Policies and Guidelines (Handbook)

There are numerous policies and guidelines affecting graduate studies. These appear on the SGS Policies and Guidelines website.

  • Graduate Grading Policy
  • Intellectual Property
  • Research Ethics
  • Academic Sanctions for Students With Outstanding Obligations to the University
  • Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Code of Student Conduct
  • Appropriate Use of Information and Communication Technology
  • Statement on Human Rights

Furthermore, University of Toronto-wide policies affecting students are available on the Governing Council website.

SGS Calendar

The SGS Calendar describes the broad range of graduate study opportunities available at the University of Toronto. It also contains policies and procedures related to graduate studies. The calendar is divided into five major sections.

  • General Regulations
  • Degree Regulations
  • Fee Regulations
  • Financial Support
  • Graduate Programs

Graduate Academic Appeals

Graduate students registered in the School of Graduate Studies (SGS), may appeal substantive or procedural academic matters, including grades, evaluation of comprehensive examinations and other program requirements; decisions about the student’s continuation in any program; or concerning any other decision with respect to the application of academic regulations and requirements to a student (SGS General Regulations 11.1).

With the exception of appeals related to Termination of Registration and Final Oral Examination failure, appeals are initiated within the student’s home graduate unit first, at the Graduate Department Academic Appeals Committee (GDAAC).

Academic appeals are heard only from a person currently registered in the School of Graduate Studies or who was registered at the time the ruling or action was taken. Students must file an appeal within eight weeks after the date of the decision being appealed. See the appeals policy in the General Regulations in the SGS Calendar for further information on timing.

The decision resulting from the GDAAC may be appealed to the Graduate Academic Appeals Board (GAAB). The decision of the GAAB may be appealed to the Academic Appeals Committee of the Governing Council.

Students may not appeal admissions decisions, fees and the voluntary withdrawal from a graduate program.

Initiating an Appeal to the Graduate Department Academic Appeals Committee (GDAAC)

Students must first attempt to resolve the matter with the instructor or other person whose ruling is in question. Should the matter not be resolved with the instructor, and should the student wish to pursue the matter, the student must discuss the matter with the graduate coordinator or associate chair of the graduate unit. Should such discussions fail to resolve the matter, the student may then make a formal appeal in writing (see Notice of Appeal form below) to the Chair of the Graduate Department Academic Appeals Committee (GDAAC).

After receiving the Notice of Appeal, the Chair of the GDAAC will provide the person, or persons who made the decision being appealed with a copy of the Notice of Appeal, and request a written response. This response, along with the student Notice of Appeal will be considered by the GDAAC committee.

The GDAAC committee will make a recommendation to the Chair of the Department, who will render a decision. See the GDAAC Guidelines below and the appeals policy in the General Regulations in the SGS Calendar for further information.

GDAAC Guidelines

GDAAC: Notice of Appeal


Geography & Planning

Academic Offences

Students in graduate studies are expected to commit to the highest standards of integrity and to understand the importance of protecting and acknowledging intellectual property. It is assumed that they bring to their graduate studies a clear understanding of how to cite references appropriately, thereby avoiding plagiarism. The student’s thinking must be understood as distinct from the sources upon which the student is referring. Two excellent documents entitled How Not to Plagiarize and Deterring Plagiarism (of interest to students and faculty respectively) are available for reference on the SGS Academic Integrity Resources website or from the department.

The University’s understanding of plagiarism is found in the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters (available on the Governing Council website) and includes the following statements:

It shall be an offence for a student knowingly:

(d) to represent as one’s own idea or expression of an idea or work of another in any academic examination or term test or in connection with any other form of academic work, i.e., to commit plagiarism.

Wherever in the Code an offence is described as depending on “knowing”, the offence shall likewise be deemed to have been committed if the person ought reasonably to have known.

Other academic offences include the possession and/or use of unauthorized aids in examinations, submitting the same paper for different courses, to name only a few of the most obvious violations. Please refer to the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters for detailed descriptions of offences and procedures.

Violations of the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters by graduate students are taken very seriously. Following procedures outlined in the Code, cases involving graduate students are handled by the Chair of the Graduate Department and the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. Students are encouraged to inquire of their departments about specific practices in their discipline related to appropriate citation practices. It is the responsibility of the student to be informed and to “cite it right”.

Ethics Review

The University of Toronto requires that all graduate student and faculty research involving human subjects be reviewed and approved by the relevant institutional Research Ethics Boards (REBs) before work can begin. Although research methodologies differ, the fundamental ethical issues and principles in research involving human subjects are common across all disciplines.

Research involving human subjects includes:

  • Obtaining data about a living individual through intervention or interaction with the individual, or the obtaining of private personal information about the individual.
  • Secondary use of data (i.e. information collected for purposes other than the proposed research) that contains identifying information about a living individual, or data linkage through which living individuals may become identifiable.
  • Naturalistic observation, except the observation of individuals in contexts in which it can be expected that the participants are seeking public visibility.

The University of Toronto has five Research Ethics Boards (REBs) that meet monthly to review ethical protocols from faculty members and graduate students of the departments that they serve. The Office of Research Ethics is part of the Office of the Vice-President, Research and Associate Provost, and functions to assist researchers through the ethical review process and to provide administrative support to the Research Ethics Boards (REBs). The REB that covers Geography research is the Social Sciences and Humanities Ethics Review Committee.

