MA Degree Requirements

First Year

In the first year of the program students normally take 18 approved course credits (6 half year courses), including 12 from the 500- and 600-level offerings in the History of Art, Design, and Visual Culture (at least 3 of these course credits must be taken at the 600 level). Up to 6 units of course weight may be taken outside of the Department of Art & Design, subject to the approval of the graduate adviser. The MA Program is relatively small to ensure that students receive individual attention, working with the graduate adviser to select courses suited to their particular needs.

The course selection process is guided by the following principles:

  • i) courses should be relevant to the proposed thesis;
  • ii) students should work with as many different professors as possible, particularly full-time faculty in the History of Art, Design, and Visual Culture;
  • iii) courses should not be specialized in a single area, but should cover diverse periods, cultures, and themes, providing students with breadth for later research as well as employment opportunities.

Students are required to pass a translation test in a language other than English, normally one of direct relevance to their thesis research, before proceeding to write the thesis. They may instead elect to take an approved language reading course or approved equivalent, achieving a minimum grade of C+.

Second Year

Students enter the second year of the program only after satisfactory completion of all the requirements in first year. In second year, students prepare, present, and defend a thesis on a topic approved by the Department. These theses require in-depth original research on the topic under investigation.

MA candidates normally require two years to complete their program of studies. Some applicants may be required to take prerequisite courses, extending their length of time in the program.

Timelines and Responsibilities for MA Graduate Students and Supervisors


In the first year, the HADVC Graduate Advisor is the supervisor of the MA students

In the second year, the Associate Chair of Graduate Studies and Research approves the proposed thesis supervisory assignments and forwards details to the Department Graduate Advisor (Dawn McLean).


1st-year students are registered by the HADVC Graduate Advisor in all courses offered by the Art & Design Department. Registration in courses outside the department 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 in any fall (A1, A2, A3 or A4) and winter (B1, B2, B3, or B4) section. 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.

To self-register in THES 909, students must locate the enrollment date in the right hand column on your Bear Tracks. As of this date, you can register yourself in the coming fall and winter terms. In the left column, click on 'Enroll' and then on 'My Class Schedule' and follow the instructions. Adhere to the deadlines for adding and dropping courses. If difficulties are encountered when registering, contact the Department Graduate Advisor (Dawn McLean) for assistance. After the first year, students do not receive grades for Thesis work. For every term of the thesis that students are registered for the duration of the program of study, students receive a grade of 'IN' until graduation. Once a student has completed the program, last term of registration in THES 906 or 909 will show 'CR' meaning 'Credit'. 

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

Courses Extra to the Degree

Students may wish to take courses that are not necessary to or 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 students do not declare a course as extra to degree when registering and then fail (C+), the course must be repeated or an alternate course taken for credit.

To register, students complete a Course Extra to Degree form. The Associate Chair of Graduate Studies and Research 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 & 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 that do not fulfill the requirement because they do not focus on developing extra-disciplinary skills:

• Sessions also used towards ethics
• Attending a conference or society meeting
• Presenting a talk or poster
• Giving a performance/concert
• Information sessions about resources or programs
• Sessions required for a student to conduct their research

Art & Design Department Pro Seminars 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]
• “Applying for Alberta Foundation for the Arts Grants,” [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]
• Other career development specific to Art & Design Graduate students [1 to 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.

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 arrives at the FGSR in accordance with the deadlines. Students should review the important thesis and registration deadlines at the end of their programs.

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

Thesis Preparation

MA students refer to the FGSR web site for thesis preparation guidelines. Students must complete and include the title page in their thesis books. The document can be found at "Step 1: Format Your Thesis" (select 'designated')

Oral Examination Scheduling

The thesis 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 Department 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.

MA committees require a minimum of 3 committee members, including an arms' length examiner, usually from outside the department.

The student provides committee members with a copy of the thesis four weeks before the defense for appraisal.

Once exam details are received from the supervisor, the Graduate Advisor prepares the Approval of the Master’s Oral Examining Committee form and the Thesis Approval/Program Completion form.

The Approval of the Master’s Oral Examining Committee form is sent to the FGSR, and copies are placed in the student’s file.

Day of the Oral Examination

Before the exam, the Department Graduate Advisor provides the supervisor or committee chair with a copy of the Thesis Approval/Program Completion form.

The examining committee signs and completes the Thesis Approval /Program Completion form. The supervisor or committee chair returns the signed form to the Department Graduate Advisor.

Thesis Completion

After the oral exam, students make any required revisions.

MA students may submit their theses in electronic format to the FGSR as a requirement for convocation. For complete details, see Thesis Requirement and Preparation.

Supervisors may request that the student to provide them with a printed version of the final thesis.

The signed Thesis Approval / Program Completion form is then sent to the FGSR.


Even if students do not wish to attend the convocation ceremonies, they must still apply for graduation in order to receive the 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.

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