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Failure Policy

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Failure Policy

Students who have failed one course required by their department while registered as a graduate student may automatically write one supplemental examination, if the departmental policy permits, or retake that course or substitute an equivalent course. For the purposes of this policy, “required course” (including a complementary course) includes either a course required by the student's program of study, or a course that has been designated by the department for an individual student's program of study. Students with any further failures in that course, including the supplemental, or a failure in any other course, will be required to withdraw from their program of study. When a student retakes a course, he/she is required to pay the fee charged for the course in question. Ph.D. students and master's students in thesis programs can also be required to withdraw from their program of study for documented lack of performance in research.

The failure policy does not pertain to the failure of comprehensive examinations, doctoral oral defenses, or thesis failures. In the case of a failed thesis or defense, the Thesis Failure Policy, detailed in the Thesis Guidelines, applies. In the case of a failed comprehensive examination, the Ph.D. Comprehensives Policy applies.

  • Senate, October 11, 2000.
  • Revised – GPS Council, February 10, 2003

Procedure to follow in cases of failure:

  • In the event of a first failure:
    • The failing grade must be recorded on the student's record;
    • A letter should be sent from the GPD to the Management of Academic Records in Enrolment Services to indicate that as per the Failure Policy, the student can:
      • write a supplemental examination (if departmental policy permits);


      • retake the failed course;


      • substitute the failed course by completing an equivalent course.
  • In the event of a second failure (including failure of a supplemental exam):
    • The second failing grade must be recorded on the student's record;
    • A letter should be sent from the GPD to the student (with a copy sent to the Management of Academic Records unit in Enrolment Services) to indicate that, as per the Failure Policy, the student will be withdrawn from the program;
    • Upon receipt of the GPD letter, Enrolment Services will send the student an official withdrawal letter and change the status to Withdrawn on the student's academic record.

Requesting an appeal in case of withdrawal due to failure:

A student withdrawn due to failure has 30 days to appeal this decision. It is the student's responsibility to present evidence of their case and provide any supporting documentation, including letters of support from their thesis supervisor and Graduate Program Director. The appeal and any supporting documents will be reviewed by the Associate Dean, Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, and the student notified of the decision. That decision will be final. Students should be aware that appeals are rarely awarded, and only under truly exceptional circumstances.

A student who wishes to submit an appeal must:

  • Prepare a detailed letter indicating the reasons for the appeal (addressed to the Graduate Associate Dean);
  • Obtain any supporting documents (addressed to the Graduate Associate Dean);
  • Submit the letter, together with all supporting documents, to the attention of Heidi Emami, Assistant Registrar, Enrolment Services, 3415 McTavish, before the end of this 30-day period.
Note: A student in a graduate program who has failed one course while being a Special Student in graduate studies will have this failure count as a first failure in a related graduate program. Any further failure will require withdrawal from the program of study. A student may not claim medical reasons for a course failure after the fact. In the case of an examination, a dated medical certificate or appropriate document recommending a deferral (see “Other Grades” in Grading and Grade Point Averages (GPA) > “L - deferred” and “LE or L* - further deferral”) must be submitted to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies with a departmental recommendation for a deferral before or immediately after the examination. In particular, such recommendation will not be considered if medical reasons are brought forth after a grade is submitted. Medical reasons declared after the fact will not be considered acceptable grounds of appeal of withdrawal under the Failure Policy.
—2014-2015 (last updated Jul. 22, 2014) (disclaimer)
Programs, Courses and University Regulations—2014-2015 (last updated Jul. 22, 2014) (disclaimer)