Policy on Responsibilities of Advisors,
Advisory Committees and Graduate Students and Graduate Student-Advisor
Responsibilities of the Advisor
Responsibilities of Advisory Committees
Graduate Student Responsibilities
Dispute Resolution Mechanisms
This is the official policy of the
University of Guelph approved in principle by the University Senate
on January 15, 1991, and revised and reprinted annually thereafter.
The request for a policy originated in the Board of Governors Committee
on Student Rights and Responsibilities. The policy was developed by
faculty/student committees of the Board of Graduate Studies in consultation
with the departments and schools and with the university's solicitors.
Mediation procedures for the resolution of disputes arising from disagreements
in interpretation of the policy are included.
Many individuals bring to graduate
programs a rich and varied experience derived from universities throughout
the world. This policy provides an outline of best practices and principles
to guide the normal interactions within a graduate program at the
University of Guelph. The University offers advanced degrees across
a wide range of academic disciplines each of which has its own cultural
variances with respect to how graduate research is conducted and how
students are advised. Practices will vary as well depending on the
nature of the student's research project and the stage the student
is at in his/her program. Thus, the level of scrutiny and interaction
may range from that occurring on a continuous basis to that in which
the student operates quite independently with only occasional guidance.
Regardless of the discipline, however, the underlying principle is
one of mutual respect among students, faculty, and staff in an academic
environment governed by traditional standards of research and professional
integrity, without prejudice or discrimination. Within this context,
the student, the Advisor, the Advisory Committee and the Department
assume certain responsibilities or obligations and are entitled to
expect reciprocal commitments. The policy is neither exhaustive nor
exclusive and should be viewed in the context of normal circumstances.
This policy should be viewed as complementary to the University of
Guelph statement on Student Rights and Responsibilities.
Responsibilities of the Advisor
A Faculty Advisor's primary task is to guide and inspire his or
her students to reach their scholarly potential. The Advisor should
promote conditions conducive to a student's research and intellectual
growth, providing appropriate guidance on the progress of the research
and the standards expected. Good supervisory practice includes the
- Facilitating the student's intellectual growth and contribution
to a field of knowledge.
- Guiding the student, with the assistance of the Advisory Committee,
in the development of a program of study.
- Assisting in the development and execution of a research program
- Being reasonably accessible to the student via telephone, electronic
communication or in person for consultation and discussion of
the student's academic progress and research problems. What constitutes
"reasonable accessibility" may vary according to discipline,
stage of research, etc. However, an Advisor must be in contact
with the student frequently enough to be able to make an informed
judgement on the student's progress on a semesterly basis.
- Thoroughly examining written material submitted by the student
and making constructive suggestions for improvement. Informing
the student of the approximate time it will take for submitted
written material to be returned with comments. Normally, comments
should be returned to the student within two weeks, although circumstances
such as absences from campus or unusually heavy workload may require
that the Advisor take longer than two weeks to review the student's
work. Timing of submission and review should be negotiated between
student and Advisor.
- Advising the student as to the acceptability of the draft thesis
or research project prior to submission to the Advisory Committee.
If the Advisor believes the thesis or research project is not
ready for submission or will not be ready within a particular
time, the Advisor should so indicate with written reasons to the
student. In cooperation with the Chair or Departmental Graduate
Coordinator, helping to organize qualifying and final examinations.
- Assisting the student in learning about all appropriate deadline
dates and regulations associated with thesis review, examination
and submission, as specified in the Graduate Calendar and/or by
the Office of Graduate Program Services and/or the Department
- Giving ample notice of extended absences from campus such as
research leaves, and making satisfactory arrangements for the
advising of the student when the Advisor is on leave or on extended
absence from the campus. Where a faculty member knows that he/she
will be on leave for part of a student's program prior to the
start of the program, the student should be informed of this at
the outset. Depending on the length of absence and the stage of
the student's program, it may be necessary to make arrangements
for an interim Advisor.
- Making reasonable arrangements, within the norms appropriate
to the discipline and the limits of the material and human resources
of the University, so that the research resources necessary for
execution of the student's thesis or major paper research are
- Advising the student of regulations designed to provide him/her
with a safe environment. These include relevant safety and/or
workplace regulations as well as policies designed to protect
individual rights and freedoms. Alerting the student to any personal
risks that may be encountered in the course of the research and
providing training, guidance and adequate equipment appropriate
for those risks.
