject to the University Assessment and Grading Practice Policy.

Background & Rationale

These guidelines provide a framework for recording seminar series courses on the graduate student academic record in a consistent way while facilitating the various practices within graduate units. 

In the past, required attendance at a seminar series was not regularly recorded on the student academic record and was simply tracked at the graduate unit level. In some cases, regular graduate course codes have been used, thus indicating a kind of activity that does not necessarily reflect the actual requirement. There is a range of possible activities associated with participation in a seminar series requirement, yet the options for recording that activity on the academic record are limited.

More recently, graduate units are seeking to have all elements of program requirements recorded on the student academic record through Student Web Services (ROSI), including participation in seminar series when it is a graduate program requirement. This is in accordance with the SGS and University view that all program requirements should be on ROSI. However, weighting and grading of these requirements are not managed consistently across graduate studies.

These guidelines propose to standardize the recording of seminar series requirements into two types, and include clarification of course weighting and grading for each type. More consistent handling of seminar series will lead to a clearer presentation and interpretation of program requirements on ROSI and the transcript. Graduate units should consider which type is most appropriate to meet program requirements.

Graduate Seminar Series Course Types

Type 1: CR/NCR Seminar Series (Universal Designator)—Required Attendance Only and/or Non-evaluated Activity 

(Note: Graduate unit administrators enrol students in this type of course following ROSI manual instructions.)

This type of seminar series requirement is established as a "universal" graduate course and would appear on the student's academic record on Student Web Services (ROSI):

  • SRM 3333 H or Y Master's Seminar SeriesCompulsory Attendance

  • SRD 4444 H or Y Doctoral Seminar SeriesCompulsory Attendance


These courses would be graded CR/NCR (no letter grades). The weight for this type of course is 0.0 FCE. Graduate units may add a subtitle for the specific name of the seminar series. The universal designators would be used for seminar series requirements where attendance only is required and may include non-evaluated activity.

“Activity,” including attendance, is defined at the graduate unit or collaborative program level and may include activities such as student presentations at seminars or active student participation in discussion following the seminar. Similar, but slightly varying SRM/SRD numbers may be established to identify seminar series courses that run for the academic year, extend beyond a year, run continuously through a student’s program, etc. The graduate unit tracks attendance.

Type 2: Letter Grade Seminar Series (Graduate Unit Designator)—Required Attendance Plus Evaluated Activity

This type of seminar series requirement is established as a graduate course with a graduate unit or collaborative program course code and specific title (that is, the graduate unit-specific title would replace the words “Graduate unit seminar series,” and “required attendance plus evaluated activity” would be retained in any such course title).

Graduate unit seminar series courses are assigned a course weight (0.5 FCE, for example). Grading for the course is established as letter grades at the time the course is proposed. In this course type, evaluated student activity is required in addition to attendance. A graduate faculty member is responsible for evaluation and assignment of grades. The graduate unit tracks attendance.


(Note: Student enrolment in seminar series courses that are continuous is automatic after the first session; in master’s programs in which students may “stop out,” administrators delete enrolments during “stop-out” sessions.)

Type 1 CR/NCR Seminar Series (Universal)       

  • The universal course type may only be used when the seminar series has been approved through graduate governance as a program requirement.

  • Submit a request for a universal course designator to SGS via the Faculty Graduate Dean’s Office in an email addressing the following components:

    • Request to use a Type 1 CR/NCR Seminar Series (Universal) course

    • Name of the graduate unit involved

    • Name of program in which the universal course code will represent an approved program requirement

    • Confirm that Compulsory Attendance is required and that the graduate unit will track attendance

    • Identify any other required non-evaluated activity

    • Confirm that course evaluation will be CR/NCR

    • Confirm that course weight will be 0 FCE

    • Explain if course will run for for a term, the academic year, extend beyond a year, run continuously through a student’s program, etc.

  • Once the course request has been reviewed by SGS, graduate unit administrators will enrol students according to ROSI manual instructions.

  • Attendance is tracked by the graduate unit.

  • At completion, graduate units enter a grade (CR/NCR) on ROSI for each student.

Type 2 Letter Grade Seminar series (Graduate Unit)

  • Graduate units propose a new graduate course with a graduate unit course code following established graduate governance procedures.

  • If the seminar series requirement is a new program requirement, it is approved via graduate governance procedures.

  • Students enrol in this course type via ROSI.

  • Attendance is tracked by the graduate unit.

When evaluation is complete, graduate units enter a grade on ROSI for each student. 

Academic Year

In the School of Graduate Studies, the academic year begins in September and ends in August. The academic year is divided into three sessions:

  1. Fall sessionSeptember to December and designated YEAR9

  2. Winter sessionJanuary to May and designated YEAR1

  3. Summer sessionMay to August and designated YEAR5