When Things Go Wrong


The university has a range of people and services to help you manage your life and health while you are a graduate student, and you can find most of them through the  UVic website. Some of these are

In this section the focus is on getting help with progressing through the steps of your graduate program, both coursework and research.

The university operates on the principles of  natural justice, which means that you have the opportunity to have your side of the story heard and to be fairly treated, and  progressive discipline, which means that most matters are dealt with at first informally, and then if a problem persists, more formally and with greater penalties at increasingly higher levels within the university. You have the opportunity to appeal a decision at one level to a higher level. For most issues related to graduate studies, you supervisor will be the first point of contact in solving problems. If not resolved, then you move up the chain of authority: your supervisory committee (you have the right to call a supervisory meeting), the Graduate Advisor, Department Chair, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, Dean of Graduate Studies, Senate Committee on Appeals.

If your supervisor is unable to assist you in problem solving, or if you have a problem with your supervisor, the Graduate Advisor can be consulted on a confidential basis. The Associate Deans of Gradute Studies are also available for confidential consultation on any aspect of your graduate program.

The faculty of graduate studies has a  web page that lists all the Graduate Studies policies.

The  Omsbudsperson is a resource person on campus who helps you interpret university procedures, find the right procedure to solve your problem, or put you in touch with the right person on campus to help you.

Failing Courses and Degrees

It is sometimes said that a "B-" (70-72%) is a failing grade for a graduate course, but this is a relatively common occurrence that simply calls for some remedial action. Every grade of B- or less has to be reviewed by your supervisory committee and a recommendation made to the Dean of Graduate studies. Sometimes, if you are only are slightly below, your other coursework and research is going well and there are extenuating circumstances, there may be no action taken other than require a certain GPA bar for upcoming work. More commonly, you will be required to take the course again, or take another course in your next term and meet a certain grade threshold. If your grade is C+ or below and there do not seem to be any extenuating circumstances, there is a possibility that you will be required to withdraw. The detailed rules are in the  Graduate Supervision Policy Sec. 7.15.

The more common scenario requiring withdrawal is if you get a second grade of B- or below. Here again, your supervisory committee must meet and make a recommendation for appropriate action, which may be a recommendation for withdrawal, i.e, you would fail your degree and your transcipt would be annotated with "academic failure". If a recommendation for withdrawal is made by your supervisory committee, it will be considered by the Graduate Advisor, Graduate Studies Committee and the Chair of the Department, who will seek further input from you. If they reccommend withdrawal to the Dean and the Dean accepts this recommendation, you will have an opportunity of appealing the Dean's decision to the Senate Committee on Appeals. It is likely that before the Dean makes a formal decision, you will be asked to meet with an Associate Dean and present your side of the story. In any case, you may request a meeting with the Dean ( Graduate Supervision Policy Sec. 9.2)

The  Graduate Supervision Policy Sec. 6.15 lists other factors that (singly or in combination) can lead to you being withdrawn from your degree - aside from low grades in coursework, these include things such as unsatisfactory research progress, academic misconduct (e.g., plagiarism), safety violations, and repeated failure to complete tasks or attend meetings. These violations all need to be documented (typically in your term evaluations). Once the decision is made for withdrawal, it takes place at the end of the academic term in which the decision is made.

Problems with your Supervisor

Occasionally interpersonal conflicts with your supervisor will escalate to the point that the the relationship is dysfunctional. Well before this point, you should seek the confidential advice of the Graduate Advisor, who will try to solve these issues informally, or through meetings of the supervisory committee.

The supervisory relationship can be severed in two ways. You may decide to withdraw from the supervisory relationship ( Graduate Supervision Policy Sec. 11.4), in which case you will need to find a new supervisor. Alternatively, the supervisor may withdraw ( Graduate Supervision Policy Sec. 11.2), in which case the department is responsible for continuity of supervision and for locating a new supervisor. In either case, this is a serious issue that has implications for your ongoing funding and other issues, such as whether or not your research to date can be included in your thesis. Read the  Graduate Supervision Policy and consult the Graduate Advisor.