- Chairing the Advisory Committee. Responsibilities will include:
- holding regular Advisory Committee meetings with the student,
normally no less than once per semester
- submitting evaluation reports every semester, in consultation
with the Advisory Committee, to the Departmental Graduate
- formulating a plan of action with the student and the Advisory
Committee to address any problems that have been identified
as a result of a semester progress review, and
- when a semester progress rating of "Some Concerns"
or "Unsatisfactory Progress" has been assigned,
providing written notification, including the signatures of
all Advisory Committee members, to the Faculty of Graduate
NOTE: A "satisfactory" evaluation
represents normal progress on coursework and research. A
"some concerns" report is compatible with an expectation
for successful completion of the program, but indicates
some specific concerns regarding the student's current performance
and/or progress on coursework or research or both. An "unsatisfactory"
report is a clear indication of concern about the student's
ability to complete the program. Such concern may be based
on poor performance in coursework or research or both. Unsatisfactory
progress could include failure to meet agreed research milestones,
including the timely preparation of a research proposal.on,
including the signatures of all Advisory Committee members,
to the Faculty of Graduate Studies.
- Complying with any commitment of financial support made to the
student as part of the offer of admission. In the event that expected
financial support becomes unavailable, the Advisor will work with
the Department and Faculty of Graduate Studies to ensure support
for the student.
- Acknowledging, in accordance with University policies, the
contributions of the student in presentations and in published
material, for instance through joint authorship.
- Immediately disclosing to the Department Chair any conflict
of interest that arises with the student. Conflicts of interest
will arise when there are sexual, romantic, or familial ties between
the Advisor and student or when there are irreconcilable interpersonal
conflicts, and in such cases it is expected that the faculty member
will withdraw from the role of Advisor. Conflicts of interest
may also arise when the Advisor or student have a financial interest
in the outcome of a research project. In these cases, the decision
as to whether withdrawal is appropriate should be made in consultation
with the Department Chair.
Responsibilities of Advisory Committees
Members of an Advisory Committee can do much to enhance the academic
experience for a student, allowing the student to take advantage
of a range of expertise in the discipline. The specific responsibilities
of an effective Advisory Committee are as follows:
- Encourage the student's intellectual growth to become a competent
contributor to a field of knowledge. In this context, the Advisory
Committee must provide constructive criticism and provocative
discussion of the student's ideas as the program develops. The
Committee should ensure that the student is exposed to a wider
range of expertise and ideas than can be provided by the Advisor
alone, including directing the student as appropriate to consult
with experts outside the Committee.
- Be reasonably accessible to the student for consultation and
discussion of the student's academic progress and research problems.
- Attend regular meetings of the Advisory Committee with the
student, normally no less than once per semester.
- Develop, with the student's involvement, and formally approve
a list of courses that would constitute the program of study,
no later than the end of the second semester. (This program of
study is not considered final until also approved by the Department
and the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Such approval will not normally
be withheld if the proposed program meets the published program
- In consultation with the Advisor, confirm and approve progress
reports in those cases where there are concerns or when the progress
being made is unsatisfactory. ("Some Concerns" and "Unsatisfactory"
progress reports will also be forwarded to the Department and
the Faculty of Graduate Studies.)
- Formulate a plan of action with the student to address any problems
that have been identified as a result of a semester progress review
of "Some Concerns" or "Unsatisfactory".
- Inform the student of the approximate time it will take for
submitted written material to be returned with comments. If the
expected time exceeds the normal two-week turnaround, for instance
because of absence from campus or an unusually heavy workload,
provide the student and the Advisor with an estimate of the time
- Thoroughly review and comment on drafts of written material.
Inform the student as to whether or not a research project is
complete or a thesis ready for submission to the final examination
committee. If additional work is required, provide feedback to
guide the student in satisfactory completion of the work
- Immediately disclose to the Advisor and the Department Chair
any conflict of interest that arises with the student. Conflicts
of interest will arise when there are sexual, romantic, or familial
ties between the Advisory Committee member and the student or
when there are irreconcilable interpersonal conflicts, and in
such cases it is expected that the faculty member will withdraw
from the Advisory Committee. Conflicts of interest may also arise
when the Advisory Committee member or student have a financial
interest in the outcome of the research project. In these cases,
the decision as to whether withdrawal is appropriate should be
made in consultation with the Department Chair and the Advisor.
The development and maintenance of a high-quality graduate program
is of key importance to every department in the Faculty of Graduate
Studies. It is, therefore, in each Department's best interest to
encourage and support effective graduate advising.
The responsibilities of the Department may be assigned by the Chair
in whole or in part to the Graduate Coordinator and shared by the
Graduate Studies Committee. If such a designation of responsibilities
occurs, that division of responsibilities should be clearly outlined
and publicly available. In the case where the Graduate Co-ordinator
is the faculty advisor, the responsibilities of the Graduate Co-ordinator
with respect to departmental advising duties will be carried out
by the Chair or his/her designate. Where the Chair, is the faculty
advisor, his/her Departmental Responsibilities with respect to advising
will be carried out by the Graduate Co-ordinator or his/her designate.
