MDes Degree Requirements

Master of Design

In the first year of the program students will normally be required to take *18 course weights of credit.

Candidates in design programs require credit in:

  • DES 630
  • DES 600, 601, 680 and 681
  • DES 683 or 685 or one 600-level seminar in design history and/or visual culture, or a course chosen from selected courses offered by other departments.

Course work must be completed before commencement of the thesis. First term studio courses may not be repeated; however, second term studio courses may be repeated with consent of the Department. After all other program requirements have been satisfactorily met, candidates must make a major presentation of their creative work. Such a presentation will be considered the equivalent of a master's thesis.

There is no language requirement for the degree.

The minimum period of residence is two four-month terms of full-time attendance at the University of Alberta.

Candidates will normally require two academic years to complete their program of studies.


Timelines and Responsibilities for MDes Graduate Students and Supervisors


In 1st year, the coordinator in the area of specialization is the supervisor for the MDes candidates and is responsible for assigning the grade in studio research work In 2nd year, the area coordinator forwards details to the Graduate Advisor and the Associate Chair approves the supervision. The Graduate Advisor submits the supervisory assignment forms to FGSR.


1st year students are registered by the Graduate Advisor in all courses offered by the Art and Design department. Registration in external courses is the responsibility of the student. In some cases, the student may need to go to the department offering the course to request consent for registration.

2nd and 3rd-year students self-register in THES 909. Any fall (A1, A2, A3 or A4) and winter (B1, B2, B3, or B4) section is fine. Find your enrollment date in the right-hand column on your Bear Tracks.

Thesis based students registered full time in fall or winter do not pay additional fees to take or audit courses, except if they audit cost-recovery, MBA, IPG or undergraduate courses. Graduate students will however, pay to take or audit spring and summer courses. Course based students pay 50% of the course fee to audit any course, in any term.

After your first year, you do not receive grades for your Thesis work. For every term of the thesis that you are registered in for the duration of your program, you receive a grade of 'IN' until you graduate. Once you are finished, the last term of registration in THES 906 or 909 will show 'CR' meaning 'Credit'.

As of this date, you can register yourself in the coming fall and winter terms. The Faculty of Graduate Studies will automatically register you in THES 906 in spring and summer. Tuition payments will be distributed over all four terms. Adhere to the deadlines for adding and dropping courses. If you experience difficulties registering, contact the Graduate Advisor (Lydia Hunter) for assistance.

Continuing students must register in THES during the term in which the thesis and accompanying evidence of program completion is submitted to FGSR.

Courses Extra to the Degree

Students may wish to take courses that are not an integral part of their graduate program. Courses extra to the degree must be designated and approved by the FGSR at the time of registration in the courses. The FGSR does not include these courses when calculating the student's GPA for continuation in the graduate program or convocation.

If you do not declare a course as extra to degree when you register in the course and you fail (D+), the course must be repeated or an alternate course taken for credit. To register, students complete a Course Extra to Degree form. The department must approve the form and submit it to the FGSR.

Ethics Training

Ethics and academic integrity training is mandatory for all newly-admitted U of A graduate students. Each student is expected to complete the equivalent of at least eight (8) hours of structured academic activity to meet this requirement:

Art and Design Department Ethics Training Requirements

Professional Development Requirement

Graduate students must undertake a minimum of 8 hours of professional development over the course of their degree as required by the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research.

There are 2 components. Students cannot graduate without meeting both:

1. Master's students must complete an Individual Development Plan (IDP) in the first 12 months of their program; PhD students in the first 18 months.

2. A minimum of eight hours of professional development activities inspired by individual career plans.

For additional information, please see FAQs for Faculty/Staff and Students.

To meet the 8 hours of FGSR professional development requirements (link), professional development hours may be counted in each of the broad areas of:

  • Career development
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Internship
  • Mentorship
  • Professional practice
  • Skills training
  • Teaching

To be counted, professional development activities must be trackable and verifiable. It is the responsibility of the student to ensure that professional development documentation meets these requirements.