It is mandatory that all projects involving human subjects receive ethical approval before commencing any research activities, including recruitment, pre-screening or pilot trials. The ethical process for each protocol is slightly different (dependent on ethical issues inherent to research methodology, subject population, research question, etc.) and may take several weeks to months for final approval. Clarification and revisions to original submissions are common, and are handled as quickly and efficiently as possible. Understanding the issues and receiving proper guidance and supervision in the crafting of both the research study and the ethical protocol can minimize turn-around time.

The SGS Student Guide on Ethical Conduct, Research Involving Human Subjects provides an overview of the policy and requirements.

Detailed research ethics policies, application procedures, and all the information and resource materials needed to submit an ethics protocol for review are available on the Research & Innovation website.

Field Research and Field Safety

Field research by graduate students consists of activities conducted for the purposes of study or research. Such activities can take students to various locations across the city, country, or world. In some cases, field research can expose participants to significant risks to their health, safety or well-being, at locations outside the direct supervisory control of the University. For example:

  • Work involving isolated or remote or politically unstable locations;
  • Extreme weather conditions;
  • Hazardous terrain;
  • Harmful wildlife;
  • Lack of ready access to emergency services.

Some field research activities may not impose risk beyond those experienced in daily life, and as such, are deemed to be low risk activity. For example, collection of data in the vicinity of campus or in settings encountered on a day-to-day basis.


  1. Students and supervisors are required to meet prior to undertaking field research to ensure the following:
    • All concerned parties are aware of their responsibilities for field research and adhere to the Guidelines on Safety in Field Research;
    • A risk assessment is carried out to identify potential hazards associated with the field research and to establish appropriate controls to eliminate or minimize such hazards; and
    • All participants have an informed understanding of the associated risks and provide their consent to assuming the risks of participation.
  2. Where proposed activities expose students to significant risks as described above, the supervisor is responsible for ensuring the following documents are completed, signed and submitted to the Graduate Administrator for inclusion in the student’s official records:
    • Field Safety Planning Record;
    • Consent and Liability Waivers.

Please note that these are not required for low risk activities as described above.

In cases where research activities take place outside of Canada, the student must also adhere to the Travel Abroad Policy and complete the Safety Abroad Office workshop and registration.

Please visit the Environmental Health and Safety Field Research website for additional resources, including:

  • Framework on Off-Campus Safety
  • Guidelines on Safety in Field Research
  • Field Research Safety Planning Record
  • Consent and Liability Waivers

Travel Abroad

Students who plan to travel outside of Canada to conduct research, fieldwork, attend conferences or participate in any activities related to their graduate study (all of which are considered ‘U of T sponsored activities’) must register with the Safety Abroad Office (SAO) following the steps below at least one month prior to travel. The Safety Abroad Office works with students, staff and faculty to minimize risk by:

  • Providing Safety Abroad Workshops
  • Monitoring security situations
  • Assisting students with emergencies abroad
  • Offering 24/hr Emergency line

Steps to Have Travel Approved

All students must complete the following steps at least one month before travel:

  1. Register with the Safety Abroad Database by completing the online form. (Students travelling on a program activity – i.e. field trip – will be contacted by the department for registration information).
  2. Attend a mandatory Safety Abroad Workshop.
  3. Complete and return the Consent and Liability Terms of Participation Waivers to the SAO.
  4. Obtain supplementary travel health insurance. Review any existing health coverage, for example through your student union or UTGSU. Be sure that it is sufficient for your needs, and confirm and/or activate your insurance.
  5. Students going abroad for an independent field trip or research may wish to develop the Safety Planning Record, which can be reviewed and approved by your supervisor and submitted to the Geography & Planning Graduate Administrator for the Graduate Chair’s approval.

If you are planning to travel to a high risk destination (where Global Affairs Canada advises people to avoid non-essential or avoid all travel), additional steps are required.

Students who do not follow these steps and who have not received SAO approval for travel will not receive credit for research conducted (i.e. research cannot be used toward thesis/MRP/dissertation or other academic projects) and will not receive University funding for their trip.

Visit the Safety Abroad website for further information.

Official Correspondence

The University and its divisions may use the postal mail system and/or electronic message services (e.g., electronic mail and other computer-based on-line correspondence systems) as mechanisms for delivering official correspondence to students.

Official correspondence may include, but is not limited to, matters related to students’ participation in their academic programs, important information concerning University and program scheduling, fees information, and other matters concerning the administration and governance of the University.

The University provides centrally-supported technical services and the infrastructure to make electronic mail and/or on-line communications systems available to students. University correspondence delivered by electronic mail is subject to the same public information, privacy and records retention requirements and policies as are other university correspondence and student records.

Students are responsible for maintaining and recording in the Student Web Service a current and valid postal address as well as the address for a University-issued electronic mail account. Students are expected to monitor and retrieve their mail, including electronic messaging account(s) issued to them by the University, on a frequent and consistent basis. Students have the responsibility to recognize that certain communications may be time-critical. Students have the right to forward their University-issued electronic mail account to another electronic mail service provider address but remain responsible for ensuring that all University electronic message communication sent to the official University-issued account is received and read. Failure to do so may result in a student missing information and will not be considered an acceptable rationale for failing to receive official correspondence from the University.