The Department should:
- Assist the Advisor and student in determining appropriate deadline
dates and regulations associated with review, examination and
submission of the thesis or research project as specified in the
Graduate Calendar and/or Graduate Program Services and the Department
- Make available to faculty and students information about current
courses, areas of expertise of faculty members, and pertinent
information not already outlined in the Graduate Calendar. This
information may be available through the Department website, graduate
handbook or occasional flyers.
- Set up procedures that match students and advisors, with the
matching to be completed as quickly as possible, not later than
within six months of initial registration.
- Approve the advisory committee/graduate degree program form
no later than the end of the student's second registered semester.
- Establish procedures by which the Graduate Coordinator and,
if appropriate, the Graduate Studies Committee can monitor progress
of graduate students through reports by the Advisor, student,
and appropriate others, and to communicate this progress to all
- Investigate situations where an Advisory Committee has not met
for two or more consecutive semesters. In addition, investigate
perceived irregularities in student/Advisor/Advisory Committee
- If a student has received an unsatisfactory evaluation report
for two consecutive semesters then the Departmental Graduate Coordinator
will meet with the student, the Advisor and the Advisory Committee
to consider the lack of progress and any possible remedial measures.
- Maintain a list of scheduled faculty leaves and, where warranted,
assist in making satisfactory arrangements for the advising of
the student when the Advisor is on leave or on extended absence
from the campus. Depending on the length of absence, it may be
necessary to make arrangements for an interim Advisor.
- Encourage the interaction of graduate students with other students
and faculty, and the development of a professional identity through
research seminars, posting of conferences, and other means.
- Inform Graduate Program Services should there be unresolved
concerns about either the Advisor's effectiveness or the student's
- Allow students to change Advisors if their research interests
shift or develop in a new direction and if the change reasonably
can be accommodated by the Department.
- In the event that an Advisor or Advisory Committee member withdraws
because of a conflict of interest, work with all parties to mitigate
any negative consequences of the withdrawal.
Graduate Student Responsibilities
From the choice of Advisor, choice of research project and through
to degree completion, graduate students must recognize that they
carry the primary responsibility for their success. The responsibilities
assigned to Advisors, Advisory Committees and Departments provide
the framework within which students can achieve success. Students
should take full advantage of the knowledge and advice that the
Advisor and Advisory Committee have to offer and make the effort
to keep the lines of communication open. Specifically, each graduate
student has a responsibility to:
- Make a commitment to grow intellectually, in part by fulfilling
course requirements as outlined by the Advisory Committee, and
to contribute to a field of knowledge by developing and carrying
out a program of research.
- Learn about all appropriate deadline dates and regulations associated
with registration, award applications and graduation requirements,
as specified in the Graduate Calendar and/or the Office of Graduate
Program Services and/or the Department or School.
- Recognize that thesis and research project topics must be within
the scope of the appraised and approved graduate program as set
out in the program descriptions in the Graduate Calendar.
- Choose, with the approval of the Advisor and Advisory Committee,
a topic of research for which adequate resources are available,
including financial and physical resources and faculty expertise.
- Conform to University, Faculty and Program requirements, academic
standards, and guidelines including those related to deadlines,
thesis or research project style, course requirements, intellectual
property, academic misconduct and any relevant safety and/or workplace
- Produce a thesis or research project which is the student's
own work and which meets the University and Department standards
for style and quality, reflecting a capacity for independent scholarship
in the discipline.
- Recognize that the Advisor and members of the Advisory Committee
have other educational, research and service obligations which
may preclude prompt responses to the graduate student. It is expected,
however, that the approximate time for submitted written material
to be returned with comments is usually two weeks.
- Consider and respond to advice and criticisms provided by the
Advisor or members of the Advisory Committee.
- Meet or communicate regularly with the Advisor (or designate).
The frequency and timing of meetings will depend on the nature
of the research being undertaken and the stage in the student's
program. However, meetings should be of sufficient frequency that
the Advisor can make an adequate assessment of the student's progress
each semester and the student receives timely feedback on what
is being done well and where improvement is needed. The student
should also interact with individual Advisory Committee members
and other faculty as appropriate and meet with the Advisory Committee,
normally no less than once per semester, to review progress.
- On a regular basis, make available to the Advisor all original
research materials, retaining a copy where appropriate.
- Be prepared to approach first the Advisor and then the Graduate
Coordinator or Chair with any perceived problems or changes in
circumstances that could affect performance. (If circumstances
warrant, students may wish to consider a leave of absence on compassionate
grounds. Information about this may be obtained from Graduate
Program Services or from the departmental Graduate Co-ordinator.)
- Submit, with specific reasons, any request for the replacement
of an Advisor or member of the Advisory or Examining Committee
to the Departmental Graduate Coordinator should a personal or
professional conflict arise. Students should take immediate steps
to change their Advisor or a member of their Advisory Committee
in cases where an appropriate academic relationship cannot be
maintained. In most circumstances, the first step would be to
meet with the Graduate Coordinator.