Students are encouraged to track hours with the Individual Development Plan & Professional Development Completion Form

Activities should ideally focus on developing extra-disciplinary skills:

  • comprises of formal training or active learning with an assessment component (self-assessment, reflection, quiz, write-pair-share, evidence of knowledge application)\
  • falls outside of research methods training, capstone project, thesis or equivalent, and required practicum
  • supports the career goals and/or seven skills/competencies identified in the individual development plan

Art & Design Department Proseminars are organized by the Associate Chair of Graduate Studies and Research. These take place on Friday mornings and Wednesday afternoons during the fall and winter terms. Some of these topics will count toward the professional development requirement as well as the ethics requirement. Attendance is optional, though highly encouraged. Here are some topic examples:

  • "How to Construct a Killer C. V. and Artist Biography" [2 hours PD credit]
  • "How to Write a Successful Grant Application," [2 hours PD credit]
  • "How to Get Your First Publication, Art Exhibition, Poster Display, Conference Paper Accepted" [2 hours PD credit]
  • "How to Present Research and Creative Work to New Audiences," [2 hours PD credit]

The following list of acceptable professional development activities has been pre-approved by the Department of Art and Design, to be amended from time to time. Any students requesting professional development credit for activities not included in this list are required to obtain approval by their Department's Associate Chair of Graduate Studies and Research in order to have it counted and added to the list.

  • Three minute thesis (3MT) workshop [1 hour PD credit]
  • Graduate Teaching and Learning levels 1, 2, 3 [maximum 4 hours PD credit]
  • Career development activities as elected graduate student association executive or as elected members of University, Faculty or Department committees [ 2 hours PD credit]
  • Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) with the Fine Arts Building Gallery [2 to 4 hours PD credit]
  • Internships as defined by the FGSR (maximum 8 hours PD credit)

Pre Oral Examination (one year before final oral examination)

The supervisor proposes exhibition dates to the FAB Gallery Committee for ratification approximately one year before the defense. The FAB Gallery manager informs the candidate and the supervisor about tentative exhibition dates for either the upstairs or downstairs gallery.

Continuing students must register in THES 909 during the term in which the thesis and accompanying evidence of program completion is submitted to FGSR.

Thesis-based students should apply for convocation before their Oral Examination. All students must apply for convocation in order to be eligible for the convocation list or they will not be included on the convocation list.


Even if you do not wish to attend the convocation ceremonies, you must still apply for graduation in order to receive your degree. The University of Alberta holds two convocation ceremonies each year with the following application deadlines. All students must apply for convocation to be included on the list:

Application Deadlines

Bear Tracks will be available for graduate students to apply for graduation:

  • May 1 to September 30 for Fall Convocation
  • November 1 to April 3 for Spring Convocation

Apply for convocation using the feature found under the Academics menu in Bear Tracks. Note: All applications for convocation are subject to review and approval by the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research. Applying to convocate on Bear Tracks does not guarantee convocation.

Thesis Submission Deadlines

Students must register in both fall and winter terms regardless of when they are scheduled to defend their thesis. Tuition will be adjusted if the thesis completion paperwork has arrived at FGSR in accordance with the deadlines. Review the important thesis and registration deadlines at the end of your program.

MDes students document their work and prepare their thesis support document according to the Thesis Preparation instructions.

Thesis Preparation

Up to one month before the exhibition is installed and the final oral exam takes place, the student makes an appointment with the Graduate Advisor (Dawn McLean) to discuss final steps.

MDes students document their work and prepare their thesis document. The thesis document will be up-loaded to the University of Alberta, Education and Research Archive (ERA) with help from the Graduate Advisor.

The Thesis Program Completion form will not be forwarded to FGSR until the thesis support document and images have been up-loaded to ERA. FGSR has firm deadlines for receiving this form.

Oral Examination Scheduling (5 weeks before final oral examination)

The supervisor organizes the final oral Examination Committee, normally chaired by the Department Chair or their designate.

At least 5 weeks before the oral exam date, the supervisor provides the Graduate Advisor with exam details: date, time, location, thesis title and all committee member names and titles.The supervisor confirms the date and time of the oral exam with all committee members.

MDes committees require a minimum of 3 committee members, including one from outside the department.

The supervisor notifies committee members of available exhibition viewing dates prior to the oral exam. Normally 2 viewing days are required.

Once exam details are received from the supervisor, the Graduate Advisor prepares the Notice of Examining Committee and Examination Date form and the Thesis Approval/Program Completion form.

The Notice of Examining Committee and Examination Date form is sent to FGSR, copy to the student's file.

Day of the Oral Examination

Before the exam, the Graduate Advisor ensures that the Supervisor has the Thesis Approval/Program Completion form.

After the exam, the examining committee signs the Thesis Approval/Program Completion form. The supervisor or committee chair returns the signed form to the Graduate Advisor.

A copy is placed in the student's file and the original form is held until the student has up-loaded their thesis support document to ERA (see 'Thesis Completion'). Once the document has been up-loaded to ERA, the signed Thesis Approval/Program Completion form is then sent to FGSR.

View the Graduate Program Manual from the Faculty of Graduate Studies.