MFA Degree Requirements

The Master of Fine Arts

In the first year of the program students will typically be required to take *18 course weights of credit. Students in Fine Arts programs require credits in:

  • ART 630, ART 612/613 (Painting) or 622/623 (Printmaking) or 640/641 (Drawing/Intermedia) or 662/663 (Sculpture)
  • 500-level History of Art, Design, and Visual Culture seminar course

Coursework 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, students 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 years of full-time attendance at the University of Alberta. Students typically require two academic years to complete their program of studies.

Progress to the MFA Degree


In the first year, the coordinator in the area of specialization is the supervisor for the MFA student and is responsible for assigning the grade for studio research work.

In the second year, students work closely with a thesis supervisor.


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

Second- and third-year students self-register in THES 909. Any fall (A1, A2, A3 or A4) and winter (B1, B2, B3, or B4) section is fine. Enrollment dates can be located in the right-hand column of Bear Tracks. The Faculty of Graduate Studies will automatically register students in THES 906 in spring and summer. Tuition payments will be distributed over all four terms. If students experience difficulties registering, please contact the Graduate Advisor (Dawn 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 the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research.

Thesis-based students registered full-time in the fall or winter term do not pay additional fees to take or audit courses, except if they audit cost-recovery, MBA, IPG, or undergraduate courses. Graduate students must 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 the first year, students do not receive grades for thesis work. For every registered term of the thesis during the duration of the program, students receive a grade of 'IN' until they graduate. Once students have completed their degree requirements, the last term of registration in THES 906 or 909 will appear as 'CR' (meaning 'Credit') on the transcript.

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 Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research does not include these courses when calculating the student's GPA for continuation in the graduate program or convocation. To register, students complete a Course Extra to Degree form. The department must approve the form and submit it to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research.

If students do not declare a course as extra to degree when registering in the course and subsequently fail (D+ or lower), the course must be repeated or an alternate course taken for credit.

Pre-Oral Examination (one year before the 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 student 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 the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research.

Thesis Document 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 Hunter) to discuss final steps.

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

Oral Examination Scheduling (5 weeks before the final Oral Examination)

The supervisor organizes the final oral Examination Committee, typically chaired by the Department Chair, Associate Chair, or a designate. The MFA committee requires a minimum of three committee members, including one from outside the department.

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

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.

FAB Exhibition

The exhibition typically is scheduled around the time of the thesis oral examination. The exhibition opening welcomes the university community and public, and hence, exhibiting artist(s) should plan to attend.

Procedure for Submitting Work to the University of Alberta Art Collection

The supervisor will set up a meeting with the student, the supervisor, and the art curator for the University of Alberta Art Collection in order to select a work for consideration; this meeting will take place while the show is installed.

The work selected may be in the show or, if a work in the show is not appropriate, it may be a work produced during the final year of study.

The proposed acquisition will be selected at this meeting; a release form will be signed, and the student will be made aware of the fact that final acceptance of the work is the decision of the Museums and Collections Services Acquisitions Committee.

The curator will present the proposed acquisition to the Acquisitions Committee, and this committee will make a final decision.

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

MFA supervisors ensure that students are aware of their responsibility to arrange for delivery of selected works to Museums and Collection Services. The signed Program Completion form is then sent to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research.

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 in the following chart. Review the important thesis and registration deadlines at the end of your program.

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

Convocation Application Deadlines

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 of convicting students. Students who do not wish to attend the convocation ceremonies must still apply for convocation in order to receive a degree.

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

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.


To be completed by graduation:

Ethics Training

Ethics and academic integrity training is mandatory for all newly-admitted 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 & 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 two 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 that:

  • are comprised of formal training or active learning with an assessment component (self-assessment, reflection, quiz, write-pair-share, evidence of knowledge application)\
  • fall outside of research methods training, capstone project, thesis or equivalent, and any required practicum
  • support 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" 
  • "How to Write a Successful Grant Application" 
  • "How to Get Your First Publication, Art Exhibition, Poster Display, Conference Paper Accepted" 
  • "How to Present Research and Creative Work to New Audiences" 

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)
  • For the student's convenience, the FGSR has also purchased online seminars through and Mitacs.