- Recognize that changing Advisors after program entry may have
consequences in terms of the nature and focus of an appropriate
research topic, and may alter funding planned prior to the change
from the initial Advisor as outlined in the Department's letter
- Recognize that the student may be obliged to satisfy specific
performance requirements that were agreed to at the time of acceptance
to the graduate program. These performance requirements may relate
to internal or external funding support that the student receives.
- Recognize that progress will be evaluated every semester by
the Advisor and Advisory Committee, and reported to the Program
and in the case of "some concerns" or "unsatisfactory"
performance, to the Faculty of Graduate Studies.
Dispute Resolution Mechanisms
Regardless of the best intentions of all involved, conflict can
arise in the course of graduate studies. Depending on the type of
conflict and the issues involved, different resolution mechanisms
will be appropriate. Four types of conflict can arise in the course
of graduate studies. These are:
- Interpersonal conflict between the student and the Advisor.
- Dispute about evaluation of progress, qualifying or oral
examination; includes procedural irregularity.
- Disruptive, abusive or destructive behaviour on the part
of the Advisor.
- Disruptive, abusive, or destructive behaviour on the part
of the student.
Following is a brief summary of the various conflict resolution
processes currently in place at the University and based upon current
policies. Complainants, responding administrators or committees
who believe they have or are dealing with a human rights complaint
may, at any time, consult the University's Human Rights Policy and
the Human Rights and Equity Office. The attached flow chart provides
a visual representation of the various processes.
1. Interpersonal conflict between the student and the Advisor
As in any other domain of human endeavour, conflict can arise between
the student and Advisor simply because of differences in personality,
communication style, or unspoken expectations. In many cases, such
conflict can be resolved through improved communication, but occasionally
the situation deteriorates to the point where external mediation
is required. The proposed dispute resolution mechanism is consistent
with other University policies, emphasizing action first at the
local level. The initial complaint should be brought to the attention
of the Graduate Coordinator, but if that individual is unable to
resolve the dispute the Chair should become involved. If the Chair
cannot resolve the matter, the Chair should inform the Dean of Graduate
Studies who, in consultation with the College Dean, will provide
2. Dispute about evaluation of progress, qualifying or oral examination;
includes procedural irregularity
Disputes may arise regarding the quality of a student's work or
the procedures used to assess this work. For example, there may
be disagreement about the outcome of a failed qualifying examination
or final oral examination. There may also be disagreement over the
methods of assessing academic work or evaluating progress, including
the means used to accommodate a student's disability or special
circumstances. These disputes should first be brought to the attention
of the Graduate Coordinator who may also consult the Chair. If the
matter cannot be resolved at the departmental level, and/or the
Department is unsure about options for resolution, the case should
be referred to the Admissions and Progress Committee of the Board
of Graduate Studies. The Committee will issue a ruling on the case
to the Department, and may require specified action. Such action
may include a requirement to seek independent evaluation by one
or more internal or external assessors of the student's work. If
the Admission and Progress Committee upholds the Departmental decision,
and the student wishes to make the case that the methods and criteria
used by the Department did not conform to procedures established
by Senate, the student may appeal the decision to the Senate Committee
on Student Petitions within 90 days.
3. Disruptive, abusive or destructive behaviour on the part
of the Advisor
Disruptive, abusive, and destructive behaviour on the part of the
Advisor is unacceptable in a scholarly environment. Faculty Policies,
Section F(4), expressly prohibits "gross misconduct, toward
another member of the University Community in the context of University
"intimidating, harassing, or abusive behaviour of a serious
nature". Section F(4) also contains detailed instructions on
the investigation and remediation of such cases, which bind both
complainants and departmental authorities.
4. Disruptive, abusive, or destructive behaviour on the part
of the student
Disruptive, abusive, and destructive behaviour on the part of the
student is also unacceptable in a scholarly environment. The University's
Student Rights and Responsibilities Policy, which is stated in the
Graduate Calendar, lists a number of offences against individuals
Advisors, fellow students, or other faculty may register an informal
complaint about a student's behaviour with the Graduate Coordinator
or Chair, who will attempt to resolve the matter. The Graduate Co-ordinator/Chair
may also choose to involve the Dean of Graduate Studies in attempting
to reach a resolution. If the Graduate Coordinator, in consultation
with the Chair and/or Dean, is unable to resolve the matter, a formal
complaint should be made, normally to Security Services, who take
carriage of the complaint through the University's Judicial Process.
Flowchart of Dispute Resolution Mechanisms
The Office of Graduate Studies has attempted to ensure
the accuracy of this on-line Graduate Calendar. However, the
publication of information in this document does not bind the university
to the provision of courses, programs, schedules of studies, fees,
or facilities as listed herein. Other limitations